I was able to stand up by myself after he went to the kitchen which was a good indication that most of the swelling in the joints and everything in my bad leg was almost gone. But it didn’t hurt that I hadn’t had to run out of Naproxen. Dr. Carruthers had sent me home with several large bottles “gifted” to her by salesmen that came to her private practice. I limped out onto the front porch when Sawyer told me he was going to start bringing things in before it got any darker. He dropped the tailgate on his truck and started pulling out several plastic tubs and old boxes and setting them on the porch.
“Some of this doesn’t have to be gone through right this second but if you can get it done before Burt has another warehouse sale that would be good. You ain’t going to want all these books but some you might. The ones you don’t I’ll take back. Burt says he gets fifty cents for paperbacks and a buck for hardbacks, just like at any estate sale. Same for the rest of this. I guess most people would call it junk but I saw similar stuff in the things we are pulling out of the attic and wanted your opinion on whether it is worth the time to clean up and either keep or give to Gramps to share around the family.”
He kept bringing things out and over to me and then said, “This is the last of it. Be careful, I wrapped them up the best I could but some might have broken. They’re antique-y looking bottles and jars and other kind of glass stuff. Most of them still have the lids. And then there’s a box of old perfume containers or bottles or whatever you call them. Thought you’d get a kick out of them. If you don’t want ‘em I’ll take ‘em back. No sense in keeping junk.”
He went back and shut the tail gate and then had to give the dogs some more attention but pretty soon I heard the soft patter of rain on the roof porch and Sawyer made a dash onto the porch with the dogs close behind. All three had a disgruntled look but soon enough Sawyer said, “I’ll drag the books inside. Suppose I should bring the rest of this inside too and I’ll put it … where the hell am I going to put it?” he asked when he realized our usual places weren’t going to work.
“I hate to ask you to but one of the second floor bedrooms would probably be good. The stuff will be out of the way and out of sight of whoever comes tomorrow.”
“Well if I’m going to go up to the second floor I might as well take it all the way to the third and set it in those rooms where you are separating out that stuff coming out of the attic.”
By the time he was finished with that we both were ready to shut up the house, take a shower (together), and head for bed. The next morning as we both got up early I was able to tell Sawyer that I was barely sore at all, or at least not beyond the normal.
I answered, “Yeah. I actually feel pretty good. Are you going to Burt’s?”
“No, over to see Gramps and get this schedule all worked out. And hope I don’t step into a hornet’s nest. I’m still not convinced that what Aunt Pearl wants is going to work with what Gramps and some of the uncles have planned.”
Thinking it over I said, “Well, someone is going to have to give if it doesn’t. But if Aunt Pearl gets too mad to explain it or Gramps too irritated to listen to her explain, it really is a good thing. With all the extra helping hands we’ll be able to make more varieties of things and maybe make what we have go further. The others are bringing wood that will pay in for their share. Plus they are bringing produce too. Then there is the extra yard stoves and other equipment that sometimes holds us up from getting things going. And if that isn’t enough incentive remind him that those families are neighbors and surround Hartford land and if there ever was trouble it would be better for us to be able to work together. We won’t tell on them if they don’t tell on us and vice versa.”
Sawyer grinned and told me, “Fitting right into the family Mrs. Hartford.”
“That Mrs. Sawyer Hartford and don’t you forget it.”
“Well, aren’t you full of something this morning,” Sawyer said grinning even bigger.
“Just feeling good about finally moving forward and getting things done.”
“Well don’t try to ‘done’ too much and wreck yourself up again. I don’t like to see you hurt.”
With a kiss he was gone and I wasn’t finished putting the clean breakfast dishes away before a vehicle pulled in and two more quickly arriving behind the first. There was a lot of younger kids, more than I was used to seeing outside of Sundays, but they were all put to work right away hauling things out of cars and trucks and wagons and helping to get it organized for the start of what was undoubtedly going to be a long day for everyone.
Linda, looking a little frazzled, came over and said, “Well you’re looking better. Did you get any more of those green beans snapped?”
“Two bushels of the green beans and they’re sitting in the kitchen in big pans waiting on whoever needs them and I’ve got almost four different gallons of the other shell beans ready.”
She almost wilted in relief. “Good. Tommy’s mom wants more green beans but all I was able to get to last night was shell beans. She’s on a warpath. She and some lady at the grocery store didn’t see eye to eye last night when we ran up there to get some more whole mustard to make pickles with. You have any to spare?”
“For my best friend in the whole world I do. As a matter of fact you saved it.”
“At the flea market? Most of the biggest bag was full of all of those whole spices I bought at the dollar scratch-n-dent.”
“Was it? Oh wow. I forgot. Maybe that was what Uncle Forrester was talking about. I was just too tired to try and figure it out. When he gets agitated his speech gets are gobbledy-gooked up. Let me set this in the kitchen and I’ll run and tell her and maybe that will get her to back off her mad a little bit.”
I followed Linda over to her mother in law with my eyes and then blanched to see an untold number of bushels of tomatoes sitting in the bed of the truck and trailer they had driven over. Aunt Pearl caught me off guard coming around the corner and laughed at my expression after seeing what I was looking at. “Honey are you tired of tomatoes? I know Sawyer was bringing you some every night there for a while.”
“Never say you’re tired of something or next time you might not have any.”
“And where did you hear that?”
I turned and gave a naughty grin. “From a very smart lady … from you.”
Well she laughed some more and then said, “I guess you and Sawyer must’ve shared plans. He was running up the porch steps lickety split right as I was about to head this way and then skidded to a stop like a deer caught in the headlights. I reckon he expected a brawl but we got it worked out last night and Gramps even said it was good to have something useful to set some of the other boys to work at, especially the couple that are down in the dumps because their town work has been cut back. If he can convince ‘em that it is a blessing in disguise maybe they’ll get over their mullygrubs and realize what a prime opportunity is before them.”
“Yes Honey. Gramps and some of the other men are laying down the law about who is getting what and how much. And some of ‘em that had expected to be on the receiving end are acting like something important has gotten pinched in the screen door. Most of ‘em have gotten the message already but a few are struggling with it. But that’s the men’s business and I’m leaving them to it. But better not be a female in the family not pulling their weight from here on out.”
Cindy’s mother came up right then and said, “You tell ‘em Pearl. Now as for all these littles, I brung my old yard fence. You want me to have one of the girls set it up and start tossing in the babies? Grass looks good and dry despite the rain. Wish my yard drained so well but the front is nothing but a clay bed that is as hard as concrete when it isn’t a small pond.” I left them to dividing up the morning’s work and walked into the kitchen to see where I could help.
By the middle of the afternoon I was willing to swear out a complaint of abuse against whoever planted the tomato fields until someone explained, “Normally most of the crop gets sold on the wholesale market but Florida had a bumper crop earlier this year and it really tore the bottom out of the market. And the local economy can’t absorb them all and has just made it that much worse.”
Someone else said, “At least not for sale. Have y’all heard about Derek Carter’s field? Went to bed thinking he was going to harvest the next day, woke up that morning to find the back ten acres had been completely rustled. And we’re talking tomatoes, not animals. Someone went through and cut the plants off at the ground and just hauled ‘em off. Bold as brass. Two days later someone went to go check that migrant encampment and they found everyone gone but all the tomato plants thrown in a pile with not a tomato left on ‘em … not even a green one.”
“Why on earth didn’t they check there in the first place?! Derek hires migrants every year except he didn’t this year and I heard some of the boss migrants were rather irate about it. Fightin’ mad that he was hiring locals instead.”
“Well why do you think? They didn’t want anyone screaming prejudice or that they were being profiled or some nonsense like that.”
Someone else chimed in with, “All in all crime is going through the roof no matter where you live. My sister was living in town but she’s letting her apartment go and she’s moving back home. Dad’s happy about it but my other sister not so much since they’ll have to share a room again because Mom finally convinced Gran to move in and share expenses with her and Dad.”
Stuff like that was discussed off and on all day. It wasn’t a real comfortable topic to think about. Made me wonder what my life would have been like right about now if … then I’d have to stop thinking about it because it made me queasy.
Clay was the other thing that made me queasy until I finally shut him up. I didn’t like doing it quite so openly but I didn’t know how else to handle it. I listened to him teasing me all morning and say that he was going to get a smile out of me one way or the other and I’d finally had enough when he said, “Oh have mercy on me. I can’t live without a certain number of daily smiles from pretty girls.”
I just about slammed down the paring knife I was using. “Clay, that’s the thing. Even if I could get over your need to be silly what you are failing to understand is I am not just some girl. I am a wife … Sawyer Hartford’s wife. And to me paying any attention to your silliness is being disrespectful to him. When Sawyer and I got married we made certain promises to each other and one of them was to treat each other right and with respect. So please, if you are in desperate need of some smiles, go do the work to get Mrs. Penny to smile at you. She’s a widow so technically able to pay attention to your nonsense. And working hard enough to get her to smile would probably earn you some kind of medal in that department.”
I winced after thinking about what I had just said but surprise, surprise Mrs. Penny started laughing so hard Burt Jr. had to get her a chair to sit in. To me she said, “You tell ‘em Sugar. All these boys with their silver tongues gonna find out real quick flapping it as much as they do ain’t gonna draw nothin’ but tarnish. Now Boy … Clay … stop your tomfoolery and get your momma some wood for her fire, it’s almost down to nuthin’.”