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Authors: Jerry D. Young

Percy's Mission

BOOK: Percy's Mission
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The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual names, persons, businesses, and incidents is strictly coincidental. Locations are used only in the general sense and do not represent the real place in actuality.









Creative Texts Edition

Copyright 2015



Published by

















Think about the events in this story as you read it. You may agree or disagree on the premise, but think about what you would do if…





“Percivale George Jackson,” said Percivale George Jackson. The look on his face brooked no attempt at humor based on his name.
The DMV clerk carefully input the information into the computer fighting to control his grin. Percivale was bad enough, but the vehicle being registered was called a Unimog. What the hell kind of truck was a Unimog? Sounded like a character in Lord of the Rings, or four of them, because Percivale was licensing four Unimog trucks.
Cutting his eyes up to the tall, skinny, middle-aged man, the clerk barely managed not to laugh, again, as he took in the sight of the worn felt hat partly covering the longish, mostly brown hair. The overalls Percivale wore were nearly new and the green plaid shirt looked new, too. He managed to keep the comment a silent statement to himself.  “Must be his Sunday-go-to-Meetin’ overalls”, he said.
He came to the purchase price of the trucks and his eyes widened and he whistled under his breath. “Wait a minute,” he said then, picking up the purchase form in his hand and looking once more at Percivale. “Is this some kind of joke? This says the trucks are Mercedes-Benz trucks. The other papers say Unimog. There is no such thing as a Mercedes truck.”
“Mercedes-Benz does make trucks. Mercedes-Benz is the parent company that makes the Unimog line of vehicles. Is there a problem or something? It usually doesn’t take this long to register and license a vehicle.” Percy maintained his calm demeanor despite the smirk on the young man’s face. The smirk had appeared the moment Percy had stepped up to the counter.
“I suppose nothing is wrong. I just have to be careful. Registering a vehicle is an important procedure. It must be done correctly. This is a somewhat out of the ordinary vehicle. I’ve never even heard of one before.”
That was enough opening for Percy. He was proud of the versatile vehicle. It had taken him almost six months to get them, once he discovered they were available. Telling someone, especially this twerpy clerk about them, would be a pleasure.
“Sort of a cross between a tractor and a giant jeep,” Percy said. He realized his mistake immediately. He stopped the explanation as quickly as he’d started it.
“Tractor?” asked the clerk. “We don’t license tractors.”
Percy groaned. “It’s not a tractor… I… ah… was just kidding.” It sounded lame to Percy.
The clerk got even snootier. “I’m afraid the DMV does not appreciate such jokes. This is a serious business.”
“Yes, sir. Sorry. Sometimes I get a bee in the ol’ bonnet. It won’t happen again.” Percy heard whispers behind him after he had spoken. He turned around and looked to see what was going on. Percy groaned again.
He touched the brim of his hat. “Mornin’ Mrs. Applegate. Lovely weather we’re having, isn’t it?”
“Percivale, the weather is atrocious and you know it. That sense of humor you just told that clerk you had is just as drab as it’s ever been. Please don’t waste his time, or mine. I’m in a hurry.”
“Yes’m,” Percy said softly, turning back to the counter. Mrs. Applegate had been his third grade teacher. She was in her eighties and still scared him.
She scared the clerk even more. He knew her as the wife of a state representative, somebody important. He quickly finished the process for Percy and handed him the four sets of license plates. He was already apologizing to Mrs. Applegate for Percy having kept her waiting as Percy stepped out of the way.
Percy sighed and headed out to the Suburban. At least the task was done. It had been a rough morning. Bernard’s wife was sick and he had to stay home to take care of her. On top of that, two of his other hands that were due back the previous day were still in Minneapolis because of yet another terrorist attack security clampdown. It was going to be at least another three days before they could get back from visiting their mother.
“Oh, well,” Percy muttered to himself, “such is life. Time to go see if Hector wants that tractor.”
He’d sold the Case tractor that one of the Unimogs was replacing to his nearest neighbor for a fair price. Percy began to grin as he climbed into the customized Chevy Suburban. “Old Hector wants that John Deere bad. I bet he’ll come across and I got to stop talking to myself. People think I’m crazy as it is.”
He touched the brim of his floppy felt hat as Mrs. Applegate walked past, her nose in the air. “Maybe I am. Maybe I am,” he muttered before falling silent. He started the Suburban and, just to show off a bit, grabbed the joystick mounted on the special console at his right hand and activated the crab steering on the six-wheel-drive, six-wheel-steer running gear of the truck.
There was plenty of space in front of him so he just edged the truck out, parallel to the curb until he was in the street. Percy straightened the wheels and flipped the switch to go back to normal front steering. As usual, passers-by had stopped to gawk at the event. Percy tipped his hat, grinned, and headed toward Hector’s place.
An hour and a half later Percy was talking to himself again. “Yep, Hector wanted that tractor bad.” Percy had two more stops after leaving Hector’s, before he headed back to the estate. He needed to stop and collect from McAlister for the two bob trucks he’d sold him, then go back into town and deposit the checks in the bank. “And probably should stop at Jimbo’s Emporium and pick up some gold and silver out of the accounts.”
It had taken Percy a long time to get Jimbo to agree to the arrangement. After Percy had kept track of the transactions he would have done if Jimbo would do them, and Jimbo saw what he would make by doing them, he agreed. With the way the precious metals markets had been for the last few years, Percy was able to withdraw significant amounts of the gold and silver in coin form on a regular basis and still maintain trading stocks to keep accumulating more.
Grouchy old McAlister reluctantly gave Percy the check he’d promised. “Things are going to cost me a fortune with the way gasoline prices are, you know,” McAlister complained as he handed over the check.
“I know what you mean, Hiram. Diesel is almost as bad.”
“Not telling me anything I don’t already know,” replied McAlister. “Fuel for my diesel equipment is over a third of my operating budget.”
Percy’s eyebrows rose slightly. He wouldn’t have thought that Hiram McAlister even knew what a budget was.
“According to Cynthia… she’s doing my books for me now… I’m going to have to go up on my harvesting prices.”
“That explains the budget,” Percy thought. “His daughter is doing it for him.”
McAlister frowned. “I’m not so sure I should have cut that deal with you on the trucks. Even short as I am on cash, giving you two forty acre harvests, plus what cash I am giving you, I’m beginning to think I should have just done all cash.”
“Well…if your prices are going up, Hiram, I guess it’s only fair to renegotiate.”
Before he could continue, McAlister interjected, “I ain’t got any more cash to spare, Percy.”
“I know,” replied Percy. “I was thinking I’d do the hauling for one of the fields. Would that make up the difference between the old price and new?”

“You’d do that? My pricing always includes haulage. That’s why I’m buying your two trucks. I need more hauling capacity.”
“You’re a good guy, Hiram. I want you to stay in business. We made the deal before you knew you had to go up. I’m okay with absorbing some of the difference.”
“Well, gee, Percy… Thanks.”
“Sure, Hiram. Tell Cynthia I said howdy.”
“Sure thing, Percy. Sure thing.”
There was a long line at the bank. Since the federal government had restricted cash withdrawals to no more than ten percent of available balances, people were hitting the bank as often as once a day. Even with additional tellers, the line was usually long. At both banks in town. Percy kept half the money he kept in banks in each one and alternated deposits and checks. When he deposited the two checks, he withheld the allowable ten percent in cash.
“Hey, Percy,” called Camden Dupree, the assistant manager of the bank. “I hear you have a real truck farm now.”
Percy smiled over as he continued toward the door. “You could say that, I suppose, Camden.”
Several people laughed. It had become common knowledge that Percy had sold the tractors, both the bob trucks, and three other smaller trucks and planned to replace all seven units with the four Unimogs. It was a running joke. No one seemed to think the Unimogs would be able to do the work.
“Little do they know,” muttered Percy as he went through the glass double doors.
“Hey, Mr. Jackson,” said Andy Buchanan. He was a delivery driver for Wilkins Oil. That was his full time job. Andy also did quite a bit of side work. “When you gonna let me bring out the semi and fill up that tank?” With a note of pride in his voice he said, “I’ve got my CDL now.”
Andy was a good kid. “Good for you. And one of these days, Andrew. One of these days. Just my regular load this week. Five hundred gallons diesel, hundred gasoline.”

“Sure thing, Mr. Jackson. Be there Thursday as usual. Any oils or anything?”

“As a matter of fact, I was going to call and request cold weather additive. I’m afraid it may be hard to get this winter. I want to get some now in case you can’t get treated or blended fuel.”
“How much you want? A drum?”

“Enough for... the whole tank, I think. In drums. Whatever it takes to treat ten thousand gallons for thirty below.”

“Thirty below? It hasn’t been even twenty below since I was a kid.”
Andy was twenty-five. Percy remembered the last time it was twenty below, when Andy was ten. Half the equipment in the area had stopped because the diesel fuel gelled. The weather seemed to be hitting extremes the last few years. “I know, Andy. But you know me. Be prepared.”
“That’s good, Mr. Jackson. I was a boy scout. It’s a good motto. I’ll let the boss know and bring it when I come Thursday. I guess you’ll put it in yourself. You don’t want the whole batch in with just a couple thousand gallons in the tank like you usually have.”
“Oh, I know. I don’t want to waste it. I’ll add it as needed.”
“Okay, Mr. Jackson. I’ll take care of it. Uh… Would you consider loaning me one of your Rokon bikes for hunting season? There’s a spot up on Six Point I can get to on foot, but it’s too far for me to pack out a deer unless I make four trips. I doubt I’d have time… Susie said the Rokon would handle it easy.”
With a stern look on his face, Percy said, “You know I’m not much of a loaner, Andrew.”
Andy hung his head. “Yes, sir. I know. I just… uh… never mind. Sorry.”
Percy grinned. “But I tell you what. You give me a shank of whatever you get, and a couple of mallards, if you get any, and you can use one of the Rokon’s.”
“Sure, Mr. Jackson! Sure! And… gee… I always get a few ducks during the season. Two is guaranteed. Thanks.”
With a wave of acknowledgement, Percy turned toward the Suburban.
“Oh. Uh… Mr. Jackson? Would you tell Susie I… uh… said hello?”
Another grin split Percy’s face. “Sure thing, Andrew. I’ll tell her.”
“Thanks again, Mr. Jackson.” Andy walked off with a jaunty step.
It didn’t take long at Jimbo’s place. He kept Percy’s precious metals holdings in plastic coin tubes. He always transferred enough for his commission to his own set of tubes when he made a transaction for Percy.
“I still can’t quite figure why this works,” Jimbo told Percy, as he handed him a tube of tenth ounce gold Eagles and a tube of pre-1965 silver quarters and two tubes of pre-1965 silver dimes after Percy had checked the accounts. Percy did his own tally every day when he checked the commodities markets on line. Jimbo’s numbers always matched his.
“I’m glad it does, though. I make a nice little commission off you. Plus, it’s allowed me to increase my gold and silver stocks quite a bit for the business. I’m selling the occasional bullion coin to other people besides just you. What do you do with yours, anyway?”
It was a very impolite question, but Jimbo was Jimbo. “I just like gold and silver. Do give a few away as presents on birthdays and Christmas.” It was the truth. Just not the whole truth. He had given a few away, but not very many. Most were in several different stashes and caches he had here and there.
To divert Jimbo, Percy asked, “What’s the future look like, Jimbo? Things going to drop or keep climbing?” It didn’t matter to Percy. His system was based on the differential in price between the metals, not the actual price. But Jimbo fancied himself as a gifted predictor of the metals market.
“Up, Purse, up. At least for some time. The way the world is now… well… you see the news just like me.”
“Yeah. Well, Jimbo, keep that trading stock stashed for me, if you will. Never know when I might need it to bail myself out. You know what they’re saying about me and my trucks.”
“Yeah. Well, I don’t care if you are crazy.”
“Uh… Thanks, Jimbo. I’ll see you later.”
“Okay, Purse.”
Percy shook his head on the way out to the truck, the gold and silver in his pocket. “Jimbo sure is Jimbo, no getting around it.”
It was just after three in the afternoon when Percy got back to his estate. He checked in with his housekeeper, Mattie.
“Nothin’ going on, Mr. Jackson. Smooth as silk all day. When’s the twins getting back? Need a little help with moving the furniture for spring cleaning.”
“Another three days. What are you planning for supper?”
“Meat loaf. That okay?”

“You know I love meatloaf. I need to go out and check with Randy. See how those equipment modifications are going.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll leave things ready for you. I need to leave at five. Susie has to get in to the city to do a little shopping.”
“Okay. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Percy walked out to the equipment barn. A one-ton truck set up as a welding truck was parked amidst what looked like a jumble of equipment. Percy knew the jumble was organized to Randy’s satisfaction, even if Percy couldn’t quite see the logic. Besides the four Unimogs, a whole array of agricultural equipment was there.
Seeing Percy come up, Randy stopped the motion to drop his welding hood into place and sat down on the piece of equipment he was working on.
“How’s it coming, Randy?”
“Fine, Mr. Jackson. I’ll be finished tomorrow evening. Most of this was easy. I checked every piece of three-point hitch equipment on all the trucks. Everything works perfectly. I’m almost finished with the adapter for the hoe. No reason it won’t attach and work just fine on the ‘Mogs, too, like it did on the Case and JD. They have plenty of hydraulic power for it. With the other stuff you bought for them, I’m surprised you didn’t just buy a backhoe made to fit ‘em.”
“Already had this one. No need to buy something I already have.”
Randy surveyed the equipment. “Yeah. Right.” He’d been very skeptical of using a truck as a farm implement for anything except as a tool to haul things around. But having worked with the Unimogs the past few days, he’d changed his mind. Once he’d installed the three point hitches on the trucks, which had been shipped separately, and tried some of the farm equipment, he became convinced that the combination would work. And work well.
There’d only been a few modifications to make on some of the equipment. Mostly for the PTO powered equipment. Some of them needed lengthened shafts or adapter shafts to hook up properly to the rear PTO on the trucks. Adding big mirrors to some of the implements to improve visibility of critical operations from the cab of the truck had been easy. Just a lot of in and out of the cab to make the angle adjustments after the mirrors had been installed.
Part of the reason everything had been so easy was the Unimog trucks themselves. With the set of attachments Percy had for them, like the front forks to lift things with, he’d never even rigged up the A-frame on his welding truck. And that didn’t even consider the contribution that Percy’s Utility/Service truck made to the operation.
It had an articulated, telescoping aerial man lift with a ladder back and material handling winch, in addition to all the other normal equipment. The lift could reach almost fifty feet at maximum extension. Not to mention the fact that with the articulation, it could reach below ground level. Randy wasn’t sure why Percy might need that feature, but it was inherent in the design of the lift.
For anything the material winch on the arm couldn’t lift, there was a fifteen-ton capacity hydraulic boom mounted on the right rear corner of the bed. The bed had significant open area, though that was reduced somewhat with the mounting for the aerial arm. There were plenty of toolboxes and room for the lube and fuel hose rack and barrels of lube. Randy wasn’t sure why the diesel and gasoline fueling tanks were so large. They were five times larger than normal for a combination mechanic’s and lube truck.
Of course, there was no doubt the truck could carry everything efficiently. It was a long Kenworth chassis with tandem steering axles and three rear axles. Unlike most similar trucks, which had only a single steering axle and, at most, two rear driven axles, this one had driven steering axles as well as having all three rear axles driven, which were also steering axles. Also unlike most similar trucks, that used duals on the real axles, Percy was using the same high flotation single tires on the three rear axles as were on the front axles.
As for power, the big Caterpillar engine developed five hundred horsepower. More than adequate for everything the truck was capable of doing. Even with a full load, Randy was convinced that the ground pressure would be half of normal and the truck still could run at highway speeds.
Percy had several trailers for use with the utility/service truck, including a heavy-duty three-axle equipment trailer. It was equipped with the same tires as the truck. It was a tilt bed, and had a winch. It could be used to haul the Unimogs around, if one of them broke down. That didn’t seem very likely.
“Okay, Randy. Keep up the good work. And be thinking about that trade I was talking about.”
“I really need cash, Mr. Jackson. But I will think about it,” responded Randy. He flipped the welding hood down and struck an arc as Percy headed into the equipment barn.
Checking over one of the four Rokon two wheel drive motorbikes racked against one side of the barn, Percy selected one, pulled the starting rope and headed out of the barn. He entered the fenced pathway that connected the animal barn with the four pastures that Percy used in turn to feed and work the animals. He rolled up to the gate at the third pasture, opened it, went through, and then re-closed the gate. He could see Susie and the Bobcat 5600T Toolcat utility vehicle she was driving at the far side of the pasture. It looked like the entire pack of Airedales was with her. She must be letting the adults train the pups in stock handling. He noted as he went past that the salt and mineral blocks were in the rack near the pasture entrance to the animal barn.
Since he wasn’t wearing a helmet, Percy kept the speed down as he went to meet Susie. He swung wide and came around to approach Susie from the front, stopping next to the pipe fence several feet ahead of her.
Susie swung clear of him and stopped the Bobcat. “Hey, boss. What’s up?” The adult dogs and older pups flopped down to rest. The pups cavorted around the Rokon, seeking Percy’s attention.
Percy patted each in turn as he spoke. “Just passing on a message. Young Andrew Buchanan asked me to tell you he said hi. So hi from Andrew.”
A pretty blush covered Susie’s cheeks. “Thank you, Mr. Jackson. I’ll tell him you told me. The next time I see him.”
“Okey Dokey. Go ahead and knock off early if you want. Your mother said you needed to go into the city. Looks like all your major work is done, anyway.”
“Yeah. I was heading out to do some training with the dogs. I kind of wanted the pups to watch the adults do a little herding. The cattle and horses saw me coming and headed for the far end of the pasture. Ornery rascals seem to be able to read my mind.”
“I think that’s a two way street. You sure have a way with the animals. I appreciate you working for me. I know you could get a much better job in town.” Queenie got up and came over to him. He scratched the dam behind her ears just the way she liked it.
“Better is relative,” replied the young redheaded woman. “The money is actually very good. Thank you again for that, by the way. But this is giving me great hands-on experience with animals. It’s a big help in my studies for vet assistant. And since Doc lives next to you, and you let me go over every time he says he has something interesting that I might like to see, no matter what I’m doing, I’m quite happy here, thank you very much.”
Percy grinned. “Okay. Have it your way. I never argue with a woman. Well. Almost never. Just let the dogs’ move the animals to the barn end of the pasture and you and your Mom go do your shopping. I’m going out to dig the post holes for the surround for the irrigation pump.”
“You want the 5600 so you can take the poles with you?”
Percy grinned again. “No thanks. I’ll use the A300. I wouldn’t deprive you of the opportunity to learn how to put up a real fence tomorrow, since the boys aren’t back till this weekend.”
“You are so kind, boss.”
“Yeah. I know.”
Susie whistled for the dogs, to get them to follow her instead of Percy. The adults would have anyway. They knew they were out to herd the stock. The pups would follow the adults. Percy headed back to get the companion machine to the two Bobcat 5600T Utility vehicles he owned. It was a loader/utility vehicle made by Bobcat. Bobcat also made the utility vehicle Susie was using. Both were four-wheel drive, four-wheel steer units. The Bobcat A300 could also be used as a skid steer, though they seldom did.
Like the Unimogs, the Bobcat 5600T utility vehicle had a dump bed, rear attachment points, and front lift arms. The Unimogs didn’t have the lift arms as part of the permanent structure, though he had two sets for the trucks that could be quickly attached and detached when needed to carry part of the variety of attachments useable by the Unimogs. The 5600T was just a lot smaller than the trucks.
The Bobcat A300 was a bit shorter than the 5600T. It didn’t have a cargo bed. It could handle a wider variety of attachments than the utility vehicle, though. One of the attachments either could use was a hydraulic posthole digger, which is what Percy quickly hooked up to the A300 when he returned to the equipment barn. He waved at Randy as Randy coiled up his welding cables in preparation to going home.
It didn’t take long for Percy to get the holes dug. The weather was fine at the moment, so he hadn’t bothered bringing tarps to cover them. By the time he got back to the building complex and put away the Bobcat, then checked on the animals, it was somewhat past suppertime.
But no matter if he was a little late. There was no one there to scold him. He’d almost married once, but the potential wife had decided she didn’t want to be a conventional farmer’s wife. “I’m not really all that conventional, you know,” muttered Percy as he thought about what might have been. “Just ask anyone. Oh, well. Water under the bridge. Man, this looks and smells good.”
After his meal, Percy had one pipe of tobacco on the roof deck of the earth-sheltered dome that was his house. He enjoyed a snifter of cognac in the library/den as he watched the news. He turned in early, feeling a bit uneasy at the world situation. Terrorism might have replaced the cold war in most people’s minds as the big danger in their lives, but it sure looked like there were still some warlike leaders in a few nations. And the weather wasn’t looking too good, either. He wasn’t going to be able to wait until the twins got back to start ground preparation for spring planting.
Percy’s alarm went off at four-thirty the next morning. Knowing Mattie would be there by six he showered, dressed, and went out to check the animals. An hour later the four milk cows were contentedly finishing their feed after having their udders’ stocks of milk reduced.
The milk was in the chiller, ready for pick up by Brian Epstein on his way in to the city. So were the fresh eggs from the hens. Brian got a calf from Percy every year as payment for stopping to pick up Percy’s milk and eggs to take to town with his own. He made a daily trip to the local dairy and went right by Percy’s place on the way.
Percy had tilled forty acres with the one of the Unimogs before he stopped to have breakfast. There was a big grin on his face when he entered the kitchen of the house.
Susie cut him an impish grin. “Musta’ worked, huh, Boss?”
“Like a charm. And you knew it would, just as did I, Missy. Hand me the eggs.”
Mattie Simpson and Susie had their breakfast at the main house, with Percy, as was their usual custom. Percy had insisted, since they started so early. “There’s no reason to cook for two, then for just one. It’s easier to cook for three. I’ll supply the food as part of your wages. How’s that?” he’d asked the day Mattie started working for him so many years before. At the same wages as he’d intended, even without the food thrown in. She was a newly widowed single mother. He figured it was the least he could do. And it had worked well over the years.
The Simpsons lived in one of the three other houses that were part of the building complex of the estate. The twins lived in another and the third was vacant at the moment. Two of Percy’s other hands lived nearby so didn’t need the third house. Bernard lived in the bunkhouse when he was working. The housing was part of their pay. They took another part of their pay in estate-produced goods, in addition to cash. All the hands did, getting truck farm produce, items from the household garden that Mattie tended, and meat and dairy products from the cattle, pigs, and chickens that were part of the estate animal population.
Percy had fallen into bartering many years earlier, when he was a very young man trying to hang on to the family farm. He was a natural born horse trader, as the locals told him. He’d been quite successful in his barters and other endeavors, pulling the farm out of debt and turning it into the estate it now was.
About the only thing original from the old place was the ground itself. His mother had inherited three hundred twenty acres from her grandparents. He’d traded for and bought more.
Percy now owned a full section that was the estate. One square mile. Six hundred forty acres in one parcel. He had almost another thousand acres in forty and eighty acre plots around the county but he leased them to other farmers for the cash flow and some trading of stud services for his animals. He liked to maintain genetic diversity in his stock and outside stud services was one way to accomplish that. He also traded for products he didn’t produce himself.
All the buildings were earth-sheltered structures. Even the six big green houses were bermed up to where the polycarbonate panels started and they were connected to an earth-sheltered barn. His utility bills, except for liquid fuels, weren’t that much more than they’d been when he took over the operation after his parents’ deaths thirty years before.
Percy was thinking about early retirement now, at only fifty-one. He’d built the place to what he’d dreamed as a young man it could be. He had a good crew and the operation was turning a nice profit even after deducting the operating expenses and the principle and interest of the few loans still outstanding for the improvements he’d been making almost from day one. He also had a very nice nest egg.

BOOK: Percy's Mission
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