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Authors: Jerry D. Young

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BOOK: Percy's Mission
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CHAPTER TWO

 

Bernard was back in the bunkhouse early Monday morning. He told Percy his wife was okay for now and he’d start his regular routine of staying in the bunkhouse during the week. Bernard went to his home in the city on Fridays and returned mid-morning on Mondays.
The bunkhouse was used primarily for temporary workers Percy hired for some of the harvesting that required hand picking during the summer and fall. It could house up to twenty-four people in six dorm rooms.
Each dorm room had its own bathroom and there were two more off the common rooms. There was also a bedroom with its own bath for the person in charge of the dorm. Bernard used that room. Part of his duties on the estate was foreman for the temporary help when they were needed. That included being dorm boss.
In addition to the rooms already mentioned, there were two large living/gathering rooms, a kitchen suitable for preparing meals for forty people, and the dining room, which seated thirty at five tables. There was a large library and two entertainment rooms, each with a TV and music system. A game room contained a ping-pong table and a pool table, along with four game tables, and a dartboard. There was a fenced yard and large patio. The parking area for the temporary employees had a section set aside lined for a half court basketball court with a mobile hoop stand.
There was a second swimming pool that had originally served the cottages and the bunkhouse, but Percy had restricted its use to just the permanent residents of the estate. There’d been too many problems when the temporary employees had access to it. He’d hated the fact that the rest of the temps couldn’t use it, due to the problems caused by a few, but the risks were too great. The other pool was within the main house compound.
It took Bernard only a few minutes to settle in. All his regular gear was already in the bunkhouse since he’d moved in a few days before his wife had fallen ill and then gone home to take care of her. The Hansen twins, and Mattie and Susie, worked for him year round. Bernard, John, and Smitty worked only spring, summer, and fall. They all three took the winter off.
Bob, Jim, Susie, and Percy were adequate personnel to take care of the animals and do the work in the greenhouses through the winter. They still were able to rotate extra days off during the winter, since the operation was so efficient. Many of the processes were automated. There were several generator sets on the property so the systems continued to work despite the regular rolling brown outs and blackouts caused by the overloaded power grid. That didn’t include the unintentional brown outs and blackouts caused by equipment failures and the weather.
Percy let the others train Bernard on the new equipment and hooked another trailer to one of the Unimogs. This was his multi compartment waste oil trailer. As he did with animal wastes with some of the area farms, he had arranged with several businesses that generated waste oil to recover it at no cost to either party. Quite a few restaurants that used significant quantities of cooking oil saved it for him.
More as a courtesy, since the small places produced only a few gallons at any given pickup, Percy did take the oils from many small operations so they wouldn’t have to pay to have it removed. They could no longer dispose of it in the old ways, due to EPA regulations. Percy could use it all. He produced biodiesel for his own use. He didn’t produce enough to run everything, but it was part of the reason he only carried approximately two thousand gallons of diesel fuel in the ten thousand gallon tank that Andy kept replenished for him.
Andy didn’t know about the other tank farm. It, like the one Andy knew about, contained a ten thousand gallon diesel tank, second diesel tank holding a thousand gallons, thousand-gallon gasoline tank, and thousand-gallon propane tank. He had a supplier in the city that kept those tanks at similar levels to those that Andy kept in the one tank farm. Each of the tank farms had an earth-sheltered storage building for lubricants and other liquids, which he bought and stored in drums.
He had two one thousand gallon biodiesel tanks, the thousand-gallon methane and thousand-gallon alcohol tanks, plus appropriate raw material tanks to make the three products. Percy wasn’t to the point of being able to produce all his own fuel, but he did produce a significant proportion. He liked having options. Getting fuel when you really needed it was problematic nowadays.
Producing the biodiesel and the alcohol took significant energy, but it was worth the effort to be able to make the liquid fuels. The methane production didn’t take that much outside energy. Much of the methane was used to fire the stills and the biodiesel process and he still had enough to use elsewhere and keep the tank nearly full.
Scrap wood from several sources in town and the city made up the difference in energy use. He got all the odds and ends of lumber from both lumber yards in the city, and contracted with every tree trimming outfit he could find to take their wood and wood chips. He also had arrangements with several of the builders in the area. He took all the wood scrap they generated, for it, leaving them much less to have to take to the landfills and pay to dump.
There were three sources of wood pallets he relied on. Two of them did not reuse or recycle the wooden pallets they received. He got them all. The other place gave him those pallets that were beyond reusing. Between all the sources, he had more than enough wood to burn to make the biodiesel and alcohol, and not touch any of the wood from his wood lots.
It would take him all day to collect the oils, but he considered it time well spent. He would stop and pick up the chemicals he needed to produce the fuels. He’d been buying ten percent more than he needed for each batch and now had enough of the chemicals he couldn’t produce himself to make nearly a hundred thousand gallons of biodiesel.
Percy had done the same with nearly every product and item he didn’t produce. There were extra tires for every piece of equipment that used tires. Spare parts for all the equipment were on storage shelves in the equipment barn. Fabrication materials were stored, as well. There was a well-equipped shop in the huge equipment barn.
Much of Percy’s equipment was old, though kept in excellent shape. Percy preferred tractor mounted or pulled, or in his current case, Unimog compatible, equipment over self-powered specialty implements. He used mounted and towed implements, including hay balers, combines, corn pickers, and silage cutters. Since his was not a huge production farm the mounted and towed equipment worked just fine for the scale of any given crop he grew.
Unfortunately, that type of implement was no longer common. Over the years, Percy had taken great pains to acquire the best of the types of implements he needed. Like every other piece of equipment he owned, he had numerous repair parts in stock and the materials to make most of the rest he might need.
The equipment used on the leased land was more conventional. He didn’t expect others to take the time and trouble to farm production farms the old ways.
Percy was tired when he returned home. It had taken three hours longer to make the run than normal. There’d been a huge accident caused by a car running bald tires. He had been stuck in traffic for over an hour on the way in. It seemed like every place he normally picked up used oil had some kind of beef they just had to get off their chest.
Finally, on the way home, only a mile from the estate, the road was blocked for almost twenty minutes where the DOT was having an intersection redone. A semi had dropped a wheel off the pavement where they’d cut down the shoulder to redo it and flipped the rig, tying up the one lane available for traffic.
Waiting patiently for the workers to clear the road, Percy radioed the house and told Mattie to just put his supper in the warming oven. He would be getting home late. Percy knew that he could have taken the ditch with the Unimog and trailer and gone around, but there was no real need and the authorities would have stopped the attempt, anyway. It just grated a little not to be able to use the full capabilities of the Unimog.
Percy had to grin when the wrecker dispatched to the scene was unable to right the tractor and the State Trooper asked Percy if he thought the winch on the Unimog could. It was the work of only minutes to position the Unimog, hook up, and right the semi tractor. It didn’t even strain the Unimog.
“Okay if I take off now?” Percy asked, since he was now on the estate side of the blockage.
“Sure thing. And thanks. It would have taken us another hour to get a different tow truck.”
“No problem,” Percy replied, slipping the Unimog into gear and pulling away, a smile on his face. “Unimog to the rescue,” he said aloud, and then laughed.
The rest of the week went normally for the estate, everyone working as they’d done for several years now. Susie took two of the cows to Doc’s to be serviced. The twins finished equipping the Jeep acquired in Minneapolis to Percy’s specifications, in addition to their normal work. It wasn’t until the following week that anything out of the ordinary happened.
The second committee meeting turned into a shouting match. Percy wasn’t involved, but his revised presentation triggered it. Both of the other state employees walked out. The county Civil Defense Director did, as well. Jeb and Abigail were glaring at Percy and Sara as they left.
“Well,” Percy said with a sigh. “That went well. At least no one hit anyone else.”
“That was a near thing with Jeb and Stanley. I still don’t understand why it all started. Your revised plan addressed every objection that was brought up at the first meeting.”
They were gathering up everything as they talked. “I thought so, anyway,” Percy said. “It’s only a tenth of what I think should be done. Do you think there’s any need to try to have another meeting?”
“There’s a need,” Sara said, taking his arm as they headed for the doors. “But when the planning commission gets all the versions of what happened, I suspect they’ll disband us. It’s a shame. I’m really getting worried something will happen and people won’t be prepared. It was bad enough last summer when the temperature was over a hundred for twelve straight days. People don’t know how to cope. I was out of power the last two days of the heat wave, then another day before they got the power back on.”
She smiled over at Percy. “I never did thank you properly for keeping me supplied with ice for my freezer. And to cool off with.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Thank you, Percy. You are a dear man.”
“Uh… Well… Uh… Anyway, uh… do you have any business you need to do here in town tomorrow?”
“No,” Sara said with a tiny smile. She was pleased at Percy’s disappointed look.
“I’m off tomorrow. They shifted our blackout day to Thursdays. I hate losing the money for these days off, but I was planning on taking it easy for the day.”
“You want to stay at the estate tonight? Sleep in? Mattie could make you a brunch and you could go riding, if you want.”
Sara kissed his cheek again before he could change his mind and said, “Why, thank you, Percy. That sounds wonderful. I was going to have to stop and get groceries. Knowing you is saving me bundles of money.”
She slid into her car and looked at Percy expectantly. “Actually,” Percy said, “I need to come to town tomorrow… You could just leave your car here. Ride out and back in with me. Save the gas. It went up another sixty cents this week.”
“You’re telling me,” Sara said, already out of the car. She pulled a small bag from behind the front seat, then closed and locked the door. When Percy looked at it, she said, “Some of us do listen to your ideas, Percy. Be Prepared is my new motto.” She didn’t really say what she was prepared for with the bag and Percy was afraid to ask.
When they’d finished supper and were in the den watching the news, Percy suddenly asked Sara, “Would you help me put together a proposal, like the first one, that I can send to Congressman Stevenson? I just have to give it one more try, Sara.”
“Why, Percy, of course I will. You’ve done all the work, anyway, but I’ll be glad to look it over again.”
“Thanks, Sara. I appreciate it. You are a good woman, you know. Putting up with the likes of me.”
Sara decided quiet was the best response to that. She turned her head back toward the TV and they watched a news report of the shelling of Indian positions by the Pakistanis in the disputed border area they had been quarreling over for years. Sara heard Percy mutter, “This could get serious.”
The next morning Percy kept himself busy, avoiding Sara the best he could. He talked to her a few minutes when she came out to the animal barn and she and Susie saddled up Herman’s Best for her to ride for a while. They settled on a time to go to town, and then Percy headed for the equipment barn to work on some equipment with the twins and Bernard. John and Smitty were helping Hector get his spring planning done. The arrangement was one of Percy’s barters.
Percy watched unobtrusively as Sara rode. Percy rode, but really wasn’t that good on a horse. He had a good hand with the teams, but let Suzie and the others do most of the horse-based farming since they enjoyed it so. He drew in a deep breath when he saw Best galloping toward the far side of the pasture, Sara’s long hair flying behind her.
The other horses were following along, as were the dogs. The adults and two older pups, anyway. The young pups gave up and flopped down to rest. Clarence, Percy’s stud bull, watched placidly, chewing his cud as the horse and rider went tearing by. He was calm now, but had been agitated the week before when two cows he’d been kept from for two days had disappeared, then returned, no longer ready for him. The memory had faded, so he was happy with his herd of cows again. He’d caught the first whiffs of another cow that would be ready soon, anyway.
His three hands pretty much ignored Percy and went about their jobs, since Percy was considerably more interested in the activities in the pasture than in the work being done on the hay bailer, replacing a set of bearings.

BOOK: Percy's Mission
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