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Authors: Jerry D. Young

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BOOK: Percy's Mission
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CHAPTER THREE

 

“Are you sure you want to do this, honey?” Calvin asked his wife of three weeks.
“Yes, Calvin, I want to do this. I have to learn to drive this thing if I’m going to help out around here.”
“You don’t really have to, you know. I’ve got a good job. I know you don’t want to just sit around all day, but there are plenty of things you could do in town.”
“Calvin Stubblefield! We have already discussed this and you agreed that I could help with our side business. You even said you were looking forward to it.”
“I know, I know. And I am. Kinda. But I’ve been thinking… what if you get hurt or something.”
“You know I’ll be careful,” replied Nan. “And I agreed, just as you did, that we’d do the work together. All of it. So it would be safer. I’ve practiced at home, with you. You know I can do this.”
Calvin sighed. Nan wasn’t going to give in. They had discussed it thoroughly, and it had seemed like a good idea at the time. But now, with her standing there with the chainsaw in her hands, he was having second thoughts. Sure, she wore good boots and gloves, had on shin guards, a hard hat with face shield, goggles, and hearing protectors. Still, watching your wife getting ready to fell an old, twisted tree was unnerving.
She was right, he knew. Nan was just as capable as he was of handling the chainsaw. Calvin nodded. Nan pulled the starting cord of the chainsaw and it fired right up. A couple of test pulls on the trigger and the chain whizzed rapidly around the bar.
They’d checked the lean of the tree, and its weight distribution. The lay of the land, and the surrounding trees. Despite the deformity of the tree, it should fall well. Nan shifted the saw and stepped forward, after Calvin stepped back out of the way.
It took less than a minute to cut through the tree. Calvin had to admit, Nan had done both the front and back cuts as well as he could have done himself. The tree landed right where it was intended.
Nan looked over at him, a huge grin on her face. He smiled back and picked up the smaller chainsaw and started it. They began to trim the tree prior to cutting it up into logs. They worked for four hours, taking turns felling trees to thin the woodlot. They stopped often to drink from their water jug. It was hot work, despite the cool temperature, with the heavy clothes and safety equipment they wore for protection.
“That’s enough for today,” Calvin said. “Let’s clean this up and get things ready for loading.”
Nan smiled tiredly and agreed. Her arms, especially her wrists, ached from the vibration of the saw. It was a good saw, with some of the best vibration dampening available, but it still vibrated some. She helped Calvin load the chainsaws, fuel can, and axes into the trailer attached to the Rokon two-wheel drive motorbike parked close.
She climbed on behind him after he’d started the bike and seated himself. It was only a few minutes before they made it down to their truck, parked as close to where the trees needed thinning as they could get.
Nan unloaded the trailer and put the tools into the toolboxes of the service body mounted on their heavy duty, four-wheel drive, one ton Dodge truck chassis. Calvin was setting down the log skid from the cargo box of the truck. Nan helped lift the Rokon trailer up into the truck after she’d unhitched it. As Calvin hooked up the log skid to the Rokon, Nan looped a pair of log chains over the rear seat of the Rokon.
They took a few moments to eat an energy bar apiece, and drink more water. When they were ready again, Calvin leaned over to pull the starter cord of the bike. Nan grinned at Calvin after he started the Rokon and she swung her leg over the seat. “I’ll drive,” she said. “It’s only fair. You drove us down.”
“Yes,” Calvin said, a wry grin curving his lips. “I did. Go ahead. I’ll walk.”
Nan laughed and began easing the Rokon up the same slight track they’d used to come down to the truck. It was the work of another two hours to skid the logs and all but the smallest of the trimmed branches down to the truck. The branches were bundled with the log chains before being moved with the skid. The very small stuff was piled in nearby small gullies and washes to provide cover for the wildlife in the area.
When the last load was added to the others at the truck, they loaded up the Rokon and skid into the truck. “Ready to go home?” Calvin asked Nan.
Wearily she nodded. “I’ll say.”
Calvin slid behind the wheel of the truck as Nan climbed in on the passenger side. “You did good today, sweetie. I knew you’d do fine, but you did better than fine.”
“Thanks, Cal. I have to admit it was more work than I was expecting. Handling the chainsaw and the log chains and such wasn’t that bad. It was all the moving over the rough ground.”
They were home in just a few minutes. Old man Peterson’s property abutted theirs, making the arrangement perfect for them. They were thinning his stand of trees for the wood, plus cash. Enough cash to pay their expenses plus a little. If Peterson was happy, they’d get a good recommendation from him. His opinion carried a lot of weight in the area.
When they got out of the truck both stopped for a moment to look at their house. Both were smiling hugely as they looked at the front. It had taken them three years to get it built, doing much of the work themselves.
Built back into the low bluff, only the front was exposed. And the front wall was a thick triple wall. An outer wall of reinforced natural rock and an interior wall of four-inch thick concrete were tied together with rebar. High R-factor board insulation faced the inside of the rock wall, with the rest of the area between the two walls filled with compacted earth. Two doors and three series of narrow vertical windows provided light and entry into the home. The doors and windows had heavy shutters to each side.
The front faced almost due south, and boasted a wide patio enclosed with a thick rock wall, four feet high. The second floor balcony deck acted as roof for the lower patio, and was, in turn, roofed by another concrete slab, it being covered with enough earth to act as garden area, as did the top of the bluff. The balcony and balcony roof slab were supported by rock faced concrete pillars.
A stairway cupola pierced the top of the bluff, opening onto a large patio centered over the earth-sheltered house. A weather instrument pack mounted on the top of the stairway cupola was hardwired to the weather monitor in the den.
Like the entry patio, the balcony and top patio sported four-foot high rock walls. The south facing walls of all three were covered with solar panels. Photovoltaic, solar hot water collectors and solar space heating collectors.
A freestanding heavy-duty stepped antenna tower at one corner of the upper patio carried a large log periodic high frequency beam antenna and a VHF/UHF log periodic beam antenna on a side arm mount, both with rotors. A tall aluminum antenna mast with a variable base loading assembly was mounted above the HF beam. Three additional side mounts carried Public Service band vertical antennas The base of the tower also had a variable base loading assembly to turn the entire tower and antenna assembly into a large multi-frequency vertical antenna.
An identical antenna tower at the opposite corner of the upper patio carried a deep fringe TV antenna on a rotor. A side arm mount with rotor carried another VHF/UHF log periodic antenna, specifically for monitoring the Public Service Bands. There were a series of non-rotating beam antennas for specific TV channels and VHF/UHF repeater sites mounted on side arm mounts. As with the first tower, this one also had a loading box so the entire tower and antenna assembly would act as a tall vertical antenna.
A large C-band satellite antenna was mounted at the base of one antenna tower, and a dish satellite antenna with satellite internet capability was mounted near the bottom of the other antenna tower, along with a satellite radio antenna.
“You want to put the truck in the garage?” Nan asked Calvin after a moment of enjoying looking at their dream home.”
“I think so. We could get rain tonight.”
Nan grinned over at Calvin. “You just want to look at everything again.”
Calvin smiled back. “Well… maybe.”
They unloaded the Rokon, trailer, and log skid from the Dodge. Nan opened the garage door and Calvin backed the truck inside. He helped Nan bring in the bike, trailer, and skid.
Nan watched Calvin for a moment, a smile on her lips as he lowered the garage door. Like the house itself, the garage was dug back into the bluff. It was impossible to tell, for, like the house, narrow windows provided light, as did the light tubes that came down from their exposed ends along the upper patio wall. With the white painted walls and ceiling, the garage was as well lit as any standard garage, and better than many.
Trailing his hand along the workbench top that was part of the well equipped home shop, Calvin joined Nan near the connecting door between the garage and house. “I’m going up to take a look around,” he said as Nan started to enter the house.
She nodded and said, “I’ll start supper.”
Calvin turned to the other inside door. He took the short hallway that connected the garage rear entrance to the stairway that went up to the top patio. When they’d helped design the house, both he and Nan had insisted on alternate means of egress in case of fire, despite the house and garage both having sprinkler systems installed.
That was why there were two entrances on the front, the stairwell to the surface at the back of the units, plus the ability to exit the second floor rooms onto the balcony and climb down. There were projecting rocks in the front wall extending out to create an adequate emergency stairway down from the balcony.
With more than a touch of pride, Calvin surveyed their property from the top patio. They owned twenty acres of old growth forested land. It had been only a tenth of the cost of adjoining properties due to the nature of the geography of the parcel. There were almost no level spots in the twenty acres. The only ones of any size were the one at the face of the bluff and the small area on top of the bluff. The hill that was the bluff fell off sharply to the north, though it wasn’t a bluff like the south side. The east and west side were more gradual, but still steep slopes. The rest of the property consisted of steep hillsides, valleys, and ridges, with many rocky outcroppings.
The surrounding areas were hilly, but nothing like their little piece. The real estate agent had been cooperative in the sale. The owner was making a mint on the other parcels of the three hundred or so acres he owned, so had been willing to let this parcel go cheap, since no one seemed to want to build anything on the up and down landscape.
It was at one corner of the large plot, bordering federal land on the back, the Peterson place on one side. The other two sides bordered the Calhoun property, with no easy way in. The only reason Calvin and Nan took it was the easement they got from the owner to get to it from the county road. They’d checked from the air, and used topographical maps to select the route in. It bordered the owner’s property line for most of the distance, and then cut in toward Calvin’s and Nan’s place.
The Calhoun’s had not been too upset, since the easement for the track would service several more parcels, except for the last section, and it was on some more or less otherwise un-usable land. It was up to Calvin and Nan to turn the last section into a road. The section serving the rest of the lots the Calhoun’s paid a contractor to run a road-grader along the path to establish a minimal road. Additional work would be done as the properties were developed.
Calvin could see several sections of the road from his vantage point. He’d cleared specific trees during the construction of the house to enable the views he wanted. He turned around and looked down the steep slope that was the back side of the bluff. Quite a few trees and all the brush had been cleared around the house site, to minimized fire danger, though there were still plenty of trees around. Just none within fifty feet or so of the house.
They weren’t really concerned too much about actual fire damage, as they were lack of oxygen if there was a forest fire. There was a relatively large gulley that drained the flat area in front of the bluff. It was steep and long, mostly bare rock. It emptied into another wash that ran to the creek on Peterson’s property.
They were sure that it would act as a vent, bringing fresh air to almost the front door of the house in the event of a fire up where they were. Also during the construction phase much of the large rock excavated from the bluff to make room for the structure was used to create a series of step dams in the gulley to control the flow of runoff water and slow it as much as possible.
Though there was a good well that provided more than five gallons a minute fresh water flow, they had installed a solar powered pump with photovoltaic panel and battery at the largest of the containments. The pump was on a float switch and would pump accumulated water up to the large cistern under the front patio. The water went through a sand and gravel filter into the sump for the pump to keep the water as clean as possible. The water went through a high grade filter when it was pumped from the cistern.
Calvin walked over to the open garden plot. They’d plant their outside crop in a few more days. The seedlings were doing fine in the green house that bordered the garden plot. The big greenhouse beside the garage door was already providing salad vegetables and they had a good start on berries and melons, too. The greenhouse had been one of the first things finished during the construction.
Looking up, Calvin gave a little prayer of thanks. While they’d worked hard to achieve their dream, there’d been an element or two of luck, as well, and Calvin was appreciative. Finding the property when they were in the market had been sheer chance. They’d been scrimping and saving for five years, with both of them working, to be able to afford anything. Both their families had been willing to present highly unusual wedding gifts, after they announced that they would be married three weeks after the house was finished.

BOOK: Percy's Mission
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