Putting the Land to Bed

Rejoice in this free story & procure a book for yourself as well, to find rare stories not available online.

Rumbling in the truck up to the land once more.

The hum-beep of the truck.

Blackness on vast plains out the window.

Specs of snow circle and float.

Dusty is back in Cali. I’m on my own.

Pull off the exit for the off-gridder’s town. Gas up at the one pump.

The snow is getting heavier.

Pavement becomes dirt road. Dirt road turns into washboards.

No more gentle creep over the washboards.

Push through the rattling to 30mph and the tires find a way to float over the grooves.

Soon I’m back on my land. The future ranch.

Kill the engine. Alone in the hollow sound of wind in a big place.

The snow gets heavier.

Headlamp glows in showers of white snowflakes dancing in the wind like imps.

Hope my sleeping gear is warm enough for tonight.

Tent up again, working with cold fingers.

One ground mat down. One sleeping bag over that.

A second sleeping bag with an insert and fleece blanket for me.

Bundle up in sweatpants, hoodie, gloves, hat.

Sometimes a train whistle blows. Sometimes coyotes yip and howl.

But most of the time, it’s the type of quiet so deep it makes your breath seem loud.

Grab my guitar. Play myself some tunes.

It gives me something to think about beyond all the imaginary ghostly, ghoulish, possibilities drooling in the darkness outside of the tent.

Strum the guitar for a bit, then sleep.

Morning comes.

A camp morning with knit cap rolled down over face like a bag. Twisted in the fleece & nylon of the bedroll.

Work my way out of the tent. Knock workboots together to banish inner creepy crawlies.

The boots are empty.

Out with a plastic camp table. Metal stove on top of that.

Two bottles of water into an aluminum kettle. Ground coffee in the metal basket while it goes.

Legal pad while the coffee percolates.

To do:

  1. Begin clearing brush
  2. Drain two-stroke gas from chainsaw into the two-stroke gas can
  3. Drain generator gas into its own can
  4. Camouflage the shipping container itself
  5. Lock up container & post signs
  6. Grab first trash pile & ride out

Black coffee bubbles into the see-through knob on top of the pot. That’s how you know it’s ready. I flick the burner off. The blue flame dies.

Grab a rag for a potholder & fill my tin mug.

Drinking coffee, pacing in the snow.

Finish the cup & now warm, awake.

On to lopping dead limbs off of junipers.

Gathering them into a thistly pile.

Dragging them all into one place.

Dragging dead logs to this pile, too.

Won’t need the generator or chainsaw anymore. Drain the two types of gas into their respective buckets.

The chainsaw noise rips through the still air. Same routine with the generator.

Now I grab big blankets of camouflage. Like double king-sized bedsheets of ghillie suit.  

Chuck four folded sheets of camo up on top the container. Metal container roof clangs as each bundle lands.

Chuck zip ties up there. Two bundles of rope.

Then grab the metal posts and climb up onto the container myself.

Slick metal underfoot. Gentle snow in air. My camo, rope, & zip ties lie in bundles are waiting for me on the roof of the container.

Knot the four sheets of camo. Grab the rope and lash to one corner of the container.

Walk the line down to the other end. Drape the massive blanket of camo over the side of the container.

You can see a gentle, hazy shape that is the southern rim of the Grand Canyon from up here.

Back to work.

Tighten up the lashings. The wind is getting stronger.

Hop down. Secure the lower corners of the camo sheet.

Lock up, post signs, and good to go.

I truck to the first pile of trash. Back the bed next to it.

Load in a broken toilet, a bureau, plates, broken buckets with holes, & maybe one hundred green glass bottles.

Close the bed. Get in the truck.

Roll out.

Goodbye, land. See you next time.

To be continued

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