Wednesday, August 9, 2017

RT Mac Story Chap's 16-20



Chapter 16


Redtail asked Lena, “So how did you come to be part of the Wilder community?”

Lena laughed.  “I was just drawing in my breath to ask you the same question.  I was born and raised here.  Went to school in Higginsburg and did 6 years in the Army.  I guess Wilder spoiled me.  I love the quiet and the friendliness.  I still get my share of excitement.  How ‘bout you?”

“Oh wow,” began Redtail, “Beyond a week or so ago, it’s all a blur.  All I’ve remembered of my past is my puzzlement this morning after noticing a lack of pines and sandy soil here, and that I seem to have a little background in survival skills.  My real memory begins with walking in the woods with not a care in the World.  I just feel refreshed, but can’t remember from what.  After a few nights, I settled on a site near a creek in what I thought was a secluded area, then George caught me, welcomed me, adopted me, and I was hooked.”

“It must be confusing not knowing who you are or where you’re from,” said Lena.

“Not really,” said Redtail. “I’m me, and I hardly ever have to get my own attention, so any name’ll do ‘til the official one comes back.  And my only concerns in life are food, shelter, and Sunday, I get to go to church again.  I’m probably more content now than I’ve ever been.”

They both looked at the windshield and almost in unison said, “Here it comes,” as the first few raindrops tapped the window.

Redtail continued, “Someone’s probably wondering where I am and what I’m up to, but my worrying about it won’t do any good.  I figure about all I can do is wait for my memory to come back, or say, ‘Hey! That’s me on that milk carton.”  Redtail snorted a little laugh.

Lena smiled and asked, “What’s that laugh?”

Redtail said, “I pictured myself initiating the search for my past.  I’d probably cause a stir or even trouble if I was to walk up to people asking, “Do you miss me?””

Lena gave a little chuckle and said, “I supposed that could be a little awkward.  What do you plan to do with yourself in the rain tomorrow?”

“Oh, I dunno.  After church, probably find a leaf to curl up in to hide from the rain like the other critters do.  I’m pretty well stocked for a few days,” said Redtail.  She gasped and then breathed a sigh of relief.  “I thought I left my tires and bag of food at Big Al’s, but the author must’ve stuck ‘em in the car when I wasn’t looking.”

Lena asked, “How you getting to church?”

“George is taking me,” said Redtail.

“Wow!” said Lena. “You actually got him to do that?”

Redtail told her, “He offered and didn’t flinch in the slightest.  In fact, he gave me a new Bible yesterday.”

Lena said, “Frank and I have been after him for years to come back to church.  He always seemed to have something come up or lose track of what day it was.  Funny: he never missed one of his survival presentations.”  She gave a sigh and laugh.

Redtail seemed to take quick interest at the roadside, so Lena asked, “Did you see something?”

“Actually, no.  I was surprised at how quickly the buzzards finished the snack I left for them,” answered Redtail.  “The boys and I ate most of the rest of that woodchuck.”

“Oh, that was the roadkill they were so excited about,” said Lena.  “Frank and I enjoyed about a month’s worth of roadkilled venison, but I always tell Frank, ‘fresh venison doesn’t count as roadkill.’”

Redtail asked, “So, what brings you out to Perry’s Bend?” 

Lena said, “Most Conservation Areas allow foraging –above ground, no digging.  I’m trying for some raspberries and to see if any dew berries or blackberries are close to ready.”

Redtail gave a little laugh, “I just pictured Grandpa George quizzing me on the differences between those berries.”

Lena said, “Yeah, Mr. A’d probably like it, too, if we told the readers.”

Redtail asked, “Who’s Mr. A?”

Lena explained, “That’s what Sarah named Mr. Author, but that’s in a different writing altogether.”

Redtail said, “Yeah, I’ve had a couple run-ins with him.  OK, raspberries and dewberries have round stems and blackberry has a grooved stem –at least the wild ones.  You’re next.”

Lena smiled, “Raspberries are ripe around Memorial Day and Blackberries start around the 4th of July or later with dewberries in between.  OK, you go.”

Redtail continued, “Raspberries and blackberries are on upright or arched canes and dewberries are low, sprawling ground-huggers. Your turn.”

Lena said, “Ripe raspberries come off the plant like thimbles or stocking caps or little cups.  Anyway, the berry core is left on the plant, while dewberries and blackberries come off core and all.  Hmm.  Is there more?”

They both rode quietly for a few seconds and Redtail blurted out, “Oh!  Raspberry and dewberry have three leaflets and blackberry often has five.”

Lena added, “They’re all spelled different, too.”

Both smiled and rolled their eyes.

Lena said, “I gotta get you out to the Bumpy Log some night to meet more of the gang.  I think you’d like it.  George is even a semi-regular out there.”

“What’s the bumpy log?” asked Redtail.

“It’s our social club,” explained Lena. “It’s out in Nowhere –right in the middle, actually.  Why it’s pronounced Now-Here is kind of a fun story, but it’s right in line with Missouri’s Ne-VAY-da (Nevada) and Ver-SAILS (Versailles).  We can tell you the place name tale when you visit –sort of dangling a carrot for you.”

Redtail said, “Sounds like a tasty carrot, too.  I love the lore behind this area.  The museum in town is gonna be a hang-out for me.”

Lena said, “Oh no!  You gotta come out  to the club to get the story.  It just wouldn’t be same getting it from the museum.”

“Well,” said Redtail, “I’ll try to be patient.  My communication network isn’t real effective, so it might not be easy to schedule stuff.”

Lena said, “I know where you live.  We’ll work out something.  Shoot.  It looks like we’re here.  You game for berry picking?”

Redtail said, “I’d love to, and actually need to, but I gotta get other stuff arranged before it rains.  Can I get a literal rain-check?”

Lena said, “Sounds good.  I’ll hunt you down soon.”

“Thank you so much for the ride,” said Redtail. “Ah!  There’s a raindrop now.  Excellent timing!”

Redtail hopped out of Lena’s car, grabbed her stuff and and they exchanged waves.  Redtail headed out to her new camp and Lena departed for Perry’s Bend.

***

Chapter 17 

George wasn’t back from his Big River program, so Redtail had the quiet place to herself.  She went to the new wet-weather site and stood.  She folded her arms and tried to arrange her thoughts.

Redtail smiled as she imagined a T-ball coach yelling, “Line up!” to a bunch of four to six year old kids.  The coach gives an exasperated laugh and rounds the kids up one-by-one.

“OK, you stand right here.  This is an important job.  You’re the line-leader.”

One little girl looks up from her mound of dirt she’d been playing with and whined, “I wanted to be line-leader!”

“Here, you stand right here and be Assistant Line-Leader.”

The coach caught another and said, “Now you stand here –Come back!  Yes, I know it’s a bug, but you have to be number three.”

On to another player.  “OK, you stand--  Wait a second, you’re not on our team.  Yours is over at the next field, see, right over…”  He didn’t finish and the player was scampering off to the other field.

Redtail smiled and thought, “Line ‘em up one by one.”

“I think food is OK for a few days.  Church tomorrow.  I better get my new clothes hung up to de-wrinkle.”

She stepped into the tent and into a side room.  She stood as straight as she could without touching her head to the ceiling.  Her head was slightly bent over, so she decided to make her closet tripod about shoulder height.  She stepped back outside and found three straight eye-height sticks and two more that didn’t need to be quite so straight.

Redtail fastened the three straight pieces together about six inches from the top and gently spread the sticks about three feet apart at the base to form a tripod.  She cut the other two sticks about in half and fastened three of them as crossbars on the tripod legs.  The fourth, she laid across the crossbars as her closet-rod.

She found her clothes, shook them straight and hung the shirt by the collar on a tripod crossbar.  She draped the pants over the longest of the brace extensions.  Redtail gave her closet a look, then went outside to find more straight sticks.  She returned with a straight 18-incher of about 1 ½ inch diameter and a curved one about 16 inches and almost an inch in diameter.  With her machete and a file, she smoothed both sticks.  She smoothly rounded the ends of the curved stick after cutting it to around 14 inches.

Redtail wrapped a piece of insulated copper wire around the middle of the curved piece of wood, leaving about a foot of wire free.  She thought, “Now that’s a fine shirt hanger.”  She wrapped both ends of the straight stick for the pants hanger.  “Now to apply the clothes.” She hung them on her tripod.  “OK, clothes are all ready for tomorrow.”  And then, a distraction happened.  The gravel started crunching in the driveway, which indicated someone’s arrival.  Redtail walked toward the house far enough to see it was George who pulled in.  She gave a wave and headed back to her thoughts organizing.  She wasn’t being unsociable and hoped George didn’t think she was.  There was a light drizzle in the air, so she needed to stay close to her site.

George pulled a big custom-built big-wheeled dolly from the back of the truck and loaded it with three plastic tubs from his program.  He took those to the kitchen, grabbed two umbrellas from the coat rack behind the door stepped back outside.  George squinted at the drizzle, popped an umbrella open and headed to Redtail’s camp.  Mr. Ziffel stood up, stretched, twitched a couple times at the drizzle droplets, turned around, shook off and crawled back under the porch.

George arrived at Redtail’s camp to find her with a catfood bag poncho draped over shoulders, covering her firewood stack with another tarp.

“Redtail,” called George, “I brought you an umbrella.  Thought it might come in handy from time to time.”

Redtail replied, “Why thank you, Grandpa, that will come in handy tomorrow.”

George asked, “How ya set up for dinner?”

Redtail said, “I got plenty for tonight and a couple more days.  I hope the rain lets me out by then.  You want some dinner?”

George answered, “Oh, I’ve been snacking all day at that wild edibles program.”

Redtail said, “That sounds like fun.  What age group did you have?”

George said, “They were probably eight to twelve year olds.  They’re a fun bunch for a while.  I wouldn’t care to have to deal with ‘em day in and day out, or to be responsible for their behavior.”

Redtail asked, “You mentioned ‘Scouts’ the other day –were they Boy or Girl Scouts?”

George replied, “Actually neither.  Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of America don’t recognize Donowutt County, so we created our own alternative.  The Donowutt County Scouts have both boys and girls in the same troop.  They keep ‘em apart for campouts and often segregate into small groups, but the troop meetings include all.  It’s lots more traditional than what the Boy and Girl Scouts have become these days.  I s’pose outsiders might call it ‘culturally irrelevant, but we like it that way.”

“I know,” said Redtail. “I just loved the atmosphere I found today.  I went to town and even got to run Big Al’s store while he ran to Higginsburg on some errands.  I met some of the boys in town and Renzo and Lena.  Lena brought me back here on her way to Perry’s Bend.  It was a fun day.  Even got tires and tubes for the bike, AND a woodchuck.”

George said, “Sounds like you had a fun day, too.  You ran the store?  Of course, as ‘Grandpa’, I’ve also gotta ask, ‘What boys?’”

Redtail said, “Oh they were just little guys --Kevin, Jerry and Mike.  Al calls ‘em ‘Kevin…’”

And George joined in with a smile as they both finished the sentence, “…Riff and Raff.”

“Yeah,” said Redtail, “They seem like good kids.  We really hit it off –my lifestyle and their love for things outdoorsy and wild.”

George said, “I had one memorable little guy today.  I think he might’ve had some behavioral issues, since it seemed he had an adult assigned specifically to him.  They all got into the room and seated.  He was in the back, waving his arm like he wanted to say something even before we started.  His adult kept putting his arm down.  The other kids pretty much ignored him, though he did draw a couple dirty looks and eye-rolls.  Poor little guy.  During my presentation, he kept bouncing around like he had to go to the bathroom.  Every now and then his hand would shoot up and his adult put it down again.  I finally finished and asked, “Are there any questions?” Mr. Fidgit shot his hand back up again as his adult responded like she’d always done.  I took the risk.  I looked right at the kid and said, “I think you’ve been wanting to say something for a while.”  He smiled real big and the other kids gave a quiet sigh and groan.  He excitedly said, “My… my… my dog… my dog, he fleeched a skwoozle.”  At least that’s what it sounded like he said.  There were almost two seconds of dead silence as he smiled at me.  I gave him a serious look and said, “You know, I’ve heard that happens,” and gave him a yup-you’re-right nod.  He just looked so pleased and the other kids looked at me in disbelief.  The little guy who spoke seemed to calm right down.  It felt pretty good.  Then I got a few of the standard questions followed by the silence that says I’m to ask if anyone wants to try eating any of the bugs.  The excitement erupts from there.  Kids are fun.”

Redtail said, “Kids say some weird stuff.  I think it’d be fun to see one of your programs some time.”

George said, “There’s lots of times I can use help.  I’ll see if you’re game for the next one.”

Redtail said, “I don’t have lots on my schedule, so I think I’d be able to make it.  The only thing on my schedule now is church tomorrow.  I’m looking forward to that.  It feels like I’m getting a vital missing puzzle piece.”

“I’m sort of looking forward to going back, myself,” said George.  “Well, I better be heading back to the house.  Morning happens pretty close to right after night, and it looks like night’s a-comin’.”

***

Chapter 18

Redtail woke the next morning, got dressed and ate a dry sunfish and a handful of raspberries and gooseberries.  She listened to an occasional tap of water droplets on the tent roof.  She scanned about the floor for puddles and found none.  “I guess that duct tape over the hole in the roof held,” she thought out loud.”Whether the rain’s falling off the branches or from the sky, I better take the umbrella.”  So, she took it and the Bible and stepped outside, smiled, stretched and headed up to the house.

Mr. Ziffel met her halfway across the clearing between the house and her camp.  Redtail gave him a head-skritching and with a laugh, “It’s funny to be happy you smell like wet dog.  I’m glad your perfume wore off.”  Mr. Ziffel wagged his tail and walked with her up to the house.

The back door was open and Redtail heard sounds of activity inside, so she announced her presence.  “Good morning George, er, Grandpa.  I’ll get used to that someday.”

George said, “C’mon in.  Want some eggs?  Five or six is just as easy as two.”

Redtail said, “Oh, I had fish and some berr…  Never mind.  A couple eggs sounds great!”  Redtail stepped into the kitchen and pulled out a chair, sitting down at the table.

George anticipated her breakfast acceptance and already had two places set.

Redtail asked, “Does the church sing traditional hymns or do they have a band and sing contemporary Christian radio hits?”

George said, “Well, I know they use a hymnal, but I don’t know how traditional they are, ‘cuz lots o’ times nobody knows the songs, but they still try to make a joyful noise.”

Redtail asked, “Is the preacher a hellfire and brimstone preacher or a warm fuzzy feel-good preacher?”

“Nope,” answered George, “but he can touch on both.  He’ll step on toes and he preaches the Word.  At least if pastor Tix is still there.  It’s been a while for me.”

“Lena sounded surprised when I told her you were bringing me,” said Redtail.

George laughed, “I’ll bet she asked how you got me talked into it.”

“She sounded pleased or even relieved when I said you volunteered to take me and even got me a Bible,” said Redtail.

“Yeah, she and Frank been workin’ on me for a while to come back.  I still went regular for a few months after Mae Mae died, but then I started slackin’ off.  I even used that excuse about communin’ with God in the outdoors instead of set times Sundays and Wednesdays.”

Redtail lit up.  “Cool!  They got Wednesday stuff too?”

George said, “Wednesdays aren’t usually real exciting, but they can still be fun.  First Wednesday we got a fellowship dinner… Hey, I think I’m gonna slip right back in!  I said “We” …anyway, second Wednesday, is the business meeting.  Third Wednesdays are women’s meeting and the deacons’ meeting.  Fourth Wednesday is music and craft fellowship and when we have a fifth Wednesday, it’s family movie night.  I heard a couple months back, we even started a Sunday night Bible study.”

“What do you have for youth?” asked Redtail.

“That was quite a weak spot when I was going,” answered George. “We’re such a small church and mighty top-heavy in the age-department.  We got so few youth we don’t have much other than Sunday school.”

“I’m not sure why, but I got a feeling I’ve got a strong youth concern in my past, ‘cuz my mind instantly jumped into ‘we-gotta-figure-out-how-to-keep-‘em-interested-in-Jesus’ mode,” said Redtail. 

George smiled.  “You seemed to fit right in with The Relics –that’s what we call the homeschoolers, ‘cuz they’re based in the museum, and you sure hit it off with the hardware boys.  Yeah, you might be onto something.”

“Maybe I should wait to be invited, rather than to come across as too pushy with the youth,” said Redtail.

George said, “Oh, I don’t know.  Maybe someone steppin’ up is what the kids need.  Aww, shoot!  I just fixed yer eggs the same way I like mine without askin’.  Whites are done, and the yolks are still soft.”

Redtail said, “Sounds good to me.”

George brought the pan and spatula’d  Redtail’s eggs to her plate, and plopped a couple on his, too.  Right about then, the toast popped up.

“Want your toast buttered?” asked George. “Notice, I asked first this time.  I got a dairy background, so stuff, particularly bread, usually gets butter.”

“Oh, why not?” said Redtail.  “I’m having breakfast at Grandpa’s, so I’ll have breakfast like Grandpa.  Besides, I’m not even sure how I like my breakfast.  Fish and berries could work, but I’m pretty sure there’s better.”

George said, “We got enough time we won’t have to rush breakfast, but we should probably get there early enough to get good parking.”

Redtail gave a questioning look. “I thought you said it was a tiny church.  The lot didn’t look like parking would be a problem.”

George laughed.  “I didn’t mean for the truck.  I wanted to make sure I could park myself in the back row on an end.“

Redtail tried to put on her best pouty-face and Precious Moments eyes. “But… Does that mean I’m going to have to sit alone?  *sniff* *sniff*”

George smiled and said, “Oh good.  I saw what you tried, and I recognized it as a pout, but you ain’t all that good at it.  It’s good to see you lack experience in that department.”  He rolled his eyes. “OK, you pick where we sit.”  And they both smiled.

George and Redtail finished their breakfast.  George got up and cleared the table, saying, I’m gonna rinse all these before we leave and wash ‘em when we get back.”

Redtail asked, “Can I help?”

“Nah, I’ve pretty much got a system over the years.”

Redtail challenged and smiled. “So, you’re used to cooking for two?”

“OK,” said George jovially. “Not so much the past few years, but me and Mae Mae shared the kitchen pretty much equally.  I don’t know.  Sarah comes over fairly often so maybe I do stay in that culinary-practice-for-two thing.”

George looked about done, so Redtail got up, gathered her umbrella and Bible.  George grabbed a beat up looking old brown Bible and out they headed. 

Mr. Ziffel crawled out from under the  porch and looked at George and Redtail.  He gave a short ‘woof’ and wagged his tail.

Redtail said happily, “You have a good morning, too!” 

Mr. Ziffel wagged his tail a few more times and crawled back under the porch as though he knew this wasn’t his trip into town.

In the truck and on the way, Redtail started humming a bluesy version of “What a Friend we Have in Jesus.”  George joined in on the second verse with his vocal version of guitar entry.  They threw in as much energy as they could and Redtail even belted out lyrics from time to time.  They finished the song and took some exhausted breaths.

Redtail said, “I didn’t know you knew Ashley Cleveland.”

George said, “Well I didn’t figure you to be old enough to like her music.  Hey, pop that glove box open.”

Redtail opened the box and found three Ashley Cleveland CDs, a Newworldson, Tal and Acacia and two Miss Angie CDs.

“I hadn’t heard of Miss Angie.  What’s she sound like?” Redtail asked eagerly.

George said, “She’s got a really neat sound.  Her late ‘90s stuff is kind of power-pop with lots of electronic enhancements.  The musical energy level runs all over the place.  Her later music has a different sort of polish to it.  You can tell it’s music from an older artist, but that’s not saying her early stuff is the least bit amateurish.  I guess the newer music is more artistic rather than lively pop.  She’s a Missouri girl.  Ha!  Boy my mind wanders.  She’s from Springfield, and so’s a forager friend of mine.  Wanna do some foraging after church, weather permitting?  I got a program tomorrow.”

Redtail said, “I gotta get a better food storage system, but yeah, that sounds like fun.  Oh!  I should get some salt and try to make some kimchi!  Could we play some Miss Angie on the way?”

“Sure, hand me that Triumphantine album,” said George.

George popped the CD in the player and the music began.

Redtail exclaimed, “Oh wow!  I love it already!  It’s got an ethereal feel to it.”

George said, “Lots of others are much livelier.”

Redtail said, “Oh, this is neat stuff!”

“It gets even ‘Neater Cooler’,” replied George with a smile.

“What?” puzzled Redtail.

“Sorry, humor attempt.  Look at the case,” said George.

Redtail scanned the case, “OK, “Neater Cooler” is quite literal.”

As they pulled into the parking lot, George glanced at the time.  “We’re plenty early.  I wanted to let the song play out before shutting off the truck.”

Redtail said, “Oh good.  I like her.  How many albums does she have?”

George said, “Only three that I know of, but now I want to double-check.”

Redtail commented about the song, “I’m glad He got me when I was young.”

George said, “You’re a ways from being old, but yeah, it can be rough to make a change as you get older and older.”

The song ended and George shut off the truck before track two started.  He said, “Well, it looks like this is it.”

Redtail said in a preschool-teacher voice, “No need to be scared, Grandpa.  I’ll be right with you.”



***

Chapter 19

They both laughed as they got out of the truck.  Redtail glanced at George as he closed the door and closed hers, too, without locking.  George said, “I don’t usually bother locking here in Wilder.  Maybe I’m too trusting.”

So they both walked into the church.

Pastor Herman Ulysses Tix gave them a welcome by giving George a hard time right from the start.  “Hi George!  Wow, you’ve grown.  Why, when I last saw you, you were just a little guy…”

“Ya ya ya,” interrupted George with a smile and a handshake.  George looked at Redtail and said, “See?  It’s been a while.”

Pastor Tix asked, “And who is this young lady?”

George said, “This is RT or Redtail Scot, my granddaughter.”

Pastor Tix raised an eyebrow.

“Adopted granddaughter,” clarified George.

“Well, we’re glad to have you join us, Redtail,” said Pastor Tix.

“Why thank you,” said Redtail.  “I’m hoping it’ll be lots more often in the future.”
George asked, “So, Brother Herman, where do we find our classroom?”

Pastor Tix smiled and said, “Well, the urge to ask, ‘Where did you leave it?’ is precluded by my not really knowing if it’s changed since you were last here.  We actually grew a bit and split the adult class, but finances and teacher volunteer quantity kind of necessitated a reunion.  I’m not so sure your class is in the same room.”

Pastor Tix motioned to an open door as he reached in to turn on the lights.  Here’s where the adults meet now.”  Redtail and George walked in and picked out some chairs.  “Y’all make yourselves at home.  We’re Family here.” And Pastor Tix wandered off to take care of some more Sunday morning opening chores.

Redtail took a Student Guide off the stack in the middle of the table.  “Looks like this is the one we’re in,” she said.  “You want one?”

“That’s OK.  I’ll glance at yours if I need to.  What’s our Scripture today?” asked George.

Redtail gave George the passage and another couple walked in.  The teacher said, “Good morning George! And welcome back!”  The woman with him gave the teacher a quick kiss and started to turn and gave Redtail and George a quick double-take.

“Oh wow!” she said.  “You must be Redtail.  We’re Kevin’s parents, Ted and Jane Dossett.  Kevin has NOT been able to stop talking about you.  You sure made quite an impression on him.  Ever since we moved here a couple years ago, Kevin’s been moping around all grumpy, but last night he was excited and happy like his best friend just moved back into town.”

Redtail said, “Wow!  I sure hope I’m not overstepping my bounds in info I’m giving him.”

Jane said, “Oh, I don’t think he held back in in telling us everything.  We heard about woodchucks, camping, and even how laziness leads to invention.”

Redtail laughed and said, “I think he got it about covered.”

Jane said, “Well, we’re glad to have you in the neighborhood.”

Ted added, “And welcome to our church home, too!  I see you found the books.  Feel free to take one with you.”

Redtail said, “I don’t have a real good controlled environment so I’ll just get the Scripture and read up on it.”

Ted smiled and said, “I like hearing of people who enjoy preparing for class.  I hope you guys get back in the habit of fellowshipping with us.”

George said, “Yeah, I’m sorta seein’ that as a good thing.”

In the meantime several others walked in.  There were waves, smiles and “Hey George is back!” and the class began.

The lesson summarized on the lines of: if people know you’re a Christian, they’ll be watching.  If you’re a Christian, they should know it, therefore, if you’re called to that higher Christian standard, what other people think IS important.

The Sunday school superintendent walked around ringing the 5 minute warning bell.  Ted closed and released the class. 

Many introductions and reintroductions took place in the hall outside the sanctuary.  The fellowshipping slowly broke up as people started going in to sit down.  George looked more and more uncomfortable the farther up the aisle Redtail walked, or at least he felt like he did.  For Redtail, the whole walk took only about four seconds.  George’s mind slipped into slow motion as he walked up the seemingly endless aisle –the sort art classes like to use to teach vanishing points.

George and Redtail sat down at about the same time.  “This isn’t too bad, is it –third row from the front?” whispered Redtail.

George said, “Oh, I guess it’s OK,” wiping the sweat from the palms of his hands on his pants legs.

Redtail said, “I just had a flash of my mom and dad.  Still no names or locations, but they realized they always sat in the same place every Sunday –almost a ‘my-pew’ thing, so we started moving around each week.  We got to meet lots more Family that way.”

Pastor Tix’s family took the second from the front row on the left end and another couple and friend took the right end.  The worship leader got up and headed to the pulpit and Redtail felt a bump on her left and heard whispers.  She looked and found Lydia from the Relics and another little girl beaming with grins.  A tap on her shoulder revealed Kevin in the spot right behind her.  Redtail greeted them with smiles and whispers.

Lydia whispered loudly, “This is Chloe, my friend.”

Redtail smiled and shook her hand and glanced around to make eye contact with Jane and another woman she assumed was either Lydia’s or Chloe’s mom.  Both gave questioning looks and seemed to mouth, “Is that OK?” 

Redtail smiled, nodded and gave a thumbs-up.  She leaned over to George and whispered, “We gotta behave ourselves.  We got accountability partners.”

Lydia giggled and caught herself.

The worship leader began.  It was a traditional worship: hymns from the hymnal, piano accompaniment.  Of course, there were lyrics projected on the wall, too, in case you preferred it that way.

Redtail sang and got the kids to sing, too.  She passed a note to Kevin and whispered to Lydia and Chloe, “If you can hear the person next to you singing, sing louder.”  The kids got it and they all made a joyful noise.  George sort of mumbled the songs, but still, he could be heard.

After hymns and prayers was Children’s Time.  Lydia and Chloe eagerly ran up to the front to join the rest of the kids, while Kevin felt awkwardly old for that.  Kevin, however, didn’t feel too awkward, so he ran up one row and sat down by Redtail.  Lydia gave him a glare and Redtail gave a shushing hand-gesture.  She calmed somewhat and George made room for the returning girls between him and Redtail.

Lydia’s mom put her head in her hands but the third-rowers didn’t catch it.  Lydia did and adjusted her attitude –at least outwardly.

Providentially, the children’s message was patience in the face of adversity.  The girls came back and Redtail motioned them to sit on her other side.  Lydia sat by Redtail and Chloe paused and looked at the scary old man.  George gave her a warm smile and she smiled back and plopped herself down between Lydia and George.  She looked up at George and gave him another smile.

Pastor Tix stepped up to the podium and began his sermon:

There’s this block of huge beautiful homes up near Big River –on close to 200 acres.  When the developer bought the place, it was called “Tick Holler” ‘cuz it was thick with those little blood suckers.  That developer knew he couldn’t sell houses in Tick Holler, so he renamed the place, “Deer Run” ‘cuz it sounded so much prettier.  Changing what it was called, didn’t change the truth at all.  Anyway, big city folks now buy their 2-5 acre plots, strip ‘em of the plants that made the place pretty and replace ‘em with those astro-turf like sheets of green called lawns.  They panic if they see a splash of color and run out with their sprays and chem-warfare suits to crush that dandelion or violet before it contaminates their pristine wilderness.  They “Ooooh” and “Awwwww” when a deer is spotted.  They “Ewwww!” and “Augh!” when they spot a tick and run back out with their chem gear.

Changing stuff to suit our wants is nothing new.  Instead of calling it “Little Strip of Dirt Between the Glacier and Icebergs”, the Viking explorers called it “Greenland” to entice settlers.  The Viking people got cautious quick.  “Oh ya, sure. ‘Vinland’ yu betcha!  Like dis is Greenland.  I’m movin’ back ta Iceland or da Orkneys.  Didja hear, Olaf actually got two turnips, --ya, two I tell ya--  ta grow on one o’ doze rocky islands.  A regular Eden dere, don’t cha know.”

Let’s put a spin on things.  Change what we don’t like so we can get our own way.  The whole political correctness, blur the facts thing started lots farther back than the Vikings in Greenland.  “Surely God didn’t say you’d really die if you ate that fruit.”

He got into the meat of the sermon, chewed on that for a while and closed, without getting political.

We’re not supposed to be gods or to make any other idols, but if you’re called to be part of God’s Family, you’re called to look to Jesus as the ultimate example.  Jesus is loving and forgiving.  He’s a healer and a servant, and He’s God.  One thing He’s not, is politically correct.  He calls sin for what it is –sin.  And He tells us, “Stop it!”

[Pastot Tix looked at George and Redtail]  Aside from George’s guest, or are you her guest?  I know none of us are licensed anesthesiologists.  Political correctness is too dangerous to be messing with.  It can too easily numb us to sin.  God flooded the Earth already, due to rampant sin.  Yeah, I know, He promised never to do it again –with a flood!  We’ve got an example of what can happen if we let ourselves be numbed in Ezekiel 9: 4-6.  Write that down and look it up and ponder the meaning.  God may not flood the Earth again, but if God does this in Ezekiel, I pray we resist the numbing of political correctness and other societal anesthetics and we see sin and call it for what it is.  May the Holy Spirit convict us and make sin so unpleasant to us we flee it always and receive that mark

God gave us choice.  He doesn’t force faith and following.  He wants us to decide for ourselves.

The congregation sang a hymn and took up the offering.  Redtail dropped a ten in the plate and George felt obligated so he put in what cash he had.  Then came announcements. 

Redtail leaned across Lydia and Chloe to quietly tell George, “I might try that music and craft fellowship Wednesday.”

Pastor Tix gave a closing prayer and dismissed the congregation.  As George slowly turned around, he gave a quick estimate of 60ish people in attendance. 

Redtail said, “So many more people here to meet!”

Many scurried out and quite a few stayed back for fellowship.  It’s one of the first times George was not among the scurriers.  He found it lots easier than he thought it’d be.

Frank and Lena walked toward George and Redtail.  The kids started crowding around Redtail. 

“It’s good to see you here,” said Lena.  “We tried to get to Sunday school, but Esther’s dog got away again and we rounded her up before we headed in.  Did you guys make it in time?”

“Yep, we ran the whole gamut,” said George.  “Redtail’s even talking about comin’ back Wednesday for the Music and Crafts thing.” 

Frank said, “What’s Redtail up to?  She’s got quite the crowd gathered.”

Redtail looked up, waved back to Rick who was leaving, and then turned to Frank and Lena, saying, “Oh hi, you guys.  It looks like I might be taking the youth on a nature walk.  We’ll have to schedule it some time soon.  Sounds like rumor of my chosen lifestyle has gotten out.”

George said, “Hey, congratulations! Your first program!”  And he shook her hand.  “You wanna go with me tomorrow for my Midtown Garden Club program?  It’s supposed to be raining and this’ll be an indoor program.”

Lena said, “Sounds like a set-up, Redtail.”

Redtail said, “Still, I’d like to see one of Grandpa’s programs.  Sure, I’ll do it.”

Lena asked, “And the Bumpy Log Tuesday evening?”

Frank said, “Looks like your social calendar’s filling up fast, Redtail.”

Redtail said, “But it all fits.  I think it’s due to start clearing up Thursday.  Monday Midtown, Tuesday Bumpy Log, Wednesday Music and Crafts, Thursday, foraging and hunting.”  Redtail looked away at the door.  “Hi, Sarah!”

Sarah glanced around with a look of concern.  She spotted George.  “Oh, hi, Redtail.  I saw George’s truck out in the lot.  Everything’s OK, right?”

“Everything’s great!  Is this your church, too?” asked Redtail.

Sarah said, “Oh, I guess, when I get out on Sunday mornings.”

George finally saw Sarah and asked, “Everything alright, Sarah?”

“Yeah, I saw your truck in the lot and dropped in to find out the same thing,” Sarah said.

“We’re gonna be doing some foraging in a bit,” said George.  “Wanna come along?  Probably be a good time to finally show Redtail where all the boundaries of the place are.”

Redtail asked, “Is that pond by the road yours, too?  The one with the little island in it?”

“Yep,” said George, “and it’s also got some nice bass and catfish in it.  We oughtta be heading out, too.  Maybe get that foraging done before it rains again. 

Sarah said, “I just might drop by on y’all a little later.”

***


Chapter 20

On their way home, George said, “I think old Brother Herman was kinda preachin’ to the choir today.  We’re a pretty morally conservative and non-PC bunch around here.”

Redtail said, “I noticed that and I love it!  I mean, I look just a little different from most of the people around here, but not once have I encountered someone stumbling over their words or being patronizing in order to not offend.  And nobody was offended.  I just like being people and there’s nothing wrong with looking different from everybody else.”

George said, “I’m feeling like getting all philosophical on race and ethnicity now, but that can wait for another time.”

“OK, let’s talk about the bunny,” said Redtail.

“The bunny?”

“Yeah, that’s something someone used to say when she wanted to change the subject.”

“OK, bunnies.  Have you been to the other side of the house –around that old fence line between it and the pond?  There’s almost always rabbits out there,” offered George.

After a little pause, Redtail asked, “What all are we going to do tomorrow for the program?”

George said, “The Midtown Garden Club is mostly women in their fifties to eighties.  There a few guys in their forties and four or five women in their thirties.  Most express an almost giddy delighted shock when they hear lamb’s quarter and purslane are edible.  A couple are receptive to hearing about edible insects, but I don’t know if they’re ready to try real survival foods like mystery roadkill or rinsed shoe leather.”

Redtail smiled and added, “So they probably don’t want to know how to check eyes and reject a roadkill if they’re cloudy?  That decomposition science is cool!”

George pulled the truck into the driveway, stopping by the mailbox. “I checked yesterday but it might’ve been too early.”

Redtail unclicked and hopped out, saying, “I’ll get it.”  She got back to the truck, “Nope, still nothing,” and she hopped in the truck, clicking her seatbelt for the little stretch of driveway.  “Habit,” she said.

“And not a bad one,” finished George.

George stopped the truck and asked, “Meet back here in about half an hour?  I’ll bring some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches –Dairy-Country style.”

“What’s Dairy-Country style?” asked Redtail. “I guess I’ll find out at lunchtime.”

And off she went to her tent as George went to the house.  What he and Mr. Ziffel discussed on the way between the truck and house is between them.  Hmm.  Maybe they were talking about you.  Probably not, but, then again?

As Redtail changed her clothes, she wondered, “Is it dipped in milk?  No, the bread would fall apart.  Unless, of course, it was toasted first.  Maybe he already toasted them.”

George mapped out their forage route in his head.  “North, past the pond, then west along ZZ.  South along the west fence to the creek.  East along the creek to Redtail’s first camp and back through the woods home.”

Redtail got back to the truck and was intercepted by Mr. Ziffel and delayed for petting until George came out a few minutes later.  He had on a backpack and other stuff.  He carried a small burlap sack which he handed to Redtail.  “A foraging bag.  You can keep it if you like.”

Redtail said, “Oh thank you!  A bag that breathes is lots better than my plastic sacks.”

George said, “Yeah, stuff might get dried out, but wallowing in its own sweat encourages premature spoilage.”

George asked, “What cha got there?”

“A piece of rebar I bent into a digging tool.”

“Want a tire iron?  I’m pretty sure I got more than this one,” George said as he patted a canvas bag that looked like a long belt holster.

“That’d be nice, and it wouldn’t bend like this rebar can,” said Redtail.

George said, “I think I know right where one is.”  He set his stuff down and trotted to the garage and pulled one out from the corner near the open door.  George got back to the truck and handed the iron to Redtail.

Redtail said, “This’ll be nice.  Sharp, stiff, I can hardly wait to try it out.”

George said, “I thought I’d use today to show you the western boundary of the place.  South’s easy, being the creek and north and east are roads.  Also got some cool features of the place you might like.”

“I’m all for exploring, and it’s fun with a guide,” said Redtail.

George said, “Well, let’s get exploring.  We can nibble along the way or we could eat sandwiches now.”

“Whichever the guide says,” said Redtail.  “Shouldn’t we at the very least rinse our food before we eat it, if we can’t cook it?”

George gave Redtail a narrow-eyed look. “”Our author made you say that, right?  “Cuz I know you just pluck and eat lots of the time.”

Redtail said, “Yeah, he did, but it’s still a good idea.  And yes, he did it again.”

George confessed, “I guess at my programs I present all the edibles and lessons with all the safety rules firmly attached.”

They headed northwest close past the house and to the old fencerow.  A rabbit, just like George mentioned earlier, tried to look scared by  hopping lazily three or four hops.  He had to look a little frightened since Mr. Ziffel was with George and Redtail.

George said, “Yep, he’d be easy to get if you needed to.”

“I could almost kick it,” said Redtail.  “These blackberries have a bit to go.  Hard, green, I’ll check on ‘em in a week.”

Past the fencerow they walked into a patch of ground George worked up last in the winter.  It was just a little more than an acre of rough ground between the fencerow and the pond.

“Here in this patch of ground, we oughtta  get a bunch of good stuff,” said George.  “Rain or shine, I think I’ll come back here in the morning for some fresh greens.  I think there’s ample lamb’s quarter and curly dock for us, the critters and the Garden Club.  I will get some onions now.”

“I think I’ll get some greens now, to eat later,” said Redtail.

Northwest they walked, to the pond.

“Oh wow, this is nice!  Is the boat useable?” asked Redtail.

George said, “Last time I used it, it was water-tight.  That’s been a couple years.”

“You said there’s bass and catfish in here,” said Redtail.  “Do you mind if I tried for a few and checked the boat’s sea-worthiness?”

“You don’t have to ask to use Grandpa’s stuff,” smiled George.

Redtail said, “I guess it’s habit –and a courtesy.”  Redtail gasped, “Oh!”

She pounced on the ground.  Redtail stood up triumphantly and tossed her grasshopper into the water.  A fish hit the hopper quickily and forcefully enough both jumped.

Redtail said, “We gotta feed these fish better!”

“I guess so!” said George.  “At least that one was mighty hungry.”

Redtail asked, “Have you tried cattail?  That’s a pretty good-sized patch there.”

George said, “You know, I’ve always been meaning to try it, but something’s always come up to distract me.  I know the roots are edible and the pollen can be used as flour.  Those young seed heads can even be used to make a pulled pork substitute.  Even the shoots are supposed to be good”

Redtail said, “Maybe we should plan a deliberate cattail thing.  Might even try arrowhead root at the same time.”

 “Maybe we’ll do that when this batch of rain gets past,” said George.

As they neared the road, Redtail got excited.  “Ohh! Thistles!” she exclaimed as she drew a knife and set her stuff down.  Redtail squatted to the ground and began to carefully cut off leaves.  She held up each leaf and sliced off the thorny edges, leaving the central vein.

George said, “I’d not met anyone who knew about thistle edibility. I’ve tried ‘em, and they’re pretty good.  I just frequently forget about ‘em.”

Redtail smiled and handed him some trimmed leaves.  “They’re really pretty good.  I like the roots and tender stem parts, too.”  She pulled out the tire iron and started to work some roots loose.  “The flowers even make for a gum-like trail chew.  It doesn’t turn to gum at all, but it feels like it in your mouth.”

“Thistle leaves, at least, don’t have that odd wild texture that takes getting used to,” said George.  “I’m gonna cut me a bunch, too, to sweet pickle for tomorrow.”  And George took a squat by  some thistles and began trimming, too.

Redtail said, “I was pretty surprised the first time I tried thistle.”

They cut more thistles and headed west down the road.  Redtail said, “I wish chicory grew more on the other side of the ditch like it does right here by the road edge.  I have no idea how much the plants are affected by run-off.”

“Yeah, the run-off’s not likely to crawl back up the ditch on the other side,” said George.

Redtail said, “Here comes a bunch of curly dock.”

George said, “There’s a bunch on the other side of the road, too.”

“Yeah, but it’s growing in amongst all that poison hemlock.  Would that be safe to eat?” said Redtail.  “I mean, the hemlock dies off every year and it decomposes into the soil.  The dock sucks all that stuff back up.  I’m not gonna harvest from that patch.”

George said, “I’ve never heard cautions against foraging in a poison hemlock patch, but it makes sense not to.  I really gotta pull it from around the barn.  That stuff makes good George-repellant.”

Both crossed the ditch to forage the dock on the ‘good-side’ of the road.  They continued west to a gravel farm access to an overgrown field.  George said, “Looks like you get your wish about the chicory.  Here’s a bunch at the edge of this driveway.”

Redtail said, “Wow, there’s lots of it, too.  I don’t like to forage a place unless my target munchie is very plentiful.”

George asked, “So whatcha gonna do with it?”

“Roast the roots for coffee and make a drink from the leaves.  I’ll eat the leaves after I boil ‘em.  I only do the leaves before the plant spikes.  I’m not really sure why.  I guess I think younger’s just gonna be less bitter,” replied Redtail. 

While digging chicory and pondering coffee, Redtail continued, “Ya know, there’s times I think I miss the comfort of indoors, but I don’t have real memories to re-live.  All I get are those that’d-be-cool sorts of memories.  Like right now, I got this picture of sitting back in a big soft chair in a cozy dimly-lit room with a cup of coffee in my hand.  I take a sip of coffee and a long deep breath, closing my eyes and smiling.  I have no clue where that place may be or even if it exists.  It’s weird.”  She began humming and continued digging.

“Well, when the mood hits ya back by the house, c’mon in and make the picture more real,” offered George.

Redtail said, “Yeah, sometimes I wonder where I’ve been and what I did, but, I can’t let not knowing get me down.”

George added, “I’ve done some wondering about you, too.  Only known you for about a week, but I like ya a lot.  You’re fun, inquisitive, surprising, and, well, a granddaughter and I think that’s just great –er, grand.”

Redtail said, “I’m kinda likin’ this me, too.  I like you, the woods, all the new people I’ve met.  I don’t want it to end, but I’m thinking I can’t go on with this semi-homeless state forever.  I hope I don’t find out I’m in more trouble than just having lost my old identity.

“I like how you said, ‘old’ identity,” said George.

Redtail laughed, “Well, yeah, I’ve got an identity now.  I’m RT Scot –full-time camper and granddaughter to the best grandpa in the world.
“Why thank you,” said George. “What say we break into those sandwiches.”

“That sounds good,” said Redtail. “I’ve been wondering what Dairy Country peanut butter and jelly might be.”

“Oh, ho ho ho!  Prepare yourself for a culinary delight to surpass all,” said George as he pulled the sandwiches from the paper bag.

Redtail started to look in her sandwich and George startled he with a “No! Don’t peek.  That’s cheating.  Just bite into it and savor the flavor and texture.”  He closed his eyes and with emotion, continued, “Involve your whole being with the experience.”

Redtail laughed while closing her eyes.  She bit off a corner of her Dairy Country PBJ and began to chew.   “Mmmm! This is smooth.  Almost dessert-like.  It’s good!  I still like the real kind, too.”

“Real kind!?” harrumphed George with a smile.

Redtail smiled and kept on being one with her culinary experience.

George said, “Being brought up around dairy, that’s what I got.  Your ‘real’ kind are almost too dry for me.”

They finished their sandwiches while discussing the subtleties of peanut butter on bread.

With lunch completed, they continued their walk.  ZZ turned north and our foragers turned south and into the woods.

“Here’s the west end of my, or our, place,” said George. “It’s peaceful having Perry’s Bend to my west and south.  I get an occasional hunter stray onto the place, but not very often.”

Redtail said, “You’d think a fence would tip ‘em off they’re crossing a line of some sort.”

George said, “You’d think so, but that whole better-to-ask-forgiveness-than-permission runs way too rampant these days.”

Redtail said, “Well, I gotta apologize.  I sure wasn’t myself when I settled on your place without asking.  I’m still not sure what “myself” really is.”

George said, “I think your case was lots different from a trespassing hunter or dumper.  Not real sure how it’s different, but it is.  Anyway, you got permission now, so it’s all cool.”

Redtail said, “Trespassing never crossed my mind when I found that site by the creek. Wow.”  She stared as she walked.

“One big difference is trespassing hunters and all the others, for that matter, instantly act caught in the wrong and start making excuses,” explained George. “You were happy to have a visitor, and I saw pure innocence to any wrong-doing.”

“Well, I’m really really thankful you didn’t run me off.  And I love it, the way you’re helping me and just accepted me –despite my weirdness.  And yeah, I know I can come across as pretty weird,” said Redtail.

“The woods on my side of the fence gets a little thicker than on the Perry side,” said George. “It’s sure pretty  and dark, but not much forage at all.”

Redtail said, “Woods edges are cool, like this fence line was open way more recently than your woods.  Your woods has almost no underbrush!  That canopy is thick!”

“Not much in a mature forest other than nuts in the fall, stink bugs under the leaf litter in the winter, a few spring plants and scattered mushrooms.  Yeah, it’s pretty,” said George, “but ya can’t eat pretty.  I may cut down a few trees and let in some light.”

Redtail said, “Where underbrush is sparse, it seems so is the wildlife.  Lots of squirrels in an oak hickory woods, but not much else except what’s just passing through.”

After a bit, they reached the creek.  Actually, it was the wider, deeper part Redtail already knew from her fishing.  “I know there’s lots of stuff here,” said Redtail.

“Hey kids!” came a shout from the Perry’s Bend side of the creek.  “I thought I could catch you here.” 

George smiled and in about a minute, sounds of crunching leaves led their eyes to Sarah’s approach from the other side of the creek.  “I didn’t know which way you’d be coming from, but I figured a perimeter forage would bring you past here sooner or later,” said Sarah.  She glanced around at the creek above the pool and hopped across on some dry rocks.

Redtail asked, “How did you get out here?”

Sarah said, “There’s a parking lot not too far up that trail on the other side of the pool here.”

“I guess I’d never stumbled across that trail,” said Redtail.  “But I’ve only fished the pool a couple times.”

George said, “This just hit me, until we can figure out how to get you licensed, you probably shouldn’t be fishing anywhere but the pond.  The landowner hunting/fishing permission only pertains within the property, and the creek and pool aren’t within.

Redtail said, “That won’t throw a big wrench in my life at all, since that pond looks pretty good.  I think I’ll be able to control myself at the creek.”

“So, George,” said Sarah, “Do you ever bring ‘real’ meat to your programs, or is it only bugs and little invertebrates?”

George laughed, “Real meat!  Real Peanut Butter and Jelly!”  He laughed again, “Yes, I started out actually cooking on-site, but that ended up being too time and attention consuming.  Dried bugs are so easy.  As easy as salads or fresh greens are, dried is still way easier.  I used to include frog legs, raccoon, ‘possum, rabbit, turtle and other meatier critters, but convenience drove me to the dry side.  I’ll still bring jerky from time to time.”

Redtail said, “I don’t know what kind of life I led, but it seems so natural that food’s just food, no matter if it’s green or blue or black or red or gray…  OK, maybe gray’s sometimes iffy.

George said, “The difference between ‘real’ and ‘weird’ food usually boils down to unexpected or new flavors and textures.  Like Queen Anne’s lace, when it’s real young, has very carroty…”

Sarah comments under her breath, “Carroty?”

Redtail smugly smiles and whispers, “Well, I know what he means, so it’s a real word.”

Sarah  whispers, “Yeah, me too, but it just sounded…”

George interrupted the interruptions, “You two ‘bout done?”

The two snapped to attention looking like kids caught chattering in class.  Sarah even said softly, “Yes teacher.”

George chuckled and continued, “Queen Anne’s lace, when it’s really young, tastes, smells and even feels in the mouth, very much like our domestic carrots.  They’re named Queen Anne’s lace for the flower, but also wild carrot for the root.”  He caught an eye-roll and smile out of Sarah, but finished anyway.  “Y’all probably heard this already, but I’ve even heard if you let carrots go wild three or four generations, they’ll revert back to Queen Anne’s lace.”

Sarah added, “They’re non-native invasives, too.”

George said, “I didn’t even know you knew that phrase.”

Redtail said, “We’re not as ignorant as lots of outdoorsmen might think.”

George stumbled over his words, “I nev… Oh…”

Sarah rescued George from his tongue, “I probably heard it from you a long time ago.”

Redtail broke the short silence that followed.  “Textures and the unexpected?”

George said, “I got to inflict my Queen Anne’s lace lecture on Redtail a couple days back, but anyway,  most Queen Anne’s lace is too woody and fibrous to chew, while some isn’t.  If you simply like the flavor, you can still use the roots and take ‘em out before you eat.”

“Yeah, like with bay leaves,” said Redtail.

“Like bay leaves?” asked Sarah.

George and Redtail gave Sarah a look, and she continued, “Yeah you mean you take out bay leaves before eating?”

And George got distracted, “Ah, here we go.  Smilax or greenbrier!”

Sarah said, “Sounds like baby formula.”

“But it’s not,” replied George.

“Oh, this stu.. Ouch!” winced Sarah.

“Redtail giggled, “That’s it, but don’t eat the thorny parts.”

George said, “Look for the soft growing tips like here.”

Sarah said, “Oh, I found some. Ouch!  George, can I borrow your clippers?  I feel like such a wimp ‘cuz this tiny, barely visible little thorn tip has rendered my thumb nearly useless.”

George pulled his keys from his pocket and handed them to Sarah.  She pulled a key from the clipper jaws and started digging at her thumb.”

George said, “I think I got a tweezers in my pack.”

“It’s caught early enough.  Not too deep, anyway,” said Sarah as she continued her surgery with the clippers.

George’s foraging stopped as he watched Sarah with concern.  Redtail smiled and George caught it.  “What cha thinking?” asked George.

Redtail said, “Oh, you two.  You’re more than just friendly acquaintences.  You don’t need no matchmaker, ‘cuz it’s already made.  Y’all just need convincing.  And to top it off, I got the strong urge to call you ‘Grandma Sarah’, like I call George, ‘Grandpa’.”

Sarah smirked, “Ha! Gotcha, you nasty little bugger!”  She looked at her thumb and continued, “Man, that was a lot of sting for no blood.”  She stuck her thumb in her mouth and bit it.  “Ah, there’s a little,” she said with a smile handing George’s keys back.  “It now feels more worthwhile going through that removal.”

George asked, “Should I kiss it and make it all better?”

“No!” said Sarah.

George grabbed her hand and kissed the wound anyway as Sarah yanked her hand back. “Ow, you poked it with a mustache hair!”  Then she softly leaned a shoulder into George as if saying, “But that’s OK.”

Redtail laughed, “You two!”

George and Sarah stepped apart with an almost visible reluctance and a discernible twinkle in their eyes.

George said, “So let that be a lesson to ya.  Be careful around thorny plants.”

Redtail added, “Or you might get poked by a mustache hair.”

George said, “By the way, Sarah, hearing ‘Grandpa George’ feels pretty good.”

Sarah asked, “How’d you know I was thinkin’ that?”

Redtail said with a smile as she skipped several paces ahead, “More evidence.  Match made.”

George and Sarah looked at each other and smiled again as they all continued on their walk.

Redtail called out, “Here’s my raspberry patch!  There’s a few left, and Oh, cool! There’s even a few blackberries that might be ready!  Must be just enough sunnier here than up in the tree line by the house that they’re a little more mature here.”

George said, “There’s usually not much overlap in the seasons if ya find any at all.”

Redtail said, “Be careful of thorns!”

Everybody smiled as they picked the few ripe berries that were left or ready.

Redtail asked, “Grandpa George?”

“Yes, grand daughter?”

Redtail giggled a bit, “Are there any watch or clock-makers in the area?”

“Why’s that?”

“Well, ‘cuz I’m finding parts.  I already found two ticks.”

Sarah smiled and rolled her eyes.

George asked, “Crawling or dug in?”

Redtail said, “Still crawling.  I killed ‘em.”

Sarah said, “Oh great, now ya got me feeling all crawly.”

George jumped and grabbed a spot under his sock, ”Oh great, this one’s in.  Good, I got him!  Whoever said, ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff.’ hasn’t spent much time in the woods.”

Sarah added, “or with greenbrier.”

Redtail threw in, “or with a mosquito sharing tent space.”

George said, “Yeah, them little vampires are probably gonna get nasty after the rain fills some of their hatcheries.”

Redtail said, “It’s getting’ darker faster than I think it should.  Rain’s probably getting pretty close.”

“We oughtta be hurrying a bit,” said George. “Sarah, how you gettin’ back to your car?”

Sarah said, “I thought I’d borrow an umbrella and trudge back through the rain,” and she slapped George on the back of his head.  “You old poop!”

George laughed and Redtail said sternly, “Now you be home at a decent hour, young man!”

George said, “Hey, I’m the grandpa here.”

Redtail said, on spotting her old campsite, “I don’t think I miss this place.  I like being closer to people –specially y’all.”  After a slight pause, she said, “When am I supposed to be ready for tomorrow’s program?  I’m sort of on a flexible six-time clock –first thing in the morning, mid-morning, lunch, afternoon, evening and night.”

Sarah said, “Oh, so many times I wish my clock was like that!”

George said, “Probably afternoon, because it’s almost an hour’s drive, but I’ll gitcha.”

The overhead leaves starting hissing and soon the canopy was penetrated by the rain.  Our foragers muttered some, covered up as best they could and put a significant spring in their steps.  They arrived at Redtail’s new camp and Redtail invited George and Sarah into the tent to shake off and organize their stuff.

George said, “Nice place ya got here.”

Redtail said, “Yeah! Plenty roomy and got almost all my needs met.”

Sarah bumped into George while shaking off.  Redtail said, “Oh, feel free to spill into the bedroom or changing room.”

George stepped into the changing room where Redtail hung her clothes and stored things. “You got plastic tubs.  Where’d they come from?”

Redtail said, “I thought you left them.  They were here the first morning I was using this camp.”

Sarah suggested, “Someone must’ve heard you needed some dry storage space and decided to play early Santa or late birthday.”

Redtail looked up and said, loudly, “Whoever you are, thank you!”

George and Sarah got reorganized and headed out to the truck.  As they ran, Saran said, “I sure hope you left the doors unlocked.”

Redtail called out, “See you tomorrow!”

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