Ab pulled his truck to the side of the narrow black toped road, and Hank stopped behind him. They met in front of Ab’s truck. The overgrown outline of a tote road could be seen on the left hand side of the road. Hank had a tax map in hand that showed the boundary lines of properties and the names of the registered owners. He also had a topographical map of the section which showed the lay of the land. The physical features could help confirm that there were in the right place.
They checked the depth of the ditches to see if they could get the trucks off the road without modifying the entrance. The road was relatively flat at that spot. The area was a collection of bogs and ridges with a few flat places joining them together.
The maps showed that the old tote road was near the North boundary of the property. And that the property on their north boundary was owned by Percy Burgess.
It was obvious that Percy’s land had been used for hay. But the scattering of saplings on the boarders of the field gave evidence that the field had not been hayed in a couple of years.
They walked north on the black top and encountered an entrance to the field that had a culvert. This is where the hay trucks and machinery could enter the field. Hank glanced at the map and reported, “The map shows this to be 26 acas.” Ab studied the field responded, “It looks bigger than that to me.” He followed with, “Lets check the North side of my lot, someone may have been helping themselves to some easy pickings. ”
They walked back to the edge of Ab’s lot. As they did they encountered tire tracks and a bit further on stumps. There were trees cut recently and the stumps were close to the ground.
Hank observed, “Well whoever cut these trees seemed to be mindful that there would be a mower in here at some point.”
Ab mused. “I wonder if Percy was hard up for wood or just expanding his field?” Hank suggested, “He may have just been recovery was had been overgrown.”
Ab said, “We better check the boundary pin before we go any further.” Checking the map they confirmed there had been a pin in place.
They did some pawing around in the underbrush but they were able to locate the pin. Ab said, “Well it’s clear to me that those trees were on Percy’s land and there is another 15 foot swath that he could cut.” Looks like he might get 8 cord of good fire wood out of that area.
Hank offered, “What if we go talk to Percy and let him know we will be working up here and see if he would mind us entering through his field. Maybe we could use his field to yard our wood. In exchange we could cut this edge back to the boundary for him.” Ab replied, “Let’s go see if Percy is home.”
As they approached the vehicles Ab Said, “Let’s take yours and we can let the old Reo rest.” Without further exchange the climbed into Hank’s truck and head down the road to locate the Burgess place.
They drove down the road about a quarter of a mile and encountered a mail box with “P. Burgess” painted on the side. Pulling into the driveway they beheld a strange collection of buildings, vehicles, and machines. Some had been there so long that there were trees growing up through them.
Ab pointed to a partially disassembled tractor parked, (may be piled is a better description) beside one the sheds. And said, “There are the parts I need to get my Chalmers going.” He was referring to his own tractor that had been idle for two years. Parts were impossible to get during the war and cannibalism was the only way to keep things working.
As they climbed down from the truck the scanned the yard for dogs. Seeing none they walked slow toward the house, looking for the path that the family used.
The path became obvious. It weaved around two abandoned vehicles and a hay trailer. They did not speak because they were concentrating on not stepping in anything or tripping over anything.
As they came abreast of the windowless cab of an old truck a dog suddenly appeared inside the cab. He lunged and snarled, barking like something possessed. The dog’s teeth only inches from Hank’s face. Hank’s reflexes where working well and he jumped away instantly covering the three feet between himself and Ab. The resulting collision with Ab knocked him off balance and he stumbled for a step or two trying to recover his footing.
His extended his left foot which happened on a cow-pie and turned what seemed to be a sure recovery into a barn yard catastrophe. His foot slid through the cow-pie and Ab went down. Baptizing his new overalls in barn yard goo. His hat sailed under the trailer and Hank hurried to collect it hoping to salvage some of Ab’s dignity.
Percy Burgess appeared at the door to the house, he had seen most of what happen and was fighting not to laugh at Ab’s distress. Hank too was having a tough time controlling himself. Ab however did not try to control himself but let a string of impolite words go. He promised the dog a home in a hot place. He thought to include the owner too but fortunately he had control enough not to voice to it.
Hank spoke to Percy even as Ab was still muttering as he got to his feet. Percy ignored Hank for the moment and said, “Most people don’t make it that far before they turn around and go back to their vehicle.”
At the sound of Percy’s voice the dog went quiet and disappeared from view. Apparently laying in wait for the next stranger who entered the yard.
“If you come by here again use the second drive.” He said pointing down the road. He continued, “That will bring you right up around to the front of the house. No cow flaps there.”
He looked at Ab and Said, “I’m sorry about that but it really was entertaining.”
Hank, chuckling glanced at Ab. Seeing the fire still blazing in Ab’s eyes for some reason made it all the funnier. Then Percy started laughing and laughed so hard he had to hold on the door frame to keep from falling down. Ab looked back and forth between the Hank and Percy Then said, “Damn fools!” Then a smile crept in, then he laughed. The three of them standing there laughing got Mrs. Burgess’ attention. She came to the window and look out, then just shook her head and disappeared from view.
Percy, once again able to speak said, “I’d invite you boys in but I don’t think my Mrs. would appreciate the way your dressed.” He chuckled alone at his own joke.
He followed up with, “Now what can I do for you?”
Ab, spoke first and apologized to Percy for his words. Percy responded, “I can’t blame you I’m sure it was a shock and I hope you have no ill effects from the fall.”
Ab replied through a laugh, “I’m fine, I just hate loosing my dignity in front of strangers.”
Hank took up the conversation and began to explain why the had come.
Percy replied, “Lets go down at take a look at things so we all know exactly what we are talking about.” He continued, “I’ll meet you down there in a few minutes.”
On the way back to the property they stopped at a brook that ran under the road to let Ab wash up.
Hank said, “Ab I can tell you one thing, I’ve never seen an entrance like that in my life.” Ab replied in mock annoyance, “All right, all right enough is enough.”
They continued to Percy’s field and pulled in and out of the way so Percy could get off the road too.
As they waited and chatted they spotted a white tailed deer enter the field. Ab counted the points on the antlers. “Eight point buck 180 to 200 pounds.” Hank interjected “That is a nice deer. Like to see him on opening day.”
Ab responded, “I’ve got one over at my place about the same size. He has been in the garden a time or two. I’ve got plans for him come November.”
Suddenly the buck raised his head a looked North Ab and Hank tried to look where he was looking. And they saw a truck coming down the road toward them and assumed it was Percy. They looked back at the buck and he was already eating again seemingly unconcerned. They kept watching to see what would happen when Percy turned into the field.