John Harvey looked out the window of the little prop jet as it taxied away from the small airport near his home town. He was excited and apprehensive all at once. He had graduated high school three weeks before and was now off on the adventure of his young life. Well, he hoped it would be an adventure any way. He had enlisted in the Army and was on his way to Basic Training. He was already almost homesick. He was sad from not knowing how long it would be before he could return to his home or see his family or friends once more. This was the first time he had flown in an airplane. He alternated his attention from looking around the plane and looking out the window until his family was lost to his sight. This airport was so small they still walked out on the tarmac to board so he could watch his family for quite some time. He didn't know if that made his departure harder or easier.
John had enlisted just after New Year's Day a week after he caught his steady girlfriend of two years making out with Harold Pittman, one of the stars of the school football team. He had thought he and Sonia were a couple forever and was naturally heartbroken when he saw her sitting on the assholes lap in his favorite short skirt. Her blouse was thin enough he could tell she wore no bra. He had no idea how long her cheating had been going on and truthfully he didn't give a rat's ass. His first thought was to attack the asshole making out with Sonia. He clenched his jaws, balled his hands into fists and took a step closer to the oblivious couple when common sense had prevailed. He and Harold had already come to blows twice and John had come out the loser both times. He really didn't need another beating over a slut like her. John merely left the party after he had taken a couple pictures with his cell phone. He had seen enough to dump the little bitch and had some pictures to use for revenge if the need arose. Truthfully he didn't even know why he took the pictures. He was not the vengeful type at all. Oh, sure, if someone was messing with him he would retaliate and might do something in the heat of the moment that was not totally ethical.
John sighed in frustration. He remembered all the tales of daring do his grandfather Samuel told him of Damsels in distress and the great rescues he was involved in. John always treated his girlfriends like he supposed those Damsels wanted to be treated in his grandfathers stories of medieval times. Sometimes he wished he could live in those times and be a Hero rescuing those Damsels. Of course they would be appropriately appreciative when he saved them from a fate worse than death.
His grandfather could weave a tale that sounded so real it made him think he actually did some of the rescues he claimed to have performed. He spent hours when he was younger talking with his grandfather and practicing fighting with wooden swords and staves, clubs and bows and arrows. He fell in love with woodcraft, camping and making his own "weapons" from whatever he found to use. Always grandpa Samuel would guide and correct him, forcing him to make better weapons and to learn better ways to win his pretend fights. It wasn't because of his lack of knowledge he had always lost fights with Harold. It was mostly the difference in their size and the fact that Harold always attacked when John wasn't looking or when he had help. One of the times Harold beat John so badly it was because Harold's friends helped him by holding John. John was sure if they were fighting to the death he could win; especially if he used the Karate he had been learning the last two years. He knew Sensei would not approve of his use of Karate for that purpose however so he restrained himself once again.
The next Monday at school John ignored Sonia throughout the morning. When she had smiled at him and walked toward him in the parking lot he just brushed past her. He ignored her yelling at him as he walked quickly into the school building.
John leaned back in his seat and smiled when he remembered the look of horror on Sonia's face when he dumped her. The bitch had walked up to his table in the lunch room and sat beside him as she usually did. That time he had not said anything to her. He rapidly finished his small lunch and started to rise. Sonia grabbed his arm and asked, "What's the matter with you today John? You haven't said a word to me all morning. Are you still upset because my parents made me miss our date this weekend?"
John glanced at her then loudly said, "I don't have anything to say to a cheating little skank like you Sonia. Just to make it official we are no longer a couple. You can run around and cheat on your new boyfriend if you want but you can't do that to me any longer."
Sonia's got white then she blushed. "Why are you calling me names John? What kind of lies has someone told you about me? You know I would never cheat on you honey. I'm no slut and you know it. What did I ever do to make you say something like that to me you asshole?" By the time she was done talking Sonia was screaming at John. He even felt some of the spittle that spewed from her mouth.
John tried to walk off but she grabbed him again and he felt his temper surge. He angrily pulled away from her. He then proceeded to loudly tell her and the entire room what he had seen the Saturday night before. "You remember what you did Saturday night don't you Sonia? That was the night you couldn't go on our normal preplanned date because you would be out of town? Well, you didn't really lie did you? You were out of town. I guess you were just unlucky your new boyfriend decided to take you to my cousin's party. You knew we were supposed to go to a party Saturday. I guess you never thought the party I was going to take you to was the same one good old Harold took you to. I was there Sonia. I saw you and Harold. I have pictures of the two of you." He pulled his phone from his pocket and showed her the picture of her sitting on Harold's lap and continued, "You aren't going to try and tell me this isn't you are you? Unless you can convince me of that it's all over but the crying you cheating little skank."
John put his phone away then continued speaking. "If you try to make me out to be the asshole in this mess I will be one. I'll e-mail those pictures to all the people I've heard you complaining about me to this morning. I'll send them to your parents and post them on bulletin boards all over town. Now if you just let things be I'll just delete the pictures after awhile. Now, just leave me alone. I've had enough Sonia. We're through. I don't have any intention of ever talking to you again if I can help it."
By the time John finished his tirade that day in the lunch room Sonia had ran crying from the room. Two of her girlfriends glared at John and called him an asshole before they followed her. Needless to say John and Sonia were not friendly the rest of the year. Unfortunately for John he went to school in a small town and all the other girls he could date either had boyfriends or were friends of Sonia's and refused to date him. Sonia would not stop harassing him nor would her friends. They all kept repeating the rumor that he was just being an asshole. They all said that Sonia had not cheated on him. Finally in desperation John printed off one of the most explicit pictures and posted it on the schools bulletin board. He also sent copies of the pictures to everyone he knew the e-mail address for that knew or was related to Sonia.
When Sonia stormed up to him the next day screaming about him ruining her reputation John said, "Shut up Bitch. I told you when we broke up if you kept making me out to be the bad guy in this I would send the pictures to everyone you knew that I had an email address for. You knew what would happen if you kept acting like a little Bitch. I just did what I promised you I would do."
John's revenge caused another uproar in the school and got him into another fight with Harold. This time though John was angry enough and lucky enough that he managed to break Harold's arm defending himself. That prevented Harold from playing in the final games of the football season and cost him a football scholarship to college because it never healed correctly. This, of course, just made John's fellow students angrier at him. Harold and his parents were beyond angry. They tried to have John arrested for assault. During the investigation it was found that two adults witnessed Harold attacking John so he was not prosecuted.
One day shortly after the investigation was over John was just bumming around in the local pool hall when an Army Recruiter came in. He had seen the recruiter off and on for several months when he dropped into the local teen hang outs hoping to latch onto a potential recruit. Truthfully John was somewhat interested in the Army because of the stories his grandfather had been telling him about his Army time. That day John was particularly susceptible to the pitch when the Recruiter gave his spiel to him. John had just had another argument with some of his fellow students about Sonia and his treatment of her and Harold. He was angry, lonesome and vulnerable to the recruiter's line. This time he listened and bit the baited hook. The recruiter took him home and John signed the papers then had his parents sign because he was still five months under the age of 18.
Army basic in the summer at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri was not a bed of roses as John found out. The fact he lived just a few miles south of there really didn't help him tolerate the heat and training that much better than some of the other recruits. His main salvation was that he had lived in the country on a small farm so was used to some physical activity. He also ran track at school so thought he was in good shape. He was in great shape compared to the other recruits but not so great in the eyes of the Drill Sergeant.
A normal training day started even earlier than John was used to rising and ran later than he was used to. He stuck with it and finally it was over. Truthfully, John excelled in the weapons training and the hand to hand combat portion of his basic course. He was surprised at how much of the coursework he had learned from his grandfather. Of course his training in Karate had helped immensely also. John graduated from Basic as Honor Graduate of his cycle and was promoted to Private First Class. He was now ready for his Army Career. He had been selected as a basic infantryman. John decided if he was in for a penny he was in for a pound and volunteered for training as an Airborne Ranger.
Several weeks after his selection he wondered two things. The first was would he survive the training. The second thing he wondered about was if he was insane or something. Finally he successfully completed the training and was posted to a Ranger unit at Ft. Bragg, NC. Shortly after reporting he was promoted to Specialist. John was now "in the money". He was making more money than he could spend and his bank balance was growing thanks to his frugality.
John had the rural work ethic and was a very intelligent individual. He did his job well, he jumped when his superiors told him to and he kept himself in great physical shape and out of trouble. Promotions continued to be rapid. By the end of his first four years he was a Sergeant. His time was up and he still didn't know what he wanted to do with his life so he reenlisted. Of course the large reenlistment bonus helped him make the right decision! Shortly after reenlisting John was once again promoted. Now he was a Staff Sergeant and in charge of two squads of soldiers. He was also the assistant Platoon Sergeant.
During John's second deployment to Iraq he once again decided he had enough. The living conditions and attitude of the people in that part of the world reminded him somewhat of the stories his grandfather made up about a place called Chaos. He had spent many pleasant days listening to his tales of daring do or dreaming of being one of the Heroes who entered Chaos from the mythical Crossroads. Of course in his grandfathers tales Chaos was not desert country as were Iraq or Afghanistan but the brutality he saw toward women in those countries reminded him of the way the Damsels in Distress were treated in his grandfather's stories. His enlistment ended while he was in Iraq and he did not reenlist. John was involuntarily extended on Active Duty until his unit returned to the states then he was discharged from the Army.
John had saved his money while he was overseas and added it to the nest egg he had saved before. He had enough saved to buy a really nice two year old F150 Super Crew 4X4. After paying cash for the truck he still had almost $24,000 in the bank.
After his discharge John took off for home and the little 40 Acre plot of ground his deceased Grandfather had left him. John had been on his first deployment when his Grandfather died from cancer. He got emergency leave to attend the funeral but had not known of the bequest until after he had returned to Iraq.
John took his time driving home. He had a cover on the bed of the truck and slept in it. He took four days to drive from Fayetteville, NC to his home in Missouri. It was fall when he arrived and there was a tinge of winter in the air. It was one of his favorite seasons. He was looking forward to relaxing for a while then finding a job and getting on with his life. He planned on living with his parents until he found a job then he was going to get his own place or maybe move to his little farm. He was 26 years old and realized he would not be able to live with his parents and follow their rules after being on his own as long as he had. He needed his own place badly so he could live his own life.
John's little patch of ground was only seven miles from Hollister and had several acres of old fruit trees on it. Just before he became ill his grandfather had built a nice 40 X 70 foot barn on the land John had inherited. What little equipment he had was stored inside the building. John didn't know anything else about the place other than it had no house on it. It had been only part of a larger farm his grandfather had split up among his heirs. John knew his cousin and her husband had been given the main farmhouse and another 40 acres. His brother and another male cousin each got another 40 acres. His Grandfather's two children—John's Father and his cousin's Mother were given all the stocks and money from the estate.
The first few days John was home he spent relaxing and visiting with the few friends that still lived in the area. Thursday of the second week he decided to look over his land and decide what he wanted to do with it. When he arrived he drove down the same lane he always used to visit his grandfather. His barn and the machinery was only a couple hundred feet from the old farm house his cousin had inherited. He hated this because Marcie had never forgiven him for what he had done to Harold Pittman, her fiancée's friend.
John's land abutted the lane on one side, his cousin's on the other so they shared the access. John parked beside his large barn and glanced around the old farmstead. It sure was run down looking. There were weeds in his grandmother's flower beds and dead limbs in and under the trees in the yard. All the buildings were in dire need of paint and repair. Someone had been mowing the yard and doing some of the lighter repair work on his cousin's part of the homestead. The weeds and brush were grown up badly around his part of the place.
John got out of his truck and wandered over to the barn. It was the newest building on the place and he could tell it was still in good repair thankfully. John took the keys and opened the door into the office. It was just as he remembered it from the two times he had been inside before he went into the service. John didn't stop to look through the desk. He opened the door into the part of the barn reserved for sales of the fruit. The cash registers and displays were still in place. John saw that the display tables and coolers were there also. He looked into the small commercial kitchen and verified the range and other kitchen equipment was there then he wandered farther back into the building to the cold storage area then out of it into the sorting sheds where the freshly picked fruit was graded for boxing and sale.
As John walked he touched an item here and there. He spent time looking at the machinery parked in the sorting area and under the shed roof on each side of the building. He grimaced and thought he had a lot of work to do if he wanted to operate the orchard and use the land productively once more. He thought that was what he wanted to do. He had already had enough of the hustle and bustle of Hollister and really didn't want to work in town if he could get out of it. John wandered into the corner of the building his grandfather had set up as an exercise area. He looked at the weight machines and the targets used for throwing knives. He even took a punch or two at the bags hung for that purpose.
John sat for a moment looking at the doorway into the weapons storage room. He stood and strode over to the door. It was locked as it normally had been when he last saw it. He wished he had taken more time with his grandfather after he had built this new exercise area. He remembered how the weapons room had racks of old fashioned bows and arrows, staves, axes and clubs to 'fight' with. He even remembered the inner storage area for more deadly modern weapons and wondered if they were still there. He hoped he could find the key so he didn't have to break the door down.
John wandered back toward the sales area. As he was entering he heard a female voice tenuously ask, "Who's there? What are you doing in here?"
John walked through the sales room and into his office. He startled a small, poorly dressed young woman who was looking around as she stood just inside the door. She squeaked and jumped back when he barged through the door. "Who are you," she asked once more. "What are you doing here?"
John smiled and said, "I'm John Harvey. I own this place and was just looking it over. Who are you?"
"OH! I'm sorry Mr. Harvey. Marcie told me one of her cousins had been given this barn and the 40 acres it was on when your grandfather passed away." She looked puzzled then continued, "I thought you were in the Army though. She said I probably would never see you and she was going to buy your land from you."
John laughed and said, "I was in the Army but I had enough of it. I got out a couple weeks ago and came home. You shouldn't believe everything Marcie says either. There is no way in hell she will ever buy my part of the farm from me. She should have known that too. I love every rock and ditch on this old place. Now, how about you tell me what you're doing here and what your name is?"
The young woman looked embarrassed and said, "Oh, I'm sorry. I'm Andrea Stewart. I take care of the house and land here for Marcie. She lets me live here too."
John and Andrea visited a while longer. He found out she was not paid to care for the land and buildings. She was supposed to take care of minor repairs, mow the yard and keep house in return for a place to stay. On the weekends Marcie and her family were in residence she acted as maid, cook and general coolie for them. John didn't know exactly what they made her do but knowing Marcie she worked the legs off the poor girl while she and her family were at the farm. Andrea certainly earned her free rent he was sure.
Finally Andrea said she needed to get into the house and prepare for the weekend. Marcie and her family were going to be there and she had some cooking and baking to get done as well as last minute cleaning.
John returned to his parent's home for the night. Early the next morning he returned to the farm and began cleaning up his part of the place. His first task was to test the battery in the tractor. It was dead so he went to town and purchased another one as well as some fresh diesel for the engine. It took him most of the day to change the oil and filters and get the tractor running. He then hooked up the bush hog and began clipping the weeds and brush growing up around the place.