Jack And DiannebySW_MO_Hermit©
Jack Morgan's trusty old F150 bounced down the nearly impassable trail and bounced through the last dry wash before he reached his destination. He could see the trail of dust hanging in the still air behind. It was a typical mid August day in Southwest Missouri. It was hot and dry with no real chance of rain for some time.
When Jack had left home to go to college seven years ago he swore he would never return for more than a short visit. Now it looked like he might never leave again. He had everything he owned in the world with him. All his worldly possessions were inside the beat up old truck his family had purchased new in 1996. There were some clothes and personal items, a few dishes and a belly full of hate and sorrow. That was all he had to show for the last seven years of his life. There were a few memories but many of the pleasant ones had been overlaid with unpleasant ones.
If it hadn't been for his grandfather's forethought he wouldn't have even had the land he was planning to living on. Before he died he had set up an irrevocable trust placing the land in it along with the balance of his worldly possessions. The trust was for Jack but he would not become the owner of the farm until he had graduated college or turned age 31, married, and fathered a son. In the event these requirements were not met the trust passed to his grandfather's sister's family. Until Jack met the full requirements of the trust he was serving as trustee. He was thankful the trust was so worded or he might have lost even this little piece of ground in one of his two divorces. Here he was, 25 years old and already divorced twice.
The bad thing about the land was there were no buildings of any kind on it. The good thing was it had a well and septic system and was situated in a beautiful little valley with a small river or large creek flowing through. Another positive aspect about the little farm was it was almost 25 miles from a town of any size and the nearest neighbor would be over a mile away. There were three small towns within a few miles but only one of them even had a store. Well two did if you count the old mill at Wilson's Mill. An old retired Army man had reopened it and put in a café. His wife sold a small number of grocery items but they were mostly of the emergency or snack food category. There were fish galore and some deer and other game on the land. With what little money he had managed to hide from his last ex wife and her sharks he could at least eat for a while.
I suppose you might ask how someone who graduated from the University of Missouri with a BS in Agricultural Economics and who had owned his own firm could sink to such a state as had Jack. Jack would tell you he suffered from a nearly terminal case of stupidity.
While he was reminiscing he finally arrived at his destination. The small meadow that had the well and septic system was overgrown. There was a bluff about 30 feet tall in a bend of the stream with a deep hole beside it where the bluff forced the stream to bend. The rock caused water to swirl and keep the hole clean. There was a nice gravel bar on each side of the stream just before the hole. Jack smiled when he saw the old mill dam still held the water back and kept the hole even deeper than it normally would have been.
The bluff wandered away from the stream then became shorter as it curved north then back east almost into a protective cup. Before the rock outcropping disappeared it encompassed and protected about two to three acres between the protection of the bluff and the stream.
The light pole that should have had an electric meter installed was there beside the bluff's highest point about 65 feet back from the stream bank. Sometime in the past the meter had been removed, hence there was no power. Of course right now that didn't matter because other than a small lamp or two and a microwave Jack had nothing that needed electricity. Oh, well, he thought. Man heated with and cooked over fires for millennia so I suppose I could regress. Jack gave himself a small grin and remembered the many nights he and his friends had camped in this very location when they were teenagers. They would catch fish within walking distance of the camp then swim in the ole swimming hole. At dusk they would cook fresh fish and the rest of their meal then lay listening to the chuckle of the stream as it flowed on past this little slice of heaven. Hell, Jack thought again. I even got my first piece of ass right here beside the stream.
Jack pulled his truck under the trees beside the light pole and the concrete pad his grandfather had poured years ago. The pad was next to the bluff. There were steel hooks embedded in the rock to hang things on. At one time there had been a roof over the concrete pad but time and perhaps vandals had destroyed the roof. All that was left were the steel poles set into the concrete that the roof had rested on. Jack planned to use the poles and hooks as anchors and support for his tent when he built it.
After walking around the site he proceeded to set up his new residence. Jack made a tent out of some old plastic tarps stretched over the concrete. Then he set an old card table and two chairs under the tarp fly with his cooler beside it. Next he unloaded a small gas BBQ grill and was in business. At least he had a small camping cot with a pretty good foam rubber mattress to sleep on. He put this under the tent also.
By the time his new home was constructed it was almost dark. Jack made a sandwich and wandered down to the cooler area beside the stream. He sat on the ground and leaned on a log while he thought about what had to be done in the next few days. He could do without many items but did need to find a job of some sort so he could have a place to live when it turned cold. Until then he would camp here.
During the divorce proceedings Jack had managed to hide almost $5000.00 in cash. He didn't declare that money so when the property was split he ended up with $7300.00. A lot of that had been spent moving back home though. The last time he counted money there was just under $4900.00 left. The land was rented to a neighbor but the rent wasn't payable until January 1. Then he would only receive about $3600.00. No way could he live on that for a year. Of course in the spring he would plant a large garden and that would help.
Most of his possessions were left in the truck. They would stay dry there and except for a few clothes he didn't need anything except what had already unloaded. The first couple of days in his new home Jack prepared for the rest of the summer. He brought some firewood up and stacked it then covered it with a tarp. Some he cut into lengths with his chainsaw. He made a list of things that needed to be done and another of things he needed to purchase right now and things that he needed to purchase soon but could wait on.
Early mornings he sat and enjoyed the morning while fishing for his days meals. There was a spring running out of the bluff beside the camp that provided sweet, cold drinking water. It was better than any water you could get elsewhere in his opinion. The stream was fine for bathing. Considering what a pile of shit his life had turned into he was happy. Many times he was thankful he was debt free and free of the blood sucking, cheating skanky leech his second wife turned out to be.
The third day after returning home Jack drove to the nearest town with a grocery store and stocked up. He arranged for mail delivery with the Post Office. Another stop was at the electric COOP to arrange for a power meter to be set so he would have lights and could run electric appliances. On his way home he went to Wal-Mart and purchased a small apartment sized refrigerator. By the time the day was finished in town he had spent another $700.00 of his meager stash.
During the day Jack had left applications at several businesses. None of them gave him any hope of being hired. They had all told him they weren't hiring right then. Jack even made a stop at the library to see if the paper had any jobs advertised. No luck there either.
When Jack returned home there was an old 1984 F250 diesel with dents in every sheet metal panel parked beside his tent. The truck was even more beat up than was Jack's. There was a weather beaten, leathery skinned old man sitting in one of Jack's chairs beside the truck. The man had white hair and about a three day growth of white beard on his face. His clothes had holes in them and were threadbare. His boots looked older than he was and were caked with dry cow manure.
The man stood up when Jack got out of his truck and said, "Howdy Boy. I hate ta tell ya this but this here's private propity and ya' all cain't camp here. It's late though so I s'pose ya kin stay 'nother nite though then ya need ta move on."
Jack looked at the old fellow and held out his hand. He said, "I'm Jack Morgan and I'm not camping here really. I own this land and that is my home over there under the trees."
The old man smiled and grabbed his hand in his. He said, "You're little Jackie Morgan? God Boy, you sure growed up after ya left here. Ya don't remember me do ya? I'm Gregg Hill. I been renting tha place whilst ya was gone. Bettie told me ya was comin back but she didn't say when. Welcome back boy. So whatcha gonna do now ya come back home? They sure aint much work hereabouts fer a young fella like you."
Jack's head was spinning after Mr. Hill's greeting. He said, "Well Mr. Hill, I really don't know but this is all I have left. I lost my business and two wives while I was gone. All I own in the world right now is here in front of you. I have no job, almost no money and not much hope. I guess I'll just have to get by on what I have for now and hope something comes up. I was in Steelville and Centerton looking for work today and stocking up on items I need but I didn't even get a chance to interview anywhere. Guess I'll just keep looking and hope something turns up."
Mr. Hill looked at Jack and said, "Hell boy ya don't have ta call me Mr. My name's Gregg. I aint got much and don't need no help but you drop by and see us in a day or two. I'll ask around and see what I can come up with fer ya. I know Bettie would like ta see ya. What's it been seven, eight year since ya was 'round these parts?"
"Yeah, 'bout that I suppose. Didn't plan to ever come back but you know how it goes. Men plan and fate intervenes. I been screwed by the fickle finger of fate aided by my own stupidity."
Gregg didn't say anything to that. He just shook his head. He started to walk back to his truck. He looked in the bed of Jacks vehicle, stopped and turned back to face Jack. He said, "You gonna unload that refrigerator here Jack?"
Jack said, "Yeah, the electric company's supposed to get me a meter installed before the weekend so I can use it to keep my food cool. It'll be good to have some lights after dark too."
"Well, come on then. I'll help ya with it before I go."
Jack and Gregg unloaded the refrigerator and placed it on the concrete pad near the light pole. Gregg turned and waved then walked back to his truck. After he had gotten in he started the old diesel and gave a nod before he drove off. After Gregg left Jack moved his cooler with the cold food inside over beside the refrigerator. Hopefully the electric company would get there before his ice melted and the cold food spoiled. Of course some of it could be placed in the cool spring water if he had to. That would extend its life a short while.
Jack made another sandwich then sat in his chair and watched night fall. He relaxed, listening to the flowing water and all the night sounds. In the background he could hear a tractor in a neighbor's field. In spite of the way his life had gone to hell he was more relaxed and happy than he had been for years. He almost didn't worry about his uncertain future.
After lunch the next day Jack was sitting beside the stream working on a list when he heard a vehicle coming down the dusty lane once more. When he got to where he could see he found Gregg and Bettie getting out of the old truck. Bettie was carrying a box with several Tupperware containers inside. Gregg looked over at him, grinned and said, "Here Jack. Gimme a hand fer a minit."
Jack walked with him to the back of his truck and watched as he tugged on an old generator. Gregg looked over at Jack and said, "Well don't just stand there help me unload this heavy bastard." They carried the generator over beside the power pole and sat it behind the pile of wood Jack had cut. Next Gregg got out ten gallons of gasoline and an extension cord. He started the generator then plugged the refrigerator into the extension cord.
Gregg turned and looked at Jack and said, "The tank holds five gallons of fuel. It will run for 18 hours or so on a tank. Should be enough here to hold ya until the power company gets your meter in." He turned to Bettie and reached for the box she was still holding. He continued speaking, "We brought ya some home cooked food. It isn't much but it's better than sandwiches and I suppose you'll get tired of fish pretty quick without it."
Jack watched as Gregg put the food inside the new refrigerator. He moved his chairs slightly and said, "I don't have a very good place to sit but please have a chair."
His two guests sat in the two chairs that went with the card table and Jack sat in his only yard chair. They visited about Jack's family and they tried to fill him in on local residents. Some of the names Jack recognized but he couldn't really say he remembered any of the people. Finally Gregg leaned back and said, "Ok Son. Now why don't ya tell me why ya told me yesterday ya got screwed by your own stupidity? And tell me whatever happened to that wife of yours. Afore they died yore parents said she was a real nice girl. I guess ya married the one ya was engaged to before they died?"
Bettie turned to her husband and said, "Gregg! You just leave Jackie alone now. He'll tell us whatever he wants us to know in his own good time."
Jack sat a moment then decided what the hell. He had been a friend to the family for years and Gregg was helping. He deserved to know how stupid he had been.
Jack leaned back in his chair and said, "Well, you know I went to college when I left here. While I was in college Mom and Grandpa both died in a car accident while she was taking him to the doctor. I guess that took the will to live out of Dad 'cause he died just before I graduated. The accident that killed Mom and Grandpa hurt Dad pretty bad. He just seemed to lose the will to live after that. Of course the doctors all said someone in their late 60's after that serious of an accident just had trouble going on. I think he died of a broken heart. Oh, I know they said he died of the flu and Pneumonia but I think he just didn't want to go on without mother. When he got sick he didn't go to the doctor. He had been dead a couple of days when I got worried about him not answering the phone and got the police to check on him."
Dad didn't leave much but with it I managed to finish college. Of course you know I married my college sweetheart and we both got a job at Archer Daniels Midland. We had a good salary and after a year we bought a house together. I worked another year and decided to go out on my own. I had enough money that I began investing in commodities and some stocks. I spent hours researching. I wasn't making as much as I did at ADM but I did OK. Stephanie stayed at ADM. I took the courses I needed and got my securities licenses. I had a few friends that wanted me to manage some money for them. My business was starting to grow when I got a brain fart."
"Well, go on son. How did ya lose it all," Gregg asked.
"Well, one day after work Stephanie brought one of the women she worked with home. I worked out of a bedroom in our house I had converted into an office. She had a friend—well a woman she worked with at least—with her. I can remember it like it was just yesterday. She came down the hallway and yelled for me.
"Stephanie said, Jack, are you decent? Honey I have someone with me I want you to talk to. She just got a divorce and has some money she wants to invest. I told her you might be able to help her.
"I came out of my office and stopped in shock. I lost my breath. There behind Stephanie was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life. She was tall—I later found out she was 5'10"—and built like a brick shit house. She had the most beautiful blond hair and a figure that would make Miss America weep. Her perfect legs went from the floor to the most perfect ass..."
Jack looked over at Bettie and said, "Oh, I'm sorry Bettie. I just meant..."
Bettie laughed and said, "I've heard the term before son. Now you just go on with your story."
"Well, anyway, she was just so beautiful I could hardly speak. Finally I invited her into my office to discuss investments and the risks involved with trading commodities. Stephanie sat with us a short time then got up, gave me a kiss and told me she was going to change while we talked. I was a mess. This woman was sex personified. Her voice made me shiver and melt. I fell into her blue eyes. By the time we were done with our meeting I was in love. All I could think about the rest of the night and the next several days was her. I don't know how many times I called her at work pretending I had business to discuss just so I could talk to her. Of course we visited and flirted more than we transacted business."
"It became common for us to take lunch together. At first we both pretended it was to discuss her investment portfolio but really, it wasn't. I just had to be with her. I was head over heels in love with her already and would do anything to be with her. Of course, she didn't help any. She always flirted with me. She would touch me, stare into my eyes and make suggestive comments. Then she took it to the next level. She began kissing me when we met and when she left. The kisses weren't sexual at first, just a gentle kiss on the lips between friends. After a while I noticed the kisses became longer and she began rubbing her chest on mine. One noon when she came to the house we stood in the living room kissing. It was a real kiss with tongue. I was rubbing her and God help me she unh, well, she had her hand on my crotch. I noticed a flash, then another one. Then I heard Stephanie cursing us. I turned and Stephanie was there taking pictures. She had one of the men from her work with her. They told me and Dianne to get out of the house.
"Dianne gave her a shocked, almost scared look and took off like a scalded dog. I started to leave then decided to brazen it out. I refused. I told Steph it was my house and I would be damned if I would let her kick me out. Besides, I worked there and needed the computers, phone lines and reference books I had in the office to do my job."
"The man began to advance on me and threatened me. I picked up the phone and called 911. I told them my wife and her lover had come into the house and he had threatened me. They were trying to throw me out of my own home and I needed help. I don't suppose it helped Steph's and her friend's case because she began screaming at me and he threatened to beat the shit out of me if I didn't leave. The police heard them over the phone and documented the threats."
"When the patrol car arrived Dallas (Stephanie's friend) and I were fighting. He had refused to leave my home and was still trying to kick me out. Most of his comments and attempts to kick me out were caught on tape over the phone. When the dust cleared I was left in the home, Dallas was in custody and Stephanie was escorted from the residence."
"Damn Boy. Sure seems like you shit in your nest. What made you do something dumb like that anyway?"
"Hell, Gregg. Don't you think I know that? I loved Stephanie with all my heart. I just...I've asked myself that same question for months and I can't answer it. All I know is I fell under Dianne's spell. From that first day when I met her she excited me. Hell, she was the one who began making the suggestive comments during our phone calls. She began coming to our house without an invitation during her lunch period. I should have known what she was doing but I was so besotted with her I didn't realize what was going on until I was sliding down that slippery slope."