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Annals of the F.O. Ranch, Chapter 3

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Peggy Cole is a self-published author who enjoys writing fiction stories, book reviews and articles about simpler times.

The Fixers

Rob and Martha emerged from the cabin holding hands.

Rob and Martha emerged from the cabin holding hands.

Rob and Martha held hands at the door to their cabin overlooking the campsite. In the tiny bedroom inside, they shared a lumpy mattress and convenient access to the camp’s only indoor facilities. Behind a half-wall sat an exposed commode which other campers were welcome to use during the day. But at night, the couple valued their privacy leaving the woods for personal necessities. A flashlight hung from a tree on the path, handy for fending off creatures dwelling in the darkness.

The smell of fresh brewed coffee drifted around the quiet clearing as daylight peeked through the trees. Paula’s ashen face appeared between the flaps before she and Cheryl crawled slowly out. Other sleepy faces emerged as tent flaps flew open and campers awakened.

“It’s like being born again,” Rob said, chuckling. Seasoned campers knew what he’d say next. “Like a brand-new day,” Rob continued, predictably.

“Oh, my aching back,” moaned one newbie after his first night on the hard ground. He raced toward the available indoor facilities, a pained look on his face.

At the pit, a new fire crackled, flames hungrily lapping fresh logs. Cold feet stretched toward the warmth in the chilly morning air. Someone was stirring a dozen eggs into a cast-iron skillet heating on the grill.

Paula collapsed heavily into the closest chair, wrapping her arms tightly around her midsection. “Want some coffee?” Cheryl asked, dragging a lawn chair near her friend. Paula shook her head.

After a while Cheryl spoke. “Would anyone be willing to drive us back home?”

“I’m headed out in a bit,” Alan said, “but there’s only room for one in my truck.” The women looked a question at each other. “I’ve gotta’ pick up some stuff I didn’t have room for the first time,” he added. It was a ninety-minute drive back to the apartment complex.

“Can you drop Paula off at the emergency room?” The route to the complex came within a block of the University Community hospital.

“I need to be with you,” Cheryl whispered.

“You stay,” Paula told her friend. “I’ll be okay.” But she didn’t look okay.

“They’ll give me something to fix me right up,” she said, pasting on a smile.

Most of Alan’s truck bed was stacked full of broken water skis and bent tent poles poking through the window into the cab.

“The ride will be noisy, but it’ll get you there,” he said closing her door and sliding behind the wheel. The engine sent out a cloud of white smoke as they wound down the pine-needle track toward the main road. Paula groaned with each bump of the wheels.

Breakfast around the firepit.

Breakfast around the firepit.

For those who’d missed the boat wreck the night before, Rob and Jess reenacted the drama, gesturing wildly over teetering plates of scrambled eggs and crisp bacon. When the food was gone, the group drew straws for clean-up duty. Buckets of lake water had to be brought to the fire, boiled and used for dish washing. Rob and Jess whooped with delight having pulled long straws. As the sun broke through the trees, they trekked down the path to the wobbly dock to check out the damage to the boat.

“We can fix that,” Jess said, peeling a strip of broken trim off the bow. The damage was mostly above the water line where they’d rammed into the dock in the dark.

“Yeah, some duct tape, sealer, and a few screws and we’re good to go,” Rob cheerfully agreed.

Carson stopped them as they piled into Rob’s Malibu.

“See if you can’t find a replacement head for the old well,” he said handing them a list of materials scribbled on a piece of cardboard along with a twenty-dollar bill. They nodded and headed down the trail before turning north toward the nearest grocery store about 20 miles up the main highway.

“I’ll bet the old miser thinks he’ll get change back!” They both guffawed.

Bubba73 (Jud McCranie), CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Bubba73 (Jud McCranie), CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

“We’re looking for some kind of waterproofing kit for our boat,” Rob told the clerk who was stacking cans for a display in the front window.

“We don’t carry that kinda’ stuff but you can find it up yonder at Waymon’s Hardware.” They got directions that sent them ten miles further north. Few cars were out in the crisp, cool morning. They made good time arriving at an enormous corrugated steel building. Inside was an impressive selection of washtubs, feed buckets, a pipe-cutting station with rows of iron pipe stretching along a metal scaffolding of sorts. They saw a booth tucked into an alcove for mixing custom automotive paint. Towards the back of the store on a dusty shelf, they found a small section of boat repair items.

“Hey, look at this,” Jess called out. Rob was across the store, gawking at a glass-front cabinet of Case knives.

Jess held up a device he’d found among the dust.

“Wow,” Rob said. “You think it’ll fit?”

“Looks like it’s an inch and a quarter inlet,” he said.

“That’ll work.”

The guy standing behind the counter gave the city boys a look of tolerance and stood with thumbs tucked into the upper pocket of his overalls.

“That’s a good ‘un right there. It’s a Simmons,” he said with a wink. “Cast iron pump head. It’ll last you a lifetime.”

They added the pump head to their growing pile of items on the counter. The fiberglass repair kit would be perfect for a temporary fix on the boat. Rob added a red-handled pocket knife he’d admired. They paid with cash and started back, stopping again at the grocery to pick up ice and snacks. Rob tore the wrapper off a fried pie and shoved half of it in his mouth, smacking loudly as they drove.


The camp was just as they’d left it with sleepy-eyed campers sitting idly around the firepit, hands wrapped around mugs of steaming coffee.

“We can patch the hull to where it’ll hold water, at least temporarily,” Rob announced as he poured coffee from the scorched pot.

“Looks like I’ll need scissors for this stuff,” he said. Eyes rolled at the well-practiced and oft-used humor.

Repairs began with Rob and Jess filing away the broken edges of the cracked hull. The patch would hold until a proper repair could be made once they were home. They worked quickly to get the craft operational and resume ski time on the lake.

Safe in their world of buzzing insects and quiet woods, the campers were not free of the drama that comes with youthful, budding relationships. Cheryl and Michelle stared daggers across the campfire until Clare motioned to both of them and they followed her obediently toward a narrow trail leading through the woods. They walked single file with Clare in between them.

“The fresh air is great for healing what ails you,” she said. They trudged along, stewing in their own thoughts.

“I really don’t blame either of you,” she said. “I blame him.”

“He really is obtuse,” Michelle said. “His wife deserves him.” The tension broke with her raucous cackle. Clare had to agree about that.

“You knew he was married?” Cheryl asked.

“Oh, he hasn’t really been married for years,” Clare shot back over her shoulder. “They separated when their adopted daughter was only three.”

“They have a daughter?” Cheryl was incredulous. She’d had no idea he was married and a father. She realized how little she really knew about Carson.

“Yeah, she’s ten now. He gets to see her on holidays if the wife feels like it.”

Cheryl’s anger dimmed as quickly as it had flared.

“Why doesn’t he get a divorce?”

“You’d have to ask him that.” They trudged on. “But I think he claims the kid on his taxes. And the wife.”

That didn’t excuse his indiscretion but it suddenly made sense. He was a practiced cheapskate. At least she knew it wasn’t Michelle who’d betrayed her.

She marched along, wondering what motherhood would be like to a ten-year old. And if it was something she even wanted.

Check Out Chapter 2

© 2021 Peg Cole

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