Monday, May 4, 2015

Part 131


I followed Mr. Marty over to a farm truck and he said, "Hop up there and hand me down a crate."

He hadn't said which crate to hand him so I handed him the first one I came to.  It had in it what looked like duck pond weeds.  "Is this one ok?"

He nodded.  "Good one to start with.  This here is arrowhead.  Look at the green parts and you can see why.  It ain't the green tops you want though, but the root, what is called a tuber by those of us in the know."

I bit my lip to not grin at how silly he sounded but when I glanced at him I saw he was smiling broadly and I realized that this man would be easy to like despite being a little scary at the same time.  I looked at the "tuber" and said, "It looks like a potato sort of."

"Exactly and you treat it like a potato too.  You can roast it, fry it, dice it, hash it, mash it, boil it, put it in soups ... anything you can do to a potato you can do to this little baby here.  And it is pretty easy to harvest.  You can either use a rake or a hoe and just loosen them from the mud and muck at the end of a pond or slow moving creek or river.  If the weather is warm enough I'll send the kids into the water and let 'em wiggle their feet in the mud and the roots just float to the surface.  They get a kick out of it and it keeps them out of everyone's hair.  The plants grow in clumps so it shouldn't be too hard to get what you need from one location for just a patrol size.  Now hand all them crates of arrowhead down while I get some of these useless boys to cart 'em over to the trailer so they can be secured."

After handing down all of the arrowheads I nearly tripped over a couple of crates of cattails.  I handed them down next and Mr. Marty and I talked a bit about what I knew and traded recipes.

He said, "Cattails is a staple where there is standing water.  People in the cities still ain't caught on to its use but trust me when I say folks out here get more than a little possessive of their plots so you gotta make sure no one is claiming ownership.  Other problem near the cities is water contamination from run off and sech.  Now you ain't dumb so you'll know you'll need to check the water things are growing in out here now too.  And be real careful if you go onto one of the reservations, different tribes hold different beliefs on ownership of stuff ... particularly ownership of the land and what it produces."

"I didn't think we were supposed to go onto the reservations, at least that is what my sergeant told me."

"Not supposed to is right, but that don't mean it doesn't happen ... on accident and on purpose.  Sometimes the military gets invited in if a tribe is having a bad problem with something but for the most part reservations are a no-go, even for a lot of trader convoys.  People get set ideas in their head and there just isn't any communicating with them after a certain point.  Now what's next?"

I pulled up a crate so I could see inside and said, "Hey!  I know this stuff too.  It's burdock.  Mom grew it in her edible landscaping!"

"Well ain't you excited," the big man laughed.  "Yep that is burdock only your ma probably grew domesticated burdock, this here is wild burdock.  You can usually find it in rocky areas; it takes a strong root like this to make its way through that kind of soil.  What's good about the burdock is that it will grow on land that hardly anything else will and that all parts of the plant are edible ... root, young greens, and even the flower stalk if you can get it before the varmints do.  What other plants do you know?"

"Chickweed, Lamb's Quarter, dandelions, milkweed, ramps, ..."

He chuckled, "Ok, ok, Girly.  Sounds like you've got some down.  Now let me tell you about some you might not know about."

We talked about things called yampa, Oregon grape, pinon pine, salsify, miner's lettuce, and several others.  He had me take a leaf from each plant he had in stock and told me to press them flat and then label them somehow so I'd have a "field guide" to the plants that were I could use without killing anyone.  I thought that was such a good idea that after saying good bye I did exactly that using this notebook as the squasher part to get them flat and keep them safe.

Lucy saw me and asked what I was doing.  I explained it to her and she said, "Sounds about like what I did right after I got my head banged up."

I looked at her but didn't say anything.  She'd never spoken of her injury and I didn't want to upset her.  She smiled, "Relax.  I guess I understand how you feel about the others always looking over your shoulder because they did it to me for a long time.  I know I'm not like I used to be but I can't ... can't quite explain what the difference is.  I just know it's there."

Carefully I asked her since none of the others were around to hear, "Does it hurt your feelings?  Being different?"

"Did at first," she admitted.  "But to be honest there's been some good things come from it.  For one I'm not so angry as I used to be.  I remember that I was angry all the time ... and I worried about stuff.  I'm not sad about not being that person anymore.  What bothers me most is sometimes not being able to remember what things are called.  I got me a notebook about like the one you are always scratching in.  Shelly drew pictures in it and then labeled them and it's how I re-learned a lot of the stuff I forgot.  It took me a while but I'm a good soldier again ... but I think I might just be a better person than I was before my brain got put in a blender.  You know?  It isn't like that for everyone but for me I think it is."

I shrugged.  "I didn't know you before so I can't say but I think the you that you are now is a real good person to know."

I'm glad I said it because it seemed to make her happy and she flipped me in the head with her cap and then got all mommish and said, "You should hit the sack while you have the chance.  Today was easy compared to tomorrow.  Terrain is going to turn rough mid-morning and the units are going to split and start off-loading.  We are one of the last and it is in an area no one has covered before so we are going to have to really be on our toes."

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