Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Part 133

Finding a base camp for the patrol to operate out of was ... er ... interesting.  Like I said, the area had not been patrolled before but there were reports of "significant potential for infestation."  That's a nice way of saying that there may or may not be a puss brain behind every tree, and if they weren't there they might be behind the rocks and bushes of which there were plenty where we wound up.

I feel like a complete idiot pedaling the hot dog cart.  I stand out like a sore thumb and at the top of my list when I get someplace that hasn't been salvaged nearly to death is to find some metal paint in colors that don't scream come-and-chomp-on-me-cause-I'm-flavored-with-gourmet-stupid.

I'm glad I took Moe's advice and made sure that, even if my set up looked like carp, that it didn't sound like carp.  From graphite to grease I fixed everything that could squeak.  What I couldn't fix was the sound of wheels on the road we were on but I did my best to keep it to a minimum.  I also didn't talk which seemed to be just fine with the rest of the patrol as they were on my four corners - I was surrounded - and were on high alert.

We went deep into our assigned area - finally leaving pavement and hitting dirt and gravel - and not finding any building abandoned or otherwise, we made camp near a bend of a slow moving creek.  We got as far back from the damp as we could and then set up temporary camp in some large trees that were growing close together.  Without a word the four women hung a tarp at an angle, hung mosquito netting from the edges of that, weighted the ends down so it couldn't blow in the wind, and then created a reasonably secure perimeter.  Every time I tried to help I seemed to get in the way and interrupt their flow.

After I was nearly stepped on a couple of times Lucy said, "Just stand back.  We've done this so many times that it is just easier for us to move at our pace.  Eventually you'll catch on."

I supposed I was a little miffed but then again they were right, besides I had my own stuff to tend to.  I got my tools and dug a small pit and took some dry kindling and got a fire going.  Tomorrow I'm going to use some stones I took from the creek and line the bottom of the pit to keep the wood up off the ground.  The water table is high in this area and the wood wants to soak up the damp and make the fire smokier than it needs to be; good for mosquito prevention, bad for the lungs.

After I had a nice cook fire I set a kettle of water to heat and went down to the creek to get more water to fill the gravity water filter bag up with.  That's when I collected the stones but I also grinned at the other things I saw to collect.  There is a good supply of both cattail and arrowhead along the banks.  Since I had a moment I collected a pound of arrowhead tubers that I scrubbed quickly and then headed back to camp.  I also scared up a couple of mid-sized fish.  I caught them in the mesh bag I always keep on my belt; a left over habit from gathering in the North Woods.  I don't want anyone to think I’m bragging and telling a fish story.  To be honest I think the only reason I caught them is because they were more surprised than I was and were swimming so close together.  I'm not sure what kind they were, I think a trout or something like that.

"Just coming to look for you," Lucy told me when I got back.

"Sorry.  I was getting dinner.  How does fish and chowder sound?"  Four heads turned my way and I held up the mesh bag with the fish and tubers visible.  "I don't lie," I told them with a scowl.

Lucy said, "Didn't say you did.  Just surprised.  Normally first day out is something easy like an MRE."

"Yuck.  I've tasted those things."  I shuddered.  "They are better than starving to death but not by much."

That brought a chuckle and they went back to doing whatever it is they were doing and I started doing what I needed to do.  First came the fish; cleaned, laid in a small pan with a few drops of precious "lemon juice" made from powdered flavoring and a quick sprinkle of paprika, then covered with a lid and set to bake.  Quickly I finished everything else starting with peeling the already well-scrubbed arrowhead, quartering the tubers, and dumping them in a stock pot.  To that I added one chopped onion, and some dried sweet red pepper ... something I traded for with the sutlers.  I added a couple of squeeze packets of "butter" that was actually margarine and cooked all that until it was soft.

Mom used to say that margarine was as indestructible as roaches and plastic.  She steered clear of it but like I said before, beggars can't be choosers and it was either margarine or open the bottle of olive oil I had and I wanted to wait until it was absolutely necessarily to crack into that.  After the tubers, onions, and peppers were soft I added salt and pepper to season and then a quart of milk I made up from the powdered stuff.  I also tossed in some basil from my stash of seasonings.  While that was heating I stirred a tablespoon of my precious supply of flour (actually something called buckwheat flour) into a quarter cup of water and then slowly stirred that into the soupy mix to thicken it up.  By the time the chowder was finished so was the fish and I turned to call the patrol to eat.

Only I didn't have to call them.  I shook my head and told them as I ladled food into their mess kits, "If you drool anymore I'm going to have to add bibs to my supply requisition form next time."

Josie said, "Don't care.  I'll wear whatever you want me to if you'll keep feeding us like queens."  The others didn't say anything; they were too busy eating.

I put a scoop of chowder in my bowl to clean out the last of it and then took that pot away from the fire and put on the pot I had designated to boil water in.

Sgt. Shelly surprised me with a tap from her boot.  When I turned to look she asked, "Where's your fish?"

I shrugged.  "I only caught the two fish.  Next time I'll look before I start gathering and I won't scare the rest off before I can get more."  She gave me a "look" and I reminded her, "I'm about half the size of you and I never have eaten a lot.  Plus I can graze when you all are off patrolling or whatever.  There's dandelions, morels, and a few other things all within sight of camp here and I'm sure I can find more tomorrow while you all are off doing your patrolling thing.  I'll get fat like that bear we saw earlier."

"That bear wasn't fat, she was actually scrawny ... looks like the two cubs are about to drink her dry.  And don't get off subject.  You may not patrol but you still need to eat."

"I'll eat ... am eating right now."  I picked up my bowl and spoon to prove it.  "You just can't expect me to need to eat as much as someone with as much muscle as you four.  I swear you use up more calories in nervous energy just sitting still than I do in a whole day of hard labor."

Gayle said, "Bull.  Now stop being an idiot and eat.  Shelly has more important things to do than worry about you having an eating disorder."

"A what?  Are you making fun of me being small?"

Lucy shook her head, "No.  She means anorexia or bulletmia ... no that isn't right ... bull ... bull ..."

I relaxed.  "Oh, you mean bulimia.  That kind of eating thing.  No, I just don't need as many calories because of my size.  Plus, unless you want me gacking up everything all over the place you won't try and force me to eat too much in one sitting.  My stomach isn't set up for huge meals."

Gayle asked, "Always been a problem or something just lately?"

"Always.  I was a micropreemie," I reminded her then shrugged.  "My stomach is just small like the rest of me and I just do better with grazing than I do with three squares a day.  I'll cook three squares, I just may eat off cycle from the rest of you.  So please just leave off.  It isn't a problem and I've got it covered."

She looked at Sgt. Shelly and nodded and the rest of them backed off as well.  However when the other three went for another small "recee" up and down the creek bank Gayle started on it again and I got irritated.

"Don't blow your cool Pip.  I'm what passes for the medico in our patrol and I need to make sure I understand each person's situation.  I've known the other three long enough that I can tell when they aren't feeling top notch without them having to say a word or show an obvious symptom.  I need to be able to assess you as well and I'd like to be able to do it without having to constantly ask questions.  So if you have any special needs I need to know about them."

I conceded the point.  "You mean because I was a preemie?"

"Partly that and partly because it doesn't seem to have phased you much so I need to know how you cope."

I shrugged.  "I just always have.  I don't like puking so I eat smaller meals.  I don't like passing out so I've learned to make the smaller meals count ... nutrition and stuff like that.  My metabolism is about average so that isn't a problem."  I pointed to my glasses.  "These are about the only real bane of my existence - that and everyone always thinking I'm a little kid first just because of my size - that is leftover from the preemie stuff.  I used to get really sick a lot and people kept trying to tell my parents that I just had to be autistic because of the way I started out but I learned to keep my feet dry and my head covered which keeps the colds to a minimum and you don't want to really hear about all the trouble I caused until they stopped telling me I couldn't ever be smart enough to do what I wanted to."

Gayle snorted.  "I think I can imagine."  Quietly she added, "Lucy is the same but ... but she does have limitations.  Limitations are nothing to be ashamed of so long as you know what they are and address them.  Her ability to read is almost completely gone.  She's picked simple words back up here and there but she sees them more as pictures than as combinations of letters with individual sounds so if you need to leave her a message make it a pictograph."  I nodded to let her know I understood what that is.  "When she is really angry or frustrated she will stutter ... to the point that no one understands what she is trying to say.  Her long silences usually indicate one or the other and you need to recognize it and not get bent out of shape if she doesn't talk to you.  And she used to get migraines though those get fewer and fewer and she hasn't had one since you showed up.  The headaches ..."

"She gets the trimbles in her left hand."

Gayle squinted at me suspiciously.  "She told you?"

I nodded.  "The other day before we left out on patrol.  I noticed and she caught me noticing and then winced when some guy whistled.  She looked like she was going to be sick and I offered to go get you but she said no and explained.  I fixed her some feverfew tea and put a little ginger in it.  It seemed to help or at least her hand stopped trembling and she started smiling like her old self after a little bit so I poured the rest of it into her canteen."  I shrugged.  "My mom got migraines about once a month too and that was her go-to remedy."

Gayle looked at me and then leaned back and reached into her pack and pulled out a small notebook and said, "Give me the recipe and tell me what you know."

So I did.  No biggie.  I also explained that Mom used to have hard and fast rules in our house about food and medicine and stuff.  "Partly because of me being so bad sick when I was little and partly because she was that way to start with.  I guess I don't think anything of it because that is the way I was raised but I learned I couldn't talk about that stuff to some of my friends' parents or teachers because they would start acting like Mom was from mars or some weird woman that might be abusing me.  Even my best friend's mother - the wife of the Sheriff no less - used to get crossed eyed if the subject came up; and she and Mom were like really good friends."  I smiled a little sadly thinking of Lee's mom.  "She was like this nurse supervisor kind of thing at the hospital and while she agreed that some of the 'all natural' remedy type stuff might work that a lot of it was bunk and she didn't tolerate bunk of any kind.  In her own way she was way stricter than my mom was and that's saying something."

"I'm middle of the road myself," Gayle admitted.  "If you can explain to me why something works I'll take it under advisement but none of this by the light of the full moon $@#% or licking toads or anything like that."

The look on her face when she was talking about licking toads was so funny I decided not to tell her about some of the druggies I ran across in the city right after Z-Day and how they were so desperate for a fix that they'd do some really, really strange things.  We were still talking about herbs and things like that when Gayle put up her hand to stop me.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Gale put your hand down, Kathy has to keep writing and she's too polite to interrupt you...... Okay, done with the pun.

    Love how you manage to include Naturopathic (sp) medical alternatives for the PAW. Such an easy way to keep information in the front of peoples' brains.

    Thanks Kathy

    As always keeping you and yours in my prayers.