Saturday, January 25, 2020

Just Around the Bend Part Two

Part Two

Chapter One

Joe Henry drove slow as they rounded the bend in the road. His mind was still crankin' through all that Maggie told him in just a short window of time. He also was playin' tourist as he drove. He couldn't believe that he had been so dense that he didn't even go a few hundred yards an' seen the bend that Maggie was still teasin' him about.

Maggie kept up a runnin' commentary on lots of things. She was fillin' him in on "all the folks what wondered where he had done got off to", his Aunt Bess' worryin' about him, about what they was gonna need him to do.

"We are gettin' close to the final honey harvest of the summer right soon Joe Henry. You will sure enjoy that. It is hot work, but it sure is fun." Maggie told him.

"Wait, " he came out of his trance when she said that, "Honey harvest? You mean like honey bees an' robbin' their honey like I used to help aunt Bess an' Uncle Floyd do? That kind of honey harvest?"

Charlie chuckled, "Well sir, sorta like that. Just on a grander scale. don't worry though. We already bought a suit, hood, veil, gloves an' even boots for ye. Aunt Bess looked at your clothes an' even your shoe size in your sneakers when you was stayin' with her. We got you done turned out in high fashion for bee robbin'."

"Grander scale?" Joe Henry asked. He wasn't sure he liked the direction this was takin'.

"Well sure. You don't think Carpenter Bee Tree Honey comes from two or three little ol' hives do ye? Nah, they is a lot more than that."

"More than that?" he asked weakly.

"Oh sure. They is seven bee yards altogether, countin' the one we all experiment in. We don't take too much honey off that one though. We work on what the State Bee Inspector calls genetics there, as well as doin' splits, raisin' queens an' such. We get some honey off them hives. I don't know, Daddy, what do you think? Maybe thirty five or forty hives in that yard?" Maggie asked Charlie.

"Got thirty-eight right now." Charlie said. "Had forty but I lost a couple of my old queens. Should have requeened but them old gals was still layin' good. The workers was startin' to make new queens an' I took the queen cells an' merged the hives with a couple weak hives."

Joe Henry was in a daze.

"Turn in boy. you are gonna drive right past the drive." Maggie laughed an' pointed.

As he turned in he stopped the truck. He could see the woods that Maggie an' Charlie walked through to find him. He sat with his mouth open as he saw the farm that was his Grandparent's home.

"Close your mouth, son. You'll let flies in" Charlie laughed out loud.

"This is it. I remember it. I've forgotten so much of my childhood. I just didn't care, I suppose. I can't believe it. Why wouldn't I want to come here?" Joe Henry asked, more to himself than the old couple.

Charlie answered, "I reckon it weren't all that excitin' for a boy with no one else to play with. All what was here was old folks an' your Daddy most of the time."

All that may have been true, but at that moment Joe Henry felt pretty guilty about not comin' down to the "Old Carpenter Home Place" with his Daddy.

The house was two stories with a big porch. The yard was huge as were the fields surroundin' the barns an' other out buildin's. It was all that he didn't expect. It was beautiful as it sat right at the head of a holler.

"This was where my Grandpa an' Grandma lived. I remember how Grandma smelled. She always smelled like flour an' biscuits. Daddy called Grandpa 'Pappy". Grandpa always had Mail Pouch Chewin' Tobacco in his back pocket. I don't think Grandma let him chew inside."

Maggie smiled, "Nope, he weren't allowed to chew inside. She weren't much for him spittin' off the porch either, though he did. She said he stained the ends of the boards of the porch with his spittin'."

As they pulled up to the front porch an' got out Joe Henry looked around. His memories were clearin' up as he looked around. Things became clearer when he saw the place. It was obvious he hadn't completely forgotten, but he just hadn't cared.

Charlie an' Maggie helped him unload things onto the front porch. Maggie said that would be easier to take in the house. As they was unloadin' Maggie grabbed the grocery bag holdin' the quilt Joe Henry bought at the antique mall.

"Well sire, I ain't seen that quilt in a long while. Your Aunt Bess give it to you?" she asked.

"No ma'am. I bought it at an antique mall close to Berea."

"You bought this? At that little ol' antique mall in a white concrete block buildin' right off the highway 'bout a mile?"

"Yes ma'am." he confirmed.

"The booth where it was had some milk glass an' other ol' quilts too, right?"

"Yes, ma'am. How did you know that?"

Maggie started to laugh so hard she doubled over. "Boy, you done bought a quilt your aunt Bess dug out of one of the sheds here. Most likely quilted by your Grandma or her sisters. We took maybe half a dozen quilts out of the shed over yonder, washed they up an' I went with her when she took them to the antique place. That is your Aunt Bess' booth youngin'. Wait till she hears this one. She would have give you all the quilts you wanted an' you bought one we hauled out of the shed."

Joe Henry started to laugh with Maggie. Charlie came out of the house an' Maggie told him of the quilt an' he laughed right along.

"Aunt Bess did give me a couple quilts before I left her place. They are in a lot better condition than that one." he had to chuckle an' admit.

Inside the house was clean an' bright. Though he noticed air conditioners on several windows, the windows were open an' a nice breeze blew the curtains just a bit.

He nosed around after all his boxes, bags an' suitcases were tucked in upstairs in the big bedroom that had been his grandparents. Maggie an' Charlie both warned him that it could get warm upstairs on a hot day. "Leave the ceilin' fan runnin" they both warned him at different times. Two windows were open to let the air in an' a window air conditioner sat in a third window.

All the floors throughout the house were wood. Some of the floor boards were almost two feet wide. Charlie explained that all the floors an' most all the trim throughout the house were chestnut. The original floors on the main floor were actually puncheon floor boards. The room in the back was actually the original cabin from a few generations ago. Those boards were not near as smooth at the boards in the main part of the house.

"The floor boards have been sanded down years ago, made smooth on the top, don't ye know. The bottoms of them boards is still rounded like. They didn't need to saw both sides of them floor boards, just the top side what would make up the floor. If you go down in the basement you can still see the cut stone under this part, an' even the rubble built walls under the old part. you can see the puncheon bottom of these floor boards down there."

Maggie had joined them an' added, "The basement also attaches to the root cellar off to the side. Out back you can see the root cellar dug into the ground an' made of stone. They is a door openin' into it so you don't have to go outside to get into it. There are shelves on either side of that door for canned goods. Ain't much there these days though. I did put a few jars of this an' that down there for you. Some jellies, kraut, green beans, vegetable soup fixin's. I even put some jars of canned sausages down there for you."

Most of the rooms had ceilin' fans. There was also a whole house fan in the hallway ceilin' on the second floor. Charlie explained that his Daddy had that installed years before his grandparents gave in an' got air conditioners years ago.

"Them ain't the original air conditioners though. you Daddy had these put in. Them ol' ones was noisy. All in all, I reckon you'll like the place." Maggie added.

The last room they showed him was the kitchen. It was large an' open. He remembered that room most of all. He actually remembered his Grandma holdin' court in that room, remembered her cookin'. He also remembered his Daddy an' Grandpa were just visitors in that room. Grandma was queen of that domain.

Though she hadn't asked anyone, she bustled around, got out glasses, ice from the freezer an' poured them each a big glass of sweet tea. Sweet tea was one of Joe Henry's sinful pleasures. The sweeter the better. this tea was perfect.

As they sat he remembered something said earlier. "Seven bee yards? Do y'all have a lot of bees?"

"We don't. Well, we have five hives in our yard for Charlie to play with. Carpenters Bee Tree Apiaries has seven. That one we mentioned which is down the road about a mile or so, the one right here across the road. They is about maybe fifty hives there. There are two bee yards up on the hills a ways away under groves of sourwood trees for our sourwood honey harvests. The trees bloom late June or early July for a couple weeks. We rob the honey right after the blooms drop so's we get true sourwood honey. What do we have Charlie, maybe thirty or so hives in each of them yards?" Maggie asked.

"Yep, that's 'bout right. Maybe thirty or so in each one. We also have a small yard along the fence row back behind the barn here. We have cultivated blackberries along the fence for years an' we harvest blackberry honey after the flowers go to berry. That is even more popular than the sourwood honey. We just don't get much of it. I reckon they is only maybe a dozen or so hives there." Charlie told him.

Maggie continued, "There is a small apiary down two, maybe three miles in the lavender farm. Lordy, folks come from all over to buy fresh lavender there. They make oil, soaps, dried lavender sachets an' such there. They stay busy in the summer. Our hives there produce late summer honey that is wildflower honey, but we watch the bloomin' of the lavender an' got wonderful lavender honey from that farm."

"An' I can't forget the last one. It is my favorite. That was the original bee yard. Started out with your Great Great Grandparents settlin' here on the ridge. Dan Carpenter saw bees on some flowers, caught several bees an' did 'bee lining' till he found the bee tree. He cut the colony out of that dead tree an' made a bee gum in his yard right where the current yard sits. Ever' one of our bees originally came from them bees. Over the years we've bred our bees with different types of bees, but they is still a lot of genetics from them bees still in our bees. The ol' cabin is still there too though we use it mostly for storage these days."

Charlie grinned, "We are gonna have so much fun, ain't we? I am sure glad you are here, Joe Henry. Sure glad."

Joe Henry smiled sorta weakly an' took a big drink of sweet tea. Sure, this house was so much better than that little cabin around the bend. Yes, his Aunt Bess was tryin' to take care of him, give him a job, help him to work through all that had happened.

However, later that evenin' when Charlie an' Maggie had gone home, as he sat on the front porch in a porch swing not unlike the one on his Aunt Bess' porch, he realized some of his pleasant memories from his childhood might not have been on his Aunt's porch but on this one an' sittin' on this porch swing.

As the day faded an' twilight sat easy on the farmland Joe Henry pondered for a long while. Honestly, he wasn't sure he was cut out for the mountains. He wasn't sure he was fond of the idea of tendin' to hundreds an' hundreds of bee hives with those old folks, Maggie an' Charlie. He wasn't sure about bein' lonely on that farm.

He definitely wasn't sure about bein' stung time after time after time all year.

"What in the world have I gotten myself into?" he asked the night sky.

Chapter Two

It was still a good bit before daylight an' Joe Henry was sittin' on the side of the bed. He slept pretty good an' though he was awake late the night before he felt rested. He still had a lot on his mind.

The water was good an' hot, a brand new bar of soap an' bottles of shampoo an' conditioner was in the shower. There was a little closet that was full of bath towels, hand towels an' wash rags rolled up real nice. He suspected that was Maggie's work. He wasn't a bit sure he would be able to keep them towels rolled up right pretty like that.

When he went downstairs an' into the kitchen, he noticed Maggie had apparently stopped in sometime early in the mornin', well before he was awake. A Mr. Coffee was settin' out with a note. There was coffee an a filter in the holder an' water in the pot. Sugar was in a tall container like you often saw in restaurants an' the note said there was real cream in the Frigidaire.

When he opened the Frigidaire he saw that it was plumb full of groceries. He definitely wouldn't go hungry. The note told him not to get used to it, but to come over for breakfast at 7:00. He checked his watch, 6:05, still time to sit on the porch with his coffee an' enjoy the day.

He had to pause for a moment to remember the date. He arrived at Aunt Bess' home on June 5th, spent a little over a month with her, celebrated a quiet 4th of July at her place an' arrived down here on Saturday, July 9th. It was Friday, July 15th. He'd been gone from home in King's Mill for almost six weeks. How his world had changed in those weeks.

He still weren't sure he was happy about all the changes.

He was up for another cup of coffee a few minutes later. When he stepped back out on the porch, he paused as he heard the screen door's familiar slap against the door jamb. There was always somethin' satisfyin' about that sound.

As he sat back down he looked to the east an' saw the dawn startin' to pink up the sky. He suspected he'd be able to enjoy the sunrise before he had to walk over to Maggie an' Charlie's place for breakfast. He paused an' hoped that she was a good cook. He was a breakfast eatin' sort of guy.

As he sat in the porch swing he noticed a few chickens startin' to wander up from the barns an' outbuildin's. He also saw Charlie openin' the barn door an' more chickens makin' their way out of a chicken coop.

In a moment Charlie was back with a bucket an' started slingin' feed around his feet for the chickens. The chickens that had started his way ran back quickly, their little backsides wobblin' side to side as they ran.

He laughed at the sight as they ran. He waved to Charlie an' motioned for him to come on up. Charlie waved back an' gave him the "OK" sign, went in to put the bucket away an' sauntered through the chickens an' over to the porch.

"I'm hopin' you ain't drunk all the coffee out of that Mr. Coffee."

"Oh lordy no. There is plenty. Help yourself, Charlie." He answered.

Charlie did exactly that, came out an' sat in one of the four rockers, the one closest to the porch swing Joe Henry was in. They talked for a few minutes about the weather, about the chickens. Charlie told him they got two or three dozen eggs a day, mostly brown eggs, had all they needed an' would have plenty for him too. Maggie sold eggs to a bunch of the neighbors ever' few days.

"Wait, two or three dozen eggs a day? Fifteen or twenty dozen eggs a week? How many eggs do y'all use?" Joe Henry asked.

"Well sir, ain't never studied on it. We eat two apiece a day, makes a little over two dozen a week. Maggie probably used another dozen, maybe two a week. Most times we'd go through maybe four dozen. Why?"

Joe Henry grinned. "Just thinkin' about all them eggs. That's still a lot of eggs. Y'all must keep the whole road supplied."

"Yessir. We sure do. I have tried to thin out the flock. Used to have a lot of coyotes an' they helped, though it were help I didn't care much for. Still have one or two around, so's I put the chickens up each evenin'."

"Problem is an ol' hen will wander into the weeds now an' again an' lay. She'll hide out an' sneak off to set on those eggs. One day a bunch of chicks will show up. We try to keep some eat an' give a few fryers away now an' again, but the flock size gets away from me right often."

They talked for a bit longer about fried chicken, chicken an' dumplin's, roasted chicken an' such. Then Charlie took his pocket watch out of the top pocket of his overalls, looked at it an' then at Joe Henry.

"Son, we best get over to the house. She'll be throwin' breakfast out to the pigs if we don't shake a leg." Charlie said with a grin.

Joe Henry grinned too. Them pigs must be the same ones that Aunt Bess always warns about.

Maggie was already puttin' food on the table when they went in to the table. They was sausage gravy, bacon fried just right, good an' crisp but not burnt or nothin', scrambled eggs an' big ol' cat head biscuits. There was coffee cups an' glasses at each plate. A half gallon jar of milk sat in the middle of the table, so cold that there was condensation on the outside. A layer of yellow cream sat on the top of the milk that made Joe Henry's mouth water.

Maggie saw him eyein' the milk an' said, "Shake that jar up good so's you get the cream mixed in good an' pour yourself a glass. I got coffee ready if you want a cup. Charlie, pour yourself an' Joe Henry a cup of coffee."

Maggie pointed out her seat an' where Charlie sat as well as the place ready for Joe Henry. The sat, Charlie said a blessin' an' they all dug in.

It was apparent that Charlie weren't much of a table talker as they ate. Maggie carried on a runnin' conversation between bites, all the while makin' sure Joe Henry had plenty on his plate.

"Joe Henry, I might be the one to run my mouth all the time, but Charlie is the yard boss. I do the cookin', cleanin' the house, helpin' him with the bees on occasion. I don't do the farm work or much in the garden. Sure, I go out an' get a few vegetables out of our little garden out back, but Charlie keeps up the big garden, does all the plantin' an' harvest an such. We both work the garden to pick beans, pull 'maters when it is time to can them an' all."

She paused with a biscuit in her hand, "Now Charlie will be workin' with you most of the time. I come help with the bees when he needs me, especially in honey harvest. Right now I am right busy with cannin' since the garden is startin' to come in. You an' Charlie is on your own."

"If you want, you can have breakfast with us. I know single fellers ain't much for eatin' a good breakfast. We eat at 7:00 ever' mornin' an' you are welcome. Just come on in the back door to the kitchen an' be here on time. I'll throw your breakfast out to the pigs if you ain't." she said with a smile.

"Yes ma'am. Charlie, what will we be doin' today?" Joe Henry asked.

"Well sir, you can help me pick some beans for Maggie when the garden dries off. I've got beans planted over several waves, so she'll have beans in again in a week or two once again. Why don't we go to the honey house an' I'll show you around it. Show you how we bottle, the machine we have to uncap the frames of honey. Believe it or not, our honey house is pretty up to date thanks to your ol' Daddy. He went to them conventions an' meetin's an' kept up with the state inspector about things. We have a right smart set up goin'."

Joe Henry was wide eyed. "It is a pretty big deal, then? I had no idea."

"Joe Henry, you just don't know. They is maybe two hundred hives 'round here. We see 'bout twelve to fifteen thousand pounds of honey a year. Closer to fifteen thousand in a good year. A lot of that we sell in quarts which are three pounds, but most of that we sell in one or two pound jars. We need space to store jars an' lids, labels. Can't forget space for them ladies we hire now an' again to make the lotions we make an' the infused honeys."

Again Joe Henry was speechless, well almost speechless. "Are you serious?"

"Yep, Carpenters Bee Tree Apiaries is a right big business, truth be told. We sell honey an' hive products in Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia an' North Carolina. I'm settin' up in a flea market most Saturdays this time of year. You won't have to help me with that much though. I meet up with my buddy Billy Lewis an' we sit around, sell honey an' jaw at each other all day. Gives me a chance to get away from home on Saturday."

Joe Henry followed behind Charlie as they walked down the road toward the long buildin' that was the honey house. House was not the most fittin' description. It was a long buildin' with two side arms goin' out from the main buildin'."

"Sell in three states." Joe Henry mumbled to himself. "Fifteen thousand pounds of honey. Two hundred hives. Oh my. From what I remember there can be more than sixty thousand bees in a hive. Twelve million honey bees. Twelve million bees. I am gonna look like a pin cushion."

As he walked he shook his head, "What in the world has Aunt Bess got me into?"

Chapter Three

Charlie opened the door to the honey house, turned on the lights an' held the door as Joe Henry stepped in. The door had spring hinges that closed it quickly. Charlie explained that was so's the bees didn't try to get in when they were extractin' or bottlin' honey.

"You should see the screens when we open them occasionally. The bees smell the honey an' cluster all over the screens, tryin' to get in. 'Course we don't really open them much. We have heat an' air conditionin' in the whole buildin'. The storage an' bottlin' room, now, that is a different story."

Joe Henry felt like he was in another odd world as Charlie showed him an uncappin' machine, "Takes the caps off the capped honey". There were several sizes of the extractors, all electric except one small one. Charlie explained that the great big extractor would be in use durin' a honey flow. The smaller ones would be used for specialty honey like the blackberry honey an' lavender honey so's it didn't get mixed in with wildflower honey.

There were huge blocks of creamy yellow beeswax in a couple crates that would be used later to make several products an' to make candles. Joe Henry picked one up and felt the smooth surface. It still smelled like honey. Charlie pointed out wax that hadn't been as well processed yet. Still that creamy yellow but with bits of other stuff in the wax.

Off to one side was a big room that was mostly storage. It was filled with boxes of jars, tins, labels an' lids. Boxes were stacked neatly, often all the way to the ceilin'. Each box was clearly labeled to identify the contents.

"This here is our pride an' joy, Joe Henry. Your Daddy set this up. Had some help from the state bee inspector, but this was his creation." Charlie said as he opened a door not unlike the door on a big walk-in freezer. "Come on in right quick. I can't leave the door open long."

On the other side of the door was a large room with a number of big stainless steel tanks, tables an' shelves filled with jars of honey. There were quart Mason jars, one an' two pound jars an' even them cute little ol' honey bear bottles. Honey was stored in decorative jars, Muth jars. Comb honey filled many jars.

The tables an' shelves were all labeled. Infused honey was separate an' labeled as to the infusion. Specialty honey, sourwood, lavendar, blackberry honey an' such sat beside that area. Comb honey an' the regular wildflower took up most of the shelves an' tables. There were hundreds, no, thousands of bottles an' jars as well as tins, tubs an' fancy containers.

The concrete block walls had been painted with a specially made paint/sealer that Charlie told Joe Henry about. That paint sealed the concrete blocks an' helped with humidity levels. The whole large room was warm an' the humidity was higher than outside the door. Charlie explained that the room had its own system that kept the temperature an' humidity at a level that was ideal for storin' honey. Honey would keep an' not crystallize in there as it did normally.

"An' my Daddy did all this?" Joe Henry asked finally.

"Yep. Sure, I helped. Fellers came in to install the equipment, set it up an' get it fine tuned, but your Daddy planned it an' we built it. I weren't fond of that paint stuff though. Thick as that there honey. Hard to roll on. Even harder to get off your skin. Forget even tryin' to get it off your clothes. Maggie weren't too fond of it after we would paint it on. She threw a perfectly good pair of overalls away, she did. Said she weren't gonna put them in her washin' machine." Charlie groused.

Charlie had Joe Henry try on his brand new bee suit. It was actually a pair of white pants with elastic in the waist an' cuffs. The elastic cuffs fit over the high black rubber boots that fit well. Charlie gave Joe Henry a choice of a jacket with a hood sorta like them men wear when they fence with them swords or a traditional one with a pith helmet an' veil. He told Joe Henry that was what him an' Maggie wore.

Joe Henry wasn't sure which he might prefer. Charlie chuckled an' said not to worry, both jackets an' veils were for him anyways.

Joe Henry continued to feel like he was almost drownin' in all the things thrown at him. He was glad to get into the garden with Charlie to pick beans. At least he knew how to pick beans.

Maggie joined them an' talked about this an' that as they picked. Charlie pointed out the other rows that he planted, two weeks apart so they would have green beans all summer as well as having a variety of beans. These was the first beans of the summer an' were 55 day beans he explained.

Maggie pointed to the row of "greasy beans", her favorite. There were a couple rows of pole beans that would make shuck beans a little later in the summer. There was also rows of "rattlesnake" green beans an' "granny" beans that would mostly be used to dry an' shell.

A few days later Charlie had Joe Henry join him in the bee yard. Joe Henry had no issue with gettin' stung as he was covered from head to foot. Charlie chuckled as he threw on his pith helmet an' veil. No jacket, just his long sleeve work shirt an' no gloves.

He worked slow an' easy. He showed Joe Henry the hives, how to lift frames out, how to look for issues, how to scrape off burr comb an' save it in a little lard bucket he kept with him. He pointed out workers, drones an' queens.

That was what summer looked like for Joe Henry as well as for Charlie an' Maggie. Each day Joe Henry joined them for breakfast, worked the day away with Charlie on the farm, in the bee yards. Charlie would go to the flea market on Saturdays an' would take Maggie to Church on Sundays.

Joe Henry fell into the routine. His weekend were dedicated to goin' to town for groceries, maybe to the little library in Hazard or Manchester to check out books an' lazy days readin'. Now an' they he would grab the fishin' pole he brought from home an' fish in one of the ponds on the farm or down to Bull Creek.

Charlie occasionally joined him on a Sunday afternoon an' they would sit on the side of one of the ponds, talk an' fish. Those occasions were some of Joe Henry's favorites as Maggie always was waitin' to take their catch, fry the fish up, add her amazin' hush puppies, slaw or maybe tater salad. Once the tomatoes were big enough, she would fry up some green tomatoes in her cast iron skillets.

As the summer progressed, Joe Henry became more an' more comfortable with the bees, with helpin' Charlie. Though he still wore his jacket an' the veil an' pith helmet he preferred, he often went without gloves as they worked the hives.

Aunt Bess regularly checked in by letter an' telephone. She wasn't much for long conversations on the phone. didn't want to run up a long distance bill. She came down once for the weekend an' stayed in the bedroom downstairs. She took over the kitchen that weekend an' Joe Henry ate better than he usually did.

That Saturday mornin' Aunt Bess was chased an' flogged by one of the ol' roosters that was in the habit of chasin' Joe Henry an' Charlie when the chickens was let out. Charlie had let several roosters remain in the flock an' felt bad that that big ol' red one was so mean.

Aunt Bess invited Charlie an' Maggie over for chicken an' dumplin's that evenin'. She reminded ever'one that Uncle Floyd always said, “Revenge is best served with dumplin’s.”.

"That ol' rooster ain't gonna be chasin' me ever again." she laughed as she sat the big bowl on the table. They all ate their fill an' was happy to say goodbye to that mean rooster.

Chapter Four

The weekend that Aunt Bess visited was loads of fun for not only Joe Henry but for Maggie an' Charlie as well. 'Course on Saturday Aunt Bess chased Joe Henry out of the house so's she could give it a good cleanin'. Not that he didn't keep a clean house. He did pretty well for a man. That were the problem Aunt Bess an' Maggie told him. He were a man an' men just didn't know how to clean right.

Charlie invited him to go to the flea market while Aunt Bess cleaned the house. He enjoyed the day an' visitin' with Charlie an' several of his buddies that stopped by. Charlie sold fifteen bottles of honey durin' the day an' was pleased with the sales.

When they got home the whole house smelled wonderful. Aunt Bess told him she cleaned the poplar floors with Murphy's Oil Soap. Said they needed to be cleaned with it now an' again to keep the wood from dryin' out. Joe Henry promised to do so once a month. She also left a full bottle of Murphy's, a sponge mop an' instructions written down as to how to clean the floors the right way.

Though Joe Henry occasionally went to Church over to Bull Creek Baptist Church where Maggie an' Charlie went, an' though he grew up in a Baptist Church that his Daddy was a Deacon at, well, sleepin' in was more his Sunday mornin' routine than goin' to church.

Joe Henry didn't have much of a choice that Sunday mornin'. He was up when Aunt Bess called him for breakfast. She told him what time they needed to leave an' that he was drivin'.

"Yes ma'am." was all he could say to that.

After church she invited Maggie an' Charlie over for soup. Before they left for Church, actually well before Joe Henry was up, she started a big crock pot of stew. Maggie brought over biscuits to go with the stew. Charlie added a bottle of hot sauce he made an' sold regularly at the flea market.

The hot sauce was amazin' an' they all told Charlie so. They also told him he should bottle it an' sell it in more places than the flea market. It was just what the stew needed to go from good to excellent.

As they ate Aunt Bess took a bite, put down her spoon an' looked at Joe Henry. "I've been talkin' with Charlie, an' if it is alright with you I want to send my two mules over here to the farm. Charlie says there is plenty of hay an' I'll have the feed store start deliverin' grain an' so on for them. Charlie's had mules before an' is sorta excited. I don't want to send them if you mind. He'll need your help now an' then."

"Why no, Aunt Bess. I don't mind at all. You know I like them mules an' love to ride them. But, but, why are you gettin' rid of your mules? You love them rascals. Aren't you gonna ride any more? Are you OK?"

She shook her head an' looked at Maggie, "I told you that boy would jump to conclusions. I told you didn't I? Lordy no, I sure ain't givin' up ridin'. I sure ain't givin' away my mules. I bought a smaller ridin' mule, real pretty dappled gray one from Delbert Collins. Suits me a lot better these days. She ain't near as broad in the back as my mules an' is not as many hands high."

"I also thought you'd enjoy ridin' these hills an' hollers on a mule instead of walkin'."

Joe Henry grinned. "You bet I will. I'll get Charlie to show me everything."

Charlie grinned an' nodded. "I'm goin' to get them next Saturday. I'll have you go with me."

When that was all settled Aunt Bess finished her last bite an' said, "Charlie is goin' over to Clay County on Tuesday. You ought to go with him. He is gonna do some horse tradin' with an ol' friend of ours, a Cousin actually an' I suspect you'd enjoy gettin' to see him again."

Joe Henry laughed, "A cousin. Mercy me, is ever'body down here cousins to us?"

Maggie chuckled an' spoke up as she was takin' dishes to the sink, "Well not ever'body. Not Dr. Chu over to the Oneida hospital. I think he is from Viet Nam."

"There is a Mason jar of chicken an' dumplin's I want y'all to take to him." Aunt Bess added.

Tuesday mornin' Charlie an' Joe Henry left early to go over to the little town of Beloved, Kentucky, just off the Red Bird River in Clay County. Though it was just fifteen or twenty minutes away, Charlie wanted to get an early start. He loaded up two boxes of honey before they left an' some supplies he would need. He told Joe Henry that he was goin' to put a new bottom in a chair he made years ago.

They drove onto the Main Street of Beloved, Kentucky an' turned right to go out of town. The Main Street was actually just a big loop that started on Route 66, looped in through town for a mile or two an' back out to Route 66 again.

They pulled off onto Gilbert's Branch an' drove to the end of the holler. At the end of the holler was a beautiful log cabin with porches on three sides. There were two barns an' several out buildin's. Everything was set back into a big open meadow with well kept fields all around.

An ol' man was standin' on the porch when they pulled up an' he waved at them an' motioned them in. "Come on in, Charlie. I've been expectin' you."

He looked real close an' asked, "Who's that you got with you? Is that Henry Kay's boy Joe Henry? Get out here boy an' let me take a look at you."

Joe Henry got out grinnin' like an ol' possum. He knew as soon as they pulled into Gilbert's Branch who they was goin' to see.

"Hey, Uncle Billy. I ain't seen you in a while."

"Been too many years Joe Henry. I ain't seen you since Aunt Del's funeral. How you been?" Uncle Billy said as he walked down from the porch an' took Joe Henry's hand in his.

His hands might have been old, but his grip was as strong as a vice. He looked deep into Joe Henry's eyes as he held his hand. Those ol' eyes, faded blue, were still sharp an' Joe Henry suspected Uncle Billy saw more than most when he looked at you.

"I'm not bad, Uncle Billy. Doin' better all the time." Joe Henry said honestly.

"You boys come on up. I have coffee on. Charlie, you don't need to get started right away, do you?"

Charlie was at the back of his truck gettin' supplies out. "Nah, I need to soak these strips of oak bark a little more before I start. I soaked them yesterday all day but I need to put them back in some water before I start workin' on that chair bottom.

The three men sat an' talked for a while after Charlie put the strips of oak bark he had in a washtub with enough water to cover them. After about an hour Charlie said he better get to work if they was gonna be home for him to have supper.

Uncle Billy offered to show Joe Henry around the farm. It had been years since Joe Henry had visited, well before Aunt Del had passed. Uncle Billy was a Cousin but weren't really his Uncle. Most ever'body called Uncle Billy, well, Uncle Billy.

When they walked into one barn Joe Henry noticed a number of brooms layin' on a table as well as a shave horse an' a pile of the stuff brooms are made of.

"You makin' them brooms, Uncle Billy?"

"Yessir, I sure am. They are what I am tradin' Charlie for. I trade him brooms for honey. This time I found out he had some black locust honey left from back in the Spring. He's got a dozen bottles of black locust an' a dozen jars of regular wildflower honey he is gonna skin me for. He'll try to take advantage of me, that is for sure."

Joe Henry laughed along with Uncle Billy. Both knew that Charlie just weren't the type to take advantage of anyone.

With a little encouragement, Uncle Billy sat down on the shave horse, got some of the broom corn out of the bucket of water it was soakin' in an' showed Joe Henry how to "plait" a broom, weavin' the cord over an' under the long ends of the broom corn to make a braided look. He tied off the cord, handed it to Joe Henry to inspect.

"Reckon you'd like to make yourself a broom, Joe Henry? You do know your Daddy paid his way through Berea for high school back before the war makin' brooms, don't you?"

Joe Henry did know that. What was now Berea College started out, as did a number of other schools in the mountains, as a settlement school. Students paid their way by workin' in those settlement schools. Most were gone now, but at one time the mountains were dotted with them.

"Let's go find you a stick to make a broom on. I have a right smart stack of sassafras sticks finished up an' varnished. I have some apple wood from an orchard down the way. I get their trimmed branches to make broom handles when they trim once a year."

Though he really liked the knobby look of the apple wood sticks, he settled on a sassafras stick. Uncle Billy showed him how to count out the pieces of broom corn he would need. Always needin' an odd number so's the plaitin' would go right. An even number didn't work.

He picked out a blue cord an' Uncle Billy showed him some broom corn that he dyed with aniline dyes. There were stacks of blue, red an' green aniline dyed broom corn. Uncle Billy suggested that since the cord was blue, maybe two pieces of red broom corn would look right good on one side of the broom.

A hole was made in the top an' bottom of the stick. The cord was pushed through the bottom hole an' a knot tied. With Uncle Billy's help Joe Henry added first one piece, turned the stick just a bit an' added another, takin' the cord over one an' under the next.

"Keep that cord tight or the pieces will end up on the floor."

That is exactly what happened as Joe Henry saw his broom fall apart. The second time he kept the cord taut, weavin' over an' under till he added the last of the pieces of broom corn. Uncle Billy told him to then turn the broom slowly, keepin' the cord taut an' wrappin' the cord seven or eight times around.

Uncle Billy picked up a small wooden handle with a loop of cord on it. "Now, lay this loop on the handle an' wrap three loops around it an' the handle, make sure it isn't too tight. You are gonna cut the cord, stick the end through the loop an' pull it down through the loops you just made to secure the end."

When that was done a leather cord was pushed through the hole on the end an' tied to finish the broom. Joe Henry was so excited.

Uncle Billy pulled up an ol' chair an' sat down beside Joe Henry. "How are you really doin'?"

"I guess I'm OK. Still hurtin' inside. Still feel stupid. Still feel like I ruined Daddy's business.

"Well, you was stupid. Women will do that to us men. I'll agree with that. Your Daddy sat on my porch more than once an' asked for my advice about you an' that gal you married."

"He did? He never told me. I had no idea. If he was worried, why didn't he stop me?" Joe Henry asked.

"Reckon it would have done any good? Reckon you would have listened? I'm afraid you maybe was't thinkin' with the right part of yourself back then. Maybe you weren't thinkin' much at all, boy. He wanted to jerk a knot in your tail. He saw what was goin' on. He wanted to fire that gal, get shet of her."

Joe Henry just sat there. He was quiet. didn't know what to say.

"Yessir, he did. 'Course he knew you would resent him for it. I told him so. Told him you would do somethin' even more stupid than marryin' her. Cousin, he was willin' to give up ever'thing he ever worked for to make you happy, even if he knew it was a mistake you would pay for."

Uncle Billy let that sink in. "He also asked me to have this conversation with you one day, after it was all over. Said to give you what for. Said to raise hell with you. Pardon me for cussin', but that is what your Daddy said. He loved you too much. Was too tender hearted when it came to you."

The two talked for a couple hours. Uncle Billy did read Joe Henry the riot act, did let him have it. Did give him the lecture he needed a couple years ago.

Joe Henry cried, head down, dejected an' wallowin' in his pity. Uncle Billy stopped talkin' an' just sat, waitin'.

"How'd you do it, Uncle Billy? How'd you find Aunt Del, make sure she was the right one, make sure your marriage lasted? I don't think I have it in me to do it right."

"Son, you are about as dense as one of them mules your Aunt Bess has. This ain't about what you did or who you married. This ain't why your Daddy asked me to talk to you."

"It ain't" Joe Henry asked.

"Nope. Us men talked long about you, about what to do. Do you really think Charlie really needed to drop ever'thing an' come over here just to bring me some honey an' spend the day puttin' a bottom in that chair? He just needed a reason to keep you here long enough for us to talk."

"He did?"

"Boy, that chair has been in my shed for three or four years. Here's the problem. It ain't about findin' the right woman. You ain't ready for that yet. You ain't never found your own anchor point. If you ain't OK for you how can you be right for someone else? Me? This here place is my anchor point. I can go off anywhere it the world an' I am still connected, anchored right here. Aunt Del is still here for me, our memories, our life spent together ties me to this place. The mountains call to me when I leave them. I always know my place in the world."

Uncle Billy paused for a long while, his ol' blue eyes watchin' Joe Henry, "I always know who I am, Joe Henry. I decided who I was, where my anchor points were long ago. You are just late in castin' your anchor. That is why you are still bein' tossed around ever' which way."

"Y'see, right now it ain't about what happened. Your Daddy had plenty, truth be told. He didn't want the Sportin' Goods store to be some kind of legacy, some kind of memorial. You were his legacy. You weren't near done when he died. He knew that. He knew the place was losin' money before that gal ever came along. He was waitin' for you to spread your wings so's he could close the place down, truth be told."

Joe Henry sat, sorta stunned.

"He should have pushed you from the nest is what I told him. That gal did that for you. Believe it or not, your divorce, bankruptcy, yeah I know about that, even that was what you needed to leave the nest."

"But what now, Uncle Billy, what now? I'm sort of a mess."

"Nonsense. Ol' Colonel Sanders didn't find his wings till the highway didn't go past his gas station an' restaurant. That is what kicked him out of his nest an' he was 65 years old. The highway just didn't go past that ol sportin' goods store." Uncle Billy said.

"Joe Henry, it ain't what you did. Ain't what happened. It is all about what you do next."

With that last piece of advice Uncle Billy got up,reached in his back pocket an' pulled out a red hankie an' handed it to Joe Henry.

"Now wipe your eyes an' blow your nose. It is clean. Keep the hankie. I ain't gonna want it back after you blow snot all over it. 'Sides, a feller needs a good hankie in his back pocket an' you ain't got one I noticed. Let's go roust out Charlie."

Charlie was not only about done, but was grousin' about needin' somethin' to drink. Uncle Billy got sweet tea an' the three men talked as Charlie finished up. Uncle Billy excused himself for a while an' was back about ten minutes later.

"Charlie, I put them brooms in the back of your truck. Joe Henry, I put some of them apple wood sticks, some unfinished sassafras sticks an' some broom corn back there too if you want to make yourself some brooms. I hear all you do is work an' read. It'll give you something else to do."

Charlie an' Uncle Billy dickered about the trade of honey an' brooms. Each claimed the other was takin' advantage. Funny thing was each had the final number of brooms an' honey already set aside. The dickerin' was all about the game.

The said their goodbyes, hugged each other's necks an' Uncle Billy stood on the porch wavin' as they drove away.

The two men didn't talk much as they drove. Finally Charlie asked, "You enjoy your day?"

"Not sure yet, Charlie. I'll let you know."

Chapter Five

Maggie an' Charlie were up early an' in his ol' truck one mornin' in late July. Joe Henry had finished breakfast with them an' gone back to his place to get ready for the work day.

Most of the week had been filled with cleanin' up hive boxes, called "supers". Him an' Charlie were repairin' rotted parts, scrapin' paint, sandin' an' repaintin' the boxes. Some of the time was also spent scrapin' an' savin' propolis from inside the boxes.

Charlie saved every speck of the propolis in a little Mason jar. Maggie made a tincture of propolis by infusin' moonshine with the propolis. Since the moonshine was known to be volatile an' could explode or catch on fire, well, Charlie wouldn't let her heat it up on the stove. Now, she said she would be careful, but he put his foot down on that idea years ago.

Instead, she made it the same way folks made sun tea. She put the moonshine in half pint mason jars, added ground up propolis an' sat the jars in one of them ol' red Coke coolers. She put a pane of glass on the top an' would set the whole shebang in the sun for several hours each day. Now an' again she would go out, swirl the contents of the jars around to make sure the propolis went into solution in the liquid.

The tincture was antiseptic an' many folks used it on wounds. It was also said to be anti-bacterial an' anti-fungal. Apparently a right smart bunch of folks gargled it for sore throats. Maggie sold quite a few bottles of the tincture, under the table, of course.

Aunt Bess sort of knew about it but said she didn't want nothin' to do with it. She claimed she had "plausible deniability". What she didn't know weren't gonna send her to the hoosegow.

Charlie suspected a bunch of the fellers what bought it for "sore an' scratchy throats" had them sore throats on a regular basis. Probably ever' Friday night. He would kid Maggie about her gettin' arrested an' seein' her on the chain gang workin' on the side of the road. Said he would wave as he drove by in his truck.

Maggie didn't make no breakfast the next mornin'. That stopped that carryin' on right quick.

About an hour after they left they were back. Maggie an' Charlie drove the truck down to the barns an' got out. Charlie hollered for Joe Henry to get his bee suit an' come on.

They loaded hive boxes with frames of drawn out comb, smokers, hive tools an' other supplies they would need into the back of the truck. They all settled into the cab an' were off.

Maggie was excited. "We was checkin' the hives down to the lavender farm. They are plumb full of honey. We're gonna take off the boxes of honey an' put other boxes of drawn comb on. Gonna be a busy day Joe Henry. We need to get the honey back to the honey house an' get it extracted. When folks know we have lavender honey the road will be right busy with customers comin' an' goin."

Charlie chimed in, "I expect we'll get maybe forty pounds of honey in each hive. We'll get more by fall, but it won't be mostly lavender like this is. They is twenty one hives there. We'll be busy for a couple days."

When they arrived the couple that ran the lavender farm came out to meet them. Joe Henry chuckled to himself when he met them. The woman was about his age an' was dressed in a tie dye tee shirt an' what kids called "elephant bells", bell bottom jeans with the bell of the jeans way bigger than the average bell bottoms. She wore no makeup, was fair complected with freckles from the sun. Her hair was blonde, long with small braids on each side of her face.

She had a wreath of lavender in her hair. She hugged each of them, told Joe her name was "Mist". It was actually Misty, but today she felt like Mist. Charle grinned an' winked at Joe Henry.

The young man introduced himself as Vince. Vince was tall, lanky, had hair as long as Mist. He too had a wreath of lavender in his hair. He blushed, took it out of his hair an' said Mist had insisted he wear it to greet the bees as they harvested "The glorious offering of flowery goodness from their loins."

Maggie laughed out loud an' said, "Mist, you are a trip."

Vince looked wide eyed when Maggie said that but Mist laughed an' hugged Maggie. They went inside, got on veils an' sleeves for their arms. There was elastic at each end to keep the sleeve in place.

By this time Joe Henry stopped wearin' gloves. He still wore the rubber boots, pants an' jacket with his veil. Maggie had on the odd skirt she wore when workin' in the bees. She had cut the full skirt down the middle front an' back an' sewed the pieces together to make legs sorta like great long culottes that went to the ground.

Charlie drove the truck back to the bee yard an' the others walked together. Maggie an' Mist chatted excitedly. Vince asked Joe Henry about himself an' they got on right away like they was old pals. The five of them stacked boxes close to the hives, lit the smokers an' went to work.

Charlie an' Maggie worked together as did Vince an' Mist. Joe Henry worked by himself an' was a bit slower than the others. The routine was the same. The outside cover was removed as was the inner cover. As this happened they would lightly smoke the bees to get them down into the brood boxes below. They didn't want the bees to become alarmed an' start gorgin' on the honey as they collected it.

Maggie was like a machine as Charlie used his hive tool to pull a frame an' hand it to her. She would sweep the bees off with her brush, place the frame of honey in the waitin' box. Each time she would cover the box with an ol' towel so's the bees wouldn't get to the frames. They removed frame after frame this way, sweepin' the bees back into the hive, replacin' the frame of honey with a frame of empty drawn comb. The bees wouldn't need to draw more comb, just fill the new comb with more honey later.

Mist an' Vince followed the same routine as did Joe Henry. It was a hot day an' half way through they all put the hives they finished back together, covered the boxes now full of honey with lids an' loaded the full boxes into the truck. They all set their smokers between the boxes of honey to keep bees away as they paused for a break.

Mist ran on her tippy toes, as she told them she would do an' came back with a gallon jar of lemonade, made with lavender honey an' infused with sprigs of lavender floatin' in the jar. She had plastic Tupperware glasses an' a quart jar of ice. The lemonade was amazin' an' Joe Henry said so. Vince grinned, grabbed Mist an' hugged her tight. She giggled an' said it was her favorite drink for summer.

Charlie an' Maggie had foldin' chairs in the back of the truck that they opened an' sat in. Mist sat cross legged on the grass. Vince an' Joe Henry wandered off, talkin' like ol' friends. Vince offered to show Joe Henry around the farm.

As they walked through the rows of lavender, Vince told Joe Henry he had a degree from the University of Kentucky in Horticultural Enterprise Management. He had written a number of papers an' articles on the growin' need for farmers to replace tobacco with other viable an' marketable crops. With all the research linkin' cigarettes to cancer he was sure the government would eventually stop crop supports for tobacco farmers.

When Joe Henry asked what type of crops Vince got more an' more excited. "Crops like grapes for the table as well as small family wineries. Especially along the river valleys. Those valleys are ideal for growin' grapes an' makin' wine. Apple orchards too. There are so many heirloom varieties of apples we are losing. These old homesteads that are abandoned still have forgotten orchards, apple trees with varieties we need to save. Sure, it takes time to establish an' orchard as well as other crops, but it needs to happen."

He went on, hardly takin' a breath. "Joe Henry, there is a Christmas tree farm down the road a way. They have been growin' Christmas trees, holly trees for over twenty five years now. In early November they start cutting trees to sell wholesale to Boy and Girl Scout troops, civic organizations, even businesses. They get anywhere from eight dollars to fifteen dollars per tree wholesale. Last year they sold over four thousand trees wholesale. They have acres an' acres of trees on fields an' even hillsides that would be terrible for gardening or other crops. They rotate the acres every seven years. That is how long it take to grow a Christmas tree to marketable size. Some trees take a little longer an' they do keep some so they grow taller. They grow about two hundred trees per acre. They only needed a little over twenty acres of trees for their wholesale sales last year. They need one hundred forty acres, a lot of that is hillside, as I mentioned, to rotate through the seven year cycle. They have about one hundred seventy or so acres in trees right now."

Durin' late November an' December they sell trees to the public. It is a big event. Folks come from all over, from Ohio, West Virginia an' Ohio too. Families come back year after year. They have animals to pet, a sleigh to take pictures of kids in, Santa is there each day on the weekends. Hot chocolate for free, food they can purchase, gifts. You can cut your own tree or select trees precut. They sell wreaths made of evergreen or holly. Those retail trees sell for anywhere from fifteen dollars to fifty."

Joe Henry's head was like a calculator. He was adding up the sales in his head. "How many do they sell retail?"

"Oh, I don't know, maybe five hundred or so. Joe Henry, with the trees an' wreaths, wholesale an' retail, trees dug with a root ball an' sold to garden centers, gifts, food sales, why they have a very profitable business there." Vice added.

As they walked back to the back of the farm Vince started talkin' in low tones. He looked around as if he were lookin' to see if anyone was watchin' or listenin'.

"Joe Henry, at one time the largest hemp rope company in the world was in Scott County, Kentucky, over in the Bluegrass. Miles and miles of hemp rope was produced. When marijuana was made illegal folks thought hemp and marijuana was the same. It isn't. Farmers could grow hemp as a crop and it would easily replace tobacco as a cash crop. Hemp could be used to make paper, make cloth and clothing, hemp seeds as a food and hemp seed oil for health and beauty products. They could make essential oils, CBD oil is supposed to be an amazing medicine..."

They paused for a moment as Vince talked. Joe Henry saw a pretty large crop of corn. He chuckled as he looked closer. He was in college just a few years ago an' knew what the eight or ten tall plants were growin' between the rows of corn.

"That hemp?" he asked with a crooked smile.

Vince got a scared look on his face. "Joe Henry, those are mine. Charlie an' Maggie don't know. No one knows. I only grow it for us. I do put a bee hive in the middle of them to get marijuana honey, but we use that as a medicine. It really does have medicinal uses."

"Vince, that is not my business. Daddy had a cousin that made shine for years up a holler not too far from here. Just keep out of trouble."

Vince assure him he would. They walked back to the others, had another glass of lemonade an' they all got back to work.

After all the honey was harvested, boxes stored in the back of the truck an' covered an' necks were hugged the three made their way back to the honey house. Mist had given Maggie a large bouquet of lavender blooms that made the cab of the truck smell amazin'.

Once at the honey house they took the boxes full of honey in an' stacked them in the area Charlie indicated. The floor was concrete, was sort of bowl shaped an' was sloped toward the middle. There was a drain at the center. Maggie explained that the boxes would leak a little honey an' they could wash it down an' into the drain. The pipes drained a good way away an' into a pond. Bees would gather to collect the honey sweetened water when it drained.

Maggie an' Joe Henry took the frames out one at a time, looked them over, brushed off any straggler bees an' placed the frames in the uncappin' machine. As the frames came out the other end Charlie would grab them an' place them in one of the extractors.

The two big extractors held sixty frames each. They had twenty seven boxes of honey, each box had ten frames. Some of the hives actually had two full boxes of honey. Some had a partially full second box to give them the two hundred seventy frames of honey.

As they worked Maggie an' Charlie were doin' a quick estimate. Two hundred seventy frame with about three an' a half pounds per frame. Maybe nine hundred fifty pounds or so of honey. Joe Henry was just blown away. Almost a thousand pounds of honey.

"We don't sell this honey wholesale. Only retail. We get six dollars a pound for the lavender honey. I expect if we keep an eye on them hives for the next week we might get fifty or sixty more frames in the next week or so. Then the lavender will be mostly bloomed out. The rest we'll treat as just wildflower honey after those frames are pulled. We'll have maybe two hundred, two fifty more pounds at the most." Charlie explained.

The frames were spun in the extractors an' at the front of each was a honey gate, a faucet of sorts. The honey drained out an' into large bowl shaped screens. Each bowl had two separate screen bowls, one on top of the other. The first screen had larger holes than the next. Maggie had placed netting in each screen bowl to collect the bits of wax that flowed out with the honey. She would occasionally shut off the honey gate, let the honey drain out of the net an' replace the net so it wouldn't get clogged.

The honey drained through the screens an' into five gallon buckets. When a bucket was full it was taken into the climate controlled room to rest for a day or two. Maggie explained the honey needed to rest so the foam that would gather as air rose to the top of the honey could be skimmed off. That takes at least a day.

"We'll bottle an' label this honey after that. As soon as folks know we have lavender honey it will sell like it is goin' out of style." she told Joe Henry.

They worked well into the early evenin', each takin' a break when they could. Maggie brought butter, biscuits an' cold milk from the house. She poured some of the fresh lavender honey into a bowl with butter an' stirred that together to make honey butter. They spread the honey butter on biscuits an' had that for their lunch with Mason jars of ice cold milk.

As he worked, Joe Henry though long an' hard about all Uncle Billy said to him. Did he really not have any sort of anchor points in his life? Had he just floated along up till now, goin' this way an' that, not really havin' any sort of place in the world?

When the last frame was extracted, the last bucket of honey placed in the climate controlled room he said his goodbyes for the evenin'. He walked back to the ol' Carpenter homestead. He stood an' looked at the place for a long time, thinkin', ponderin'.

Rather than go inside he went to the barn, grabbed leads for the mules an' brought them out of the small fenced paddock. He patted on them, rubbed their coats an' let them nuzzle their soft noses against his neck.

Though there was a water trough inside the paddock with a float that kept it filled, he would occasionally walk the mules to the creek for a drink. Tonight they walked on either side of him, happy to be with him, happy to go to the creek.

At the creek they walked into the water, lowered their muzzles an' took long noisy drinks of water. They would pause now an' again, lookin' around before they lowered their heads for another drink.

Joe Henry stood on the bank, havin' wrapped the leads around their necks. He knew they wouldn't wander, would come back to the bank to graze on the tall grasses on the creek's edge.

When they had their fill they walked close to him, nibblin' on the grasses, snortin' an' breathin' deep as the sun began to set. Finally he took the leads in hand an' started the walk back to the barns.

Right then he was content. Them ol' mules was all the company he wanted or needed just then.

Chapter Six

Charlie an' Joe Henry had a few things to do to get ready for the mules Aunt Bess was sendin' over. What once had been a paddock attached to the front barn had done fallen into disrepair. They made a trip to the sawmill over close to Hyden for several cedar posts an' a stack of boards for the fence an' the work started.

Joe Henry didn't want Charlie to have to dig out the ol' posts, so he was up early an' had two dug out before 7:00. Charlie had a couple things to do at his place so Joe Henry was able to get all the rest either dug out, straightened up or the boards still on the post renailed.

The two men were able to sink the posts in the holes left when Joe Henry dug the ol' broken ones out. Workin' together they had the boards nailed up in nothin' flat.

Together they walked the fence line around the field. Over the years Charlie kept the fence in pretty good shape. The front an' one side was made of wooden boards but the other side an' back fence were wire. They counted boards needin' to be replaced an' decided there was also about thirty feet of wire fence on the back side that should be replaced.

Feed was delivered midweek an' stacked in the barn. While they was replacin' the fence boards, Joe Henry decided the top boards on the stalls should be replaced as they had been chewed up something awful years back. He knew Aunt Bess' mules was bad for that too.

The visit to Aunt Bess to get the mules was a fun trip for him an' Charlie. Maggie begged off, sayin' she had some cannin' to do an' wanted to get it done so's she didn't have to work on Sunday, it bein' the Lord's Day an' all. Aunt Bess had a big ol' lunch ready for them when they arrived. She knew Charlie loved baked country ham an' had baked one just for him.

Bakin' a country ham ain't the same as buyin' one of them water injected messes from the grocery store. Why, half of the weight you buy is salt water an' chemicals injected to keep that ham from spoilin' when it lays around in the cooler months an' months is what she told Joe Henry.

She started the day before goin' out to the smokehouse an' lookin' at the five hams hangin'. She selected a good one, took it down an' went to the side of the house to get the garden hose. She scrubbed it down good with a hard bristle brush. Country hams hang for at least six months, don't you know. Aunt Bess never took one down before it hung a year.

She said that Uncle Floyd took a likin' to that there prosciutto when he was in the war an' over in Italy. Said prosciutto were nothin' but country ham all fancied up. He liked to just cut real thin slices an' eat it like that, not cookin' it or anythin'.

Anyways, after a good scrubbin' she put the whole ham in a big ol' lard can an' filled the lard can half water an' half apple cider. Her hams were cured with a combination of salt an' sugar. She said it made the ham less salty that way. The ham soaked overnight.

Early the mornin' Charlie an' Joe Henry was comin' she pulled the ham out of the lard can an' trimmed off some of the outside. She put it in a big ol' dutch oven with a little more apple cider an' into the oven on low heat.

Charlie was thrilled that she not only baked a country ham but made beaten biscuits to go with it. The table was completed with cheesy grits an' some of her home canned green beans Joe Henry helped her with.

The mules was loaded up right quick. Aunt Bess patted on each, kissin' them on their soft muzzles an' tellin' them she'd be down to see them soon. She cried as Charlie an' Joe Henry got into the cab of the truck.

Joe Henry told Charlie to hold on. He got out an hugged his Great Aunt long an' hard as she cried. She stood there for a right smart while, her arms wrapped around Joe Henry. He didn't realize much sometimes, but as he stood there he realized that Aunt Bess, though still in good health, was not young. He realized he wouldn't have her forever an' he hugged her even harder.

When she stepped away, she was wipin' her eyes with the hankie she kept in the pocket of her apron. She looked at Joe Henry an' saw him wipin' away a tear or two.

"Well, I'm gettin' all bothered an' bein' silly 'bout a couple mules. What are them tears for? Sure ain't about no mules." she asked.

"Just thinkin' about how much you do for me. How much my folks, family have done for me. Love You Aunt Bess. I was just thinkin' 'bout all I've missed all my life by just floatin' along, not a care in the world."

She looked at him close. Her eyes got misty once again. She hugged him all over an' then gave him a push.

"Get to goin'. Them mule ain't interested in our family reunion. We is family, you an' me. I was always here an' you knew that. Sure, maybe you took family for granted, but there is a cord that runs back to each of us, tyin' family together."

Joe Henry got in the cab, Charlie put the truck into gear an' they headed down the drive. Joe Henry watched in the mirror as his Aunt Bess waved goodbye.

She was always there. His Daddy was always there. His Mama was before she died. He realized they all were always there, he always knew that, just didn't understand it.

The mules were unloaded into the field an' they wandered from edge to edge of the fence as if they were gettin' a feel for their new surroundin's. They settled in an' Charlie worked with Joe Henry each day to care for them. It was a good addition to the farm. A good addition to life on the farm.

The next weekend Charlie asked Joe Henry of he would go to the flea market. Seems his ol' buddy Billy Lewis had a summer cold an' Charlie didn't have no one to keep him company. Joe Henry was happy to go along. There was always a fun assortment of friends, neighbors an' even kin that stopped by to say howdy to Charlie.

Aunt Bess had sent most of the country ham home with Charlie an' Joe Henry. Maggie baked a couple loaves of bread a day or two before an' sent big ol' country ham sandwiches with the two so they would have a good lunch. They both added a bag of tater chips an' an Ale 8 soda pop to the sandwich.

As they ate ol' Bobby Clark came by. He was a distant cousin through the Murphy line. He sat down with them for a right smart while. He pulled a little jar out of his pocket an' offered it to them boys. Joe Henry grinned as Charlie took a swig an' made a face.

"Whoo-eee, that is good stuff, Bobby. That'll make a man out of ye." Charlie whooped.

Joe Henry wasn't much of a drinker, but takin' a swig of Bobby Clark's moonshine was a right of passage an' a tradition for him. He took a drink when the jar was passed to him.

"Bobby Clark, I still think you are tryin' to kill me."

The three laughed an' Bobby reminded Charlie about Joe Hnery's first drink of moonshine.

When he was a little boy an' visitin' Aunt Bess an' Uncle Floyd with is Daddy, Bobby stopped by for a visit. It was a hot summer day back then an' when Bobby went to his truck to get a Mason jar, well, Joe Henry was curious.

His Daddy, Uncle Floyd an' Bobby sat around for a right smart while in Aunt Bess' kitchen talkin, rollin' their cigarettes with them cans of Prince Albert tobacco an' enjoyin' a swig of what appeared to be good, cold spring water.

Uncle Floyd's dogs started barkin' an' they all got up when Aunt Bess said it was one of the neighbors. They went out to the porch an' stood talkin' for a right long time.

Joe Henry remembered standin' there, lookin' at that Mason jar of what appeared to be cold, cold water. Sweat had formed on the outside of the jar 'cause of the heat of the day. Joe Henry was one hot little boy that day. He had been playin' hard. Weren't right them men wouldn't share that cold water with him.

So, after lookin' through the door to make sure no one was comin', he took the lid off an' took a big ol' drink.

An' almost died. He only swallowed 'bout half of that poison in a jar. He spewed the rest all over Aunt Bess' floor. He screamed an' commenced to cryin'. Aunt Bess came runnin', followed by his Daddy, Uncle Floyd, Bobby Clark an' the neighbor feller.

He was wipin' his mouth on a dish towel when the adults arrived. They could smell an' see the moonshine on the floor. They all started laughin' so hard they had to sit down. Joe Henry didn't think it was so funny.

"Daddy, I think someone is tryin' to kill me. Y'all are drinkin' poison."

Bobby laughed as he said, "An' he said we was tryin' to kill him. We was drinkin' poison."

They talked for a while an' Bobby told them he would be right back. The woman in the booth beside his had to leave. She was watchin' his booth. He had to grab a couple things from his booth before she left. Didn't want anyone to steal anything.

When he came back he was carryin' a big cardboard box. He sat it down at his feet, sat down himself an' leaned back.

"Boys, looky here what I got." he said.

Charlie an' Joe Henry looked in the box an' saw three of the prettiest hound dog pups Joe Henry had ever seen. There was two boys an' a girl. The girl was spotted brown but both boys was a medium brown sort of color.

"Them look like the dogs Uncle Floyd always had." Joe Henry said as he petted first one then another.

"They should." Bobby said with some pride. "Floyd gave me several dogs over the years. These would be the great grand babies to one of Floyd's dogs.

Charlie an' Joe Henry picked one then another up to pet on over the next hour or so. They all had that puppy breath an' teeth like little needles. Bobby took out a chew toy an' threw it in the box. The pups wallowed each other an' chewed, wrassled an' played as the men talked.

Joe Henry kept pickin' up the pups an' rubbin' on their heads. At one point the pup he was holdin' fell asleep in his lap. He didn't mind an' absently rubbed the little dog's ears as they all talked.

Toward the end of the day Bobby stood up, said he better get goin' an picked up the cardboard box. As he started to walk away Joe Henry stopped him.

"Bobby, you forgot this pup. i've been holdin' it an' it went to sleep. Here you go." Joe Henry got up an' held out the sleepy puppy.

"Nah, I didn't forget it. That pup picked you out. He's yours now. Be good to see one of Floyd's dogs goin' home with family." Bobby said with a warm smile.

"But, but I don't need a dog. You can sell it for good money, Bobby. Here, I didn't mean to take your pup."

"Joe Henry are you gonna hurt that pup's feelin's? I'm tellin' you he picked you. You are his now. He is nine weeks old an' I've had him here three weekends in a row. Plenty of folks have held him. He settled in with you."

"But, but..." Joe Henry said with a feeble protest but a slight smile on his lips.

As Bobby walked away, he turned an' said, "His name is Harry Truman. He's already house broke. I don't sell no dogs what ain't house broke. Take good care of him. He'll make a good rabbit an' squirrel dog if you train him right."

Charlie just grinned, "I ain't never seen Bobby give one of his dogs away. They sell for right good money. You got you a good'un there, Joe Henry."

When they drove home an' pulled in front of Charlie's house, Maggie was at the door. They stopped on the way at the store to buy some puppy chow, a bowl, collar an' such for Harry Truman. Maggie was out the door with her hands on her hips when she saw the puppy in Joe Henry's arms. The puppy was asleep again.

"What in the world have you done, boy? You bought a dog?" she asked.

Charlie told her he didn't buy a dog, Bobby Clark gave it to Joe Henry. She was as surprised as Charlie had been an' said so. She petted the pup an' looked it over.

"That's a good dog but you ain't gonna be callin' it Harry. That ain't fittin'. You need to call it by its last name. That dog needs to be Truman, not Harry. You hear me? An' you better get it trained. I sure ain't tellin' your Aunt Bess some dog is messin' on them chestnut floors over yonder."

"Truman is housebroke already, Maggie. I'll be takin' good care of him. Actually glad to have him. Ain't had a dog since Daddy's dog Puddin' died. You Know Who didn't like dogs. Didn't like cats, goldfish, hamsters, birds or children either, truth be told. I don't reckon she liked anything or anyone other than herself."

They all called Betty "You Know Who" the few times she was ever mentioned. Those mentions happened very few times these days.

Maggie smiled as she shook her head an' took the pup from Joe Henry. She held it up, looked into its eyes. Truman's tail beat her wrists from side to side as she looked him over.

"This dog is gonna tie you down, boy. Just gonna anchor you down whether you want it or not. You know that, don't you?

Joe Henry grinned as he took his pup back, held it high an' looked it over just like Maggie did. Truman's tail beat even faster.

"Yes ma'am. I believe I do. An' that's alright with me an' Truman. Right Truman?"

Chapter Seven

Charlie an' Joe Henry were enjoyin' their weekly mule rides up the hills an' along the ridges on either side of the road they lived on. What started out as one ridge east of the area split into two separate ridges an' both ran for miles past their homes.

Though they often rode the ridge up behind the barn where Joe Henry lived, their favorite ride was to go past Charlie's place, up the hill an' then follow that ridge. That ride took them above the bee yard as well as the lavender farm an' the Christmas tree farm.

Last time they rode Joe Henry stopped to admire the many acres of Christmas trees growin' not only in the flat fields but also on the slopin' hillsides. So few crops did well on the hillsides. The Christmas trees thrived there.

They had watched as an older lady walked down the rows of trees. Charlie told Joe Henry that was Lois Jones who ran the farm. She had a pair of big loppers as well as prunin' shears an' would pause here an' there to lop off stray growth that seemed to be messin' up the shape she desired.

They also stopped above the lavender farm when they saw Mist workin' in the lavender an' Vince doin' some sort of work in the small patch of corn. Joe Henry urged his mule away right quick but Charlie caught up with him.

Charlie chuckled an' said, "Yeah, we know, Joe Henry. Them kids ain't hurtin' a soul. They don't sell that stuff. Mostly they cook with it an' use that, the lavender an' other herbs an' such like medicine. Mist is sorta sick, don't you know. Vince has that degree from UK an' he's hopin' to get Mist well. Me an' Maggie are hopin' so too. If that ol' weed helps her, good for them.

A few days later Maggie told Joe Henry that Misty had leukemia. They saw her on a good day. She put on a good show much of the time, but she also spent many days in bed or in a chair for the day. When no one was around she often used a cane as she walked.

"Misty would be your Grandma's Great Great niece. I don't care for callin' her Mist. Her name is Misty, don't you know. Her Daddy is Gene Kelly. Not that famous Gene Kelly though. Your Grandma was a Kelly." Maggie explained.

Honey harvest was planned an' it was all hands on deck. Vince an' even Lois Jones came to help. Vince, Charlie an' Joe Henry started at the big bee yard pullin' whole boxes of honey. This time they wouldn't be puttin' drawn frames of comb back on the hives. The hives were bein' reduced down to the brood boxes for the fall an' no more honey taken off so's the bees could have enough honey to last through the winter.

"Them bees need at least sixty pounds of honey to make it through the winter. When it gets cold they form a cluster 'round the queen. Their job is to keep her alive till spring." He told Joe Henry as they worked.

"We always get the honey off before the goldenrod an' wild asters start to bloom. Folks don't care much for goldenrod honey. Has a strong taste. We do harvest maybe three or four hives late so's we get some of that goldenrod honey. A few folks buy it an' take it for allergies. I ain't much for it. Makes the whole hives smell like dirty socks. You'll see what I mean when we take off the honey from them hives."

They worked through the other bee yards also. Takin' more boxes of honey from the lavender farm an' from the hives what sat under the sourwood trees. The last honey wasn't sourwood honey though. That good honey had been taken off just after the blooms dropped from the sourwood trees.

Maggie, Mist an' Lois were in the honey house. As the men brought in the boxes Maggie an' Lois would pull the frames an' run them through the extractor. Mist took the frames, placed the frames full of honey in the extractors an' keep an eye on the machines as they spun. When a five gallon bucket was full either Maggie or Lois would carry it into the climate controlled room to sit an' settle for a day or two.

Maggie, Charlie an' Joe Henry would be busy for weeks as they bottled, labeled an' finished up the honey in assorted sizes of bottles an' jars. A right smart number of hives behind the barns at the Carpenter home place had been set aside for comb honey. Maggie taught Joe Henry to cut the comb to fit in a jar an' fill the jar with honey before sealing the lid in place.

Folks heard that Carpenter's Bee Tree Apiary was runnin' full tilt an' started stoppin' by to purchase honey. There was still a box or two of the black locust honey as well as a good bit of lavender an' sourwood honey. Those varietal honeys an' the comb honey were favorites for the customers. Each day they sold dozens of jars an' bottles of honey.

One afternoon only Maggie, Charlie an' Joe Henry were workin'. Most of the honey was bottled an' two of them would bottle while the other one would take care of customers. Joe Henry had helped an older lady load a box of four quart jars of honey into her car when Bobby Clark pulled up in his truck. He climbed out, shook Joe Henry's hand an' motioned him to the back of the truck.

"Joe Henry, I brought you a crate to keep Harry Truman in when you go off an' have to leave him. He's gonna start chewin' ever'thing in site. He was trained to go into his crate at night. I should have given you one when that dog went home with you." Bobby said as he lifted pieces of the wire crate out of the truck. They took the pieces of crate to the porch an' walked back to the truck.

Truman was sniffin' around Bobby an' was glad to see him. Bobby knelt down to rub on Truman's head, look the dog over an' give a nod of approval.

"Where's your pup sleepin?"

"Beside my bed. He tries to get in the bed, but after lettin' him sleep in the bed one night I decided I needed sleep more than Truman needed to be in my bed. That dog wallered me all night long." Joe Henry laughed.

"You need to put him in his crate now an' then. Keep him used to goin' in it. He'll treat it like his den an' probably will even go into it to sleep when the door is open."

Bobby stood up an' stepped close to Joe Henry, "Joe Henry, you need to get over to Vince an' Mist's place an' warn them. I was at the Burger Queen this mornin' havin' coffee with a couple of the boys. Heard Jimbo Wilkerson talkin' in the booth behind me. He ain't from here an' is tryin' to make a name for himself. He was whisperin' an' carryin' on. Said they was gonna raid Vince's place an haul him off as a drug dealer."

Joe Henry was shocked. Maggie said everybody knew Vince didn't sell no pot. She said folks knew he was tryin' to get Mist healthy.

"I don't know when, but I think it is today. I think Vince should be warned. I don't want that boy to go to prison. I can't go up there an' warn him. Jimbo would find out an' get me for aidin' an' abettin' a criminal enterprise. He already tried to arrest me for carryin' a pint jar of moonshine in my coat pocket. He's a jerk."

Bobby asked him if he had a way to get to Vince's place without drivin' up the road. Joe Henry told him he could take a mule an' go along the ridge an' down to the back of the farm.

Bobby helped Joe Henry saddle up a mule, said he would stay an' help Maggie an' Charlie for a while an' watch Truman. He was tellin' Maggie about the potential raid as Joe Henry crossed the road on the mule.

Joe Henry made his way past Maggie an' Charlie's place an' up the hillside to the ridge. He urged the mule to move but the ol' mule weren't in near the hurry that Joe Henry was.

As he was startin' down the hill to the back of the lavender farm he heard the first sirens in the distance. He urged the mule on an' it started to lope a bit. As he came down the hill he saw Mist running, her arms full. She ran to a sinkhole a right smart way back of the field of corn an' in a little wooded patch. She ran to the sink hole an' threw her armload in. She ran back an' as Joe Henry got closer she was back to throw an armful of pot plants in.

She was out of breath when she saw Joe Henry, "Oh Joe Henry, a buddy of Vince's called to say that damn deputy Jimbo Wilkerson was on the way to arrest Vince. Said he has an arrest warrant he got from a judge up in Richmond. People here know us. He had to go all the way up there 'cause he knew he'd never get one here. He's got two other deputies with him. Larry Gilbert, the sheriff is out of town. He wouldn't let Jimbo do this. Larry knows us."

She ran back as Joe Henry stood there. He saw that there were not only plants but boxes of bottles, tinctures, baggies of pot that she had thrown in. Unfortunately not everything had fallen all the way into the sinkhole. First with the toe of his boot an' then with a long branch he began to push anything that was on the sloped lip of the sinkhole down till it fell in. He listened an' heard a satisfyin' crash down below.

In a moment both Vince an' Mist appeared with boxes an' garbage bags full of things. Vince told him he was even tossin' clothes an' his shoes, just in case. Said Joe Henry ought to get gone. Vince had closed an' locked the cattle gate at the road but Jimbo was bound to cut the lock or climb the gate to get to the house.

Joe Henry hugged them both, said he was prayin' an' got on his mule. He paused on the hillside to look down an saw Mist runnin' with one last load. She tossed it in, broke off a branch from a tree an' was sweepin' the dirt around the sinkhole to cover their tracks.

He urged the mule to the top of the ridge an' sat there to watch three patrol cars pull up an' Jimbo an' the two deputies jump out of the car with guns drawn. Vince had been sittin' in a lawn chair when they pulled up.

Jimbo grabbed Vince by the shirt, threw him to the ground an' knelt on his back. The other two deputies got close an' Joe Henry couldn't believe it when he saw them start kickin' Vince in the side. Jimbo knelt close like he was talkin' to Vince, thumped him on the head with the butt of his gun an' started hollerin' so loud it carried up the hill.

With hills on either side sound always carried up an down the road. Joe Henry could sit on the porch an' hear music from Vince an' Mist's place in the evenin'. Today he could hear everything just as plain as if he were standin' with the deputies.

"Where is it, you creep. I know you are killin' kids round here with your drugs. Where is it? Better tell me if you know what's good for you. You an' that woman are goin' to prison, facin' hard time." he screamed in Vince's' ear.

Joe Henry looked hard but didn't see Mist. Jimbo handcuffed Vince an' put him in the back of one of the patrol cars. The three went into the house an' even from the ridge Joe Henry heard things crashin' an' breakin' in the house. He hoped they would be more careful with Mist.

The three deputies eventually came out of the house with a couple boxes of things. They then went into the lavender field an' then the corn field. They stomped around an' tore lavender plants out by the root, pushed over the corn stalks lookin' for evidence. Problem was all the evidence seemed to be at the bottom of a sink hole.

He saw Jimbo talkin' to one of the deputies as the other deputy walked over to the bee hives, paused, sniffed the air real hard, leaned in an' seemed to smell the hives, first one an' then another. That deputy hollered to Jimbo.

"Jimbo, they have hid the drugs in these hives. I can smell it. The drugs are here. Come here an' smell these hives. They are full of drugs." he hollered.

Joe Henry had to chuckle in spite of the seriousness of the situatoin. "Has to be goldenrod honey they are smellin'. Yep, not drugs, you idiot, goldenrod honey."

The three gathered around the hive an' all leaned in to smell. Heads shook "yes" an' Jimbo found a hoe restin' against a post. He took the hoe an' quickly pushed one, two an' then three hives over to find the drug stash they just knew was hidden in the hives.

Bee's don't much appreciate their hives bein' knocked over. Though them bees were mostly gentle, they just weren't in a good mood. Them worker bees came flyin' out of the hives that were now in pieces on the ground. Joe Henry said, years later, that he suspected them black uniforms the deputies had on might have made the bees think bears was gettin' into the hives.

First Jimbo an' then the two others began to swat at the bees. The bees were relentless. The three started hoppin' an' dancin', slappin' their arms an' legs as they were stung time an' again.

Jimbo took out his gun an' started shootin' the hives. The other two did the same, unloadin' into the hives. Jimbo apparently got in the way of the shots from the second deputy an' went down grabbin' his leg. He rolled on the ground holdin' his leg with one hand an' slappin' at bees with the other.

That deputy shot him! The deputy paused from shootin' an' slappin' at bees to look dumbly at his gun. He realized Jimbo had been in the path of his gunfire an' shoved the gun into his holster.

"Somebody shot me! I'm shot. I'm down. Drug sniper in the corn field! Its a drug war!" Jimbo screamed. "Help me. Help me men."

He received no help as the other two were runnin', dancin' an' slappin' at the hundreds of bees that were chasin' them. They ran, opened the patrol car doors an' dove in, closin' the doors against the angry bees.

He eventually got to his feet, ran limpin' to his patrol car to escape the bees. Problem was the bees were followin' all three of the men. When Jimbo finally got in his patrol car Vince was laughin'. Jimbo turned, cussed Vince an' told him he was also chargin' him with "assault with a deadly weapon" for hidin' his drugs in them hives.

Joe Henry sat an' watched till the patrol cars drove off. None of the three deputies got out to search for more evidence after they got to their cars. Joe Henry chuckled. He knew them bees were still flyin' around the cars even as they drove away.

He rode back to Maggie an' Charlie's place, across the road where all three waited to hear what happened. They laughed when Joe Henry told them Jimbo pushed the hives over lookin' for a drug stash. They were shocked at first then the three laughed till they cried when Joe Henry screamed that it was a drug war an' they was a sniper in the corn field.

Bobby said, "When they take the bullet out an' send it off it will show that the drug was was friendly fire."

Maggie asked, "What about Misty? Did they arrest her?"

"I didn't see her while they were there, Maggie. I'm figurin' she got somewhere an' hid out after she saw how they treated Vince."

Bobby spoke up, "I hope so. Poor kid. Poor Vince. He is a good man. You saw ever'thing Joe Henry, had a good view?"

"I not only saw everything, I heard most all of it. They didn't do right by Vince. They tore the house to pieces. Tore up the hives an' the lavender field too. The place is a mess." he told them in a quiet voice.

"I'm goin' to town to see a lawyer for Vince tomorrow. I'm thinkin' maybe we get our bee suits an' go put the hives back in place now. Help Mist straighten things up."

Bobby said he would go an' help. He weren't much for helpin' with the bees but could help straighten things up.

Maggie an' Charlie grabbed their bee suits, smokers an' tools. Joe Henry put Truman in the house. Maggie an' Charlie got in their truck an' Joe Henry rode over the the lavender farm with Bobby.

When they pulled up to the gate they saw the lock an' chain had been cut. The gate had apparently been pushed aside by one of the patrol cars. They drove up to the house, eyes wide as they saw the place.

There were still a few bees flyin' around when they pulled up but they were no bother. There were windows broken out, the wooden screen door was standin' open an' the screens torn. Inside looked like a tornado had come through. There was no place the deputies had not pulled things out of. They had walked over things, broke dishes an' thrown pots of plants on the floor. Cans of coffee, sugar an' flour had been thrown down as they looked for drugs.

They all walked back to the lavender field an' the bee hives. The bees had settled onto the exposed combs an' didn't notice as the four walked around. The way the lavender an' corn plants had been pulled up, stomped on an torn up was senseless.

Charlie an' Maggie put on their bee suits, lit their smokers an' soon had all three hives back together an' in place. Though some of the frames of comb had been ruined as had some of the brood an' areas where young bees were to emerge, the hives would be OK. Might need to be fed sugar water to get them back to where they should be.

While the hives were set in place, both Bobby an' Joe Henry looked through the barn an' small out buildin's for Mist. They called an' searched for her.

Bobby said, "She probably is scared to death after all that. You sure they didn't take her too?"

"No, they didn't take her. Last I saw her she had just dumped a load into the sinkhole an' was usin' a branch to cover any tracks around the sink hole. She ran back toward the house after that."

They called an' searched but didn't find Mist that evenin'. They decided to wait till the mornin'. She had probably run as far as she could to get away after Vince was beat up.

"She'll be back tomorrow, boys. Wait an' see. She'll be back tomorrow." Maggie told them as they stood in front of the house.

Chapter Eight

Maggie told Joe Henry she would have breakfast ready at 6:30 the next morning so's they could get out as soon as they had good light. Bobby said he would be back to help hunt for Mist also. He said he'd bring a couple of his dogs. They were pretty good huntin' dogs an' might be able to help track.

"Come on to breakfast, Bobby. I'll fix plenty an' you are always welcome." Maggie told Bobby.

"Sure will, Maggie. See y'all in the mornin'."

Bobby said his goodbyes, Maggie an' Charlie walked over to their house an' Joe Henry walked back home. He noticed the wire dog crate on the porch an' grabbed a couple pieces he took inside.

That pup Truman was glad to see Joe Henry an' though he had been inside all day he hadn't messed in the house. He was sure ready to run out the door an' into the side yard where Joe Henry was trainin' him to do his business.

Joe Henry took time to take all the parts to the wire crate up to his bedroom, figurin' that would be a good place to pen Truman up if he had to leave for a number of hours. Plus, that bein' where Truman slept at nights might make him more likely to get in the crate when Joe Henry needed him to get in.

Truman was right there with his nose under Joe Henry's arms as he put the wire crate together. He chuckled 'cause it actually was a big wire cage with a plastic tray that slid in the bottom. He reckoned crate must sound better than cage to folks that raised dogs an' such.

When it was all together, Joe Henry went lookin' for somethin' to lay in the tray for Truman to sleep on. He remembered there were some ol' torn up quilts coverin' a couple pieces of furniture in the basement. He went down an' retrieved one. He smelled it to make sure it weren't musty an' was satisfied it was OK, but he threw it in the washin' machine anyway.

While the quilt was washin' an' dryin' he fixed himself a fried baloney sandwich with a big ol' slice of tomato. He toasted the two pieces of white bread an' smeared on a right smart amount of JFG mayonnaise. He preferred Duke's but it was harder to find close by. Any time he went anywhere close to South Carolina or way down in Tennessee he would stop at grocery stores an' take home three or four jars of Duke's Mayo.

When the quilt came out of the dryer it was a bit worse for the wear. Some of the battin' had come out an' was layin' in the bottom of the dryer. He sorta figured Truman wouldn't mind.

He took the quilt upstairs an' then remembered his Daddy always put a piece of his clothin' in with new pups to get them used to his smell. He grabbed an ol' tee shirt he didn't wear so often an' turned to lay the quilt an' tee shirt in the crate.

Problem was Truman was in the crate an' was sound asleep. He sat down in front of the crate, reached in an' rubbed the pup's head till Truman woke up, opened his mouth for a wide yawn an' started lickin' Joe Henry's hand.

Joe Henry lifted the pup out of the crate an' into his lap. He placed the folded quilt in first an' then laid the tee shirt over the top of the quilt. When he was satisfied he sat back to look over his work.

Truman watched everythin' with interest. When Joe Henry sat back, Truman got up an' walked back into the crate. He smelled the tee shirt, the quilt an' then started to circle around like dogs do. He dropped like a rock, snorted a little an' laid his head on his crossed paws. His eyes closed an' Joe Henry realized he probably wouldn't have to worry about getting that pup in the crate.

The next mornin' Joe Henry headed over to Maggie an' Charlie's place at 6:25. Truman was right behind him, stoppin' now an' then to smell this an' that. As he was walkin' up to their porch Bobby Clark pulled in. Joe Henry turned to greet Bobby an' noticed his Aunt Bess in the seat beside Bobby.

Joe Henry walked over to hug his Aunt's neck an' could tell she was pretty shook up. She was already teary eyed as she walked with him to the door. When she was inside Maggie came over an' they hugged. Aunt Bess started cryin' an' Maggie joined her.

"This ain't right, youngin's. Ain't right at all. I'm hopin' Misty is alright. Joe Henry, after we eat I want you to saddle one of my mules. I can't walk to search, but I sure can ride. Plus, I'll be higher on the mule than I would be walkin'. I'll be able to see farther. Oh, I do hope she is alright. Bobby stopped by to tell me last night an' I hardly slept a wink." Aunt Bess said with a teary voice.

Maggie hugged her again. "Bess, we'll look till we do find her. We ain't givin' up even if we have to look into the night. Charlie put new batteries in our flashlights. We both got walkin' sticks so's we can move bushes around to look."

"Maggie, why don't Joe Henry saddle both mules. Me an' you can look longer if we ride. Boys, y'all should all take walkin' sticks to look with." Aunt Bess suggested.

Maggie agreed an' then told everyone to get to the table. As they ate they discussed where Mist might have hid, where she might have run to in a short period of time. They wondered if she could have gone back to the sink hole an' even fallen in.

Charlie spoke up, "Now children, I hope not. That sink hole is awful deep an' they is a stream at the bottom. Some of us boys went down in it when we was youngin's. We tied ropes around our waists an' went down two at a time. The other fellers would stay at the top an' pull us up. The walls are mostly straight so she couldn't have climbed down or got back up. Back then the water was above our knees. It were maybe ten, fifteen feet across at the bottom. The water went through, comin' in an' out in small holes. They weren't big enough to crawl through."

After breakfast Charlie an' Joe Henry went to the barn an' saddled both mules. Joe Henry stopped an' put Truman in his bedroom an' shut the door. He didn't close the door on the crate but since Truman slept in the crate all night he figured there weren't no need.

Maggie an' Anut Bess drove down to Vince an' Mist's place, hopin to find some piece of clothin' Bobby could let the dogs smell an' that he could carry to give them the scent of Mist now an' again as he searched with them.

Though it was just startin' to get good light, there was enough that they planned to walk back to the hives an' lavender. First they went into the house. The door was still open an' they saw plenty.

When they went inside they both stood an' cried. Maggie didn't realize it at first, but when she saw a flash she turned to see Bess holdin' one of them Polaroid One Step instant cameras. She was talkin' pictures of ever'thing. As one photo came out she would take it in one hand, turn to point somewhere else an' take another photo.

"I'm gettin' pictures of all this. I'll take some outside an' of the hives an' lavender field too. I've got more film in my pocketbook." she told Maggie.

They walked back to the hives an' Bess was so angry she cussed when she saw all the destruction. Maggie walked over an' pointed to the bullet holes in the hives as Bess took pictures with Maggie pointin' to the holes in the hives.

They drove back to Maggie's house with a blouse from Mist's clothes hamper. The men were waitin' with the mules saddled. The photos were passed around an' the anger of the group was like a thunder cloud over their heads.

After Maggie an' Aunt Bess were on the mules they discussed which way they should go, how to divide up. They planned on goin' both directions from the house, goin' not only up to the ridge but over to the other side. The other side was steep an' pretty rough so the men would have to walk it.

Bobby said he would take his dogs over the ridge an' back in the direction of the dead end part of the road Joe Henry saw when he first arrived. Maggie An' Aunt Bess would ride in either direction on top of the ridge.

Charlie decided to start by walkin' through the field where the bee yard was an' the walkin' at the bottom of the hill an' head along that way toward the lavender farm. Joe Henry was to walk the road an' search on either side of the road.

Bobby had whistles for each of them. He suggested if they found Mist, if they found any sign to holler an' blow the whistle. He figured they would hear the whistles better. Said whoever finds her should keep blowin' the whistle till other arrive.

Joe Henry told them Mist had on a light brown sweater, cream colored top an' a long full skirt that was sort of a light blue. Said her hair was down an' she had them braids hangin' down on either side of her face.

The men took their walkin' sticks, Bobby called to his dogs an' the women headed the mules up the hill. When they reached the ridge they paused, looked an' called Mist's name for a minute or two, stopped to listen before they separated an' went in their assigned directions.

Charlie walked slowly through the bee yard, lookin' in an' around the fence row, pushin' briars an' brambles aside with his stick. It was nearly two miles from his place to the house where Vince an' Mist lived. Much of it was hay fields but a right smart amount was pretty rough as it had been timbered years back an' though the trees were big, they was lots of briars, brambles an' brush to walk through, to search through.

Joe Henry walked along the road, lookin' with a pair of binoculars Bobby gave him. Bobby said he could look farther if he glassed along the road, could see right up to the hillsides. Joe Henry looked for movement as he slowly would sweep the fields an' hills with the binoculars. When he would see anything that looked like the colors of her clothin'.

Bobby an' the dogs walked to the top of the ridge, paused as the dogs sniffed the area an' then went over the ridge to the other side.

The searched all mornin'. Though Joe Henry saw flashes of color he investigated, they turned out to be trash an' litter layin' in the brambles along the fence rows. He saw two nice bucks, several does with yearlings an' a flock of turkeys. Just no sign of Mist.

They all agreed to be back at Maggie an' Charlie's place at noon to eat some dinner an' go over next steps an' areas to search in the afternoon. As one an' then another of the searchers arrived the atmosphere was grim.

Charlie had walked through the brush all mornin' an' made his way to the lavender farm. He searched all around the sink hole an' laid on his belly to look down into the hole with his big flashlight. the hole was deep enough that his light barely light up the distance. He told everyone he could see things layin' at the bottom but there was no sign of Mist.

After dinner they plotted out their searches an' the men helped Maggie an' Bess onto the mules. They both agrees they needed to go farther each direction, not needin' to lok in the areas they had covered already. Bobby aske dJoe Henry to go over the ridge with him an' head toward the lavendar field again. The area was steep an' rough. He thought if him an' Joe Henry each took a dog an' bobby looked high an' Joe Henry lower on the hillside they could cover more area.

They all searched most of the afternoon. About 4:00 they all heard a shot, paused an' waited. There, there it was another shot. The shots seemed to come somewhere past the lavender field. Everyone headed in that direction.

Bobby an' Joe Henry met up an' started walkin' along the ridge as fast as they could. The dogs followed along but Bobby didn't have them searchin' any longer.

Maggie caught up with Bess an' they rode side by side an' soon caught up with Bobby an' Joe Henry. Charlie had moved down to the road when he heard the shots, figurin' he could make better time walkin' the road.

Speculation was at first that the deputies were back an' shootin' somethin' else up. The the shots continued at about five minute intervals. they all kept goin' in the direction of the shots. The men, dogs an mules passed the lavender farm an' stopped, waitin' for the next shot. Charlie continued to listen as he walked along the road.

The next shot told them it was somewhere toward the Christmas tree farm. the went a bit faster as they headed that direction. The Christmas Tree farm was more than a mile from Vince an' Mist's place though the road had several bends.

The last shot they heard was from a hillside at the Christmas tree farm. Charlie an' the others walked into the trees, callin' out to Mist an' also callin' for Lois.

Lois heard them callin', raised her pistol one more time an fired off a shot. She also started callin' to them, recognizin' the voices of Charlie an' Maggie as they called. As she heard them gettin' closer she called directions to them.

"Up here on the hill. I'm about five row of trees up the hill." she called to them.

When they finally found Lois she was sittin'on the ground holdin' Mist like a baby. She had the younger woman in her lap, her arms wrapped around Mist an' Lois' jacket coverin' her.

The women got off the mules, tied them to a couple trees an' joined the others. They saw that Mist was not awake, was breathin' shallow an' her skin was gray. Maggie an' Bess started to cry. Lois joined them as Joe Henry an Bobby knelt close. Charlie put his arms around his wife an' stood by her.

Lois looked at the others, "I heard what happened an' am so sorry. I didn't know that Mist was missin' or I'd have been out lookin'. I was just comin' up on the hill to trim trees when I walked up on her just a while ago."

She started cryin' as she continued, "She was just layin' here. I tried to wake her up but she ain't wakin' up. She was so cold I was afraid she was dead. When I knelt down I saw her breathin'. That's when I picked her up an' covered her up. I always carry my pistol an' extra rounds when I'm out by myself. Too many coyotes 'round here not to have some protection. I'm glad I had it so's I could signal an' y'all found me. I didn't know you was searchin. I just hoped someone would hear me an' come lookin'."

Joe Henry picked Mist up an' they all headed down the hill toward Lois' place. Once inside they wrapped Mist in blankets an' laid her on Lois' bed. They considered tryin' to get her to the hospital themselves, but decided an ambulance was the better idea.

The women brought chairs to the bedside an' sat as Bobby called the fire department an' explained what was goin' on. Charlie an' Joe Henry went back up the hill for the mules.

The mules were tied to a post an' the two men joined the others inside to wait. One of the shortcomin's of livin' out a ways was the time it usually took for an ambulance to get to you.

This time the arrival was much sooner than they expected. They all stood helplessly as the EMTs checked Mist's vitals, started an IV an' loaded her into the ambulance.

Tilman Collins was one of the EMTs. He also had transported Mist more than once over the last year or so. As he assessed the situation he shook his head. He went to the front of the ambulance an' got on the radio to talk to one of the physicians at the Hyden hospital.

After several minutes he was back to the group with news that weren't good, "Talked to the doctor. Considerin' how Mist is, that she laid out all night an' is sufferin' from hypothermia,
they want us to take her directly to the University of Kentucky Hospital in Lexington. They can treat her better there, y'all."

Tilman an' the other EMT were in the ambulance an' away with sirens blarin'. Joe Henry an' the others stood quietly, watchin' as the ambulance flew down the road.

Finally Lois spoke up, "Youngin's, she didn't even flinch, didn't even move when I would fire my pistol. She never moved once while I held her. I'm sure awful worried. This ain't right. Ain't right at all."

Aunt Bess turned an' said, "Joe Henry, I'm stayin' with you tonight. Me an' you need to go to town tomorrow. Maggie an' Charlie, y'all need to go with us. We have some business to take care of."

Chapter Nine

To say Bess Asher was angry did not do much justice to her fury. She had a spiral notebook in hand as soon as she was back at the Carpenter homestead. She laid the instant photos out on the kitchen table after apologizin' to Joe Henry, tellin' him they would have to snack around for supper that night. She said she had a lot to do.

She began makin' notes, remindin' herself of what she saw at the lavender farm, of the shambles the deputies made inside Vince an' Mist's home. A few times she asked Joe Henry about the location of things. Together they even drew a simple map on a separate sheet of paper indicatin' where the hives, lavender field an' cornfield stood in relation to the house.

"I'm gonna take a statement from you after a bit, Joe Henry. I want to go over an' talk with Charlie an' Maggie first, get statements from them. I'm gonna need to use your phone to make some long distance calls. You let me know how much they are when you get your phone bill."

Joe Henry was standin' back an' watchin' his Great Aunt in amazement. Though she was never one to sit still long, he had never seen her like this.

"Don't worry Aunt Bess. Not a big deal." he assured her.

"It is goin' to be a bigger deal an' bill than you think. I have a lot of phone calls to make tonight. I'm goin' to be raisin' Cain, kickin' some Leslie County butts an' takin' names." she said with all seriousness.

She continued, "Folks probably forget I went to college over to Berea, got my law degree at University of Kentucky College of Law. Mostly I worked behind the scenes at the law offices where I worked in Berea. After Floyd an' I got married I just didn't have time or the temper to put up with the politics or the shenanigans some of them legal types carry on with."

Joe Henry stood with his mouth open. He had no idea Aunt Bess even went to college, much less got her law degree. He thought she was just a farm wife. Farm wife indeed!

"I also am still a notary. I have my stamp in my pocketbook. We'll need to notarize the statements I am hand writin'. Wish I had my typewriter with me, but hand written will be fine."

When she went over to Charlie an' Maggie's, Joe Henry fed Truman an' took him for a long walk around the farm. He also brushed the mules an' combed the burdock weed hitchhikers out of their tails. The search left them with plenty of hitchhikers in their tails.

Aunt Bess was back an' on the phone long distance with Bobby Clark. She told him she needed to take his statement over the phone but needed him to meet them the next mornin' so's he could sign it an' she could notarize it. He not only gave his impression of the search an' findin' Mist at the Christmas tree farm with Lois, but he also told about hearin' Deputy Jimbo Wilkerson plottin' to raid Vince's place.

"No need to talk about tellin' Joe Henry in your statement. I just want to get what you overheard at the Burger Queen. Especially about where Jimbo got the search warrant. That's the main thing I want to record in your statement." she clarified.

After talkin' with Bobby she turned to Joe Henry an' went through what he saw step by step. She warned him not to say he had gone to warn Vince an' Mist. He had been ridin' the mule on the ridge an' rode down into the farm when he heard the sirens. She was all lawyer at that time. Just the relevant facts is all she wanted.

More than once she paused as Joe Henry told the story. More than once she got teary eyed.

"They jerked him out of the lawn chair immediately?" she questioned.

"Yep, pulled him out of the chair by his shirt. Jimbo threw him to the ground on his face. He knelt on his back with both knees. The other deputies kicked him again an' again Aunt Bess." he answered.

She shook her head, continued to write an' cussed under her breath more than once. Each time she paused an' asked Joe Henry to forgive her for cussin'.

After she took down his statement, she had him sign it an' she notarized it. He found several manila folders an' a box of paper clips in his Grandpa's desk in the study. She put the different statements in individual folders an' paper clipped the instant photos to descriptions of the area, an explanation of what was in the photo as well as the hand drawn map of the area.

She also made a long distance call to her personal attorney. They had a long conversation about the events but Aunt Bess an' the attorney discussed the legality of the search warrant at length. She also asked him to get in touch with a physician friend an' check on Mist's condition.

Maggie had them over for breakfast at 6:00 so's they could get to town in plenty of time. They all were right quiet as they ate. Though no one said much about it, they all knew Maggie had been up early. Like the others, she didn't sleep much.

The table was covered with food. There was a platter of fried eggs, another platter with not only bacon but sausage an' fried ham. A basket of big cat heat biscuits was at one end of the table along with fried apples, grits, butter, cream for their coffee, maple syrup an' honey for their grits an' a big bowl of milk gravy. She said she was goin' to make sausage gravy but was afraid it might be too much, what with the bacon, sausage patties an' ham.

Aunt Bess spoke up after Charlie said the blessin', "Y'all eat big. I expect we might be in town all day. I ain't leavin' till Vince is out of jail, some wrongs set right an' a couple deputies have turned in their badges. I expect someone may be in jail their own selves before this is all over."

Though they weren't much in the mood to eat a big breakfast, they did eat good, storin' energy for the comin' day. Aunt Bess helped Maggie clean up, put food away an' do the dishes. Charlie an' Joe Henry went to feed the mules, let them out into the field an' let the chickens out of the chicken coop. They also decided they should take both trucks. Four folks in a cab was mighty tight.

Bess Asher was like a heroic general goin' to war. She was armed to the teeth. As they drove to Hyden she was silent. Joe Henry was quiet too. Watchin' the road an' ponderin' who his Aunt Bess was, had been. He was shocked an' a little embarrassed that he didn't know much about his Great Aunt.

They all met her attorney at a small restaurant downtown. Bobby Clark joined them as they gathered. Adam Wilson introduced himself to everyone as he joined them. Aunt Bess gave him a run down of what happened, pointed out that apparently a judge in Madison County Circuit Court 25 signed the warrant, even though it was for an' executed in Leslie County. No judge in Leslie County Circuit Court 41 signed the search warrant or even apparently knew about it.

Adam Wilson an' Bess Asher excused themselves to another table away from the other customers so's they could talk about what needed to be accomplished that mornin'. Aunt Bess didn't want anyone overhearin' things an' goin' out to warn anyone of the tornado that was about to hit some of the employees of the sheriff's office.

There was an appointment scheduled with the County Attorney Clive Sizemore at 9:00. When he saw the group that was with Aunt Bess he had his secretary take them to a meetin' room with a long table an' room for everyone to sit.

Adam Wilson an' Bess Asher introduced themselves as attorneys for Vince an' also for Carpenter's Bee Tree Farms. Adam suggested it might be expedient of the Circuit Court Judge Gilbert Collins join them. A call was made an' Judge Collins came in, was introduced all around an' had a seat beside Clive Sizemore.

Aunt Bess let her attorney talk first. He had taken the time to make copies of the hand written statements. He gave the Judge, the County Attorney, Aunt Bess, an' the others copies of all the documents. He began to explain what happened, pointed out Joe Henry had witnessed the whole incident.

A few minutes into the conversation a young woman came in, pardoned her interruption an' gave a hand full of documents to Aunt Bess. She also hugged her an' said to "Come see me soon."

Aunt Bess looked the document over an' handed copies to everyone at the table. Her attorney Adam Wilson paused to read the document as did the County Attorney an' Circuit Court Judge.

Finally Aunt Bess spoke up, "Clive, Gilbert. Jimbo tried to bypass the law an' proper procedure to not only harrass but also to illegally arrest, attack, harm an' illegally hold a citizen of Leslie County, He an' the other two deputies attacked Vince Burns, held him without cause an' then went on to illegally search his home. Here is the problem that involves me an' why my personal attorney is here. They also illegally searched an' in the process destroyed property belongin' to Carpenter's Bee Tree Farm. Even if the warrant was legal they had no right to search anything not included in the warrant. My property was not included an' was damaged an' destroyed as they searched."

She went on, "Joe Henry not only witnessed the whole thing an' heard Jimbo an' the others from his vantage point, but he also witnessed them idiots dischargin' their firearms without reason, shootin' up hives after Jimbo knocked them over. All three of them were shootin' up the hives! An' one of them shot Jimbo in the leg."

Joe Henry had to speak up, "You can see in my statement that Jimbo started screamin' that it was a drug war. That there were snipers in the corn field."

The two men looked up, turned to the page Adam Wilson indicated an' read for a moment. The looked at each other an' in spite of the gravity of the meetin' could not help but laugh.

Judge Collins looked around the table, "You mean to tell me Jimbo Wilkerson was shootin' up bee hives that he turned over when the bees started stingin' him. The other two did the same?"

"Yessir, they sure did. Aunt Bess, I mean Mrs. Asher has photos of the hives an' bullet holes in not only the three that were turned over but the other hives also." Joe Henry explained.

Aunt Bess handed the photos, an' an explanation of the photos to the Judge. He laid them out so he an' the County Attorney could examine them. They were silent as they looked an' read.

Finally Clive Sizemore got up, went to the door an' called to his secretary, "Jane, is the Sheriff back from vacation yet?"

"Yes, he was in his office a few minutes ago." She answered.

"Tell him to come and join us. Tell him I need him here right now." he ordered.

The Sheriff soon joined the others at the table. Adam Wilson an' Aunt Bess Asher were asked to brief the Sheriff. He looked over the statements, the photos an' the description as they spoke.

He was quiet for a long time after the two finished their explanations of everything. He reached in his uniform pocket an' took out a Camel cigarette, lit it with his Zippo lighter. He absently flipped the lid of the lighter open an' shut for a right smart while as he looked at the papers an' photos again an' again.

"Judge Collins, I didn't authorize this. Don't know nothin' about it. I was on vacation, fishin' down at Cherokee Lake for the past week. I got a call or two durin' the week about a car accident an' fatality as well as some domestic violence up on Pebble Creek Road. No one ever mentioned a thing about drugs an' Vince or Misty. This was never authorized. I'll take care of this."

He looked over to Aunt Bess, "Bess, I am so sorry. This is a mess I'll handle right now. If y'all can wait I'll have Vince out of the jail in the hour. There are no charges against him. This really has made me ready to chew nails. Clive, we need to talk about what to do. I'm not only firin' Jimbo, but I need your advice on how to charge him so we can arrest him for this. The others are dopes for goin' along. The one will be charged for shootin' Jimbo even though it was an accident. They both are facin' charges. I'm afraid I'll need to be hirin' some deputies."

Clive Sizemore called the County Judge Executive in, everything was explained to him an' the County officials promised restitution an' repairs would be made not only to Carpenter's Bee Tree Farms but to Vince an' Mist also.

It was indeed a long day. It took a bit longer for Vince to be released. Aunt Bess, Adam Wilson an' Clive Sizemore spent hours together tryin' to straighten things up an' providin' the Sheriff some direction as to charges to be made.

Jimbo Wilkerson an' the other two deputies were called to the Sheriff's office. Jimbo complained that he was on leave due to the gunshot wound he received when goin' after a drug suspect. The Sheriff insisted he come in but didn't say more.

Judge Gilbert Collins suggested the group wait near the Sheriff's office when the three deputies arrived. Jimbo made a big show of gettin' out of his patrol car (though he actually shouldn't be drivin' it since he was on medical leave.). The Sheriff was waitin' for them on the steps. He turned an' nodded to another deputy who was waitin' inside the door.

The door opened an' Vince stepped out. The three all started askin' questions but were stopped by the Sheriff who read them their rights an' called to other deputies to come, take their weapons an' badges an' place each under arrest.

Their protests were met by applause from Joe Henry an' the others. Bobby Clark added a "hoo hoo hoo" an' pumped the air with his fists as they were handcuffed. Jimbo complained that he couldn't walk without his crutches so two deputies got on either side of him, lifted him up an' carried him into the Leslie County Jailhouse.

As everyone went to their trucks, Bobby Clark offered to take Vince home to his place to clean up. He said he would lend Vince his old truck to drive to Lexington an' see Mist. Aunt Bess slipped Vince some cash an' told him to get a motel room close to the hospital. She gave him enough cash for a room an' meals for a week. She told him she would give him more when he needed it. Said to take care of Mist an' let them know how she was.

Vince cried, hugged everyone's necks an' asked them to pray hard when he heard what happened to Mist. They promised an' said she was already in their prayers.

The different members of the group said their goodbyes an' headed in their different directions. Charlie an' Maggie followed Joe Henry as they made their way back home.

As they drove Aunt Bess wept. "I am scared for Misty, Joe Henry. She is awful frail. I am awful scared."

"Me too, Aunt Bess. Me too."

Chapter Ten

Things were right quiet for the folks on Limestone Ridge Road. When they arrived back home that evenin' Maggie had Aunt Bess an' Joe Henry come over for some leftovers. They snacked around on meatloaf sandwiches on white bread an' there was enough vegetable beef soup for each to have a big cup full.

Aunt Bess stayed over at Joe Henry's suggestion. Before they went to join Maggie an' Charlie for breakfast, Aunt Bess put pinto beans an' a couple ham hocks in the crock pot. She said she'd make cornbread that evenin' an' have supper for the four of them.

The next mornin' the four went back to Vince's place to try an' clean up the mess. The women took notice an' made a list of things broken, hopin' they might be able to replace at least some of the dishes an' such.

They were able to get the house presentable, pick up everything layin' in the yard. Anything broken was noted in a list for Vince an' Mist. They collected a garbage bag full of this an' that, spoiled food thrown out of the refrigerator, magazines destroyed an' such. Charlie brought boxes an' many things were boxed up for Vince or Mist to go through.

Maggie had a pile of clothes to take back an' wash. Several pieces of clothin' had been torn, seemed to be torn on purpose. She hoped to mend some of the clothin' for them youngin's.

Afterward, they went back to the bee yard an' the gardens. Joe Henry had a shovel an' hoe in the back of his truck an' they did their best to replant the lavender that had been pulled up. A couple of the plants were broken so badly they were not redeemable.

"Charlie, Joe Henry, let's make a note of where you find plants, what row an' so on. Vince was doin' research on these. There are several varieties an' subspecies in these rows. He has small markers at the ends of rows an' some of the plants have tags. We need to do all we can to preserve his research." Aunt Bess told them.

Maggie was over at a herbal garden that was enclosed in a waist high wooden fence. No one thought to check it when Aunt Bess was takin' photos. Maggie called the others over an' they stood around the garden to stare in disbelief. Almost every plant had been stomped, crushed, torn out or completely destroyed.

For about two hours they catalogued, tried to replant or set aside broken plants. As they worked more than one of the four cussed under their breath, pausin' only to excuse themselves for cussin' before bendin' back over to reach for another broken herb.

As the Maggie an' Aunt Bess were goin' over the notes they took, Charlie an' Joe Henry walked to the corn field. So much of the small field of stalks had been pushed down an' broken over. Charlie started lookin' for the markers Vince had at the front end of the rows. The women joined them.

Maggie asked, "Bess, what is he gonna do now? I don't know if we can salvage this enough to do him any good."

They explained to Joe Henry that Vince spent the last two fall seasons travelin' through Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina an' Virginia searchin' out lost an' forgotten heirloom corn varieties. This field was his laboratory. He raised a number of varieties he found here in this field, hopin' to grow enough to send to several nonprofit organizations an' seed companies involved in preservin' these heirloom varieties.

Maggie spoke up at this point, "Me an' Bess found a right smart lot of his research that hadn't been damaged. The milk crates what contained folders with his notes on the varieties he found, where he found them as well as pictures had been thrown to the floor but they didn't really throw stuff around much."

"Some of the folders were thrown out of the milk crates but mostly the papers were still in the folders. In a few cases we had to pick up the folder's contents an' stack them as neatly as we could. I'm hopin' Vince can sort them out." she said as she shook her head.

Aunt Bess explained that this corn field was Vince's project an' research for his Master's Degree from University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. As far as they knew, he discovered over twenty heirloom varieties of corn in his travels, includin' three varieties of popcorn.

Charlie chuckled an' added, "Yep, last year he had enough of two of the popcorn varieties to have a popcorn tastin' one night. We tried them with an' without salt an' butter. He made notes on how many kernels didn't pop, how big the kernels was, the color of the popped kernel an' even the taste. It was somethin' else."

They followed the same routine with the corn as they completed with the herbs an' lavender. Charlie went back to his place an' returned with a stack of paper lunch bags an' grocery bags. When they found ears of corn on the ground, they made notes on the bag as to where it was located, what row, how far down the row an' if possible how many stalks from the end. The ears were placed in the bags an' closed. They hoped the paper bags would keep the ears from gettin' mold or mildew. It was OK if they dried out.

Charlie an' Maggie had several cans of wood putty an' went from hive to hive fillin' in the bullet holes. Joe Henry an' Aunt Bess gathered the paper bags, notes an' tools. They put the notes an' bags in a couple boxes Charlie had thought to bring. Finally they all loaded into the two trucks an' headed back.

Charlie pulled a handful of green onions from his garden. He always planted onions ever' week durin' the summer so he would have green onions on a regular basis. Aunt Bess started the cornbread. Maggie went back to her place an' returned with a big bowl of butter an' a Mason jar of hot banana peppers.

When they sat down to eat Charlie said a blessin' an' Aunt Bess filled their bowls. As they ate they heard someone pull up. Joe Henry went to investigate, followed by his pup Truman. He returned with Bobby Clark an' Vince.

The women got up, got bowls an' dipped soup beans for the two men. Greetin's was made an' they all sat back down. Vince was quiet an' stirred his bean soup with his spoon. Bobby caught the eyes of the others an' shook his head.

Finally Vince spoke up, "She is in intensive care. Her father is there even though they have been estranged for years. They contacted him when she arrived. He wouldn't let me see her."

He wasn't the only one with tears in their eyes as he continued, "He called me a dirty hippie. Said his daughter was too good for me. You know I ain't dirty. I may have long hair but I wasn't ever a hippie. He cussed me an' told me I had no right to be there. Said he was in charge now."

Bobby spoke up next, "When Vince came back to my place an' told me, well, I took things into my hands right there. Y'all know, it is odd that a stranger can walk in with a clipboard in his hands, act all important like he knows what he is doin'. I went in intensive care, went to her room an' asked her father to leave while I checked on her. He said he needed some coffee an' a smoke anyways an left."

He grinned an' went on, "Misty is bad sick an' terrible upset that her father wouldn't let Vince in. She said Vince should be helpin' her get through this, helpin' her make decisions. Problem is, he don't have a leg to stand on right now."

Vince shook his head an' clutched his spoon. The others looked on with disbelief. Joe Henry didn't understand an' said so.

Bobby leaned into the table an' explained, "They ain't married. Her father wouldn't be able to dictate nothin' if they was married but they ain't. While I was there I talked to Misty about it. She gave me the OK to tell Vince this as well as y'all. I waited till we was here to tell him."

"Vince, Misty wants to marry you tomorrow. Her father went to the motel room about 5:00. We are goin' to be there after that an', if you will have her, she wants to marry you right then an' there. We are goin' to get the license in the mornin'. I talked to a friend in the clerk's office there in Lexington an' we are goin' to work around her not bein' with you to get the license. Bess, you are gonna be Misty tomorrow mornin' for a while. You will need to sign her name an' hand my friend her license to prove you are Misty. She knows we are gonna be there an' will take care of things."

Vince sat with his mouth open. Aunt Bess spoke up, "So, how 'bout it boy? Want to get hitched?"

Vince laughed for the first time in a couple days, "Definitely."

Bobby told them Misty wanted her old Pastor to marry them. He already spoke with Brother Shelly who laughed hard an' agreed to help out. Said he felt right sneaky but knew God would be OK with them two gettin' married.

The next day was a flurry of activity. Bobby stayed all night an' went with Joe Henry an' Vince to London to get a suit for Vince. Maggie an' Aunt Bess went back to the lavender farm to collect some of the broken lavender an' flowerin' herbs to make a bouquet for Mist. Maggie also put a few pieces of lace an' some dried lavender they found together to make a veil for Mist.

The dear woman at the Clerk's office grinned an' told Vince an' his substitute bride that her an' Bobby was an item an' she would do 'bout anything for that man. She winked when she said that an' Aunt Bess blushed. She signed Misty's name to the papers an' they left with license in hand.

Vince got dressed at Bobby's place as the others had an early supper. They were all dressed up, the men in coats an' ties, the women in Sunday dresses. Vince was a mess through all this but was excited at the same time.

Since Mist's father didn't know Joe Henry, he didn't see him watchin' as he walked out the door of the hospital, He lit a cigarette an walked to his car. Joe Henry waited till he saw the car drive up the street before he ran to the door of the hospital.

Joe Henry walked in an' gave the "OK" sign. Everybody except Vince was in the waitin' area so Joe Henry went out to get Vince. The other folks went on up to the intensive care waitin' room where General Bess Asher took charge.

She explained to the nurses there that there was goin' to be a wedding. She introduced them to Brother Shelly, Misty's former Pastor, now retired. She an' Maggie went in with one of the nurses. Maggie had a pretty white gown they helped Misty into. They placed the veil on her head an' gave her the bouquet.

The nurses grinned with glee as Vince came off of the elevator with Joe Henry. They said they would bypass the "Two Visitor" rule just this once as everyone, includin' a couple nurses gathered close.

Brother Shelly told them he was doin' the short form as he began with the traditional "Dearly Beloved". When he got to the point when he asked for the rings Misty said they didn't have rings. Vince grinned, reached in his pocket an' took out a ring box with two simple weddin' bands.

Bobby grinned an' said they made a couple stops that mornin’.

Vince an' Misty held hands as he stood beside her bed. When Brother Shelly pronounced them man an' wife everyone cried. Vince leaned over an' kissed his wife, held her for a long time as they cried together. Finally he stood up.

"We'll get through this together, Mist." he assured his bride.

The nurses chased everyone out of the room, tellin' them that only Misty's husband could stay. The head nurse suggested she could give Vince a brief review of how things stood.

As everyone was leavin', they heard Misty say, "Ma'am, please make a note on my chart that Vince is the only family member allowed to visit. I also want to fill out that durable medical power of attorney right now if I could, givin' my husband full authority to make decisions for me. No one else. OK?"

The nurses all grinned, shook their heads an' one went to get the appropriate forms. As the elevator door closed she an' Vince could see Joe Henry, Brother Shelly, Aunt Bess, Bobby, Maggie an' Charlie grinnin' like a cage full of possums.

Finally Mist turned toward her husband an' grinned weakly, "I reckon that'll fix Dad's little red wagon, won't it?"

Chapter Eleven

To say life on the ridge mostly returned to normal ain't quite true. Joe Henry pondered on that a few mornin's later, after what was now bein' called the "Hospital Weddin'". He frankly hadn't lived on the ridge long enough to know what normal was supposed to look like.

As summer was startin' to fade, Charlie told him not to expect a fast shift to fall weather. They wouldn't see too much change in the weather for a right smart while. He didn't expect the trees to begin turnin' till October.

"Joe Henry, me an' Maggie have been talkin' to Lois up the road an' to Katherine, the bee inspector. What do you think about us openin' the little place up that you landed in when you first came here an' usin' it to sell honey an' a few other things? Maggie is schedulin' the ladies what come to help her make our other honey products. They get together two, maybe three times a year to make this an' that with honey, beeswax, pollen the bees collect an' even propolis."

Joe Henry thought for a minute, "Why open it up to sell stuff? Do you think folks will really come by often enough to do any good?"

"Sure do. We always put signs up over to the main road that brings a lot of folks in. Lots of folks drive aorund the ridge to see the changin' leaves. I'll have postcards an' flyers with me at the flea market an' we always put ads in the papers 'round about. Normally we just set up a booth in the front yard, but it gets awful tirin' to sit there, especially when it starts gettin' cold. Plus we have to haul ever'thing in an' out."

Charlie thought about it for a bit an' continued, "We can haul the ol' counter out of the barn, clean it up, put shelves back up an' get signs repainted. A lot of folks are stoppin' by already an' come to buy honey. This would be a lot easier on us old folks."

Joe Henry grinned, "Well, I'm workin' for Aunt Bess an' sorta workin' for you. If you think it is a good idea I'm all for it."

"Boy, you won't believe the folks what drive up in here, makin' the loop to see the trees once they change. We'll have all the size jars an' bottles of wildflower honey, lavendar an' sourwood honey, comb honey, beeswax, pollen in little ol' bottle for them health nuts. Them gals will be makin' lip balm, soap with honey, hand cream an' I don't remember what all. Katherine asked if she could sell some things on consignment an' we said yes. She does an awful lot for us, don't you know." Charlie told him.

"Lois usually sets up a stand too an' sells a few things she makes. I suspect she would put things in the place an' help out by bein' there some too. I'll bet your Aunt Bess might have a quilt or two she could sell."

"Let's do it, Charlie. We can go over today an' figure out where to put the shelves an' haul in that counter." Joe Henry replied.

As they were movin' the counter from barn to the little cabin they saw Bobby Clark drive by with Vince. Vince an' Bobby threw up their hands as country folk always do. Charlie an' Joe Henry had their hands full so they just nodded back.

The counter went into place facin' the door of the cabin. Charlie told Joe Henry that was actually where it had always been when his family sold honey out of the little place. They found a stack of boards that would do well as shelves. Charlie suggested a pile of wooden boxes could be cleaned up, maybe put some varnish on them an' use them as displays also.

Joe Henry mentioned that if they took some of the older hive boxes, cleaned them up, painted them an' put a back on them, well the boxes could be mounted to the wall an' used to display products. Both men were pretty excited at the plans they made.

A while later Bobby drove up an' hopped out of his truck. They shook hands an' Charlie showed him the cabin, told him the plans for the place.

Bobby looked around the place an' then asked Joe Henry, "You doin' anything with them sticks Billy Gilbert gave you?"

"Funny you should ask. I've made six brooms already. I called Uncle Billy an' he gave me the address of the place he orders broom corn from. I sent for fifty pounds a while back. It came in two boxes maybe three weeks ago. I drove over to Uncle Billy's place an' bought unfinished sticks from him. He wanted to give them to me but I insisted, I said a man is worthy of his hire. That's what my Daddy always said."

Bobby grinned an' nodded. "Yessir, I reckon that is good advice."

Joe Henry added, "I've been cleanin' them up, sandin' them a little an' puttin' a light finish on them. I'm thinkin' I could put some of my brooms in this place. I've been in the ol' tobacco barn an' saw all the 'baccer sticks layin' around. I've been cleanin' some of them up to use for broom sticks. I put some varnish on a couple an' made walkin' sticks I was gonna give as Christmas presents. I'll bet city folks might go for them walkin' sticks too."

Before he left, Bobby told Joe Henry to check on Vince. He was gonna stay the night at his place before drivin' back to Lexington an' the hospital. Vince wanted to have his ol' Chevy van instead of drivin' the truck Bobby loaned him.

Charlie said goodbye an' went to have Maggie put together some supper for Joe Henry to take to Vince. They all knew there weren't a bite of food left in Vince's place.

A bit later Joe Henry picked up the meal Maggie had loaded into a picnic basket. It was plumb full. Maggie was already instructin' Joe Henry as he walked to the truck.

"I put enough in there for you an' Vince. Don't let him go without eatin'. I'm afraid he'll be awful upset since this is the first time he saw the place." Maggie stressed.

Joe Henry drove to the lavender farm, pulled in an' looked for Vince. He walked past the house after he checked inside an' didn't see Vince. Back in the fields he found Vince. Now an' again Vince would stop in the corn field, look at a stalk, lift some up off the ground to check tags that he had attached to certain corn stalks.

He paused when he saw Joe Henry. He walked to him, cryin' as he walked. He stuck his hand out to Joe Henry but Joe Henry wrapped his arms around Vince an' hugged his neck. Vince hugged back an' cried hard.

He told Joe Henry that he lost so much of his research. He was so grateful for all everyone had done to save what they could. With the paper bags so carefully laid out in the house he would be able to save most, if not all of the varietal corn.

One subspecies of lavender might be gone completely from the fields. He had bought plants back in the spring but hadn't had opportunity to take cuttin's. He would have to buy more, start from the beginnin'. Probably would be two or three years before he could have a healthy couple rows for production.

Joe Henry told him Maggie sent food for their supper, if Vince didn't mind takin' time while it was hot. The two went in an' looked in the basket. Maggie had included paper plates, napkins an' even some of them plastic cups.

There was homemade sourdough bread, a little ol' container of butter, fried chicken, some slices of city ham, another little container filled with what they both knew was Duke's Mayo. Butter tubs were filled with fried taters an' Maggie’s famous vinegar slaw. Another butter tub had fudge in it for their dessert.

They filled their plates an' went out to sit on the steps of the porch an' eat. Vince was too choked up to sit at the table an' eat. As they ate Vince laughed with Joe Henry about the hospital weddin'. He told about Mist's father comin' the next day an' bein' kicked out.

Security had to be called. He carried on somethin' terrible, called Vince names, cussed him, the nurses, even the doctor. Some of the nurses had made a couple copies of the marriage license an' certificate Brother Shelly gave the newlyweds. Vince gave copies to Mist's father.

"Joe Henry, he tore the copies up, cussed an' said it didn't mean a thing. HE was her Daddy. Nurses had hold of him an' kept him from goin' in to Mist's room. Then he really did it. That is when security was called." Vince said.

"That's when he said he would beat the tar out of Mist. Said he needed to teach her a lesson. She would learn to mess around with dopers an' hippies. Mist told him he slapped her around for the last time back when she was sixteen. He made the mistake of hittin' a nurse an' tellin her to keep her hands off him."

"Far as I know he is still in jail somewhere in Fayette County." Vince affirmed.

When Joe Henry asked about Mist, Vince said she seemed to be a little better but the doctors said she wasn't as good as she said she was. She had insisted he go home, take care of a few things, bring her some pajamas an' her hair brush the next mornin'.

As the two men talked Vince heard the phone ring. He got up, went inside an' answered. After his initial "Hello" an' "this is Vince" he was quiet. Joe Henry couldn't help but sit an' listen intently.

Finally Vince said, "Thank you. I'm on my way."

He soon came out the door with a small suitcase, "Joe Henry, I've got to go. Mist has taken a turn. I need to go. I need to go." he said with a quiverin' voice.

"Go on Vince. Go on. I understand. I'll be prayin'. I'll tell the others, if that is OK."

"Please do. Tell them to pray hard. Can you close up?" Vince pleaded.

"You go on, brother. I'll take care of things here. you go on. Keep up with us. Let us know if we can do anything." Joe Henry assured Vince.

Vince paused to hug Joe Henry's neck, got into his van an' was down the road. Joe Henry put the paper plates , chicken bones an' trash in a trash bag, threw it in the back of his truck. He placed the leftovers back in the basket, savin' a few small pieces of chicken meat for Truman an' drove back to his place.

He made calls to his Aunt Bess to share the news with her, called Bobby Clark an' then walked across the road to tell Maggie an' Charlie.

He knocked on the screen door as he always did. Charlied told him to come on in. Him an' Maggie was sittin' at the supper table, just finishin' up their supper. When they saw Joe Henry's face, Maggie stood up, wiped her hands on her apron an' already had tears in her eyes.

"Mist?" she cried.

"Yes ma'am. She had taken a turn for the worse. Vince left a couple minutes ago in his van. I put the leftovers in my Frigidaire if that is alright. He is a mess."

They all cried a bit before Joe Henry could speak up. "I'm goin' to Aunt Bess' place in the mornin'. It was closer, only about forty five minutes from the hospital instead of the two hours from the ridge. She told Joe Henry to have Maggie an' Charlie come to stay with her for a few days too.

Maggie said she needed to fix a few things to take along. Told Charlie to get their cooler out so's she could load it up. She was movin' fast, gettin' supper off the table, puttin' the places in the sink an' openin' cabinets to see what he had she could fix that evenin'.

Joe Henry spent the evenin' with Truman. He took a long walk with his pup then loaded Truman into the truck an' drove down to Lois' home. He asked her if she could watch Truman while he was gone, explained the bad news Vince got earlier.

"My oh my yes, Joe Henry. I'd be happy to. don't leave him at your place. Bring him down here in the mornin'. I get up early. An', if you notice, Truman gets along good with my Matilda."

Matilda was a yellow lab that followed Lois around most of the day as she worked. Matilda also watched over things as Lois sod Christmas trees in the Christmas season. Folks always looked forward to seein' Matilda when they came to buy their trees.

Early the next mornin' Joe Henry put a small bag in back of his truck, dropped Truman off with Lois an' Matilda. Truman didn't seem at all worried about Joe Henry leavin'.

Next stop was to pick up Charlie an' Maggie. they were sharin' a suitcase an' Charlie needed help loadin' the red Coke Cooler into the back of the truck. Maggie siad they might need a few things to eat while in Lexington.

They drove past the lavender farm, past the Christmas tree farm, wavin' to Lois, Truman an' Maltida as they went by, like country folks always do. When they finally pulled onto the big road an' headed for Aunt Bess' place they were solumn an' quiet. It weren't a day for chattin'.

Chapter Twelve

The drive on I-75 up to Berea was still quiet. Now an' then Maggie got teary eyed all over again an' might sniff or blow her nose. Once or twice she mumbled an' apology as she would blow an' wipe her nose on her hankie.

When Aunt Bess heard the truck pull up she came to the door, when she saw it was Joe Henry with Maggie an' Charlie she stepped out the screen door an' onto the porch.

"Y'all might as well get out an' stretch, maybe use the bathroom. I have to get my pocketbook an' I've made up a few things for us to eat if we are gonna be up yonder for a while today. I have chili in the crockpot for this evenin'."

Maggie chuckled an' mentioned she had their red Coke cooler full of supplies also. Charlie an' Joe Henry brought the cooler in an' the two women started combinin' their various supplies into one smaller cooler Aunt Bess had. The rest went into the Frigidaire or onto the sideboard.

"Joe Henry, pull your truck over to the side of the garage an' in the gravel. Here are the keys to my GMC Jimmy. I was gonna bring it down to the farm anyways. Don't want you drivin' a truck in bad weather on them roads down home. The Jimmy has four wheel drive, don't you know. Plus, we all can ride together today. I don't know about Maggie, but I sure don't want to be squeezed in amongst ever'body to drive to Lexington." she told him.

She made sure Joe Henry could drive a stick shift. He reminded her that Henry Kay Carpenter never drove anything but a stick shift. They both smiled as they remembered Joe Henry's Daddy an' his insistence that an automatic transmission was a waste of money.

Joe Henry opened the garage doors after he parked his truck. Inside was aunt Bess' 1977 Buick LeSabre an' the 1974 GMC Jimmy. He always liked the Jimmy with its removable hard top. He thought it was such a cool convertible look. It might have a stick shift, but Aunt Bess made sure it also had all the modern conveniences. She was NOT goin' to do without a good radio an' air conditionin'.

He pulled the Jimmy up in front of the porch. The women loaded the small cooler in the back. After a little friendly argument, Charlie got in the front with Joe Henry an' Aunt Bess an' Maggie sat in the back so they could talk.

Once they arrived at the University of Kentucky Hospital, Joe Henry let everyone out an' went to find a parkin' place. He was glad he did so, for he had to park a right smart ways away.

Once inside he met up with Charlie an' Maggie in the big lobby. Aunt Bess had gone to find where Misty an' Vince were. They found a spot to sit an' where the chairs were comfortable. Charlie tried a few of the chairs an' thought some was made to discourage folks sittin' too long.

After about thirty minutes Aunt Bess was back. "I saw Vince an' he is comin' down in a bit to talk to us. He wants to let Maggie know we are here. They are movin' her to another room. She ain't in Intensive Care anymore apparently."

A few minutes later Vince appeared. He smiled a little smile when he saw everybody. He hugged everyone's neck, told them how glad he was to see them an' sat down with them.

"Well, how is Misty?" Maggie spoke up first.

Vince was quiet for a right smart while. He sat with his head down. When he looked up he had tears in his eyes. Before he could speak the others all got teary eyed as well. They waited for what they knew had to be bad news.

"Y'all, we hadn't told anyone our news. We was so excited but Mist wanted to wait. She wanted to have a little get together to tell ever'one. Y'see, Mist is expectin' a baby."

They all sat back, stunned. There wasn't a sound from anyone for the longest time.

Joe Henry spoke up first, "Did the exposure an cold overnight hurt the baby? Is that why they called you to come? Is the baby alright? Is Mist all right?"

The others asked similar questions all at once. They all sat on the edge of the chairs, waitin', hopin' that things was goin' to be OK.

Finally Vince spoke with hesitation, "She had a miscarriage about two, almost three years ago, just before her diagnosis. She didn't want to say anything till she was sure the baby was goin' to be OK. She is almost six months along."

They were stunned. No one had a clue. They all knew she was careful with her health. Though she hadn't had any chemo or other treatments for her leukemia for a good while, they knew she wasn't out of the woods.

He continued. "She knew that if the leukemia came back like the doctors expected, she could most likely have another miscarriage. She always wears them loose clothes anyway. Her bein' so slim, well it were easy to hide the baby bump."

"Here's the problem. When she came in with hypothermia they started runnin' a whole battery of tests. Long story short, the leukemia is back. Her cancer doctor had expected it to be back eventually. Now she is pregnant an' has that acute lymphoblastic leukemia."

As the others sat an' listened he paused again. Finally he went on, "They say there is little chance of the baby bein' affected by the leukemia. They don't share the same blood. However, the acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a real aggressive blood cancer. They want to start her on an aggressive round of chemo."

Aunt Bess was the first to realize the starkness of the situation, "What would the chemo do to the baby, Vince?"

Vince shook his head, "They want to abort the baby so she can start the chemo. It can't survive the chemo treatments. They said it would be cruel to let it go through a miscarriage from the chemo. Said it would be worse for the baby an' for Mist."

He sat back, put his head in his hands an' cried. Joe Henry went over, stood beside Vince an' gently placed his hand on Vince's shoulder. the others just sat an' wept.

After a while he wiped his eyes. "Mist had a long talk with me. She doesn't want to lose the baby. She is willin' to delay the chemo to try an' have the baby. If she loses it naturally she will start the chemo. Otherwise she is goin' to try an' have our baby."

"They figure she is about twenty three weeks along, almost six months. If she can make it to thirty seven weeks they figure the baby will be OK. They'd hope it could go to forty weeks, but at thirty seven they will do a C-Section. They will have to wait a month after that to start chemo."

Joe Henry spoke first, "That means no treatment for the leukemia for maybe eighteen weeks. That's four an' a half months from now. Vince, what do they think?"

Vince cried hard an' couldn't speak for ever so long. Charlie reached in his back pocket, pulled out his big red hankie an' handed it to Vince. Vince nodded thanks an' wiped his eyes an' nose.

"They are goin' to let me bring in an Asian physician we've seen who can also treat with homeopathic medicines that would not harm the baby. There is a dietician who says she will work with us to develop a diet that can help. Also, I've been in contact with a couple friends who are in my Master's degree program. They plan to help with, uhhmmm, treats, brownies, candies that can help her appetite an' with any pain, if y'all know what I'm sayin'. Her cancer doctor knows them an' approves."

Charlie blurted out, "But she can die, the baby too, right? We can lose both of them."

Maggie elbowed Charlie an' told him to shut up, said he should keep his mouth shut with that kind of talk.

"Yes, Charlie. We know that she can die, that even with all we try to do we could lose our baby. I can still lose her. She is a strong woman. Strong willed too. Y'all need to pray hard. I'm prayin' real hard. I don't know what else to do."

Maggie said they should pray right them an' there. They all stood up, gathered around Vince, put their hands on his shoulders an' each took a turn prayin' in a soft voice.

Vince was humbled by their prayers. He told them they could go up one at a time to see Mist. She had been transferred to the maternity ward an' would stay there the whole of her hospital stay.

Before he left he turned to Joe Henry, "Joe Henry, I really need your help right now. I need help not just with the farm but also with my research. If I told you what to do, if we met on a regular basis, well, I think we could save a lot of the heirloom crops. With your help identifyin' an' catalogin', I won't lose everything. That is if Bess don't mind me takin' you away from your work."

Aunt Bess spoke up, "Just tell us what you need. We all can help, if we are able that is."

"I have a wooden flower press. If y'all could take samples of the herbs an' flowerin' plants in the herb garden an' either press them between sheets of the paper I have with the press, or, if there is enough, gather bundles, tie them with string an' hang them in the house or barn to dry. I have nails stickin' out in the barn to hang herb bundles on."

"There are a couple books with good photos an' descriptions of herbs as well as a book an' one of my notebooks an' the folders with pictures identifyin' the heirloom corn varieties. I need to harvest the standin' corn when it is dry, place the ears from the same variety in paper bags an' tie the bags an' hang them too so's bugs won't get in.' he asked.

I know it is askin' a lot. I'll come home ever' couple days an' can sit down with you to go over things an' catch up in my reports an' notes. I can't pay you a lot, but I'll pay for your time, Joe Henry."

Joe Henry assured Vince he was happy to do anything he could. He also told him there was no need for pay.

"Vince, as my Aunt Bess says, family takes care of family. From what I understand, even though my understandin' is woefully thin, we are distant cousins. Family takes care of family, brother. I am thrilled to be asked.

They went up to visit with Mist one at a time, each comin' down with tears in their eyes. Each worried in their own way about Mist, about the baby to come.

Chapter 13

September seemed like it was movin' fast. The little cabin was all fixed up to use once again to sell honey an' other things from up an' down the ridge. Charlie had flyers an some posters printed up over to a print shop in London an' had posters in most of the stores, restaurants an' shops in Hyden, Manchester an' over to London.

Though Carpenter's Bee Tree Honey an' honey products were the main items in the shop, the honey was complimented with brooms, walkin' sticks, quilts, an a few antiques. Lois had added some dried flower potpourri in jars an' hand sewn sachets as well a quite a few punkins, gourds an' even some cushaws.

What everyone was awful excited about was the things that Vince added. Over the last couple weeks at Mist's suggestion, he had taken flowers an' herbs he an' Mist pressed but were not needed in his research an' placed them between two pieces of glass. The results were beautiful additions to the place an' folks couldn't help but stop an' admire the ones hangin' in the shop's windows. Folks were already drivin' up the ridge to find the shop.

Vince was travelin' between the hospital an' home every couple days. He would spend a day or two with Mist at the hospital an' then she would tell him to "Shoo home for a while". Joe Henry spent most of the day with Vince each day he was home, helpin' him gather plants, care for the lavender fields an' work in the corn field as he worked to complete his research.

With the encouragement of Aunt Bess, Joe Henry asked about the variety of lavender that had been completely destroyed. In conversation he was able to find out the name of the place in North Carolina that Vince had purchased the original plants. A call, explanation of what happened an' Vince an' Mist's situation was all that was needed to persuade them folks to actually prepare two dozen plants in half gallon plastic pots for Joe Henry to purchase an' pick up. Joe Henry was thrilled at their generosity, especially since the original purchase had been a dozen plants purchased over the phone an' sent by mail. Potted plants would advance the crop by two or three years.

As soon as Vince left on a Wednesday, Joe Henry headed for Berea to pick up his Aunt Bess. They were excited to make the road trip to Hillsborough, North Carolina. Since it was a little over seven hours each way an' due to a late start, they decided to travel to Ashville to stay the night. That was about a four hour trip.

An early breakfast then a three hour drive to Blue Sky Lavender Farm made for a delightful ride in the mountains. The folks at the farm were a wonderful family that had such a huge place. They home schooled their kids so it was all hands on deck when Aunt Bess an' Joe Henry arrived.

The three girls quickly took Aunt Bess in tow an' insisted she have a tour of the lavender fields, dryin' sheds, the pettin' zoo which was actually a sheep, a pot belly pig, three goats an' a little Banty hen they named Louise.

The couple, Rick an' Mazie that owned the Blue Sky Lavender Farm were a delight. They were second generation to run the farm. Rick's parents started the farm right after the war. He didn't want to raise tobacco as a cash crop. He started with corn, soybeans an' cattle an' with his wife's encouragement he began to grow lavender.

Along the way, the soybean fields shrank as the lavender fields grew. Even now the family still raised corn an' cattle. Rick's parents lived at the other side of the farm in the original farmhouse. His Daddy took care of the corn crop an' cattle.

As Rick was helpin' Joe Henry load up the pots of lavender the girls came back with Aunt Bess an' another woman, both bein' led by the hand. The woman was young, seemed to be in her late twenties, same as Joe Henry. She had strawberry blonde hair, long an' back in a pony tail. She was light complected an' had blue eyes that were full of the same laughter that the three girls shared as they walked with Aunt Bess.

Mazie walked up to join the others an' introduced the young woman as her sister April. Joe Henry chuckled as he rolled the two names around in his head.

Mazie laughed along with her sister, "Yep, April an' Mazie. An' our other sister is June. I know, I know. Mama an' Daddy weren't right. They thought it was cute to name my younger sisters April an' June, even though I am the oldest.

Joe Henry laughed an' commented, "I reckon that's cause y'all were born in those months."

"Nope, I was born in December. April here was born on August second an' June was the only one born in the month she is named after. She was a June baby. Like I said, Mama an' Daddy ain't right. I think it was Daddy's idea but Mama still gets a kick out of it." Mazie explained.

"April, why don't you show Joe Henry the fields while I let Miss Bess sit an' rest. I'll fix some sweet tea an' we can have a few of the lavender cookies you baked." Mazie said with more than a little grin on her face.

April an' Joe Henry both blushed but agreed to the tour. April was enthusiastic as she walked with him, tellin' him all about the farm, her family an' future plans for the farm.

Joe Henry showed some interest, but wanted to share Vince an' Mist's situation an' the future of the lavender farm on the ridge. April listened quietly, getting teary eyed as he told her about Mist holdin' off on her chemo so she could get her baby to full term.

As they walked, he realized the potential for the lavender farm on the ridge. After seein' the many things they did at the Blue Sky Lavender Farm an' talkin' about the potential with April he was pretty excited to tell Vince about several ideas he had that Vince could incorporate easily.

April thought for a bit an' suggested, "Why don't you see if Vince would want to come down with Mist after she has the Baby an' spend some time here early next year? We have a bunk house that we rent out for retreats an' such. He could stay in the private room that is usually used for group leaders. There is a full bathroom as well as a small fridge an' a microwave."

After the impromptu tour they joined the others on the porch of Rick an' Mazie's home. The girls were excited to serve everyone sweet tea. April shared her idea about havin' Vince an' Mist down for some hands on learnin' about their farm. Both Rick an' Mazie thought it was an' excellent idea. Aunt Bess agreed an' said their farm could be a great resource for Vince.

April smiled at Joe Henry an' added, "You could come too, Joe Henry. From what you said Vince asked you to help him some. Mist might be pretty busy with a new baby an' all."

All eyes were on Joe Henry as he blushed an' lowered his head to study the lavender cookie in his hand. He didn't say anything an' the conversation quickly moved on to other things.

Eventually Joe Henry said they needed to get a move on. The seven hour drive would put them at Aunt Bess' home late in the evenin'. He planned to stay there for the night before drivin' home.

Rick an' Joe Henry attached a canvas tarp Joe Henry had brought along over the bed of the truck. This was to protect the lavender plants from the wind. Rick added three additional pots of a new variety he had started cultivating the year before. When Aunt Bess asked about the cost, Rick said they were a gift.

Necks were hugged. Aunt Bess noticed April hugged Joe Henry a bit longer than the hug she received. She smiled a quiet smile an' tucked that little piece of information away.

As they drove they chatted about the Blue Sky Farm, about Rick, Mazie an' their girls. They laughed about the names of the three grown sisters, Mazie, April an' June. They dreamed together about what the lavender farm on the ridge could become.

They also talked about Vince an' Mist. Aunt Bess had been to see Mist a few days before. She was holdin' on but wasn't well. She didn't look good but was eatin' good with the help of the dietician an' "Vince's special friends" who would regularly bring a few cookies, brownies or other "special desserts".

Though the worry was unspoken, both said silent prayers an' pondered Mist's situation, the health of the baby within an' all that Vince had on his plate.

About half way home they stopped at a little "mom an' pop" restaurant just off the highway. Aunt Bess weren't much for the fast food places an' chain restaurants that coveyed up at each exit.

As they ate, Aunt Bess got a sly look on her face, "That April was mighty pretty, weren't she Joe Henry?"

Oh, he knew exactly where his Great Aunt was goin'. "Yes ma'am. She was right cute. Had pretty eyes."

"Uh huh, she sure had eyes for you. That gal had you in her sight the minute she saw you. Boy, you ought to think about goin' down with Vince an' Mist when they go." she said with a knowin' smile on her lips.

Joe Henry didn't answer an' was quiet as they finished their meal. He was still quiet as they continued their drive home. Aunt Bess talked about this an' that an' Joe Henry would answer, but he didn't have much to say on his own.

When they arrive back at Aunt Bess's home they grabbed their bags an' went in. As they settled into the livin' room Joe Henry spoke up.

"Aunt Bess, April was lovely. She was real pretty an' seemed like an amazin' woman. Problem is I am not ready. I'm still workin' on what I expect from me. Eventually I need to decide what I want in a mate, a partner in my life. Sure, she could be just that. I just don't know yet."

After a moment his Great Aunt nodded slowly, "I understand. That may be the wisest thing I've ever heard you say. You are right. Right just now. Just don't forget that little gal.

Joe Henry grinned an' blushed. "Oh, I definitely won't forget. I promise you that. I won't forget."
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