I was surprised the old country road was still there, but it was. The original gravel road that meandered through the tall maples and oaks on each side from Darden, Missouri to Mitchell when I was a kid was now a two-lane blacktop with white lines on the sides and yellow painted stripes down the center. I knew from Grandpa Jonas that the road had started out as a wagon road. The twists and turns were there to make it easier on the horses than going up and down hills.
About half way between Darden and Mitchell, the old country road forked, and it was the north fork I drove that day. That fork was still just gravel and ran even deeper into the tree-covered hills and back past what had been two farms on its way to Petesburg. My grandpa and grandma lived on one of those farms – a little over two hundred acres nestled in the broad valley between two high ridges – and Wilson Meger lived across the gravel road on the other. It was pretty obvious nobody had used the road in a while. Weeds and grass had begun infiltrating the gravel from the road ditches on either side that marked the road. If I hadn’t been down that road a thousand times before, I’d have missed a couple of the turns.
Grandpa Jonas’ farm was a nice place to visit anytime, and I’d spent most of the summers of my youth there. He raised a few beef cattle and a milk cow, and the land produced hay and feed for them as well as corn and soybeans he sold at the grain elevator in Darden. Grandma Ellen raised a large garden and canned enough vegetables to last them through the winter. The apple, peach, and pear trees in the back yard let her can enough fruit for a pie or cobbler on Sundays. She also had a flock of laying hens that kept them supplied with eggs and the occasional chicken dinner.
It was a simple life that I enjoyed experiencing every summer. My dad, their only child, had no interest in farming and had gone to Missouri State and earned a degree in Electrical Engineering. He worked in St. Louis so that’s where we lived. I hated St. Louis back then with its constant traffic and close neighbors. It was only tolerable because I knew that as soon as school was out, I could head back to Grandpa’s farm for the summer.
Wilson Meger’s farm wasn’t much of a farm even back then. He owned about eighty acres and that was divided into three small patches accessible only by dirt lanes through the trees. As a result, Wilson didn’t own a tractor. He farmed just as old Cecil Roberts, the former owner had - with a team of horses. He planted one patch of about six acres in hay every year to feed that team and his one milk cow and her calf over the winter. The other two patches of about ten acres each were planted with corn and oats. Wilson fed the oats to his horses and the corn to his cow and chickens. The rest of the eighty acres was oak, maple, and walnut trees, and shared the creek that crossed the gravel road just west of Grandpa’s house and barn.
Like Grandma’s, Wilson’s chickens included several brooding hens to keep his flock going. His flock was of dubious breeding, but apparently furnished him with enough eggs and chicken dinners. Wilson only sold enough of his crops to pay his electric bill and property taxes; he needed the rest of his corn and oats to feed his livestock. As a result, he seldom had much money so he never ventured off his farm except to help Grandpa once in a while.
When Grandpa baled hay, Wilson would come over to help. Grandpa had only one tractor, so Wilson brought his horses, Jim and Duke, to pull the rack wagon that hauled the baled hay to the barn. I spent a lot of time riding on that rack wagon over the years, and once I got old enough, “earned my keep” as Grandpa said, by stacking those bales on the wagon and then in the barn.
Wilson was a very quiet sort of man, so nobody knew much about him. Grandma said he’d been married once, but his wife couldn’t take farm life and had run off with a traveling salesman selling brushes and brooms. After that, she said, Wilson just pretty much kept to himself and took care of his farm.
I hadn’t come to Darden just to drive back to Grandpa’s old farm. I was there because Grandpa had passed and willed his farm to me. I had no idea what an electrical engineer like me was going to do with a Missouri farm. It wasn’t really big enough to sell as a farm, and it had a well for water and a septic tank. City people always say they want to move to the country, but when they realize they won’t have city water and sewer, they start having second thoughts.
The old steel bridge that spanned the creek Grandpa and I had fished every summer looked pretty rusty and rickety, but the man at the grocery store in Darden assured me it was sound. Still, I drove slowly over the thick creosoted planks that formed the road bed. Once across, I passed the lane to the Meger place on the left, and then turned into the drive of what was now my farm.
The memories came flooding back when I parked in front of the house. I could almost see Grandma walking out the back door and down the concrete walk Grandpa and I had poured the summer I was six. I had to smile when I reached the steps that lead onto the back porch. There was my name -Ted Rork – and the date – 1984 – under the hand print I’d pressed into the wet cement.
The house was still in very good shape. Grandpa didn’t hold with letting things go, so he kept it painted and the roof fixed. I don’t know how he managed when he got on in years, but he did. He couldn’t really do much farming once he turned seventy five, but he kept up the house and helped Grandma with her garden. The rest of the farm he planted in clover and let his cattle free range.
Nothing had really changed inside the house. There was Grandma’s old range, an ancient Hotpoint they bought in 1948 with some of Grandpa’s mustering out pay from WWII. I assumed it still worked but I couldn’t try it. I’d had the electricity disconnected when Grandpa passed, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do so I hadn’t had it reconnected.
As I toured the rest of the house, that life of the past came back to me piece by piece. The big clock on the bookcase started to tic-toc when I wound it, and I remembered Grandpa taking a nap after lunch before going back to work. Grandma and I had to be quiet then, she said, so the only sound in the house was that steady tic-toc and the occasional snore from Grandpa.
I listened to that tic-toc as I went from room to room and re-discovered some of their lives. In Grandma’s curio cabinet was the souvenir cup and saucer from the St. Louis Zoo she’d bought when they took the train from Darden to St. Louis to visit us. Also there was the little model log cabin Grandpa and I had made the summer when I was ten. I didn’t remember her keeping it, but evidently she had.
In the cabinet in the dining room was Grandma’s good china. It wasn’t really china and it wasn’t really good, but that’s what she always called it. Those plates, cups, and saucers only came out of that cabinet on special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Every other day, they ate on the plates Grandma had gotten one at a time with coupons at the grocery store in Darden.
By the time I’d gone through all the rooms, I’d remembered just how relaxed and comfortable their life had been, and a crazy thought was worming its way into my mind. Was it still possible to live that life, just like Grandpa and Grandma had? What would it take? Would I even remember enough about what Grandpa taught me to make the farm run like a farm should?
It was crazy, but the more I thought, the more I liked the idea. Life in a cubicle wasn’t all that much fun, and that’s what my life had become. I woke up every morning, showered and ate a bowl of cereal, then drove to my job. Counting the half hour drive each way and at least ten hours in pointless staff meetings or staring at my computer screen, a dozen or so hours out of every twenty-four were burned up by my job. I slept about seven hours a night, so that left five hours a day for me. Five hours was about enough time to fix dinner and then watch a movie every night. Weekends were better but still used up by yard work, shopping and laundry.
If I was living here, I could work when I needed to and relax when I wanted. I wouldn’t have a lot of money, but I wouldn’t need much and I had a nice 401K courtesy of maximum contributions over the last sixteen years as well as a significant savings account. When you’re single and don’t date, you don’t have much else to do with your money.
The fact I didn’t date was of my own choosing and that choice was because of Jane. Jane was what I considered at the time to be the perfect woman. She was pretty and took care of herself but not to the extreme some women do. She was intelligent enough to have earned a degree in mechanical engineering, and had a great sense of humor. She was also the most loving woman I’d ever met.
After a year of dating her, I’d bought an engagement ring and planned to propose on our date that Saturday night. That never happened. Jane was driving home from work that Friday night and was hit broadside by a kid drag racing with another car. The other car slowed when the traffic light turned yellow. The kid didn’t and he paid for that with his life.. The police estimated his speed at a little over eighty. They told me Jane never suffered any pain. That was a small comfort that didn’t begin to take away the pain of losing her.
I grieved for almost six months before I thought about dating again, but I found myself comparing every woman I met to Jane, and they always came up short. After a year of doing that, I decided there weren’t any more Janes in the world and stopped looking. Work became the most important thing in my life and I was successful at it. In fifteen more years, I went from Junior Engineer to Director of Product Engineering at my company.
As I prowled through the house, I realized I’d also become detached from life. I was just going through the motions of life rather than living it. If I came back here, maybe I could reconnect with things more important than transformer impedance and power factors. It would be a major change in my life, but that’s probably what I needed. I could always go back to being an engineer if it didn’t work out. When I got back to St. Louis that afternoon, I had a look at my financials and then drafted a letter of resignation.
It took a week to get myself moved to the farm. Most of my stuff went into storage in Darden because I wanted to keep the house like I remembered it, at least at first. I did replace that old Hotpoint range. When I turned it on, it started to smoke, so I bought a new one.
It was fall by that time and Grandpa had sold all his livestock before he got really sick, so there was no need to do much work on the farm. Life for me became one of rising when I felt like it, eating when I felt like it, and taking long walks through the forest of oaks and maples that occupied about a third of the farm. I fished the creek and was happy to find out there were still bluegills, pumpkin seeds, catfish, and the occasional bass to be caught there.
Evenings were sitting in Grandpa’s old chair and reading some of the books and magazines from the bookcase. They were full of information about farming and making things for the farm. As I read, my plan for the next year started forming.
Raising corn and soybeans was probably more than I could handle given my knowledge of what was required. I also didn’t have the equipment I’d need, and buying it would put a huge dent in my savings. Cattle were probably a safer bet. I’d buy some cows and let them graze the fields. That would help keep the fields free of volunteer trees just in case I decided to plant them one day. It would also give me a small income once I sold the calves.
I’d need some chickens as well, and my flock would start as baby chicks I’d buy in the spring. By fall, they would be laying eggs and if I bought un-sexed chicks, I’d have some roosters for chicken dinners. My plan was to buy Buff Orpingtons since the hens tend to be broody and my flock would be self sustaining if I let some of them set on their eggs.
By January, I was settled into my new life and enjoying every second of it. The house had a fireplace that Grandpa and Grandma didn’t use once they had a propane furnace installed. A week after I moved in, I had the fireplace inspected and the chimney relined so it was safe. My nights through the winter were spent with a good book, a glass of scotch, and a fire crackling on the hearth.
It was the first week of February when I was getting my mail from the mailbox at the end of the drive that I saw a power company truck drive into the lane to the old Meger place. Since nobody lived there, I figured it was just turning around, but it didn’t. The truck hadn’t come back after I sorted through the bunch of junk mail I’d gotten, so I figured somebody must be having the electricity reconnected. About dusk, a pickup truck drove into the lane. The back was stacked pretty full of stuff, though the tarp that covered it all kept me from seeing what that stuff might be. It was a pretty sure bet I was going to have a neighbor.
The thought I had a neighbor nagged at me all evening. It wasn’t that I didn’t want a neighbor. I was just curious as to who would have bought such a small place. I kept watching for any sign of life from across the road, but there was nothing. That’s wasn’t really surprising because the house was mostly hidden from the road by trees, but I thought maybe I’d see lights that night if someone was living there. At ten, I gave up looking out my living room window for any lights and went to bed. Tomorrow, I decided, I’d walk over and introduce myself.
The next morning about eight, I was just sitting down to a plate of bacon and eggs when there was a knock on my front door. After cursing to myself at someone who would interrupt my breakfast, I got up and walked into the living room. When I opened the door, there stood a person I thought was a woman, but it was hard to tell for sure. She wore insulated coveralls with a heavy coat over that, her head was covered by a heavy cap with ear muffs that were tied under her chin, and a pair of bright red mittens covered her hands. Only the small size of the insulated boots she wore and the delicate features of her face told me she was female.
Her clothing was maybe a little overkill but not really out of the ordinary for February. I’d checked the old thermometer with the Coke advertisement on the porch post that morning and it read all of twenty degrees. I’d just never seen a woman dressed like that before, and I was somewhat at a loss for words. The woman stuck out her hand before I could say anything.
“Hi, I’m Cameron Mason…from across the road. I know it’s early, but would you know anything about electricity?”
Her voice was sort of a low alto that would have been sexy if she hadn’t been dressed like a lumberjack.
As I shook her mittened hand, I said, “Hi, I’m Ted Rork and I used to be an electrical engineer, so yes, I do. What’s the problem?”
“I called to have them connect the power yesterday and they said they would, but I don’t have any in the house. I called them on my cell phone when I found that out, but they were closed. Without electricity, the furnace won’t run, so I spent the night dressed like this and trying not to freeze to death. Could you come see if they really did hook me up?”
Even dressed like she was, Cameron was starting to shiver. I wanted to be neighborly and help her out. I also wanted to eat my breakfast first.
“Sure, just as soon as I finish my breakfast. If you don’t have electricity, you probably haven’t eaten anything either. Would you like to come in and warm up with some coffee and a plate of bacon and eggs?”
“Oh, God, that would be wonderful.”
An hour later, she had taken off the coat, hat, mittens, and coveralls, and was sitting at my kitchen table finishing a cup of coffee. She took a sip, put the cup down, and smiled.
“Thanks so much for letting me get warm and for breakfast. Even with all those clothes on, I was so cold I couldn’t sleep very well and the stove is electric so I’d have had cold cereal for breakfast. That would have made me even colder.”
That low alto voice now fit the woman seated across from me, and even if it hadn’t been for the voice, she would still have been a desirable woman. She was a brunette with hair that framed a very pretty face and then draped gracefully over the blue plaid shirt she wore. I’d watched as she took off the coveralls. Her hips swelled from a full but not fat waist to fill out her jeans nicely, and the way her breasts pushed out the top of her shirt told me she was nicely endowed if not fairly large. Her hands were delicate, and her nails were cut short. I put down my coffee cup.
“Well, that’s what neighbors are for. I guess you bought the old Meger place, so that’s what we’ll be.”
“Oh, I didn’t buy it. It was willed to me. Wilson Meger was my grandfather and when he died last spring, his will said I got his farm. I came out to see it a month later and decided it was livable. It took me this long to sell my house and get myself moved out here.”
“That sounds like my story. My Grandpa Jonas…Jonas Rork…willed me this place too. I decided to slow down my life and give farming a try. Is that what you’re planning?”
“No, not farming. I love horses, always have, but I could never have one in the city. This place is big enough for a few horses and there are woods to ride through. I make my living as a writer, and I figured I’d have plenty of time to write and get lots of ideas here as well."
“What do you write about?”
“You know those Gothic romance novels you see at the bookstores? The rich land baron falls in love with the peasant girl, they have fantastic sex and then get married and live happily ever after? I have seventeen published so far.”
“Well, I’ve seen them, but I’ve never read one.”
“They’re mostly for women, although I have gotten some fan mail from a few men. A lot of women like to fantasize about things like that, so I give them that fantasy.”
“They’re sort of my fantasies too. It’s fun to write them and put myself in the character of the peasant girl. It’s like creating my own little world to live in.”
“Well, I guess the country is as good a place as any to create that world in. I hope it works for you.”
“Oh, it will, just as soon as I get some electricity. My laptop battery died after an hour last night.”
“Well, if you’re done with your coffee, let’s go have a look and see what’s wrong.”
I’d never been inside Wilson’s house before. It was small, just a kitchen, living room, and one bedroom that had had one section walled off for a bathroom. The furnishings were about like what I had from Grandpa and Grandma – a couch that looked hardly used, a chair by the propane heating stove that looked like it had been used a lot and one book case. The kitchen had a refrigerator that looked to be relatively new and a range that also looked pretty new. The kitchen table was small with two chairs, and when I looked at it closely, I was pretty sure Wilson had made the table and chairs himself. They weren’t crudely made by any means. They just had that look that can’t be replicated by machine tools.
I found the electrical entrance, if you could call it that, behind the kitchen door. It was an ancient fuse panel that was probably the one installed when the house was originally wired. I’d taken the precaution of bringing my meter with me, but I didn’t need it. The main fuses were those that were installed in a phenolic block that could be pulled out of the panel. That block had been pulled out and sat on top of the fuse box.
I did check the power on the mains coming in to the box and found everything to be right, then I plugged the fuse block into the panel. There were no sparks or smoke and I heard the compressor in the refrigerator start, so that fixed Cameron’s problem. I asked her to try the kitchen light, and when it came on, Cameron clapped her hands.
“Oh, wow, finally. I just wish I’d known it was that simple.”
“Yeah, it’s a pretty simple panel. I don’t see any extra fuses anywhere, so you should probably get some. I’ll write down the numbers for you if you have a pen and some paper. When the weather warms up, you might consider replacing this old fuse box with a circuit breaker panel. They’re a lot easier to use and they never need replacement fuses.”
“I think that’s a great idea. I don’t like the idea of messing around with electricity. Thanks so much for coming over. Can I do something for you in return…like maybe fix lunch? I bought some food in town and thankfully it was cold enough I didn’t need to worry about not having a refrigerator that worked. If the stove works, how about I fix us a hamburger? I have some chips to go with it.”
All I had to do that day was split some more firewood for my fireplace, and that could wait.
“I think that would be great. What time?”
Cameron looked at her watch.
“It’s a little after ten now. Why don’t you come back about a quarter to twelve? The house should be warmed up by then and I’ll have everything ready.”
It felt a little odd to be shaving at eleven, especially so since I’d shaved just yesterday. About once a week was my shaving schedule. I didn’t mind the bristle and there was nobody to see me except me…until now. No, I wasn’t trying to make a good impression that would lead to something more. I just thought it might be better if my neighbor didn’t think I was a slob. I also changed out of my normal work clothes to clean jeans and a red flannel shirt.
At twenty of twelve, I walked across the gravel road and up the lane to Cameron’s house. She answered the door on my second knock. Evidently she didn’t care about first impressions much. She hadn’t changed from the jeans and blue plaid shirt. It did look like she’d brushed or combed her hair though. She grinned as she opened the door wide.
“Hi Ted. Come on in. The burgers will be done in a couple of minutes.”
Cameron’s hamburgers were pretty good. Her conversation was both fun and interesting. I’d been wondering about her since that morning, and as rude as it sounds I did a little prying by saying I didn’t know Wilson had any children. Cameron just laughed.
“He didn’t, at least none that he would admit to until he died, but Grandma said he was Mom’s father. The way I heard it from Mom, he and Grandma were sort of like the hippies in California. Grandpa had some money from his dad, and he bought this place. They were going to live off the land and maybe invite some other people to start a commune.
“I take it the commune never happened. He and Grandma lived here for a couple of years and raised all their food. They had a big garden, goats for milk and chickens for eggs and meat, and they sold some of their vegetables and eggs at the farmer’s market in Darden for money to pay their taxes. Grandpa was happy, and Grandma was too for that first two years. Then things started going down hill.
“Grandma wanted to start selling some more of their vegetables and eggs so they could buy a washer and dryer. Grandpa said that was just caving into the system and he wouldn’t have it. Grandma said it wasn’t caving in if they only spent the money on things they really needed, and they really needed a washer and dryer. She’d been washing all their clothes by hand and hanging them up outside to dry. Grandpa said the land would provide all they needed if they worked hard enough.
“That led to some arguments, and those arguments convinced Grandma she didn’t want to live with Grandpa anymore. They’d never married, so there were no legal things to stop her from leaving. She moved back home with her parents and got a job as a cashier in the dime store in Mitchell. It was a month after that she found out she was pregnant with Mom.
“She told Grandpa he was going to be a father, but he didn’t believe that and didn’t want to have anything to do with a child. Back then there was no DNA testing to prove paternity, so Grandma raised Mom by herself for two years. Then she married the manager of the dime store.
Mom married her high school sweetheart a year after they graduated. They had me about two years later, and Mom took me to see Grandpa when I was three. I don’t really remember seeing him then, but Mom said he grinned when he saw me and said I was a cute little girl she should be proud of.
“I didn’t see him much after that. He did come to my high school graduation, but he pretty much stayed out here by himself and lived life like he and Grandma started to. He was kind of odd that way, or so I thought when I was growing up. It didn’t seem right that he didn’t want a television or even a radio, or that he never bought anything unless he absolutely had to.
“I didn’t think he thought much about me until he died. It was a shock to learn that he’d left me this place. In his will, he said I could finally have the horses I always wanted. I know I probably told him about wanting horses at one time or another, but I didn’t think he’d remember like he did. I guess he was a different man than I always thought he was. Did you know him?’’
“No, not really. I don’t think anybody did. He’d come over to help Grandpa sometimes when I was here. He never said much. He just worked until the work was done and then went home. I guess he wasn’t the man I though he was either.”
“Well, I’m glad he remembered me. I think I’m going to like it out here. It’s so peaceful. I’ll be glad when it warms up though. This cold weather makes me shiver even with the furnace going.”
I went home a little later, but as I ate my dinner that night – scrambled eggs and hash browns – I thought a lot about Cameron. She was a different kind of woman and I thought maybe she’d inherited some of her grandma’s hippy genes. Most women I knew would never even consider living in the country, much less living in the country by themselves. They liked being close to shopping and beauty parlors and entertainment. The closest shopping from where I lived was twenty minutes away in Darden and that was just a grocery store and a hardware store. Darden was too small to have a movie theater or a nightclub. All Darden had was Darlene’s Lounge, a country bar that was known for fistfights when the night got drunk enough.
Jane would never have wanted a life like Cameron was starting. She wasn’t all that hooked on shopping and beauty parlors, but she did like being able to do both when she wanted.
It was then I realized I was starting to compare Cameron to Jane, just like I’d compared all the other women I met to Jane. In this case, there really wasn’t any comparison. Jane was an engineer, Cameron was a writer. Jane loved the city. Cameron didn’t seem to. Jane was a beautiful woman who liked looking that way. Cameron wasn’t plain by any means, but she didn’t seem to do anything to help her appearance.
Jane wouldn’t have dreamed of venturing out anywhere without doing her hair and putting on makeup. Cameron apparently had combed her hair, but there wasn’t a sign of makeup on her face anywhere. I figured she was just comfortable with how she looked without it. I wasn’t sure how she’d come about having insulated coveralls and boots, but she’d worn them. Jane would have died of embarrassment had she worn them.
Talking with Cameron was interesting, though. I’d found out more about Wilson in the couple hours I’d spent with her than in all the years I’d seen him helping Grandpa. That conversation had cleared up most of the questions I’d had over the years about Wilson and why he lived like he did.
Cameron was interesting for another reason as well. I’d never known a writer, but I’d always figured them for the type that’s pretty odd, stays home hunched over a computer keyboard and never does anything else. Cameron didn’t seem to be like that at all. She wasn’t odd by any means, well, unless you consider it odd for a woman to wear insulated coveralls. Cameron was pretty much like most of the other women I knew. She had a sense of humor and seemed pretty intelligent. I was looking forward to getting to know her better when the weather warmed up.
I didn’t have to wait until spring. A week later, she knocked on my door about noon, and grinned when I opened it.
“Hi, Ted. Can I bother you again?”
She just had on a coat today, a normal coat that stopped at her waist. Below that, she was wearing jeans that hugged a very feminine set of hips and slender legs. The sultry alto voice stirred something I hadn’t felt in a long time.
“Sure. I’m not busy. What’s the problem?”
“Well, I bought a horse but I’ll have to board him until I know if my barn needs anything fixed. Could you come look at it?”
As I stood inside the small barn and looked around, I gained another measure of respect for Wilson. There wasn’t a stick of commercial lumber anywhere in the place. The barn was constructed like barns used to be with logs for posts and beams. All these had been squared where needed and then mortised and pegged together by hand. The roof was of split shakes of cedar nailed over purlins that spanned the log rafters. It was a small barn, just four small stalls and a feedway, but it must have taken him over a year to build by himself.
There were two stories to the barn, the main stalls below and a haymow above. I climbed the ladder to the haymow to look for roof leaks, but didn’t see any. What I did see was a hay trolley bolted to the ridge beam and the rope coiled up on the floor next to the door in the end of the barn by the drive.
Once I came back down, I checked all the posts and they all seemed sound. It was pretty rough, but the barn seemed to be all right structurally. That’s what I told Cameron. She grinned again.
“Well, that makes me feel good. After I bought the horse, I started thinking about how much it was going to cost to build a new barn if I had to do that. Now I won’t have to.”
“I’m no carpenter, but it looks fine to me. You’ll need some hay and feed though. I have a little hay left from Grandpa’s last cutting. It’s only about a year old, so it should still be good. Since I don’t have any cattle yet, it’s just going to waste. Would you like to have it?”
Cameron grinned again. I was starting to like seeing that grin.
“Wow, I sure would, but how would we get it from your barn to mine?”
“Well, you have a truck. It won’t haul many bales at a time, but we can move it that way. There’s a hay trolley in the barn we can use to lift the bales up there if I can remember how one works.”
“That seems like a lot of work for two people. Could I just get a truckload whenever I need it and keep it in one of the stalls I’m not using?”
If my reading was right, a horse would eat a bale of hay every three days or so. I’d be seeing Cameron about once a week unless she stacked her truck full.
She’d been watching me while I was thinking, and when I looked at her she smiled.
“I could fix dinner for you when I come to get the hay if that helps.”
I shook my head.
“You don’t have to do that. Like I said, the hay is just going to waste.”
“Well, I’d feel better about it if you’d let me fix your dinner. Maybe I could get the first load this Saturday? That’ll give me time to get some bedding for my horse and some food for us.”
I wasn’t sure I wanted to see anybody every Saturday, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell Cameron no. I wasn’t sure why, but I couldn’t.
“OK, Saturday morning about ten all right with you?”
That Saturday morning right after breakfast, I went out to my barn. Grandpa had a hay trolley too, and there it was, but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember how to use it. Since Cameron wouldn’t be able to haul many bales in her truck, it was easier to just drop three down through the opening over the feedway. The string ties on one broke when it hit the floor, so I dropped another. That one held.
A little before ten, Cameron drove her pickup up to my house. I’d been watching for her and came out as she was getting out of her truck. I said I had her hay ready if she’d drive back to my barn.
I loaded the three bales into her truck while Cameron explored my barn. When I went back inside to tell her she was loaded, she was gathering up the hay from the bale that had broken. I said she didn’t need to do that.
“Cameron, I’ll clean that up later. If you want another bale, I’ll throw one down and load it for you.”
She shook her head.
“No. There’s nothing wrong with this hay and it would be a shame to just throw it outside. I’ll take it with me.”
She drove back to her house about fifteen minutes later, and said she’d have dinner ready about six.
And so started my weekly meeting with Cameron. Her horse, a small bay quarterhorse gelding named Rowdy, seemed to go through about three bales a week, so that’s how many Cameron took. After that first week, I started riding to her house and unloading the bales for her. Then, I’d come home, shower, shave and get ready for dinner.
Cameron’s cooking was pretty good. I wasn’t particularly fond of her spaghetti and meatballs at first, after a few meals of them, they started tasting pretty good. I found out just being with her was better than her food. I was starting to like being with Cameron a lot and that worried me a little. It was like I was somehow cheating on Jane although that wasn’t either possible or logical.
I don’t really remember when the touching started, but I remember the odd feeling that I had the first time. When Cameron would say something to me, she’d touch my arm. If she was thanking me for something, that touch would turn into her stroking up and down my arm. When I fixed her water pump one afternoon, that stroking became a hug that pressed her breasts into my chest.
Cameron evidently realized how close we were right after she hugged me, because she backed up and looked at me.
“I’m sorry for that, but I’m so happy. Now I can stop buying bottled water and I can take a bath again. I really like my bath every night.”
I wasn’t sorry she’d hugged me, but I was still leery of the feelings that caused. It was like when Jane had done the same thing, except this wasn’t Jane and the hug was just a friendly hug that shouldn’t have made me wish it had lasted longer. When I thought about it some more, though, it hadn’t really been just a friendly hug. In my experience, when a woman gives a man a friendly hug, she leans forward so her breasts don’t come in contact with his chest much. Cameron hadn’t even tried to do that. I started thinking maybe it was a little more than a friendly hug and surprised myself by hoping it was.
We’d make small talk while we ate those dinners. Cameron wanted some chickens so we talked a lot about chickens for a couple of weeks. We talked about her horse and how she was going to take rides around her property once the weather warmed up enough. We also talked about her writing.
The fifth Saturday, Cameron said her publisher had been after her to write a new novel and that she had one started. I asked her what it was going to be about, but she wouldn’t tell me. She said she was going to write it first and then let me read it.
Every Saturday for the next two months, I asked about her novel, and her answer was always, “it’s coming along nicely”, or “I think my readers are really going to like this one”. She never gave me even a hint about the topic.
The last Saturday in April, Cameron came over to get her hay. After I had her loaded, she told me she’d let me read what she’d written after dinner that evening.
I spent two hours after dinner reading page after page of text on her computer screen while Cameron sat quietly and watched.
The story wasn’t what I thought Gothic romance novels were about. There were no princes or kings or peasant women. The story was about a girl who inherits a small estate and moves from the city to the country. She meets the man who owns the estate across the lane and likes him.
Since she doesn’t know anything about running an estate, the neighbor helps her learn how and what has to be done. After a while, she decides she loves him. She doesn’t know if he feels the same way, but she can’t keep it to herself any longer. When she confesses she thinks she’s in love with him, he says they’ve just been together a lot and that’s why she feels like she does.
She says it isn’t just that and that she really loves him. He just says since she knows what to do now, they should stop seeing each other. The next chapter is about how terrible and alone they both feel for the next month.
By then, I’d figured out they would get back together and everything would work out. When I scrolled down the screen to read how that happened, there was a chapter heading for the next chapter, but no text. I looked up at Cameron.
“Cameron, I must have done something wrong. There doesn’t seem to be any thing written for Chapter ten. I hope I didn’t erase it somehow.”
“You didn’t erase anything. I just don’t know how to end it yet. I was sort of hoping you’d help me out with that.”
“I’m no writer. What makes you think I’d be able to help?”
Cameron stood up from her sofa and walked over to the table where I sat. I felt her rest her hand on my shoulder.
“In all my novels, the girl and the guy think they love each other, but then they split up for some reason. In the last chapter, they get back together because they can’t stand being apart any longer. They have great sex and then live happily ever after. The part I’m missing is knowing if he really feels anything for her…and then what comes next.”
“Well, you’re the writer. Can’t you make him realize he loves her?”
“Yes, I could…if it was just any other story, but this one is harder. He doesn’t seem to understand how she feels about him even though she’s tried and tried to show him. I don’t know how to make him realize she wants him if he can’t see that. I just thought since you’re a man, if you put yourself in his situation and told me what he might be thinking I could finish it. I’ve tried and tried to figure out how to make him realize she loves him but …”
Cameron didn’t finish that sentence, but the look on her face did. Was it possible she really felt that way about me? When I thought back over the past several weeks, thought about the way she always smiled at me, thought about the way she’d started touching me, thought about that hug, I realized she’d been giving me clues all along.
I’d ignored the clues because I was ignoring my own feelings, the same feelings I’d locked away after Jane. Those feelings had come out from time to time, but I’d always managed to stuff them back in. Now, they came rushing out and I didn’t want to put them back.
I smiled at Cameron.
“If I was in his situation, I’d stop being the dumb-ass he’s being and see what she’s been doing all along. Then, I’d tell her I’d been a fool and that I couldn’t live without her.”
“Are you sure that’s what he’d do? I mean, it seems like a pretty big change for him to do that. Would my readers believe he was being honest with her?”
I stood up from the table, turned to Cameron, and put my arms around her.
“If he did this, would that help them believe.”
I saw a tear trickle down Cameron’s cheek. She wiped it away and then smiled a little.
“It would probably help some. What should I have him do next so she really believes him?”
“Oh, maybe this.”
I kissed Cameron gently, just a short kiss on her soft lips. When I pulled away, she grinned.
“I think she’d believe more if he let her put her arms around his neck and if the kiss lasted longer.”
I grinned back and lifted her arms to my neck.
“I guess we could see.”
Cameron melted her body into mine that time, and our kiss did last longer. It lasted long enough Cameron purred a little moan into my mouth before she pulled gently away.
“I think she might believe him a little more after that, but I’m not sure it’s enough.”
“Well then, what would be enough to make her really believe?”
Cameron looked at me shyly.
“In all my stories, they make love. I think if he made love to her, that would make her believe him.”
When I held Cameron in my arms, she was a small, delicate woman. When I undressed her in her bedroom, she became an erotic dream. Her breasts were soft, round, and stood proudly from her chest. Her hips were the wider hips of a sensuous woman. The tuft of dark brown hair on her mound was trimmed short enough I could see her pouting lips and the line where they separated. When I climbed into bed with her, she slipped a satin thigh over mine, pressed her breasts into my chest and then kissed me.
Everything felt right to me when her little tongue wormed its way into my mouth and sent electric shocks down my spine. It felt more right when she stroked down my belly, found my stiffening cock, and closed her small, soft fingers around the shaft.
It felt right to cup the breast I could reach and then lightly stroke the stiff nipple I found with my fingertips. Cameron's little moan felt right too. So did the soft lips I found nestled in the crinkly hair between the smooth thighs she opened at my touch.
When I stroked those soft lips, Cameron eased her mouth from mine.
“I think she’d start to believe him if he did all this, but she’d want more.”
With that, Cameron moved her body up mine enough her breast was touching my face. It was easy to close my lips around her rubbery nipple and suck gently.
“I know she’d start to believe him now.”
She moaned again, then rocked her body against mine when I slipped my fingertip between her silky soft lips and stroked the inner lips I found there. She moaned again when I found her entrance and eased a finger in until I felt resistance. I also found a slippery wetness there, a slippery wetness that coated my fingertip when I slipped it back out and then eased the way as I pushed it back in. As that finger went in, Cameron began stroking my cock again.
I’m not really sure how long we lay there just exciting each other. It didn’t seem like a long time though. One minute I was mouthing Cameron’s nipple and sliding my finger from her entrance up to her clit and then back down while she did some wonderful things to my rigid cock. The next, she started rocking her hips into my hand, then pressed her open mouth to mine. She gasped when my fingertip touched beside her clit, and then started moving her body down. She broke the kiss and whispered, “take me just like this”.
She spread her thighs a little wider and pulled herself a little more on top of me. I felt my cock head touching soft hair and reached around her hips to guide it into her entrance. Cameron sighed when it slipped between her lips, then moaned as I pushed it through those lips until I felt a little resistance. I pulled back out a little and then pushed in again.
Cameron did her best to push back over my cock. She couldn’t do much because of her position, but after that push, my cock slipped past the resistance and into a wet warmth that made me thrust up. As the base of my cock spread Cameron’s lips, she moaned and rocked her body into me. I held her there with my hands on her hips as I started to slowly stroke my cock in and out of her satin passage.
Cameron had slid down in order for my cock to reach, and that put her breast out of reach of my mouth. She fixed that by lifting her breast up and poking her nipple into my face. When I wrapped my lips around it and pinched gently, Cameron gasped and her body jerked into my thrust. I pinched again and got the same little gasp and jerk. When I sucked gently, Cameron moaned and started rocking her hips into each of my thrusts.
Her little moans became louder as time went on, and the rocking of her hips into my stroking cock became faster, then faster still. I figured she was getting close and that got me closer too. I squeezed her soft cheeks in my hands, then separated them a little and stroked down the separation. Cameron shivered, then moaned, and I felt her passage contract around my cock.
“Oh God, don’t stop…”, she murmured.
If we’d just been having sex, I could have stopped and let her ease back down a little from the impending orgasm, but we weren’t just having sex. As Cameron had said about her stories, we were making love, showing each other how we really felt about each other. I couldn’t have stopped my strokes any more than I could have stopped the feelings that were racing through my mind.
It just felt like I was meant to have Cameron laying half on top of me and to have my stroking cock make her body tense and then shudder as the waves of pleasure raced through us both. It just felt like she was meant to be holding her breast so I could nibble at her nipple and cause her to moan. It just felt like this was something meant to be and I didn’t want it to end.
End it did, though. Cameron began to pant and her body began writhe over my stroking cock. She groaned and moved her hips from side to side, then gasped and started to pant harder. I felt her passage begin to contract at the same time she arched her back and drove herself over my cock. There was no way I could hold out any longer, and just as Cameron cried out and began rapidly rocking her hips, my cock erupted in a flow of seed that splashed deep inside her.
She cried out over and over as the orgasm swept her away, and the contractions around my spurting cock only made my own orgasm that much more intense. By the time I’d shot my seed into Cameron three more times, I was gasping as hard as she was. With a final little mewing cry, Cameron pulled her nipple from my mouth, put her arm around my back, and nestled her face against my shoulder. Her breath as she whispered sent little chills down my spine.
“I think she’d believe him after something like this.”
I stroked Cameron’s back and then squeezed her hips. She caught her breath and I felt her rock her body down over my cock as her passage tightened again.
“If she doesn’t believe him, I don’t know what else he could do to convince her. I’m pretty sure he’s convinced himself he loves her.”
Cameron whispered, “maybe if they stayed like this for a while, it would help.”
Scientists who study such things say it’s a normal male trait to fall asleep after sex. I guess I’m no exception to that rule. The last thing I remember about that night is Cameron’s soft breasts pressed against my chest and her soft thigh draped over mine.
I woke up the next morning with Cameron still in that position, though she’d moved away during the night sometime because we were covered by the sheet and blanket. When I opened my eyes, she smiled at me.
“I know how to end my book now.”
“Well, that’s good. Do they live happily ever after?”
“I hope they will. She wants to do that, but it all depends on him.”
“What would he have to do to tell her he wants that too?”
Cameron snuggled up to me a little tighter and stroked my cheek.
“I think if he made love to her again, that would tell her what she wants to hear.”
A month later, Cameron’s new book hit the shelves in grocery and book stores. Her publisher was thrilled at the success and said she should start another one.
Also a month later, and after several more attempts on my part to show her I really did want to live happily ever after, I proposed to Cameron. She had tears in her eyes when I put the ring on her finger, and once it was on, she kissed me until I had to stop her in order to breathe. We were married a month after that by the Justice of the Peace in Darden.
We live in my house. We decided to live there because Cameron told me she’d like to have a family someday if I do too, and her house only has one bedroom. We haven’t taken that step yet. Cameron wants to be just us for a while and I think that’s a good idea.
Right now, she’s writing another one of her novels. I don’t know what it’s about because she won’t tell me and she locks the manuscript in her desk every night when she finishes. She says when its done she’ll let me read it. The last time she did that, it was because she wanted to tell me something. She seems to like telling me some things that way. I guess I’ll find out what’s on her mind when she tells me she’s done..
I was right about her inheriting some of her grandmother’s hippie genes. Our first spring together, Cameron wanted me to plow up a garden, so I bought a tiller and tilled up the half acre Grandma always used. She froze twenty quarts of broccoli and the green beans yielded enough to feed us a couple meals a week with enough left over to feed us over the winter once she canned them. When the tomatoes got ripe, she canned thirty quarts of juice and another twenty quarts of whole tomatoes.
That spring, I bought two steer calves and six bred angus cows. I don’t know if I’ll make any money with them, but its really great to watch them grazing away, and at least we’ll have all the steaks, roasts, and hamburger we can eat. I had a local farmer plant orchard grass on half the farm and then mow and bale it so I’d have hay for the winter.
I got enough hay to keep the cattle and Rowdy over two winters, so Cameron hinted maybe we should get another horse so we could take rides together. Skeeter is another quarter horse gelding, and once he and Rowdy got things sorted out, they became best buddies. If you see one, the other won’t be far away.
The two hundred chicks I bought at the same time show more promise. I talked with the grocery store manager in Darden, and he said he has trouble getting enough organically grown eggs. I asked if he needed any type of certification or inspection certificate to prove they’re organic and he said no, the chickens just have to be raised without any antibiotics and they can’t be caged. I’d never done either with my chickens. Organic eggs sell for about three times what normal eggs do, so now I’m delivering eggs to the grocery store and collecting double my costs.
It’s back to being winter now, so after I feed and water the chickens, cattle, and horses and gather, wash and pack the eggs, I’ll split some more wood for the fireplace. That takes most of the morning. In the afternoon, I sit in Grandpa’s old chair and read more about farming while Cameron writes.
Last night, I fired up the fireplace, poured two glasses of wine, and sat on the couch with Cameron. She snuggled up to my side and told me she’d hit a tough spot in her latest novel.
“I’m sort of stuck. He wants to show her that he loves her, but he doesn’t know how. Since you’re a man, what would you be thinking and how would you show her?”
“Well, I’d be thinking how beautiful she is and how much I care for her. Then, I’d probably tell her that and kiss her.”
Cameron ran her fingertip down my chest.
“I think she’d need more than a kiss to convince her.”
“How much more.”
Cameron’s fingertip went lower and stroked over my belly, then went lower still and stroked the front of my jeans.
“Oh, a lot more.”
I put my arms around Cameron.
“Like holding her really tight for a while?”
“More than that.”
I cupped her breast and squeezed gently.
“Mmm…it’s a start. I wonder how it ends though.”
“Well, he’d undress her and then lay her on his bed, and then make love to her. Would she like that?”
“Mmm…she’s wanted him to do that all day…I mean…for a long time. How would he undress her?”
“Well, he’d take off her top first, I expect, and then…”
Well, I have to pack up my eggs and take them into Darden. I make deliveries every day in summer, but in winter, my hens don’t lay quite as many eggs so it ends up being every other day. Cameron wants me to pick up a few groceries while I'm there, so I’ll do that too.
Maybe tonight, she’ll still be having trouble with her novel. She seems to have that problem about every other night. Helping her fix that problem is really great. I never thought being married to a writer would be very exciting, but it is.