I started the truck and pulled it up along side the pump house where the air compressor lived. One of the big, rear tires had a slow leak and was down to about 35 pounds. I started the compressor and waited a minute for the air to build up, filled the tire to 85 pounds and moved around to check the other one. It was OK.
Halfway down the mountain I passed Roland and Trish on their way up. I honked and Roland waved. The bus had been on time. There was a truck ahead of me at the Standpipe. Ours wasn’t the only shallow well to have gone dry that summer. I waited about ten minutes then pulled under the well’s standpipe. There was a 2-inch fire hose hanging from the valve. I stood on the truck bed and held the hose tight as I turned on the water. It was very good artisan water from a deep aquifer. Many of the shallow wells around had suspect water with the taste of iron. Iron Mountain was only a dozen miles away. In about 15 minutes I was done and drove off to the gas station to fill the tank. Gas prices had nearly doubled after ’74 winter’s Arab oil embargo and the three gallons per trip was putting a strain on our ever-thinner wallets.
Steve, the station owner asked, “What’re you doing with all that water? You’re in here twice a week.”
“Vegetable garden,” I said. Knowing that any further explanation was unnecessary.
“What’re you doin’ for the house?”
“Well, haulin’ for that too.” I drawled, matching the rhythm of Steve’s speech. “We’re trying to limit the house to 20 gallon a day. We’re using the old outhouse again.”
“As I recall, the old Mitchell place has a weir on the crick and a cistern for the house,” Steve said as he pulled the gas cap and stuck the nozzle in the tank.
Steve was one of many Tar Heels who had settled in the area during WWII. Most had gotten jobs in the shipyards but kept to their country ways, living in the surrounding foothills. They were good at fending for themselves. They heated and cooked with wood. They fished. They made whiskey and hunted bears with their dogs for sport and deer for food. They trusted few but each other— certainly none of the hippies who had filtered out of Seattle and San Francisco over the past decade or so.
But Roland and I were different, according to Steve. Despite our shaggy appearance, It was clear we weren’t California hippies.
“You guys seen some shit. I can tell. And you ain’t poor, white trash neither,” Steve had said between pool shots last winter at the DV Tavern. “Why do yo hang out with them people?” he said squeaking the chalk on the end of his pool cue.
“Heard you run the table last Friday night at the Silver Dollar. You shouldn’t a done that. Now, none of the loggers’ll bet against you and I know you need the money. Where’d you learn to shoot like that?”
“Well there’s always The Log Tav,” I offered.
“Naw. Word gets around. All those gyppos know each other. Where’d you say you learned to shoot pool?”