“Someone’s here,” says the Bearded One, looking up from his breakfast Coke and the newspaper. It’s 10am on another precious clear, warm day at the very tail end of summer. The Bearded One slept in, nursing his sore muscles from mixing cement in his manic push before the fall rains start.
“It’s Edeltraut!” I say. Our 70ish neighbor up the road waves to us through the window and we’re both delighted. Edeltraut, pronounced A-dul-trout, is a small woman with rosy cheeks and direct brown eyes who grew up in Germany and came to America in the 1950s with her sister. She and her husband have lived here on the road for two years. Her German accent has softened over the years.
“I should haf called,” she says. She is wearing a cheery pants-and-sweater outfit and white clogs. She carries a red notebook and is clearly distressed.
“Come in!” we say in unison. We love Edeltraut. The Bearded One offers her a chair at the kitchen table and I offer her a cup of coffee.
She accepts and sits, placing the notebook on the table in front of her. She means business. “I’m just so embarrassed,” she says. “So ashamed. We haven’t written the letter.”
Last spring Edeltraut and her husband volunteered to be the new road managers, bless them. We’re just six years out from the Paving War where there were hard feelings, but most everyone is past it now. Still, having new neighbors in the job helps. We tell her that.
“If vee can’t get along in our families and neighborhoods,” she says softly, “how can vee get along as a vorld?”
We nod our agreement and then Edeltraut lays both of her hands on the notebook. She wants to do a good job, she says vehemently, but her husband is rebuilding their daughter’s old 1965 Mustang — “every little rusty screw!” It’s all he thinks about, and they haven’t devoted the time and focus to the letter that they should have. She is sorry and needs help.
The road manager’s job is to hire a road-work company to grade and gravel, and to try and collect $120 each from the 25 or so resident households to pay for it. It’s been so dry this year that the wash-boarding — the deep regular waves in the road caused by bouncing car suspension — is the worst since we’ve been here.
We fill the potholes, a separate chore altogether. So we have the current mailing list and offered to help early on, back before the Mustang project.
I feel Edeltraut’s frustration. I, too, have an occasionally obsessed, very creative husband who has his own project blocking out awareness of all other things, namely rebuilding Goat Mountain. The goats need something rough and hard to keep their hooves filed down, and the Bearded One’s solution is a 3-foot-high hill covered deep with cement and then embedded with gravel.
He heaped dirt and rocks between two stumps to make the skeleton. It’s a great design, but it requires dozens of 60-pound sacks of cement, all of which the Bearded One unloads and hauls and unloads again with his 57-year-old body.
I tried to hire Jonah, Momma Goose’s son, and most likely the strongest man on the road, to help. He wasn’t home, though. He just got hired again up in Seattle, so I chatted with his dad Brooklyn Man about the chicks. They are our poultry mentors, and we just split an order of Cornish fryer chicks that are now 3 weeks old. He tells me they’ve lost 5 out of 60, one crushed early on, the others just died. We’ve still just lost one. Momma Goose is working lots of hours at her outside job, he says.
Everyone is overdoing it, even me. It’s harvest week and when I’m not digging potatoes and onions, I’m jamming and drying. In fact, the kitchen is all set up for peach plum jam making today.
Edeltraut looks hopelessly at the master address list, a color-coded switchboard of symbols and connecting lines, and says, “I write vit an accent.”
The Bearded One and I volunteer to address the envelopes and draft a letter and get both into her mailbox the next day.
Which we do. And the Bearded One agrees to spread the remaining cement hauling out over hours if not days. So Goat Mountain’s still not finished three days later, Saturday, when Edeltraut’s husband stops by to thank us. He’ll mail the road letter out on Monday, he says, and by the way — a twinkle in his blue eyes now — he took the pan off the Mustang this week!
I have no idea what he’s talking about, not sure why there was a pan on the Mustang to start with.