Ever and Always
Chapter 16: Let's Volunteer- 2022

Copyright© 2015 by Banadin

"I was waiting for you to come out of the computer Dear," she smiled. "I have made a list of the criteria we had talked about and added several of my own; would you like to see it?"

"Darling I would love to see anything that helps sort this out." Marsha's list was very short; a) not within walking distance of a large city 'at least twenty-five miles'; b) near a small community; c) viable farm land available, not subjected to drought; d) not near a hard-core survivalist area; e) no hard winters, this was a Marsha add on.

Marsha handed Rick the list and then picked up from the floor a copy of a National Geographic road atlas.

"Where did that come from," inquired Rick.

"I picked it up yesterday at Barnes and Noble."

"I didn't even know you went out."

"Well you have been in that computer for the better part of the week, and I got tired of sitting around. I did not think you would miss me."

Marsha said the last with a grin, but Rick got the idea that he'd better start paying some attention to Marsha.

Rick perused the list while Marsha flipped some pages open on the Atlas.

"Marsha you have captured our thoughts well, and I whole heartedly agree with no hard winters."

Rick actually was neutral on the hard winter's requirement, but he knew he had some ground to make up with Marsha. Besides the more he thought about it, he wasn't really a fan of snow and cold.

The Atlas had an annual snowfall map; it revealed that to have less than six inches a year of snow they would have to live on a line formed by the border of Virginia and North Carolina. It would extend across Tennessee and Arkansas dipping south diagonally across Oklahoma and Texas. It did not include the mountain country of Virginia.

The same area on the map had acceptable average rainfall except the necessary areas of Texas, and Oklahoma was smaller. The number of day's sunlight varied from 2400 to 3200 hundred hours a year, but the lower number was acceptable. This was what was considered the southeast portion of the United States.

They ruled out Florida because of the water shortages brought on by population pressure. This would only get worse according to their theory.

The entire eastern Seaboard was ruled out by population.

Texas and Oklahoma ruled out by their concern for water. For some reason, they were not comfortable with those states in the Deep South, there was a cultural difference. Not that they had a problem with the culture, just could they move there and fit in before bad times started. Especially when they thought, those hard times were only five years away.

Rightly or wrongly, this left them Tennessee and Arkansas which they knew little about.

As they winnowed the states down Rick remembered a web site he had visited. It was a survivalist site that listed what they thought were the best places in the United States to live. What was interesting was that it considered many of their criteria.

The web site's goal wasn't to find a place for a mountain fortress, but to locate a community where you could live. It showed two areas Mountain Home, Arkansas and Pikeville Tennessee. The land wasn't expensive as elsewhere.

Pikeville was more attractive because it was an hour away from Chattanooga with large city facilities while there was nothing near Mountain Home that would qualify as a metropolis. They wanted the best of both worlds. They wanted to be out, but not too far out.

This logic indicated that somewhere near Pikeville, Tennessee was their starting point. Rick used Google Earth to check out the lay of the land around Pikeville. After a half-hour of searching, he was excited.

"Marsha this looks ideal for our needs. The town is in a valley with limited access. The main road runs north and south up the valley. The valley dead ends about ten miles north of town as the two mountain ridges merge. There is a small road going north, but it looks like it would be easy to control access to the area.

There is a main road that cuts east and west at Pikeville and a few back roads over the ridges, but it is very limited access to that area. From the fields, I can see it is a good growing area. The number of ponds in the area revealed plenty of free-flowing water so maybe we could have a hydroelectric power generator.

Using a city data web site, he found that Pikeville's population had been dropping for years. It was now around fifteen hundred. There was also an imbalance in the sexes. There were nine hundred women, three hundred men and three hundred children. Most of the women were retired widows who had never left the area.

The average income was well below state levels. The only chain store in the area was a Tractor Supply, and it appeared to be on its way out. Land prices were well below the state average. If one had to depend on the area to make a living it was not good news. This was not a problem for Rick and Marsha. With their investments and recent increases, they were now worth forty million dollars.

After much discussion, they decided a trip to Pikeville might be in order. Rick made flight arrangements with Delta from Baltimore to Chattanooga, reserved a rental car with Hertz and made arrangements for three nights at the Coachman's Inn in Pikeville.

In the meantime, Marsha had performed her own Internet search and found several properties for sale in the area. She found a Century Twenty One realtor who worked out of a home office in Pikeville and made arrangements for her to show them some properties.

Marsha and Rick had not firmly decided what they wanted, other than it had to be more than four hundred acres for privacy, have some area that could be farmed, flowing water preferred and up close to one of the mountain ridges. From their price searches on available land, they felt that two million was a reasonable upper limit.

Their public reason for buying would be for a country retreat. The agent Hope Popule assured Marsha that there were at least half-dozen properties for sale that fit the description. As a matter of fact, there were several that weren't on the market currently but for the right price they could be.

On Monday June 20, 2022, Rick and Marsha flew from the Baltimore airport. Rick still insisted on calling it Friendship airport even though its name had been changed in 1972 to Baltimore/Washington National Airport. Somewhere in there it was also called Thurgood Marshall.

Most people called it BWI. They landed in Chattanooga a little before noon after changing planes in Atlanta. Everyone from the southeast knew if you were going to Hell you had to change in Atlanta.

By the time they retrieved their luggage and picked up their car from Hertz, they arrived in Pikeville a little after 3:00 in the afternoon. The drive was uneventful. The car drove itself with no drama. During the first few years of self- driving cars there had been some real incidents and many speculative stories, but now they were a fact of life.

Upon checking into the Coachman's Inn they asked where the restaurants were located. They were told that the Pikeville Family Restaurant wasn't only the best in town; it was the only one in town. The McDonald's closed three years ago, and Campbell's shortly thereafter.

The nice elderly looking lady behind the Inn's front desk told them they couldn't leave it too late as it closed at 6:00 pm during the week. It opened for breakfast at 5:30 am every day.

After freshening up and unpacking in their room, which apparently was last redecorated in Western style about 1950, they dressed casually and drove the three blocks up Main Street to the restaurant.

By this time, it was 5:00 o'clock so they weren't surprised to see the place half full when they opened the front door. They were surprised when a waitress doing double duty as the hostess said, "Hello strangers you just passing through?"

"No," said Rick, "We are looking for some land with the possibility of moving here and doing some light farming." This might have been the funniest thing in the world to say for everyone in hearing distance broke out laughing.

The waitress said with a smile, "You have never farmed before have you?"

Rick was wondering what he had got into as his comments passed along to those that were too far away to hear. As each group passed it along new laughter would break out. From the confused looks on their faces, the waitress who wore a badge which said Mary took pity.

"I did not mean to make fun of you but there is no such thing as light farming. If you are farming it is heavy dirty work most of the year." This was said in a thick Tennessee accent which they had to listen to very carefully. It was a pleasant sound, just hard for them to understand.

Once he got it Rick broke out laughing.

"You got me there," he grinned. "I guess I am a farmer wantabe."

Marsha chimed in, "I never said I wanted to be a farmer. I just agreed to live in the country."

Mary looked them up and down, "Oh my God. We have Green Acres here." This took the house down as many of them were old enough to remember the television show from the mid to late 1960's.

After this comment, Mary got serious and asked, "Two for dinner?"

"Yes ma'am," replied Rick. After getting them settled in a booth and taking their drink orders and a little more grief from Mary about Yankeefied unsweetened ice tea, they studied their menus.

They were relieved to see regular American food. They were getting a little concerned about where they were. After they ordered a hamburger and fries, they looked at the people around them. They seemed to be friendly and several even nodded and gave them a, "Hello Y'all."

After dinner, they took a drive up East Valley Road and while it was very pretty looking along the way they didn't know what they were looking at so they called it a day. Returning to the Coachman's Inn, they were glad to find that either the walls were very solid on the old facility or that there was no one on either side. While it was still early they went to bed with their E-readers and had a pleasant evening.

The next morning they had breakfast at the Pikeville Family Restaurant, but it was a much lower key meal. The place was busy, but they weren't picked out as strangers and joshed.

This was fine with Rick; he was never at his best when he first got up. Marsha normally had a better disposition in the morning, but was happy to sip her coffee as she woke up. They shared a copy of the Chattanooga Times-Free Press to get an idea of what was happening locally.

They did learn that there was no news out of Pikeville. This was a good thing as they wanted quiet and laid back.

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