Ever and Always
Chapter 23: Settling In – July 2022 to August 2023

Copyright© 2015 by Banadin

The next two weeks went by in a flash. The Rebel Home Builder's subcontracted crew cut and laid a rough road to the new house construction site. Test holes were dug at the construction site to establish exactly how far the bedrock extended.

The test did provide relief on one issue. It turned out that by shifting the proposed home site twenty yards north most of the basement could be dug out instead of blasted. One of the architect's concerns had been having the basement in a bowl blasted out of rock. This would have given drainage issues. There still would be a sump pump but it could be a standard pump, rather than one used for Alaskan gold mining.

The contractors were surprised when an independent crew came to install the safe vault, but they didn't ask many questions. This was good because Rick and Marsha weren't going to give many answers. It was obvious that it would hold items of great value, but they gave no hint of what it would be. If the workers knew what was buried under that excavator, there would be a hole in the yard in minutes.

The construction of the house took on a rhythm of its own for the next ten months. While Rick and Marsha paid attention to the details, they didn't make pests of themselves or let it consume their lives. They made many trips to Chattanooga looking for furniture and decorating ideas. Though he grumbled, Rick actually enjoyed this as it gave them a mission. It was a mission that bonded them ever closer together as they discussed their likes and dislikes.

Fortunately, their taste in design was very similar, but not surprising as they both came from a Middle American background of a conservative time. Even in something as simple as appliance colors they had common memories. The avocado green of the 1970's which was so chic then was now a cause for laughter.

This led to other old fads. When Rick found out that Marsha wore a mini-dress and Go-Go boots in the late 1960's he got all excited. That was one fashion that never should have gone out of style, at least according to Rick.

Rick also got to try out his new excavator on the ditch beside his property. It was fun and manly for the first quarter mile then it became mainly work, the last half mile was just work. He did get to meet people as they drove down the road. They waved the first time they saw him, the next time they would stop and introduce them-selves, and asked how much he charged. He counter offered, if they filled the tank, they could borrow the infernal device. Only one person took him up on his offer, Paul Kettler, who owned the property on the other side of the road. He had his son Paul Michael do the work! It turned out Mary who worked at the diner was Paul's wife.

They began to settle into their new area. It seemed strange to say they were going into town, and the town was little Pikeville. Going to the city was Chattanooga. The local newspaper was the Chattanooga news which very seldom had news from Pikeville.

The most reliable source for events was Mary at the diner. It was from her where they heard about the fireman's carnival. It was the local volunteer fire department's annual fund raiser.

They went to town the next Saturday to attend the carnival. They had never done any small-town events so didn't know what to expect. The first person they ran into was Hope their realtor. She almost ran to catch up with them.

"Hello there, it's nice to see you out enjoying yourselves. Everyone is talking about your house Marsha. I hear it is really going to be nice."

"Hello Hope," replied Marsha, "we have given it a lot of thought. It is going to be my dream house."

"Tell me all about it."

Rick left the two talking about the house and wandered the small area of the carnival. There were about eight rides, and ten games to take your money. Rick saw the town had an information booth in case someone didn't know what was going on locally.

He thought they could just have a sign up saying, "See Mary at the diner." Local clubs were selling fried chicken and catfish. The fire department had a hamburger and hot dog stand. They were also selling raffle tickets.

Rick wandered over see what was being raffled. It was an old Browning 725 Citori Grade 5 shotgun. The walnut stock was the most beautiful he had ever seen. He bought twenty of the twenty five dollar tickets.

As he was paying cash a voice behind him said, "You must really want that gun." Rick turned and saw from his uniform the local Fire Chief.

"Yeah it would be nice to have."

"Well good luck. We really need the money, but I don't think this will even save us."

"How so," asked Rick?

"The state has raised the standards for fire departments. We need to acquire another front line fire engine and replace our tanker. We also need a new brush truck and rescue unit. I don't see how we can ever raise that much cash; even buying used it will be close to six hundred thousand dollars.

If we don't do that we will lose our certification and local insurance rates will go through the roof. If it goes on too long the State Fire Marshal will pull our charter and not let us respond to fires."

"How much are you short?" Rick inquired.

"We have a little over two hundred thousand, so we need to raise four hundred, I just don't see it." The Chief chuckled and asked, "You don't happen to have a spare half million do you?"

Rick made a deal of pulling an empty pocket and showing he had no change."

"Well it didn't hurt to ask."

"No it didn't, you never know what might come through. By the way, I'm Rick King."

The Chief held out his hand and replied, Mathew Johnson, call me Matt."

"Nice to meet you Matt, now I had better find my wife."

"Okay and good luck on that shotgun."

"Thanks."

Marsha and Hope were right where he had left them, still talking about the house. He stood there for a minute, and they finally wound down.

He asked Hope, "I hear the fire department has a real problem."

"Yes they do, with the new regulations it is going to put us into the status of an unprotected region. We may not even be able to get insurance on our properties."

"What is going on?" asked Marsha. Hope and Rick brought her up to speed.

Marsha looked at Rick and he just gave her a small nod.

"I agree, let's go find the Fire Chief," she said.

"How do you think we should do this?" Rick asked.

"There is not a snow ball's chance of doing this anonymously in a town of this size. Let's just write a check and count it as a tax deduction."

Hope had been listening to this exchange looked back and forth, "Are you talking about donating a large sum to the fire department?"

"Yes, but let us write the check and get on our way before you spread the news."

"I promise I will tell only one person."

Rick and Marsha started to laugh so hard they had trouble standing straight, "Your Aunt Mary," wheezed Rick.

Hope grinned and said, "Yep, this will put me up on her in the big time gossip contest around here."

"Let's go see the Chief together." They had no trouble finding the Fire Chief. He hadn't moved ten feet. They waited for him to finish his conversation.

"Matt I would like you to meet my wife, Marsha."

"It's nice to meet you, Ma'am and hello Hope."

"It's nice to meet you Chief."

"Matt would you believe that I asked Marsha if she had a spare half million in her purse, she said no, but she does have her checkbook with her."

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