"Looks like it's time to put the meat in" said Gracie to herself. "Then it's a six hour nap for me"
And that's just what she did.
When Gracie's wind up alarm clock went off six hours later, she was refreshed and ready to get on with the day.
Deciding that some coffee was needed for this morning, Gracie went outside to the spring house and filled her kettle with clear cool water. She had a "rock" table that set beside the dryer/smoker and that's where she put the full kettle. Using the wooden handles on the sides, she carefully lifted the dryer off the bed of coals. Gently, she stirred up the coals, added a couple nice chunks of wood then put the dryer back on. Then she opened the door and carefully rotated the wire racks; being careful to check the meat for even drying. Things looked perfect so far. Off to the side of the cooker, was another small pit that she got a fire going in, here is where she could heat up the water for coffee. She then tucked the cast iron kettle right into the fire.
Looking around her small courtyard, as she called it; she noticed that two of the pickets were loose by the sage. Figuring that Spice was the culprit, she hammered them back in place with a rock.
The courtyard was separate from the rest of the yard by a short picket fence with its own gate close to the back door. Inside was the dryer/smoker/pit and also a great rock BBQ grill. Around the fencing on the inside were a lot of herbs and miniature roses of every color. Around the grill and dryer was flagstone and the beds around the fencing were slightly raised with river rock sides. Try as she might, she could never get the Coata flowers to grow here in Arkansas.
Knowing that Sammie would want to gather the eggs and feed the chickens and the rest of the animals, Gracie went in to wake her.
They were just finishing up when they heard a noise coming from the driveway. It was Maggie and Tucker in an old jeep and Maggie was standing up and shouting: "Good news! Gracie, Good news!!"
Maggie and Tucker stopped the jeep and got out. They both looked ready to burst.
"Your sisters are doing good!" blurted out Maggie. "Tucker got a hold of Veronica last night and she told us that Emma is doing good too. Veronica said that Emma wouldn’t have known that anything was wrong, but only found out because she went into town to mail some things."
"That sounds like Emma alright. She is even more of a loner than I am. And her place is totally off grid. So come on in, we are getting ready to make some breakfast; got hot water for coffee on next to the dryer. Want to grab it Tucker? I'm sure the jerky needs to be tested anyways." laughed Gracie.
So over hot coffee and breakfast of homemade biscuits and gravy, Maggie told Gracie all they had learned from 'Rony. 'Rony lived in a small town on the coast of California that was mostly there only because tourists came through on their way to San Francisco. Although it was full of starving artists, and 'Rony was an artist; but, she was one of the good ones. She had her own gallery and displayed other local talents with her things.
'Rony had told Tucker that she was going to stay put for now; but, wasn't sure about the long run. Her place was small and out of the way; but, there were always a lot of people 'coming through' that were tearing things up. Stealing was also a major problem and this was when things were normal. So she figured things would get even worse since there was no law there now. She would try to get word to them if she moved on. If she decided to leave, she would head to Emma's. Chances were, she would have to move on. Tucker gave her some advice on what to bring and what not to bring. He also told her to find a good map or two. Thankfully she never got rid of her motorcycle. And a friend of hers at the local garage had the parts to get it running again.
Gracie also told Maggie and Tucker about Mike Tanner being around.
"No way, he really had the guts to show his face here?" asked Maggie.
"He really did. Will ya'all be sure to pass the word for me? Sammie and I will be going over to Momma Sue's this afternoon for awhile, so we won't be going into town today." replied Gracie.
"Sure we'll let people know. He better hope Tucker doesn’t see him. That maybe the last face he ever sees." Maggie quipped.
Tucker said "that's right. I really hate that man".
The girls cleaned up the kitchen and Tucker went out to check the jerky. Sammie followed Tucker out the door.
"Mr. T, do you think you can find my mommy and daddy with your radio?" asked Sammie.
"Sweetie, I have been trying to find your mom and dad. I just haven't been able to talk to anyone who has seen them yet. I'm sure they will turn up soon. I know you've got to be missing them terribly." Soothed Tucker.
"I do miss them. I like being here with Miss Gracie; but, I hope mommy and daddy come home soon."