Chapter 7: Industrial Revolution

Finegan is sorting through various small mechanical parts stored inside the house of the houseboat. He is pulling boxes out, checking the contents, pouring some out on a table in the center of the thoroughly cluttered house, and labeling other boxes. He is sorting stuff on the table into small boxes and labeling these. The overall approach is to move what he has sorted and labeled into one cleared corner of the house - taking a total inventory so to speak. Finegan says,

I forget what all I have, ya know?

Joey is being a loyal assistant, taking labeled boxes away and bringing others closer to Finegan who is seated on a stool during this process. Every once in awhile Joey finds something totally inappropriate, like a dirty shirt, and holds it up for Finegan to pass judgement. Finegan shrugs and says,

I dunno. . . Put it on the laundry pile, I guess.

Finegan sighs, and looks up at Joey.

I suppose that's another thing we should be doing.

He returns to his work, pulling things out of a box Joey has dragged to his feet.

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The houseboat is moving along the outer edges of a flooded subdivision, some rooftops seen sticking out of the water and some just under the water. Finegan is keeping a distance away, as the slope appears to be shallow. He is sticking to deep water. Finegan points to the flooded rooftops.

The last thing we need is to be stuck on one of those. I don't fancy trying to lift this boat offn' one of 'em.

Finegan flashes a smile at Joey, who is looking worried.

Well, we could always wait a day or two until the water rises.

Then, muttering under this breath.

Just keeps rising. . .

A thin trace of smoke is rising from a ravine, indicating a campfire. Some women are running from the open grassy area behind the subdivision into the woods around the ravine. Finegan is not attempting to steer the houseboat to any shoreline near them. He sees an unspoken question in Joey's eyes, as Joey keeps looking at the scampering women, then back to Finegan's face. Finegan says.

They're not ready yet. Too early. They're living off what they pulled from these houses and . . well . . ah . .

Finegan is struggling for a way to explain to Joey the nature of business and self-survival. After the rescues he's seen recently, Joey has come to think of their role as some kind of emergency services. But some survivors need to run through their supplies and feel a pinch of some sort before they are ready to barter on a fair basis. This Finegan has learned. Finegan's face brightens, as he has arrived at an explanation.

They're expectations would be too high.

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The houseboat is seen approaching a partially flooded pastureland, the fence posts and wire running down a slope and into the water. At the high end of the pasture are several wooden shelters, flat topped, for goats. Goats are seen standing on the tops of their shelters, as well as ranging in groups around the pastureland and clustering around a hay dispenser.

A lean man, bow-legged and sprightly, comes striding down the pasture toward the shoreline. The goat-herder is wearing faded blue jeans several sizes too large, as he has lost weight. A leather belt is cinching the pants, keeping them from falling down. The belt has obviously been pulled several notches past their usual worn catch point, tightened regularly lately. He has a stained white t-shirt that has not seen Tide or bleach for many months, but looks like it has been washed recently as it is not stained by sweat or dirt.

The goatherd seems to be following him, and gather behind him at the shore. Curious, and following their herder as goats do without needing any prodding. The goat-herder calls out.

Howdy. Need some help there?

Finegan has come to the front and is preparing to toss his grappling hooks.

Nope, just give me a little room. . .

Mooring the houseboat, Finegan strides across the gangplank, his hand outstretched.

Finegan Fine here, trader. No doubt I've got something you need.

The goat-herder is rubbing the back of his head, dark hair obviously cut by scissors, not professionally done. He extends an invitation.

Well, why don't you come for supper and we'll discuss it. I'll go over some of our problems. Mebbe you can help. . . Goat cheese and roasted pumpkin suit you?

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The goat-herder has fashioned a shelter for himself near the goat shelters at the top of the hill. Various weathered boards, showing signs of various paint colors in past lives, are nailed to form a lean-to. The ends are open for ventilation, covered by cloth that can be dropped down in cold weather, and the boards of the lean-to can be lifted for light also. He cooks over a wood-burning stove placed under a tarp, so rain is kept from the cooking area. A stovepipe carries the smoke up above the tarp.

There are several bedraggled suburbanites sitting on a tree trunk, waiting for supper. Their feet are covered with dust, as they have been working a field all day. Though they look exhausted, they look contented. Children are among them. Joey goes down the line, showing the picture of his parents.

This was when they were a few years younger . .

Joey is not getting any response, and looks discouraged by the end of the line.

The goat-herder has fashioned a table out of a board supported by stools and boxes, and has chopped a couple pumpkins into sections. These he slides into the wood stove oven, in a covered baking pan. After brushing the table top clear, he brings out some goat cheese wrapped in cloth from a cooler placed into a nitch in the rocks. He slices this up and puts it on a plate, passing it down the line. Some of the suburbanites hand the platter to Joey and Finegan, including them as guests in the feeding line. The goat-herder explains.

What we got here is a two-step operation. Goats will eat pretty much anything. . . Seems one of these women (waving to the lineup) saved a lot of pumpkinseed. Halloween, ya know. . . She saw this coming. . . So we used up the last of Ms. Granger's diesel plowing her field and planting them. Now we got pumpkin leaves to feed the goats, and plenty seed for next year.

The crowd is nodding at all of this, confirming the tale.

Now we got nothing that works. Everything is by hand. . .

Many in the crowd are nodding vigorously at this comment. Eyes rolling. The goat-herder faces Finegan, raising his hands up and grinning.

So, trader, here's the deal. If you can help us with the industrial revolution, we can give you pumpkins and cheese!

The goat-herder turns back to the task at hand, pulling the roasting pumpkin out of the oven and testing it with a long pronged fork.

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The next morning the goat-herder is silhouetted against the orange dawn sky, seated on a stool next to a goat milking station, milking one of his goats. He swings to the side to pour the milk from the milking bucket into a milk cooler, tall and with handles on both sides at the top. Finegan's bare feet are sticking out of the houseboat. As the goats bleat, greeting their herder, Finegan's feet twitch.

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The goat-herder is squeezing whey out of cheese curds using rough cloth squares to hold the curds. The whey is being saved as a drink, nothing wasted. He slams the curd bag on the table to flatten it and form a rectangle, flips the cloth this way and that to form a package, and places the curd in a cooler to cure. The goat-herder, who has been concentrating on his work, has just noticed that Finegan has quietly arrived. He flashes a quick smile over his shoulder.

Morning!

Finegan says,

I'm ready when you are.

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Finegan and the goat-herder are approaching a collapsed barn, caved in at the center, the roof shingles mostly missing. Farming implements are here and there in the tall grass, devices meant to be dragged behind a tractor - a raking device meant to collect hay, and a plowing device with sharp tines meant to plow several rows at once. Finegan and the goat-herder stride across the barnyard and into the doors of the barn, now askew due to the collapse.

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Finegan is walking through the barn, used to house implements rather than house cows or horses. He is walking slowly along a workbench at the side, looking at tools laid out or hung on the walls. Several bikes have been tossed into a corner, tires deflated or missing. The old tractor stands in the center, covered with dust and a few splinters of boards from the collapsed roof. Some chickens have been roosting in the barn, and take off squawking as the men make their rounds. Finegan asks,

So what are you folks doing by hand that you'd like to have, ah . . mechanized?

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Joey is tossing some nuts and bolts back into a box, one of many that has been brought from the houseboat, and placing the boxes back into the old rusty wagon from the houseboat. Finegan is sitting on a stool, hunched over what looks like an assemblage of junk, making his final adjustments. He stands up and stands back, a look of satisfaction on his face. The goat-herder and the suburbanites are walking up at one side, and stand in a group, expectantly. Finegan says, proudly,

Behold!

The group does not react, is unimpressed and confused. What does this contraption do?

Realizing they are not following his genius, Finegan gives a demonstration. He climbs into a bike seat, one of a pair for a dual pumping operation. He pats the other seat and motions to the goat-herder to hop on.

Each seat has a lever, so the contraption can turn by one bike seat disconnecting while the other stays connected. Thus, the contraption can turn 180° to the left or the right, depending upon which seat has disengaged. Finegan waves the watching group away.

Stand back!

Finegan is murmuring instructions to the goat-herder, then pushes a lever on a control panel between the two bike seats. They both start peddling and the contraption takes off.

From front to back, it is a multistep operation to clear, plow, and plant. At the front of the long contraption are lawn mover blades, recently sharpened, turning round and round. They have been lowered by the lever on the control panel, and turn as the contraption moves, cutting any weeds on the row about to be planted. Next, along the contraption, is a rake, one taken from the large raking farm implement in the yard. The cut weeds are thus swept aside, and can be collected later for hay if desired. Next along the long contraption, are dual plow blades, also lowered by the lever on the control panel.

And last, just behind the seated men, is a seed dispenser, which is a cup ending in a funnel that lifts up and down like a pecking hen, releasing and placing a couple seeds every foot or so. When the seed dispenser lifts, an old boot at the end of a pole is stamped down on top of the spot, tamping the seed into the dirt. The seed dispenser and tamping boot are attached and under the control of a wheel that turns as the contraption moves along. Finegan is ready to demonstrate.

Lets go.

They begin peddling and the contraption moves through the tall grass for a few feet. Finegan throws a lever at his side, disengaging his side, and throws the lever at the control panel, lifting the mower, the rake, the plow, and halting the seed dispenser. The goat-herder continues pumping until the contraption has turned 180°. Finegan re-engages the levers and the pair plow a second row alongside the first.