The Bigs have been out ice fishing every few days. They managed to get a trail broke with the sleigh back to one of the lakes on crown land. It's a little closer than the highway lakes, and surprisingly they've caught a few fish. They set snares along the way and caught a couple of rabbits and a fox as well. The fox went to the chickens, along with some pine branches.
The fish bones and guts went into the doggy stew pot. The rice is gone now. The stew is mostly gravy- thickened with flour, with meat and veggies. We're feeding them twice as much as we used to, but they're already losing weight. I'm trying to keep them from getting hungry enough to harm the livestock.
Husband met up with one of our old hay farmers, Ray. He had large round bales but no way to load or haul them. Husband rigged up the stone boat to the back of the sleigh, and with the Bigs help they were able to push one of the bales onto the stone boat and haul it home. They've been back a few times, only able to transport one bale at a time. In trade the farmer has asked for help butchering and selling his cattle. He had 300 head going in to winter, sold and ate about 50. He wants to get all of his open cattle butchered and sold before spring.
We head over to his place with knives and sharpening stones early in the morning. The Littles stay home. Ray and his sons have divided the herd when we get there. He has 40 head that he wants butchered. The store in town is taking orders for beef for them. Ten have been 'sold' so far- in exchange for labour in the spring. After the first cow is shot, gutted and hung, #2 and I get to work butchering with Ray and his sons. Husband and #1 continue shooting and gutting, with Ray's sons helping to get them hung up. Ray has enough room in part of his barn to hang 20 head, so they keep working on that through the day. The rest of us manage to get 5 cows butchered by late afternoon.
Our sleigh is loaded with beef wrapped in feed bags. They're not very sanitary, but they're plentiful. He wants us to take the load south, stopping at the towns along the way to Southern City, trading for whatever we can. He wants help to get his crops planted in the spring, and hay harvested mid summer most of all, but he'll take anything we can get. He needs the herd thinned out before spring.
The next day Husband and I head south with the meat. Husband rigs the stone boat to the back of the sleigh, and takes lots of baler twine along to tie things on. The highway is fairly well packed from other travellers, so the ride south is fairly smooth.
I take a notebook to write down the names and addresses of those who are willing to work, and draw maps to Ray's place. All along the highway people come out of their homes to see what we've got. Most don't have much left to trade with, but some seem eager to trade for labour. One guy even offers to come and help butcher the next day.
Folks in Littletown are happy to trade, though most don't think they'll be able to travel that far to work in the spring. We trade beef for pots and pans, blankets, clothing, tools, and tires. The sleigh and stone boat are overloaded.
Few in Hutterite Village are interested in trading. They have a plentiful supply of meat of their own.
We get to Southern City and slowly drive the horses down the main street. No one seems to be around. We decide to try the side streets in the residential areas and see if anyone comes out. The first street we turn onto has a small convenience store on the corner with a couple of people hanging around outside. We stop and chat. They tell us to go back to the mall and wait in the parking lot while they tell people why we're there.
It seems a little strange, sitting in this deserted little city waiting for people to arrive. I have both hands wrapped around my gun. Husband keeps telling me to relax, but I notice he's holding on to his too. We wait for about twenty minutes, and then see some men come around the corner headed towards us. There are eight of them, and they all have guns. I think we're going to die.
They walk up calmly, maybe a little too friendly. The 'sheriff' introduces himself. They're all very chatty, and all eye balling the sleigh. We tell them Ray's plan, to trade the meat now for labour later. They keep smiling and nodding. They tell us to pull the sleigh up beside the doors to the former grocery store. Husband moves the sleigh slowly, and I can see on his face he's debating whether to make a run for it. I whisper, "We'll get shot." He pulls the sleigh up to the doors.
The men start unloading the beef. Husband asks what they're going to trade for it. The sheriff says, "I'm sure we can work something out". He invites us in to the store once the meat is unloaded. I decide to stay out with the sleigh. I sit there waiting nervously for over half an hour, until finally, Husband comes out with the other men. They have three sacks of potatoes and I can tell they come from the potato man. Some of them are carrying garbage bags, one has a basket of turnips. They help load the sleigh and stone boat and tie everything down. Husband says, "Ok, we'll see you next time then," and jumps back on the sleigh.
The sheriff hollers, "Hold on a minute". I still think these strange men are going to kill us. He walks over to us with some papers in his hand. "A couple of letters headed north". We smile and thank him and head out of town.
I ask Husband what went on inside. He explains that the old grocery store is still being used as a grocery store, but the sheriff and his men are in charge. They'll sell or trade off the beef with the townsfolk rather than us trading with any individuals. They did agree to make a list of people who would be willing to come and work for Ray for next time we come down. They've got a make shift jail cell with three prisoners inside too. He doesn't think they'd take 'no deal' for an answer if we didn't like their trade items. Husband says next time I have to stay home. He'll bring Brother or Diego with him instead.
We go to the store in the Hutterite Village, where people seem nice, normal, and civilized. Husband mentions what happened in Southern City, and the workers smile. "Best to stay away from them English".
I trade some of the goods we've collected for a couple of jars of honey. We head back home.
The boys bring the potatoes and honey in the house. We'll take them to Ray's tomorrow after another day of butchering. We eat our stew for supper and spend the evening sharpening knives.