Grunt, Chapter 32: Cold Ass Creek

MICHAEL

In the brief march from Rodney Upward’s scattered remains to the creek, fatigue rolled over me like one of the distant ocean’s fabled tsunamis. I was riding point, trying my best to stay alert and unwilling to admit weakness in front of my woman, but my very bones cried out for rest. That, and food; we hadn’t eaten since taking breakfast, well before first light. But rest most of all; I would gladly starve a little if I could just stop moving. How I stayed in the saddle was a wonder, the rough gait of the roan gelding no more stimulating than a mother’s lullaby sung to her infant.

Why? Why was this happening? Yes, it was bitter cold out here, but I’d seen colder days. Longer ones, too. Life as a Fort Steel slave had inured me to hardship. So…why?

When we dropped down into the creek bed, the shadows were long and dark. The sun had not quite reached the western horizon, but we didn’t have much time.

“Hey, babe.” My voice was more the hoarse croak of a frog than anything human, one more sign of extreme exhaustion. “Wanna take a look at the tracks before Roan and I trample all over them?

My blonde mate didn’t say anything, just pulled her appaloosa up alongside, the pack horses strung out behind her, and dismounted. The glance she gave me might have had a touch of worry in it, but her attention was soon focused on the task at hand. The creek crossing in front of us spanned fifty feet or so, the bed much wider here than either upstream or downstream. Unsurprisingly, it was completely iced over. Animal tracks were everywhere; clearly, humans weren’t the only ones using this spot to get from one bank to the other. A welter of canine prints predominated, indicating the pack we’d seen eating Rodney had come this way, from the east. The Gunderson mare’s hoof prints pointed straight into that mess of predator paw marks, bringing me to the limit of my tracking skill.

Thankfully, it was a piece of cake for Julia Gunderson Jade. “The mare got here first,” she said without looking up. “The pack crossed in a hurry, though. No doubt focused on the easier prey, the downed man a mile ahead.”

“They’d have been aware of him at that distance?”

“Not impossible.” She continued to scan the snow covered ice as she explained. “Coyotes have might sharp senses, hearing and sight and smell, all three. There hasn’t been any wind all day that we could feel, but….” Julia took off a mitten, sucked an index finger briefly–which woke me up a little, right there–and held it above her head, turning slowly. “Yep. There is a wee breeze and it is from the west. They’d have been downwind.”

“Huh.” I was going to have to remember that trick. Wet finger feels cold breeze dry face can’t. Interesting.

“Plus, he could have still been alive. Fell off his horse, maybe, at the end of his rope, but if he made any noise at all–a groan, moan, whine, whimper, anything that smacked of a creature in distress–it would draw the pack like iron to a magnet. They might even have spotted him from that little rise before dropping down to cross the creek. So yeah, entirely possible.”

I tried to plug that information into my mental database, form a coherent picture of the whole. It worked, mostly, but something was bothering me. Couldn’t put a finger on it. I made a heroic effort to wake up a little more. C’mon, Dawg, man up here. Something’s wrong. “So…can you tell which way the mare went?”

She shook her head in resignation. “Probably not before morning. Light’s going fast and I’ll need to look farther out from the crossing, up or down or maybe both. Good bet she didn’t cross over and keep going, though.”

“You’re pretty sure.”

“Ninety-nine percent. There’s good graze along the creek and protection from the wind. Plus, if she had kept going, the odds of her running headlong into thirty hungry coyotes…that’s more than enough to take down large game. Those song dogs aren’t wolves by a long shot, but enough of them working together can kill even a moose. I’ve seen it. Or rather my brother Speck has, three years ago during one of his hunting trips. From the way he tells it, it’s not a pretty sight.”

“Unless you’re a hungry pack member.”

“Unless that–hey! What’s that?” She was standing erect now, pointing across and up the creek a bit, to where a small bench sat, populated with low brush and dry winter grass.

It took me a moment to spot what she was talking about, but then, “Looks like a building?” The question mark at the end of my sentence wasn’t because of the dark form’s appearance. It was simply preposterous to think anyone would have built a structure out here in the middle of nowhere.

“Let’s check it out.” Julia had a head start on me; she was in motion before I got my off foot out of the stirrup, striding as purposefully as one can when there’s ice under the snow.

That’s when it hit me. The something wrong I hadn’t been able to pin down. Right where the frozen stream normally flowed, bursting out from narrow banks less than fifteen feet across to spread across more than three times that much width…”Julia!” I screamed. “The ice–”

–broke. Both feet plunged through the weak surface at virtually the same time, pulling her down–

–I was off the roan, knowing there was no time to get the coil of rope from the packs–

–waist deep, her boots hitting bottom so thank God she wasn’t in over her head–

–no way the ice would hold me even on my belly–

–current, there was a strong current under the ice, pushing at her, trying to either break her back or flip her facedown into the water, the water didn’t care-

Oh God no! scramble around the front of the roan, unbuckle the throat latch, yank the bridle abruptly from his startled head–

–she’d turned, she’d managed to turn oh Lord hang on and she was bent over the downstream ice, unable to find purchase, slipping, slipping, too fast too fast too fast–

–bowline knot in the end of one rein because one throw was all I’d get and she’d never get a grip otherwise. Her eyes were wide, panicked, fixed on me, slipping, in nearly up to her armpits no time to talk just get as close as you can wrap the other rein around your hand don’t lose it–

–the leather loop sailed too high, over her head, it was a miss bad throw and–she lunged up out of the water, twisting like a rainbow trout flashing at the end of a line, caught the loop between mittened palm and thumb thank God for opposable thumbs.

She got the loop cinched around her wrist and I pulled her from the water out onto the ice with a strength I never knew I had. She came belly-skidding toward me. I reeled her in, hand over hand, got us both to our feet. “The building,” I gasped. “It’s our only chance.”

Growing up Gunderson saved us. I was done in, likely couldn’t have picked her up to carry her if she’d fallen, would have had to tie off to her ankles and tow her over the snow like a deer carcass, but her legs pistoned with surprising power. By the time we got to the ruin, her teeth were chattering. Both of us stumbled through the wide doors, what the teacher at Fort Steel would have called French doors. They’d had glass in them at one time, but the huge panes were shattered now, only a few shards remaining. Both doors hung open, one leaning drunkenly where the lower hinge had been ripped out of the framing.

But there were walls, albeit with great open holes in them that had once been ridiculously oversized windows, and the roof seemed to be mostly intact. Splintered wood was everywhere, furniture and interior walls and doors that had been savagely attacked by no force of nature. Only humans with axes and maybe sledge hammers could have done so much wanton damage. Despite this, the exterior walls were amazingly solid, rows of great logs rising from a cracked concrete slab, defying the storms of twisted Man and fierce Mother Nature alike.

Not that I had time to think about all that. It was taken in while I was on the move. Neither of us said a word, knowing what had to be done. Julia picked a corner out of the wind while I began assembling smaller sticks in the huge central fireplace, a stone-and-mortar construction that must have cost more than an average laborer earned in a year. There were steel fire shields lying on the floor; I picked one up and blocked the windy-side opening. It was going to be close enough without battling the breeze.

Grunt’s teachings on our way west from Fort Steel proved their worth then. “Keep at least one weapon on you at all times, Dawg,” he’d said, “and the makings of a fire. You may not always be able to reach your stores in the wagon, or even the saddlebags on a horse.”

Tinder. Flint. Steel. He’d had me practice on the trail, and bless the man for that.

The tinder took, as did the table leg shavings added to it one by one. I had to fight myself, resist adding too much fuel too fast, a sure way to kill the baby flame before it could get a grip on this world. It wasn’t long in objective terms, I suppose, before the blaze was truly a warming fire, but to me it comprised an eternity of eternities.

“Let’s get–oh.” Julia was already beside me, kneeling, holding her hands to the fire. I studied her closely for a long minute, distracted only briefly by her profile. Until she’d come into my life, I’d never understood how a woman’s face could launch a thousand ships.

I got it now.

“Um…I need to go get the horses. If they’re still there.”

“They’ll be there.” Her buckskins were still dark-soaked from the lower hem to above her breasts. Despite being an obvious contender in any Wet Buckskin Contest she cared to enter, her quiet voice resonated with the calm certainty of a born adventurer. Amazingly, her teeth had already quit chattering.

“It’s nearly full dark already. We can’t count on your revolver after it–oh, we can’t count on it at all. Looks like its sleeping with the fishes.”

She glanced down at her hip where the holster gaped empty, mocking. “Tiedown strap should have held it. Live and learn.”

“Yeah,” I agreed fervently, “the operative word being live. I should have recognized the danger a lot quicker than I did.”

“You and me both, Michael Jade. But we’re here, so let’s celebrate that, eh?” She didn’t look at me, just kept staring into the fire, reaching to add another busted piece of furniture to the blaze as she did so.

“Yeah. Thing is, why don’t you take my pistol. And try to watch your back; that ridiculous doorway is directly behind you.”

“Nope.” She shook her head. “Not gonna happen.”

“But–”

“But nothing. I’ve got fire here; if a varmint pushes the issue, I’ll stick a hot stick in its eye. Wild animals aren’t likely to push it anyway, not with the flames a-flickering.”

“But what about–” Man, I was thinking. There was a dead one of those just a mile west of this location. Who’s to say there might not be another idiot out here in the middle of nowhere in the middle of winter?

“You’re wasting time…boss.”

She had a point. And an attitude. Besides, the last thing I wanted to do right now was argue with the woman I’d nearly lost.

Despite the appaloosa being trained to stand when ground tied, I’d feared with some justification that he might have wandered off by now, taking the entire pack string with him. Beyond that, Roan wasn’t even bridled; he could be anywhere.

I needn’t have worried. It was already full dark or close to it by the time I got back to the horses, my night vision finally adjusting after I’d destroyed it while getting the fire started. Still, the night was clear and the stars provided a surprising amount of visibility, especially reflecting on the pure white snow. Appy hadn’t moved at all, which meant the packhorses tied to him were still in place as well, and Roan–well, I didn’t see my rough-gaited mount at first and feared he’d taken off, leaving us in the lurch, but he hadn’t gone far.

He’d simply found a patch of tall grass and gone to munching. Not that he came to me when I called, but he didn’t try to keep me from catching him, either. “You,” I told him quietly as I slipped the bridle back over his head, “are the finest critter I’ve ever ridden.”

He snorted and tossed his head at that, possibly because I was leading him away from his awesome supper.

The building ruin was plenty large enough, several thousands of square feet at least, so we decided to bring the animals inside for the night. Not that Julia did any of the work. She wanted to, but I gave her a ferocious scowl and suggested firmly that she’d be better off drying her britches first. There was no barn, but there was a tumbledown corral out back. Most of the rails were rotten, but I managed to find twenty-one of them that were still pretty solid. An hour’s work with the camp axe had them and their rusty, ancient Before spikes hauled into the house and strategically nailed across the worst of the home’s idiotic openings. Any human could breach the crude fencing job easily enough, but it would hold the horses and give us a few seconds of warning if we came under attack.

All in all, we were more secure for the night than we’d been in the mine shaft. Julia had removed her boots and socks, drying them in front of the fire. Though nearly dry now, her buckskins remained in place; they needed to be worn during this process or they might not fit her in the morning. The packs and tack were removed from the animals and arranged around us in a makeshift mini-fort formation. “You’ve been busy, too, I see,” I said, plopping down on the blankets beside her and removing my own boots. I’d been so focused on what I was doing that I haven’t even noticed.

It was toasty here beside the fire, tucked into our little fort. I yawned mightily. “I should chop some more wood into lengths for the fireplace.” The fatigue was coming back with a vengeance. Let’s see, rifles beside us, along with extra ammo…”And then cook us up something to eat.”

She gave me a look full of love. That’s the last thing I remembered until daylight.

=====================================================

JULIA

From my view of the stars and the quarter moon outside the south-facing windows, it looked like we had a couple more hours before daylight. My clothes were dry and I was slept out, full of vim and vigor and raring to go. Mostly, I wanted to have a go at Michael, but he still slept deeply beside me, snoring softly, warming my heart more effectively than any fire could ever warm my body. I gazed at him, a woman helplessly in love, studying his strong face and dark, tousled hair as he rested.

He’d been exhausted even before I fell through the ice. I’d seen that, worried though I knew it had to be what Mama Ruth called letdown, the crashing of the human body after its been pushed beyond its natural limits.

Michael had certainly pushed himself. He’d taken his duty to the law seriously, so much so that catching and stopping Rodney Upward had become nearly an obsession. His shoulder hadn’t even been healed from the fight with the tiger en route to Sentinel Peak Outpost when Grunt had drafted him for the posse. Then he’d fought the tiger again, the only one of us to face the great beast not once but twice. Then more hard days on the trail, followed by discovery of the atrocity at Red Horse’s camp, then even harder days on the trail, a sprint across open ground to kill one outlaw and wound another, followed finally by trailing a wounded man who might turn back on us at any moment, lie in wait, ambush his beloved.

Enough long-running stress to wear anyone out, fantasy novels notwithstanding.

The strain had told on Grunt, too. Between that and a bullet through his butt, I did not believe he would be taking to the Trading trail come spring. Perhaps not ever again. And Tommy, every day away from his beloved mountains had tortured him. Morning Lark might be able to tempt him to leave the high country, but nothing else would.

For me, it had been much easier. Yes, I’d fought with others against the tiger, but always I could look to someone else to lead. I didn’t have to think constantly about responsibility. At first, I followed my brother, and then the local legend, Big Jake, and finally my husband. That was the advantage of being a woman, of willingly following where a man led. What would it be like if I had to decide where we went next, how we went there, what we did–knowing that the wrong decision, or even the right one, might result in my mate’s injury or death?

I shuddered to think. Let me stay second banana, thank you very much. Not that I’d ever seen a banana, but the saying was alive and well in our family.

Still, I was restless. Far too restless to sleep. Besides, nature called. I slipped from the blankets, tucking them back around Michael to keep drafts away from his body. Put on my socks and boots. Belted on my sword, picked up my long shoot gun, and carefully climbed over the fence in the doorway.

=======================================================

MICHAEL

When I awoke, I was pretty sure I must still be dreaming. The smell of frying liver filled my nostrils, more insistent than even the need to empty my bladder.

“Now how,” I asked, propped up on elbow to watch Julia as she held the skillet over the fire, “did you manage that?” We’d been out of meat for days.

“Plenty of deer feeding just up the creek a bit this morning,” she replied. “And not a coyote in sight.”

“I didn’t hear a shot.”

She smiled impishly. “It’s called still hunting.”

“What?” Where were my boots? Ah, there. “You hold still and the deer comes up, kills itself, and jumps in the frying pan?”

“Something like that.”

“Oh, I see.” Sock, sock, two more socks, boot, boot, and I was good to go. Really go.

“I used the sword.”

I stopped in the middle of belting my revolver in place. “Really.”

“What?” She arched a perfect eyebrow. “You don’t believe me?”

“Oh, I believe you. It’s just that I’ve never known anybody who could do that. Is that another Gunderson skill, then?”

“Kinda sorta. We all try to outdo each other. We’re a pretty competitive bunch. I’m the only one who’s learned to ambush whitetail deer with a sword. Managed it five times so far. My brother Speck is runner up. He’s got seven kills, but with a spear.”

“A thrown spear?” That was still impressive. Some of Red Horse’s people might be able to pull that off, though.

“Held spear. He’s killed sixteen deer and two elk with thrown spears. Seven without the spear leaving his hands. Which is still pretty good, but he’s got several feet more reach with a spear than I do with a sword, so I hold the Family Championship Belt.” She chuckled. “So far.”

“Huh.” I had a lot to learn, marrying into this family. “Be back in a minute.” My eyeballs were floating.

Later, well fed and thoroughly rested, I got to thinking. “Hon, what say we hole up here for a few days, let the horses flesh back out, give ourselves sort of a honeymoon right here by the fireplace.”

“You’re figuring to laze around, are you?” He eyes were bright with mirth and…something else.

“Wouldn’t call it lazing, exactly,” I said carefully. “It’s still a long trek to Graveyard Mesa. That’s the south side of the Before city I’ve been talking about exploring. It’s only just over the hill and another mile run from there to Fort Steel. One thing we don’t want to do is arrive in anything other than the best possible condition. The horses could use a rest period, I’m thinking, and so could we.”

“Sure.” Julia grinned ear to ear. “We can rest and…recreate.”

Oh. Oh! “Glad you agree.” I needed something to say to cover my sudden awkwardness. Looking around, the Soul of Innocence, I remarked, “Had to be idiot rich folks from Before who built this house. I never dreamed of doors and windows this big. How could they ever defend such a place?”

“They didn’t think they had to. We learned in school that there were so many people then that they had great numbers of law enforcement officers who would throw you in jail in a heartbeat if you so much as threw a rock through somebody else’s window. If you owned the property and beat up the guy who threw the rock, then they’d throw you in jail. It was sort of a vengeance is mine, saith the cop sort of mentality. People who had more money than common sense, they built these places to look out of, to pretend they were Lords of Creation when they were actually closer to being cretins, never once dreaming they’d need to be able to stop more than a sparrow in flight, or at most a crow. Coyotes were around but knew to steer clear of men to some degree because it was legal to kill them. Wolves had nearly been extinctified but a bunch of bleeding heart liberals got them to be protected by the government; it was safer to be a wolf than to be the rancher who shot one to protect his livestock. Even the great bears, the grizzlies, were mostly confined to National Parks, where tourists came on vacation to gawk at them and take pictures with magic picture machines and sometimes get themselves mauled. Michael, we simply can’t judge our ancestors by our own standards. It’s like they weren’t even the same species.”

No, I reckoned they weren’t. “Huh. Well, if we’re going to settle in for a bit, guess we’d best let the rails down and hobble the horses outside so they can eat. Too bad this creek doesn’t have a name on the map; it’d be nice to know where we spent our honeymoon.”

“That’s easy,” my mate said with a straight face. “You guys named that last watercourse Rhubarb War Creek after the battle, right?”

“We sure did.”

“All righty, then. Based on my up close and personal experience, I hereby dub this part of the country Cold Ass Creek.”

15 thoughts on “Grunt, Chapter 32: Cold Ass Creek

  1. Close one there for Julia. Good thing Michael is a quick thinker and acter in an emergency. I would have never thought to use a bridle and reins to rescue someone. Wouldn’t think they would be strong enough to pull someone out of a creek like that. Nothing more dangerous than getting soaked in that type of weather.
    Lucky that they found someone’s dilapidated dream home so close by. Even my windows are probably too big to defend from. Probably way smaller than a picture window too. Mine are high enough to be a bit of protection, except in the back, and on that one end. The end ones are probably close to the size of those though.
    Pretty neat trick of Julia’s, hunting with a sword. My dad caught big catfish more than once as he was getting out of the boat, when we were out camping. He would step out and see one, swoop down and grab it, throwing it up on shore so fast and far that it couldn’t flop back down into the water. Those catfish were good eating, when someone fixed them that knew what they were doing. My dad could fix them right too. I never got the hang of fixing them so that they did not taste like mud.

  2. A lariat on the saddle horn would have come in handy for an emergency like that. My uncles always rode with one, but they never knew what they would find when they rode either.

  3. A bridle is definitely strong enough for that. It has to be; you don’t want a 1200 pound, half broke bronc busting in two under you with nothing for balance and control but wimpy, breakable tack. I’ve been on runaway horses, reefing back on those reins for all I was worth (and/or leaning down to grab one in the middle in order to yank the horse’s head around and force him to start circling instead of going straight ahead). And there are a lot of horsemen out there who are far stronger than I am. The only time I’ve known a leather rein (or headstall piece} to break was when it was already badly worn and should have been replaced already.

    The trick for Michael would not have been the strength, but in getting the toss right–because the bridle would be a big old chunk of ugly in between the two reins. When I wrote this, I visualized practicing the move and believe I could do it, but not necessarily with accuracy on the first try. (For that matter, I don’t include ANY action in my writings unless I believe I could do it–or if not me, then at least a superior athlete could.)

    Finding the ruin nearby was a lifesaver, yes, although she might not have fallen through in the first place if it hadn’t been there. Sighting the structure clearly had her distracted and excited.

    Catching catfish like that sounds pretty cool. I’ve never tasted one, mud-flavored or otherwise, but then fish in general are hardly my go-to meat category. I don’t really even like trout because of the bones. Now, give me a properly boneless fish, like red shark, and that’s another matter entirely.

    Yes, a lariat would have come in handy for sure. Most riders have them strap-buckled on the main-hand side below the swells rather than on the horn, but either way provides quick access. Growing up on the ranch, we sometimes (but far from always) rode with one, but at other times carried a bullwhip instead. Depended if the day’s work seemed more likely to involve catching cows or giving them traffic directions. However, neither my Dad nor I ever became expert ropers. In my case, the old description applied: “He couldn’t catch a cold with a rope.”

    We both carried revolvers if we were heading for the mountains, though.

    Julia’s technique, hunting with a sword, was inspired by a couple of real life men: Tom Brown, author and extreme tracker, and our old friend Red Elk when he was with us. Both of those men could get close enough to a deer to touch it with their bare hands. I figured a “sword hunter” talent was doable if those guys could do that.

    Our windows here in Deer Lodge are not defensible, either. with roughly 48 square feet of glass in each of the north and east walls of the living room. The windows are fairly high off the ground, but that’s the only real impediment.

  4. I posted that last night, just before I went to bed. And then I thought that it wasn’t on the saddle horn, it was tied right down below with a couple strips of leather. Uncle Charlie had a lariat on one side and if he wanted the bull whip, it went on the other. Not knowing what they were called, and not having a way to edit, I let it stand.
    I used to have a couple of Tom Brown’s books. They were a very interesting read. I learned a lot about what vegetation could be eaten and which could not. I may still have them, or they may have been in that box of books I lost years ago. Dennis was cleaning out a shed, and he and the boys accidentally hauled a box to the dump. It had photo albums in it too, which really hurt.

  5. I’m sure losing the photo albums did hurt. Pam still grieves for those lost to her over the years for one reason or another.

    Tom Brown’s books were indeed interesting. I once seriously considered attending his tracking school but first wrote the school asking, “Do ya think that’ll work for a guy like me who can’t hug a pine tree without gettin’ bit by a tick?” Never did get an answer. Presumed they figured I was a hopeless case and not worth the effort. 😀

  6. Thank you, Ed, for another excellent chapter! I’m glad Julia and Michael survived the creek incident and got to the house before dark. And now, they get to enjoy their honeymoon! Cool!
    Manny

  7. I’ll tell Ed you thanked him…if I ever figure out who he is! 😀 (My name is still Fred. Maybe French Ed, abbreviated? Though French is only a small part of my DNA….

  8. LOL my apologies, Fred… I usually write Ghost on this posts, so my only excuse is that I was rushing with the note. 😉 As for Ed, he is my previous online writer that I did edits for: Ed Howdershelt, and he has been under the weather and not writing at all for close to 2 years now. He, too, is a libertarian who does not like having neighbors close by… though he has never proposed going off grid in his books. 🙂 Please give my love to Pam and ask her to forgive me for changing your name. I wouldn’t want the redhead angry at me! LOL
    Manny

  9. Hah! Manny, I’m pretty sure it would take more than that to get the redhead mad at you. Now, since I’m closer and do miss catering to an occasional whim when I don’t realize she’s having one, getting mad at ME is another matter–which I suppose is pretty much the definition of marriage….:D

    She’s pretty much under the weather today, too. More than her average rough day. Our next Arizona trip is coming up pretty soon and she started trying to go through this STUFFED suitcase her daughter Amy had crammed with her clothes from Utah. Overwhelmed her big time. She’s snoozing at the moment.

  10. Tell her to get better and not to overdo it. Won’t be any good when she comes down, if she makes herself sick.

  11. I’ll mention it. She’s learned to pace herself pretty well. She got up later but did not go back to the same task. Instead, we talked for an hour while I held the phone to my ear, on hold with SSA because we’d never gotten her address updated with them and the website wouldn’t let us jump through the necessary hoops to do it there. Then I handed her the phone to hold for a while so I could put up a couple of blinds on the porch windows.

    Shortly after that, a woman at SSA did come on the line. Unfortunately, she was mean, nasty, curt, and even hung up on Pam in the middle of the process, bumping us over to the after-call survey computer before Pam even got to the new address part. That was enough for my wife; she’s back in bed.

    So tomorrow I get to go to the SSA office in Butte, along with her Power of Attorney plus a freshly signed letter from her. We’ll see if that works.

  12. I hope you file a complaint about the woman that was supposed to be helping a disabled woman.

  13. I forgot that the latest Power of Attorney we did for Pam is laser focused on Medical (and End of Life, Living Will, etc.) and won’t work for the SSA change of address. We could theoretically get another “general” POA going, but it took weeks for her to find the energy to get dressed, leave the house, and do the signing for the Medical POA (in mid November 2017). Which means she’ll need to ride in with me, probably late the morning of January 11 as she has a dental consultation for cleaning and evaluating her implants in the same town (Butte) at 1:30 p.m., not much more than a mile from the SSA office. You can bet we’ll file a complaint at that time, and I’m confident the local Montana SSA folks will give her a ready ear. Not sure the unhelpful employee can be identified; I didn’t hear her name and Pam isn’t certain she remembered it right. But if there’s a phone record they can track in the national database, then maybe. Either way, we’ll definitely give it a go, get something on record.

    Two stops like that in one day would be way too much for her if the cleaning was happening the same day, but that will be scheduled for later.

  14. Ghost, I would suggest doing a notarized authorization for you to represent her for the change of address issue, which you back up with the medical power of attorney. You can get a notary friend (I hope) to come over to the house and notarize the letter. And, if you have a neighbor who is an attorney, then you might get a two fer one: letter review and notary service. You could also ask for help from your local elected congressperson since they have special “liason” contacts in the different federal ofices, and they were of great help for me when I first got my Social Security. I really hope this helps because I know personally how frustrating it can be to show up at SSA and be kept all afternoon by people who don’t seem to understand that I am legally blind and can’t read the fine print of the papers they give me. Worse yet, they didn’t want to let me use the bathroom while I was still waiting for them… a sad situation with many causes, including federal bureaucratic restrictions _which your congressperson can easily cut through once you’ve done all you can. 🙂
    My love to Pam and you!
    Manny

  15. Thanks, Manny. The notarized authorization might work. I’ll need to run over to Butte sometime in the next week anyway, so will stop in at the SSA office and ASK them if that will do the trick. In our smaller area (this ain’t exactly the Big Apple out here, eh?), the odds are pretty good they’ll be helpful. And IF they say yeah, that’ll work, THEN I’ll do that. (Taking note of the name and title of whoever tells me its doable, of course.)

    I had to chuckle at your thoughts regarding a “notary friend” and possibly a “neighbor attorney.” First of all, there is NO attorney practicing in Deer Lodge, Montana. Secondly, I’m better at producing most legal forms (the reams of paperwork churned out for a typical modern real estate transaction being an exception), don’t trust the average lawyer as far as I can throw him (or her) one handed–either for competence or for integrity–and will produce the affidavit (if that’s workable), no problem. Another way to put it: I know there are good attorneys out there, but I wouldn’t trust most of them to review my brand of toilet paper.

    Getting a notary to “come to the house” is not going to happen. We have exactly two people (other than paid contractors and city employees on the job) who do that. None of the handful of notaries in town are on that sort of “friendship status” with us. There are exactly two friends I’d feel comfortable asking to “come to the house” to help, both great people but neither a notary. So Pam would have to leave the house to sign. If the affidavit needed witnesses (it might not), it would be about 1/10th the stress (or less) of rounding up witnesses and herding all us cats to get the deed done.

    And maybe 1/50th the stress of having to go to the Butte SSA office.

    Congress critters…again, nah. In early 2013, I did approach our local U.S. Representative’s office in Arizona, asking for help with a lack-of-communication problem I had with the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs–it’s still not labeled BNAA, Bureau of Native American Affairs). Met with a gal in the local Sierra Vista office who promised to bring it to the Congressman’s attention. Heard nothing back (despite checking in with them a couple of times) until early 2014. By that time, I’d resolved the BIA problem. But it was clear WHY they were finally getting a Round Tuit: Next election was coming up in the fall, eh?

    Furthermore, Montana has exactly ONE member in the U.S. House. I’m pretty sure a petition for help with something as simple as this would get lost in the shuffle.

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