Economics 101, a Novel, ch_34 -- Construction Crew

(The story starts here:

The previous chapter starts here:

Now we have the mushy stuff out of the way for a while, we can proceed with safe topics again.

[JMR201605051229: Forget to mention stripping the leaves off the bamboo.
JMR201605082001: My bad. Where Karel is from was definitely a ward, not a branch, from well before the time this story is set in.

On Friday morning, they moved their stuff out of the tent to air out before morning exercises and breakfast。After breakfast, they went up to the nearest stand to harvest one inch culms in earnest.

Working all morning, they had about a hundred culms. Most of their conversation turned around the bamboo, which to take, where to cut, and being careful not to disturb the new growth. Bringing it down to the beach, they stripped the leaves and branches on the tops and tied the culms together with hemp rope, weighting the rope down with more stones which they brought down to the beach. Then they turned the ten culms from two days before over and went up for lunch.

After lunch, they read from the scriptures and talked about what they read for about a half an hour. Then they studied their books, identifying plants and reading how to use them for about an hour.

Then they made rope for an hour or so.

In the late afternoon, they put on their swimsuits, took the oar from the dinghy, and walked around the beach to the stand of giant bamboo on the south.

Bobbie wanted to talk about their past. "So, ossifers," she prompted.


"I was a rebellious teenager once, too."

"So tell me about it."

"You first."

"Did I tell you that I used to make my own fireworks?"


"I did."

"Did your dad approve?"

"Uh, when he caught me at it, he gave me a whalloping for getting into his gun supplies without permission."

"Belt or paddle?"

"He always said he shouldn't hit me harder than he could stand to hit me with his hand."

"That was smart of him."

"His hand was tough, and it was red for two days after. I remember that whipping."


"But for the next year, he spent several hours a week with him, teaching me all sorts of chemistry. And after that he taught me physics. That's one of the reasons I took my bachelor's in physics."

"I see. Your dad is as cool as mine."

"When we were making fireworks together, Mom would say, 'If you blow the house up with me in it, I may never speak to you again!'"

"So's your mom."

"I think they're cool. So what mischief did you get into?"

"Went some places I wasn't supposed to go, got into things I wasn't supposed to get into, just like everybody. Did you ever smoke?"

"No. Tobacco was one of the substances we worked with when he taught me chemistry. What he showed me with that, well, I sure didn't want that in my body. Did you smoke?"

"Tried it once when I was fifteen. My mom smelled it on my breath and I got a whipping from my dad."


"He only used the belt on the boys, and only for the really bad stuff."

"So you didn't get a habit?"

"I had cravings for a week, so he gave up his habit. Both of us chewed on cinnamon toothpicks for the longest time after that."

"Cinnamon toothpicks? Did you make your own?"

"Dad and I went to the drugstore together to get the cinnamon oil."

"I made cinnamon toothpicks, too. Just cause I thought it was cool. Some of the teachers thought I was hiding alcohol or tobacco on my breath, so they made me stop bringing them to school."

"So what else did you do? Alcohol?"

"No. Mom wouldn't allow that in the house, so I was never interested in it. Some of my buddies drank, though. We'd go out driving in one of their cars on the weekends, and one of us that didn't drink would drive home."

"So, where did you pick up 'ossifer'?"

"One of the buddies I went driving with. Jim's dad was a John Bircher, and Jim was into all sorts of conspiracy theories. He distrusted all public officials on principle."

"So it was a word your friend Jim used?"

"His dad. He'd warn us to stay away from the ossifers' speed traps on the south side of town. You ever drink?"

"My little brother Rick and I tried some of my mom's cordials, and then he got into Dad's whiskey. After that, Mom and Dad got rid of all the alcohol. And Mom started making ice cream."

"Never drank after that?"

"Not when I knew it. But at the sorority parties at college they sometimes spiked the punch. I didn't realize it until I got drunk once. I left the sorority after that. And it was part of the reason I transferred out to finish my bachelor's degree at ECYU."

"You got drunk?"

"Almost lost my virginity, too. The boys from the frat had several of us girls who weren't used to the effects taking our clothes off when the dorm mom broke the party up."

"Ouch. Sorry to hear about that. I guess that's one of the reasons you mentioned for not trusting guys."

"That was one of them."

There was a lull in the conversation.

"There was a girl at my high school who made it her goal to sleep with all the members of the football team."

"You're kidding."

"She was one of the cheerleaders. I was kind of naive, and when she told me later that when she found out I was actually a virgin, ..."

"She asked you?"

"Well, in art class one day, one of the guys asked me if I were a virgin. Until then, I had only heard the word in context with the Virgin Mary, so I thought it meant pregnant, so I said of course I wasn't pregnant. I got kidded a lot for that."

"I guess so. So she decided not to try to seduce you?"

"She said she almost made an exception for me."


"She told me the quarterback and some of the other guys taunted her, so she figured she had to do me, too."

"That's, uhm, terrible."

"I think it's the only fight I deliberately started."

"You fought with her?"

"No, not her. Went to her house, and the quarterback was there drinking with her dad. I tried to beat them both up."


"I lost, of course. Did some damage on my way down."

"So, did she succeed in sleeping with you?"

"No. She had dropped hints that she'd go out with me, and I didn't know what was going on. Then she started coming over to the house to study. She actually hit me once when she said she wanted help with her angles and curves and I started trying to explain geometry."

"That's funny."

"That was when she explained what it was all about."


"So to speak. She wasn't rational at first. Mom heard her yelling at me and came running and helped her calm down while we explained that we believed people should treat each other better than that."

"She was making a pass at you with your mom home?"

"Yeah. She had assumed until then that all families let the guys do pretty much as they pleased.


"She ended up staying with my family for a couple of years. Joined the Church. Made her dad listen to the missionaries, and he quit drinking and started treating their family much better, and joined the Church too. Her mom took a little longer. Her sisters and some of her brothers also joined. Her dad is now the branch president bishop back home."

"Wow. And you and she didn't end up getting married!"

"Greg, the quarterback, was so impressed by my trying to take on both him and her dad at once, that he started listening to the missionaries, too. Quit drinking and messing around and joined the Church. Even went on a mission before they got married."

"And this is all for real?"


Bobbie shook her head. "Double wow. From little things come great things."

"Yeah. Didn't you tell me once that one of your bosses at a hospital you worked at tried to rape you?"

"Actually, he pretty much succeeded."

"Oh. That must have been terrible."

"Yeah. I felt dirty for a long time. Victims seem to always blame themselves, I think."

"You must not blame yourself."

"I know that now. But he told me that all nurses wanted sex, so I he knew I did, too. Fortunately, he didn't get me pregnant. I almost left the Church, I was so mad at God."

"Did you report him?"

"I talked with his boss about it. He got a reprimand and a pay-cut."

"That's all?"

"Yep. I left that hospital pretty soon after that. But I told him that if I ever heard of him doing it again, I'd tell his wife. He seemed shocked that I would be so offended."

"That's crazy."

"It's weird. I think he was genuinely surprised."

"That's hard to believe."

"I ran into his wife at the store once, and she said he had confessed to her and told his staff that he had made mistakes and was going to try to change."

"Well, that would be a good thing to come out of it."

"She said that some of the nurses came to her and complained about the changes. They seemed to think that their bodies were their way up the ladder."

"Sure is a different world than I thought when I was young."

"He changed hospitals, too. Took a significant pay cut to work at a place that didn't operate that way."

"From little things ..."

"It helped quite a lot to know that he was trying to change."

"Did you consider going to the police?"

"I didn't trust the police. When I went to the campus police about the sorority party, and about the professor who got his hands all over me, they just laughed it off. Said it was part of life, and I should just get used to it."

"Wow. A professor, too? You didn't tell me about that one."

"If I told you about all the guys who tried to take advantage of me, it'd take a couple of days, I think."

"I guess I don't blame you for not trusting guys."

"When I met you, you seemed, I don't know, too impossibly perfect. I mean, my brothers behave pretty well, but my Mom still has to get after them for their jokes sometimes."

"Well, I think you're pretty wonderful, too. All the things that have happened to you, but you've kept your faith." And Karel looked down. "But now, this."

"Is my bad luck rubbing off on you?"

"I would not say that. I'm thinking I'm pretty lucky. But it's a shame I can't take you to the temple to get married."

"I think I'm pretty lucky, too. Not what I was planning on, but I had kind of lost hope of ever finding a guy as good as my dad."

When they arrived at the stand of giant bamboo, they examined a number of them and cut down eight that seemed more mature. The culms were about forty feet tall, so they were heavy, and both of them had to work together to safely lower them after they were cut. Bobbie made the final cuts so that Karel could take the brunt of the weight. Then they carried them together, one at a time, down to the beach.


While they were there, they also brought several fallen culms down to the beach, too.


Tying them together with the rope from the emergency supplies, they floated them in the water, pulling and pushing them back to camp, wading, swimming, and riding on the floating shafts and paddling by turn. They were careful, of course, to avoid the jellyfish and other not-so-friendly things in the water.

After getting dinner, they cut the giant bamboo culms in twelve foot sections to help speed leaching and floated them in the surf, tied with hemp rope. With the giant bamboo in the water to leach the sap out, they [JMR201607221037: returned to camp.

"Let's see if we can keep the water from puddling under the trunks."

"The old giant bamboo?"


Karel cut some short sections of the old giant bamboo culms.

"Ya think those might roll?"

So Karel cut them in half lengthwise.

"Not very high, but maybe they'll work for standoffs. Let's get them under the trunks."

And they moved the trunks off the rack and moved the rack away from the wall. Using the impressions on the ground from the support culms as guides, they set the standoffs in place, offsetting them to allow water to flow, cutting more standoffs as needed, making sure each support culm rested in good balance on two or three standoffs.

Then they ] went back to making rope until time to write in their journals and sleep.

(The link to the next chapter will be here when it's ready is here:

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