“You should go meet Joey.” James had been shivering alone in the work shed out back when Samson came in. The presentation with Elgin had not gone well. He demonstrated the talking road and the vibrations in the swanky Cadillac that they had ridden in pronounced the words perfectly, “Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!” They had repeated over and over again, but no matter how many times the road literally spoke to them, the investors at Elgin just couldn’t see the benefit in it.
“He’s our campground host at Wildwood this year.” James had hoped that this invention would be his ticket to independence. The profits from the Snow Eater were still coming in, but he wasn’t secure by any measure. Instead of offering security, the investors made him feel like he had wasted their time.
“He made a cute little camper on his own and you should really see it.” Instead of planning for an easy life, he was hoping against all hope that John’s lavender idea would pay out soon. The tourists who came for the Onion Days Festival dropped a load of cash on his lavender oils, but he needed something that depended less on the whims of the ski jackets and the bored hipsters who wandered down from Up North.
“It’s called a teardrop trailer and it’s really cool. And I think you two would like each other.” The Haunted Corn Maze was already up and running, pulling in plenty of families who stopped at John’s lavender store to warm up. They were selling enough hot chocolate and hot cider to fill the bladders of them all, but that doubled the porta-potties they had to bring in. Not to mention having to pay for TWO sets of employees: one for the maze and another for the store. That’s one thing John didn’t put into his business plan.
“He only has a couple more weeks here before he’s done for the season, so you should really go meet him before he leaves.” What was Samson babbling about? James answered without even thinking, “You can’t force me to be friends with somebody I never met.” Samson shook his head, but James barely saw him through all his worries. “I’m not forcing you. I just thought you’d like talking to somebody who…” The little guy broke off in the middle of his sentence and the emotion in his voice snapped James back into the work shed. “Oh never mind.”
James watched Samson leave the shed and did his best to remember what his friend had been saying. When had this happened? When had he started caring more about the farm than the people around him? His mother would be scolding him with a vengeance right now. He could almost hear her voice reproaching him from beyond the grave.
Then he remembered when people had been placed on the back-burner of his mind and a shiver overtook him. It was when the family farm had been taken from John and him by the bank. Placed on the auction block, his farm had been saved by friends. Even the negotiation with Elgin for the Snow Eater had been handled by a friend. How had he come away from that experience caring more about the farm than his friends? He could still hear the scolding that his mother would have given him had she still been alive.
A wave of guilt washed over James and he threw on his sheepskin-lined denim jacket. He could smell the tang of snow in the air and he prayed that it would hold off for a month, but the clouds overhead threatened to drop big, fluffy, white flakes on him. Where did Samson say he was working? Wildwood?
James wandered the Wildwood Campground, looking for Samson. He felt the overwhelming need to apologize. He hadn’t even been listening to his friend. What had he been talking about?
Samson was nowhere to be seen. He wandered around the campground, but Samson’s tent was gone from the campground host spot.
He shook with the cold of the snow that had started to fall. Big and white, the flakes clung to his hair and shoulders. Was the campground closed? He could have sworn that Samson had mentioned Wildwood today. What are those campers doing here if there’s no camp host?
“Can I help you? You look a little lost.” James looked at the lanky guy and replied, “I’m lookin’ fer Samson. He here?” The guy smiled at him and James felt a sudden affinity for him. “Samson’s off for the rest of the day. He just comes here to empty the hornet traps, now.” James asked, “I thought he was the camp host.” It wasn’t really a question, he realized, and was going to clarify, but the skinny guy already answered, “No, I’m the camp host now. My name’s Joey.”
The guy held out his hand and James shook it. “The camp host’s site’s empty.” Joey laughed and waved him to the side of the camp that was unsheltered by trees. “I had to set up here so my solar panels would work.” He reached to the top of his tiny little trailer and wiped off the snow that had accumulated. “Not that it’s getting much sun today. You hungry? I’m feeling like some food.”
He popped open the back hatch of the trailer and fired up a camp stove. James was fascinated with the kitchen in miniature built into the back of the trailer. “What is this?” James asked. Joey replied, “It’s a teardrop trailer. I found some schematics online, but I designed this one myself.”
Something Samson had said earlier finally registered in James’ mind. “You make this yourself?” Joey laughed and nodded as he emptied a can of chili in a pan. “Want some?” James’ mouth watered at the scent of tomatoes, beans and beef. “Yeah, I’d love some! Where’d you say you saw the plans for this thing?”