I’ve lived on outer Quartermaster for the past sixteen years and have never locked myself out. John Sweetman, a friend of forty years, has never complained or refused to feed my cat while I was away for whatever reason. He would spend time with Victoria or even start a fire if he knew I was returning to a cold cabin in the winter. This time, he sent a message that he was unable to find the keys I had cleverly hid in the woodshed in a pile of wood. He still spent time with Victoria to assure her that she hadn’t been abandoned. It was cold and dark when I arrived, and couldn’t find the keys either. I knew that I could have stayed with my sister, Molly and her daughter Mya at the homestead at Portage, but preferred to rough it out for a night, waiting for daylight, and the opportunity to find the keys. I even blamed the neighbor’s dog, Cinder for having stolen the keys which had been hid in an empty cat-food can that I thought I had cleaned. The adventure began as I waited for daylight.
John Sweetman was coming down my “leaf-chocked” steps with a cup of coffee in each hand. My hands were blistered from trying to cut the bolt securing my cabin door. John said there was a look of fury and gratitude on my face as he looked at the pile of used Sawzall blades on the ground and said: “Don’t you think its time to reconsider what to do?” Besides, he could see that the Sawzall was hot enough to melt gloves. I sat down on my chopping block of Oregon Bay Myrtle and John sat on a block of cedar. A few sips of coffee later, and I bellowed out, “There they are.”.. as the chopping block was just low enough and positioned exactly right so that I could see the glint of the keys in the empty cat-food can in the narrow channel into which it had been placed in the wood pile. The lock, however, had somehow been jammed by the Sawzall work. John’s careful chiseling took care of the problem after an interval of time. In the meantime.. Victoria, the sultry cat-mistress of the area.. had re-entered the house through the cat door and was asleep on the bed.
I had slept on the floor of the shop on a mattress from my old sail boat, the “Maggie M” and a Colemen sleeping bag, I had found by a dead campfire beside the Wenatchee river near Natchese where I had fought forest fire many years ago.
John laughed when he saw what I had had for dinner the night before, a gallon of milk, a bag of Aussie-bite cookies and a shrunken pile of green grapes, the way of the homeless. I had left the shop door partially open for Victoria and saw that something or someone was fooling around the car port motion-detecting light which flickered as bats dived for the meal of bugs attracted to the light. The bats had figured out that if they flew past the motion detector, they could turn on the light that attracted the bugs they had for dinner.
I had been on R&R at my brother ranch on the Columbia river, south of Kettle Falls and John had been coming over to feed my cat as he had many times in the past.
The moral of the story is that coffee can sure get one out of a lot of trouble.