Joy Ann flung open the door. There stood Gladys Lang, a reliable, steady bulk of woman, her arms stretched out ready to enfold her Stitch N’ Bitch friend.
“What’s the latest news?” she asked as Joy Ann led her into the living room, a portion of house blocked from the sun’s scorching rays.
“Might only be minutes until the final call comes to leave,” said Joy Ann taking a seat on the edge of the sofa as Gladys fit her bulk into Larry’s brown recliner. “The DNR guy left me these papers.” Joy Ann handed them to Gladys who looked at a few of the written instructions and asked, “Done of these?”
“Not really. Put a few things in the truck. Been distracted by Lance. I’m stuck. Can’t seem to move.”
“No matter. Let’s see if any of these ideas get you going. Let’s take these suggestions one at a time. What did you already put in you truck?”
“Insurance and medical papers. Left them on the floor of the cab along with some supplements and Larry’s blood pressure medication. I was looking for my cosmetic bag and Larry’s ditty bag when Lance came in. I set them down but don’t remember where.”
Gladys pulled a red spiral notebook and pen out of her bulging purse. “Can you find a box for the essential items you use every day?”
“I think I’ve got one in the laundry room. I’ll get it,” said Joy Ann.
When she was gone, Gladys looked around the comfortable living area. She nodded her head with approval. The room was not cluttered. Other rooms in the house might not be either, so the items Joy Ann sought should be quick to put her hands on.
Joy Ann returned with an empty file box. Gladys nodded her approval.
“Now, let’s go on a scavenger hunt. You find the items and I’ll list them on my pad so you won’t forget what you’re taking. Ready? Okay, then, walk, do not run, we don’t have time for your to fall do
“Oh, I remember now where I put that cosmetics bag . . . and Larry’s. . . stuck them in our suitcases in the hall. We’d just come back from Great Falls. . . be right back.”
Gladys picked up a folded newspaper from the side table. She said in a loud voice, “Can’t recall having weather be this hot. . . EVER. Won’t cool down at night like it used. We just have to work our way through this blasted length of heated up days. Next thing, you know, we’ll be trudging through snow and trying to avoid black ice.”
Joy returned and tossed items in the box. “What’s next?”
“Check book, credit cards, cash, driver’s license and passports.”
“They’re in my purse in the bedroom.” Joy Ann turned to leave.
“Wait up,” said Gladys. “If you have any valuables like jewelry or certificates, bring those, too.”
Joy Ann came back with her blue denim purse and a bulging pillowcase.
“What’s in there?”
“Bunch of stuff, jewelry and linens that belonged to my grandmother. Maybe I don’t need to take them.”
“Better idea,” said Gladys. “You have a root cellar, don’t you?”
“When you have collected everything we can think of that will tide you over several days, then you can put these pillowcases with valuables, or anything else that you think you don’t want to burn up, and place them in the root cellar. Next up, flashlights and two changes of clothing.”
“Oh, we only have little flash lights? Larry buys those cheap little things,” Joy Ann said.
“No matter,” said Gladys. “Find what flashlights you have and bring the clothes.”
“Our suitcases are handy. I’ll throw the clothes in there.’
“Remember shoes,” said Gladys called as Joy Ann left the room.
Within a period of fifteen minutes, two suitcases, full of clothes and shoes, an office file box with necessary daily items, and a big purse with more important documents, were ready to be put in the truck. Three pillowcases were full and ready to be taken to the root cellar.
“Joy Ann, sit a minute,” said Gladys fanning hot air across her ample body with the folded newspaper. “More is better if it’s the right stuff. None of us know. Our place might be in the fire’s path, too. So, run get two sleeping bags, a can opener, and a box in which to put non-perishable foods.”
“Sleeping bags are in the attic, but I’m a blank as to what kind of food to take.”
”When you’re hauling the sleeping bags back here, think about what you might have in the pantry in the line of canned goods?”
“Stews. Soups. Fruit. Canned meats like pulled pork or tuna.”
Into another office file box, went the canned goods and more flash lights. Joy Ann asked, “What about water?”
“Good. Find an empty five-gallon jug. Fill it, but only half way up, when you put it into the bed of the truck. Incidentally, do you have a portable radio?”
“No, to that,” said Joy Ann.
“Okay. Reading material?”
Joy Ann rushed off and came back with several issues of the Capitol Press, a farm publication, a Bible study manual she used in her weekly Bible study class, a Bible and her bag with knitting needles and steins of yarn.
“Anything outdoors that should go inside the barn?”
“No, but what about Larry’s tools?”
“Wouldn’t hurt to throw in a couple of shovels and a chain saw,” said Gladys. “You can add those as soon as the house is packed up. What about photos?”
“Oh, of course. Can’t forget to take photo albums.”
“Go get’em. Bring a camera if you have one.”
“Why? I don’t want to take pictures of the fire.”
“No, but if there’s time after I leave, you might want to take photos of each room, the outside of the house and the inside and outside of the barn, the animals. Photos will be a way to remind you of what you have to lose if things are destroyed by fire.”
Gladys ambled up from the chair. “You’ll come to my place when it’s time. Leave Larry a note if you come before he does, so he’ll know where you are. What about your hired hand? What’s going to happen to him?”
Joy Ann threw up her hands. “I’ve asked him to stay. I hope he will. After I put all these things in my truck, I’ve got to get over to the Rusty Springs Store. That’s where the DNR guy said they’ll be putting up a meeting notice for tonight.”
“Hey, a couple of other things, Joy Ann. If you are evacuated, disconnect your stove and appliances, but not your refrigerator or freezer. Turn off the lights. Lock the windows and the doors and tie a white cloth around the front door.”
“Oh, this is too much. How will I remember?”
“It’s all here on my pad and on this piece of paper. I circled the things you have yet to do.” Gladys got up and pulled one of Joy Ann’s suitcases behind her as she made her way to the front door. Joy Ann pulled the other case and when they were outside standing beside her truck, Joy Ann said, “Difficult things can be overcome if you have a friend like you. Thank you, Gladys.”
“Gas in that?” asked Gladys, turning to go to her car.
“Can’t remember,” begged Joy Ann. “I’d better get over to the store and gas up. Thank you ever so much, Gladys,” she said, giving her a hug and then jumping into her truck.
Inside the store, Joy Ann saw that Robert was walking toward the door on his way to close. She fumbled with the pump’s nozzle. “Hurry,” she said the fuel tank. “Why do important things slow up when you need them most? Get going,” she urged the sluggish fuel. She looked over to the store and thought she saw a notice on the door.
She ignored the sign and made it through the door just in time to pay. “What’s happening?” she asked Barbara.
“DNR rep came by and said there’s an informational fire meeting tonight at the Grange. If you go, let us know what they say,” said Barbara looking over her shoulder, seeing Robert fidgeting. “They put a flyer on the door.”
On her way out, the door locking behind her, Joy Ann studied the flyer. “Better rush back. Call Gladys. She should go, too. This meeting looks important for her, too.”