After finding a place to set up camp at the oakie encampment, they finally found sleep’s reprieve from the daemons seemingly always tugging at their ragged shirtsleeves.
The next morning started at the crack of dawn. With everyone there badly in need of jobs, they were all interested in an early start. Guy woke with the cooking smells wafting through the encampment like flower essences straight from the heavens above. It had been so long since Guy and Lester had heard the sounds of pots and pans making the music of breakfast, Guy at first thought he had to be dreaming.
The nearby river’s bounty added the wonderful smells of fish frying in pans with the flour pancakes adding their own earthy aromas. Combined with the ever-present Orange essences, they both jerked awake to the rumbling of their stomachs as alarm clocks.
They hadn’t had time last night to do any fishing, so they set about starting a fire to cook some flour pancakes, while they dug into some of the Oranges they’d pilfered last night with the others. The truth was, the Oranges were so fresh, so naturally healthy, they couldn’t imagine becoming tired of them.
As they sat watching the bubbles slowly make their way through the flour on the pan, they first heard, then saw one of the close by campers walk up.
“Howdy boys.” The man greeted when he got within earshot.
“Well howdy backatcha sir.” Lester answered as he stood to greet the man. “My names Lester and this here.” He said pointing toward Guy who was also standing up. “Is Guy.”
“They call me slim.” The newcomer said. “On account of….” As he pointed down at his stick thin body and smiled. “But my real name be Jim. Jim Stevens.”
“Hi Slim.” Guy smiled back in greeting. “Lester and I are brothers and our last name be Huston.”
“I figured as much.” Slim said. “You look an awful lot alike.”
After exchanging a hardy handshake, Guy said. “Well, have a seat Slim. I’d offer you some coffee but we don’t have any. Would ya like a pancake?”
“No, no, I just had me a bite to eat. No, I saw you folks arrive last evening and figured you’d not have time to catch yourself some fish for breakfast, so I brought you a couple extras we had for ya.” He said as he untied a burlap sack from his rope belt and showed them two fine looking fish straight from the river.
“Now that is mighty fine of you sir.” Guy said with a hungry gleam in his eye.
“Slim! Please, just call me Slim, Guy.”
“Well we thank you Slim.” Lester said as he gathered the fish up and got out his knife to start the cleaning process.
That’s quite alright boys.” Slim smiled. “Ifen you catch extras down at the river, maybe you could share some.”
“That we will Slim.” Guy smiled back. “That we will.”
Not long after they finished their heavenly breakfast and cleaned up, they joined a line of other men shuffling their way through the encampment heading toward the Orange groves to hopefully find work.
When they got to the Orange farm’s main barn, the folks there had a small table set up for the hopefuls to fill out a little paper work for a job.
After that, it was a simple matter of showing the work Forman the paperwork. Then he’d have a quick little talk to see what kind of skills they might possess, to help him decide what work he’d set each of them up with.
So within a very short period of time, Guy found himself driving tractors and Lester was assigned as a mechanic on the farm.
The nature of employment in those days were you were paid in cash at the end of each day, so after working from just after sunup to growing dusk, Guy and Lester again joined the other men now almost stumbling in their exhaustion to walk back to the encampment. Only now they each had a small cache of tinkling coins adding weight and hope to their bodies and souls.
The first thing they did when they arrived back at camp was to grab up a handful of dirty cloths and their fishing poles and gear and head off to the river to join others already there in various stages of washing cloths, themselves and fishing for their evening meal.
With the California weather being so perfect, even in the night, they like most folks out of necessity and a slight bit of decorum left their cloths on and sat on the stones up to their chests and let the slowly moving waters take care of the grime, sweat, blood and stains on their cloths and bodies.
For Guy and Lester, coming from a place almost completely devoid of water in any form, this was heaven on Earth.