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Pines and Principles

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(Note: I'm trying to do this piece by piece on Hnet because I thought the online experience may motivate me. It's a different method of writing for me but I thought it might help me get a start on. If you have ideas or comments, please email or give me a private IM. Otherwise, here is my first attempt in several years, 'Pines and Principles'. I hope you enjoy, because I know I will.)

The image of yellow lines passed through the amber mirror lens of a pair of aviator sunglasses that rested on the bridge of Joel’s nose. Puffs of white smoke came from the side of his mouth as he chewed on the Backwoods cigar that hung from the corner of his mouth. Joel was on a mission, and he was running low on fuel and time. The F350 hugged the curves and wined slightly as he pulled the log hauler on the back of his pick-up. The saw mill was just a half hour drive away, according to the map. However, he didn’t realize that half-hour on the map was actually two, due to the steep Georgian hills. There was no way his Ford was going to make it over those hills in time for the mill to get their shipment of logs. He sighed in defeat as his eyes scanned the road looking for any sign of civilization in sight. The sound of a soft long high pitch whimper from the dioxin that sat next to him on the bench seat echoed his fears.

“I know Frank. We aren’t going make it in time.” His hand reached over and scratched ‘Frank’ behind the ears.

Joel sure wasn’t use to the curvy drive. Back home he’d be pulling big trees off to the mill on more flat land but the hills in Southeast Ohio made Georgian hills look like mountains. He knew how to drive them and was experienced but normally a territory like this took at least a week to fully get into the groove with. He was on the job less than a day and was running logs down to the mill, simply because his contractor was too cheap to give the company more expense funds. You took jobs where you could these days. Logging sure wasn’t what it use to be when his daddy did it. Now there were more regulations, more safety factors, and more time and red tape that made these jobs harder. However, when a contractor says, ‘Get it done and I don’t care how, just as long as you stay in the budget,’ your company tends to over look things.

As he rounded another hairpin corner the sound of Red Simpson belting out, ‘Diesel smoke…dangerous curves…’ on the radio. Joel hummed along, until the sharp squeal of a siren pierced the air along with the roar of a muscle car engine. The cigar almost fell from the logger’s jaw as he seen a bright orange charger with confederate flag swing past him and almost scrapping the side of his pickup. Then a streak of white with red and blues attempted the curve and swerved into the guard rail not to hit Joel’s truck and gooseneck, but over the rail and down the side. Joel could feel his heart jump into his throat as he was now on the straight section of the road and past the curve. He knew that the sheriff car, on the other hand, didn’t make that turn. Being the faithful man that he was, said a quick silent prayer for the County Mounty as he slammed on the brakes and heard the squeal of truck and trailer come to a stop. Jumping down from the cab of his dark blue Ford and running across the pavement in his work boots, Joel noticed the orange muscle car slowly creeping back to the scene.

Oh yeah, now be a contiguous driver! You should have thought of that before led him to run you off the road. Crazy, backwoods, hillbillies!

Joel climbed over the twisted guard rail and down to the steaming Plymouth. Fortunately the car was caught by some big thick Georgian pines that stopped it from going farther down. The driver held his head and was slowly climbing out of the window.

“Are you alright!” the long lean young redheaded man asked with a thin Yankee sounding accent to his voice. He was dressed in a green plaid flannel that was rolled up his elbows along with a white cowboy hat and tight fitting Wrangler jeans. When the officer looked up to see who was talking to him the face and voice didn’t match to him because the young logger looked like he could have been a local but his voice gave it all away that he was anything but.

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  • 2 months later...

“Yeah… yeah… I-I-I’m awright…†The deputy stuttered out softly as he braced himself up from the car.

As the pair was talking the orange Charger stopped by the guardrail and a blond man poked his head out the window and slid halfway out of the car, “Enos! Ya awright buddy?!â€

Joel looked up with scorn at the two men who where now coming out of the muscle car and over to the scene more, “He says he’s alright but I don’t trust that answer. I think this man needs to see a medic. He’s pretty shook up.â€

“Really sir. I-I-I’m awright…. Just a little…†Enos stuttered out again then dipped down slightly, catching himself. The redhead caught Enos by the arm and Bo jumped out of the car, while Luke radioed Tri-County.

“Rosco, Cletus, or Val, ya’ll got your ears on. I need a medic from Tri-County to Curvy Pines Road, on the second curve along Iron Mountain.†Luke spoke into the mic. The color slowly washed from the deputy’s face and Enos dipped forward again into the arms of the young man in front of him. Joel caught the older man and held him up. Within, minutes more patrol cars came and a squad surrounded the scene on the mountainside road. Joel rendered the injured man over to the paramedics just as another sheriff and a woman dressed in ranger type uniform came running over. The sheriff came up to Joel and the two young men, and started to bark out accusations, “Awright! What trouble did you two Dukes cause for this young man and Enos here!â€

“Look Rosco, we were just havin’ a chase with Enos when we took a curve too sharp and we didn’t see the log truck and…†Luke started to explain when he was cut off by the cowboy dressed yank.

“Sheriff sir, these men are reckless operators of a vehicle! They caused your deputy to run his car off the road and almost caused me to lose control of my rig! Do you have any idea what that could have cost me, my employer and the man who hired the company I work for! Hundreds of thousands! Not only that but you could have had a disaster on your hands all because these two hot shots, think it’s cool to race around mountains! Seriously, grow up! You two look older than I by a good five or six years and you’re still running around in muscle cars and probably chasing tail. Grow up and get a real job. “The redheaded logger snapped fiercely at the Duke Cousins.

That’s when Bo came forward shaking his finger, “Now just wait a cotton pickin’ minute! Ya got no right talkin’ to Luke and me that way mister!â€

Even though the blond was taller by only a couple of inches the redhead stood his ground and snorted at the blond, “You want to make a plea for respect when you almost cost a lawman his life and nearly take out me, my rig and my dog! I’ll talk to you this way if I want to because you don’t deserve the air in which you’re using to pronounce those words with mister!â€

“That’s it!†Bo snapped coming at Joel with a right hook. The redhead reeled back from the punch then staged back on his feet and cupped his left eye which was slightly bleeding from a tear in the skin.

The hazel eyes boiled and got a copper cast to them, as Joel gritted his teeth and clenched his fists. He sucked in a breath and glared at Bo. Swallowing hard, Joel looked over at Roscoe, “Sheriff, I want to press charges on this man. I’m also contacting my lawyer.â€

“Jit, jit!†Roscoe stammered as he watched the angered logger stamp off to his truck.

The dark haired female Game Warden, Ms. Valerie Strate caught only the tail end of the altercation, as she stepped back from the ambulance which her brother was being treated in. The doors closed shut after she got out and just as she witnessed the red haired young man get his clock cleaned by Bo Duke. She sucked in a deep breath and watched in horror. What on earth would cause Bo to hit that man?! The last thing she saw was Joel’s promise to press charges on the Dukes and his storming back to his truck.

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  • 8 months later...

As the F350 roared to life and away from the scene with driver fuming mad, Valerie rushed over to the group of men left standing there, “What the bleep was that!â€

Bo looked sheepish at the female Strate rubbing the back of his hand with his other, “You tell me. We were just bein’ us and this coppertop yank who thinks he’s a cowboy comes…â€

“Bo, we were in the wrong. We just happened to go around the curb cause Enos to wreck because the logging truck was there and…†Luke tried to reason with his younger cousin.

“Enos wouldn’t have wrecked if that truck wasn’t there! It’s that guy’s fault not ours… Side’s no one comes up Iron Mountain to log less they’re crazy. You get much past this road and the sides start getting’ steeper and the ground get too loose and rocky to really manage logging.†Bo retorted.

“Yeah, but he’s got a right to be on the road too Bo… but ya make a point. He must be really hard up for money, ignorant of the danger of Iron Mountain, or being paid a ton of money to get the logs off this mountain. “ Luke rubbed his chin in thought.

“Look, I don’t know who did what… but Bo you don’t have any right to hit anybody. Enos is hurt and that Yank helped him out, Yankee logger or not.†Val protested.

“Val ain’t ya the least bit curious as to who is paying this guy to log out Iron Mountain?†Luke quizzed her.

As the dark haired woman’s mind spun with questions and concern she was redirected by Luke’s point, “Yes…but Enos is hurt and… Dang it!†she chewed her lower lip folded her arms in thought. Luke was right who was that fella and what business did he have up there, “That’s National Forest land, folks around Hazzard I know are trying to get too made into Wilderness Area, but their efforts are getting shot down all the time because of local…†Valerie suddenly bit her lip.

Rosco started to glare at her with a hard blue gaze then stammered, “Jit-jit-nit! Awright ya noisy Dukes I’m gonna lock ya up for endangering an officer of the law, for wreckless operation of a vehicle, for interfering’ with county business, and her-rassin’ the tourists!â€

Luke looked at Bo then to Val, “Rosco what business besides Enos getting in an accident does the county have in this?â€

“Well, you’re interfering’ with the clearin’ of Iron Mountain.â€

“Val just said that’s National Forest land, what does the county want with national forest land and how’s that tie in with that redheaded northern bean pole logger?†Luke asked.

“Jit-Jit-JEET! Luke Duke… now yer askin’ too many questions in front of the wrong authorities! Fer that I’m placing ya under arrest.†With that Rosco slapped the cuffs on Luke and Bo. Luke frowned and knew that the current situation wasn’t a good time to flee, with the General boxed in by the ambulance, Val’s truck and a sheriff’s car.

“Comm’on Bo… Let’s go. Maybe Uncle Jesse can scrap something to get us out again.†Luke sighed as Rosco hauled the boys over to the back of his car and put them inside.

“I’ll be talking to you boys soon. Don’t give up hope guys.†Val shouted to them as they were taken away.

“Never do… See ya Val.†Luke smiled and waved to the dark haired Game Warden.

Valerie stood alone for a moment and went back to the medics and her brother. The medics said they would take Enos to Tri-County for more testing but it looked like just a mild concussion. Val nodded and squeezed her brother’s hand as he smiled at her before they shut the doors.

“Don’t worry Val. I’m gonna be fine. Head just hurts a little. I’ll be awright… Promise…†Enos smiled.

“I know… You rest. I’ll see ya in a bit.†Val grinned back then let go and watched the ambulance take Enos away. Even more questions spun in the woman’s head now, and more concern flooded her mind. Rosco knew something that was certain. Who was that redheaded man and where the heck was he from and why? Why Iron Mountain? What did people want with it?

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Joel headed a little farther down the mountain till he came to a main road. As the wheels turned on the pavement making a low growl as speed increased, so did the boiling temper of the driver. Joel couldn’t believe the blatant disrespect people had for each other here and the law. Men older than him out joy riding and terrorizing the local law enforcement, it was proof that Joel needed to make his money and get back home. He toyed with the idea of possibly living in the south and leaving the Ohio foothills behind. Nelsonville was a hole, the armpit of Ohio. It was a college town filled with drugs, hippy liberals, and shady business. Joel wanted no part of it. Sure his family’s farm was an hour from that town but it was where he cut his teeth and became a man. The only good thing in his mind about that town was the college that helped him hones his wildlife and backwoods skills. The farm was essential gone now, bought up by land developers. All that was left there was mama’s house; she was a school teacher for the local district. Joel’s older brother was married to a girl in Kansas and farmed ground there. As for his daddy, the man rested in peace in the little church cemetery not far from the farm. He died doing what he enjoyed, being out logging trees. Joel still remembered the day; Mr. Steenson came to the door and delivered the news to Mama. She took it hard but managed to come out of it and raise two hard working young men. Joel and his brother held close to the lessons Mama taught them, which was more valuable than any material wealth that she couldn’t give them.

Now all he had was his dog, his truck, the few clothes in his suit case, the logging tools he had from working logging. His money was getting thin. The contractor was lean on his payments to his employer. Something told Joel even though he wanted out of Nelsonville so bad, he shouldn’t have left Steenson’s logging company. Every job after those days had been worse and worse.

As the stew of thoughts boiled within, he found his turn to the mill. Once he arrived and dropped the load of logs, he took the pay and folded the cash up into the envelope that Nat had given him for the company money. Joel was instructed to take a hundred out for himself and the rest into the envelope for Nat to disperse later to the rest of the men. Transactions were done in cash. It made Joel wonder why cash only? As he got back into the pickup, he noticed the sign on the sawmill said, “Hogg’s Saw Millâ€. It was now five o’clock and his work was done for the day. Now it was onto finding a place called Hazzard where he had a pre-paid room waiting for him. However, food would have to come before rest. Joel remembered passing a sign that said, ‘Boar’s Nest’ and it looked like a truck stop joint. The south was known to have good local BBQ joints and Joel was a sucker for spicy ribs. The boy had two hollow legs. That’s how his Mama explained where Joel put all his food since he barely gained a pound when he ate.

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  • 4 months later...

Soon Joel was pulling into a gravel lot in front of the roadhouse. He noticed the hand painted sign with the wild pig. Something told the young man that he would be able to find local Southern hospitality and a hot, home-style meal. Joel got out of his truck and walked to the door, the air was hot and muggy and the noisy from inside could be hear vibrating through the door. It was Friday and getting close to the supper hour, the parking lot was packed and Joel hoped he was right on his instincts.

Daisy was busy bussing tables and taking checks when she glanced up from a pile of dishes in one hand and a fist of money in the other to notice the long tall cowboy with the white Stetson walk into the Nest. Daisy smiled and called to the young stranger as he caught her glance, “I’ll be with ya in a sec but just come on in and make yerself at home sugar!â€

Joel hesitated but moved slowing inside more with his thumbs in his belt loops. He found a stool at the bar and took a seat. Daisy came back around the bar and wiped the spot in front of him down with a towel, “What can I get ya sugar?â€

The waitress was definitely friendly and attractive, he blushed slightly then smiled, “Well, I could go for some good Southern barbeque and the best cole slaw you got.â€

Daisy grinned and picked up the northern accent right away, “Ya a long way from home ain’t ya sug?â€

“Yes ma’amâ€, Joel smiled politely and removed his hat to sit on his knee, exposing the soft red wavy locks of hair. His hazel eyes grew soft and gentle, gaining a green hue to them. The young man watched Daisy move and she could tell his eyes were on her; however she didn’t seem to mind. He gave off a harmless and gentle vibe to her. She picked up a menu and handed it to him, “Here this might help ya… And ya said ya want slaw... Any taters to go with that sug?â€

“If you got French fries, I’ll take’em.†Joel answered looking over the menu then closing it, “With a pulled pork sandwich.â€

“K, ya want pulled pork, French fries, slaw and anything to wash that down?†Daisy asked as she scratched the order on her note pad.

“A cold sweet tea would be fantastic.â€

“You got it! The tallest coldest sweet tea I can bring ya!†Daisy answered then disappeared into the kitchen. Joel watched her then turned around on his stool and looked out at the patrons at the establishment, as he took in the local culture. As he was starting to get lost in the moment of relaxation, the phone behind the bar rang and it caused him to turn around. Daisy quickly came out of the kitchen and picked up the receiver, “Hello, Boar’s Nest, Daisy speakin’?â€

The waitress paused and listened to what was being said on the other line. Her face started to go into an expression of shock, “Well, is Enos ok?!â€

Another pause and Joel started to watch her closer. Daisy twirled the phone cord between her fingers nervously, “Well that guy got some nerve! How much is bail?â€

Bail? Obviously, this waitress knew some folks that were in trouble, probably legal trouble which now caused Joel to take more interest. Daisy bit her lower lip as she gazed at the ground, “You tell Uncle Jesse to sit tight and I’ll… But Cooter! Fine! But if I see that fella I’m gonna give him a piece of my mind! Causing trouble in traffic then startin’ a fight with the boys!... I don’t care if Bo started it Cooter. No pushy Yankee is gonna cause trouble for my family!... I will not!... Cooter!†With that Daisy frowned and looked at the phone in disgust and hug up.

Joel suddenly put two and two together and realized this waitress probably had connections with the boys he encountered before. He took a deep breath then decided to play things cool. The waitress then disappeared into the kitchen and came back with Joel’s meal and drink. She sat the items down before him, “There sug, you just enjoy yourself and if ya need anything just holler.â€

“Thank you.†Joel answered then took a sip of ice tea, “Actually there is… can you tell me how to get to the Hazzard Hotel?â€

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  • 3 months later...

Daisy stopped and paused mentally examining him for the moment. The sound of his voice echoed the foreignness of his presence here but to look at this young fellow he blended right in. Cooter’s voice came back into her mind and she suddenly could feel her gut wrench, “Boy, where exactly are ya from?â€

Joel bit down on the French fry that he held in his fingers as his eyes widened at her question. He slowly chewed on it as if time was dragging to a screeching hault at any moment. He swallowed then wiped his hands off on a napkin and cupped his hand over his mouth as he spoke till the food was gone from his palette. He knew this question would be coming. Something told him it would happen after Daisy hung up the phone, “I’m from Ohio, my folks farm is ‘bout an hour from Nellsonville.â€

“And what ya doin’ all the way down here?!†Daisy asked now changing her stance and crossing her arms.

The hazel eyes now hardened slightly and the young man swallowed slightly before he spoke, thinking about his words carefully, “I’ve been hired to do a job here, then I’m headin’ back home.â€

“What kind of job?†Daisy asked sharply.

She knew, the logger knew, that she knew and was trying to pin him down. Joel’s jaw locked for a moment and he just stared. Suddenly he realized more eyes were on him and Daisy. Joel consciously made his movements measured. Sliding his hand across his thigh where his napkin was placed, he pulled it away and wiped his face and tossed it on the counter, “Ya know, I always thought the South was suppose to be friendly to anyone but apparently you folks got a bug up your tails. “ The young cowboy pulled out his wallet and took out ten and placed it on the counter, “Keep the change.â€

“Whoa, whoa, ya ain’t answered my questioned!†Daisy snapped picking up the ten and putting it under the counter then rushing around the bar to confront the young man as he was walking away.

Joel stared at her and could now see similarities in the young woman, something about her manner and that phone call made him now see the blond that punched him in the jaw. The redhead could feel himself boil slowly, “There is nothing to answer… You know who I am and what happened. You already have your opinion and now I’m not welcome here. So if you don’t mind ma’am, I’m going someplace where I can rest and maybe find something to eat in peace.â€

Daisy’s face fell, confusion now ragged in her, “Now just wait a cotton pickin’ minute!â€

“Ma’am please… just let me go; your family did this to me because of my hot temper… I don’t want to get into anymore with you.†Joel said as he gently touched the small gash by his eye that he cleaned up earlier before coming to the Nest.

Daisy could now see the wound more clearly that she looked at him more directly. His eye was starting to swell just slightly. A part of her wanted him out of her face, a part wanted him to stay and tell her more, a part was just confused and wanted to scream; so she did none of it and just stared at the red-haired man as he replaced his hat and walked past her out the door.

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