The Twinning Factor – Chapter 1 – Readers and Writers Book Club

The Twinning Factor – Chapter 1

The Twinning Factor
Joseph McGee Private Investigator: Book Seven
McGee Faces A Conundrum
By Carl Douglass
Neurosurgeon Turned Author Writes With Gripping Realism

Chapter One

Jason Benjamin Richter III was born on 01/01/2000 at exactly 00:01 am in the Dr. Edgar Simmons Memorial Hospital. As a result, he became the New Year’s Baby for Summit County, Nevada for that year. His parents—Jason B. II and Theresa Marie Darlington Richter received $22,500 in cash, baby clothing, equipment, and more notoriety than either parent wanted. The pregnancy and delivery were surprisingly free of difficulty, especially since she was primiparous. In fact, the delivery took place to the day nine months after the wedding, which proved to be a minor source of teasing and good-humored razzing until the third baby came along—a little girl named Elle—two years later. The only thing remarkable about the entire first pregnancy and delivery was that Jason’s birth was not all there was to be that day.

As a complete surprise, seventeen minutes later, a second baby—another boy—was delivered. He was named James Darlington Richter by his quick-thinking mother. Her father was James, and her maiden name was Darlington.

Silver Dollar City, Summit County, Nevada was small, even by Nevada standards—5,569 residents of the city and 11, 702 in the county. Most of the residents outside the city limits of Silver Dollar lived on hardscrabble dirt farms. They eked out meager livings by squeezing every drop of water from the two small streams—between a creek and a stream in size. Most of the men were long-haul truckers moving anything and everything the market and supply chains demanded. The women and children seldom saw their husbands and fathers.

Jason and James were the exceptions. Their paternal great grandfather, grandfather, and father, were successive owners of the town’s only bank, The Silver City Mercantile Bank. Their maternal great-grandparents were pioneers of the county and owned four land sections along Portman Creek with access to the most agricultural water from the creek based on first-come, first-served. They had grown four bumper crops of alfalfa and two of feed corn, annually for nearly a hundred years. Theresa Marie’s father took advantage of that choice geographical location and of a University of Nevada Agricultural bachelor’s degree to be the first man in Nevada to make full use of the corn stover left in his fields after harvesting corn on the cob for Reno and Las Vegas markets. The stover consisted of leaves, stalks, and cobs from hardy dry corn plants left in the fields.

Grandpa Darlington was not content to be a successful farmer in a small town; he wanted to be rich and constantly experimented with new methods. He bought the machinery to cut, chop, and bag, the silage segments and started his own company for transporting the product all around Nevada. The silage bags did not store well, especially if the stalks were too wet when they were harvested. So, he traveled to Iowa to learn about a new storage method that would eliminate waste and increase profits.

There, he met Clive Orchard, an elderly farmer with a big operation.

After a two-day stay, the two men hit it off. Clive told James that he was ready to retire and do some traveling while he was still healthy enough to do so.

“I seen and done everything there is to do with wheat, and hay, and corn, farmin.’ Drought years, wet years, locust years… I’m tired. I’ll sell out to you for enough to keep me goin’ fur a few years travel, and I’ll teach you everythin’ I know to make ya successful here. Whattaya think?”

“I don’t know; it’s a big operation. All the machinery, the upkeep, the long seasons. I’m not sure I’m up to it, or that I can afford it.”

“Take a look at my books. Even with lean years once in a while, an average ten-year period keeps me bein’ a millionaire. I’ve put away enough to keep ma wife and me happy for the resta our lives. My three sons don’t want nothin’ to do with farmin.’ They’re off to the big citya Chicago to be doctors, and lawyers, big shot execs, and such. I can’t do this alone; local help ain’t much good, and you do have a coupla three sons to make this place go. You could double the output in a coupla three, mebbe four, years.”

“I’ll havta think on it, Clive. It’s a great offer, but our roots are in Nevada. Hard to pull up and leave.”

“Tell ya what. You take a look at the fermentation operation and then decide. How ‘bout that? I want this farm to stay intact, and I believe you’re the guy to do it.”

“Sure. Let’s go out to the barns. This fermentation stuff sounds right interestin’”

Iowa livestock farmers who had seen their pastures dry up and their hay supply dwindle were a good set of customers. So were the dry farmers of the Rocky Mountain West. They were eager to find another, more reliable, source to feed their animals. Most of them wanted to concentrate on the lucrative but fickle beef, pork, and lamb, business. The concept of corn stalks being chopped up and turned into silage was beginning to catch on.

As they walked through the large, immaculate barns, Clive explained the operation, “First uv all, the corn stalks must have about 60 to 70 percent moisture, and even stalks that look dry often have too much moisture inside. Farmers and ranchers all around know that there is sometimes too much spoilage; so, they’re leery about bagged silage. But this here’s a new, better thing. Ya know the old saw about, “if you build a better mousetrap, they’ll beat a path to yer door. Well, this here’s sortar that ‘better mousetrap.’”

“Farmers don’t much like change, Clive. How’m I gonna convince them about this fermentation stuff.”

“You got smart boys and girls, doncha, James? They kin git the school learnin’ and be taught how to handle the sellin’ part. This process works, and all they have to do is prove it to your would-be customers. One year’s wortha good dry product will get them old boys hooked, and your problem’ll be how to provide enough product to keep up with demand.”

James crooked an eyebrow and had a dubious look on his face.

“Lemme show ya. If ya ain’t convinced, then… well we’ll jist part friends, okay?”

“Well, I’m not from Missouri, but show me anyway.”

Clive’s speaking manner made it seem as if he were a hick farmer. Still, James recognized that the man was smart and knew just about everything there was to know about silage and its marketing.

Clive went on about the processes involved, “The key to a quality harvest of silage is to exclude the oxygen as perfect as possible. Ya gotta cover it with plastic or somethin’ better if it comes along. Then, the cut up corn parts naturally goes through a fermentation process which is almost exactly like pickling.

“That picklin’ process takes ‘bout three ta four weeks. Now, this here’s technical; but I know that you learnt enough chemistry and biology in that there U. of Nevada to git some idee uv how it works. The fermentin’ll develop enough acidity and drop the pH to a level that will fight off them bacteria and viruses and are likely to cause yer product to deteriorate over time. This here new way; the silage becomes stable at that point. You’ve smelt corn silage, I reckon. It has that sweet/sour aroma which is very much similar to what you’d would find in yer wife’s pickle jar.”

“Takes machinery, know-how, and some special equipment, ta cut silage. That’s an investment I already made. Other guys like us’re afraid a getting’ inta debt. But, ya can’t just go out in a field and start chopping with an old-timey mower. It takes special equipment to cut silage, and I got that right here.

They walked half a block further along the floor of the barn. Clive pointed to six large machines attached to silage towers.

“Them’re custom operators that will bag silage and put it inta big old plastic bags. Sorta makes these here kinda siloes-on-the-spot. These here complicated lookin’ machines do the choppin’ and baggin.’ It’s a good idee fer you to run the truckin’ fer delivery. That keeps them producers out there happy ta be freea the bother; so, they don’t haveta set up to plant, poison weeds, harvest, and store silage, a lotta which spoils. You are the good guy who does alla that fer a reasonable price. I’m tellin’ ya agin, yer real problem will be keepin’ up with supplies and countin’ the money as it rolls in. Them guys’ll love ya fer making their lives easier and their land more profitable, James. It’s God’s own truth.”

“Sounds too good to be true, Clive. What’s the down-side?”

I chose to use a pseudonym for personal reasons. I’m a retired neurosurgeon living in a rural paradise and am at rest from the turbulent life of my profession. I lived in an era when resident trainees worked 120 hours a week–a form of bondage no longer permitted by law. I served as a Navy Seabee general surgeon during the unpleasantness in Viet Nam, and spent the remainder of my ten-year service as a neurosurgeon in a major naval regional medical center. I’ve lived in every section of the country, saw all the inhumanity of man to man, practiced in private settings large and small, the military, academia, and as a medical humanitarian in the Third World.