The spring day was a bit chill due to the mountain breeze and Hans was not surprised to see his superior’s tent flap was tightly closed. The three log cabins clustered nearby were much warmer inside but this was partly due to them being overly full of people. The engineer insisted that he could not work under such crowded conditions. And that was understandable, Hans admitted to himself. Most of the crew were an uncouth lot and none of them had bathed properly in months, if ever. The combine odour of sweat, cheap whiskey and tobacco was enough to make a man gag. Add in the belching and farting caused by a diet heavy on tinned beans and the atmosphere was positively explosive!
Since there was no proper door upon which to knock, Hans stood outside the canvas flap that served as a door and spoke loudly to announce his presence.
“Sir? May I come in?”
There was no distinct response but Hans chose to interpret the muffled noise that came from inside the tent as assent and pushed aside the tent flap.
“Sir!” Hans greeted his superior. “We could use some of the men to plant crops. I know that they are miners, not farmers, but surely they could put their hands to the job. It would help keep up appearances and also give them something to do besides quarrel amongst themselves. And we could use the extra food.”
“Controlling the men, it is your job. Do what you must. If you need more food then purchase it!”
Hans replied patiently, “The man at the Trading Post is getting more and more suspicious about the amount of supplies I am buying. Soon he will stop believing that I am buying for a small group of farmers altogether.”
“Do not trouble me with your petty problems! I have my own concerns.”
“Is there a problem with the geological survey, sir?”
“There is copper in this rock! I know that there is. Many veins of it in fact. Why cannot vi find it?”
“Perhaps the geological survey records are faulty? Or just plain mistaken?”
“Or maybe it is your men who are stupid! They are too stupid to find the veins of the copper in the rocks.”
Hans glanced wistfully over at the coffee pot. He would really have preferred to discuss the matter over a steaming mug but that didn’t seem to be happening.