This is part of our free, online and highly-praised survival fiction novel. You can read the rest of the parts here.
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he next morning everyone slept in a little too long except for Marlee, who was heard trying to find something to eat in the cupboards, to no avail.
Murphy sat up, “…You looking for something to eat, Marlee?”
“Oh, I’m sorry, did I wake you Mr. Murphy?” she whispered, “I was trying to be quiet.”
“Do you have any cereal or anything like that?” she looked shy and a bit lost.
Murphy whispered back, “I’m afraid you won’t find much like that here. Do you know how to make coffee?”
“Yes,” she answered.
“Well, you put on some coffee and I’ll make French toast for everyone. How’s that sound?”
Marlee smiled, “That sounds great, thank you.”
“Coffee is in that cupboard, and the waters in the cooler there, pots on the stove.” Murphy pointed to everything the girl would need to get coffee brewing, and right away she set to work.
Meanwhile, Murphy stoked the fire and then limped his way down to the creek to fill the water pot for the stove, as it had dried completely out that night. He was relatively mobile these days, and didn’t require a crutch anymore. He felt it may even be time to take off his cast. Then he noticed Logan’s rifle leaning against the fir tree by the creek, and realized Bob was a very insightful man indeed.
Last night when asked about weapons, Logan had said the gun was back at camp, and Bob wisely knew right away that there was a gun somewhere nearby…
Murphy didn’t blame Logan, he would have done the exact same thing if it was his family and he was seeking refuge. He grabbed the rifle and brought it back to the cabin.
In the cabin he began breakfast for the group. He wondered what was the best way to handle their new guests.
Eventually the family would need to move on, as Bob and he did not have enough supplies for this large group. It was a matter of fact, not cruelty, to consider. He knew he would need to discuss this with Bob as soon as he got a chance.
The aroma of cinnamon French toast soon got everyone up and out of bed. Marlee had helped Murphy with some scrambled eggs too, and she looked very pleased with herself when she brought them over to the table and her folks. Murphy had made at least two dozen pieces of toast to make the eggs go further. They were an easy way to stretch out the supplies.
He decided that there was a fair chance that these people would still be here for supper, so he dug out several cups of dried red kidney beans to soak throughout the day. He figured on making some ground deer chili for supper. It was a great way to feed a large group of people. Throw in a few biscuits, and you have a hardy supper for five.
After breakfast, Bob and Murphy sat down with the Granvilles, and talked over a plan of action they had for them.
Bob told them of a derelict shack just past the south end of the valley. They offered to drive them there with the quad and trailer, and help them get it fixed up a bit for living in.
After assessing how much food the family had left, Bob offered to shoot a deer for them when he had the chance, and show them how to smoke it in a smoker. That is if they were willing to do the work themselves.
Logan was unsure but eager to learn, and definitely willing to try. That afternoon, the group headed to where Bob had showed them the shack. It was in bad shape with a dirt floor and a large hole in the roof, but that was easily patched using a piece of tin that had fallen from it. The stove in the corner was nothing more than an old 45 gallon-drum with some stovepipe. Yet, what it lacked in sophistication it made up for in heat. By that evening, the old shack was warm and dry, sporting a solid door on its front and an actual window made of glass, with the happy noises of a family living inside it.
Bob lent them a lantern, and some basic staples, such as beans, rice, and flour. He then told them to drop by anytime and he would teach them where to find berries and edibles for themselves, and what was poisonous, and what was not.
The family was indebted to Bob, and Logan vowed he would never forget their hospitality. Bob commented that, “Few can survive out here by themselves, even with help it can be tough. So, just return the favor or pass it on someday.”
The Granville family dropped by the cabin once a week at first, until they gradually settled in to their new home. They seemed very capable of living there now, but not before Bob had a chance to teach them a little about wilderness survival…
He showed them a few places they could get edibles and how to snare birds and rabbits, as well as make deadfalls for the bigger game.
Logan built a small smoker he set up using only willow branches braided together to form four walls and a roof. Bob showed Logan how to hunt deer, and how much fire wood they would need for winter. He also showed them ways in which to dry, pickle, and can food to store for hard times. They only had a dozen odd jars left over from pickling, yet they managed to put up some substantial stores.
Bob showed Lynda an old trick of his grandma. She would pour paraffin on the tops of the jam jars to seal them. When his grandmother had no sealable lids left for her jars, she would then fill the tops of the jars with wax to seal them. This was also an old timer’s trick that they mostly used for jams and preserves. The wax was then saved and reused as often as possible.
Logan later began to dig a root cellar beside the shack in a nearby hillside to keep their stores, which he covered with a heavy split log door to keep the animals out. It was a small narrow hole barely big enough for Marlee to fit in, but it was lined with logs and dug just below the frost line; this would do for now.
Bob and Murphy were both surprised at how well Marlee adapted to her new wilderness life. The two men, often after a very long day of hard work, would have discussions over a game of crib. How the world got so messed up, and how they were sure it must be the lack of discipline and poor upbringing of children that was partly to blame.
The men surmised that likely it was the leisurely lifestyles, and the far too comfortable existence that made people today, and the world, the way it is now.
However, after seeing Marlee’s rapid transformation from helpless infant to wilderness child, it was more likely that it was society’s coddling that made the youth this way… ignorant of reality and unambitious.
Either way, it was a poor way for anyone to start out in life, and wasn’t doing the children of the west any good. It left them with no direction in life, and not doing anyone any good by encouraging people with “pie in the sky,” aspirations by believing they could get ahead without working for it. Everyone wants to be a pop star these days…
It is as if society is in some perpetual childhood for the most part, and that we are never encouraged to grow up.
Both men agreed on this, that they both had observed fifty and sixty year olds acting like teenagers, refusing to grow up. It was no longer like in their parent’s day. They were even guilty of these crimes themselves. Neither one of the men could even remember adults in their day and age acting like this. What was happening in the world was profoundly a mystery.
It must be the availability of easy money that was to blame for this strife. The fake money injected into a fake system, this was the root cause of the west feeling that it would always have good times ahead of it. This left people with no regard for the day the bill would finally become due. The fake money was the driving force behind the irresponsible attitude of the western civilizations.
The men were glad to see that the young girl was easily capable of changing. This gave both of them hope for the future.
That night, as the two men watched the news on satellite, they saw how the two opposing sides were not only NOT coming to an agreement, but that the Federal government was announcing their intentions of bringing in foreign UN troops as standby against the American uprising.
The “alternative media,” the Internet, were getting ready for an all-out revolutionary type war spreading across the country. It was losing its mind about the idea of foreign troops occupying the country.
Despite what the mainstream media kept telling everyone, it appeared that the majority of the American people were firmly behind the militia groups. Many affluent money monsters from around the world were accused by the alternative media of injecting funds into both sides of the uprising, and even promoting the riots that initially instigated the whole mess.
“Things are getting worse out there,” Bob said. Murphy slouched down in his chair in disgust as he watched for the tenth time a video of their home town blazing beneath a windswept orange brown skyline.
“Should we be doing something, shouldn’t we be in town fighting or something?” asked Murphy as he stared blankly at the TV.
“Do what?” asked Bob. “Fight who?”
Murphy shrugged, “I don’t know, maybe join the Militia?”
Bob stood in front of Murphy, blocking the TV screen. “The real frontlines of this battle are the ones being negotiated by the diplomatic few, who actually get what’s going on.”
He moved aside, and went to the window, “This is the only way to get the Nation back… we’re no longer in control… that’s what you must realize. That is the only way to bring some end to all this. More force will only bring more foreign influence. The UN troops and allied forces from other nations that have no problem shooting innocent Americans,” He lifted the binoculars and scanned the bush.
“It’s like I said before.”
“The people in charge of all this, the owners of your American dream, don’t want peace, they want conflict. Conflict is their stock-in-trade. The corrupt shadow government has been designed to drive this nation to its knees. They have succeeded, and now they are about to finalize their plan, a One-World-Government.”
Murphy looked ill.
“So… what do you suppose we do, Bob?” Murphy asked.
Bob quietly answered, “I have fought in war. I was told it was for a good cause back then too. It wasn’t. It was for warmongers, and bank profits. No one person can stop this conflict from unfolding around us, at least not by fighting on some frontline. To really end this nightmare they need to stand together, and cut off the head of the snake. Follow the money Murphy, that’s where this evil is coming from…” Bob looked like he was getting really pissed off.
Murphy grunted. He knew Bob was right, but the question was too big for Murphy to consider. He wondered how they would ever resolve the conflict in the nation’s heart. Murphy felt helpless. He got up, slung his rifle over his shoulder, and decided to go for a walk. He left Bob sitting in his chair watching TV, and closed the door behind him.
Murphy felt better being outside. The news of the nation’s trouble wouldn’t fade away that easily. So he headed north along the trail that he and Bob came in on, just two months before.
It was late May, and spring was just about over. The summer was coming. Everything was in full bloom, and wherever he looked the skies had been swept clear by summer winds. As far as one could see was bright sky.
It was hard to imagine the chaos that the people of Metro faced 150 miles away. He thought of his old girlfriend, Theresa, and wondered about her, and for that matter, what the people of America were now facing. He closed his eyes and warmed his face in the sun, while breathing in the pine scent of the forest.
Murphy stood motionless for several minutes staring up at nothing, and thinking of… absolutely nothing.
Just the sun’s warmth.
When, gradually, a faint buzzing arose on the wind. At first, it was barely audible, and then it gradually grew until he recognized the sound of a chainsaw in the distance. It was coming from the North, along the trail.
Murphy understood what it meant right away, and ran as fast as he could back to the cabin. Bob was on the porch, listening to the sound of the saws…
Without Murphy even uttering a word, he said, “I hear it,” as Murphy ran up to the cabin steps.
“It’s someone clearing your felled trees from the trail isn’t it?”
“It is,” replied Bob, showing no emotion.
He turned and went into the cabin to get his AR.
As he locked the door behind him he commented, “We had better check this out.”
Walking toward the quad, he added, “you’d better come too Murphy, I may need you for back up.”
The two men jumped on the ATV, and headed up the trail towards where the sound was coming from. As they got nearer to the sound, they dismounted and traveled by foot to within a hundred yards of the men. Skirting high along the hill to avoid being detected, they crept closer.
There were only two of them below and they were traveling by quad as well. The men appeared to be young and in their early twenties. Each one was carrying a firearm. One had a deer rifle with scope. The other had a short sawed-off pump action twelve gauge slung across his back.
“I’ll go in by myself,” Bob whispered. “You cover me. Keep a bead on the guy with the shotgun. I’ll bet has very fast with it, so if he tries to go for it while I’m talking, you take him out. Aim for his chest.”
Bob slowly made his way toward the two young men. He had his AR ready, but held it pointed toward the ground, so as not to alarm the men. He called out when he was fifty feet away, “You there?” The man with the shotgun heard Bob’s call, and tapped the shoulder of the man with the chainsaw. His rifle was no longer on his back. It now leaned against a nearby tree. He looked up at his partner who pointed to where Bob was standing. Then he turned off the chainsaw and set it on the ground.
Bob saw his eyes as they wondered over to where his rifle was leaning on the tree. He then looked to his partner and saw how his gun was looped over his head and shoulder. They were not ready, and hadn’t expected anyone to be dropping in on them… that much was for sure.
“Hello there,” the man said, giving a fake smile and trying to sound neighborly. “Ah, we didn’t expect to see anyone out here,” his tone was contrived, yet he continued to try to sound cheerful. He was a greasy man, both had on black hooded jerseys under leather jackets. They looked like cheap two bit punks, they wore no gang colors. They were not organized members, but the kind of rabble that looked like the rioters and thieves on TV, except these two were armed.
Bob called out to the men. “This is a private trail… and I’d appreciate it if you leave my trees where they are.”
The men looked at Bob angrily and replied, “We didn’t realize you owned this valley,” sounding even more like cheap punks.
Bob walked closer stepping over some dead brush, “There are plenty of other valleys around these parts gentlemen, you can explore any of them all you want, but this one’s been taken.”
“Hell, friend,” the owner of the deer rifle grinned at Bob, revealing missing teeth. “This is a mighty big valley for just one man to have.”
Bob flashed a stern look at the young man, “Not that it’s any of your business,” He said quietly, “but there are a lot more people other than myself in this valley, too many already.”
The greasy rifleman then smiled at his friend with the shotgun, “Well, we didn’t realize that at all, we thought it was all government land out here.”
“Well,” said Bob, “now you know. So if I were you, I’d move on.” He pointed up the trail with his AR-15. “You can leave the way you came,” Bob was still pointing the AR up the trail, when he said this.
Murphy listened to the conversation from the hillside. His hand began to shake, but he forced himself to stay calm. He steadied the rifles bead on the shotgunner’s chest, and preyed he wouldn’t have to shoot him.
The two men were taken aback by Bob’s forceful demeanor, and yet common sense made them comply. They still kept trying to figure out a way to turn the situation to their favor. Slowly they began loading their quads with gear.
The man with the shotgun reached for his sling to remove the shotgun from over his head, “I wouldn’t do that son…” Bob said, and pointed the AR toward the man.
He then yelled out to his accomplice on the hill, “MURPHY…” Making the two intruders aware of his friend with the Russian made rifle.
“Are you still aiming at this one…” he pointed at the man’s chest with his AR. Then he tilted his head sideways listening over his shoulder for Murphy’s reply… all the while, never losing eye contact with the two men in front of him.
Murphy then shouted back from the hillside, “I am…”
Bob continued eyeing the men and called back to Murphy,
“Well… you keep an eye on both of them, but I am going to let them leave, okay?”
Bob’s eyes darted from one to the other the whole time. The encounter went down pretty smoothly, and looked well planned. This left no doubt who was in charge of the situation. The men moved slowly, and mounted their ATVs. Bob grabbed the rifle leaning against the tree before the greasy man reached for it, and unloaded it. He handed the bullets to him slowly, and commented, “Allow me,” then shoved the rifle at his chest before letting go.
Any notion of trickery soon vanished from the men’s minds, as they quickly readied to leave.
Before they started up the vehicles, the greasy one looked back at Bob, and said, “We didn’t mean any harm fella, just looking for new territory, that’s all.”
Bob walked right up to his greasy face and replied, “We have several families in this valley, and that’s all that it can handle right now. We don’t want any trouble, nor do we want any more people using up our resources, so if you don’t mind… don’t come back.” Then he added, “We’ll respect your territory if you respect ours.” The greasy man sized up Bob for several moments, then lowered his gaze and turned over the quad’s engine. Without looking back he gunned the machine, and turned it back on the trail, the two headed north from whence they came.
Bob and Murphy listened as the engine noises slowly faded off into the distance. They waited until they finally crested the valley’s summit, and heard them no longer.
Murphy walked down the hill towards Bob, “Well, that was fun. I have the feeling we haven’t heard the last of those guys,” grinned a nervous Murphy.
“Unfortunately, I think your right.” replied Bob.
“I recognized tattoo’s on the back of their hands. They looked like some cheap ass gang tats. I bet these are some of those guys from that group Logan told us about.”
“Might be,” Murphy replied.
“Let’s get out of here. We better warn Logan about them. They might try coming up the valley from the south end next time.”
Bob threw the AR over his shoulder. He rolled the cut off log back onto the trail, and the two men headed down the path to their vehicle and then raced home.
When they got back they grabbed some supplies, two bottles of Murphy’s homemade brew, and a deer roast. They planned on visiting their neighbors, the Granville’s, to the south and wanted to bring a meal. They threw the bottles into a sack with everything else. Bob had another idea of using a pair of his Dad’s old VHF hand held radios. The two radios once were used for a hunting trip to Alaska several years ago by his father and him before he passed on, but now he found they weren’t much use around here in these tight valleys.
“They do have a decent range,” He commented. “Twenty-miles over a direct line of sight, and still will hold a charge (even if only for a day), at least when not used much.”
He threw one radio and a solar charger for it in his rucksack for Logan and his family to use. The idea was that one could warn the rest of any movement in the valley, while the others could come running as back up or head for the hills, as the case may be.
The family must have heard their quad coming, as the Granville clan was standing in their front yard waiting when the men pulled around the last turn in the trail.
Marlee jumped up and down dancing silly when she saw the men, and waved at the two as they approached. Logan held up his right arm in greeting as soon as he recognized them, and then turned to get some chairs for his guests.
Murphy got off the quad and handed Lynda the deer roast, which she graciously thanked both of them for. Then she promptly set about getting it on the stove in her Dutch oven. She brought three beer glasses for the men back from the cabin. Murphy filled them and handed one each to the other men, Lynda did not like beer so she had iced tea, without the ice.
“We have some news for you about two bad looking dudes we ran into just around an hour ago,”
Bob looked at Logan and then Lynda. “Marlee, you’d better go play, until we hear what these men have to say,” motioning to the young girl to leave them for a moment. Marlee whined, but did as she was told.
Bob waited until the young girl had left then began to tell the tale. “Murphy and I just have come from the north trail, right after chasing off two greasy looking guys with quads trying to chainsaw their way through our barricades at the north end.”
Logan looked at Bob and asked, “Did they have black hoods and leather jackets like the men from the eastern valley?”
“Yes,” replied Bob. “I’ll bet it’s those guys from over towards Misty Lake.”
“I suspect so,” Bob nodded.
“I wouldn’t trust them as far as I could throw them,” Logan growled.
“Well, they were both armed, that much is for sure, and intent on coming into this valley. We chased them off for now, but I’m sure they’ll be back. I bet you might even see them coming in from the south on this trail,” Bob pointed at the trail heading to the south, “So be ready. Keep that SKS I lent you loaded on you or next to the door at all times, Logan.”
“Does everyone in the family know how to shoot now?” it was a valid question especially out here in the wilds.
Logan looked at his daughter playing, “Marlee is a little squeamish, but she is a pretty good shot, and Lynda can hit a bird flying.”
“Good,” Bob continued, “I brought your family a handheld radio you can use to call us for help if they do come this way,” Bob handed Logan the radio, and showed him how to use it and what channels to monitor. He then said, “We also brought you some more ammunition for that SKS. You never know, you might need it… just in case.”
“We’ll come by tomorrow and drop some trees across the south trail for better security; at least if you hear them like we did today, you will be able to know if they’re coming, and when. Well, if they use a chainsaw to cut through them, that is.”
Murphy could see Marlee was getting bored playing off by herself, and was now slowly making her way to within ear shot of the adults.
“Marlee, come here,” her Mom patted a spot on the bench seat beside her.
The girl approached cautiously, knowing something important had been discussed.
Lynda nodded toward the men, “Bob and Murphy say that they just saw some of those men from the other valley north of their place today.” Marlee looked around frightened at the faces of the two men.
Lynda then spoke quietly to the young girl, “It’s okay… they chased them off, but if you are alone and see men anywhere, you run and hide deep in the woods and don’t come out, or even move, unless one of us calls for you.”
She was truly scared, yet bravely tried to look calm, and said, “I will Momma.” The discussion then changed to everyday topics between the adults, now that the girl was listening.
It seems that the Granvilles had truly become a wilderness family. They had even started a late spring garden with the seeds that Bob lent them. They were now growing snap beans, lettuce, and radishes in the garden. But only after pushing a picket fence made of a thousand willow branches into the ground to keep the deer, rabbits and gophers out. They finally had a crop, and proudly showed off their latest endeavors to the men. They were thoroughly impressed by the change in their neighbor’s skills since they arrived. They had truly come a long way from the first night they had stumbled onto their cabin those many weeks before.
The sun was beginning to set, and Lynda invited the group into her home. Inside were a half log table and a set of bench seats that Logan had made himself. The table was crude, sturdy, and well-made. There were two beds also newly made, and a flattop sheet steel griddle added to the old barrel stove for cooking.
Logan invited the men to have a seat. It was now a proper home, and far from that run down shack it was when first the family moved in.
Once everyone was seated, Lynda brought the Dutch oven over and set the hot meal on three stones in the middle of the table. She lifted the lid to reveal a pot chock-full of potatoes and vegetables, all piled high over a perfectly roasted piece of venison. The smell of wild garlic, sage, and parsnip filled the room. Logan handed a large spoon to Bob who had sat to his left, and said, “Help yourself gentlemen,” Bob eagerly took the spoon from Logan and filled his plate. He then passed it to Murphy beside him, and so on…
Logan carved the roast.
Right after the meal the men sat around and drank coffee, while Lynda and Marlee had tea. When the conversations were over, and the men got up to leave, they thanked the Granville’s for a fine meal. Bob and Murphy headed for the quad and made their way home. The men promised to be back the next morning to drop trees across the southern route as planned.
It was dark when they left their friends, but the quad’s lights were perfect for finding their way. By now the trail was well-worn and well-known to the residents of the valley. By the time the two got back to their cabin a moonless night made the yard appear dark and foreboding. The head light seem to barely cut sections of the blackness out like lasers, revealing nothing beyond the edges of the beams.
Their encounter with the rabble, earlier, certainly had everyone in the valley on edge. The men dismounted, and made their way to the cabin door. The lock was secure. The shutters were still latched, and it appeared that their home was secure.
No one slept well that night. Murphy, who had NOT had any bad dreams in quite some time, experienced some that evening.
He found himself back in the city with the usual caterwauling of the air raid sirens wailing overhead. Yet, this time instead of rioters and firestorms, he looked down upon a battlefield that raged across his forgotten city. The battle raged with tanks and military vehicles using 50 caliber machine guns mounted on their roofs. Tracer rounds trailed off in the fading light punctuated by large explosions and billowing clouds from mortar rounds dropped into the frenzy of citizens.
The troops used conventional warfare against the citizens of their own country… the defenseless were now the combatants in this war. Citizens were armed mostly with Molotov’s, rocks, and some small arms. Their grimy heads popped up from hiding for just long enough to toss whatever they could muster, then they ducked away quickly before being fired upon. Most avoided the machine gun fire by hiding behind what was left of some ruined building. It was nearly impossible, as armor piercing rounds from the big 50s cut through the cinder blocks like cheese.
Many locals hopelessly hid in sewage systems and culverts under the city’s streets and roads. The scene was apocalyptic, looking more like the war torn eastern city of Aleppo than the down town city of Metro.
Murphy had gotten used to his periodic nightmares, and barely rolled over in bed before moving onto a less arduous dreamscape. Next, he dreamed of his ex-girl, Theresa, and the two of them living in the valley together raising a family like the Granvilles. The dream continued as he sat quietly on his porch. The two of them side by side, quietly rocking in a porch swing built for two as they watch the sunset. A shot rang out and Theresa slumped over on Murphy’s shoulder. He awoke from the nightmare gasping for air. Only the sound of Bob breathing could be heard in the darkness. Gasping for breath, he soon calmed himself, and went back to sleep. Eventually realizing it was only a dream.
…He didn’t dream again the rest of that evening, and suddenly woke up to morning.
His first thought that morning was… he wasn’t sure what the dreams meant anymore… if anything, but he was absolutely sure he was certainly not getting back together with his old girlfriend, Theresa.
It was such an odd dream, perhaps his mind playing tricks on him.
He confirmed this to himself… not for all the tea in China would he get back together with Theresa, especially after the hell she put him through.
He reasoned it must have been some Freudian cerebral bile that built up in his mind that must have been coughed up like some mental phlegm. Perhaps a bit of bad venison, still undigested, that sat in his stomach caused it all.
Bob woke next, and the men readied for a long day of felling trees on the south trail. The project was paramount in securing the valley from intruders. They packed up what was needed, and left the cabin locked, even bolting the heavy bear proof shutters from inside. They decided to test the radio out and called the Granville’s before leaving.
Bob, smiling at Murphy before speaking into the receiver, called out, “This is Red Fox, to Grey Squirrel-killer, come in Grey Squirrel-Killer, over.” Bob forever kidded Logan about the amount of grey squirrel he had shot during the spring. Logan would certainly get the joke, and know who it was that was calling. Bob frequently teased the family about how much squirrel they had eaten. Surprisingly Marlee still liked squirrel stew, despite the hundred or so times they had it. The three must have eaten most of the squirrels in the valley.
One morning, Bob was on a routine trip with his quad, he cruised down by the Granvilles’ place, and spied a big buck feeding at the edge of a grove of poplars. He took careful aim and dropped it with one shot for the family, and let them know where it lay. Logan and his family gratefully went and dragged the deer home and filled their larder with the meat for the summer.
He repeated: “Calling Grey Squirrel-Killer, this is Red Fox, come in Grey Squirrel-Killer.” A second or two went by then the radio crackled and Logan’s voice came on, “Hey Red Fox, very funny, are you and Murphy on your way down, over.”
Bob pressed the call button, and answered, “You bet Grey Squirrel. We are just about to head out. We’ll see you in an hour or so. Over and out.”
The men looked around the camp, climbed on the quad, and shouldered their rifles. Bob had tied a chainsaw to the front of the vehicle. Then they headed down the south trail to the neighbor’s home.
Logan met them at the trailhead next to the clearing. “Hey Red Fox,” he shouted and laughed as the men approached. “Where do you think the best spots will be to drop these trees?”
Bob knew exactly where.
He suggested they cut trees as far down the valley as “Lost Miner Creek,” a tiny tributary to Myrtle Creek near the narrowing of the canyon’s entrance. It was about two miles south. He wanted to drop a tangle of logs in this tight spot of the valley, and other trees every quarter mile after that. It would certainly buy some time if someone was determined to come that way. It would slow down anyone with vehicles from getting in from the south before the group could react.
The canyon was an ideal place to block off, as there was no way around the bottleneck created by the sheer canyon walls. This effective defense cut off the entire southern entrance to the valley. It would take several men a full day to clear out just one tangle in that narrow stretch.
The group knew it meant that there was no quick retreat, if any, for them if they had to abandon their valley home. This was a decision that all the men had to agree on together, before the work was to begin. There would be no retreat, and they would all have to stand and fight if it came to that.
A plan “B” was formulated for running to the hills on foot if things got to rough and they were way over their heads. It included plans for a rendezvous point. It was established so that the women could flee first… allowing them time to get there well before things got out of control.
When they arrived at the narrows, they were concerned when they found some old foot prints, and a set of ATV tracks. This didn’t mean it was the same men Murphy and Bob had braced, but it did mean their valley was known to others.
The men dropped five large spruces. The first fell straight down the trail in a massive spectacle, and the remaining trees were dropped in an X-pattern effectively holding down the first tree, thus blocking off the trail from any further use. It was a tangled mess with no way around it, and a hard day’s work for several men to remove even with two chainsaws and ropes.
As the group of residents retreated northward they dropped similar tangles behind them every quarter mile, until they were back at the Granville homestead.
“Well, gentlemen, I believe the southern route is secure,” Logan smiled emphatically, wiping sap from his hands across his overalls.
“How about a drink of some of my cranberry wine…it turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself,” the ex-manager smiled at Murphy and Bob grinning with anticipation. “That sounds great,” everyone laughed as the two spoke in unison.
After lunch, Bob and Murphy invited the family back to their cabin for supper, and then the two headed out to get ready for their “guests.”
Murphy called out over his shoulder, “Bring some of that wine, Logan,” and Bob gunned the engine to the quad and sped off.
The drive to the cabin was leisurely, as the men felt they had taken care of the potential problem that had been nagging them ever since their encounter with the members of the gang yesterday.
When they arrived, Bob suggested he add some more felled trees across the northern trail, and headed out to do just that. Murphy volunteered to cook supper for the guests, and went to the pantry for some meat.
As there would be so many mouths to feed, he decided to simply make a peppery venison stew, using his garden potatoes, some wild parsnips, carrots, and a large chunk of hindquarter that he diced and browned up in some bacon fat. It would have at least four hours to stew and become tender. He also rolled out some home baked biscuits to fill the void.
Everyone arrived just before the sun began to disappear over the mountain ridge. Bob returned from the north trail and the entire group sat on the porch enjoying the sunset as it changed the valley’s hue from crisp green to orange, then added a light show of golden flames bouncing off the sparse gathering of clouds to the west.
Just at that moment, Murphy’s alarm bells jingled beside the porch. Everyone immediately looked up the trail to the north, and there before them stood a cow moose and her calf. The same pair that was videoed on the trail cameras Bob had set up when he found Logan’s footprints near the creek, weeks before.
A quiet nervous giggle was heard as the group stared at them. “Oh, look… whispered Marlee, as she slowly pointed at the creatures.”
Quietly the group watched the animals stare back at them. They were certainly a magnificent sight to see, and a great way to end the afternoon. The mother moose finally got bored and moved on, hopping over a large log with ease before crashing off through the bush with the young calf in tow.
Murphy suggested they all head inside for some stew. He was glad to have some females around for a change. He never realized how not having women around upset the dynamics of a room full of people. Their laughter was a welcome change. The stew must have been wonderful too, as not a word was heard during the first ten minutes, only the ravenous sound of people eating. It was like a family event and everyone felt the same way.
After the dishes were cleared and washed, the group sat on the porch in the warm summer night. They waited for the heavens to reveal their evening light show.
Without any city lights to ruin it, it was like a person could reach out and touch each and every star, and there were millions to choose from.
Lynda had brought the lanterns for the walk home. Bob and Murphy watched them leave. Marlee’s silhouette waved at them as she straggled behind, and the men waved back as the lanterns disappeared around the bend of the southern trail.
“They turned out to be pretty good people, huh Murphy?” Bob spoke rhetorically, not expecting an answer. All Murphy said in return was, “Yeah, they did,” as the men went inside the cabin and closed the door behind.
Bob opened the cupboard and pulled down a bottle, “I don’t know about you Murphy, but I’m having a rum,” he exclaimed.
“That sounds perfect,” said Murphy as he snatched two tumblers from the counter and handed them to Bob. “Make mine a double if you please sir!”
Bob liberally poured two full tumblers of dark rum, and handed one to Murphy, “Cheers, my friend,” and each cheerfully clinked their glass against the others.
“Let’s see what’s on the news,” Bob said and sat in his chair.
The screen lit up, just as the evenings topics were being announced.
“Tonight, the nation is in chaos. Peace talks with the Militia are still at a standstill.
Is the cost of Martial Law going to be too high for the nation? And later, how you can prepare for the FEMA camps.”
“Jeezus, we’re all screwed, aren’t we? I was still hoping to make a midnight run to town for supplies, but this is ridiculous. It looks like there are no supplies anywhere, anymore,” Bob tossed back his rum, and poured another.
It was the intention of the Federal Government to weaken the resistance by cutting off food supplies to the nation. This created instant cooperation by the locals. Who easily went willingly into the FEMA camps for some aid.
“How are our stores Murphy?” asked Bob.
“Pretty good, we have enough to get us well into the fall, anyway.”
Bob got up and started pacing the floor, “We need enough vegetables to get us through the winter. Start dehydrating everything for storage.”
“I’m going out tomorrow to collected parsnip, Indian potatoes, and berries.” Bob looked at Murphy. “You collect wild garlic and dried herbs from the south meadows… and anything you can find to get us through the winter. Then we’ll set up drying racks and our smoker for mass production. I want to be ready for winter by the end of July, we’ll jerk an entire deer if we have to,” Bob looked Manic.
Murphy could see he was correct in thinking they could expect no help whatsoever from the people of Metro or the government. Bob was reasonably sure they would be okay for this coming winter because they had two sacks of dried beans and three sacks of rice, not to mention 80 lbs. of flour and 40 lbs. of sugar all in the cold storage. Not to mention Bob had probably half a ton of dehydrated food and supplies buried in ABS caches all over the valley, and as Bob put it, most of them will be impossible to dig up in the dead of winter. “So I wouldn’t count on them, Murphy.”
It wasn’t that Bob felt there wasn’t enough food for him and Murphy to survive a winter on. It was that he had a feeling that this civil war was going to be around for a very long time and he needed to know could they survive here for years if necessary.
Over the next four weeks, the men worked seven days a week, for twelve hours a day. They managed to fill the root cellar and pantry with all kinds of wild edibles and smoked meat. Bob shot two more deer in which they jerked, smoked, and canned all of.
Murphy spent every evening canning. Everything from wild vegetables like parsnip, peeled Thistle stalks, and Indian potatoes of which there were not many to be found. He canned preserves like raspberry, black berry, and blue berries. He also put up six jars of crab apple jelly. In all, he managed to store over one hundred and fifty jars of food for the two of them.
It was mid-August now, and the men were confident they could relax. Murphy decided to try his hand at catching some trout and headed to the beaver pond on foot. It laid half-way between the southern meadow and the Granville place, as they now called it.
The afternoon was hot and steamy, as Murphy waded through the tall grass toward the pond. He could hear the frogs peeping long before he got to it.
Mosquitos, as well as the smell of wet poplar and beaver castor, were in the air. Anticipating the wet marshy ground around the pond, Murphy wore his boots. He approached cautiously, and could see several small cutthroat trout rising for flies just off shore.
There were many obstacles to cast around such as dead trees and tangled brush in the water. It was a beaver pond after all. However, the small trout were so eager to strike that Murphy had his limit met in no time. He casually made his way across the meadow when he heard three shots from the camp. It must have been Bob. Three shots means someone is in trouble. Murphy started running toward the camp, as fast as he could.
Before he even got to the tree line, Bob came around the bend, and across the meadow with the quad in high gear flying toward Murphy. He approached and skidded to a stop, “Climb on, Logan hears chainsaws on the south trail.” They sped off to the Granville place, and found the family getting ready in their front yard. Logan had the SKS, and Lynda had the squirrel rifle. Marlee began locking the shutters of the old shack. Apparently Logan had made them in the past week as a precaution against trouble and bears.
Bob asked the women to stay behind and be ready for anything. “I will leave the quad here in case you need to get away. We won’t be able to take it past our last log barricade anyway.” He then turned to the other men, “Let’s go see who’s coming up our trail.”
The men headed off, running down the southern trail toward the sound of the chainsaws. They managed a steady jog, concerned about an increased heartrate affecting their aim. After passing five of the six barricades, they could clearly hear the chainsaws working about two hundred yards off and down the trail a way.
Bob was in the lead and held up a fist to stop the group. He gathered them close, and whispered, “They might be expecting us this time, fellas. So keep low and move slowly, the closer you get, the slower you move. If you spy someone, take cover whether they see you or not. Logan, did you bring your radio?”
Logan reached in his jacket and pulled it out, “Right here,” he held up the radio to show Bob.
“Good,” Bob handed him a set of ear buds to plug in the radio, “use these and this throat mic, so we can communicate, all you need to do is whisper, okay?”
Logan nodded as he plugged in the head set.
“Now, I want the two of you to go high and come around from the east side of the ridge, alright? Keep going, I doubt you will run into anyone up there. Move until you are directly over them. Find a good clear spot to shoot and defend yourself from, and wait for my command. I want you to spread out a bit, but no more than twenty or thirty feet between you. Okay?”
Bob then indicated with his hand, aiming at the west side of the canyon, “I’m going up on the west side, behind the tree line, and then I’ll be dropping back over when I get above them on that side. This way, if any shooting starts we have them in a cross fire. If you hear me shoot, just keep going, but do not fire unless you have to. Not before I give the command. Got it?” He looked stone-cold, like he had done this before, while the two white-collar guys, looked sick to their stomachs.
“I’m going to try and talk to them first, but bear in mind that I’m pretty sure they’re here to fight this time, so be ready. You will have to shoot somebody this time, all of our lives depend on it. Do you both understand this?” They nodded in unison.
“Now get moving, I’ll watch the trail as you make your way up there, and be careful.”
Murphy and Logan began to ascend the steep hillside of the narrow half of the valley. From where they left they were still able to climb the face of the slope. Further south, the passage got steeper. The walls got smooth with loose shale, until it was sheer, and narrow, and filled with felled trees.
By the time Bob had reached the place where he could see the men below, he saw they had managed to remove half of the fallen trees the residents had left for them. They were working on bucking up the bottom tree that lay down the length of the trail. Bob watched for a while, making sure he could see all the men involved. After observing them for ten minutes or so, he determined they did not have anyone watching from above (like he had), and there appeared to be no form of radio communication with any others.
This was good news, and meant, perhaps, that scaring them off was still a possibility. Bob hit the call button on his radio, and whispered using the throat mic strapped around his neck, “Logan, are you in position?” He waited for an answer.
“We are, and we have a perfect line of sight from where we are.” Bob pushed the button again, “I will shoot one of the ATV tires out, but don’t you shoot. I repeat, hold your fire. I just want to get their attention. I am going to call down to them. Fingers crossed…over.”
Bob moved up to where he could use a boulder for cover, and still hit any target below him. He leaned back against the boulder and breathed deeply. “Well old boy, you better hope this works.”
He bounced up quickly, aimed and shot out the tire of the furthest machine. It burst with a puff of white powder. The men on the ground ducked and crouched where they stood, looking all around for where the shot came from. Bob yelled down to them, “Everyone stay where you are, you are surrounded. We want you to leave this valley and never return.”
Authored by Jack Woods