This is part of our free, online and highly-praised survival fiction novel. You can read the rest here.
Bob woke before sunrise, accustomed to early rises from his military days. He threw back the heavy sleeping bag, swung his legs over the bunk, and climbed out of bed. He began stoking the embers in the old stovetop woodstove, poking them to life again using a steel rod, and adding in the split pine.
In the mountains, the morning temperatures often fall below freezing in spring, and even at this time of the year the air is crisp.
He grabbed a large pot from the woodstove, slipped into his boots and headed to the creek.
The pot of water was kept full all day, and sat on top of the stove to keep the cabin from drying out. The dry heat from the wood made everything parched. The water’s purpose was to continuously add humidity to the air, and to help warm the space. It is an old timer’s trick that his Grandmother always used when he was young.
Wearing only a coat, a pair of boxer shorts and his heavy boots, Bob stepped outside into the cool mountain air. The ground showed signs of frost. He pulled his coat tighter around him. The morning was dark, and the sky above was clear, only a few stars still poking through. It was looking like a promising day ahead. The ridge to the east showed a slight orange tinge, its light beginning to shine off the tips of the mountain peaks. He inhaled deeply the Alpine air.
It was enough reason to foretell of a fair weather day ahead for the men. Bob considered taking the time to hunt for those grouse that Murphy and he had seen on the way in yesterday. The birds would be a nice addition to supper. It was early, so the grouse may still be roosting in the trees.
In the evenings often during the cooler temperatures they would perch high in the branches to avoid predators. If the birds were unfamiliar with humans, they will sit perfectly still, just huddled balls of feathers, puffed out to keep warm, roosting as still as pine cones.
Sometimes a careful man can walk right up to a group of them and knock one off with a stick. Many of the old timers called them fool hens for this trait. The birds rested this way at least until the morning when the sun warmed things up, and then they would drop down from the trees and feed in the underbrush on dry berries, buds, and seeds.
Bob’s cabin was only 35 yards from the tiny creek. It was flowing quietly southward, singing cool and clear as it passed the cabin. It took its time making a leisurely course to the east, meandering toward the Longview marshes some twenty-five miles away. It fed the swamps that Murphy had struggled through to get here.
He paused a moment to look around at his grandfather’s camp. The log structure was encircled by a wall of towering conifers. This made it hard for any aircraft to spot it from above. A pilot would need to be directly overhead to see it through the trees. Other than the telltale signs of chimney smoke, it was nearly invisible.
The camp had a constant freshwater source from Myrtle Creek, and was well shielded from the elements. It lay nestled beneath a sheer hillside, studded with tall fir trees at its peak. The large overhanging roof that his Dad and he had repaired many years before backed right onto the steep shale hill.
At its base, both the roof and the shale scree had been covered by decades of moss. The cabin roof appeared as if it melded straight into the hillside, making it impossible to see it by the average searcher.
The exposed scree, warmed by the sun in the daytime, prevented snow from building up above it, this reduced the chances of avalanches in winter. The line of trees at the ridge prevented dangerous cornices of snow from forming at its summit.
The heavy roof of the cabin had been built using eight large timbers hewn from whole skinned trees, taken from the nearby forest. Roy, his Dad, and he had replaced the old thin roof with a layer of four inch thick planks sawed back in the late 80s.
They had milled them using a portable chainsaw mill, and placed them using a home built gin pole set-up. The simple rig was made from two 40 foot tall spruce timbers in the shape of a “V” holding a pulley system at the top for lifting.
With steel cables a block and tackle, and a hand-crank winch, they were able to lift the heavy timbers into place with ease. The Gin pole was set up over the cabin, and swung off the trunk of a large nearby fir tree that stood beside the structure.
The fir tree was used as an upright support, and as a pivot point, it was tethered from behind with cables holding the gin poles to the tree, and the tree to the ground. The cables ran down and were fastened to the base of several other trees used as anchors. The whole rig stood solidly, and was capable of lifting several tons in weight.
The large logs used for the roof planking were rough milled to size, and fitted snugly with each other after trimming them with a chainsaw. These planks were also harvested from the nearby woods. They had been dried for over two years before milling them, and then placed and held down by one inch dowel pegs.
Each peg was twelve inches long. His Dad would split the tip of the dowels with a hand saw and insert a wedge that would expand as it was pounded into the bottom of the augured holes, thus fixing each permanently in the rafter and the gable end walls.
Once the peg was set, another wedge was inserted into the top of the dowel to hold the planks solidly in-place. This sturdy roof design was thick enough to span the large spacing of the rafters, and made for a rock solid roof.
Then the entire roof was covered with a layer of felt paper, and a double layer of heavy black polyvinyl plastic sheeting. His Dad and he also piled it high with a thick twelve-inch mat of Sphagnum moss, gathered from along the creek banks. It was a living roof that acted as insulation, like a green blanket growing over the cabin, firmly rooting itself many decades ago.
The living moss helped act as a fire retardant for the chimney, as well as insulation. It had grown to about a foot and a half thick over the passing years. This helped make the cabin part of the landscape. Moss has always been used by trappers in this way during the old days for cabin building.
The cabin had survived the occasional scree slide from the hillside without any concerns. The tiny sturdy building took it all in stride, making it blend into the scene naturally. It was a very impressive structure. Overly built, yet idyllic in the way that it looked under the hill, it was as if it grew there.
Bob stood on his rustic porch beneath the four-foot overhang of the front gable, and breathed in the mountain air. He always felt at home here at his Grandfather’s old camp. He considered the world around him, and whispered out loud, “I swear if I didn’t need to make a living, I’d never leave here.” He smiled, and made his way down the heavy log steps, toward the creek.
All along the shore were tracks and evidence of wildlife. There were deer, raccoons, and even a set of moose and Otter tracks. Across the creek on the adjacent bank was an old mashed down beaver slide left from last winter.
It ran down the slope on the far bank. It was beat smooth by otters as well as beaver, and was evident by the matted grass and mud trail. The beavers must have passed through after the winter thaw.
Spring was their mating season. As soon as the ice breaks, it’s time for the young bucks to move on down the road to look for a mate, and make new lodgings. Beavers usually travel at night to avoid the many predators that would stop at nothing to catch one in the open. Yet, make no mistake about it, a big male beaver weighing 45 or 60 pounds can be a very formidable creature when cornered.
Bob had once watched as a large adult beaver fought off a lynx, and even saw one take on two coyotes at the same time. The big male simply held them at bay with his teeth, chastising them with a hiss a few nips to the pair of young canines. After several yelps, he turned and dove into its hole in the ice as if it was no big deal.
His Grandpa had taught Bob all about trapping, and the woodsman ways that he now possessed. Occasionally, in his youth, Bob still trapped fur. That was until he joined the Navy, and now he rarely bothered these days. The modern fur market was mainly over in Eastern Europe today, and the lucrative Russian fashion houses of Moscow.
Everywhere else has gotten too sensitive about trapping. The Western world virtually boycotted the entire fur trade all together. Bob thought this was a shame as natural fur is still one of the finest insulators out there. Now the conservation officers mainly exterminate the problem beavers, wasting the fur and meat.
Bob bent down to fill the tin pot with cool clear water, and then made his way back to the cabin. When he entered, he found Murphy still in bed rubbing his eyes. “Hey, buddy,” he called out as he made his way to the stove.
Murphy nodded cordially then croaked back, “Hey,” shaking his head awake. He looked groggy from the pain killers Bob had given him the night before.
“Wow, I slept like a rock. I feel much better, thanks for everything man…” Murphy rubbed the thigh of his bad leg using both hands, and stretched out his arms and yawned.
Bob tipped his head toward the window as he struggled with the heavy pot to the stove. “It’s looking like a great day out there,” he smiled then set the pot of water on the stove to heat. “You take it easy on that leg for a few days Murphy… ya hear? I’m headed out to scare up some grouse for supper.”
Bob lifted up the mattress of his bed and grabbed the .22 rifle from its hiding place, and slung it over his shoulder. He then slipped a full magazine into his coat pocket, pulled on some pants, grabbed a handful of jerky from the table, and stuffed it in his breast pocket.
Next, he slung an old tattered rucksack on his back. This he always kept ready by the door, as it contained the few odds and ends he might need when out and about. “I’ll see you in a few hours, Murphy.”
“Yeah, sure,” he replied, “I’ll make some breakfast…”
“Remember take it easy on that leg today. Maybe when I get back I’ll show you around a bit… if you’re up to it that is?” with that, he slipped outside and closed the heavy door behind him, and was gone.
Bob loved the woods. Of all the places he could be it was here that he felt the most comfortable. He made his way north back along the trail he and Murphy had come in on yesterday. He spent the rest of the morning scouring the old winter berry patches.
The odd dry berry still hung wrinkled and nearly inedible on the bare branches, being a favorite winter food of the Northern Grouse. He then skirted the hazelnut groves watching the lower limbs of the spruce trees for his birds.
By mid-morning, he had shot three and managed to scare up a rabbit on the way back to camp. He quickly dispatched it with one shot, and threw it in the sack with the rest. All in all, it was a very successful morning.
He saw plenty of deer and moose tracks, which encouraged him to ready the smoker when he got back to camp. Maybe later this week he would concentrate on something bigger for the food stores.
He then came to an old dry log by the creek and sat down to rest. He scooped up a drink of water with his cupped hand, and sipped the cool liquid. Sitting back on the log, he pulled out a large piece of jerky from his pocket, and tore off a piece with his teeth, then began to chew the leathery meat.
He thought to himself, “It really doesn’t get much better than this,” as he savored the dried meat.
The wind whistled through the tops of the spruce trees, gently moving them back and forth, swaying like a gathering of ship’s masts in a gentle harbor. The sun had finally crested the ridge line, and the day was getting warmer, it was a perfect spring day.
After a short break, he decided to clean his catch by the creek. First, he used an old woodsman’s trick to clean the birds. He laid the grouse on their backs, and stood on their wings.
With his boots placed on either side of the bird, and then he began applying pressure… slowly pulling up on the legs until the entire insides came lose. The breast simply slipped out of the skin as quick as you please, and the guts were free in one go… well, when done correctly that is.
He then cut loose the legs from the tangled mess, and tossed the rest aside, and left the feathers, guts and wings for the wild things to eat.
The rabbit was different, yet equally ingenious. After squeezing the urine from the animal’s bladder to keep it from getting on the meat, he wet his fingers for grip.
Then one by one he grabbed the rabbit’s legs, and while using his other hand he jerked down hard on the skin breaking it away from the foot. Rabbit skin is very delicate and tears easily. In this way he could pull the fur from the animal without using a knife to cut it.
Working his finger under the hide between the back legs, he simply tore the skin open and removed the entire fur as if it were a sweater. He completed this procedure by pulling the hide off, inside out, over the animal’s head. Leaving nothing more than the furry feet on the remaining carcass, in which he deftly chopped off with his hatchet on the log.
The whole process, although gruesome to watch, took less than a minute to perform. He then cut open the abdomen, and removed the animal’s insides. Saving the heart and liver from each for later.
He cooled the meat in the creek, and washed his catch in the cold water. He then gathered up the spoils, dropping it all in a plastic bag, and stashed it in the rucksack. He washed his hands in the creek, and then picked up his rifle and headed back down the trail toward the cabin. Yes, Bob was quite at home in this valley.
The pack was light but for the game and would certainly make for some fine eating. “Perhaps,” Bob thought, adding some vegetables to the mix will fill it out. He walked along and kept his eyes open for any sign of new shoots popping up through the winters mat.
He was looking for a certain type of fern. When picked in early spring, before it has a chance to open, it makes for a very fine vegetable. They call them fiddleheads, a name given to it for its resemblance to the curled head of a violin.
The key to identifying them is that the stem of the edible ferns are clean without fuzz, and have a U-shape when cut crosswise. True fiddleheads are otherwise known as ostrich ferns, although there are other varieties that are quiet edible when their sprouts emerge, they are at their best before they become poisonous at full bloom.
The first patch he spotted just along the edge of the creek was in a low area. A person must be careful not to take all the shoots from the rhizome root. They grow in groups of three or five, and it could kill the fern for the next season if you take them all.
He walked the creek picking as he went. By the time he finished scouring, the area he had a gallon of the green edibles, and was nearly back to camp when he looked up. Bob decided to clean the fern heads in the creek, as they grow with a brown papery material attached to the heads when they first emerge. This needs to be washed off before cooking. He also threw in some wild parsnips for the stew. He then made his way into camp.
He opened the door of the cabin and saw Murphy watching the news on the TV.
Murphy’s shocked appearance drew Bob’s eyes to the screen and the mayhem taking place on it. A chaotic scene in the streets of Dallas, with people panicking and running for cover as National Guardsmen marched forward with bayonets held at the ready. Live gunfire crackled through the smoky background.
A confident reporter’s voice came on the TV claiming, “Several small rebel militia groups have cordoned off areas of the Texas city in response to the rioters. They appeared to be organized, and well-armed, and ready for a fight. I have with me Colonel Colton Madson, from the local branch of the Texas based Militia. ”
At that moment a tall military man stepped in from the side of the screen dressed in fatigues and wearing some form of military insignia on his sleeve. Under the screen it read, “Colonel Colton Madson, Texas Republic Militia.”
He was a large man, dark haired; maybe in his fifties with a Marine style haircut, clean shaven, and portraying a stoic sense of authority about him. He leaned toward the reporter’s microphone and spoke.
“The Republic of Texas is willing to defend the neighborhoods of the people of Dallas from rioters and looters. We have also determined that under Texas Constitutional Law, the so-called United States Government has declared war, and is now operating under a rogue administration that has over stepped its bounds according to the Law of the Land.
Its use of Martial Law to control the nation is unconstitutional. It has been determined to now be under direction by a self-appointed tyrannical administration, a shadow government completely outside of its constitutional jurisdiction. We therefore are notifying the President and the nation’s capital that we will meet force with like force unless this nationwide military martial law is suspended. Furthermore, we are requesting control of the individual States to be returned to the people, and the Republic.”
The Colonel pulled the microphone from the reporter and continued his rant…
“Currently we are securing as many neighborhoods as possible from the looting and criminal elements, and our Militia intends to resist any attempts by any federally controlled Military or National Guard to enter our neighborhoods,” He paused and added, “without authorized Militia permission. We will not be deterred from our duties to the people and the citizens of Texas.”
The interviewer stepped back into the shot, retrieved his mic from the Colonel, and commented, “Well, there you have it folks, the people of Texas have spoken. This is Dexter Jacobs, MSNBC news, Dallas Texas.”
Murphy nervously turned off the TV using the remote. The sudden silence in the cabin seemed surreal.
“Jeezus Murphy, what is happening out there?” Bob dropped his rucksack on the floor, and leaned his rifle on the wall beside it, and took his coat off.
Murphy looked up from the TV, “I don’t know, I… I just turned it on.” Without looking at the blank screen, he pointed his finger at it, “This is serious Bob, what if this is in more than one city… or even more than one state? What if it’s happening in all of them?” his voice cracked when he said this.
“I mean this could last a long time, maybe… a real long time.”
Bob bent down and picked up the rucksack again, I hear ya… this could be what I feared would happen, a war… a civil war right here in America.”
“Turn it back on, I need to see more,” Bob pulled up his chair.
Murphy turned on the TV and located another station. It seemed that every station was covering similar uprisings in towns and cities across the nation. Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Birmingham, Philadelphia, even in the Nation’s Capital of Washington D.C. there were men marching on the White house lawn wielding weapons. The Nation was acting as one entity, with one purpose in mind. America was a sea of discontent. At least that much was clear.
The government had finally pushed too far, and the people… oh how the people pushed back. At first, it appeared disorganized. Over the next few weeks (because the government tried to use force to quell the uprisings), many citizens died. New militias kept springing up all across the nation. The government tried diplomacy and sanctions, and then they cut off food supplies and water to towns and cities in a hope to starve out the revolt. But, all of this just simply added fuel to the fire.
The people banded together and organized bigger and better militias, spanning state wide. The weeks rolled by, and many of the regular Armed Forces began to choose sides too.
On the Internet channels, it was rumored that several squads of American Southern Reservists deserted and joined the ranks of the people. It was a revolution now, not just a civil war. The people wanted their nation back. Everyone felt it. It was like an awakening had swept the land.
At first, the militia groups were defending just their own towns and neighborhoods against the unruly mobs. This had a profound effect on the rioters. The riots began to dissipate, and although the National Guard still controlled the main streets and some rural towns, the militia controlled the big city neighborhoods and most of the southern and western towns in America.
The National Guard threatened to assail the barricades that they had erected, but held the attacks off hoping a peace treaty could be arranged with the militia groups. The guardsmen were confused, and many showed no desire to confront their own countrymen in a war. The US Federal government considered bringing in foreign UN troops… using foreigners to go up against Americans.
This certainly would have been as if a bomb had been set off in the nation. Even the generals of the various military branches of the nation asked for caution before doing something so brash. Many were afraid of losing total control of their forces to the growing cause.
Bob and Murphy followed the events happening beyond their wilderness world. Religiously watching each evening as they sat in front of the tube every night, and made plans of how to stay hidden as best as they were able. They stored up supplies for the long haul, and pre-prepared for the inevitable siege. They secretly hoped the situation would get resolved before they needed to join the fight.
Bob was pensive; he went out the following day and dropped a dozen large trees over the north trail leading into the valley. He hoped this would deter most of the weak-hearted from continuing further into their zone.
Murphy awoke the next day and noticed Bob was already gone. He had taken his rifle and the quad. He had casually mentioned going hunting last night, before the lamps were blown out.
The new morning light grew orange and gold as Bob took careful aim at the magnificent deer standing before him. He waited for a broadside shot, and punched the great animal through the lungs with one round.
The shock of the hit was more than the deer could take. His hind legs went out from under him immediately, and the rest followed soon after. By the time Bob had made his way through the brush to claim his prize the animal lay still, it was a good hit. He gutted it, and hoisted the carcass high into a tree to cool. He then proceeded back to the trail to where he left his quad.
In no time at all, he had the animal hanging in front of the cabin. Murphy came out onto the porch, and commented, “Nice one, Bob,” and returned to the cabin for his jacket as the cool morning air hit him.
“You need a hand with it?” he asked as he headed down the cabin steps.
“No I got this, but maybe you could put some coffee on, that would be nice. I could use a cup.”
“Here,” he handed Murphy the deer liver, kidneys, and heart then added, “Maybe some liver and eggs for breakfast, huh?”
“Yeah, absolutely no problem, I’ll bring some coffee when it’s ready too.” Murphy set about brewing a pot, and preparing the breakfast.
First job was removing the hide, then splitting the pelvis, and ribs. He then proceeded to butcher the animal into manageable pieces. Being it was late spring the deer had no antlers, but Bob was sure it was a big deer and probably dressed out at 185 lbs. easy. This would certainly keep him and Murphy in meat for quite some time, at least until August if the two men played their cards right.
That evening after removing the brains of the animal used for tanning, Bob wrapped and roasted the head in foil. He set it in a Dutch oven on the wood stove, and nothing on the animal was wasted. The next day he soaked the hide to scrape it and remove all the hair to ready it for tanning.
That morning, Murphy sliced up part of the liver for frying with some wild garlic. He stuffed the heart with an onion and wrapped it in foil to bake for lunch meat, which they ate later between slices of home baked bread with mustard and onions. Bob prepped the rest of the meat for the smoker, after carefully de-boning the entire animal.
Many years before, Bob had made a fair size smoker out of an old upright freezer. They dragged it in on the quad trailer, stripped out all the insides, and used the racks to lay the meat strips on. He inserted a tin pan in the bottom for holding coals as well as the wood for smoking the meat. He merely punched some holes in the top and sides with a pick ax for ventilation. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked wonderfully as he had been using nothing more than this old freezer for years.
Unfortunately, in these parts there weren’t many hard woods or fruit trees for wood smoke. So, Bob used what the old timers used, Alder, and hazelnut. He soaked the deer’s hams in some brine water before smoking them, and to this mixture he added a bunch of salt, a touch of pickling spice, and a pinch of sugar.
He would check the hams in the smoker for proper temperature about every fifteen minutes at first. The saltwater brining added a considerable flavor to the meat, giving it a fine taste when roasted with potatoes, carrots, and some wild parsnips.
He also stripped all the meat from between the ribs of the buck, and added this to the grind for the sausage which he created from the tougher, less desirable parts mixed with some pork fat, of which there was precious very little. He added pepperoni spice and used dried, man-made casings he had left over from his supply. He always had this at hand from their annual hunts.
He created a dozen feet or more of pepperoni sausage, this he also smoked in the smoker. It took two days of constant work, but there was jerky, sausage, and corned meat. The bulk of the deer was chunked up and then canned in mason jars using a pressure cooker on the wood stove. Murphy took care of most of the canning. The men were certainly set for quite a while now. This allowed them to relax finally like they had not been able to in weeks.
The days passed by quickly, and Murphy’s leg healed well. He kept up with all the wood splitting, and cooking, and Bob went about filling the larder. Each man accepted his role without complaint. Soon the early days of summer were upon them, and the nation’s civil uprising had escalated further. Both sides set up peace talks of sorts. This was where each could voice their concerns. Neither side respected the other, and it seemed to be an eternal stalemate.
The two men sat on the porch that evening, watching the sunset as the creek flowed past. “Well you got potatoes, carrots, and corn planted, and cabbage which looks like it’s already forming heads in the sunny part of the garden,” Commented Bob.
Murphy was unusually quiet then blurted out, “I want a beer so bad I could murder for it.” His sudden outburst was comical.
“Well buddy, I don’t have one on me right now for you, but… I do have a beer kit stashed, oh about two hundred yards in that direction,” Bob casually pointed southeast past the creek.
“Are you kidding me, GO get it!” Murphy sat up like he’d been jabbed. “Why didn’t you say this before,” he grinned.
“To be honest, I just remembered.” The two men laughed, and jumped on the quad to locate the cache.
Bob had many caches located all over the valley. He had spent several summers over the last three years installing them by using a power auger with an eight-inch attachment. This he did while moving from place to place scattering the caches everywhere he went.
When the men pulled up to the cache’s location, there was no evidence of it, or any other disturbance that anyone could rightfully see. Bob did a great job of hiding them. He began raking back the leaf litter to locate a rope. Once he found that, he then pulled up on the rope revealing a length of dog chain, and then walked out a couple of dozen feet of cable from the quad’s winch. He tossed it over a sturdy tree limb above the cache. Attaching the winch cable-hook to the dog chain, he then began winching up the chain.
Bob nodded in the direction of the front of the vehicle, “Murphy, sit up on the front of the quad to add some weight.”
The chain tightened, and slowly the earth swelled up beneath the chain. About three feet of lose earth was revealed, and suddenly a large diameter black ABS pipe broke through the ground.
Bob wrestled the pipe onto the quad, and lashed it down with several bungees. It was approximately five-feet long and eight-inches in diameter and weighed about a hundred and twenty pounds.
Bob laughed and said, “Okay Murphy, let’s get home.” Murphy swung his cast leg over the back seat and they were off as simple as that.
As they approached the creek crossing, Bob stopped the quad, turned it off, and got down.
“What’s up,” Murphy asked?
He just held up a closed fist indicating stop, just a minute, and then pointed to the ground, crouching as he pulled back some leaves from the dirt and asked, “Have you been out walking around here recently, Murphy?”
“No I haven’t been walking much of anywhere, accept around the cabin, why?” replied Murphy.
“Somebody with size thirteen boots is in our area. Looks like military issue footwear.” Murphy then noticed the partial track Bob was pointing at in the dirt by the creeks edge.
“Who do you think it is,” he asked?
“I’m not sure, might be civilian, might be military, hard to say, but we better keep an eye out for them that much is for sure. When we get back I’m digging out some of my old trail cameras and installing them on our perimeter tonight.”
“You think it’s serious, Bob?”
Bob just shook his head, “I don’t know Murphy. It could be they are here to steal from us. Did you lock the door when we left?”
“Just in case, we better get back quick.” Bob jumped on the quad and gunned it back onto the trail splashing across the creek. “Hang on!” he shouted over his shoulder as they sped off to the cabin.
When the men arrived, everything seemed okay in the yard. Bob jumped off and ran up to the porch, the door was latched and there was no sign of anyone trying to jimmy the lock or the windows.
From now on there would have to be at least one person left behind to watch the cabin, until the men find out about their new neighbor, or neighbors, as the case may be. Bob looked grim as he sat in his chair and kicked off his boots.
That evening, the two men went over their game plan. The next day, just to be safe they hid a few weapons outside. A hand gun in the crook of the tree by the creek wrapped in grease cloth, loaded and ready to go. A sardine can of ammo, with one of the SKS rifles and some dried food were stuffed in a hollow log located about two hundred yards back in the bush. It was just in case they were overrun, and needed to get away fast.
During the day, they watched the underbrush with infinite care, scanning the grounds with binoculars for any sign of movement, snipers or rifle-scope lenses in the foliage. They also set up game cameras along the trails at night, so they wouldn’t be detected while installing them. They set up trail “print traps,” to reveal any evidence of people in the area. These were simply smooth dirt or mud areas, which are left undisturbed on trails to show evidence of any foot traffic passing by.
Murphy suggested man-traps, but Bob didn’t like the idea. “We don’t know their intentions, and it would leave a bad impression if they are friendlies, or kids.”
Bob looked out the window with the binoculars, and said, “I think… if we do find evidence of them still in the area in a few days and they haven’t attempted to contact us, we can be sure they are not military. However, they may still be hostile, and looking for our weaknesses. So Murphy, be wary when out and about.”
He lowered the binoculars, and looked over to Murphy. “Don’t go anywhere without a gun. I have several more SKS rifles, and an AR-15 that I will dig out tomorrow. Take your pick. I’ve thought about doing some target practice to let them know we are armed, but I think… what they don’t know may be our best defense.”
Bob then added, “If you come across someone when you’re out and about, get behind cover right away, and don’t be afraid to at least shoot a warning shot.”
“Hey with any luck they may have moved on,” said Murphy nervously looking back up at Bob.
“That would be nice, but I wouldn’t count on it,” Bob went back to looking out the window with his binoculars.
He added while staring in the bush, “You know the problem with being so tightly hidden in the woods like this, is that it gives plenty of cover for someone to sneak upon us. If we were in the middle of a field, it would be harder to sneak up, but very easy for us to be spotted from the air by a plane. It’s a “Catch twenty-two” scenario, I guess.”
“Maybe we can set up some basic alarm systems in the bush,” Murphy suggested. “You know like some fishing line and tin cans, or something like that?”
“Yeah, that might work, at least for the average Joe, but I doubt any military guys will fall for it… Worth a try though,” Bob lowered the glasses, and smiled at Murphy and indicated with his head. “There’s 500 hundred yards of 100 lb. Fish line on the shelf over there,” indicating toward the back of the cabin…
“And, a couple of fishing bells in the cupboard over the sink,” he called after Murphy who was already moving. “Keep the fish lines low, and the bells high, and close to the cabin were we can hear them. Use eye hooks or bent nails, and if you keep the line taught it will be more sensitive.”
Murphy grabbed the supplies he needed and limped his way out of the door. He made two perimeters of lines about two hundred feet each. Concentric half circles inside each other to double the chances of triggering them.
Using the eye hooks as Bob suggested, he then stretched them tight. They were held taught by a light rubber bungee and rigged with a set of small bells used for ice fishing, which he located where Bob described in the cupboard. Murphy then had him trigger his makeshift alarm system as a test, and it worked perfectly! No matter where along the line it was triggered, the bells would ring up on the porch.
Now in the areas like the frequently traveled paths on the trail, a layer of soft fir boughs were woven through the lines close to the ground, allowing the men and others to travel over them with the quad without breaking them. The tension was held fast by the bungees, and when someone walked on the bows or even pressed down on them, it was enough to trigger the bells at the house. A sinker weight was added to the slack line under the bungees to bounce when triggered, and this kept the bells ringing longer than usual.
“It may be low tech, but sometimes low tech is the least expected thing… good job Murphy” Bob slapped Murphy’s back and laughed at the ingenious device.
Murphy’s fear of living with a crazy war vet was gone now, and Bob admired how talented Murphy turned out to be. He no longer was that scared accountant at his kitchen table several months ago.
The men decided to relax on the porch for the rest of the afternoon and watch the sunlight fade orange all around them. That evening, when the two were having supper, Bob spoke up.
“I knew we would have visitors sooner or later, but never thought it would be this soon. I wonder how the folks in the city are managing right now,” Bob gulped down his hot coffee.
Murphy stabbed another piece of venison, held it near his mouth and said, “I’ve been wondering the same thing. God only knows what these news channels are NOT telling us, like the real truth.”
Then he popped the meat in his mouth, chewed and swallowed. They both certainly were feeling healthier these days, ever since working long hours outside over the past month or so. The fresh air and good living certainly did improve their appetites.
After supper, Murphy again dragged out the ABS cache Bob and he had retrieved the other day, and unscrewed it and emptied it on the floor.
It contained four large cans of beer malt, some brewer’s yeast, and everything a brew master might need to run off a batch of beer, except the fermentation pails. Bob had stacks of white plastic pails with lids for food storage out back under the shed roof.
He said to Murphy as he rummaged through the treasure on the floor, “It’s all you buddy, it’s your project. I have a dozen large plastic soda bottles you can use for bottling the stuff.”
“Murphy, have you ever made beer before?”
“Yeah, when I was in college. I used to make it all the time. Got pretty good at it too.”
“Well, I can’t wait,” Bob laughed jokingly rubbing his hands together like a maniac.
Murphy washed out four plastic 5 gallon pails with lids. Then sterilized the remaining equipment with bleach and let them dry. Bob had made beer here at the cabin before; therefore he had all the equipment that Murphy needed.
Murphy recalled way back on that day he was having a picnic on the hood of his car in the Longview Swamps, those many weeks before, and smiled to himself.
Remembering how, on that day ,he had wondered whether Bob would have a way of making beer at the cabin, “What was I worried about?” he laughed.
“What’s so funny?” Bob asked.
“Oh nothing, just something I remembered from before this all began,” Murphy grinned.
The plan for the beer was to start a batch every two weeks, so they would have a steady supply.
It only took a few minutes once the boiled water cooled to the right temperature to grow the yeast. The cabin smelled like a brewery for the next few days. Yet, to the two thirsty men the malt elixir smelled like heaven.
Another evening passed without incident. Bob and Murphy usually played several games of crib after supper, and then they unpacked and cleaned the rifles they had chosen.
In the end, Murphy decided to take one of the half-dozen Russian SKS rifles, and Bob made his weapon of choice the AR-15. Murphy’s reasoning for letting Bob have the AR was that Bob would be much more effective with the AR-15 than he could ever be.
As Bob handed Murphy his rifle, he said, “They’re battle set for two hundred meters…”
“So you may want to tune yours up a bit for yourself,”
“I’d take it down to the end of the valley if you decide to target practice with it.”
Bob gave the weapon to Murphy. “I’ll show you first how to break it down, and then you can re-assemble it for yourself.”
The rifle had been stored in grease, which needed to be stripped away first, cleaned, and oiled before any reliable use. The weapon was in great shape for a rifle that was so old. It looked unused, and almost new.
The next day, Bob took it upon himself to check the trail cameras as well as the print traps for any sign of people in the area. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, no sign of activity was found. One camera had a video of a cow moose and her calf, and another had a video of a young black bear chewing on the camera housing.
Despite the welcome news of no intruders, Bob still felt uneasy about the footprints by the creek from the other day. He decided to venture further on, and to loop down around the south end of the valley to see what he could find
After several hours of searching, he did come across an old campsite by the trail, probably used by the owner of the footprints.
There appeared to be more than one person, judging by their sleeping area. These were people not accustomed to outdoor living (that much was clear).
The location, as well as the access to fire wood and water was very poor, not to mention they had bedded down in a new patch of poison ivy. Yet Bob could clearly tell it was two adults and a child. Most likely a family. This was good news in a way.
The site was at least a week old, and showed no sign of them returning. Bob headed back to the cabin to let Murphy know what he had found.
Murphy was splitting wood as he pulled up on the quad. “I think I found a campsite that our mysterious intruders stayed at.
“Really, how far from here?”
“Just down at the south end of the valley. It looks like they stayed about a week and then left suddenly. They are a small family, a man, a woman, and a child of about twelve. They haven’t been back for a while, so… like you said, they may have moved on.”
That evening, the two men relaxed and watched the news after supper. The rioting, as well as the skirmishes between the militia and the National Guard had died down somewhat. The police reports of arson and burglaries were up in most cities. Not mentioning the several cases of the Militia shooting rioters or the rogue gangs of vigilantes murdering people in the ghetto neighborhoods.
Their violent tactics were definitely having an effect on the unruly mobs. Many of the militia neighborhoods were now being quietly left alone. Yet large sections of urban areas were engulfed in flames. Martial law was still in place and the peace talks had hopelessly stalled.
Bob hated the Shadow Federal government, “These Feds are not going to give in to the Militia. Not in a million years. Those bastards have been working towards this for decades, if not for a hundred years.
They won’t quit now that they are so close to total fascist rule,” he growled at the TV aiming at the reporter with his AR-15, and dry firing it with a “click.” “They need an honest congress on their side to get anything done.”
Suddenly Murphy’s alarm bells began to jingle on the porch. The two men looked at each other. Bob said, “It could be just an animal, but let’s be sure.”
Murphy secured a magazine in the SKS rifle, and dropped the bolt on it. Bob jammed a mag into his AR, yanked back on the charging handle and let it fly, readying one in the chamber.
“Get the lamp,” whispered Bob. Murphy turned it low, and blew out the flame. He then moved to the edge of the window, staying off to one side, and slowly he peered into the blackness …he felt ready.
It was a moonless night, and the yard was as black as coal, nothing could be made out from the shadows. The two men just waited…
Suddenly, a voice yelled out from the edge of the trees, “Hello camp, may we approach?” Murphy remembered his dad had taught him when he was child, about this woodsman’s etiquette of announcing yourself before approaching a camp, especially at night. The voice yelled out again, “Hello Camp.”
Bob opened the door a crack, “Who are you?” he yelled back.
“I’m Logan Granville, My wife and my daughter saw your light on and wondered if we may come in and get warm?”
Bob was playing things close to the chest, “How are you living in these woods without a way to get warm?” he asked.
It was a reasonable question, and deserved an answer before any neighborly hand was offered.
The voice yelled back, “We left the city last week, afraid they would throw my family and me into one of those FEMA camps. So, we left in sort of a hurry…” he hesitated for a moment, then added, “I’m afraid I’m not a very good bushman or handy person when living in the outdoors. I ran out of cooking fuel and matches two days ago… although that wasn’t entirely my fault.” He added this without explanation.
The reason seemed plausible. Bob, grabbed a spotlight, and while holding it out away from his body he shone it where the voice was coming from. A tall man stood there. The man nervously shuffled from one foot to the other and called back, “Howdy friend,” shielding his eyes with his open palm. He then stepped aside, revealing his wife and child anxiously huddled behind him.
He introduced them, “This is my wife Lynda, and my daughter, Marlee. We just need to warm up a bit, and perhaps, if you could spare some matches that would be great.”
Bob looked over to Murphy, “What do you think?”
Murphy nodded, “I’ll hide the good silverware,” Then smiled as he cleared away the guns, ammo, and other valuable things lying about.
Murphy knew out of sight meant out of mind.
Bob shouted to the group, “Okay send your wife and daughter to the porch first. Then you come forward, I have my reasons for not trusting people nowadays.”
The men could hear talking, whispering amongst the three of them discussing his odd request then they agreed, “Okay, here they come.”
His wife Lynda and child Marlee walked up on the porch and stood there, until Bob decided to let them in. Then Logan started forward. “Wait,” Bob called out. “Do you have any weapons on you,” the question was prudent, given the circumstances.
“No,” Logan claimed, and continued, “I left my squirrel rifle at our camp upstream about a quarter mile or so.” Bob doubted this. He suspected it was leaning against a nearby tree, and at the ready. No man would leave his family unprotected unless he had to.
“Okay, approach, but slowly.” Bob opened the door and invited the woman and child in. “No one else is out there with you?” he asked of them as they entered.
She spoke in a Dutch accent, “No, I assure you we are alone, sir, and thank you very much for letting us in,” the woman said smiling up at Bob.
She and the child looked over and saw Murphy for the first time, and smiled at him too, “Thank you, sir.” Murphy showed them to the stove to warm themselves. The two women didn’t hesitate, and moved right next to the warm stove.
The tall man came to the door. He looked like a stock broker, but one that a cat had coughed up. This made Murphy laugh to himself. He suddenly realized that only a month or so ago, he probably looked a lot like this guy.
The group looked pretty banged up by their ordeal in the bush, but nothing a good night’s sleep and a hot meal couldn’t cure.
Bob grabbed a homemade half log bench that sat against the front wall. The family used it for sitting on and removed their foot wear to warm their feet by the stove. The women were shaking uncontrollably from the cold, and the tall man stood beside them rubbing his hands above the heat. All the while, he kept thanking the two men, until Bob made him stop.
“That’s perfectly fine, you seem like a nice family. Sorry for being so distrustful, but you never know who is out here.”
Logan agreed, and told a story of him and his family encountering some bad men a while back.
“Last week I ran into this group of young men that scared us a bit. They’re camped just one valley over from here. I can’t prove it, but some of them slipped into our camp at night and stole most of our food we had with us. So, we left the valley and moved on and here we are.”
Lynda added, “I’m so glad you guys are normal.” This statement seemed odd to Murphy, but he understood where the couple were coming from. Murphy offered a set of blankets for the women.
“When were you last in town,” asked Bob.
“About two weeks ago. It was becoming too dangerous in our neighborhood for us to stay any longer. The rumor was that anyone that had asked the soldiers about leaving, were soon rounded up and sent to the FEMA camps, and none were ever heard from again.” Logan looked scared when he said this.
“We watch them round up our neighbors from right out of their house that night. I wasn’t about to take any chances with my family, so I grabbed what we could and got the hell out of there fast. We left on foot with just what we could carry.”
“How did you manage to get way out here,” Bob asked?
“I used to work at a car rental place on the outskirts of town near the airport,” Logan said.
Murphy piped up, “I know the place, the Econo-car rental place.”
“Yeah, that’s the one,” he said.
“I took one of the rentals and we made our way as far as we could. I was trying to get to my cottage on Misty Lake, you may know the Resort side… and like I said we were chased off by gangs of young men, and that is how we ended up here,” Logan looked exhausted from just reliving the nightmare.
“It was the harassment of the gangs and their comments about my daughter that really had me scared. I wasn’t sure I could protect them with just a squirrel gun, and all by myself.”
“I understand,” Bob said and Murphy nodded in agreement.
“Well, warm yourself up, and you’re welcome to spend the night, if you don’t mind sleeping on the floor?”
“Not at all,” said Logan.
His wife and daughter suddenly looked as if a great weight had been lifted from their shoulders.
“Thank you both so very much,” Lynda shook both the men’s hands, still holding the blanket wrapped around her.
“Do you have any belongings with you,” Bob asked Logan.
“Just some food and a small backpack out by the tree.”
“You go get it, but leave your squirrel rifle outside if you don’t mind.”
Logan looked embarrassed, but said nothing regarding Bob’s insight.
Murphy put on a pot of coffee on, and the group sat around until midnight talking about the surreal world in which they found themselves.
Bob and Murphy discovered that much of Metro’s downtown and inner city had been burned to the ground. The mobs were now attacking emergency vehicles preventing entry into the areas to fight the flames.
All commerce had completely stopped, and many of the citizens seeking help were being picked up by the military wearing FEMA personnel patches on their uniforms. They then were taken to the local stadium, before being shipped out by buses to centralized camps all across the countryside.
There had been rumors around the town that the rioters were being incited by anti-government forces. Paid insurgents infiltrated the mobs by posing as one of their own. Bob didn’t find this hard to believe at all, but Murphy couldn’t consider this possibility… it was simply too much for his mind to wrap itself around.
Murphy’s world was gone, and it had been replaced by this nightmare. He considered that it may have never been as he believed it to be. His world may have, in fact, only been an illusion all these years. Maybe before all this even started to change. He felt foolish for falling for such a diabolical lie.
Lynda noticed the time and looked around for Marlee, who was curled up fast asleep on the bottom bunk. “I’d better make her a place to sleep.” Murphy showed the Granvilles where the bedding was, and Logan and Lynda helped themselves.
Bob stoked the fire in the stove for the night and shut down the dampers, making it burn slow and long, then climbed into his bunk. When everyone was settled in, Murphy blew out the last lamp and all was quiet.
Authored by Jack Woods