Ozark Retreat - Chapter 4



Ozark Retreat - Chapter 4

The first chance he had, Brady went down, brought out the wood cutters, powder monkey, and the earthmovers again and cleared the rest of the areas he needed cleared to continue with his plans.

One of the cleared areas was for a pond. It was just down hill from the spring. Brady talked to the extension agent and got the dimensions that would be acceptable for the less-than-a-gallon-a-minute spring to keep fresh. It wasn’t as large as Brady hoped for, but he wanted a live pond, not a dead one. He used a polymer liner, on top of a bentonite clay layer to insure the pond wouldn’t leak. The top soil was stockpiled separately from the sub-soil, for use later in building and landscaping.

Near the pond, a freshly cleared and leveled area would be the orchard. Fortunately, the forest that had covered the property included several black walnut trees and uncounted hickory trees. All seemed to be heavy producers. A local nursery brought out the largest fruit and nut trees they had in stock to populate the orchard. They even moved a few of the smaller black walnut and hickory trees from their natural sites to the orchard. It would be at least two to three years before the new trees began bearing, but Brady considered the expense of the more mature trees worth it, compared to less mature trees that would take five to seven years to produce.

Three acres were cleared for gardens. Brady made arrangements with several local farms, as he located them, to either buy manure and used straw, or receive it for free to haul it off. It would all go on the garden plots for a couple of years to enrich the soil before anything was planted. One of the farmers was willing to go around, collect it, and deposit it on the garden for a small monthly fee. Brady also contracted with him to seed the pasture area that had been cleared.

Brady also had large beds of ever bearing strawberries put in. And blackberries. The thorny type. Brady had sets placed all around the perimeters of each of the cleared areas. More would be added each year until he had a solid ring around each area, except for specific, necessary openings.

That was the springtime project. The summer project began in July.

Brady bought another solar pump setup identical to the one for the well. It was placed in the pond and a line run to the garden and one to the orchard. The nursery crew came back out and installed an irrigation system in the orchard. A drip system fed perforated pipes that went down to the roots of each tree. The drips were adjusted to provide each tree with an optimum amount of water supplied from the solar pump in the pond. The pump had float switches wired into the controls so it wouldn’t pump the pond completely dry.

He brought a local concrete construction contractor in and had a one-hundred-thousand-gallon underground water tank constructed. It was designed with enough support columns inside to allow a twelve inch concrete roof covered with three feet of earth, and still allow heavy equipment to travel over it.

A month later he brought in a contractor from some distance away to put in a second “water tank” using the same construction techniques. Brady ran a line to the first tank from the well pump and began filling it with water. The second he didn’t. When it was finished, it would be a 30’ x 45’ x 9’ blast, fallout, and environmental shelter with two entrance/exits and an escape tunnel. But the final work would be done by someone he trusted with the information.

While they were there on the second tank project, Brady had one of the mason’s chip out the rock around the spring opening. It wound up increasing the flow to just over a gallon a minute, though that wasn’t why Brady wanted it done. Brady wanted a moderate sized spring house built flush to the ground for actual use, but primarily to protect the spring from surface contamination. A pipe, buried deep to avoid freezing, was run down to the pond. They left a way for the water to escape the spring house on the surface, just in case the pipe did freeze or become blocked. It wasn’t good to put back pressure on a spring.

The final project for the summer, into fall, was installing the heat sink piping for a geothermal, ground source, heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) system. It so happened that bigger was better, so Brady used 30” inside diameter clay tiles for the system. He marked out where he wanted the tiles to go. A second contractor put in more of the tiles. Both were told they were being put in now, but the system wouldn’t be completed until he was ready to build. He wanted to be able to landscape the area and not disturb it later, except for digging up the ends and making connections.

Since the contractors dug where Brady marked, they had no idea one of the strings of tiles stopped just short of the second “water tank”, with others conveniently placed where they would be adjacent to the buildings Brady would have erected. Some of them were actually for the HVAC system.

Brady put up a few more cameras with recorders around the perimeter of the main area. He drove down at least once a month during the winter to check the DVDs and change the batteries for freshly charged ones. All that ever showed up on the recordings was wild life, a great deal of it, and the occasional hunter passing through. None had done anything to the well, pumps, or pond, which were about the only things showing above ground.

The next spring Brady had the first structure on the property built. It was a large utility room and garage, built over a half basement with the well a ways inside one end wall. The foundations were substantial, including the basement walls. The building walls consisted of an outer wall of reinforced, grout-filled, concrete block.

Inside the block wall solid foam insulation was sprayed on, and then a twelve inch thick, staggered six inch stud, wood wall was erected, covered on the living space with ” marine plywood and vapor barrier, and the space between the plywood and insulated block wall filled with minus ” crushed rock. A six-inch concrete ceiling was poured and then an enameled steel hipped roof installed over it, a thick layer of insulation being sprayed in to cover the ceiling.

The openings for several small windows, three regular doors, and three 9’ garage doors were left empty. The doors and windows would be installed later. Two cameras went into the building. There still wasn’t much to steal, just the pumps. The building might be vandalized, but Brady was prepared for that. Even the steps down to the basement area of the building were of steel, not subject to much damage.

The same with the electrical and plumbing. The rough-ins were done, but the finish components were not installed.

And then Brady had some walls constructed. Sort of here and there, going all different directions. Tall, thick walls with deep foundations. Some of them quite long. The walls were reinforced concrete block on one side and the ends, and interlocking retaining wall blocks on the other. The two rows of blocks were tied together regularly with metal ties. The area between the block walls was filled with compacted crushed rock. Five feet wide at the top, seven at the bottom. Two of the walls connected to the garage/utility building, but were freestanding on the other ends.

The walls took everything he had budgeted for the year, and then some. He got a couple of complaints from the gravel pit operators from which he was sourcing the rock. He was taking everything they were producing and his other regular customers were complaining.

But the business was booming. He and Harry, plus two others, concentrated on the detective work. Barbara was running the security operation and had hired two office staff to help her.

The following year Brady didn’t do any building. Instead he made occasional trips to camp out, change batteries on the surveillance equipment, and check on the place. And empty the heavily laden Suburban of its contents to put them into the shelter space through one of the roof hatches each trip. He carefully covered the hatch up each time and camouflaged it before he left.

So far, the civilization had not ended and Brady had spent a small fortune already to prepare for it. That didn’t deter Brady. All the things he was seeing happening here in the good ol’ USA, as well as events around the world, had him convinced that it was only a matter of when, not if, he would need to use his major preparations. He’d already used the minor ones. He’d been stuck on the highway twice, for hours each time. St. Louis had another flood, and this winter was shaping up to be a record breaker. Nothing that made him want to leave the city. Yet. He took comfort in the knowledge that he could, now.

All through the process over the years that had passed, beside learning and acquiring things, and building, Brady had been cultivating people. Very carefully. Many of those he was feeling out were his employees, but by no means were they the majority.

Barbara was a given. She had a place for her family reserved at Brady’s. And since the apartment where he lived wasn’t really prep friendly, she reciprocated with offering her house for local bug-in situations for him.

He’d found out the hard way, despite Barbara’s admonishment to be careful, that selling the idea of preps was a hard job and needed just the right touch. And then it didn’t always work. He lost one of his few friends when he began insisting that he and his family become more prepared.

Brady was much more careful after that. And since he didn’t really consider himself as expert at preparedness, since he’d only been preparing such a short time, he began trying to get people to visit some of the websites where he’d learned so much. That was in addition to the FEMA sponsored sites, which seemed to elicit a better response.

But as things worsened in the world, some of the people were becoming more open to the idea of preparing. He began to get the makings of a mutual aid group, or MAG. Barbara was a big help in that. She’d been working toward it for years. Just hadn’t found the right people. But Brady was good with people for the most part.

Barbara, Harry, and three other employees finally committed to building on Brady’s property, and contributing, to one degree or another, to some of the projects Brady wanted to do. He really wanted three more major investors, though two would allow him to complete the project the way he had come to envision it.

Both Jonesy and Lieutenant Sandra Harrison bought in as minor investors.

Even a couple of the major news networks were hinting at the possibility of one of the regional wars expanding to a new World War. Global warming was a fact, and its effects were beginning to affect the world’s weather and coastlines.

Finally Brady’s doctor saw the handwriting on the wall. Dr. Amos was one of the people Brady had been gently working on, to bring him into the fold. Dr. Amos, one dentist, and one other doctor in his practice agreed to join the MAG. All three would build at the compound and invest in the communal projects.

About the time that Harry took three rounds of .380 ACP in a shootout with gang members he was tracking, Brady got the surprise of his life. A national security firm wanted to buy his operation. It had a very good reputation and was still growing. They wanted in on that growth.

Brady negotiated with the company’s representatives for a month and got the price up considerably more than their first offer, and most importantly, got an immediate buy out, rather than the term buyout the company wanted. Brady was able to stay on as a very well paid consultant and contract operative.

It turned him loose to get started on the rest of the building he would be supervising. Harry agreed to move to the compound with his family and keep an eye on the place during the construction of his own place, as well as Brady’s place and the construction of the community features. He was recovering well, but it would take some months before he was ready for action again. He was able to get around enough to supervise the contractors.

Brady already knew the contractor he would use to build his house and had the drawings ready. The others were free to hire pretty much whomever they wanted. There were a few stipulations in the agreement Brady had with the others. One was that each of the houses had to be built between the existing freestanding walls.

Another was that the housing unit have a back wall built similar to the existing walls, with both block walls being reinforced concrete block. And that wall had to be placed so it projected five feet beyond the existing walls, parallel to them, with a slight bend at the center. That would give defensive coverage along each of the walls from the side.

A third was that the unit must have a full height, full basement, designed with fallout protection in mind for at least one fourth of it, with another fourth set aside for prep storage.

The unit had to be energy efficient and set up to go totally off grid when necessary. Brady left it open for the owners to chose their own power and fuel sources. All fuel tanks would be located together in an area protected by berms. Brady had allowed enough space for his own tanks, the community tanks, and the private tanks to be installed.

Getting the fuel tanks installed and bermed was the first thing Brady did after he had the commitments he wanted. That and getting them filled. He footed the bill to fill the private tanks so they would be full, come what may. Everyone was beginning to feel a sense of urgency. Plans for the individual housing units were finalized within two months.

Brady was able to contract to have all the basements dug at the same time, gravel drains put in, with the drains and basement sumps piped to the pond. The basement walls were poured and back filled before winter set in. Long lead items were ordered. Construction would start as soon as reasonably good weather in the spring arrived. Everyone hoped they would be allowed the time.

Others seemed to be getting concerned enough to begin making preparations, like the majority of Brady’s MAG that hadn’t been prepping for some time. They were getting put on back order lists for many of the items on the recommended equipment and supplies list that Brady and Barbara had developed for the MAG.

Brady’s chosen contractor began work on his housing unit in March, as did Harry’s, after a very mild winter in the area. Barbara’s unit was started in April, and the others in May. Except the world situation had calmed somewhat, and three of the participants were waffling on whether or not to continue in the MAG. One was a primary investor, the other two minor.

Not wanting anyone involved that wasn’t completely dedicated, he refunded most of their money, excepting the expenses he’d already expended on their behalf. Brady went ahead and began construction of the unit the primary participant that had opted out was going to do. He also brought in two additional contractors to begin building the common buildings.

Brady was only taking selected cases with the national firm so he was able to spend much of his time overseeing the construction, with Harry’s help. Harry had brought in a fifth-wheel travel trailer for him and his wife to live in during the construction phase. Brady just camped out while he was there.

But then Brady was called in for a big insurance case. He had to go under cover. The case took three months to break. During that entire time Brady refused to break cover, trusting Harry and Barbara to handle anything that came up at the compound. The case involved a substantial reward, which the company split with Brady. More money for preps, he decided. It all went into gold and silver coins.

When he finally got back to the compound he was impressed and pleased with the progress. Both his and Harry’s units were constructed, though not finished inside. Barbara’s was close, and the others were coming along nicely, as were the common buildings.

With the additional money from the buyout, Brady had started negotiations to get commercial power to the site. They had stalled, but during the three months Brady was gone Barbara had continued to pester the power company. They finally agreed to split the cost with the MAG of bringing in the new line from the nearest source.

The line would be pole mounted until it reached the compound. From the transformer bank at the edge of the main clearing the service lines would go underground. Brady had to do some tricky trench design work to get the main line into the compound perimeter to avoid the various tunnels.

Like he had done with co-workers and acquaintances in St. Louis, Brady had begun building up friendships within and around Branson. That included the Branson police and the county sheriff and his deputies. They introduced him to the Missouri Highway Patrolmen that worked the area.

They were well aware of the several survivalist compounds in the area. So far none had developed into the media description of survivalists, but they were keeping a wary eye on all of them they knew about.

Brady was fairly open with them all about what he was doing, without revealing too much. They seemed to appreciate his coming to them openly about the compound. It helped that he lent his talents to them on a couple of cases on an informal basis.

One of the Branson officers, as well as one of the sheriff’s deputies, contacted Brady and expressed an interest in joining the MAG. Brady was happy to invite them in as minor investors. He was relatively certain that each of them would keep their respective departments apprized of the goings-on of the MAG, but Brady was keeping it strictly legal, and decided the advantages outweighed the disadvantages.

Another was the farmer that was bringing in the manure for the garden plot. Brady convinced him to join the MAG as a no dollar investment outside member. The farmer would be responsible for the garden plot and orchard. His own farm would provide beef, chicken, pork, and dairy products at a reduced, guaranteed, price, for a spot in the compound for him and his family.

The MAG would finance some shelter space on site at the farm, and help provide security if it ever became necessary. It would also subsidize a fuel alcohol still and a small scale biodiesel production set up if the farmer would put some of his fields into good oil producing plants.

As the gaps between the existing walls became filled with the housing units the compound became a real compound. It was going into winter before all the housing units were completed. All the primary investors had used the same construction method as had Brady in his construction of the garage/utility building, creating fire and bullet resistant walls, even inside the compound.

Though the political situations around the world were still calm, Brady continued with the preparations, despite the winter coming on. He hoped for a mild winter like the one previous, but he didn’t count on it. It was well he didn’t. The final touches on three commercial green houses in the middle of the compound were completed in a light snowfall.

More of the solar water pumps were paralleled in the concrete water tank, and fed to a thousand gallon pressure tank to provide the pressurized well water to all the buildings.

Two of the manufactured housing units Brady had ordered got stuck on the road coming in during a heavy rain. They wouldn’t be placed until the following spring, when they could be retrieved without damaging them.

The manufactured housing units were for the minor investors. Well insulated and efficient, they offered little ballistic and only moderate fire protection. The residents would use the community shelter if it became necessary. The units that made it were placed against the inside compound walls.

Two of the units were set up as dorms, each with a kitchen. One for men and one for women, for those single persons that were part of the MAG. The rest were single family housing units. The commercial power line was installed, and service lines connected to all the buildings.

Brady had substantially more housing availability than he did members of the MAG, but had wanted the extra for the probable late joiners he fully expected when thing became really bad.

They certainly weren’t bad that late winter of 2008. The Summer Olympic Games had gone off without a hitch and China was the new darling boy on the block. The Chinese leadership had calmed down North Korea and supposedly put a stop to their nuclear weapons arsenal acquisitions. They had also backed off their rhetoric about Taiwan.

Even the Middle East was in cooperative mood, with half a dozen different peace talks going on among the various Arab/Muslim countries and Israel. The US’s only presence in Iraq now was their new embassy compound. The Sunni – Shi’ite internecine warfare was being kept low key. Gold prices began to drop, as did oil prices.

Brady lost another major investor and three minor ones. He bought out their equity and began looking for more people, concentrating on the local population. He didn’t find any. People were saying a true peace across the globe was in the works. Of course, that didn’t affect natural disasters. But even those had slowed down, the planet seeming to be in a resting state. At least that was the way Brady saw it. And he didn’t trust the final World Peace talk. He continued his personal preps.

It continued that way into 2010, then, as they say, balloons started going up all over. Heavy blizzard from Montana, North Dakota, and the UP of Michigan all the way down into Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming.

The Yellowstone Caldera began acting up. Mt. Vesuvius had a major eruption. China and Russia cancelled a scheduled joint military exercise, with harsh words for each other. Two of the new Republics went communist again. North Korea did another nuke test and a long range missile test within days of each other. China marshaled forces on the coast opposite Taiwan, when Taiwan began talking about an independence initiative. California had yet another major earthquake.

Oil prices jumped. Gold prices jumped. Former members of the MAG jumped to get back in. Brady let them, at full price, cash on the barrelhead. Two more of his ex employees joined the MAG as minor investors. Three of the employees of the various contractors that had worked on the site joined. One as a major investor, two as minor.

Another local farmer, retired, wanted in. He and his family were welcomed. They would be the MAG greenhouse supervisors, as well as take care of the farm animal population when the animals were purchased. Brady had wanted some on-site production in addition to the agreement with the other farmer. Other members of the MAG would help.

Brady brought in another concrete contractor and added five foot high, two foot thick, crenellated parapet walls on top of the existing walls and buildings that comprised the compound building perimeter. The place suddenly took on the look of a rather short castle. But it was finished.

After contacting everyone in the MAG, they arranged a test run, with all but two people able to schedule a trip to the site. Both of those people had been there during the building process and knew the way.

The final purchases that Brady had made came in well before the first day of the test run. It was the community vehicles and equipment for gardening and maintenance. With the equipment on hand the contractors that were part of the MAG made the final connections of the tunnels to the various buildings. And exterior entrances were made for the ‘water tank’ blast shelter to use instead of the original access hatches.

Brady welcomed everyone and gave a tour of the place as people began arriving the first day of the test run. Several of the MAG members were unaware of the extent of the community aspects of the retreat. Most were pleased. A tiny handful were vocal about where their money was spent. Brady offered to buy them out. All refused and let it go.

It was the first time many of the MAG members had met. Brady made it obvious that he was in overall charge, and final arbitrator of all disputes. But he encouraged them to get together, get to know one another, and work out the group dynamics of who would be in charge of what aspect of the community, and set up a division of labor for the various community tasks.

One of the first tasks set up for that first day of the two day event was to organize an inspection and approval of everyone’s MAG required equipment and supplies. There was a wide disparity in preparedness states. Several people were encouraged to upgrade what they already had. More than a few were congratulated on their state of preparedness. No one was asked to reveal their entire preparations, only the MAG mandated ones.

Everyone left with a better understanding of what the retreat provided them and their responsibility to it and the MAG, beside the monetary aspect of it. The second farmer and his wife decided to take up permanent residence. That would allow the acquisition of the farm animals. Two of the minor investors were college students and agreed to stay and help during the summer school break for just a small salary.

Harry was recovered and ready to go back to the agency, but his wife didn’t want him to go back. She was afraid he might be killed. So Harry took a dispatching job with the county and he and his wife and first child also took up permanent residency. Brady was satisfied that the place would be well looked after while he continued to work.