If you don't like the Weather Chapter 6 and Epilog


If You Don’t Like The Weather… - Chapter 6

When Brian filled Dr. Hughes in on what had happened in town, and the group of refugees in the area, he immediately suggested putting a live guard at the abatis, accompanied by one of the Airedales for both companionship and extra early warning. The horses could be used for travel back and forth. “I’m afraid the motion sensor just won’t give us enough warning to get people in a position to deal with a large group.”

“Will the dogs cooperate?” Brian asked.

Dr. Hughes had to smile. Brian obviously didn’t know much about Airedales. “With just a bit of training, any of the dogs will do the job. Caroline can train each in turn. Then they can rotate off the same way as us. The horses the same. All are pretty gentle and will take new riders without much of a problem. A little work with Bruce and everyone should be able to ride any of the horses.”

“It’s a shame Jeb’s camera idea wouldn’t work,” Brian said. “Just too far for the low power transmitters he had.”

“I think I would still want someone down there,” Dr. Hughes replied. The two men were walking down the well worn path to the lake. “It’ll be a pain, but a group as large as you say, with some bad elements in it, could overrun us before we could react without more warning than the motion sensors give us. Even with a camera, the chance of missing something is pretty high. A person on the site, and especially a dog, should give us enough warning.”

“I think you are right. We should set that up right now, I think,” Brian said. “As long as Caroline is willing.”

“I’m sure she will be. All of us are familiar with working with the dogs. We can take the first several night watches. I think it best that the first trainees be Jake’s family, you, and Cap, doing day watches.”

“I agree,” Brian replied. Both men had turned around and were walking back toward the camp. Showing Dr. Hughes the houseboat could wait.

It took several minutes to get everyone needed for the first training sessions and watch together, but by noontime Brian was on his way to the abatis aboard one of the horses, with Lion, the Alpha male of the Airedale pack, trotting alongside. Caroline was on another of the horses. She’d work with Brian and Lion at the abatis, to teach Lion where the line was he was to guard, and giving Brian tips on how to work with the dog.

Even Samantha got in on the act. She wouldn’t be standing any watches, at least not yet, but she’d taken to the animals as soon as they arrived and they reacted well to her. She’d already offered and been allowed to help take care of them, as long as it didn’t interfere with her chores.

Actually riding the horses and working with the dogs was a break from her chores that her mother, Gloria, was a bit reluctant to allow, but seeing the pleasure it brought to the girl, finally gave in.

Brian checked in with Johnson just about every day by radio. There was no new news about the refugees. Brian, with Jake’s and Dr. Hughes input, decided to keep up the extra watches. Sally and Abby, over the initial shock, both wanted to get back to town to carry on with their work.

“Okay,” Brian told them after Frank relieved him at the end of his four hour watch period. “I’ll take you in, but I’d like you to keep in touch through Mr. Johnson. Don’t take any chances. You know how long it takes us to get into town if something happens.”

Both women agreed, and accepted a revolver each, with belt, holster, and speed loaders to enhance their ability to protect themselves enough to get to some help. Sally was comfortable with her shotgun, but Brian gave Abby one of the AR-15’s from his stock, with several magazines and a bandoleer in which to carry them. A couple of hours at the range behind the camp and Brian took the women back to their homes, using the R320.

They stopped at Johnson’s store and each of the women made deals with him to get a few supplies in return for some labor help later on. He dropped Sally off first, and then Abby.

Brian went for a slow drive through the town. He wasn’t that familiar with it, but it looked to him like some of the refugees had taken up residence, apparently in houses abandoned by locals that went south. Brian didn’t like the feel in the small town and went back to each woman’s house and told them so. Both insisted they wanted to stay.

Knowing he had no right to insist, he let it go, but the safety of the two women was a constant thought in the back of his mind. It started snowing as he drove back to the hunting camp. Fortunately it didn’t last long.

For two more days all went well in the camp, with everyone getting used to the new guard duties. There was little leisure time for anyone in the camp. When not doing regular work to keep the camp going, everyone pitched in to help put up the greenhouses and get them in operation. The other things the two teams had brought back were stored away, or, in the case one of the sewing machines, put into immediate use.

The Bobcat became a valued piece of equipment, and often used. Not only did it unload the greenhouse components, but also the three pre-built sheds that were turned into a men’s bathroom and shower facility, women’s bathroom and shower facility, and wash house.

The backhoe attachment dug the septic system and helped place the new septic tank. It was also used to dig the trenches for the plumbing and electrical line and dig out the stumps in the area cleared for more garden space. The bucket filled the holes. The tree spade dug the holes and set the new fruit and nut trees in place. The chipper ground up all the limbs of the cut down trees too small to be cut up for fire-wood into mulch for the garden.

Everyone was so occupied, with Alexandra on the radios and Jeb at the abatis when Anthony called in from his runabout out on the lake. “Bunch of people and some cars and trucks on the road!” came the quiet, but excited voice from the speaker. Brian heard the call on his walky-talky and dropped what he was doing to run into the main cabin.

Alexandra moved aside and Brian sat down at the communications desk. “Can you tell how many?” Brian asked, keeping his voice calm. He sounded the alarm to bring everyone else running.

“No sir. Just that there are more than fifteen. Some women. Don’t see any kids.”

“Okay. Anthony, I want you back on shore and in your lookout position in the trees by the lake.”

“Yes sir!”

Jake had hobbled over and was listening as Brian contacted Jeb. “You hear that, Jeb?”

“Loud and clear,” replied Jeb over the radio. “No signs here, yet.”

“Cap and I’ll be down to reinforce you. The rest of the camp is going on alert.”

Brian got up and Alexandra sat back down. Her worry about her son was visible, but she maintained her presence of mind, keeping it on the radios.

Jake had gone to the gun rack by the front door and picked up his rifle and took one of the walky-talkies from the charging stand. No one even tried to stop him as he used his crutches to head for one of the fighting holes in the edge of the trees near the main entrance track.

Brian grabbed Cap as soon as he showed up, already armed. “A couple of horses, Cap.” Cap hurried to help Caroline get two horses saddled. Everyone else was doing as they’d trained, getting armed and heading for defensive positions around the camp.

Though they’d had a couple of fighting positions dug out by hand, the Bobcat had been of great value in getting several more dug, despite the roots of the trees making it difficult. Samantha was getting Baby Steven ready to go into the safe room where she and the baby were assigned to be during any sort of trouble. Gloria and Helen took up positions in the house to protect the children and Alexandria.

The two horses were saddled when Brian joined Caroline and Cap at the corral. Both men mounted and headed for the abatis, following the track. Just before they came to the abatis they took to the trees, dismounted, and worked their way forward, one man on each side of the track.

“We’re here,” Brian whispered into his walky-talky. “One on each flank.”

“Nothing yet,” Jeb replied. “No. Wait a minute. Duke is reacting to something.”

The young Airedale was standing now, eyes on the curve of the track that led to the county road. Its ears were up at alert. He turned his head to look at Jeb, then quickly turned his head back toward the track and growled, very low. The dog crouched much the same as Jeb did, taking up a position behind a tree next to the stump of one of the trees that formed the abatis.

“Good boy,” Jeb whispered, stroking the back of the dogs head for a moment. Duke kept his attention on the track ahead of them.

It wasn’t long before three men came around the bend in the track and into view of Brian, Cap, and Jeb. All three of the men were moving rather casually. Though armed, their rifles were slung. However, when they saw the abatis across the road they quickly entered the edge of the forest.

Though out off Cap’s sight, Jeb and Brian could still see the men. They were conferring. One raised a walky-talky to his face and spoke into it. Apparently someone responded for the men conferred again. Two stepped back a bit deeper into the forest and the third man stepped out onto the track and boldly walked toward the abatis.

When he was a few feet from the obstruction, Jeb stood up. So did Duke. “What do you want?” he called out to the man.

The man, to his credit, didn’t start. He calmly turned toward Jeb. “Looking to pass through. Maybe take a deer or a few squirrels.” The man lifted the rifle by the sling just slightly to punctuate his words.

“No pass through. This road ends in a hunting camp. It’s all private land around here. Hunting only for the owners.” Jeb stood his ground, his rifle cradled in his arms.

“Come on,” cajoled the man. “Just one man. Wouldn’t take more than one deer or half a dozen squirrels.”

“What about the other two guys and the group down at the road?”

The man turned red enough for Jeb to be able to see it.

“Just being cautious. No body travels alone anymore. Not safe.”

“And the group?”

“Well…” was the only reply to the second question. “If you say it’s private, we’ll just make ourselves welcome elsewhere.” He turned around and walked off, stiffly.

“What do you think?” Jeb asked Brian on the radio after the one man had joined the other two and all three headed back around the curve in the track.

“I don’t like it,” Brian replied. “I’m going to work my way down and take a look at the group. See if it looks like they might be getting ready to attack.”

Brian was no master woodsman, but neither were any of the several guards posted around the group milling around on the county road, at the turnoff to the hunting camp. Brian saw three men, well armed, as he tried to work closer to the main group. He gave up, for fear of being discovered by a guard he might miss.

He watched from where he was. There was a major argument going on amongst several men in the center of the large group. The argument ended, and one man began waving people over. All well armed men. Another motion and more armed men appeared out of the forest in several different places. That included the three on guard he’d seen.

They huddled around the man that had pulled them in for a couple of minutes. All then turned and started up the track toward the curve. Brian warned Jeb and Cap, as well as the camp. He told Cap and Jeb to fade into the forest and let the group pass them up. He asked Dr. Hughes to be ready to speak to the leader of the group, from a position of cover. To give them an ultimatum. Leave peacefully or die.

One or two of the men might have had some military training, but Brian was doubtful. The men stayed in a group as they went around the abatis, not even trying to flush Jeb out. Jeb followed them from directly behind, with Brian and Cap taking up positions on the group’s flanks, to prevent them from spreading out too much.

It wasn’t a problem until they came around the last turn of the track and saw the camp. The men began to spread out, but stopped before Brian or Cap had to stop them. The leader drew up in the middle of the road and hailed the camp.

“Listen up!” he said. “We just want a few supplies to get us on down the road. Cooperate and there won’t be any trouble!”

Brian had to give Dr. Hughes credit. He kept his response short and simple. “Leave or die!” was all he said.

“I’m telling you,” the man called out again, edging toward the supposed protection of the forest, “There doesn’t have to be any trouble! But if you resist…” He dived behind a tree. It must have been the signal for the group, for each one of the other men in the forest opened fire.

The leader of the group almost landed on Jake. Jake calmly shot him in the head before he could react to the sudden confrontation. From the camouflaged fighting holes the hunting camp residents opened up on the unsuspecting attackers.

Brian, Cap, and Jeb moved in from behind and took out those under cover from the camp itself, but totally open to attack from the rear. Even Duke got into the act, charging one man that began to run back toward the county road. Duke had him on the ground and helpless in a few moments. Duke stood over him, growling, until Jeb came up and took the man’s gun from him. Even with that, Duke stood in a guard position after Jeb made the guard motion. He hurried forward, looking for more targets.

It was over in only seconds. Those attackers that weren’t dead, Cap, Jeb, and Brian rounded up. There were only three of them, including the one Duke had taken down. All were injured to one degree or another. Dr. Hughes did a quick check of the men as everyone else maintained a ready stance, in case more of the group tried to attack after hearing the gun battle.

He didn’t treat them, but just made sure they could be walked back down to the county road. Two could. The third would have to be helped by the other two. While everyone went back to their defense positions, Cap, Brian, and Jeb hustled the three wounded down the track.

Cap and Brian faded into the forest just before they got to the abatis, leaving Jeb to finish getting the men to it. Cap and Brian didn’t find anyone in the forest around the area, but there were several people milling around right at the abatis, including several women.

“Come get the ones that made it,” Jeb called loudly, backing away from the three men. They immediately sat down, exhausted from their wounds.

“Where are the others?” cried out one of the women.

“Dead. All dead,” Jeb called back. There were screams of anguish and screams of anger. One of the screaming women was armed with a rifle and she raised it to her shoulder.

Brian hesitated for a fraction of a second. Cap didn’t. He shot the woman dead as soon as she started to raise the rifle toward Jeb. There were more screams and people began to run away. Only two came around the abatis to help the three wounded. Only one person stood their ground where they were.

Brian recognized him as the one that had been arguing with the leader of the men that had attacked. “What do you want?” Brian asked, moving up to the very edge of the track.

“Our dead? What about our dead?”

“If you want them, you can have them. Otherwise they’ll be buried in an unmarked common grave deep in the forest.”

“Please,” the man begged. “Let us give them decent burials.”

“Make sure your people stay where they are and we’ll bring the bodies down shortly.” Brian nodded at Jeb and Jeb headed back to the camp, taking one of the horses that had been tied out of the way at the very first.

The man wanted to talk. “Please, let me explain…” he started saying.

Iron in his voice, Brian cut him off. “The explanation is you had, and still probably have, killers among you that prefer to kill and take rather than ask and trade. I’ll have nothing to do with people such as yourself that allow and condone what has happened. I know about what your group did in town, and now this.”

“But we need food and shelter and…”

“I said I don’t want to hear it. You chose the path of anarchy and killing and theft.”

The man hung his head and fell silent. Brian saw a couple more people from the group edge their way up to him cautiously. Brian couldn’t hear what was said, but the two, and then three more, stayed with him until Jeb got back with the Chevy one-ton pickup. The dead were piled in the bed of the truck.

It was a slow, gruesome process getting the bodies around the abatis and into the vehicles of the group that had been brought up for them. “Where is their stuff?” asked one of the men helping carry the bodies. Everything but their clothing had been stripped from the bodies.

“Spoils of war,” Brian said coldly.

The man looked ready to take up the battle again, but one of his companions hustled him away from Brian and they took another body around the abatis to the waiting vehicles. Finally the task was done.

As the leader of the group started to get into the last vehicle Brian called out, “Try coming back and it will be worse. We’ll destroy not just those that attack, but those that support the attack.” The man said nothing, but climbed into the old school bus in silence.

Those at the hunting camp kept double watches for a week after the attack, but nothing further was seen of any of them. Everyone relaxed slightly when a group so similarly outfitted to the one that had attacked, that there was no question that it was they an Amateur Radio operator reported being seen camped out on the Arkansas side of the Missouri border.

Brian, Jake, and Dr. Hughes all agreed to maintain strict security, but went back to single watches.

If You Don’t Like The Weather… - Epilog

The initial improvements to the camp were completed before true winter hit, though the temperatures were fall-like by August and wintery by Thanksgiving. But the greenhouses were producing well, and would be able to produce even during the extreme winters sure to come, with the wood-fired heaters attached to them.

Enough photo-voltaic panels and controllers were acquired and installed to provide enough AC electricity to run the heavier loads demanded by other improvements.

All the buildings had extra insulation, thanks to another buying trip in Springfield, the population of which was rapidly shrinking. The buildings were also bermed up the walls several feet to reduce heat loss even further.

Deals were cut locally with other die-hard, like minded people. The bio-diesel equipment was traded to a farmer willing to grow the appropriate crops, press the oil, and convert it to fuel for the camp, for half of the fuel left after the amount required for the farming and operating the process.

Despite the effective shutdown of the US government, and the loss of much of the infrastructure, there was still some trade and commerce going on. Not much fuel was coming north from the Gulf Coast refineries that were still operating. The production was being used locally to support that infrastructure that existed across the southern states and Mexico.

To all intents and purposes, everything north of a line from San Francisco, California, to Norfork, Virginia, was a no-mans-land, with no organized support from the south. People north of that line were on their own.

The line actually dipped much lower in some areas, primarily rural areas, like the Ozarks of Northern Arkansas and Southern Missouri. Many areas North of I-70 had a snow accumulation of over five feet before the traditional start of winter. Very few people doubted that the snow would stay year round, and probably continue to accumulate if the weather pattern persisted.

By the end of the year, there were no more refugees still trying to get south of that San Francisco – Norfork line. Those that had started early enough, that hadn’t run into problems on the way, had made it. The rest, that started too late, didn’t make it. The hunting camp had a snow accumulation of three feet, with nighttime temperatures below zero on a regular basis. But at least the snow was melting down somewhat during the milder periods of the winter. Not so up north. The snow just kept piling up.

Mr. Johnson gave up the battle with the weather, and with getting supplies to sell in his store. He sold out the remaining inventory to Brian, and went south to stay with his daughter in southern Florida.

Sally was determined to stay. With the agreements she had with some of the local farmers, she probably would have been able to make it. She froze to death during a five-day blizzard in the area, when temperatures were twenty below and the winds above 50mph. She ran out of firewood.

Abbey made it through that blizzard, but asked for, and received permission move out to the hunting camp. Brian and the others were able to tow her mobile home veterinary clinic to the camp. She moved her personal belongings to the last unused cabin.

When it became obvious that civilization would continue, Jake and his family got back in the trucking business. They were one of the few outfits that would brave the no-mans-land right up and into the permanent snow line. The main cargos were fresh food shipments, but even those were limited. The areas least affected by the weather change were barely keeping themselves fed, with the massive population growth. Fuel transport made up the other major portion of their business coming up from the south.

Due to the harshness of the life, and the difficulty in traveling much of the area, crime wasn’t much of a problem after the initial stages. That could not be said about the warmer areas of the world. With the overpopulation and reduced food production, crime was rampant. Jake’s people never went anywhere alone or unarmed. Weapons ownership and open carry were a fact of life in the weather affected zones.

Nature took back much of that no-mans-land. Again, for those that would brave the elements, wild game became a marketable commodity. The farmers that stayed were able to gather up large herds of domesticated animals, from those farms where they had been abandoned. Meat, wool, and leather became big business in no-man’s-land.

With their gold coin holdings, Brian and Dr. Hughes were able to organize and operate most of the meat production activity between the Mississippi River and the Rockies. Jake’s family got the southbound cargoes, taking precious meat to the multitudes.

Life was hard, everywhere, as most of the world slid slowly back into a New Dark Ages. Too much of the manufacturing capacity was buried under the snow to continue the always fragile cycle of production from raw material to finished product on a store shelf.

The close confines in the high population areas relieved some of the pressure for food and other goods. Pandemics swept through those massive populations, thinning them down closer to the levels that local resources could provide for. Communities isolated themselves, except for the necessary exceptions of the traders from the north.

Brian’s enclave became the jumping off point to the north central section of the US many years later when the snow line began to recede, much more slowly than it had come south.

Copyright 2007

Jerry D Young