If you don't like the Weather Chapter 5


If You Don’t Like The Weather… - Chapter 5

Jeb stopped the truck to let Brenda out to move the barricade truck blocking the back track into the hunting camp. As Jeb waited for Brenda to put the truck back into place after he and Bruce had pulled past, he took a good look at the track. It was beginning to show signs of use. He looked for, but couldn’t see the motion sensor that he knew was close to the track. He’d put it there himself and still couldn’t spot it.

With Brenda back in the truck Jeb headed for the fire road and then the county road. He headed southwest, using the back roads he’d marked on the Trucker’s Road Guide, headed for Tulsa. After the fifth time he asked Brenda to check the moneybag sitting on the sleep mattress, Brenda picked it up and put it on the dashboard. “Here. You can keep looking at it whenever you want.”

“Are you nuts? Put that thing out of sight! There’s I don’t know how many thousands of dollars in there!”

“Oh, Jeb! Don’t be such a scaredy cat. Nothing is going to happen to the money. We’ve had that much money aboard before. For cargos.”

“Yeah. Yeah I guess you’re right. It’s just before, it was our money. This is Brian’s. And it’s really important to get the stuff we’re going after.”

“You’re right about that. This is important. If Brian is right, long term survival is going to be dependent on preparations. And sheer luck. Just not being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Jeb looked over at his wife. “Do you think we should go south? Like some of the others we hear about on the ham bands?”

Brenda shook her head. “No. I don’t think so. It’s like Brian has said a couple of times. The likelihood of glaciers coming this far south are very, very, low. But people are not going to want to be this far north for fear of them. The southern states are going to be mobbed and over run with desperate people. Mexico, too. Assuming we can survive at the camp, it sounds like it’ll be the safest place.”

“I was thinking the same thing. I just wanted to be sure you agreed.”

They were silent after that, except for the regular radio checks with Bruce in the Ford one-ton following them. The plan had been to pick up I-44 West when they were well away from the hunting camp area. But when they came close the Interstate was filled to overflowing. Both East and West bound lanes were carrying west bound traffic. And it was moving slowly.

After brief consultation with Bruce, Jeb turned the vehicle and began heading for Tulsa on state and county roads. Even those routes were heavy with southbound and westbound traffic. There were law enforcement authorities here and there, but they seemed to only be responding to the worst of the accidents and incidents of violence.

The trio saw plenty of signs of people carrying weapons, like themselves, but had no incidents of their own, on the way to Tulsa. It took an extra day to get there, and two days to find and acquire what they wanted. It surprised Jeb that people took no more cash than they did for the food. Though it was ten times the regular rate, it still seemed remarkable to Jeb. He gladly paid what he had to, and with the money left the three decided on buying several more items as they found them available. Finally the three turned back, this time heading toward Fayetteville Arkansas.

They decided to stay on the back roads. The traffic they met was mostly headed south. All sorts of vehicles, most with trailers or car top racks filled to overflowing with personal goods. Knowing they had precious cargo, Jeb, Brenda, and Bruce were careful not to bring any undue attention to themselves. As it was, they got lots of long, questioning looks. Twice vehicles turned around and followed them for short times, but no effort was made to stop them.

With sighs of relief all around they finally got to the farm of the man with the bio-diesel equipment not far outside Fayetteville. The place was obviously still occupied. There was a tractor working one of the fields when Brenda stopped the semi on the driveway up to the farm house.

The driver of the tractor lifted the implement he was using on the field and headed for the driveway. When he got down off the tractor he picked up a shotgun and slung it over his shoulder.

“You guys the ones for the bio-diesel equipment?” he asked, walking up to them.

Jeb nodded and held out his hand. “How’d you know?”

“Why else would a rig be showing up here, after I made a deal to trade it for food? Fred Tanner.” He shook Jeb’s hand. “Am I right?”

“You are,” Bruce said, joining the three after doing a quick survey of the area. Just in case.

“You got the food?”

Jeb nodded.

“Enough?” Fred asked, rather coldly.

“I think so,” Jeb said, now more reserved, now suddenly thankful he’d followed Bruce’s advice about how to load the truck. They walked around to the back of the trailer and Jeb opened the lock that secured the double doors, opened one of them, and then the other.

“This enough?” Brenda asked as the all looked inside the truck. The back third of the trailer was stacked with cartons and cases of food to waist height.

“You have the refrigeration unit running,” Fred stated.

“Some of it’s fresh food. But only a portion. It’s all we could get,” Jeb said.

“Most of it is packaged foods. Bought it off another trucker who was supposed to deliver to Minnesota. Needed money for fuel to get to Mexico. Sold us enough to get fuel. Got the rest out of a distribution warehouse. The employees were doing the same thing as the trucker. Selling what they could to go further south.”

“What’s the rest of the load?” asked Fred.

“Other things we need to keep our place going during this,” Jeb replied. “Tools and such.” He noticed that Fred looked at the rest of the items speculatively.

After that long look at the load, Fred finally turned around and said, “Bring it up closer to the house. I’ll go get a couple sets of hand trucks from the shed. Jeb and Bruce both had uneasy feelings as they helped unload the food.

It was only when Fred had snapped the lock on the shed not full of packaged food, the perishables having been taken inside the farm house to the refrigerator and freezer, that Fred turned around and said. “It’s not enough. I want to see what else you got in that trailer.”

Fred’s shotgun pointed ominously at a spot near the three’s feet. Fred had his trigger finger outside the trigger guard, but he was ready to use it.

“Okay,” Jeb said, after quick looks at Brenda and Bruce. “But you’re going to be disappointed. Is there any food available around here?”

“Yeah, but it is sky high. Move.” With a motion of the shotgun, Fred directed the three out to the open doors of the trailer. “I figure you got something to hide. No need to tarp a load in a closed trailer.”

“Wanted to keep the moisture off the rest of the load,” Jeb said immediately. “Using the reefer unit condenses moisture on everything.”

“You just climb right up in there and undo that tarp.” Fred continued to keep the shotgun trained toward Bruce and Brenda as Jeb did as he was told. A minute or so later Fred asked, “What the blazes is that?”

“Sewing machine. A serger. Bundles of cloth. Pins, needles… sewing stuff. To make clothes in the future.” Jeb decided to give a little more information in hopes that Fred wouldn’t investigate further. He tugged the tarp back a little more, apparently with little success. “Got a high efficiency washing machine and a hand washer so we can do laundry, and…”

“That’s enough. Don’t need any of that stuff. You are going to have to come up with more food if you want that bio-diesel equipment.”

“You said food was available locally, just high,” Jeb said. “I know you didn’t want cash, but we’ve got almost eight thousand dollars left from the trip. How about we give you that and you buy locally?”

“Eight grand, huh?”

The three could see the greed in the man’s eyes. “Fork it over,” Fred said.

“How do we know you want just take it and say the same thing?” Bruce asked.

“Don’t, I guess… Except… Here.” Much to Jeb’s, Brenda’s, and Bruce’s surprise, Fred handed Jeb the shotgun.

“Wouldn’t try anything,” Fred said. “You won’t find the stuff if I don’t show you where it is. Hand over the money.”

Jeb took the money bag from beneath his shirt at the small of his back and counted out seven thousand, nine hundred, eighty-nine dollars. “Close enough,” Fred said, taking the money eagerly.

“Bring your truck. The stuff is out in the field, under the hay.”

It took four hours of hard work to uncover the equipment, moving hay bales by hand. At least the equipment was broken down into pieces that could be handled by two men working together. Fred took no part in the work, standing silently aside, just watching. It took two more hours of hard work to get everything loaded, including the buckets of the chemicals needed to make the bio-diesel.

Fortunately there was just enough room in the truck so they didn’t have to rearrange the load. That would have exposed the front third of the truck, which was filled five feet high with additional packaged food.

When they were finished, and the trailer doors closed and locked, Jeb unloaded the shotgun and handed it back to Fred. Brenda was in the cab of the truck and the engine was running when Jeb asked Fred, “Why are you getting rid of it? Seems like you’d want it for yourself.”

Fred shrugged. “Me and another guy were both doing it. He’s going to give me fuel for the oil crops I’m putting in for him, plus food. He’s got a big truck farm, but didn’t want to do the oil crops. Wants the food for trade.”

Jeb climbed into the passenger seat of the truck, and Brenda put it in gear. They were trusting Bruce to keep Fred covered to prevent him from trying to stop them until they were far enough away to make it impossible. As soon as the semi was going down the farm driveway, Bruce took his hand off the pistol sitting on the seat of the big Ford pickup, and sped away, to join Brenda and Jeb.

Two more days and they were back at the hunting camp, cargo intact, there having been no further problems.

As Dr. Hughes, Frank, and Alvin went north toward Springfield, they met a slow, but steady stream of heavily loaded vehicles going south. It was slow going. There were several instances of people going the wrong way in their lane. But they made Springfield that evening.

They had a list of addresses and telephone numbers, but neither the landlines or cell phone systems were working. After a few minutes of consultation, the three decided to camp out in a nearby KOA that was still open. It was essentially already full, but the owners were letting people double and triple up in single slots, to get the money.

The next morning, after breakfast, the team began investigating the leads that the Springfield Amateurs had given the camp. The first stop was the nursery. Sure enough, it was open, with one person checking the automatic systems and hand watering everything else. It was the owner, Dr. Hughes found out.

Though he hadn’t been selling anything the last two weeks, he was keeping everything up. After being shown the various models of greenhouses that the nursery used, and the kits that were in stock, Dr. Hughes decided to take the three largest kits, as well as the two smaller ones for specialty plants. It cleaned out the inventory of greenhouse kits in stock.

The nursery owner loaded everything up on the fifth-wheel trailer with the Bobcat skid steer loader mounted with a set of forks. After talking to Frank and Alvin, Dr. Hughes made a deal with the nursery owner to buy the Bobcat and all the attachments the man had that he used in his yard service. The man needed money, since he wasn’t getting any calls for service and all his regular customers had cancelled their contracts with him.

The sale included a trailer for the Bobcat. It also included all the nursery products the man was willing to sell, while keeping some for his own use. Dr. Hughes also bought many starter plants and even some fruit trees and nut trees ready for planting. “A word to the wise,” Dr. Hughes told the man as they were about to leave. “I’d suggest you forget flowers and concentrate on fruits and vegetables. People are going to need food.”

The man, a sad look on his face, nodded. “I think you’re right. Practicality before beauty. Good-bye.” He shook Dr. Hughes hand and turned to go into one of the nursery greenhouses.

“I don’t think he’s going to make it,” Frank said as he got behind the steering wheel of the Ford one-ton pulling the fifth-wheel trailer with the greenhouse equipment.

“I doubt it,” Dr. Hughes replied. “His heart just isn’t in it. He loves the beauty of plants more than their productivity. I had a hard time making him take more than his standard retail prices for everything. I don’t want to give away money, but he’s one that is going to need it.”

Alvin followed behind Dr. Hughes and Frank in the Chevy one-ton, pulling the fifth-wheel trailer hauling the Bobcat and attachments. The set up camp again, this time in an out of the way city park with only a few other campers using it.

Having met their primary goal, and having plenty of cash left available, they took their time over the next several days, picking and choosing deals to acquire more equipment and supplies to improve the hunting camp. They began to keep an even closer watch than normal, after noticing three people that kept showing up in the distance everywhere the team went in the city.

Both trailers and trucks were loaded beyond their weight limits when the three conferred one night in another camp. “We’re full up,” Dr. Hughes said. “Have some cash left, but I’m getting a bad feeling about that group following us. We head back in the morning.” Frank and Alvin agreed.

As agreed, the next morning, without waiting to make breakfast, with Frank driving the Ford, Dr. Hughes beside him, and Alvin in Brian’s Chevy, they headed out of town. They took a northern route at first, to try to throw off the group they thought was following them, before swinging wide and heading south.

The ploy worked fairly well. But not entirely. They’d just left the city proper when a pickup and a Jeep began to gain on them from behind. Alvin warned Frank and the two increased their speed. With the heavy loads they were pulling, despite the big diesel engines the trucks were equipped with, the lightly loaded vehicles quickly gained on them.

The group following them were apparently weren’t any too smart. They began firing from well out of range. But it made it plain to Dr. Hughes and his team that it was a life and death situation. Dr. Hughes had Frank pull off the road at the first good point where they would have room for both vehicles.

As soon as they were stopped all three men exited the vehicles, weapons in hand, and began firing at the rapidly approaching vehicles. With slow, aimed shots, Dr. Hughes, Frank, and Alvin tried to stop the vehicles before they could get close enough to be effective. All three were using 7.62mm x 51mm caliber rifles.

The pickup approaching them suddenly veered off the highway, flipped and began to tumble, rolling over at least four times before coming to rest. The men in the Jeep didn’t slow. It was obvious that they weren’t going to stop and do battle, but would try to get ahead of the team.

It was a foolish mistake. The closer they got, the more rounds the Jeep and its occupants took. It flew past the stopped vehicles, fire continuing to come from it. Like the pickup, the Jeep soon went off the road at high speed, rolling several times before coming to rest well away from the highway.

Dr. Hughes and his team lost no time. They returned to their vehicles and left the area as quickly as they could. Fortunately there’d been no traffic during the short battle, but vehicles behind them began stopping at the scene of the battle.

Alvin noticed the engine temperature was beginning to climb and radioed those in the Ford that he needed to pull over. After finding another good spot, both rigs pulled off the road and the men got out.

Frank whistled and Alvin turned white when they saw the several bullet holes puncturing the sheet metal of the Chevy. The reason the engine was beginning to overheat was obvious. A plume of steam drifted from the grill.

With Frank and Dr. Hughes keeping a lookout, weapons at the ready, Alvin popped the hood of the Chevy and opened it. It took several minutes of hot work with a Leatherman Surge to pinch closed the tube in the radiator that a bullet fired from the Jeep had nicked. Alvin got premixed antifreeze from behind the rear seat of truck and refilled the radiator. He added a can of Stop-Leak, and put the radiator cap back on.

The team got back on the highway, moving slowly until Alvin was sure the radiator fix was holding. As the engine temperature came down rapidly, Alvin radioed ahead and they sped up, heading for the hunting camp

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