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  1. #41
    CHAPTER 67, April, 2016

    Two more brand new calves were up and nursing when Ed walked over to his farm to feed in the evening and check on the cows. The rest of the cows all looked to be ready to drop a calf any day, so he made sure the feeding area was clean, they had fresh bedding, and he gave the cows some extra ground feed. Ed was up to 15 brood cows now that all looked healthy and content. Last year's crop of calves were growing fast and eating enough that he began to hope for new pasture grass soon.

    The Fescue had greened up as soon as the snow was gone, but the clover he had seeded with it was just starting to show enough green to be seen across the field behind the barn. He stayed long enough to see them all go to the pond to drink, then come back to the barn to get out of the misty rain. The cows with new calves were halfway to the barn when three coyotes came galloping out of the trees, then 2 more, encircling the cows with calves and half a dozen others. Ed ran for the barn driveway where he had left his old Springfield rifle.

    He laid the rifle stock against the corner of the barn for a rest and sighted on one that was farther out from the herd. When the rifle boomed, the coyote dropped in a pile and the others took flight for the trees, headed north toward the old Duncan place. Ed swung the rifle at the departing coyotes and squeezed the trigger again. As that one fell, he moved on to the one closest to the tree line and hit it, but it struggled to it's feet and trotted on 3 legs out of sight. By the time he cycled the bolt again, they had all disappeared.

    He looked at the cows that had circled the baby calves in a protective huddle, shaking their heads aggressively. They might have fought off the attack by themselves, he thought, but he'd thin out the coyotes every chance he got. He looked around and picked up his empty brass and pocketted it for reloading later. As he reloaded his rifle Ed heard another shot from the Duncan farm, then a second one. It sounded like the neighbor had got in some licks, too. Bob Clemmons kept a watchful eye on Ronnie's herd of hogs, and he hated coyotes as much as anyone. Mike had reloaded some shotgun shells for Bob with home made buckshot cushioned with sawdust, a very lethal load at up to 50 to 75 yards.

    Ed slung his rifle over his back and walked out in the mist to gather up the dead coyotes. He dragged them to the driveway one at a time and left them in a pile. Ed started his walk back home. He would drive the truck back later to pick up the coyotes. The meat would be run through his cranked meat grinder then spread out to dry slowly in his home made dehydrator over the wood stove. He had more than enough to feed his chickens for now, so he'd probably trade it off to Ronnie to use in hog feed. The bones would be dried on the hen house roof and later ground in his hammermill to put on his garden. The pelts would be dried on stretchers and given to the tanner toward Ed's next leather purchase. All of the proceeds didn't amount to a lot, but it would pay for his rifle shells and some besides.

    The neighborhood came to full alert when they heard the shooting. Ed knew this and stopped at Gerald's house to tell him what happened, then at his son's house on the way out with the truck to pick up the coyotes. Mike said he'd help him skin them out. Ed loaded the coyotes then drove over to Ronnie's place where he met Matthew at the driveway carrying a rifle and explained. The young man thanked him and walked back to the house.

    Since he was close, Ed drove across the road to tell Bob what he shot at and to see if Bob had any luck. He had. There were 3 dead coyotes in his barn driveway, the first hung up and being skinned.

    "How'd you get 3 with 2 shots?" Ed asked.

    "You got one and he just made it over here to die. You take him. The hide belongs to you," Bob said.

    "No, the two I've got is all I can handle tonight. You're welcome to the hide. Just wanted to let you know it wasn't outlaws I was shooting at."

    Bob grinned and said, "They're outlaws as far as I'm concerned. They can make a mess out of a herd of hogs."

    "Well," Ed said as he got back in his truck, "That's 5 of 'em we don't have to worry about now. See you later. It's getting dark and we both have work to do."

    Neal Davis didn't have the security problem that Wes and Larry did, since the back of his farm had steeper and higher banks above the creek, and he had always pretty much kept to himself, so they didn't have a lot of company. It would be a while before the ground dried enough for him to begin putting in crops, so he spent some time opening boxcars and containers. He was tickled pink with the next car he opened, it being a shipment to some big feed store, he supposed. There were pallets of the brown salt blocks he fed his cattle (he had run out of those), some blocks of molasses and magnesium to prevent grass tetany, and the rest of the car was filled with bags of dried pork meat scrap, which he knew as "tankage" from many years ago when he started farming. It was a protein supplement that was richer than soybean meal, and it would keep practically forever in the plastic lined bags. Neal wasn't young, but he was still fit. Even so, it took him a couple days to carry enough of the 50 pound bags up the steep bank to haul to the old grain bin he used to store such things. It was hard work, but it was all sorely needed things to feed his stock.

    That had kept him occupied, but he was getting more curious all the time about the rest of the cars and opened a couple more containers on the next flatcar. He wasn't much of a fisherman, but he knew he had a fortune in fishing equipment when he got a look at the load addressed to Bass Pro in Clarksville. The shipping papers inside listed hundreds of fishing items, and almost as many clothing items. The prize, though, was cartons of archery equipment--compound bows, graphite arrows, hunting broadheads, and pages of accessories, all of it made in China and shipping direct to Bass Pro.

    The other container didn't excite him much, although he knew it was worth a lot. It was a shipment of parts from Rednekk Trailer Supply to some trailer manufacturer in Kentucky. The shipping papers said it had hitches, stub axles, rims with tires, and springs. He figured somebody would want to make something out of all that, but he left it where it was for now, picked up his big pipe wrench and crowbar and went on to the next one, a boxcar.

    He read the shipping papers twice and part of it again, before he began to believe it. The car had the yellow placard that said, HAZARDOUS MATERIAL, and sure enough, inside were boxes printed with "A. Uberti" and addressed from Accokeek, Maryland to a distributor. There was a separate shipping document from Remington Arms, a re-shipment from the Uberti comany to their distributor. It listed numerous calibers of ammunition he only vaguely remembered, like .44-40, .45 Long Colt, and .45-70. From what he could see reading the papers, this company must be a maker of old style guns, because it listed things like Trapdoor rifles and Colt single action revolvers. He used his belt knife to cut open a carton and found it full of 1873 Carbines, replicas of Winchester's fine lever action rifle chambered for .45 Colt.

    Neal wasn't a "gun nut" as he called the people who bought one gun after another just to have them, but he knew what he had in that one car was worth as much or more than his farm. He struggled to get past that carton to the one just behind the car side by the door. it required that he cut away and half emptied the carton of rifles to get to the pallet labeled Remington Arms Company. It was full of boxes of ammunition. Neal put all the rifles back in the carton except the one he'd laid aside and took out several boxes of ammunition, then closed the car door. Having that many guns sitting there made him nervous. He'd heard on TV what some people had done to rob gun stores when the trouble all began. He decided that he'd seen enough for today and went to the house, after figuring out how to load and work the simple lever action rifle.

    Olivia Davis was getting more curious about what they might have sitting in those rail cars, so she encouraged Neal to open the rest of them. There was only one more boxcar. The rest were flatcars with 2 containers on each one. He had noticed some leakage from the boxcar so he opened it next. When he released the plug-seal door, a brown sludge came dripping out. The stench made him nearly lose his breakfast. It was filled with canned food that had apparently frozen and burst open the cans, then rotted.

    He closed that one as fast as he could and went to the barn for a bucket and a shovel. The bucket he used to dip water from the creek and slosh the brown ooze off the car and the wash down the tracks and ties below. Neal shoveled some dirt over the mess on the ground and that helped some, but the stench was still bad. It looked like rain, so maybe the smell would diminish soon.

    Knowing better than to disappoint his wife, he went back to work opening containers. The first one wasn't going to be of much use, being full of washing machines from The GE plant in Louisville. The problem was, very few people could afford much electricity now, let alone a new washer. The other container on that car had a shipping label addressed to Big Lots on the boxes inside. He cut open an unmarked box and found plastic bags of inflatable Halloween decorations--tombstones, ghouls, ghosts, a ten foot inflatable spider, and witches with brooms that looked like they crashed into something. This wasn't going well at all today, he thought, but dutifully moved to the next flatcar.

    Neal's next discovery helped make up for his earlier bad luck when be found a shipment from Marion Kay Spice Company. The boxes were smaller than he had been finding, and marked Cayenne Pepper, Vanilla Extract, Cinnamon, Black Pepper, Cloves, and Bay Leaves that he could see from the door opening. A carton of each went to his wagon on the hill above. He dug deeper and found granulated garlic, mustard seed, allspice, celery seed, coriander, and several kinds of extracts like lemon, almond, and butter flavor. There was more further back in the container, but he called that good for now and went on to the other container on that car.

    Proctor and Gamble was the name on the shipper he found, but the aroma told him it was cleaning products. All he could see were cartons of Tide and Dawn detergents, but the papers said there were Ivory soap and Mr. Clean products as well. Neal took a carton of both detergents to the wagon. Olivia would like those, and they had lye soap they had made, so he left the rest for now, but got out his pocket notepad and wrote down what he'd found so far. It was close to lunch time, or at least he was hungry, so he went to the house with his small load and the news of what he'd learned. He had five more cars with 2 containers each to look into later. It was time he got the garden plowed up and planted some things, so this was going to have to wait a while. Food came first in his mind.

    Struggling internet providers tried to provide service, but after some of their electronics failed the only service for most places was dependent on telephone lines, and there was little or no maintenance on those lines now. The tower that gave Ed Wilson internet service was still working, so when it came back on the last time, he and Mike dutifully paid the fee when they were in town once a month. Todd Reynolds also had service, and gladly paid for it so Alicia could access the State Education site for teaching and testing materials. Todd watched the financial reports sometimes, mostly to get the current prices on oil and watching currency exchange rates. The various statistics put out by the government were always out of date and suspect anyway. There was still a BBC News site, but it was as sanitized as the rest of the so-called news. They still monitored the shortwave radio for real news.

    The last he had heard, the US dollar was staying pretty stable, but inching down relative to the Chinese Renmimbi, as China recovered faster from the world currency reset. Japan's Yen had been toast since the reset, and the shortwave news from China, always a critic of the Japanese, said that millions of Japanese were starving due to their inability to afford imported foodstuffs. There was no news of significance from the Mideast, beyond the normal butt-kicking going on between Israel and their neighbors. Russia had made an offer to sell more natural gas to Europe, but their stranglehold on Europe's energy supplies had cratered the economy so badly that there was almost no economic activity outside Germany. The Mediterranean countries had devolved to something like feudalism, from what little news was known about them.

    The UK had begun to dig out from their economic rubble, using their highly regulated agriculture to the utmost for producing all the food the country needed. That was almost possible now that their population had dwindled to only 15% of what it had been, and with some revival in the North Sea oil field, the UK balance of payments began to look better. Their cities had been ravaged with riots and disease to the point that labor was again moving to the cities for employment, leaving the rural parts begging for farm labor.

    Matthew had tested in the high 90 percentile ranks when he took his high school graduation exams online and received his diploma. Thankfully, their printer still worked so Alicia could get him a copy of it. His graduation was recorded at the County Courthouse, according to the State, so it was a matter of public record. This practice had been started when there were no funds for public schools, and all students were required to be home schooled. The old Federal Laws pertaining to education were ignored as being impossible to comply with them.

    Matthew decided he wasn't finished with education, however. He asked Todd to teach him some higher mathematics and science classes, so he was still a regular at Alicia's school sessions. That suited Emily very well. She had convinced her Mom for Matthew to teach her more of what he knew about herbs and how they grew. She had an idea to cultivate all of them she could for sale. It had the fringe benefit of spending a lot of time with Matthew in the woods, too.

    CHAPTER 68 May, 2016

    Crops were being planted after an early Spring warm up that let farmers begin plowing early. Larry and Wes were somewhat ahead of the game because they had been plowing off and on all winter with the oxen, whenever the ground was not frozen and dry enough. A single bottom plow was slow, but 4 oxen could pull it most of the day in the easy ground that had been worked for years.

    An acre a day is not that much, but by working many days in the winter, Wes and Larry had plowed the 40 acres they planned to put in corn and soybeans this year. This month, they had gone over all of it with a disk and had it ready to plant. Not trusting their young oxen to be precise enough for planting, they resorted to Larry's tractor, but that was light work and took little fuel. They had their crops in early, and had spent very little to do it. Cultivating could be done with the oxen, too, when that time came.

    The stamping plant got word to Ed Wilson that they had a contract to make several parts and would probably be working through the summer. The next time he was in town, Ed went to the plant and told them he was no longer interested in working there. The Plant Manager was not happy about that and told him it was the best place to work in the county. Ed told him no, it was not, and he was not interested, thank you, since they couldn't pay him the pension he had been promised for prior service, he doubted if they could be relied on to pay him for work now. The Manager had no idea where to find knowledgeable help. He asked his General Foreman who he could get to help start this production run and he had no ideas either, so he got appointed to do it himself. It was a slow startup with a lot of expensive mistakes.

    Gloria decided that she could open boxcars and containers as well as the men could. She was dying to know what was in the rest of the train and determined to find out. She wanted some fabric anyway, so her first stop was the JoAnn Fabrics shipment. She and Alicia consulted the list and drove the pickup truck into the edge of the woods and out of sight of the road. Once they had the car door open, they began to methodically remove cartons of fabric until they could get deeper inside the load. The cartons were smaller in the west end of the car. Further digging got them deep enough to hand out boxes from the dark interior.

    It took a couple hours of work to get the assortment of cartons outside for inspection, and more work to open each one. This shipment seemd to be intended to open a complete new store, based on teh variety of things. There were cartons with entire displays of thread, scissors, needles, bobbins, zippers and buttons. They found whole pallets of new patterns, some dress forms, sewing machines that they laughed about because they were electric until Ashley saw "Janome 712T" on a box and knew what it was. An Amish friend of her Mom's had one of those mounted on an old Singer Treadle base.

    "That one is going home with " Ashley said.

    "What's so great about that one?"

    "It's a treadle powered machine! You don't need electricity for it," Ashley told her.

    "They still make those?"

    "Yep. The Amish buy a lot of them because the antiques are getting harder to keep running. I guess they sell them in other countries where they don't have electricity, too. They don't come with a treadle, so you just use it to replace the head on an old treadle machine like Mom's. Her's is skipping stitches and is pretty worn out, so this will be great. It's a modern machine, too, that will do a lot of things, like buttonholes."

    They had quite a load to carry to the truck before they finished in that one car, but Gloria wasn't finished. On they went to car #22. It took both women on the crowbar to get the door to move.

    "What the heck is that stuff?"

    Ashley said, "Welding rods, that's what. Lincoln makes everything for welding. Let's see what else is in there."

    The town had a newspaper again, of a sort. It was one sheet, printed both sides and folded in quarters, with a few commercial ads and lots of small classified ads. Someone had taken the old high school print shop equipment from storage and had cut newsprint sheets from the ends of rolls at the old newspaper plant. The new paper was printed by letterpress, set with moveable type just like Gutenberg had done it. The first issue was printed on Friday and taken to the market day meeting at Brent Collins' farm to distribute at a quarter per copy. The type was small to get more on the single sheet, but the front page carried a big headline, "BANK PRESIDENT ARRESTED" , followed by "Embezzlement Charges Filed". The run of 500 copies sold out in nothing flat.

    Tara asked Ronnie, "Did you read about the bank guy?"

    "Read what?"

    "The newspaper. It says that the guy we bought the farm from was embezzling money and now the State Police have arrested him. They say he sold the bank's foreclosed properties and kept the money. At least the money is missing from the bank's accounts."

    "I thought that guy was shady as the devil. Maybe I should have bought another farm, too.

    Tara asked, "Won't the court ask questions about us buying it? Are we in trouble?"

    "No, we're not in trouble. We have a deed to the farm and that's it. What that guy did with the money has nothing to do with us. He's the one with a problem," Ronnie told her.

    But the next day 2 State Police officers came knocking on their door asking for Ronnie. Tara called him from the barn. Tara was worried sick, but the officer only wanted to confirm what they had paid for the farm and a witnessed statement to that effect. The State had the deed as proof the bank had sold the property, but there was no paper trail for the amount since it had been a cash deal. Ronnie filled in the amount in the prepared statement, his name and signed it. One officer signed it as a witness and the other one pocketed the paper.

    "That's not much to pay for a farm," one officer said.

    "It's not much of a farm, or, it wasn't until after we got it," Ronnie told him. "It's in a lot better shape now, but it was grown up in brush when we got it and the buildings were in bad shape."

    The other officer said, "He's right. I made an arrest at that place some years ago and it needed work back then. Not that it matters. You paid for it and the deed was duly recorded. You folks don't have to worry about this at all. Oh, one more thing. We found the remains of a truck in a hollow along the highway close to here. It had some bullet holes in it, and some parts were taken from it. Do you folks know anything about that?"

    Ronnie and Tara looked at each other and both said no they didn't know it was there.

    The officer looked seriously at them and said, "I doubted if you did. We ran the VIN number and it was stolen years ago. Hunters probably shot it up. Thanks for your time and help on the bank matter. We'll be going now."

    Tara breathed a sigh of relief when they got in their car and left. Ronnie remembered that Mike Wilson had been careful when he installed that truck rear axle for Charlie's windmill and made sure the end with the VIN number on it was in the concrete. It looked like that old situation was peacefully at rest now.

    Larry said, "We gotta keep the electric bill paid now, with all those welding rods you found."

    Wes said, "Yes, and it will be easier to pay since we can work in the shop."

    Ashley said, "I knew you needed them, so that's all we brought up here, but there's a lot more stuff in there. I saw boxes of helmets and lens filters, some grinding and sanding discs, MIG wire, all sorts of welding stuff. You two should go through that one. We just brought the 6010, 7014 and 7018 rods you use a lot, but there are several other kinds."

    "We need to get back on Neal's planter job. He needs it bad. But we'll go take a look as soon as we can," Wes said.

    Ashley said, "We've got the early garden put in, so there's nothing pressing today. We're going back and work until milking time."

    "Wes ain't gonna believe this," Gloria said. "He's been whining about needing steel for ages."

    "He'll be in shock, but he'll get over it," Ashley told her. "I have to make some notes. I wish we had something to measure with. Oh! Yeah, my notepad says it is 3 1/2" x 5". That will work. Let's see here, that has to be 2" wide, and that is 4" wide," She said as she made marks on her pad, creating a crude ruler. "Okay. I have marks at every inch up to 4" now. I'll tear this sheet out and you take notes for me."

    Gloria took the pad and pencil while Ashley climbed up on the ends of the bundles of steel in this container, calling down measurements. The bundles were fairly large so there weren't that many different sizes. Most of it was flat bars of several thicknesses and widths, with several bundles of steel angle in sizes from 1 1/2" wide to 4" wide. They closed up the container and moved on to the other on on the car. There was nothing but black pipe in it, 1", 1 1/2", 2" and 3" diameters. They made notes and moved on.

    The next 2 containers also had steel in them, a variety of shafting quality cold rolled rounds in one, and sheets of plate in the other one, from 1/8" up to a few 1/2" thick, all from a Canadian Steel mill headed to a distributor in Louisville.

    "Who the heck is Browning? Is that a gun company?"

    Ashley looked inside the container and said, "Not this load. They make gears and pulleys and stuff."

    "It's headed to Industrial Motion Sales Company in Louisville," Ashley read off the shipper.

    They dug open some cartons and found no end of chain sprockets, pulleys, roller chain, and bearings in profusion. All types and sizes, of those. The stuff was too heavy to move, but they read the shipping list and saw that buried in there somewhere were hundreds of Vee-belts, too.

    Ashley said, "Our boys are going to be in seventh heaven with all this stuff. And they are going to work us like slaves getting it up to the shop. Let's take them as many different samples as we can, because they are going to need this when machinery starts breaking down this year."

    The women worked until late in the afternoon digging through the container, taking off just the top layer of cartons so Gloria, being the skinny one, could crawl in deeper for more. She began to get a little claustrophobic when she got stuck once, and wouldn't go back without making more room for her. The Spring sunshine was heating up the inside of the container, too. She came out sweaty and dirty, and not at all happy about getting stuck, but she had brought out cartons of tapered roller bearings.

    "The boys can dig for their own buried treasure. That's enough for me today," Gloria said.

    "Let's open the other container on this car. That will finish 26 cars, and we'll have an even dozen to go," Ashley said.

    "Whatever. You get to break the lock this time," Gloria said.

    It came open with moderate difficulty this time. The contents were crated in wood and cardboard to protect stainless steel sinks, tables, and carts that they could see, from Aero Manufacturing to a restaurant supplier. They didn't try to move any of the heavy crates, but peered in as deep as they could. There were boxed cartons in the far end they couldn't figure out. The women decided that was enough for the day, and headed for the house with their load on the truck.

  2. #42
    CHAPTER 69 June 2016

    Gloria had been busy. The garden was producing, so harvesting and canning was proceeding, but there were some hours that she found to help Kate and Ashley put some of their newfound wealth to work. The south porch roof was covered with small solar panels now that were charging the golf cart batteries they had lugged out of the creek bottom and installed in the enclosed porch. The welding supply container had spools of welding cable they used to hook up their battery bank.

    Electric power had been somewhat erratic, sometimes being off for days at a time, so shop work would come to a halt until the power came on again. That was no longer a problem after Neal had found a container of 15 Kilowatt Generac diesel generators. The families had been sharing whatever they found and this was no different. Wes and Larry helped Neal move and install a unit for each farm, complete with transfer switches for automatic operation if desired. The tanker car of kerosene provided fuel to last for years. The units were pretty quiet, but they had improved on that by stacking hay bales for a square wall around the inside of the machine sheds where they were located and venting the exhaust up through the roof with a long pipe.


    They only ran the generator for shop work when necessary, and the women planned their laundry accordingly if the utility power was off. The biggest hassle was the occasional trip to the tank car for fuel. That required some barrels and the 12 volt transfer pump that Neal had on his farm truck fuel tank. They filled the tank in Neal's truck, plus a couple barrels to transfer again to each farm's generator tanks. The units were frugal, so they had only done that once so far.

    Sorting out clothing had taken some time, as did moving steel and welding supplies to the men's shop. The soon understood that it would take years to move what they could use from the train cars, and they could never use even a small portion of what was there. So far there had been no security breaches, but this week a couple neighbors had wondered aloud where they got some things. Their explanations of black market sources may, or may not have been believed. It was time to do something about the wealth they were sitting on.

    "We need to open up the train cars as a store," Larry said. "People need a lot of that stuff and we can never use it all. If we sell it for what people can afford to pay, they won't try to steal it."

    "It would be one whopper of a store," Gloria said. "Maybe we should have more than one store, and let somebody else do some of the selling for a share."

    Kate asked, "And who would we trust to do that?"

    Wes said, "I know some people. Ed Wilson and his son, and their neighbor, Todd Reynolds. We've done business with them, and they are a solid bunch. And I think we should talk to Brent Collins, too. He's a natural for this, since the market is at his farm now anyway."

    Ashley said, "There is bound to be trouble out of doing this. Somebody will be jealous of what we have, and some will try to steal things, no matter how cheap we sell it."

    Kate said, "Yes, there is no changing people. Maybe the Sheriff can help with that. He ought to know about it before we open that barrel of snakes, at the very least."

    "I know him fairly well," Gloria said. "Let's go talk to him about this. He just lives a couple miles down the road. He'll have some ideas, I'm sure. Neal and Olivia will have to go with us and be partners in the whole deal, too. We have to go see them before we do anything drastic here."

    Sheriff Townsend did indeed have some ideas.

    "Use that big farm truck of yours to haul goods into town. There are store buildings sitting empty that you could rent for very little, I'm sure. That would keep the attention away from your farms and give people a central place to shop. It would be a lot easier for us to keep an eye on the whole proceeding, too."

    Olivia said, "We're too old to do that much work, and it will take a lot of help. There are a lot of people out of work. Let's ask at the Saturday market for labor help to move things. If we provide meals and let them choose goods for pay, we can get all the help we want."

    Wes and Ashley went to see Todd Reynolds, who they knew had a large storage building. Todd jumped at the opportunity to use it as a consignment store for the goods, and offered to pay in silver for some things he wanted. Todd called all his neighbors for a meeting and solicited help to move things from his storage building to the barn and elsewhere. Then he would need help to move the goods using his truck and trailer. From what he had learned, there would also be work for anyone who wanted it sorting things out for sale.

    Todd had no doubt that there were plenty of people in the north end of the county who would rather not travel another 8 miles to Brent Collins to buy things. He could add his ammunition sales to the new store. Ed and Joann would sell garden seeds, Ronnie would sell pork products and herbs, Mel and Charlie could provide a noon meal, and everyone would also sell at the Saturday market. Reaching a wider crowd was sure to increase sales.

    Retail Sales tax was payable to the County Treasurer's office at the courthouse, a duty the State required from each county now. It was the practically the only source of State revenue, chosen because of the widespread unemployment and the difficulty of collecting income taxes. The Federal government was considering doing this for the same reasons. Food was still exempt from sales tax, and the rate on clothing was reduced to 5% to make the tax less onerous for the poor. Tobacco and liquor were taxed at 25%. The rate was 15% of any sale, including real estate, but items for farm use were exempt to encourage agriculture. The States still got their taxes on fuel, but the federal government had monopoly control on it so they made a killing on it, which helped offset what they were not getting in income taxes. Wes and his family decided that they would not sell any fuel to avoid tax complications and assure their own supply.

    After reading their old encyclopedia, Larry learned that naptha had a flash point very close to gasoline. There were other additives in gasoline that naptha did not have, being a pure solvent, but he tried it and found he could mix half and half naptha and gasoline with no ill effects. The books said that naptha was once known as "white gas", and had been used alone to run engines long ago. They had a lot of Chinese made small engines that he planned to try on pure naptha. It would be a small cost if he ruined one of them.

    CHAPTER 70 July, 2016

    It was roasting hot in the shipping container. Sweat ran off Emily and Matthew as they handed out boxes of motor oil and boxed tubes of prCHAPTER essure grease.

    "That's enough for now," Todd said.

    The two young people gratefully came out into the comparatively cooler shade of the creek bank, wishing for a breeze.

    "When you cool off some, we need to load barbed wire and fence staples. Then some instant coffee and teabags, and a dozen golf cart batteries. That should do it for today."

    They were all tired. Already on the trailer were solar panels, 40 gallon buckets of paint, a lot of welding rods, a full pallet box of fabric and a smaller box of sewing notions, a big box of school supplies, and 2 Stihl chain saws. Under all that was 80 sheets of metal roofing and 14 sheets of 3/8" plywood. The trailer was sagging on the springs, showing it had all it wanted.

    "Let's put 6 of those bikes on top of the load in the trailer, too," Todd said. The youngsters wanted to groan, but Todd was right there helping and sweating as much as they were. The bikes were not the top of the line, being built in China for Wal Mart, but they were a sensible choice for general use. They were 26" frame size branded Schwinn, and were 15 speed "comfort" bikes, with front spring suspension like a mountain bike and medium width tires to carry a load on less than perfect roads. Todd dug out some spare tires, tubes, patch kits, frame pumps, carry racks, and other accessories from the end of the container and loaded those. Todd pulled out a couple 20" kid's bikes and some things for those also. The trailer was heaped high when they finished.

    Matthew and Emily were taking their pay in roofing metal, nails, and plywood. They were fixing up the unused chicken house on the Duncan farm for Bob Clemmons to rent. The plan was he would live there rent free for helping Ronnie with the livestock and farming, then the house would be available for Matthew and Emily when they got married next Fall. Matthew had been saving his money, and Emily had been making money of her own gathering herbs and processing them to be sold by Tara in Todd's store. They had pooled their money to buy a used kitchen cabinet with a sink and some used furniture from Brent Collins. The roof on the chicken house was fairly new metal, so it didn't need attention. The metal they were getting now would be used for siding the old building to eliminate the need for paint. The plywood was for finishing the interior of the walls, already insulated with odd sized styrofoam sheets salvaged from various packaging materials in the rail cars.

    The couple had been working for a couple months making things for their new home and buying some used items at the Saturday market. Bob was still living in the house, but he only used the kitchen and other rooms downstairs, so they were storing things as they gathered them upstairs. Matthew was a busy young man, putting in full days working for Todd, doing morning and evening chores at home for his parents, then working evenings with Emily renovating the chicken house.

    Mel had never liked to get up early. His body clock had always kept him awake to all hours of the night, so he was not an early riser. That fitted him perfectly for the job of night watchman at Todd's store. He usually took a turn around his own property pretty late at night anyway. With a little pay for that, and what he made providing lunch for the store customers, Mel made all he thought he needed and still had time to tend his garden and home chores. He and Charlie still went to Brent Collins market on Saturday, too. Or, at least Charlie did. Mel began to stay home on Saturdays, to take the day off and just made some extra food on Friday for him to serve. Charlie made a little more money, Mel still got paid for cooking, and he had a 2 day weekend. Vickie told him his name should have been TOM Sawyer, for getting Charlie to do his work, like the famous fence painting scheme in Twain's book.

    Kate approved heartily of the plans they had made jointly with the Davises and the Sheriff. They had rented the old National Guard Armory that had been sold off when a new one was built. The 80 year old building was huge, and resembled a gymnasium with a full basement. The owner was an older man who had once had a business there, but closed it due to Chinese competition. He was glad to take his rent in the form of goods he selected, based on the volume of business they did. Gloria had worked out that deal, and was fast becoming the family's business negotiator.

    The building had excellent security, due to it's original function back when an armory actually had ARMS stored there. The Sheriff had his deputy do some patrols at odd intervals, but there was never a problem. The family had started rumors that there were booby traps in the building. There were none, but nobody could be sure of that. It would take a cutting torch or heavy equipment, to break in there anyway, and gas for cutting torches had been unavailable for several years now.

    Conveniently, the Courthouse was only a few blocks away, so the tax agent showed up now and then to monitor the level of activity and check their sales records. Nobody tried to cheat on sales tax collection and payments. The penalties were severe.

    Alicia found that nursing her new baby had helped get her figure back in less than 3 months. Benjamin Carter Reynolds had been born on March 18, and she was back to her old weight by the end of April. Working the early garden had something to do with it, and the rest of her everyday chores, but her belly had gone away much faster with Logan and Benjamin than it had with Christopher who had been bottle fed. She still had some belly left, but she knew that was normal. Women who had kids could count on never looking quite like a teenager again, which brought Emily to mind. Alicia hadn't said anything about it, but she had noticed that Emily's clothes were getting a bit tight around the middle, and the girl had been skipping breakfast for a while. She hadn't had any menstrual cloths soaking in the wash bucket for a while. No mistake about what that meant.

    She guessed it didn't matter all that much. The kids were getting married in September, and they were working hard to get their life in order. She thought it would work out fine, so she didn't bother to mention it to anyone. She did resolve to talk with her when Emily was ready. She was probably worried and would need her mother's advice.

    Todd had been working like a fiend. Besides farming 120 acres, he was working late nights in the new store with Christopher and Sophia sorting goods and setting it all up to sell. Tonight they had put the bicycles on display. Todd had found small cheap tool kits in one container that he put with the bikes for sale, along with tires, tubes, and all the other accessories he'd found.
    Alicia had looked it over and saw that he was a natural sales person.

    Somehow, he still found time to check on money matters on the internet, too. What he had told her was discouraging. The dollar along with the Euro and UK's Pound Sterling were still about par with each other, but the Canadian dollar and the Chinese Yuan was increasing in value by comparison. The Chinese had amassed an untold amount of gold in the last 10 years to back their play for the Yuan to be internationally recognized. The new Gold Bank started by the Chinese, Russians, Brazil, and India was at the crux of it, he said, causing those currencies with a greater backing by gold to get stronger. Those countries had recovered pretty fast, too, and were being very productive again. The US was lagging in that respect, with the economy stifled due to high priced energy, and bereft of gold without the borrowed backing of the European fortunes.

    In Todd's words, "The damned bankers are doing it to us again, mining every cent they can get out of us for oil, and devil take the hindmost. We have to get energy independent, as individuals, and as a country. If we don't we will be serfs forever."

    Matthew thought he could make it on the Duncan farm. His Dad and Mom had agreed to let him work the place on half shares, except for the hog operation that was still theirs. They had put both farms in a trust at the Courthouse with them as joint first Trustees, and he and Emily as joint second Trustees. That meant that when his parents passed away, both farms would belong to him and Emily. Meanwhile, his parents would pay the property taxes, and he would only have to support his family. His family was already on the way, so that was no small thing, but he knew he could do it.

    He needed some farm equipment of his own and a team of horses, for which his Dad had said they would increase his share of the farm earnings to 2/3. He was thinking about how to get those things. After what Harlan had drilled into him not long before he died, Matthew wasn't about to try to work his farm with a tractor that needed diesel fuel. It had been a good thing for Harlan for a while, but when fuel went up many years ago, Harlan had bemoaned letting go of his horses. Matthew had seen fuel prices get stupid expensive, and would not make the mistake of being dependent on it.

    A trial was held for the bank President. It was short. He was found guilty of embezzlement, then sentenced to 5 years of hard labor at the State Penitentiary. The prison had been emptied of prisoners and closed for a time, but now a portion of it was reopened in the old style. The prisoners grew their own food on the prison grounds, and those not required to that or other duties to maintain the place were sent to work on roads, bridges, and repairing other public works in chain gangs.

    The money the bank president had stolen was never recovered. His wife had absconded with it, all in the form of silver and gold coins. It was rumored that she had run to distant relatives in Louisiana, never to be heard from again.

    By contrast, the bankers who were at the helm when the currency crashed left their positions with untold wealth and disappeared. The general belief was that they had a lot of help from certain government officials.

  3. #43
    CHAPTER 71 September, 2016

    "It was the big bankers fault that it all came apart! Why aren't they in jail? They should be the ones who pay for what happened to the country," Alicia said.

    "You're right that their playing with leveraged derivative bets were what drove it over the cliff, Todd said. "But it was the whole money system that was at fault. It was built upon the idea that debt is money. When a new loan was made, that CREATED money out of thin air. That can only last so long before the interest on the accumulated debt gets out of control. It requires constant growth in the economy to pay the interest, and infinite growth is impossible. The world is finite. There are limits to how much we can mine from natural resources and then it is all gone. So, we cannot keep growing forever to satisfy a banker's Ponzi scheme."

    "I still want to see them hanging from lamp posts," Alicia said. "They created this paper money system, so it all goes back to them."

    "Good luck with that. They still have everyone dancing to their fiddle just like they always did. Politicians don't care where the money comes from as long as they can use it to retain power. The bankers can dole out a little or a lot of money and make the economy go up and down while they make a profit in both directions. They control the money and the oil, so they have a choke hold on the world."

    "There has to be a way to stop them, somehow," Alicia said.

    "Presidents have tried and they ended up dead," Todd told her. "Andrew Jackson lived because the gun misfired, but Lincoln and Kennedy both died. Jackson was actually successful at getting the National Bank kicked out, but it was back going again before he died. No, they have too much power to fight them head to head. All we can do is try to protect ourselves from the worst of it."

    "How can we do that? The government makes us pay taxes in their money, so we can't get away from using dollars. Gold and silver are scarce now, because everybody used what they had to survive and the banks got most of it," Alicia said. "I don't see how we can NOT play their game."

    "All we can do is work with what we have. They keep trying to control everything so they can get a piece of it. The answer is to not NEED money. If we produce our own needs to the greatest degree possible, then that much is not subject to their games and we keep all the benefits of our labor."

    Alicia was frustrated to the max. She said, "We can't keep from using gasoline and diesel, and they tax everything."

    Todd said, "I think we can get along buying very little energy. The State has some things going there, too. Indiana is working on coal gasification and making gasoline from coal. The real battle will come when they try to sell it. The big government and bank interests will try to take that over, too. But in the meantime, we can do things for ourselves that will help. Mike Wilson and Wes Blake are talking about wood gas and biodiesel fuels. Their are some hurdles to cross with both of them, but I think they'll get it done. And I've been talking with Dan Billings about farming with horses. He and Ronnie Nichols know some Amish folks that are breeding draft horses."

    "Are you going to sell the tractor?"

    "No. At least not yet. I can still make money with it. I have to see if we can make more money using horses. Fossil fuels like oil and coal are limited and as they get more scarce the prices will go up. Horses are sustainable. That's what we have to work toward, is sustainability. I believe that sustainable business is where future wealth will have to come from. We have kids that will need all the wealth we can generate to get a start in life, or they will never be able to be anything but laborers. We have to provide that start for them, and show them the way."

    Ashley asked, "What are we going to sell and what are we going to keep from all the stuff in the train cars? We have to know before Todd makes another trip." She noticed Ella patting the dog a little too enthusiastically and went to show her how she should do it.

    Gloria asked Wes, "What about all that steel and stuff. There's more there than you can use in a million years, isn't there?"

    "Oh hell no! I'm not going to sell the steel and bearings and all that! Well, I'll sell it, but I'll do it myself, one piece at a time and charge labor for putting the parts on. Lots more money to be made that way, and you can't even buy that stuff now, unless it's some crap import from China. There's enough parts in that one container to keep machinery running here for years. Let's sell the clothes and shoes and those huge rolls of paper instead."

    "I want some of those stainless steel tables and sinks for canning and butchering," Kate said.

    Larry said, "We need to keep enough of the metal roofing, and paint and building materials to maintain the farm. Who knows how long it will take before we can get those things again?"

    "We should sell the canned food that was still good. It's not getting any younger," Ashley said.

    Kate said, "Yes. I was amazed that so much of it was still good. I guess the outside stuff insulated the inner stuff to keep it from freezing. After those men cleaned that car out, the cans that were still good are showing some rusty spots, so it has to be used or it will spoil soon. At least they sorted it out before they washed the labels off! Even at fire sale prices, that will be worth something. Those men who worked on it sure thought so."

    Gloria said, "It paid for all the help so far. That was the best part. We know most of what we want to keep, but those men haven't gotten to the back ends of most of the cars and containers yet. There will be more things to decide later. It looks like we will need hired help for some time yet. Harvest time is coming up so that means we will all be working on that for a couple weeks. So, we need to get Todd's store all stocked up before then, and have the hired men keep things sorted out for us to sell on market days."

    Kate said, "I still don't want to sell any whisky. It would be a tax problem, and we don't want to let out that we have it. We've been real lucky so far not having any security problems, but whisky would start trouble for sure."

    "I'm amazed at the demand for the cigarettes," Ashley said. "You'd think that after people had been without for several years they wouldn't start up smoking again."

    Wes said, "People want their vices. I guess smoking isn't that easy to get over. Maybe we should learn about growing tobacco. I heard there is someone up around Brownstown that is growing some, so maybe we could get seed there. The stores have tobacco again, but it's outrageously high priced."

    Larry said, "That's because it is all imported. The tobacco companies here haven't got going again yet."

    Ashley said, "There's a high sales tax on it, too, but it might make sense to grow some to beat the import prices. That seems to work on anything we can produce now."

    Gloria said, "I have more free time than Ashley. I'll go down there and look at what they are dragging out today and make a list."

    "TODD'S STORE AND TRADING POST" the sign said. Sophia was very good at painting that kind of thing. Alicia had helped her lay out the lettering on a sheet of plywood after Christopher had painted it 2 coats of outdoor white enamel. Todd and Charlie Allen had set 2 cedar posts with crossbars of cedar and mounted it along the highway. There was an arrow pointing down their road and the storage building had been converted to a store with another sign above the door.

    Christopher painted old cardboard white for indoor signs and Sophia lettered those using a small brush Chris had made from squirrel hair. When wet with paint, the brush became very limp and allowed her to draw the letters by dragging the long hair, eliminating jiggles. It looked very professional, indeed. She had signs for everything in the store, including Mel's lunch table, with price lists. There was also one that said, "TRADES CONSIDERED, SEE OWNER".

    People heard about Todd's new store by word of mouth, or noticing the sign by the highway. It began to be common to have several customers in the store at once, mostly exploring what was for sale. The school supplies were very popular, many people buying paper and pencils then using them to list prices for what interested them. There seemed to be a lot of demand, limited by what customers could afford. By the end of the first month, there was a good collection of traded in items in the back of the store, now for sale.

    Todd struck a deal with the people printing the weekly newspaper, trading a roll of printing paper from the rail car for his ends of rolls of cheap newsprint, plus free issues of the newspaper for the next year for him to sell. He could sell the newsprint for notepaper by having the printers cut it up into 8 1/2" x 11" sheets that they glued together into pads. Todd made money on the deal, and was able to undercut the price of paper from China at the stores. He sold it fast while it lasted. Todd seemed to have a knack for spotting shortages that he could find a way to supply.

    It was a small wedding at the valley church, attended by just the two sets of parents, Bob Clemmons who Matthew had asked to be his Best Man, and Emily's siblings. The reception at Todd's store was another matter. The whole community came, and a lot of regular customers. The crowd was enjoying one of the first joyous events in a long time. Mel Sawyer and Vickie had done the food, helped by several others, and makeshift tables were loaded down with it. The store was closed for the rest of the day, with sheets hung over the displays and everything crowded back against the walls to make room.

    One table was heaped with many hand made presents, none of them wrapped for lack of paper, but all were tagged by the well-wishing givers. There was a long-hoarded greeting card and envelope behind the cake that Laura Wilson had baked. A wedding toast was given with the bride and groom partaking of Gerald Tomes' finest wine. The cake was cut and the bride and groom properly stuffed each other's faces with it, laughing and smiling.

    While the crowd was treated to cake and punch then Laura's mints made with Tara's wild peppermint, Matthew and Emily began to acknowledge presents, reading the tags aloud for everyone to hear. There was a complete set of hand forged kitchen knives from Mike Wilson, a gallon of honey from Gerald and Anne, and household items by the dozens, including hand carved wooden spoons and a huge wooden bowl for breadmaking. Wes, Ashley, Kate, Larry and Gloria had given them a hand written Gift Certificate, for up to $500 in goods of their choice.

    The envelope was left until last. It simply said, from Mom and Dad. Look behind the curtain. One curtain from the house had been hung over what looked like just more covered store goods. Alicia pointed it out to the couple, with a big smile. Emily drew back the curtain and gasped at the array of things. There was a box of clothing for each of them, and it looked like some of everything in the store. The couples' eyes were drawn to the pair of lever action rifles, and a pair of revolvers. The rifles had slings with their names carved into them, and the revolvers each had a holster and belt, all the leather custom made by Ed Wilson. The whole collection rested on a wood crate of .45 Colt ammunition. A dozen steel traps hung on that crate, with a sackful of walnut hulls to dye them with. Atop the crate was another note that said, "Look in the barn."

    When they read that aloud, the whole crowd followed them to the barn, where Todd's best kept secret was standing in a big box stall, a pair of Belgian mares in new harness. Matthew couldn't contain his joy at seeing this and gave Todd a rowdy hug, then shook his hand vigorously saying thanks with tears in his eyes.

    With her arm around his waist, Emily whispered in his ear, "We CAN make it! I know we can!"

    Matthew nodded and said, "We can now, for sure!"

    CHAPTER 72, November, 2016

    The belly was getting in her way. Emily was less than happy about that, but she was awed by the feeling of the baby moving. She had talked to her Mom and put some fears to rest, learned more, and then at her suggestion, she talked to Vickie Hoskins about attending her as a midwife when the time came. Both older women had told her that she had wide hips that would make birthing a baby a lot easier. Not to worry. They had figured out that the baby was probably due by the middle of the month, so she had a little time yet.

    Matthew was bone tired, but he was satisfied he had done his best with the farm this Fall, and worked 4 or 5 days a week for wages away from home, too. The new bicycle had made it easier because he didn't have to walk all the way to Todd's when they were building on to his store. Now, with the corn harvest in, he could settle down to logging the woods between him and his Dad's place. He was anxious to really try out that new Stihl chain saw.

    There was a market for hides now that the tanner had hooked up with leather workers in other communities, so Matthew had been trapping for coyotes and raccoons. He got a few 'Possums, too, but they sold pretty well also with the winter fur on. Matthew always took tanned cowhide in trade for his hides. That suited both him and the tanner, because money was hard to get. The leather would be needed to make harness, because he had a plan to raise draft horses from his mares and would need harness for them. More people were wanting horses now, and he didn't see that changing anytime soon.

    Ronnie and Todd had both said that a man should make all the money he could while he was young, because there was no old age pension or disability insurance for a safety net now. Matthew was doing all he could think of that would add to their savings. Really, savings wasn't the right word, since they only kept a fraction of their excess in money and the bulk of it in livestock, or other farm investments that would make a profit. He and Emily both remembered all too well how money could go bad and leave you with nothing. It had happened to both their families, and they were not going to let it happen to them.

    Kate had the same thoughts. She had noticed that gasoline was up to near $15 a gallon, and diesel fuel was $18.90 now. Soon after those prices went up, so did everything in the stores. It was just like what happened years ago, and it scared her. She began to think hard about how they could live without buying much of anything. It didn't matter much that they were really wealthy now, from all the rail car goods, she was still scared because she had seen everything go to hell once, and knew it could happen again.

    When Ashley came in from milking with Ella, Kate said, "We need to keep making cheese and butter and doing things just like we have been. I'm afraid the money could go bad again, and I don't want to get caught by it."

    "Wes and I had that discussion, too," Ashley said. "He doesn't want to sell much more of the train stuff because he says it will always be worth what it is now, or more, and money might not."

    Gloria was making biscuits to go with supper and said, "Boy that's the truth! I'll never trust money again like i used to. It's funny, but even back ten years ago, prices were going up and everybody just thought it was normal, that you couldn't do anything about it. Then when it really went to nothing, we all thought the world had ended unti we figured out how to get along with out much."

    Larry came in from doing chores and had heard most of the talk. He said, "Wes and I have been talking about that. We agreed that we'd be better off keeping our profits in real stuff instead of saving money. The damn bankers can make money worth a lot or a nothing, so we have to keep it out of their reach."

    Kate said, "It would help our tax situation if we just didn't sell everything now, too. I vote that we hang onto what we have, at least most of it. If it's something that would spoil, then go ahead and sell it, or trade for something better, but otherwise, just let it all sit there. We can always use it or trade it. It better than money in the bank."

    Wes had come in for supper and heard the last of the talk. He said, "You're right about that. Money in the bank is a fool's gamble. Wish I'd known that a very long time ago. But trading might be a better idea, for things we really need."

    Kate said, "I'm glad we all see it that way. It makes things a lot simpler. Now we need to put more of those new things to work. I want to be ready for butchering this year with those new stainless steel tables and a big sink."

    Larry grinned and said, "Sounds like we got work to do Wes."

    Todd got a new list from Wes and Larry of things they wanted to take in trade. It looked like they might get into horse farming, too, and they wanted a windmill for their well. They wanted a lot of the same things he did and most of them were antiques, like the old style milking machine, and cream separator. He was pretty sure he could get them the farm implements they wanted. People were getting pretty hard up again, with prices going up and they would trade off anything they didn't absolutely have to keep. It was a good time to be buying things, yet oddly, his store was busier than ever. Maybe folks have learned to get prepared for hard times, he thought.

    He had just read an old book Alicia had found at the market, that told about how empires collapse. He had begun to see that what was happening in the US had happened many times before. We have to learn from history, he thought. Then it occurred to him that it presented an opportunity for someone who was ready to take advantage of it. Land was still cheap, and would get cheaper, but fuel was going up and would probably keep going up. That gave him an idea.

    The cheapest land around was the rough forested land nearby. Todd still had some of his original stash of silver coins, bought before the crash, and he was making a good living from the store with some to spare. Their farming income was being put back into farm improvements and livestock. They owned 20 head of beef cattle now and he had bought a pair of draft horses from an Amish man some distance away. They were young and one was a mare that he'd had bred. He thought Ronnie and Matthew were doing it right logging with horses, but they needed a better market for their timber.

    Todd began to think about fuel prices in relation to that, and the sawmill in the valley that ran on wood gas. He and Mike Wilson needed to talk about that. If they could come up with a reliable wood gas setup that didn't require all the tinkering the sawmill needed to keep it going, they would have a winner.

    Todd also wanted a windmill to pump their water for livestock. It hadn't been part of his original plan, and he was kicking himself for not thinking of it. The hand pump was fine for the household needs, but cattle drink a lot of water. That meant letting them out to go to the pond for water twice a day, and in winter he had to chop ice off the pond so they could drink. He would want his windmill pump enclosed so it didn't freeze up, and the water tank would have to be insulated somehow, too. But he had to find a windmill first and they were getting scarce.

    Todd made a trip to get more stock for the store from Wes Blake, but first he went to the Courthouse in town and inquired about tax sales. He learned there would be several tracts of land for sale at the end of the month for unpaid property taxes. They accepted silver, gold, or cash for payment. He looked over the list for property near his own farm and saw a large tract of land owned by a a timber company that he happened to know was bankrupt. There was over 600 acres of timberland in one parcel that bordered Mel Sawyer's place, from the plat map he looked at. The was some road frontage, but most of it was steep hollows and virtually none of it suitable for farming, so the property taxes were very low. He would attend that auction on the Courthouse steps in a couple weeks.

    "Fuel prices are going up again," Ed told Joann.

    "How can they do that? It's killing us now!"

    "The news on the internet said Venezuela's wells are dropping their output. It seems that the last dictator squeezed them too hard to finance the country and now they are putting out over 90% water. Won't be long until they are dry, so that takes some oil off the world market and that always means the price goes up."

    "Any idea how much?"

    "Not yet. They only produced about 4 or 5 per cent of the world oil supply according to the article, depending on who you believe, but the problem is they sold a lot of it to the US because we had refineries that could process their sour crude oil. That means the US will be hit harder than other countries, and I don't see anybody else making up the difference. We can look for shortages before long."

    "I don't know how people can pay any more for gas and diesel. Everybody is hurting now. Todd said business had been good, but he expected it to slow down this winter. He thinks people have been spending their harvest money to stock up for winter and that will be over soon," Joann said.

    "That may be right. It could be a long, hard winter," Ed said.

    "I haven't made a gasifier before," Mike told Todd. "I have read about them a lot and I looked pretty close at the one on the sawmill. They didn't do much to clean up the output gas, so they keep having trouble with the engine. And they some trouble with corrosion, because the gas is dirty. From what I've read, that's not too hard to fix, but it means building a more elaborate filtering unit."

    "Make a list of what you need to build me the best gasifier you can, and I'll see if I can get the materials for you. I want it as soon as you can get it built and working. I'll pay you for your work as you go, because this sounds like it will take a while," Todd told him.

    "That would be fine," Mike said. "I did promise Matthew Nichols I'd finish that old machinery he bought, so he is ahead of you in line."

    "It will take a while to gather materials, so get me the list and I hope to have that collected by the time you are ready for it. I need to find a vehicle to use, too."

    "Okay. Look for an old pickup truck with a gas engine. Something before 1980 would be good. They are simpler and we don't want a computerized engine. Something like Ronnie's old truck would be ideal."

    "He wouldn't part with that truck," Todd said.

    Mike laughed. "No, he won't. But there are some around, and a lot of them sitting now because they used too much gas. A 6 cylinder would be better."

    "I'll start looking. If this works out, I'll want a stationary engine, too," Todd said.

    "Let's do the stationary engine first, because that means I don't have to make the unit so compact and it will give me chance to get the bugs out of it."

    A week later, Todd hauled in an old Chevy 1/2 ton truck and 2 spare engines for it, all alike. Todd bought the 610 acre land parcel of forest for $2,200 in back taxes. There was the usual caveat that the previous owner had up to a year to pay the taxes and the deal would be off, but Todd knew the timber company no longer existed. He began to search for a saw mill for sale.

    Emily's back had been hurting, making it uncomfortable to sleep. She had just got breakfast started when she had a bad cramping pain in her belly that doubled her over. She cried out and Matthew came running to the kitchen.

  4. #44
    CHAPTER 73 Thanksgiving, 2016

    Relieved and happy, Matthew sat by Emily as she nursed Melanie Claire, their new baby girl. Matthew had hurried to fetch Vickie Hoskins on his bicycle, urging her to hurry. Vickie knew there was no big rush. First babies always took longer, so she tried to calm him down. Melanie Claire Nichols had taken her own sweet time, finally arriving late that evening after a long and arduous labor. Emily was exhausted, and Matthew was a nervous wreck, but the baby was oblivious and slept quietly on her mother's chest after her first meal.

    Matthew had done the chores hurriedly that evening. Thankfully, he didn't forget anything, tending to their own livestock while Bob Clemmons fed Ronnie's cattle, then the sows who were also expecting. They sat on the porch and passed the time as best they could.

    Bob was on edge, too, until he and Matthew had heard the first squall from the new baby, and ran inside to greet her. Now they relaxed at the kitchen table with a bottle of Gerald's wine and talked about what they needed to do the next day.

    Two weeks later Gerald held their traditional Thanksgiving dinner in his shop building. His tractor and other equipment sat outside, getting a light dusting of wet snow, melting as it hit. People arrived a family at a time and assembled their food contributions on the tables inside. Talk centered on the new baby girl for the women, and congratulations to Matthew from the men for a while.

    Silently, during a prayer of thanks before the meal, individuals gave thanks for the food awaiting them, remembering when they didn't know where their next meal was coming from. Then they began to fill plates, eat, and visit with friends and neighbors while the food and warmth helped everyone relax.

    Mike and Todd were celebrating the success of the new wood gasifier that they had operating. It was mounted in the bed of the old truck Todd found and had made a few trial trips. Today they were making plans to move parts of an old sawmill to Mike's shop for restoration. Todd had found it 7 or 6 miles away in a hollow north and west of them near the river, and had some trouble locating the owner. The old man was glad to trade it off for credit at Todd's store. It had taken Todd, Mike, and Charlie Allen a week to get it disassembled and the metal parts ready to load onto Todd's truck and trailer. Mike had made careful drawings with measurements of the machinery before they took it apart, then ordered oak timber from the sawmill in the valley to build new framework. Putting all that together would occupy most of the winter, made possible only by Todd having horses that could navigate the rough ground where it would be built.

    Gerald announced that he had made a deal with a store in Seymour to market his wines, and a supply of bottles to be made by the old glassworks in Corydon who had done only decorative pieces for years before. Corks were another matter, and expensive, being imported. He'd had a good harvest of honey this year, and had just finished a batch of Mead.

    Ronnie and Tara told how much work it saved to sell their cured meats and packaged herbs in Todd's store, rather than haul it to town each week. Tara had gotten a supply of cut paper from the newspaper printer, some of the bounty from the train cars. That meant that paper for making envelopes was no longer a problem for them, and they shared the work with Joann Wilson who needed them for their garden seeds. They were working out a process to make this go faster.
    Business had dropped off dramatically at Todd's store when the weather turned cold. That suited everyone fine for their own reasons.

    Wes and Larry had told Todd they wanted to keep a lot of the rail cars goods for future income, and Todd had other business to attend to. His imported ammunition and Mike's reloads were selling well, along with goods produced by the neighbors here on the ridge. There was still regular demand for flour, cornmeal, salt and spices, cured meat products, and some clothing. Todd had all the business he wanted, and was making more money on trades than cash sales. He'd had to hire Matthew and Charlie Allen to build on to the store for room to house the goods he acquired in trading.

    Mel and Charlie were doing well selling food at the store and at Brent Collins' Saturday market, although trade there had slowed down, too, after fuel prices rose again. Vickie Hoskins had all she wanted to do tending new mothers like Emily and occasional injuries. She expressed thanks that there had been no outbreaks of disease in the area which she attributed to less contact between people.

    Ed Wilson had a new crop of calves from last Spring that were growing fast, and all the leather business he could handle. Bob Clemmons had expressed an interest in doing leather work, so Ed had hired him to help on a piecework basis. Bob was learning fast, and Ed was glad for the help. He had bought out an old shoe repair shop in town, and was in the process of moving the equipment to his place. Mike had helped him figure out how to arrange powered machines along a wall to be run by a lineshaft with a small gas engine outside.

    The group began to make split up as the sky darkened and snow came down heavier, beginning to accumulate on the ground. When Todd's family got home, Sophia looked for something to do and found Christopher listening to the shortwave radio. He was busily writing notes when she came in. He put down the pencil and looked up.

    Sophia asked, "What's up?"

    Chris said, "Dad's not gonna like this."

    "Turn on the TV. Let's see if it's made the news yet," Todd said.
    Sophia turned on their 12 volt TV. The 6:00 o'clock news had some Louisville politician talking about fuel rationing and how it would affect bus service. In a few minutes they began to recap the story about US and Canadian oil well output dropping faster than expected. A video clip from Washington DC had the newly appointed Energy Czar telling that we must conserve our oil supplies to assure national security, so fuel rations to government stations were being cut to half what they had been.

    "They're lying," Chris said. "The guy on the shortwave said that a bunch of Texas wells had gone dry this month and the Canadian tar sands had some kind of problem with water supply, whatever that means. But he said it would cut our oil supply by 2/3 or more. He was afraid they would try to pump what's left too fast and kill a lot more wells."

    Alicia said, "That is going to kill the country. Imported oil is going to be higher than ever now and we couldn't afford it before this."

    Todd didn't say anything, but went to the computer and pulled up the government site that gave international oil and natural gas prices.

    "West Texas Intermediate crude was $268 a few days ago when I looked. It's showing at $486 a barrel now. We have a problem."

    Alicia turned off the TV. It got quiet for a moment while everybody was thinking. Then Christopher said, "We need more horses. If we're going to farm, and diesel fuel goes up a lot more, it will cost too much to run the tractor."

    Todd was thinking a mile a minute. Finally he said, "We have to get that sawmill running on wood gas. That will give us wood to run that old truck on wood gas, and Mike can convert some small engines to run on it, too. The problem is going to be finding enough stainless steel material to build the gasifiers. We can probably get that done, but grain harvest is what worries me. They said something on TV about assuring that the military and agriculture would have priority for fuel rations, but that could mean anything. We have enough diesel on hand to do our harvest this year, but I doubt if many farmers have any extra right now. This is going to drive food prices out of sight."

    Ed had seen the news on TV. He told Joann, "They are going to screw this up like they do everything else. It's going to be a long cold winter, even for the people that heat with natural gas, because when oil goes up, so does gas. It doesn't make much sense to me, but that's what happens every time."

    Joann said, "They said they would put controls on food prices, but that won't work. It will just mean shortages in the stores and black market food will cost more. It happened the last time they did that."

    Ed nodded slowly. "That means we will probably be in the black market selling beef. I hate to see that coming."

    When Ed and Ronnie Nichols talked the next day, they agreed that they would have to keep a low profile when they sold beef and pork.

    "I can do most of the farming without fuel," Ronnie said. "It means we'll have to do some things different but I still need fuel to grind feed and I don't have that much on hand. It's going to be tough year."

    Kate said, "I'm glad we didn't tell anybody about that tank car full of diesel fuel. Before the year's out, people will be fighting over fuel."

    "It's next Spring that worries me," Larry said. "We're right back where we were when fuel went up the first time."

    Wes nodded and said, "Yeah, even doing all we can with the oxen this winter, we'll have to use some of that tank car diesel to get by. And people are going to wonder where we got the fuel. This will start some real trouble.

    As a farmer, Terry Townsend was doing okay. He had cut back his grain production to just enough to feed his few head of pigs and chickens, the rest of his land being in hay and pasture. That reduced the time needed to work the farm and allowed him to spend most of each day at the Sheriff's office.

    But as the County Sheriff, he was worried. The fuel situation was critical and getting worse. Everyone had bought all the fuel they could before the ration cuts took effect, and now they were short on fuel and broke besides. He remembered the last time that fuel went way up, and this looked even worse. People had done all they could think of to cope with high prices for everything. They had moved whole families in together just to survive. They raised gardens, sold or traded off anything they could, and done without a lot of things, even enough food. Some had starved and others got sick and died. Desperate people turned to stealing, and some got killed trying it, both thieves and victims.

    Terry had thought that when he took the job as Sheriff that the worst was over. The Mayor had said so, and everyone agreed that those who had survived that first hard winter would make it from there. Crime had died down and some things had improved, but that was all history. He hoped the town could survive this winter. The worst part for townspeople was the high cost of heating a place to live. Gas and electric were the only choices for most people. A few had wood stoves, but the cost of firewood was right up there with the rest now. It cost too much to haul it to town, and those who had chain saws that still worked were thinking about how long they could keep them going to supply their own firewood.

    Terry expected crime to flare up again, and he only had one deputy.

    "We have enough money now," Gloria said, "but what about next year? People won't be able to afford to buy anything with gas and diesel so high. It's going to shut down business all over. We won't be able to sell anything at all."

    Ashley shook her head and said, "I don't know. This just has me lost."

    Larry said, "We can't farm like we have been and expect to make a profit. At lunchtime today, the TV said gas was $28 a gallon and diesel was $32.40. We can't afford to start the tractor unless it will make us 30 bucks an hour or more."

    Kate was thinking back to her childhood when she said, "We have to look at how people did things a long time ago. We have already changed how we live to something like what I knew as a kid, when we looked forward to a weekly trip to town, and people grew most of what they ate. We may have to go back farther than that now, like before there was any such thing as electricity and cars and trucks. I can't think of any other way to do it. We can't buy more than 5 gallons of gas a month under the new rationing, unless they decide to give us more for farming. And that will cost $140! We just can't do it. We need some horses if we're going to be able to make it now."

    Wes said, "All the Amish have figured that out by now and I bet you couldn't buy a horse for any price...."

    He was interrupted by knocking on the door. Neal Davis was there with his wife when Ashley answered the door.

    "We didn't hear you drive up," she said.

    "That's because we walked. Can't afford gas now, so we won't be going much of any place."

    "Well come in and get warm. The coffee pot is hot."

    Wes pulled some more chairs from the kitchen table to the living room and offered his to the company.

    Neal sat down and said, "You said you didn't want to sell much more stuff now, but what about trading some of it off?"

    "Depends on what somebody wants to trade, I guess," Wes said.

    "How about horses? The Amish man over north of us came by today on his way home from town and said he heard we had winter clothes and some other things they needed. They don't get out much either, now, with prices so high, and they need about everything. He allowed as how we might want some horses since we are living pretty much like they do now, and he and his neighbors have some to trade. They bought up a bunch of riding horses cheap when everything went bad, and they've been breeding the biggest ones to their Belgian stud. Says there is maybe 15 or 16 head they could sell amongst their community."

    Kate said, "Well, I'll be! We were just talking about horses. Oxen are fine for heavy work, but they have no speed to them."

    Neal went on, "See, I don't have everything they need, and I thought maybe we could get together and make a deal with them. I'd like to have a team to work. I grew up with Grandpaw's horses, and I haven't forgot everything I knew about 'em."

    Larry said, "I think we still owe you for that big generator, don't we? We can work it out. I vote we do this."

    Gloria said, "It sounds to me like the answer to a prayer."

    Several heads nodded agreement, then Kate said, "Okay, that's settled. We have a big pot of beef stew on the stove, so you all better stay for supper and help us with it, or we'll be eating it all week."

  5. #45
    CHAPTER 74 January, 2017-2018

    Europe's population had fallen to a tenth of what it had been at the peak. The village settlements, developed centuries before, were where most of the survivors lived now. They farmed the tiny fields around them, often digging them by hand, and eked out an existence, wasting nothing. The lucky ones had the better water supplies, mostly from ancient wells and mountain runoff. The major cities had succumbed one after another to lack of trade, the cost of the energy needed to maintain them, and failing water and sewage systems that brought disease. The few who lived in cities were scavengers and a few business people that exploited the old tradition of cities as the centers of trade.

    Fiat money systems had collapsed entirely, with only gold-backed currencies surviving in Germany and the UK. The super rich had retreated from London, Brussels, and Basel to enclaves in the mountainous regions where they existed less luxuriously, matching the 18th century level of world trade that they still exploited for support.

    When their oil supplies had failed, Russians survived the way they always had, in spite of crushing despotic governments and the harsh climate. China had lost more than 3/4 of it's people to starvation. After repeated rebellions, China had reverted to its' previous feudal state with warlords ruling areas defined by geography as they had for centuries. Central governments could not get a foothold in either country, with no ready means of transportation to assert their power.

    The US still had a central government of sorts, roughly similiar to what had existed 200 years before. The rapid loss of taxation and purchasing ability for critical fuel and food had caused mass desertions from the once world class military forces. That left the US a toothless tiger that made some roaring noises, but nobody paid much attention. The US nuclear arsenal was more or less intact, but much of the support systems, most importantly the operational expertise, was fast dwindling away leaving it useless. It had all happened too fast for the once powerful to react.

    What military might remained in the world was focused on the Mideast and its' rich oil supplies, as China, Russia, and the rest of Asia duked it out over dwindling supplies. The unfortunate result was a highly radioactive area that would never have the oil extracted by anyone. Kuwait had ceased to exist after US military support had gone away. Saudi Arabia had fulfilled the prophetic saying of the old Sheik, "My grandfather rode a camel, my father rode a camel, I drive a Mercedes, my son drives a Land Rover, his son will drive a Land Rover, but his son will ride a camel."

    There were still a few very rich Arabs who now lived in scattered areas of Africa, having escaped with quantities of gold before the wars had begun. They lived much as their forebears had done, on the edges of the desert.

    Some ridiculous vestiges of world trade showed up in rusting hulks of container ships in harbors when they were plundered by the last survivors of those port cities. Most of what they found was left to degrade in the elements, anything other than food or weapons being relatively useless for day to day survival.
    Another year went by, marked mostly by the silence of starvation in the US, interrupted by clashes of violence, but those became fewer as time went by.

    Terry Townsend's hair had turned white in the past year, although he had just seen his 40th birthday. He had been able to do virtually nothing while his town had become a battleground for a short time as people fought over the scraps of a once great civilization. Less than a tenth of the original inhabitants remained, and sometimes the stench of the dead still caused him to retch.

    His office had been attacked, although he wasn't there at the time. His farm had also been attacked by the same mob. Terry had seen several men butchering one of his cows in the pasture and ordered them off the place with a rifle. They shot at him and the fight was on. That shot missed him, but his killed the shooter. Terry had dived for cover then made his way to the house for more ammunition.

    His neighbors had come running when they heard shooting. Larry Barnes was mending fence and was half a mile closer, so he had called the others with the walkie talkie they all carried. Larry ran up the road and fought from cover in a fencerow until the others could get there, but got hit when the mob began to shoot his direction. Neal, Wes and the young women had been working on a building. They had all grabbed guns and piled into Wes' truck. Neal was hit before he could get to cover, but the others overwhelmed the mob with firepower. The fight stopped when the attackers ran out of ammuniton and were eliminated as they tried to run away.

    They had hopefully secured the neighborhood once and for all. Larry Barnes was recovering, but Neal Davis had not survived. His widow had moved in with the Blakes. He assumed they would merge their 2 farms.

    A week later, another group had assaulted Todds store, bent on killing and robbing a rich target.

    Todd Reynolds had nightmares regularly about the mob attack. He knew his son would never be quite the same, nor would Sophia. The look in their eyes was always distant now.

    They had been returning from running their trapline when the attack took place and had the advantage of surprise on the attackers. Chris and Sophia had dropped one after another of the mob with the lever action rifles, forcing the attack into panicked retreat. Todd had methodically shot as targets appeared with his AR-15, while Alicia fired from a window in the log house. Ed Wilson had been walking down to the store to trade when the fight broke out and did his part with his old Springfield, but was hit in the leg. With fire coming from 4 directions at them, the attackers broke and ran, only to be cut down on the way.

    If any survived to tell about it, they were never seen again. The fact that Todd knew most of the attackers was what gave him nightmares. Their faces were never far from his mind. The tragedy in Todd's mind was that if they had only asked, he could have put most of them to work and they would still be alive. Instead, he had to use the tractor to make a mass grave.

    Todd took the signs down and closed the store.

    Christopher spent a lot of time with Sophia close by, not speaking but always touching.

    A month later, Ed Wilson was still nursing the wound in his leg. Joann had told Vickie Hoskins that she knew he was on the mend because he was cranky as an old bear. Ed was up and getting around on a crutch he had cut out of a dead sapling. Mike had been caring for his cattle and Laura had worked with them to keep a supply of firewood.

    CHAPTER 75 Spring, 2018

    Benjamin Carter Reynolds had just turned 2 years old and learned the word "no". He used it constantly like most his age, trying to assert himself as a person in a world of adults. His 5 year old brother Logan got exasperated with him, as did Alicia, but it was a minor aggravation to her thinking. The fact that they were alive and healthy was always uppermost in her mind. She silently gave prayers of thanks every day since the attack on their place. She had fought like an angry mother bear for her offspring, and killed her share. Weapons had not been out of her reach since that day.

    Todd's team of horses and the new filly colt got attention lavished on them as members of the family. Todd spent a lot of time with them when he wasn't with his wife and children. The horses gave him some silent reassurance he needed.
    Christopher and Sophia had been inseparable since the attack. When they laid down together late that night, nobody had said a word about it. They had slept together since then, not talking much to anyone else for months. As the weather warmed again, they seemed to thaw along with it and began to seem more like their old selves again, but they were never apart for very long.

    The partnership of the Blake and Davis farms was never even discussed, but accepted as a tacit agreement among the members of the combined households. Olivia Davis and Kate were the oldest of friends and spent every day together doing homely tasks that kept the hard working younger members fed, clothed, and cared for.

    Larry's left arm wasn't what it used to be after recovering from a wound, but it didn't seem to get in the way of what he wanted to do. He showed a new devotion to Kate after she had nursed him through some days of fever and pain. Wes and Ashley had enough to do with 5 year old Ella and a her sister Savannah Jane, now 2 years old. The toddler got into everything and quickly got nicknamed Calamity Jane.

    Gloria was thrilled beyond words to find herself pregnant and Larry was proud to finally have the start of his own family.

    The old Davis home was now a bunkhouse for hired help that had migrated from the mostly defunct town to find any sort of work. The 4 men quartered there were of all ages from 17 to over 50, each having the resilient nature that had kept them alive so far. They were glad to work for their keep and some kind of security, but the Blakes and Barnes were more generous than that and earned their loyalty over time.

    Once the European sponsored gold backing for the US dollar was gone, it floundered for a few months but had stabilized, being backed now by the gold in Fort Knox and exchangeable for newly minted gold coins at $20,000 per ounce. Trade between states was going on again, but at much lower levels due to the cost of freight, although some new coal fired, steam river boats promised to bring down shipping costs.

    Illinois had finally restored a small oil refinery near the Indiana border and traded it's lucrative output for what it needed. Indiana had a small coal conversion plant just started up that produced a limited amount of gasoline, patterned after an earlier plant in West Virginia. That product, however, was being shipped by barge downriver, and gasoline for Indiana came from West Virginia, also by riverboat.

    Larry had found they could run their old pickup on straight naptha from the tank car by retarding the timing somewhat. It tended to produce to knocking, but they cured that by adding a slight amount of kerosene which increased the power output, but made it very hard to start in cold weather. They didn't use it much anyway, mostly relying on horse drawn transportation now. The fuel was used primarily in small engines for water pumping and running a vacuum pump for their milking system, scavenged from a burned out dairy farm. One of their hired hands made the daily milk run to a new neighborhood store with a team and wagon, bringing home any trade goods from the day before and whatever money they earned.

    Diesel engines ran well on the purified kerosene from the other tank car. It didn't produce as much power, but it didn't go sour in the tank, either, and starting was easier with a little added naptha. They were still able to operate their combine for grain harvest, but it was on its' last legs. Larry and Wes had been busy all winter working on it, using whatever parts came to hand to make it run one more season of wheat harvesting. Their corn crops were all picked by hand now to save wear on the combine. When the combine could no longer be made to run, the alternative was hand gathering and threshing. The men were working on a stationary thresher design for that day.

    At Brent Collins' farm, a somewhat abbreviated Saturday market day continued. Bicycles, teams of horses pulling wagons, and handcarts were more plentiful than gasoline or diesel powered vehicles. Todd showed up with a team and wagon loaded with goods from their neighborhood, and did a modest amount of trading.
    Mel and Charlie were there as always, offering hot meals. Mel had begun to be sociable again after the attack on Todd's store. He had been in a funk for months afterward because it was over before he could get there to help, being some distance away at the time. Vickie had badgered him into continuing the food business to give him something to do.

    Wes, Larry, and their families had set up on a farm wagon selling their wares along with some craft items their hired hands had made. Gloria and Ashley made the rounds of the market, visiting and shopping. Wes traded 2 pounds of butter for a really nice handmade leather belt and reflected that when he got out of prison, his first suit of clothes made a big dent in his savings. Even after all the money miseries he had been through, he felt like he had come up a long way in money terms.

    He watched Ashley carrying Calamity Jane with Ella Kate following her and felt rich in another way. He still carried his father in law's old .45 in his belt, and deep inside he felt the protectiveness in himself. Wes decided that he fit this new, simpler world better than the old one he'd grown up in.

    Ed Wilson was there, gimping around with a limp on his bad leg and taking orders for boots and dried beef. Joann did a lively business selling garden seeds and tending the herb sales for Tara who was expecting again and had stayed home.
    Terry Townsend asked Ed to measure him for new boots. While Ed traced his foot on a piece of leather, Terry said, "Looks like business is picking up again this Spring."

    Ed looked around at the crowd and said, "Yeah, mebbe so. I wondered if it would. We all hit bottom so many times I doubted things would come back."

    Joann said, "I heard that, Ed Wilson! Things are looking up again and you know it. There's no call to be down about things. After all, when you get to the bottom, the only direction left is up!"

    Ed looked up and grinned at her and said, "Yes Ma'am!"

    The whole crowd had heard her outburst and looked their direction, then gave a hearty laugh at his reply, sharing the couple's feeling to the core. The sun seemed to shine a little brighter then, as did the smiling faces in the crowd.

    Life was going on, and it wasn't all bad.


  6. #46
    Well done again. Thanks

  7. #47
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    State of Jefferson Sierra Mountains
    Patience, I really enjoy your stories. They give me hope for the future even if every thing collapses.

    Thank you.

  8. #48
    Got any more??? lol

  9. #49
    Well, not at the moment. I am about 12,000 words into a new story at this time, but Spring is upon us and the garden awaits. Also have a lot of work to do on our campsite/BOL/old age property.

    And, it's hard to type since my "feral" tomcat decided to be a lap cat. He's 12 pound long haired marmalade cat with a real attitude about getting his way. This is the guy who terrorized the Vet's office, causing them to remember him a couple years later.

    It may be months before the next tale gets finished, but I am continuing to write.

  10. #50
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    State WA

  11. #51
    Good job, thanks

  12. #52
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    God's Country
    Thank you !!
    I've got my duck taped now what???
    God Bless

  13. #53
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Lovely story, Thank You!!
    I didn't really bounce Eeyore. I had a cough, and I happened to be behind Eeyore, and I said "Grrrr-oppp-ptschschschz."

  14. #54
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    NE Iowa
    I have enjoyed each of your stories. The folks in them seem so real. Are they patterned after folks you know or family? Each story makes the coming economic woes for our country seem more survivable. Seems like if these folks (fictional tho they may be) can survive with grace and dignity, so can we. Thank you!
    Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
    President Theodore Rooseveldt

  15. #55
    My characters are all composites of multiple people, but never a single person. I'm an old guy and have known a lot of people, so there is a wealth of material to draw from. I have lived in this area for a very long time, so the local culture is pretty much a part of me.

    Like one of my favorite authors, Louis L'Amour, my geography is real and based where we live. If I write about a cave, sinkhole, river, or whatever, it is a real place.

    Glad you enjoyed the stories! Thanks for the nice words. I have another tale started, but only just begun. It may be months before it's finished, due to the summer rush around here. We live like our grandparents to a great degree, with gardens, chickens, wood heat, a cistern for water, and a clothesline. We do all we can for ourselves, so that all takes time. It's easier to write when the weather is bad and keeps me from working outdoors.
    Last edited by patience; 04-26-2014 at 10:53 AM.

  16. #56
    That was a great story!! One idea I have had was small steam boilers and engines such as you saw in the movie "The African Queen". I wonder if a steam engine setup like that is available?

    "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."---- Robert A. Heinlein

  17. #57
    Here is one that I found. I haven't researched boilers, though, and that is VERY important. Steam explosions are devastating.

    Note that those engines are handmade in his machine shop. I don't know of any commercially mass-produced engines available.

  18. #58
    Thanks so much for your story. I really enjoyed it. I could tell that you had a lot of first hand knowledge in your story. Good job!

  19. #59
    Sorry I haven't commented, but your stories are almost text books for one option for the coming collapse, and definitely a warning for any who see what is coming down the pike.

    I found a link to all those youtube things on the economy and watched them.

    Between them and your writing there are a lot of lessons.

    Better yet they are entertaining and I find myself wanting to say Yeah, do that, or Oh, try this, it could solve your problem.

    I hope I never get pushed back to working with horses. A tractor is so much nicer, but I worked a mule before. Those big old percherons and Belgians eat a lot of hay. Nice to be able to breed em instead of having to breed for mules though. Probably a toss up. Really hope I never get pushed back to oxen.

    I watched a english show about a 16th century small farm, and watching their oxen and that nasty old plow they were using convinced me I need a gas powered tractor. Fellow down toward Birmingham uses it on his trucks, and a fellow up here bought his used one. Starts it on gasoline then switches over if he is in a hurry or just fires it up and then waits to start it. Works well but fills up a lot of truck bed space.

    Well just wanted to compliment you and I hope you write a few more. When I get past the busy season and have some time, I kinda think I have a idea that while different from yours would fit with this crapening economy failure we are seeing.

    Still not sure about energy solutions. Sure wish I could move forward instead of back to the 1930's even though my homestead is set up to use modern with a pre-electric option for all our needs if needs be.



    My family & clan are my country.

  20. #60
    Thanks, Dosadi!

    I think there are a lot of options for a future with energy becoming more dear. Which ones we end up with will depend on the nature of the situation. If we can keep the electric grid running and keep some fossil fuels available, even if they are expensive, we will have a huge advantage and life need not devolve into the 18th century. But modern manufacturing depends entirely on fossil fuels and the grid. I spent my entire working life as a mechanical engineer working in manufacturing, so I can say with certainty that is true. As one friend commented to me, "If the grid goes down, the next day we will all be living like Amish". I truly hope that is never the case, but wanted to show some ways people could transition to a more or less sustainable life in that case.

    I see modern life as very vulnerable because of its' complexity. An early book on that was "The Coming Dark Age", by Roberto Vacca. This Italian thinker pointed out the web of interdependencies in modern life, and how a glitch in an obscure area could cause grave distruptions. Since that was written, life has become even more so. Stand-alone systems in each aspect of life would make us much more secure, but that is less "efficient" in terms of immediate cost today, so it has little chance of happening. In the face of that, our family farmed and logged 45 acres with Percherons back in the 1970's and '80's as a sideline from my day job. I can tell you that there isn't enough time to go around. It made me very aware of how much we gain from our "energy slaves", especially in making things. I once hand hewed a 36 foot long beam for a new barn I built. Felled the tree with a chainsaw and even used the saw to do the notching, but finished it up from the tree to a 6" x 8" beam with a broadaxe. It took me 2 days, and I was young and tough then. On a proper sawmill, it could be cut in minutes.

    There are in between scenarios that are more likely, where the grid and fuels are still available, yet at higher cost due to economic disruption, or other causes. Let's hope we never have to do it all the hard way!

  21. #61
    Was a engineer / modeler / designer / security officer for a firm that contracted with NASA after I got done with the CORPs.

    If ya ever get a chance to look at northern alabama prior to the TVA coming in in the late 60's you can see a lot of why so many southrons still know how to live on almost nothing. Many didn't have electricity until the 70's or 80's and a good many still get by with just a small amount of modern stuff today.

    There are several farms that are still mule farmed here. It's more modernized now of course, but Alabama in the rural parts is still 40 or 50 years behind in attitudes and behaviors.

    We get bad ratings from those websites that say our gun laws are just so so , Lets see: You want a pistol, go pass that durn fed check, pay the man, take your pistol home. If ya want a liscense it runs 15 a year, and you just go see the sheriff and fill out a basic address thing. Deer, ya can usually kill 2 a day from mid october to februrary.

    Fish, got all those Tenn impoundments

    Farm, well our season is so long it's almost year round with planning. I'm working on taking a fife wheat and trying it as a winter wheat just to see how it turns out. Corn, cotton, peanuts, soybean are main crops. Truck farms are kind of hit or miss but lots of them

    No industry these days, the textiles were all run out of the state by taxes and regulations. Even the sock mills. Lotta chicken houses / production facilities.

    Not much sheep or such Only know of one lady keeping them and spinning wool. THat is mostly hobby farm.

    Obamao's people have caused the coal plant to shut down, then our hydroelectric is getting sold out of state, and much of the nuclear. Those people I know working for local electric co ops tell me our power fluctuates so much that they all keep their sensitive stuff like computers on UPS just because that is a steady power supply for them, or use laptops.

    The stupid county seat passed a law that ya cant put up solar panels in town. Unsightly they say, I say it is to prevent competition with the power board.

    Best I have seen is a home set up there like it would use solar (the fellow does have panesl stored in his shed) He uses a trickle charger from the grid with a old lister engine hooked to a generator set as a back up. He doesn't really solve all his costs, but he has steady reliable power by inverting his battery bank back up and running that through his panel, and can run the lister if the grid is down so long as he can get fuel. Those old listers can run off almost anything once ya get em up on diesel. I saw an old boiler maker / tool and die man run a diesel at a dockyard down in Florida off butter milk on a bet once. Started it on diesel then just poured buttermilk in through a rigged up tank on the top. Made me laugh. It was one of those large marine diesel hoist diesels of some kind that runs real slow, but it must have run half an hour after he started the buttermilk.

    While wood gas is dirty, I have often wondered if you had a small hydro system (I'd like to try a tesla turbine without vanes) and could use that to split H2O into hydrogen and use that to run an engine. Still need lubricants but I have played with that idea for years (since the arab oil embargo in '73) Problem is finding a stream that would run the turbine for me around here.

    The various things that will hold hydrogen and release it back as a gas when electricity applied are classified as strategic weapons components and can't be had / made. (That and you need a particle accelerator to get the stuff made lol)

    I know over to guntersville there are several old steam tractors / engines and I have been making drawings of them just in case I ever manage to build me one. would not solve transportation problems, but a stationary engine could run a shop or pump or other machinery. I do have plans for a shaft driven shop also. Still looking for the right land / stream to make that dog hunt though.

    Anyway I find a lot of your ideas make me worry cause that match up with a lot of my own analysis.

    Oh, another thing, everyone worries about electricity even in small amounts for lighting, but ya seldom hear about the fact that light bulbs would run out, and aren't a home made thing (well maybe old edison bulbs, but only if you make em yourself before you cant get filiments and such.) Still even with free electricity it is all the little components that would cause failure over time.

    And wire, I would so miss not having wire from bailing wire up to good heavy wire for welding and such. And pretty soon not even torches for cutting.

    Thanks for answering me, and I hope I didn't run off at the mouth to much. My stroke is acting up (Memory and talk to much problems, that's why I can't work for NASA anymore) On good days I do well, on others I kind of just ramble. My kids are learning which days not to take my to do lists so serious.

    Oldest son got back from a welding contract up in n. dakota, and has enough put back that he is working here this summer helping. I'm working up a better blacksmith forge (found a 59 pound anvil the other day, but I'm hoping I can talk the old wife of our towns last blacksmith into selling me her husbands big anvil, now that he passed away and his daughters I know don't want anything to do with it.) He just brought home a nice Miller he is putting on a truck so he can do local jobs and train an apprentice to run the truck for him so he can loaf more.

    I'm teaching all my kids to own their own ways of making wealth (as opposed to FRN's)

    Youngest son actually wants to be a chef, Not sure how that is gonna pan out, but they can all come to the home place as a safe haven and start over if things get grubby.



    My family & clan are my country.

  22. #62

    It's pretty grubby now in a lot of places. That's why TPTB can get by with saying things are just peachy. But tell that to folks in the hard hit areas and they are likely to smack you in the mouth. There are lots of family members moving in together around here, and getting by however they can. I see the foreclosed homes here with a notice in the window and closed stores with cracked parking lots and grass growing up.

    Yep, the answer is to invent your own job. It's not rocket science, either. A little common sense will show what could work for you. Good point on the nature of wealth, too. It's what you have that will actually do you some good, no matter what.

    I write to try to get people to think about their future. Obviously you already do that, but many don't think beyond the end of their noses. On this forum that is like preaching to the choir, but maybe if the thoughts are out there, somebody will benefit. I don't pretend to have all the answers to how things might happen, nor the best ways to deal with them. But what I do know about, I feel I should share before I go toes up and it all dies with me. What a waste of a lifetime, huh?

  23. #63
    Don't say waste, The biggest regret I have is how many of the grandparents and old folk that had useful stuff that should have been saved are gone and that knowledge is lost. I do a lot of re inventing the wheel then my Mom will say well why didn't you ask me, your great grandfather and them did something similar, often better with simpler items that my idea.

    And your story has helped me. It shows that my thinking is shared by at least one other on the idea that it isn't a quick thing, but this slow slid into crappier and crappier times. Some blog called it the crappening and I have appropriated it.

    We seem on paper to be making more money, but it buys less, and there is less to choose from. The food is in smaller packages and the price goes up anyway.

    I was looking at some shoes and saw some herman survivors, they are made in china. My pair that were made in USA lasted me 20 some years, my last pair made in china had the bottom of the lug sole crack in two in under a year.

    Now good boots cost me 3 or 4 hundred dollars and still seem less quality.

    Clothing and everything else is similar.

    That darn cash for clunkers took so many good old cars off the streets and ya cant find old stuff for what I think new cars ought to cost. (I know my daughter tells me I'm still living on 50 year ago prices, but I counter that a ounce of gold would buy Sam Colts finest in 1873 and it still will today, but I"m not so sure his finest today is as good a quality as even 20 years ago.)

    I did run up on a couple of mausers for a good price the other day, not cheap, but I got one just because I know it will be working when my grand kid use it.

    I bought a bunch of 8 mm ammo, but I can reload my own, and I can make 30 06 cases into 8mm if I get pressed, I try not to though so there isn't a head stamp confusion.

    I keep thinking I'm gonna get the other one, and work it over into a modern version of those pleasure mausers that I saw in Europe. (Lot of them were on 95 actions, but the third lug is pretty redundant and the yugo's are small ring 98's.) Maybe rebarrel it to 7mm mauser and just make it into a real show / hunting rifle for pleasure for myself.

    I'm seeing a want locally for flintlock rifles. Been a while since I made one, but I'm thinking of getting some locks and barrels and making up a few. First one I built was out of a bunch of parts my Mother found at a yard sale back in 73. Must have worked 6 months getting the stock to work right. Only put in a single trigger, from now on I'm going with double sets.

    Didn't mean to spin off on rifles.

    Met a nice young feller from out in the empty part of the county who is farming. Had a nice talk and he was telling me about making up "amish tractors" being done by some old fellow up there and that a few folk were using them. Don't know why, but he just called em tractor seats. Guess that is just local slang for fore carts.

    I'm invited up to look at some equipment he has. His daughter is 13, but when I met her she was so much more mature than the girls who are all about cell phones and text and that face page and such. My middle boy is 14, I hope he finds a good girl like that in a few more years. (Oh was 30 when I got out married, my old sgt said if the marines wanted me to have a wife they would have issued me one. Should have listened as she ended up a druggie child abuser so I get to be mr mom and dad.

    I'm getting sloppy typing. Been one of those days when both legs and back hurt, and my brain is frazzled. I know it cause I catch myself dropping my language style back to poor southron slang. Sorry about that. Or Xin Loi if ya prefer.



    My family & clan are my country.

  24. #64
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Southern born, Southern bred
    Patience, Thank you for a great story! I just finished reading it and hated to see it come to an end.

    Have you written other stories? If so, where can I find them?


    Oh, duh...I found another story just a few posts below , old age is showing.
    Last edited by Sully; 05-28-2014 at 09:16 AM.
    Got Jesus? It's hell without Him.

    * When the People become scared of the government it's called Tyranny. When the government becomes scared of the people it's called LIBERTY!!*
    Thomas Jefferson

  25. #65
    I have 3 others posted here. Dirty Money, Transitions, and Told Ya So. Thanks!

  26. #66
    Patience thanks for the great story, I just finished it. I believe you have portrayed a very realistic view on what life would be like. I hope you choose to share more with us soon, again thanks.

  27. #67
    I have read them all. All good, and sobering, stories. I will be watching for more of your stories. Thank you!

  28. #68
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Well a nother good write.


  29. #69
    Thanks to all for the compliments. Can't get much writing done now with many complications from the stomach cancer I have. Most days I don't feel like getting online, but have the computer closer now so maybe I can get here some days.

  30. #70


    Excellent work , Wow,,,, I'm not finished yet , but shall by tomorrow night.

    I just saw your prayer request on the main page.

    Please keep fighting, have faith, & hope,

    We are all saying prayers for you.

    Take care and all the best to you..

  31. #71

  32. #72
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Where fog and sun meet.
    I have greatly enjoyed re-reading your fine story.

    Keeping you in my prayers for comfort and hope and healing.

    Thank you for sharing your stories here.


  33. #73
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    So Cal...don't be hatin'
    Thank you for a very realistic, believable story

  34. #74

  35. #75
    i think my kids will see this in their lifetime

    the best investment is stuff you can use in the next few months.......when you have that covered.......
    NEXT, invest in stuff you can use in the next year or two

    \invest in stuff..(easy to find now, hard to find later)......that you can use to make stuff.....that you can sell or trade

    LEARN stuff........learn different stuff.......the more you know,..the more you can do,..

    .the more options you have to make a living....the greater the chance you and yours can stay warm,dry, and fed.

  36. #76
    Thanks to whoever bumped these back to the front page. I have enjoyed rereading them.


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