Cowboy Kingdom

by SeaBird

Part 2

Chapter 1 – YEP, THINGS GOT WORSE

Maria had located a television station that was on the air. The picture was snowy and there was lots of static. The screen suddenly went blank and then the announcer cut in, " THIS IS AN EMERGENCY ANNOUNCEMENT, AIRCRAFT HAVE BEEN DETECTED COMING FROM THE NORTHWEST. ALL AMERICAN PLANES HAVE BEEN GROUNDED. PLEASE STAN………."

The screen went blank and there were lines of static racing across the screen. In horror, Maria felt the whole house shake and an awful rumbling sound came from the direction of Phoenix. As she looked out the window, a huge ball of fire and a mushroom cloud appeared over the Tortuga Mountains. She screamed and Pat and his brothers came running.

Pat reacted first, "DON'T LOOK AT IT", he screamed.

He pushed everyone to the floor and made them cover their faces.

After the rumbling lessoned, he said, "I think that was an atomic bomb!"

After the rumbling had completely stopped, he sent Cal and Tim around to make sure everyone was alright and to bring them all into the main house. As soon as everyone had gathered, he told them to all go and take a hot shower and use plenty of soap.

When everyone had complied, he said, "I believe that Phoenix has been hit with at least one nuclear bomb, I don't know who did it or if there are going to be any more, but there are going to be refugees. Merciful God, help us in our time of need."

They set up a security routine where the house and grounds were regularly patrolled. There was no immediate sign that people were running from the events in Phoenix until a week later when a family with three teen boys came stumbling into the pantry garden. The man, had rags wrapped around his face and the woman was leading him. The boys had terrible burns on their faces and arms.

Pat had been in the Navy right out of high school and he remembered some of his basic training that involved movies about a nuclear attack. He thought the family was suffering from flash burns and maybe radiation poisoning. He and Maria put the family in the downstairs bedroom and did what they could to treat the burns.

During the night, the man died, but the rest of the family seemed to slowly respond to their treatment. As they were able, the family told them what had happened, they had lived in Mesa and they were trying to get out of town when the bombs were dropped. The car stopped working immediately and they had been wandering ever since. The woman died shortly after that, but the boys hung on a while longer. One died and then another, the third boy continued to hang on and then gradually began to get better.

A month after they had arrived at Willow Springs Ranch, the youngest boy, Arthur Smalls was able to get up out of bed and move around a bit.

They heard nothing from the county seat and nobody was anxious to go in that direction as it would take them closer to Phoenix.

The boys from Terry Collin's Scout Troop all agreed to stay on as ranch hands. George Little seemed to have a knack with machinery and he worked as a helper to Booger. Ralph Conway and Bobby Collins loved the outdoors and they were put to riding the fence line patrol. The twins, Allen and Gary Bonner had helped their father, a carpenter and cabinet maker, Pat put them to making repairs on the buildings.

Arthur Smalls had some classes at the university in bookkeeping and accounting and he relieved Pat from some of the office work.

Terry Collins worked out well as a ranch hand, he was an excellent rider and a pretty good shot with the rifle. So good, Pat gave him a radio and put him to patrolling the front fields and pastures between the house and the highway.

Everyone was in the house, getting ready to sit down to the noon meal when the radio squawked, "O'Brian this is Terry C, over."

Pat picked up his radio and replied, "Terry C, O'Brian, go ahead".

"O'Brian, Terry C, I got a bunch of kids and two elderly ladies here, sir. Theys cain't go much farther, over".

Terry C, O'Brian, where are you and we will come get them"

Terry replied, "O'Brian, Terry C, wes at Duck Creek, near the Rock Pile."

Pat replied, "Terry C, O'Brian, we are on our way, it will take near an hour to get there, O'Brian out."

"Terry C, out"

Booger got up from the table, "I'm on it boss, met ya' at the wagon." He put his meat between two pieces of bread and was munching on it as he headed to the barn. Booger hooked the two trotters to the wagon, the summer grass was beat down and those two would make better time.

They followed Duck Creek out towards the strange rock formation that everyone called, "The Rock Pile". The creek was a sandy, dry creek bed that had water only during the heaviest rains.

When Pat and Booger reached the Rock Pile, they spotted Terry's horse tied to a bush and some people standing nearby. The two men jumped off the wagon and ran to see if they could help.

The two old ladies were a surprise to Pat, "Good Grief, Miz Dingle and Miz Foster! What are you two ladies doin' way out here?"

Miss Foster looked at him and replied, "I taught you better manners than that in grade school, Patrick O'Brian!"

Pat grinned and said, "Yes, Miss Foster!" He knew them both and had his knuckles rapped more than once in their grade school classes as a young boy."

They told him that they had heard he was taking in children during this emergency and they had gathered these children to add to his collection!

With a cheeky grin on his face, he said, "I take in School Marms too, ya know!"

Miss Dingle spoke, "That's Good, young Patrick, because our home is no longer safe with all those ruffians in town."

So it was that another ten children and two old maid school teachers were added to the Willow Springs Ranch Refugee Collection.

Pat was becoming concerned about places to put everyone, the Bonner twins suggested they knock out some of the walls in one of the bunk houses and make it into a dormitory. That seemed like it was the only solution to their problem, so he told them to go ahead. When they got the interior walls down, they discovered a trap door in the floor that had been covered over in a closet.

Before opening it, Allen went to fetch Pat. Pat was as curious as the Bonner twins about the mysterious trap door, they carefully opened it and saw a flight of stairs going down into the darkness. Gary went to fetch a wick lamp and, as soon as he returned, Pat led the way down the stairs. There, carved out of the bedrock was a huge room, the walls and floor were dry and the air fresh, so they knew there was ventilation somehow. There was a tiny sheet metal stove in the corner and the flu went up and disappeared in the floor above them.

The twins said they could run some electric lighting off the power that supplied the bunkhouse above them, just a few light bulbs would not overload the generator any.

Allen remembered seeing a stack of cut 2 X 2's in the barn and he said, "We can knock together some bunk beds, are there any mattresses available."

Pat replied, "Yeah, there are some in the storeroom and maybe we can find some more in town, if we are careful."

There were enough mattresses to make up beds for the latest group to arrive. The boys thought it was "neat" to bunk down in a cave and that is what it became known as, "The Cave".

The two retired school teachers, Miss Dingle and Miss Foster volunteered to hold classes for the children and Pat thought it was a great idea. The children were not so sure and they groaned a bit, but the two old ladies were free to experiment with ideas they had wanted to try for years and the school authorities refused them permission. Before long, the children were eager each morning for class to start.

Chapter 2 – THE SCAVENGERS

It was becoming apparent that they were going to need additional supplies and the closest place that those supplies might be found was the County Seat.

The trucks had been parked below the hill and shielded from the line of sight of the bomb detonation up in Phoenix, so they tried to start the engines, they all came on at the first attempt. Apparently they had been sufficiently shielded from the EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) created by the bomb.

They planned on making a scavenging trip the next day. They took the flatbed and both pickups, ten teen boys were loaded in the trucks, all armed with shotguns and pistols. After the warnings the two school teachers had given them about gangs roaming the town, they wanted to take no chances. They arrived in the small town to absolute silence, the whole town was quiet as a tomb.

They first explored the furniture store, there they found a supply of single bed mattresses, sheets, blankets and pillows. They loaded up the flatbed truck and sent it back to the ranch to unload. They sent six armed guards with it in case they encountered any trouble.

While they were waiting for the flatbed to return, they explored the Mercantile Mart and several clothing stores.

They hit a bonanza at the laundry, there was all sorts of clothing all stacked up, waiting for customers to pick up their cleaning. They filled both pickups with clothing, sheets, towels and blankets from the laundry.

As they waited for the flatbed to return, they raided the toy store for playthings for the smaller children and they found a treasure trove of tools and supplies, like light bulbs, wire and hand tools at the hardware store. They also discovered a storeroom full of RTA furniture (ready to assemble) and they hauled it all out to the curb to load on the trucks.

By the end of the day, they had collected things to fill an empty bay in the barn. They decided to leave the deserted town before it began to get dark, they wanted no confrontation with the gangs the two school teachers had reported.

As they were convoying back to the ranch, they came upon a group of young people trudging along the road. They all looked tired and near the end of their endurance. Pat stopped the convoy and got out to talk with the weary travelers. They were from the small mountain community of Providence and they told of hardship and death. Their leader, an older teen boy, Nathan Jenkins told them they were all that had lived after the bombs were dropped and they decided to get away from where there might be any contamination. Pat offered them refuge at Willow Spring Ranch and they eagerly agreed. They all had found a spot to ride, except for Nathan.

Nathan started to walk away and Pat held on to his arm, "What's wrong, son. You are invited too.

Nathan hung his head down and replied, "Sir. I's eree ah, I's gay an' ya don't want no queers on yer ranch."

Pat put his hand under the boy's chin and raised his face, "Son, gay is what you are, NOT who you are! Get in the truck, you are as welcome as anyone else." He leaned down and whispered in the boy's ear, "That word, queer, I don't want to hear it ever again, ya hear?"

Pat got the convoy again started off for home. It was dark before they reached the ranch and Maria was holding supper for them. Some of the younger refugees cried at the sight of the food laden table, none of them had eaten a full meal since the collapse.

That night, they slept on mattresses placed on the floor, clean sheets and blankets. When Pat went through the Cave to tell everyone good night, he had to stop for an hour to calm crying children.

The days began to run together, refugees straggled in, sometimes just a lone person, sometimes a small group. They all had the same horror story of death and destruction. Many had been preyed upon by roving gangs all spent the first few nights shivering in fright or crying over those who had not made it to safety.

As more refugees joined the group at Willow Springs, more trips were needed to gather the things they needed to survive.

The twins completed the bunk beds in the Cave, they had installed enough beds to sleep 48 people. By the end of the summer, all those beds were filled and Pat was left scratching his head trying to figure out where to put everyone.

They held a "roundtable discussion about it after supper one evening and the best solution anyone could come up with was to build a stone and mortar building in the area between the house and the two bunkhouses. They would fill the space and connect all the buildings together. Pat agreed to take another chance and go in to town and try to collect building materials, cement and mortar.

They had lots of stone in the immediate area and sand was available in the dry creek bed. The desert sycamore trees split easy and could be used to make shakes for the roof.

They pulled the cargo trailer out of the barn and hooked it to the flatbed truck and together with the two pickup trucks, they headed into town. Again, the town seemed deserted; there was no sign of anyone having been there since they had last scavenged the place.

They went first to the Building Supply and loaded all the cement and mortar that would fit on the flatbed. They were able to start a frontend loader and the filled the trailer with gravel and lengths of reinforcing bar. The flatbed headed back to the ranch, it was going to be a slow trip as the truck and trailer were way overloaded.

Eight Teens went with the flatbed to act as guards, they were all holding shotguns and rifles. The rest remained in town to scavenge anything else they could find.

A towable cement mixer was discovered in a yard and was hooked it to one if the pickups. They collected shovels, gardening tools, even a small rototiller.

One place was a treasure trove of vegetable seeds and every packet was loaded into the trucks, even seeds that had no apparent use.

As they were loading up, they thought they saw movement in a window of a house, so Pat went to investigate.

He called through the door, "We won't hurt you, are you alright in there?" A young male voice replied, "We need help, will you help us?"

Pat led them in the house, where they found a young teen couple, the girl was laying on a dirty blanket, her face showed awful pain.

The young man said, "We are expecting our baby and she is in terrible pain." Pat asked, "You are a married couple?" The boy looked shamefaced and replied, "Eeerr no sir, we are a couple but nobody said any words over us. There ain't nobody to do that anymore."

Pat hugged the young man and said, "No matter, if you will come with us, we will care for you. We have a lady at our ranch who has helped women give birth. Will you come with us?"

The girl looked up at the young man, "Peter, we gotta trust them, else me and our baby are gonna die here,"

Pat put his arms around the boy, "Son, let us help you, this place is no good for any of you."

They made a stretcher out of a blanket and two tree limbs and gently carried the young woman out to the truck and placed her on the backseat so she could lay down. The boy climbed in beside her and held her hand, they could all see that the two cared for each other deeply.

They were all loaded up, so the two pickups and their load of people and supplies headed out of town. They failed to see the group of bikers standing behind a billboard watching them.

Chapter 3 – BIKER WARS

Pat kept his speed down, not wanting to jostle the young woman any more than was necessary. He called ahead on the radio to let Maria know about the young couple and the baby that was near birth. She went into Granny Mode, laying out clean towels, and those things needed to birth a baby. She had done it before, in fact, she had delivered Pat and his brothers in that very house.

The convoy arrived shortly after dark and Pat carried the expectant mother into the house, Maria directed him to the back bedroom, where she had everything set up.

As the girl's pains began, Maria shooed the men out of the room, the baby's father also. The two school teachers were there to assist and Pat took the young man into the living room.

He found out that he was Toby Bennett and the girl was Tericia Morrison, they had been boyfriend and girlfriend all through high school. When the collapse came, he had collected her and they lived together in an abandoned house until the baby was near and they became frightened and went looking for help.

While they were talking, they heard a terrible shriek from the bedroom, Pat had to restrain Toby from running in there. Almost immediately, they heard a slap and then a baby's cry.

Pat grinned at Toby, "You a Papa now, Toby!" The young man didn't know what to do, scream with joy or cry in fear, so he did both!

Gloria Dingle brought out Toby's new baby son for a first visit. The baby had flame red hair, just like his daddy and cooed as his daddy held him for the first time.

Toby proudly said, "We decided that if it was a boy, we would name him Toby John Bennett. The young couple had no problem finding babysitters, all the boys that had been on the scavenging trip considered themselves Toby John's Uncles!

A few days later, Toby was helping move the building materials and he mentioned to Pat, "You know that town were filled with a Biker Gang? We had to hide out from them, they looked like a bad bunch."

Pat got up immediately and went out on the porch and started beating on the old iron triangle that hung there for emergencies. When everyone came running, he started to assign security teams and guard watches. Within the hour, there were horse mounted security patrols on duty guarding the ranch 24 hours a day. He later told Toby that there few things he disliked more than bikers.

The security teams had been in place less than a week when the bikers decided to test the defenses at Willow Springs Ranch, had they been observant, they might have seen Chester Bonham sitting on his horse at the top of the hill above them.

As it was Chester counted them and called in the alarm on his radio, "O'Brian, Chester B, over".

Cal had the duty that night, be replied, "Chester B, O'Brian, go."

"O'Brian, Chester B. There are about 15 bikers headed your way on the ranch road. They are crossing Mike's Hill right now. Over."

Cal replied, "Chester B, O'Brian ok, we will take care of them, watch for any more. O'Brian Out."

"Chester B out."

Cal rousted out that day's duty squad and they raced down the road to where it came through the cut in Turkey Knob. There they laid in wait for the bikers to come through the cut, when they did, twenty 12ga. Shotguns cut loose. No biker escaped unscathed , and all the motorcycles were damaged beyond use. Four bikers died on the spot and the rest were chased all the way back to the highway, not all of whom would survive the night.

Those bikers that survived swore vengeance on the ranch folk.

The next morning, the folk at the ranch buried the dead bikers all in one hole and dumped their wrecked motorcycles in the scrap metal pile behind the equipment maintenance shop.

The boys whooped and hollered about the Battle of Turkey Knob, but the adults knew the matter was far from over.

Winter closed in, typical of high desert weather, bitter cold, snow and sleet, and lots of wind. Despite the bitter weather, each week brought one or two refugees to their door.

They were beginning to hear of gangs, some biker and some just outright criminals, preying on people just trying to survive. Pat and his brothers were disturbed when they started getting reports of Spanish speaking gangs robbing and murdering people.

One survivor reported that he saw some gang members that were heavily tattooed with strange symbols and animals. To Pat and his brothers, that spoke of the drug cartels.

Their more immediate problem was the biker gang, they were pretty sure the bikers were living in the abandoned houses in the County Seat and that was also their main source of materials needed to keep the ranch going. Each time they went there, they were heavily armed and didn't hesitate to shoot.

Tim got the idea of taking some quarter stick dynamite with them, they could always drop a lighted stick on the pavement if they were being chased by the bikers.

The weather cleared in early February, they knew it was only temporary, but they decided to take advantage of the good weather and collect some needed materials for the new building.

They gathered the vehicles and enough armed guards to protect them before heading to the small town.

They shot a couple of the gang's bikes out from under them with shotguns, they hoped that would discourage the rest of them.

They started scavenging anything that looked like it might be useful, they found an old steam boiler and engine set up as an exhibit in the museum that looked like it might still run, so they loaded that on the trailer, along with building materials and hand tools.

Over at the school, they found text books and a whole store room of writing paper, pencils and crayons. All that went onto the trucks. Several houses yielded clothing and bedding as well as toiletries, and first aid supplies.

They even pulled up the carpets from the floors and loaded them on the trucks. Almost as an afterthought, they removed doors and windows from the abandoned houses and stacked them on the trucks.

By late afternoon, they had all that they could carry, so they tied down the loads and began the slow trek back to the ranch. All the trucks were overloaded, so they had to travel slow.

As they neared the turn off to the ranch, they were met by a cluster of armed bikers bent on a showdown.

As the trucks neared the leading edge of the bikers, the older boys lit the fuses on the quarter stick dynamite sticks and hurled them at the bikers and their motorcycles like grenades . Bikers and their bikes went flying into the air.

As soon as an opening was made in the mass of bikers and motorcycles, the trucks pushed their way through and headed for the ranch. Every time the biker chasing them came close enough, lighted dynamite sticks were dropped in the roadway destroying motorcycles and bikers. They left a path of destruction behind them, it would take them days of hard work to clear the road of bodies and ruined motorcycles.

They knew that the bikers would declare war on then now.

The entire group met and they decided to form a small security group that would provide lookouts and security guards on an around the clock basis. They voted for Nathan Jenkins and the new father, Toby Bennett to head up the security force. It was decided to make it like a military organization and Nathan was elected Captain and Toby was elected First Lieutenant.

The two carefully selected their troops, they ended up with three squads of seven soldiers each. Each squad elected their own Sergeant and Corporal and they built a small fort at the gap on Turkey Knob. That way, they could control the entrance to the ranch and also look down to see everything that was happening in and around Willow Springs Ranch.

All the troopers were good horsemen and within days, the unfinished fort was manned and there were mounted patrols riding the area, all armed to the teeth!

They had just enough radios to give the patrol leader one and the fort sentry one. That was something they were going to have to look for the next time they went scavenging.

Each morning, they found fresh tire tracks on the ranch road, they knew the bikers were observing them. Turkey Knob made a perfect place for the Fort, there was a deep ravine with a drop off of several hundred feet on one side and jumbled rocks and boulders on the other side that extended for at least ten miles and ended at the edge of a mesa that rose two thousand feet into the sky.

It was a perfect throttle point. It bothered some of the boys that they might have to kill someone, Toby brought his young son out to Fort Turkey Knob one day and set his basket on the dirt of the road. He gathered all three squads and pointed to his baby sitting in his basket, "We have to make choices in life, one of those choices might be Toby John or a biker. Decide NOW, because I will kill anybody who even LOOKS like he is going to hurt my son! We are at war, who is going to win, us or the bikers?" He looked at all the troopers and then added, "It is us or them and, before God, I tell you, I vote for them!"

Without exception, all the troopers hollered and yelled in support of Toby! No one was surprised that in the years that followed, Little Toby John was the Fort's Mascot, he grew up with so many Uncles, he never lacked for a friend or a playmate, nor was he the last baby to be born at Willow Springs Ranch.

The skirmishes continued between the Ranch Troopers and the bikers. The Troopers were better armed and more disciplined, the bikers were given to mad assaults and suicide runs. They couldn't last, they were running out of fuel for their motorcycles and their ammunition was scarce.

The Bikers were not aware of the large underground tanks of gasoline and diesel that the county had put in a few years before the collapse. The attacks tapered off and finally stopped.

The Troopers did not disband, there was a new threat beginning to show on the horizon, Mexican Bandits. From their tattoos, the Ranch Folk surmised they were either aligned with the drug cartels or that is what the cartels had become.

In any case, they were a fearsome opponent, their objective was smash and destroy, then take captive all the survivors. Several small ranches to the south had been hit, there were few survivors to arrive asking shelter at Willow Springs Ranch. Those that did survive, told incredible stories of the attacks and bandits themselves.

Captain Nathan asked permission to add another squad of Troopers to his command and one more officer. It was decided to promote Nathan to Major and Toby to Captain. Bart Reynolds had been a Corporal in the National Guard, so he was elected as First Lieutenant.

They now had four squads of seven Troopers and they modified the squads so that there were a Sergeant and a Corporal, plus the seven Troopers for each squad.

They felt the hardship of having to release that many to the Security Force, all hands were needed to grow the food and maintain the buildings and equipment that they all depended upon.

Nobody complained, however, they had all seen the ferocity in which they were attacked by the bikers and the stories their neighbors were telling of the Mexican gangs were even more chilling.

Chapter 4 – SUMMER CROPS

They brought out the two teams of Percherons and hitched them to the discs in order to prepare the fields for planting. The horses had been kept for parades and the county fair, but the huge animals were perfect to pull the plow and harrow.

The bottom land along Duck Creek was fertile and flat, ideal for planting the row crops that would feed them through the next year.

Many of the teens had never seen such huge animals and they were fascinated by them, two boys in particular, Jimmie Tellis and Paul Braydon. Cal was driving the harrow, following Tim and his disc. He waved the boys over and offered them the reins, at first they were as nervous as a cat at a dog fight, but they soon settled down and harrowed the ploughed field in perfectly straight lines.

When Tim made his turn, he offered the reigns to Paul and the two youngsters found themselves as the official Willow Springs Ranch Plowing Crew!

The warm sun and rich soil worked its magic on the seeds, within days, squash, beans and corn were sprouting in the plowed ground.

The two teens swaggered a bit, proud of their contribution. By preparing the ground along Duck Creek, they had nearly 200 acres in row crops.

The root cellar and the canning storeroom started to fill by mid-summer. It was a daily chore to pick squash, beans and tomatoes before it got too hot.

Maria had cheese starter that originated from her own Grandmother's time and she made Mexican white cheese that she used in preparing the vegetables for the table.

Youngsters that would have turned their noses up at squash, gobbled it down when it was covered by Maria's thick gooey melted cheese!

Refugees continued to dribble in, they had little trouble with the few remaining bikers, they made it a point to stay clear of those from Willow Springs.

They had built a stone building between the main house and the bunkhouses, and it was fast filling up. Pat counted noses, they had 180 people living at the ranch, they were going to need every bit of food they could raise to feed everyone.

The cattle herd supplied much of their meat, occasionally some boys would go hunting and bring home a deer to supplement the diet of beef.

They tried eating a javelina and ended up burying the meat out on the desert, they might look like a pig, but pork it was not! Even the dogs refused to eat it!

Towards the end of the summer, it was decided to make another scavenging run to town, they were going to need canning jars and sacking to store the bumper yields from the garden.

They loaded up the trucks and the trailer and twenty teens with rifles and shotguns for protection. The town seemed deserted when they arrived and they set about collecting the things they needed.

The Feed & Fuel had sacking, pack rats had gotten into them, so they spent some time sorting out the ones that had been chewed.

Canning jars were a problem, they had to explore many abandoned homes before they had collected enough jars for their needs.

The Feed & Fuel yielded a number of cases of lids and sealing wax. They discovered a large amount of seeds they had missed earlier and the hardware store had rolls of electric wire and cases of lightbulbs.

After they had the vehicles fully loaded, Tim checked the County Corporation Yard and found the two underground fuel tanks still full and sealed, they piled trash and metal junk over caps to hide them before collecting furniture and carpeting from the nearby houses.

They did not see any recent signs of the bikers and were about to leave for home when they spotted a wisp of smoke coming from a chimney of a house.

Tim and Cal walked over to the house and called out, "Is anyone there, are you alright?"

A teen voice replied, "You not gonna hurt us are you?"

Tim waved Cal to come right away and then he replied, "No, we won't hurt you, but you can come to our ranch with us, we have lots of other kids living with us."

A red headed boy, about 16 years old stuck his head out the door, "I have my two brothers and baby sister here with me."

By that time, Cal had joined Tim and they both went up to the door, the boy opened it wider and they saw behind him two smaller boys, one was holding a baby in his arms.

The older brother said, "I am Dick Williams and this is Tad and Toby. Our baby sister is Angel, our Mamma and Poppa died and I have been trying to keep them safe."

At that, the boy collapsed into Tim's arms crying in both fear and relief. Tim comforted the boy and held him until his sobs ceased. They told the children about the Ranch and offered to take them as they returned home. The three boys agreed immediately and they ran back into the house to collect a few treasures, like their parents' pictures and the baby's blanket.

By the time the convoy turned into the ranch road, the three boys had made friends with the older boys and for the first time in months, they felt safe and protected.

Maria took charge of the baby, there were two other babies in the house and she put them all in a crib. It just a few minutes, all three were sleeping peacefully.

At lunch time, Toby looked in on his son and saw him peacefully curled up with two baby girls, one either side, he couldn't help but giggle, "Junior, you got you a harem already!"

They unloaded the trailers of their scavenged treasures and began immediately in laying the foundations for yet another addition to the main house. It would be a two story stone building with a main room downstairs and bedrooms upstairs.

They had already cut sycamore logs for the beams and they had discovered a stack of 2" plywood that would serve as flooring for the second story.

The weather remained good well into the autumn and they harvested large quantities of beans and corn. The squashes they stored in the cool root cellar and Maria canned the tomatoes for later use. The cucumbers would not keep, they made pickles out of as many as they had cider vinegar for and the rest had to be mulched back into the soil. A few they dried to extract the seeds for the next year.

Even though they had not encountered any of the bikers in town, they knew the Mexican gangs were roving around, so the kept their vigilance up and Fort Turkey Knob manned at all times.

As fall was closing in on them, a visitor arrived at the Fort. A tall and impressive young Indian man on a horse stopped at the sentry post and in perfect English he said, "I am Tonho, I must speak with Mr. Patrick O'Brian, it is urgent and very important."

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