By Cindy and Walt
I drove to Mossberg to talk to Bart. He was the closest thing I had to a best friend. I found my Mossberg key ring right where I left it. Once inside my condo, I found everything there dusty and damp but undisturbed by human hands.
I walked down to the cafe before settling in for some deep thinking.
Boxer: My god look what the cats dragged in, a stray dog.
Me: Nice of you to make me feel welcome after all these months.
I recognized most of the lunch crowd. At least I had a nodding acquaintance with them all.
Me: What’s the Lunch Lady Special today?
Boxer: Fish with Mac and Cheese.
He shouted from the grill room. It might have been a kitchen in any other cafe. But in the downtown Cafe, it was the grill room.
Waitress: Why don’t you let me tell her. You supposed to be the cook, and I’m supposed to deal with the customer.
Boxer: You might be my daughter, but don’t give me no attitude in my Cafe.
Me: While you two have a family moment, you think you could dish up the Lunch Lady Special for me.
Waitress: Sure Miss Iris… Daddy, fix her a special…. You want tea with that?”
Me: Of course. I don’t see Miss Sadie is she okay?
Boxer: She is feeling poorly these days, but she does come in now and then. Mostly on Friday when that lady who cleans her house can drive her over.
Me: Shit I really hate to hear that.
Waitress: We all do. Miss Sadie is like family.
Me: Yeah she is.
After that the food came out of the window in the wall. The fish sticks were catfish fillets and the Mac and Cheese was a three cheese casserole baked in the pizza oven the Boxer bought in New Iberia years before. It was all delicious especially the cornbread sticks.
Me: As always it was delicious. (I raised my voice so that it carried into the grill area.)
Waitress as I paid: That fancy lawyer is back in town. Thought you might want to know if you didn’t already.
Me: Damn I’ll have to keep my clothes on when I knock on Bart’s Door. (Several people giggled.)
It was mid afternoon when I walked from my place to the factory across the street. I found Bart running the blending machine. It was a much newer and larger one than I remembered.
Me: Hey old man.
Bart rushed to hug me then said: Damn it’s good to see you.
Me: It’s good to see you as well.
I backed off after the hug and took a good look around. I saw a couple of young people busy doing shit around the place.
Me: Do you have all Miss Sadie’s grand kids working now.
Bart: Hell no, she must have fifty. I only have one full time and one after school. Not high school the community college. She is majoring in dental hygiene.
Me: From herb tea to teeth cleaning. The job must be helpful in her school.
Bart: It buys gas for her car. (pause) What brings you back here? I figured you were going to stay lost this time.
Me: That was the plan but some people showed up from Directorate Eleven or something like that. They tried to recruit me.
Bart: You aren’t going to do it are you?
Me: That isn’t the point. The point is they found me. They have a super computer that they fed my background into and it analyzed everything that happened until they found a connection.
Bart: You always said that it is all connected. So they found one.
Me: You don’t get it. If they could do that, there is nothing they can’t do. Nothing is private any more. No one is safe.
Bart: Sure it is. You just have to find somewhere that is so backward there is no information dirt roads, let alone information super highways.
Me: That sounds so simplistic.
Bart: It is. It just has to be somewhere no one in their right mind wants to live. You always said you don’t need the money, so do it.
As usual Bart could cut right to the chase. I appreciated that about him. I gave it about a nanosecond’s thought.
Me: Well, I can survive in the swamp and in the mountains, but not off the land. It’s a hell of an idea and I am willing to give it a try. I need a place and some help learning how not to starve.
Bart: You also need to change your mind set. You can no longer be social, if you want to pull this off. You will need supplies but you don’t need to be friendly with the shop keeper. Walk in, get what you want and leave. Get a post office box and then order your shit by mail from an account that is in no way tied to home.
Me: Walmart cash credit card. I have done that a few times. I’m gonna need a four wheel drive to get to the drop box. I expect you are going to suggest someplace with poor roads.
Bart: Yeah but somewhere you don’t need no passport. Where you lived in the blue ridge mountains just won’t do it. You need Maine, Montana, Washington State, Oregon, or best of all Alaska.
Me: There are a lot of survival Alaska shows. Maybe that is where I should go.
Bart: You decide. I know a couple of guys who teach that survivalist shit. It’s one step up from the shit they did back in the old Church Camp days. They are running a survivalist school in the old Church Camp. It’s not the skill you need to get back to a pick up point in a week or two, it’s how to live the subsistence life style. In other words, live totally off the land or at least as close as possible to it. The price is five grand a month. You can stay for the whole three months then go for an advanced course of two more months. It’s up to you how long you stay.
Me: How do I sign up?
Bart: I will have to find out when the next class begins. You need to use the time at Camp to think about where you want to go. Also empty your bank account and turn it to gold or diamonds, maybe some silver since you can probably convert it easier.
Even Bart didn’t know about the batteries filled with gems and precious metals. There were five of them in the rear of the SUV at that time. There was still a huge amount of cash in the bank accounts. At that time I owned real estate in Mossberg and the Cord Bayou as well. In other words I could afford to disappear in style. Choosing to take on the natural world was nothing more than foolhardy. Yet it did sound like a challenge I wanted to accept.
Me: How do I get in touch with these guys?
Bart: You don’t. I’ll leave your background information and references in a dead drop. They will get in touch with you.
Me: Are you sure I want to get involved with something so paranoid.
Bart: The IRS has placed them on a terrorist training watch list. They don’t like people learning how not to pay taxes.
Me: What are these guy’s politics?
“Bart: I have no idea. Why don’t you ask them when you get there? I do know they are not connected to the American Nazi Party or any other hate group. Just a couple of guys trying to teach people how to survive.
Me: So what will I need to take to the Camp?
Bart: A complete survival setup. There will be lots of things to learn about subsistence living. That is a lot more complicated than just short term survival. Go to their website to learn what to take with you. The website isn’t for the school. It is just an information drop.
Me: Shit these guys are paranoid.
Bart: Maybe but there are some folk who would say you are. Also a little delusional for talking to a dead guy.
Me: It ain’t my fault. He is the one who starts it.
Bart looked at me as he always did. He just wasn’t sure that I wasn’t truly delusional. I left the factory for my condo. I spent the afternoon making calls and having the place put back in shape. Since the bank was also a bill payer account for the utilities the condo had been livable from the moment I walked into it.
I called Sterlin to see how Lady and Tramp had done in my absence.
Me: Sterlin it’s me how you doing?
Sterlin: Is it really you Rose?
Me: Yes it is. So how are you and Steve doing?
Sterlin: Steve got married to one of the twins. I’m living in your house and they live in the bunkhouse.
Me: That’s nice. Are you still seeing the other twin?
Sterlin: Now and then we go out but nothing serious.
Me: Okay so how about Lady and Tramp?
Sterlin: I hope you ain’t gonna be pissed. A local family heard about them. I’m not sure how they knew the story, but they wanted to adopt them. They were pretty miserable after you left.
Me: I know I’m a real bitch. So have you checked out the family?
Sterlin: Yes Rose, they got about a dozen kids and a big ole farm. I swear I make a check once a month to be sure they are okay.
Me: Since I’m just passing through, I won’t disturb them. I do miss them more than anything else from my time here. We did a good thing didn’t we?
Sterlin: We did a real good thing. I have not missed one moment’s sleep worrying about dog man.
Me: That’s good to know, because I haven’t either. I was beginning to wonder if I should.
Sterlin after a short pause: How long you in town for?
Me: I’m not sure yet but I’m passing through for now. Tell you what if I’m here through the weekend maybe we can go to dinner. I’ll give you a call.
Sterlin: Good I know Steve and his wife would love to see you.
I spent the evening reading about different wild places in the USA. I did not want to get lost in some third world country or worse yet some island paradise. I had learned my lesson about islands and jungles. I didn’t like the cold, but I liked the jungle a hell of a lot less.
I couldn’t go look at it, but I found the property I wanted. I bought it in the Rose Seabold identity. It was a pure gamble, since I knew nothing about the area or the land. I bought it because I could get a large tract of undeveloped land for one hundred thousand dollars. I managed to purchase one hundred and five acres adjacent to a managed national forest.
According to the brochure’s pictures there was a logging road into the interior of the property. The site had been logged twenty plus years before. It had not been clear cut nor had it been replanted. The fact that there were very few trees to be harvested gave it its bargain price.
There were scrub plants, thick bushes, a fair number of volunteer trees mixed with the sprinkling of hardwoods left uncut. It should be a good piece of land to live upon. Of course it would take a lot of equipment to live off the land. Which was cause for another humorous reminder that it cost a lot, to not spend a lot.
There was no cabin or hut on the land. It was going to be a problem because I was determined to live there right away. So it was going to require some hard work and ingenuity. Fortunately I had the money to spend. My accountant could arrange for the catfish farm to buy the property as a research station. It would be done through some kind of shell company. It would all be a tax write off in the end, but it would be legal I knew. I didn’t care but the accountant had a vested interest since his fee was based on the amount of money he managed.
I went to sleep thinking about the land. I made my decision before I dropped off. I worked on the purchase all week. I was on the phone with a Realtor right up to the time the kids, the twins, Bart, Rita and I met for dinner that Saturday night at the steak barn in Williamston.
We had a good talk and I discovered how well the two young men were doing. Sterlin spent so much time with the dogs that Steve’s wife was pressed into service as another set of hands. Sterlin still helped with the heavy work, but he was spending more and more time with the expanded rescue he ran. I was proud of them both.
Monday I went back to work on the land acquisition. I was amazed how fast things could be done, if you had good people working on it. By the time the survival school started two weeks later, I almost owned the place. Rita was working on the details when I left for Church Camp again.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that Killer was one of the owners. The other was a woman of all things. When my intake interview started, I studied the two of them while they studied me.
Me: So Killer are you two married or anything.
Mica: We are something.
I hadn’t asked her but it was okay that she answered. She was just protecting her turf. She was a fairly attractive woman in that leathery outdoors way.
Killer: Here is a list of things you might want to buy when we go into town. There are some things you are going to need for the school. Others are for your own survival after the school. You may or may not want to purchase more but these are pretty much essential. There are not many comfort items on the list.
The list was pretty comprehensive and I decided to take it as I needed it for the time being. I hadn’t spent much time thinking about shelter on the homestead, but I would have to start soon. Summer was fast approaching again and with it the season to build and prepare for the winter.
There were ten students in the spring term of Killer’s survival school at Church Camp. For the most part they were dropouts, who somehow got the twenty-five grand together for the tuition. I was the only woman. That night after the intake interview, I slept in a cabin with four men. Since we were all keyed up about our arrival there was no thought of sex. Later I knew we would be too cold and miserable to think of sex.
The gear was all loaner gear from the school’s supplies. From having been at the school previously, I expected it had belonged to Swamp Dog at one time. There were five packs empty and sitting at the door. I wondered about the packs and cardboard boxes stacked near them.
I wondered until Mica came in. I decided she was a bit younger than me but not a teenager or a twenty something either. She was close to my thirty six years. She was dressed like a soldier in her fatigues. Since it hadn’t turned spring yet, her fatigues were gray and dark brown camo.
Mica: In those boxes you will find five of everything. You will choose a pack and fill it with the items you wish take for up to three days in the woods. You are to leave all electronic devices in the plastic bags with your name on them. So load up everything you need, but be sure you can pack it on your back, or carry it in your hands. When you finish packing get a good night’s sleep. We leave in the mornings at 5 AM.
I had no idea what the others knew, but I knew the pack exercise was our first test. I found the flat pancake style water bottles and took two of them. I put them aside so that once the pack was loaded I could hang them on the outside.
I opened a box of .22 long rifle ammunition and put ten rounds in my pocket and packed another twenty. I left the remainder in the box. I chose the smaller of the skinning knives and put asides as well. I skipped all the canned food, choosing instead peanut butter packed in plastic squeeze bags. I did pack a half dozen very hard biscuit like things. For quick energy I went with squeeze tubes of Jelly. I had the most basic of food items, when I added one pound each of dried beans and rice. I was reminded of my diet from the Alaska survival show. With that show in mind, I also added several packets of salt and pepper in the restaurant style take out packages.
I also packed a hand ax, a fishing kit in a tiny plastic box, a sewing kit, a spool of cotton line, and a roll of picture frame wire.
I bypassed the fancy tent for a couple of lightweight plastic tarps. I also chose the Microfiber and Dacron insulated sleeping bag. I found the fire starter kit and removed the flint from it. The small squeeze tube of Vaseline went into the pack as well, along with the flint and a few of cotton balls. Those I repacked in one of the many empty plastic bags Killer had provided.
The remainder of the pack I filled with light weight clothes and a plastic poncho.
One of my cabin mates to the other men: You can always tell a woman. She’s the one worried about how she looks.
I was about to reply but one of the others said: You better watch her. You just might learn something. (he did not explain the remark)
The man who had come to my defense was about five nine or so with a red beard. He was small but he was very self assured.
Miles: My name is Miles.
Me: Rose (I said it extending my hand.)
Miles: If they allow teams, you and I could cut our pack weights significantly.
Me: Okay if they allow teams we will combine our gear. (I said it looking at the others. I hadn’t watched Miles pack his bag so I had no idea how much crap he packed. Still I might be able to give him some of my crap if it came down to that.
I checked the .22 rifles the camp owned and found that I liked it better than the ones I had brought. I liked my magnum better, since it would bring down a wolf or coyote or other small predators. However for small game like squirrels and rabbits you couldn’t beat the smaller round. A running rabbit would definitely be easier with a shotgun, but the .22 was a good stew pot choice.
What made that single shot rifle better was the very light weight frame. What should have been wood was some composite material. The barrel was also some kind of composite with a steel liner. It was a backpacker’s dream. Of course I had nothing to protect me from a bear. I did have a plan though. I turned in early but didn’t sleep well.
Killer: Good morning folks. We are going to have a little competition this morning. There is a lake thirty miles from here. There are some pretty good trails some of the way, and no trails at all some of the way. You want to pair off and pick up your map and compass. Use the buddy system, do not go it alone.
Mica: We will be waiting for you at the lake with a hot meal in exactly 48 hours. How warm the food is will depend on how fast you make the rendezvous. If you get lost fire two shots into the air wait a minute then fire one more. Do that every fifteen minutes till we will come get you. When you are ready you can leave.
Me: Can we leave some of our gear with you now that we know what today’s challenge is.
Killer: No you packed it, you carry it.
I could tell he didn’t intend to cut me any slack. Some of the bigger guys were carrying some stuffed packs. Mine wasn’t even full enough to have a shape. It was more a russet sack than a backpack.
Miles and I started out moving up a trail traveled by just about everyone. After about a mile the trail forked. Both forks would get one to the rendezvous point. One just appeared to meander a bit. That usually meant it was the less challenging of the two.
Me: You up for the more direct route or do you need to take it easy?
Miles: The fastest way is the best way for me. Are you good with that?
Me: I’m sure I will slow you down some, but I’ll try to keep up.
We turned to the trail on the right and began to hike it. We walked up hill for about three hours then took a water break. I needed that break badly. Miles looked a hell of a lot better than I felt.
The break was ten minutes then we were back up and walking. I managed half of a hard biscuit and a package of peanut butter and one of jelly packs before we were back hiking. I wasn’t sure if that would count as breakfast or lunch but it was what I had.
Me: (in a whisper) Miles, squirrel.
He stopped dead in his tracks while I took careful aim at the squirrel sitting still in a tree hoping we wouldn’t see him. I took a deep breath then squeezed the trigger. It turned out, for a sharp and shiny kind of girl, I was still a pretty good shot. The squirrel fell out of the trees like a rock.
It took both of us to skin him, but I could finish the field dressing alone. We went right back to the hiking. We lost only ten minutes on the hunt for protein. Since I hit the squirrel in one shot we didn’t have to worry about it being mistaken for an emergency call for help.
We took our next break at noon and it was a half hour break. I really did not want to resume hiking up and down the mountains after lunch. After checking the map we decided to abandon the trail we were on for a more direct route to the assembly point. We could cut off some time for sure.