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Note: This article was written in 1989 for the American Survival Guide. Much has changed since then. Some of the information maybe be useful in thinking and planning for different SHTF scenarios, remember this is the authors particular perspective, not my own
There's a lot of confusion about what survival means. To some, it's getting through the aftermath of an airplane wreck in a desolate area. It can mean knowing when to avoid walking in radioactive wastes. Or, it can mean knowing how to barter with troops in the aftermath of riots, war, and looting. To others, survival has to do with avoiding danger and knowing how to deal with it when it breaks into your home in the dead of night.
Survival ideas abound and there are as many definitions and strategies as there are survivalists. Some have good ideas for survival and some have unsound tactics. Bad ideas can mean extra work or trouble in everyday life; bad ideas during a survival situation get you killed. On the job training doesn't work when you're dealing with poison and gunfights. Or survival.
One of the most dangerous ideas as far as I'm concerned is that of "backpack survival."
A "backpack survivalist" is a survivalist that plans on leaving his home ahead of a disaster and taking to the woods with only what he can carry out with him. He plans to survive through a strategy that is a sort of cross between the Boy Scout in the woods and Robinson Crusoe. The backpack survivalist plans on outrunning danger with a four wheel drive or a motorcycle and hopes to travel light with a survival kit of everything he might need to cope with the unexpected. He hasn't cached anything in the area he's headed for because, chances are, he doesn't know where he's headed. Somehow, he hopes to overcome all odds with a minimum of supplies and a maximum of smarts. Certainly it is a noble cause; but it seems like one destined to failure. And that's not survival.
(Let's back up a minute. Backpack fever or bugoutosis does makes sense when you're facing a localized disaster like a derailed train with overturned poisonous gas cars. A a potential nuclear meltdown, an impending hurricane, or similar disasters where there is a safe place to run to. During such a time, it makes perfect sense to retreat and come back when things settle down. Likewise, some people have to work in dangerous areas. For them, donning a backpack and heading for a retreat that they've prepared before hand is a viable survival strategy. These people aren't backpack survivalists.)
Let me make a confession. Yes, I once was a closet backpack survivalist. I had an ALICE pack and had it packed with all I could carry. As I learned more about how to survive, I realized I needed to carry more. Soon I discovered that, just for my family to survive for a very few days, I'd need a pack mule and/or a hernia operation... Something was very wrong.
Probably most survivalists start out the same way. Things are bad so let's bug out. Backpack survivalism is an effort to deal with the possibility of a major disaster. As backpack survivalists, we make elaborate plans centered around the idea of "bugging out" of the area we live in. We hope to travel to an area that is safer than the one we're in and plan on living off the land or on some survival supplies we've hidden in the area. On the home front, we carefully prepare a stock of supplies that we can quickly cart off in a car or van when things start to look bad.
As more and more plans are made and as ever more survival gear is purchased, the survivalist realizes just how much he needs to cope with in order to survive. If he is any sort of realist, he soon amasses enough gear to warrant a truck or more likely a moving van just for carrying the survival equipment. (And don't laugh, there are survivalists who have large trucks for just such use.)
Some brave souls continue to make more elaborate plans and some of these survivalists may be able to pull off their plans. Those who have really thought things out and have spared no expenses may manage to survive with a bugout strategy. But I think there are more logical and less expensive ways to survive a large crisis.
Forget all your preconceived notions for a minute.
Imagine that there is a national emergency and you are an outside observer? What happens if a nuclear attack is eminent, an economic collapse has occurred, or a dictator has taken over and is ready to round up all malcontents (with survivalists at the top of the list)?
Situations change with time. The survivalist movement and backpack fever first started up when gas guzzler cars were about all that anyone drove. That meant that a survivalist with some spare gasoline could outdistance his unprepared peers and get to a retreat that was far from the maddening crowd, as it were. (Read some of Mel Tappan's early writing on survival retreats. His ideas are good but many have been undone with the new, fuel efficient cars.)
With cars getting 30 or even 40 miles per gallon, it isn't rare for a car to be able to travel half way across a state on less than a tank of gasoline. The exodus from cities or trouble spots will be more limited by traffic snarls than lack of gasoline even if the gas stations are completely devoid of their liquid fuel.
Too, there are a lot of people thinking about what to do if the time for fleeing comes. A lot of people will be headed for the same spots. (Don't laugh that off, either. In my area, every eighth person has confided his secret retreat spot to me. And about half of them are all headed for the same spot: an old missile silo devoid of water and food. I suspect that the battle at the gates of the old missile base will rival the Little Big Horn.)
No matter how out of the way their destination, most survivalists are kidding themselves if they think others won't be headed for their hideaway spot along with them. There are few places in the US which aren't accessible to anyone with a little driving skill and a good map.
Too, there are few places which aren't in grave danger during a nuclear war or national social unrest.
Though most nuclear war survival books can give you a nice little map showing likely targets, they don't tell you some essential information. Like what the purpose of the attack will be. The enemy may not be aiming for military targets that day; a blackmail threat might begin by hitting the heart of the farmland or a number of cities before demanding the surrender of the country being attacked. The target areas on the maps might be quite safe.
And the maps show where the missiles land IF they all enjoy 100 percent accuracy and reliability. Anyone know of such conditions in war? With Soviet machinery!? Targets may be relatively safe places to be in.
Added to this is the fact that some areas can be heavily contaminated or completely free of contamination depending on the wind directions in the upper atmosphere. Crystal ball in your survival gear?
But let's ignore all the facts thus far for a few moments and assume that a backpack survivalist has found an ideal retreat and is planning to go there in the event of a national disaster... What next?
His first concern should be that he'll have a hard time taking the supplies he needs with him. A nuclear war might mean that it will be impossible to grow food for at least a year and foraging is out as well since animals and plants may be contaminated extensively.
An economic collapse wouldn't be much better. It might discourage the raising of crops; no money, no sales except for the barter to keep a small farm family going. With large corporations doing much of our farming these days, it is not unreasonable to expect a major famine coming on the heals of an economic collapse. Raising food would be a good way to attract starving looters from miles around.
Ever try to pack a year's supply of food for a family into a small van or car? There isn't much room left over. But the backpack survivalist needs more than just food.
If he lives in a cold climate (or thinks there might be something to the nuclear winter theory) then he'll need some heavy clothing.
Rifles, medicine, ammunition, tools, and other supplies will also increase what he'll need to be taking or which he'll have to hide away at his retreat site.
Shelter? Building a place to live (in any style other than early American caveman) takes time. If he builds a cabin beforehand, he may find it vandalized or occupied when he gets to his retreat; if he doesn't build it before hand, he may have to live in his vehicle or a primitive shelter of some sort.
Thus, a major problem is to get a large enough vehicle to carry everything he needs as well as to live in.
History has shown that cities empty themselves without official evacuation orders when things look bad. It happened in WW II and has even happened in the US during approaching hurricanes, large urban fires, and nuclear reactor problems.
So there's a major problem of timing which the backpack survivalist must contend with. He has to be packed and ready to go with all members of his family at the precise moment he learns of the disaster! The warning he gets that warrants evacuating an area will have to be acted on quickly if he's to get out ahead of the major traffic snarls that will quickly develop. A spouse at work or shopping or kids across town at school means he'll either have to leave them behind or be trapped in the area he's in. A choice not worth having to make.
Unless he's got a hot line from the White House, the backpack survivalist will not hear the bad news much ahead of everyone else. If he doesn't act immediately, he'll be trapped out on the road and get a first hand idea of what grid lock is like if he's in an urban area. Even out on the open road, far away from a city, an interstate can become hectic following a ballgame... Imagine what it would be like if everyone were driving for their lives, some cars were running out of fuel (and the occupants trying to stop someone for a ride), and the traffic laws were being totally ignored while the highway patrol tried to escape along with everyone else. Just trying to get off or on major highways might become impossible. If things bog down, how long can the backpack survivalist keep those around from helping to unload his truck load of supplies that they'll be in bad need of?
Telling them they should have prepared ahead of time won't get many sympathetic words.
Even on lightly traveled roadways, how safe would it be to drive around in a vehicle loaded with supplies? Our backpack survivalist will need to defend himself.
But let's suppose that he's thought all this out. He has a large van, had the supplies loaded in it, managed to round every member of his family up beforehand, somehow got out of his area ahead of the mob, is armed to the teeth, and doesn't need to take an interstate route.
When he reaches his destination, his troubles are far from over.
The gridlock and traffic snarls won't stop everyone. People will slowly be coming out of heavily populated areas and most of them will have few supplies. They will have weapons (guns are one of the first things people grab in a crisis according to civil defense studies) and the evacuees will be desperate. How many pitched battles will the survivalist's family be able to endure? How much work or even sleep can he get when he's constantly on the lookout to repel those who may be trying to get a share of his supplies?
This assumes that he gets to where he's going ahead of everyone else. He might not though. If he has to travel for long, he may discover squatters on his land or find that some local person has staked out his retreat area for their own. There won't be any law to help out; what happens next? Since (according to military strategists) our backpack survivalist needs about three times as many people to take an area as to defend it, he will need to have some numbers with him and expect to suffer some casualties. Does that sound like a good way to survive?
What about the local people that don't try to take over his retreat before he gets there? Will they be glad to see another stranger move into the area to tax their limited supplies? Or will they be setting up roadblocks to turn people like the backpack survivalist away?
But let's just imagine that somehow he's discovered a place that doesn't have a local population and where those fleeing cities aren't able to get to. What happens when he gets to his retreat? How good does he need to be at hunting and fishing? One reason mankind went into farming was that hunting and fishing don't supply enough food for a very large population nor do they work during times of drought or climatic disruption. What does he do when he runs out of ammunition or game? What happens if the streams become so contaminated that he can't safely eat what he catches? Can he stake out a large enough area to guarantee that he won't deplete it of game so that the next year is not barren of animals?
Farming? Unless he finds some unclaimed farm machinery and a handy storage tank of gasoline at his retreat, he'll hardly get off first base. Even primitive crop production requires a plow and work animals (or a lot of manpower) to pull the blade. No plow, no food for him or domestic animals.
And domestic animals don't grow on trees. Again, unless he just happens to find some cows waiting for him at his retreat, he'll be out of luck. (No one has packaged freeze dried cows or chickens at least, not in a form you can reconstitute into living things).
Intensive gardening? Maybe. But even that takes a lot of special tools, seeds, know how, and good weather. Can he carry what he needs and have all the skills that can be developed only through experience?
Even if he did, he might not have any food to eat. Pestilence goes hand in hand with disasters. Our modern age has forgotten this. But during a time when chemical factories aren't churning out the insecticides and pest poisons we've come to rely on, our backpack survivalist should be prepared for waves of insects flooding into any garden he may create. How good is he at making insecticides? Even if he carries out a large quantity of chemicals to his retreat, how many growing seasons will they last?
Did he truck out a lot of gasoline and an electrical generator with him? No? Do you REALLY think he can create an alcohol still from scratch in the middle of nowhere without tools or grain? Then he'd better write off communications, lighting, and all the niceties of the 20th Century after his year's supply of batteries wear out and his vehicle's supply of gasoline conks out.
I'm afraid we've only scratched the surface though. Thus far things have been going pretty well. What happens when things get really bad? How good is he at removing his spouse's appendix without electric lights, pain killers, or antiseptic conditions? Campfire dental work, anyone?
How good is he at making ammunition? Clothing? Shoes?
I think you'll have to agree that this hardly seems like survival in style. Even if our backpack survivalist is able to live in the most spartan of conditions and has the know how to create plenty out of the few scraps around him, he'll never have much of a life ahead of him.
Camping out is fun for a few days. Living in rags like a hunted animal doesn't sound like an existence to be aimed for.
The bottom line with backpack fever is that, with any major disaster that isn't extremely localized, running is a panic reaction not a survival strategy. Running scared is seldom a good survival technique and backpack fever during any but a localized disaster (like a flood or chemical spill) looks like it would be a terminal disease with few, rare exceptions.
So what's the alternative?
A number of writers, from Kurt Saxon to Howard Ruff, have already suggested it but I think that it bears a retelling.
What they've said is this: get yourself situated in a small community that could get by without outside help if things came unglued nationally or internationally. Find a spot that allows you to live in the life style you've grown accustomed to (and a community that allows you to carry on your livelihood) but which has the ability to grow its own food and protect its people from the unprepared (or looters) that might drift in from surrounding cities during a crisis. This spot has the ability to carry on trade within its borders and has a number of people who can supply specialized products or professional skills.
An area with two thousand to five thousand people in it along with a surrounding farm community would be ideal but sizes can vary a lot according to the climate and city. Ideally such a town would have its own power plant with a few small industries along with the usual smattering of doctors, dentists, and other professionals.
This type of community isn't rare in the US. It's quite common in almost every state. You could probably even take a little risk and commute into a city if you must keep your current job. (In such a case a reverse backpack survival strategy just might work, you'd be bugging out to your home.)
Western civilization stepped out of the dark ages when small communities started allowing people to specialize in various jobs. Rather than each many being his own artisan, farmer, doctor, carpenter, etc., men started learning to master one job they enjoyed doing. Each man become more efficient at doing a job and through the magic of capitalism western culture finally started upward again.
A small modern community like the one suggested above, when faced with a national economic collapse or the aftermath of a nuclear war, would eventually lift itself up the same way. It would give those who lived in it the same chance for specialization of work and the ability to carry on mutual trade, support, and protection. Such small communities will be the few light spots in a Neo Dark Age.
Which place would you rather be: in a cave, wondering where the food for tomorrow would come from, or with a group of people living in their homes, working together to overcome their problems? Even the most individualistic of survivalists shouldn't find the choice too hard to make.
Ever since I'd first brought up the subject of survival, my father had scornfully rejected anything I had to say. He was one of those with the "it can't happen and it won't happen here" attitude. He reminded me of the brass in the US high command prior to Pearl Harbor, December 7th, 1941.
That evening, as I sat reading my latest issue of "The Survivor" in my room, my younger brother Jeff, who is a carbon copy of the old man, stuck his head through the door. "Whatcha doin'?" he demanded.
"Get out Himmler." I barked.
He stuck out his tongue at me. "Don't have to."
Laying aside the paper, I got up and went for him. Turning, he fled for the stairs. Closing the door, I locked it and then sat back down and resumed reading.
Presently, I heard heavy footsteps on the stairs, and my father's voice demanded, "Are you reading that idiotic paper again? Cluttering up your mind with that survival rubbish?"
I didn't reply.
"Answer me!" he demanded.
"Open that door this instant!" came a second demand.
Again I paid no attention.
Muttering about "worthless whelps" and other things, he stomped away and went back downstairs. He, the runt, and my mother would all agree how impudent, disrespectful and no good I was and how I ought to be punished.
But, by maintaining as low a profile as possible, I could get by without too much trouble.
Sighing, I finished reading the copy of "The Survivor" and laid it aside with the others I kept. My parents couldn't invade my room because I kept it locked all the time. Besides "The Survivor" copies my father would love to burn, there were other books and equipment he'd enjoy disposing of.
But unless they wanted to break the door down or send for a locksmith, two expensive propositions, they couldn't get in. And my gear stayed secure.
When I first read "The Survivor" and other like papers and magazines, I was smart enough to realize they were telling the truth--my father's opinions notwithstanding.
So, since it wasn't possible to persuade him or anyone else--Mom or the brat, I decided to concentrate on saving my own hide when and if the crunch came.
Stowing the latest issue of "The Survivor", I was about to begin reading a sci-fi novel when the lights went out. I swore, then got up and broke out my calcium carbide lamp. This had happened before, my father cutting out power to my room at the breaker box to demonstrate his authority or show off his machismo or something--to strike back at me.
The carbide lamp hissed and burned, casting a soft white light that burned away the darkness, and let me read. A knock came at the door, and I called,
"Who is it?".
"Can I borrow a flashlight?" asked Jeff.
"Bug the old man to put the circuit breakers back in." I replied. "Then you'll have plenty."
"The power's out all over town--even the streetlights!"
My first impulse was distrust. I trust my father and brother to knife me in the back whenever they can, so I looked out the window, and sure enough, the power was off!
Finding my AM-FM portable radio, I switched it on and listened. The local station was off the air as well! For the first time, unease began to gnaw at me. Digging out my CB walkietalkie, I switched it on and began to call, "This is KLZA 1508 to anyone with their ears on. Come in please, over."
I was transmitting on channel 11, the "monitoring" channel that almost everyone listens to. Within minutes, I had a reply. "KLZA 1508 this is KNH 1234, alias Coconut Pete, I copy you."
"What's the problem? The lights are off everywhere."
"That's a big 10-4, by golly. The radio station's off the air, too. It must be serious."
"10-4" I agreed. "I'm gonna monitor 9 (the distress channel). KLZA 1508 clear and on the side."
Switching to Channel 9, I heard a jumble of transmissions.
"This is Unit #8. I've just arrived at the light plant--man, it looks like somebody dropped a bomb--everything's down or really blown up! Better call out the Emergency Corps and the Sheriff's Posse."
"Negatory--there isn't enough left to burn!"
Keying my transmit switch I cut in. "Breaker 9."
"This is KLZA 1508. Is that the Southland light plant east of town?"
"10-4. Are you official?"
"Negatory. Is the plant totally destroyed?"
"Looks like it--and clear this channel, motormouth!"
"Ten-four, hotrock," I replied and clicked to channel 11 again.
By now the wavelengths were getting crowded. The news the light plant had exploded and was totally destroyed was just starting to get around. Someone was yelling the Russians had bombed us, while someone else with a stronger transmitter was overriding him and claiming one of the huge boilers had blown. Each of those boilers was as big as a small building, and if one of them had blown, it would be as devastating as a bomb.
Besides M'town, the Southland plant supplied other areas with power. With the plant itself gone, it would be days, at least, before we'd have any power, let alone full service. And without electricity, a city is a dead hunk of iron, concrete, asphalt and plastic.
Flicking to channel 22, I began to transmit again.
"KLZA 1508 to KRAO 2345. Do you copy?"
The reply was almost instantaneous.
"10-4 KLZA 1508. We copy."
"Ol' buddy, the balloon just went up--Southland blew a boiler, and that pretty well leveled the whole joint. I'm beginning my Emergency Contingency Plan, and am activating Stage One. Do you copy?"
"Ten-four. Will meet you at the rendezvous site."
"Roger, KLZA 1508 clear and on the side."
Laying aside my walkietalkie, I dragged out the huge backpack and frame I'd had built for me by a tentmaker and welder. The frame measured 2 1/2 feet wide by 4 feet long. The great pack could take a lot, and it was possible to strap a dufflebag or two, along with a sleeping bag, tarp and groundcloth onto the frame itself. I'd designed it with that in mind. After clearing it from the closet, I began to pack, working as fast as I could, without making any mistakes. By the time I was finished, I had everything I'd need--from basic survival gear to books, magazines and newspapers and tools that would come in handy for long-term survival.
The fully loaded pack weighed almost half as much as I did, but I got it on at last. Then, picking up my shotgun and donning my hardhat with the calcium carbide lamp on it, I walked out my room's door after unlocking it, relocked it behind me, and headed for the stairs.
They had candles lit when I stepped into the living room, and Dad started when he saw me.
"What are you doing with all of that stuff?" he demanded.
"Leaving." I told him.
"Where?" he demanded.
"You wouldn't care," I told him.
"Are you going on that survival kick again? Do you think the
Crunch, as you call it, has arrived?"
"It'll do until one comes along." I told him.
"You stay right here--this won't last long--they'll have repairs completed by morning."
"No they won't--the whole plant is gone."
"Where'd you hear that? Over that stupid CB radio you play with?" he sneered. Ignoring him, I turned and opened the front door and walked out.
"Why was I given such a stupid son?" was the last thing I heard him say.
Walking down the totally darkened street, my carbide lamp lighting the way, I heard the sound of glass shattering and suddenly running men appeared in my light's beam. "Hey! There's one--get him!"
My shotgun leaped to my shoulder, finger squeezing the trigger. BOOM! the flash and roar were tremendous, and the charging figures vanished as if by magic--except for the one who lay sprawled on the street ten feet from me.
Walking hard, I reached the rendezvous point, grateful I'd spent $2 for that MASS info packet, that had put me in touch with an M'town sportsman's club that was also a survivalist association.
Presently, a station wagon towing a trailer came slowly idling up to the spot, and I walked up to it, halting when a flashlight squirted light into my face.
"Hi--ready to go?" asked a cheerful female voice.
"Ready," I murmured, shrugging off my pack and loading it in first, and then climbing into the crowded rear seat, holding my gun carefully.
The station wagon took off, cruising slowly. The woman at the wheel, and her three kids were quiet and alert, looking around.
"Where's Jack?" I asked.
"He's still at home--securing it."
"Good. My family'll still be there." I grimaced.
"My father called me stupid whenever I tried to warn him."
"Your family isn't coming?" she asked, and I nodded.
"The brat, my folks--they wouldn't believe me.
'It can't happen here.
' I'm the 'stupid son'."
"Stupid like a fox." she replied crisply.
Grinning, I relaxed. It was curious, but I found myself not caring too much what happened to them. I guess they'd killed any love I'd had for them over the years with their picking, belittling and nagging and bitching.
We left the city limits behind us, and drove down the asphalt. Reaching a gravel turnoff, we pursued that until it came to an intersection. Hanging a left, we drove along that road until we came to a small farmhouse and outbuildings. Several cars were parked there, and lights were on inside.
"Our wind generator gives us enough power for some light after dark," said Wanda, as she stopped the car. Helping her with their gear, we were soon inside with everything--kids, gear and us. Everyone else who belonged to the survival association was already there, save for Jack, but soon, he too arrived, and then the chairman began to call the roll.
Everyone was present, and after that was taken care of, the chairman asked for a report from each of us. When he got to me, I told of my conversations on, and monitoring of, the CB channels, and my encounter with the looter gang.
"The situation seems clear--if grim," the chairman stated boldly. "With power gone, the rest of the public utilities will go too--and in a few days, the city will be a pigpen. From what we know also, law and order are breaking down inside the city--the looter gang that one of us ran into was probably just one of many. So, we had best prepare for a long, long stay--perhaps as long as two months. In view of the fact that lawlessness is starting to appear, we shall mount guard in case nightriders come our way. Tomorrow, we'll decide what shall be done in the way of long-term preparations, but for now, we shall mount guard and turn in. I have a duty roster drawn up. As I call out your names, stand up and get ready.
I didn't draw guard duty that night. But the following morning I did wind up on wood-gathering detail. Armed with my machete, folding saw and hatchet. I ventured into the woodlands around the small farmsite, and with three other fellows proceeded to cut and gather up dead wood.
Upon returning with our sizable load, we then split up the bigger pieces, and then kept breaking up the smaller ones until all we had left were sticks about as big and long as corncobs and fingers. Small sticks burn better than big ones.
The Franklin stoves we had wouldn't be necessary yet--except for food preparation. The large garden out back would provide enough food to see us through the winter, if it came to that. All in all, we numbered some forty people--men, women and kids. It was a bit crowded, but we were glad for the company. We had well water, and for sanitation, a crude septic tank affair--that was hooked up to a methane gas generator. The methane gas was in turn piped to either storage tanks, or burned by the small light plant we had set up along with our wind charger.
A week went by, and we marked our first week with a celebration--we sang songs--played games and had a shooting contest with non-firearm weapons. I did so-so with my slingshot, but one guy with a longbow made everyone look sick--except for another guy with a crossbow, who made the longbowman look sick.
We monitored CB channels and listened to the local radio station, which was back on the air. For the first time we found out what had actually happened. A boiler had exploded at the Southland plant--due to a structural flaw that had passed unnoticed by all until heavy pressure had been built up in it. The plant had indeed been almost gutted by the blast, and the loss of life had been heavy. It was not yet known just when electrical power would be restored--although vital public utilities should be restored in another week or so--scant consolation for the thousands who hadn't prepared at all for the debacle.
And so we stayed out at the retreat, working, playing, taking turns tutoring the kiddies, and all in all, we had a decent time of it.
The second week went, and then the third. By then I was adjusting to the routine, and for the first time in my life, I was a contributing member of a community. I was respected, and people listened to me, and didn't call me a dummy either.
On the third day of the fourth week we were there, a Tuesday, one of the kids was fooling around with one of the radios, and suddenly the local station, which had been broadcasting a pretty weak signal via standby generators, came through like a 21-gun salute.
I was helping with the washing that day, and I'd struck up a friendly relationship with one of the girls--a pretty dark-haired brown-eyed senorita named Consuelo. We'd just hung up the laundry when Jack came dusting around to tell us the news. Electrical power had been restored. The city had full power again, all public utilities were operating at capacity.
We held a meeting late that afternoon, and the consensus was that with things getting back to normal in the city, we could all head on back tomorrow.
That evening, sitting around the small Franklin stove, Consuelo beside me, everyone else singing, laughing, talking, having a good time, I was sad. Tomorrow I'd have to go back to my family and revert to being "the stupid son". Back to the nagging, bitching, belittling. Out here I'd been somebody with respect. I'd been a good man to handle many chores--cutting wood, washing clothes by hand, hoeing in the garden, doing other chores that need to be done--I'd won myself respect and was esteemed by my fellow survivalists as a man they could trust. But tomorrow--it would end.
I'd go home--and catch hell for having ducked out. But after all, they hadn't believed me--just like most people hadn't listened to Noah. Only when it was too late did they try to get aboard the Ark-- but by then, God had shut the door. And no-one else could get aboard. It was much the same way with the survival community.
"What's wrong?" asked Consuelo softly.
I told her--all of it. And ended with, "I don't want to go back--but what else is there?"
She smiled. "Maybe they'll change their tune when they see you. Stand up for yourself."
"I plan to , honey." I told her.
The next morning, Wednesday, we all piled into our vehicles and rode back to town.
Jack and Wanda were kind enough to drop me off at my place--which was outwardly okay. The front door was wide open, and I entered with my gun at ready--and found no-one else at home. Nothing looked disturbed, so I began to explore--and found a note on the kitchen table.
It said, "We have gone south to stay with some friends of your father's. We'll be back after things get back to normal. Love, Mom.
Laying the note down, I turned on the living room light and sat down in my father's recliner chair. Footsteps sounded on the porch, and two Army or National Guard MP's stalked inside, both in fatigue battledress, .45's drawn and ready.
"Hey--what is this?" I demanded, rising.
"Who're you?" snapped the senior MP, a tall, husky man with grim planes on his face.
"I live here. What's the deal?"
"Let's see your ID," demanded the second MP. Carefully, I dug out my wallet and tossed it to him. He caught it, flipped it open and scanned my papers--driver's license, social security card, draft card and gun club membership card and my sportsman's club card.
Tossing it back to me, he lowered his gun. "Sorry--we've had reports looters were still in this area."
"Are they?" I asked, with a start.
"We aren't sure--but they were real bad on the south side of town up until just awhile ago--after power was restored."
"Yeah--the gangs were really having a time of it--ambushing the refugees trying to leave the city by the south roads."
I gulped. "My folks said they were cutting out by the south roads. This note's dated a week ago."
"Then they're dead--those gangs killed everyone they got their hands on, buddy. What's their names?" asked the MP. I gave them, feeling a funny empty space appear in my gut all of a sudden.
The MP looked at his partner and nodded, "We'll check it out--the bodies have been mostly identified by now. Some got through, but not many. I hate to be gloomy, but--but it looks like your folks are dead."
They turned and marched out, as I went to the phone. Lifting it, I heard a dial tone. I called City Hall and they referred me to Civil Defense. I called them, and asked if they knew whether my folks were dead or alive.
A CD clerk checked and then got back to me. "Your little brother's at the pediatrics ward at MACH East hospital. I'm sorry, but your parents are dead--killed by looters when they tried to crash a roadblock."
"Thank you," I murmured, and slowly hung up. Gazing at the picture of my parents on the buffet in back of me, I murmured softly, "Dad, you said I was stupid, lazy, ignorant, dumb--ever since I was a kid, you said it.
Well, who's the dummy now, Dad?
Who's the dummy now?"
This was a short story from The Survivor series, volume 1, by Kurt Saxon.
Now Who's Stupid, Dad
by Marc Ridenour