Destruction Aftermath, Book 4 - Cover

Destruction Aftermath, Book 4

Copyright© 2011 by radio_guy

Chapter 4

Our new friends knew little of the planned route so we would have to be our own scouts. Fortunately, we could do that.

It took most of the day to get to the bridge and cross. Once across, we only went a short distance to find a decent spot to set our camp for the night. In the morning, we had breakfast and packed to make some miles. By our rough measurements, it was just over one hundred twenty miles to Little Rock and we wanted to make it in six days. It was supposed to be a reasonably quiet trip as there were no cities until Little Rock. Jen and I took turns having George ride with us. He seemed to enjoy the bouncing of the horse's gait and was lulled to sleep quickly. The area was quiet. We saw no signs of human habitation on our trip. The farms all looked deserted with only volunteer crops growing in the fields. We had plenty of food with us but we would need more provisions on this trip. There were still goods in the stores that were useable and fresh meat could always be obtained by hunting.

It was an enjoyable, quiet trip on a good road that hadn't been damaged by time or weather. We made good time and arrived in the Little Rock area early on the seventh day of our trip. We could have make it the previous evening but this gave us a chance to look over the city for light and fires. We were skirting the northern edge of the city staying on the I-40 roadway. Oliver stopped us. There was a hospital complex to our right and he wanted to check it out.

He went in with his daughter, Joyce, his wife, Anna, and Jim's wife, Mary. Ollie went Jen and I do check out stores across the road from the complex. Jim and Louise took Roy and Melody to another area. Janice and Bennie stayed with the wagons and George. About an hour later, Oliver called and said, "We are inside and have found a great source of medical supplies. We will need a little help in loading them."

I heard and, looking at Jen who nodded, said, "This is Mike. We'll be there in a minute or two. We haven't found anything worth having."

Jim said, "Okay, we have found a couple of stores with some good equipment. We can handle the load and will meet you back at the wagons."

We went into the center following instructions Oliver gave us. He had found the storage room and it had never been touched. He had hermetically sealed cases loaded on gurneys. I looked at his load and said, "Oliver, can we use this stuff on our trip?"

"Not all of it. There's so much and we need to take it back to Preservation."

"Oliver," Jen said, "we can't carry this much around the country with us. We don't have room. Now, let's do this. Pack supplies in these cases, label them, and we'll carry them to the lobby area and stack them. What you think we can use on the trip, we'll carry out to the wagons and pack. Later, either we will return and pick the cases up on our return trip or Mike's dad will get a group to come over and take them back to Preservation."

You could tell Oliver was reluctant but bowed to Jen's thinking as being more practical. We didn't need to haul a wagon load of medical supplies if we didn't have to do it. If Dad couldn't get someone to come after them, we would try to pick them up on our way back. He made up for it by loading supplies in every case available. We pushed cart after cart. We finally had more than thirty cases loaded in the lobby. Oliver prepared two boxes to take with us on our trip.

When we returned to the wagons, Jim had also returned. He had found a hardware store and a gun shop. He had knives and guns and ammunition for our current guns as well as those guns he had found. He also had a box of parts containing items we used in operating the wagons and camping gear and items for loading bullets and shot. All in all, it was a good haul. Both Oliver and Jim remarked that it appeared that no one had ever gone through the stores even casually. Since we had systematically looted Carrolton, Atlanta, and Macon, we understood going over the contents of stores.

We had lunch, loaded our wagons, and left for Van Buren which we had chosen as our next way point. At one hundred fifty plus miles, it would be a little longer trip. It should be pretty though as it was along the southern part of the Ozarks. We left Little Rock before stopping for the night.

Not only was it pretty, it continued to be quiet. Jim and I were talking one evening after supper and he said, "When this first happened, the news said there would be a three percent survival rate. Your dad and I have agreed that it's more like one tenth of that. On top of that, many people died as a result of lawlessness. You dad fought and had to kill some and I was involved before I came to Preservation. I think some simply died because they didn't want to go on and others perished from an injury or hunger. If you had no doctor and didn't know how to grow food, you would have a tough time."

"Jim, I think that people would be making a comeback and we would see it."

"I'm not so sure. Your parents only had you though your father came from a large family. Mary, Louise, and I have only had Jen. I suspect that there are or, at least, were some residual affects."

"What does Dr. Ollie say about your theory?"

"He told me that it might be true, but that he has no way to check one way or the other."

"What about power and fuel, Dad?" Jen chimed in.

"Honey, it's tough to generate power and tougher still to distribute it. We have had good success at Preservation and we had some pretty darn good engineers to work on it. Part of the overall issue is having a critical number of people in an area to support those who work on anything other than producing food. Even Michael and Ben grow some of their own food while they run their machine shop. That's why these small communities are dependent upon subsistence farming. They are also subject to severe damage if the weather goes against them. The Lavacans sure have appreciated the information on the weather."

"Dad, why haven't we tried to do something about fuel for cars or trucks?"

"You mean, so you can ride in comfort and more quickly than a horse and wagon?"

"That's not fair, Dad. But why not?"

"That is a decision the council made and Mike's father led it. His reasoning is that, if we can't produce it from scratch, then we shouldn't use it. The only exceptions he has made is batteries and light bulbs. I know he and Shirley have been working on batteries with some success. Light bulbs are not going to be an issue for many, many years so they have put their production off for now. Batteries, once they are initially charged, will eventually go bad. I think he will have some large scale storage batteries in another year or two.

"But back to cars and trucks, Jack felt that we should move away from them because of three things. First, they are complicated. Second, there are a lot of parts which we can't make. Third, they put some pollution into the air. With horses, you get some smell but even the manure has use. Horses reproduce on their own. He told me that he hopes we will see wild herds of horses and cattle on our trip when we get out west."

We made decent time taking eight days to reach Van Buren. We had seen no one since leaving Senatobia. The land was beautiful and unused, but empty of human life. Animal life, on the other hand, was doing well. Most farms had volunteer crops that were growing from their planting before the Day. Over twenty years hadn't removed the evidence of farms from the land. It would take many years for that to happen. Houses were starting to suffer but it would take almost as long or longer for their evidence to be erased.

From Van Buren, we left for Tulsa and, six days later, we arrived. It was hot, dusty, and burned. On our way, we had seen places where tornadoes had ravaged the land leaving paths of destruction in their wake. Jim said tornadoes are a regular fixture in this general area. He said an area not far from us was called, "Tornado Alley," because of the many tornadoes that came again and again. Tulsa had been hit, we could tell but the tornado also had started a fie that burned out of control with no one to stop it. Much of the city was burned. Even though it had been at least a year or two, the smell was still apparent. We continued through to get away from that smell. Our horses liked it even less than we.

We were now on the Great Plains heading north to Wichita. It would be a slightly longer leg than any so far but didn't seem interminable. We figured on nine days. We left the interstate taking US 412 heading to I-35. We had been close to the Arkansas River for a long time. Now, our path would lead us to cross the Keystone Lake as we followed 412. We reached it and couldn't cross. The bridge had been hit by something like a tornado and had some flooding issues. You could see high water marks that would have been exciting to see if you only were an onlooker. We could see where the floods had damaged the landscape and left debris. It was time to look at our maps and figure out a way around. We could either turn back and cross at the dam or move north looking for another way. Going north meant going out of our way in our view as we would have to go through an Indian reservation and we didn't know what we would find. We decided to go back to the dam and cross there cutting west on US 51.

We reached the dam and looked at it. It was worrisome as the floods had gone over the top and the road across was in bad shape. We looked at our maps some more and decided to retrace our steps some more and cross at the US 51 bridge. If that didn't work, we would go back to Tulsa and figure it out. The US 51 bridge was in good shape. We decided that the dam had taken the brunt of the flooding. Until the dam breached, this bridge would be good. We crossed going almost due south and then resumed our westward march across the farmlands and forests. At US 48, we turned north to return to our original route and then west on 412.

They sure could make straight roads in this part of the country. We went most of a day's travel in a straight line! Time was marching on and so were we. The level, straight roads made for faster traveling and we were making good time though there wasn't much that could be done to make our wagons faster. We scouted the areas as we went through them looking for people or signs of human life. The road finally made a big turn to the north-northwest though the land looked no different.

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