Destruction Aftermath, Book 2a
Copyright© 2012 by radio_guy
Through spring, Bennie's arm was in the painful stage of rehabilitation. Under Doctor Anne's tutelage, he exercised it regularly and got back into shape generally. A month later, she said he was good but suggested he continue his exercises to further strengthen it.
It was the middle of spring and we were ready for a trip. Bob had met one of the widows from the I20 area. He told us that he could watch over our farm, help Poppa and work Mabel's farm with her. Mabel was a nice person and she and Bob seemed to be making a real emotional connection. We went to see Poppa to tell him that we were ready to go. He asked us to delay two weeks to give him time to get his seeds into the ground and that he and Shirley and Jim and his wives would all go with us to the little lake in Talbot County. We spent two weeks helping Bob, Jim, and Poppa plant. We left on a bright, clear spring day with horses for Bennie and me and the others in wagons. The trip was pleasant and quiet going through many of the farmlands that were now Preservation. We dropped down by Columbus looking for people as we took US 80 east.
It took a week to reach the lake. On the way, we found three more families living just north of Columbus who asked to become part of Preservation. We set them up with radios and included them in our net. Jim said he would return later to extend our repeater network to cover them as well as set up a local repeater for their use.
The lake was beautiful and we all enjoyed the water and watching the kids splashing around. Mike was like an eel in the water, slippery and fast. Jen tried to keep up with him with only moderate success. The rule seemed to be that, if you saw Mike, Jen was coming soon if not right behind him.
We fished and swam for a week having a good time away from our normal responsibilities. It was fun to part of a family. Watching Mike and Jen and little Mary made me realize what I had missed as a child. It was fun to watch them. Bennie and I enjoyed our time and when we headed south we both had good tans. The rest headed north to return home.
Before leaving, Jim and Poppa went over the Geiger counters we would carry to be sure that they were working and we understood what the readings meant. I had downloaded the information about them years ago and we found four of them in Atlanta. Poppa reminded Bennie and me that there had been a nuclear explosion on the Day down there. Radiation has a long half-life and we had to be on our guard. We pulled a counter out and went over readings for this area. They were just background. We would check readings daily and report them by radio.
It was interesting to think about it that, even though we traveled away from Preservation, we remained in contact through the radios. There was a constant sense of community that a cell phone just couldn't do without working hard to put together some kind of conference call. Momma said that hams before the Day had that sense of community with friendships being by people who had never seen the other in person.
We moved south and east to I-75 and headed south following the roadway and looking around. We picked up the Interstate in Peach County. We were early for the peaches but planned to return.
We followed I-75 south in a casual manner taking a detour to the east or west looking for signs of people. We found only two signs of anyone in the last few years and those signs were well over a year or two old. We got down to Perry and spent some time looking around hoping to find people but had no luck. Bennie and I talked about the lack of people but didn't know why no one was here. It was good farming country before the Day. Our way continued to wind south following the track of the Interstate. Bennie and I both had heard stories of the many people who used it to go south to Florida and return. We were surprised that there were no people hereabouts. Over the next few days, our course took us through the towns of Unadilla, Pinehurst, and Vienna. We had an old road map and chuckled over the names of some of the towns. After going through Cordele and Ashburn, we arrived in Tifton, after Perry, the largest town so far.
We found people. There were barricades across the ramps. We pulled up at one and made ourselves comfortable. About three hours later in the late afternoon, we saw a figure on horseback at the bridge looking at us. We waved at him or her and continued to sit and wait some more.
About an hour later, a group of five came down on horseback to the barrier. One asked us, "Who are you?"
I let Bennie answer, "I'm Bennie Sullivan and this is my wife, Janice. We're from Preservation on an exploring mission to see what's left of Florida. We are also tasked to greet and get to know people living in the area as we ride through."
"My name is Bill Monroe. This is Tifton and we all live here and farm or trade. If you aren't scouts for someone trying to take over, you are welcome."
Bennie responded, "We aren't in the business of taking over people. Preservation is a farming community located close to Carrollton. We want to be friends with all. We use radios to communicate and freely offer them to folk. We defend our territory but don't want to take over others."
Bill said, "Why don't you come into town and we can talk a spell?"
Bennie and I nodded and went for our horses. We followed them into town.
We were guided to the City Hall and joined the men in a large conference room. Bennie and I didn't have our two-meter radios on because we were out of range from Preservation's repeaters. Bill told his story, a story that was painfully similar to so many others. There were approximately fifty people living in the area now. They had lost power a few years ago and didn't run the generators often as gasoline supplies were dwindling.
Bill was old. He said that he was just over sixty-five on the Day. His wife died from the virus and two of his four children and most of grandchildren also died from the virus that killed so many. He said that they had stabilized and were starting to grow slowly. There had been some families to the northwest but, about six months ago, someone went to visit and they were all dead from a raid that looked like an animal attack.
Bennie told the story of the stag and received nods from him and the rest of the men. That launched Bennie into a discussion about Preservation and then its radios. The men were interested in that and two nodded understandingly when Bennie explained that Preservation knew about where we were because we were in contact every evening with home. This struck a chord and we offered to set our station in town. I said that I was sure there were some hams in Tifton before the Day and we could get radios for them from their homes and would teach anyone who was interested how to operate them.
Without showing how well equipped we were, we set up an HF rig with a battery and simple generator that could be pedaled to charge it. We set up a simple vertical antenna for eighty meters with radials outside and ran the coax into the city hall. We hooked everything up and I called Preservation.
"Momma Shirley or anyone in Preservation, this is Janice in Tifton. Come in."
A moment later, Momma came on with a powerful signal. She said, "Hello Janice. How are you and Bennie doing?"
"We're fine. We have met some new people here in Tifton and are showing them the radio. How do you read us?"
"You are five by four. The signal is weak but readable. You must be on the vertical."
"Yes, Ma'am. We just set it up in the middle of a street in downtown Tifton. I'm here with Bill Monroe and four others who live here. It's been quiet all day until we spotted their barriers on the ramps from I-75. We waited there and, eventually, someone saw us and we were greeted. Is Papa around?"
"Yes, he will be here in a minute. Why don't you put someone on?"
I handed the mike to Bill. He keyed it and said, "This is Bill Monroe. Please tell me who you are, Ma'am." He released the key.
"My name is Shirley Ames Mathews. My husband is the elected Director of Preservation. We are located close to Carrollton. As Janice may have explained to you, we use radios to communicate. Most of the members are farmers but we have an operating machine shop and a few other small industries operating. Janice is my adopted daughter. She and her husband are exploring the southern area. If she hasn't yet, ask them to tell you about the stag. We decided to find out more before more trouble arose. Their mission is to go as far down as they can, making friends and reporting as they go."
"Momma, could you get a list of hams in Tifton after Poppa gets there?"
"Sure. Here he is. Stand by."
Poppa's voice came over the radio. "Janice, are you okay?"
"Yes, Poppa. We are in the Tifton City Hall with Bill Monroe and four other men of their community. Let me put him on." I handed the mike to Bill.
He said, "This is Bill Monroe in Tifton."
"Good afternoon, Bill. I am Jack Mathews of Preservation. It's good to make your acquaintance. We were hoping that Janice and Bennie could find other friendly communities on their trip. Please introduce me to the others with you."
Bill said, "I have John Ridley, Mitch Hopewell, Jarod Tift, and Jimmy Sexton with me. We try to get together two or three times a week to keep up with things. Your people were at one of our barriers and were seen. Little Jackie came to me and I gathered the rest to meet them. We had a run-in with raiders about two years ago and try to check our borders. We've added two couples in the last year but don't see exploring parties. How many people are in Preservation?"
"I believe there are about three hundred or so. It's a free community so we don't try to get too serious about tracking who's where and how many there are. We stay in contact by radio and farm and trade within our community and with two others that we have found. We would like to add you to our list of friendly communities. We don't want to impose laws upon you nor have you impose yours upon us. Our purpose is not to restore government but to create community. My position is elected now. At first, it was appointed when first created as we started as a mix of my extended family and a number of ham radio families. My wife and I were the common point and both groups wanted us to lead then. Unless we are threatened, my position is largely ceremonial other than making sure our friends in other communities are treated fairly."
Bill looked at the others who nodded. John Ridley even smiled with a relieved look. "That will work for us. Mr. Jack, what would be involved in becoming part of Preservation?"