How I Survived Collapse: Chapter 13
Published on The Doomstead Diner February 2, 2017
Discuss this story at the Collapse Narratives Table inside the Diner
Karl & Karen got Mr. Ed and Quick Draw saddled up, and Kenny attached the custom trailer that Karl had built for the ZEV off road scooter, throwing in some supplies and tools he had brought with him in his own trailer.
While he had built the original structure of the Lean-To out of all local and natural materials and stone tools he made himself, Kenny wasn't a slave to being a primitivist rewilder. Mainly he was just practicing his skills. He decided he would finish it off with the help of Industrial tools and products, purchased at Home Depot. As long as the place was there and up and running, it only made CFS (Common Fucking Sense) to use the stuff while he could still get it. Making lashings out of strips of bark worked fine, but Zip Ties would be a lot faster! Hacking down a sapling with a stone axe wasn't that hard, but it would go faster, easier and neater using his Li-I battery powered Ryobi Reciprocating Saw, Circular Saw and Drill. Those went in the trailer too, along with some extra batteries, a few assorted hand tools and some hardware.
Kenny pulled the ZEV up next to the paddock, and Karl and Karen soon joined him mounted on Mr. Ed and Quick Draw. Both were sturdy quarter horses bred for work and pulling loads rather than great speed. Huckleberry had been running back and forth between Quick Draw and Mr. Ed the whole time they were saddling up, and the animals had quickly become fast friends. Huckleberry decided quickly that both horses were clearly friends of Karen, and so needed her protection too. Huckleberry would not let anyone threaten Karen or her friends, if they did, they would see the other side of Huckleberry, the MEAN side that would take no prisoners. She would protect them as though they were her own puppies, and any assailants would regret the day they were ever born when the jaws of the big Siberian Husky closed around the soft neck and sent them to the Great Beyond.
"OK! Let's get on the Trail!", Karl said gleefully. He couldn't wait to see Kenny's reaction when he saw the improvements he had made to the Lean-To. Also, just the experience of being out on a beautiful spring day in the Montana Mountains on Mr. Ed together with his DAUGHTER (he still had trouble believing this) and a Prepper and fellow Diner Lurker was enough to make him positively gleeful. He could almost forget that Industrial Civilization was collapsing all around them and all days in the future would not be so wonderful as this one. However, he was alive at this moment, not in the future, and this day was one he would store in his memory bank to help make it through the tough days coming down the pipe.
Kenny pulled out his Magellan GPS to plot out the route to the lean-to, but Karl waved him off.
"No need for the GPS Kenny, I know how to get there from here. I know that location you pointed out on Google Earth."
Kenny shook his head in disbelief. Karl knew the territory so well that one look at Google Earth and he knew how to get there, without a GPS or even using a compass?
"You can guide from here to there without a GPS or even a compass Karl? That's amazing!"
"I've been living up here for 40 years Kenny. There isn't a square inch of this territory I haven't walked or ridden over at some point, and that spot is a regular one for me. It's a great position for spotting Big Horn, you chose it well."
Kenny flushed with pride at the compliment from Karl. He had hiked around quite a while to find that spot, which both had good visibility for around 270 degrees and enough dwarf size trees to give the Lean-to some protection from the wind. He crossed his fingers that the structure was still up, there had been some decent T-storms since he last visited it, and it would be depressing and a lot of work to reconstruct if it was knocked down. Not to mention embarassing in front of Karen, who was starting to get his hormones flowing as he looked at her sitting comfortably and in control of Quick Draw. Quick Draw was a magnificent specimen of the American Quarter Horse breed, standing over 16 hands tall and weighing close to half a ton. Karen herself was close to 6 feet tall and her years of whitewater kayaking gave her an upper body physique that most men could only dream of having, powerful shoulders and biceps that rippled with the muscle sinew. While Quick Draw was a great quarter horse though, Karen was even MORE appealing!
Karl had been a little dishonest with Kenny, in reality he probably could not have routed there without GPS or compass had he not spent a few weeks travelling back and forth there every day to spruce up the Lean-To. But he wanted to surprise Kenny with that, and he also didn't want to waste time with the stupid routing of the GPS, which didn't account for terrain features that the ZEV off road scooter could handle, or even some spots the horses could not traverse. He had to ride the route several times before he could find a decent enough trail where he could get within 500 vertical feet of the lean-to on Mr. Ed pulling a travois. Those last 500' were the toughest for Karl, his knees were not too happy about climbing these days.
Karl led the Convoy across the back country, although Huckleberry often went scooting out in front to make sure the trail was clear of other predators, doing Recon for the patrol. Kenny had some trouble riding the scooter slow enough to stay behind the horses, and occassionally had to drop his feet down and slide them along the dirt and grass to keep balanced. While the scooter had nice knobby tires that gave good traction, it really wasn't designed or capable of making transitions over big obstacles, high grades or cliff faces or even streams with water depth much over 6". Like all wheeled vehicles, they are only really functional on flat ground, preferably with Roads designed for their travel. Thus in really mountainous areas, wheeled vehicles never were developed, even after the development of metallurgy necessary for durable wheels, hubs and axles.
What did strike Kenny as curious was that the trail Karl was guiding them on appeared to be somewhat worn, like it had been travelled somewhat regularly by animals or people. He periodically checked his GPS, and while it was not on the direct route suggested by the Magellan, it was weaving in and out around it pretty closely. Why was there such a trail from Karl's Doomstead to the lean-to? Kenny concluded this must be because Karl himself travelled this route, he had said that he had been to the spot before.
Karl and Karen were able to ride the horses closer than Kenny to the lean to, and Karen was able to make it up there easily before Karl, who trudged up the slope slowly, his knees aching every step of the way. Kenny had almost a 1/2 mile to traverse on foot after parking the scooter and was well behind them, but almost caught up to Karl on his way up the slope because Karl's progress was so slow on this last stretch up.
Kenny reached the campsite sweating fairly profusely, as he had run most of the last half mile with a 50 lb pack of tools and batteries on his back and then climbed upward as fast as he could to catch up with Karl. When he reached the campsite, he was SHOCKED. Not only had his lean to not been knocked down, it wasn't even the lean-to he built! It had solid posts driven into the ground, and it had a thatched roof impermeable to rain. The walls had been mudded and were virtually impenetrable to wind. There was a Wind Shield and Break in front of the fire ring to prevent smoke from blowing into the lean-to. There were two meat drying racks leaning against the interior wall of the lean-to ready for use by the fire to dry freshly butchered meat!
Kenny was briefly confused, but then it quickly dawned on him.
"Karl! You did this! When did you get up here, when did you find it?"
Karl laughed. "Hell, I watched you build it to begin with! I was right over there, watching through my Zeiss Binoculars and Nikon Spotting Scope." Karl informed Kenny, pointing across to his own mountain, just a mile away on the back side. After you packed up your camp earlier this spring, I came up here to spruce it up as a gift."
The gratitude and depth of friendship for Karl he felt on hearing this was enormous, tempered only by the fact it worried him how easily Karl was able to watch him without himself ever knowing of Karl's presence. While having a friend and fellow Diner around was a big positive, getting used to the fact that trying to stay completely invisible was impossible was a bit difficult.
Kenny inspected the reconstructed lean-to and shrugged his shoulders. "Well, I guess I pulled all the tools up the hill for nothing. This fucking thing is solid as a rock."
"Actually no, there is quite a bit more we can do to improve this." Karl replied. "Getting stuff up and down from this perch is quite the pain in the ass, especially with bad knees. I had a hell of a time getting the bigger posts up here, I had to use some pullies and block and tackle and it was still a hell of a workout. Packing down a few hundred pounds of meat might be a bit easier, but not much."
"So what are you suggesting dad?" Karen asked, her engineer brain working furiously.
"Well, I thought we might try to construct a more permanent system than the pulleys I used, sort of like a cable car maybe, or a funicular railroad. Just not sure how to lay it out and hook it up yet, or which would be the better choice.", Karl replied.
Karen's sparkling blue eyes lit up like they were on fire. "YES! We could build that" she said eyeing the terrain. " I think a 2 part system would work. We can lay some track for a funicular railroad up that stretch over there…" she said, pointing at the steep part from where the horses were, "…then we could run cable back to where Kenny parked the bike."
"What if the Rangers find it?" Kenny brought up. "This is National Park Land, not our land."
"Highly unlikely the rangers find it, all the public trails they patrol are on the other side of the park. However, it is possible that some of the other hunters who use this part of the park will run across it, although there are not too many of them and I know most of them."
"We still need to disguise it well though." Karen remarked.
"We should make the arrangement portable and disassemblable." Kenny suggested. "We can cut saplings to use as rails and stack them along with brush along the route, and place them down when we need them. We can string the cable only when we are using it, long as we have the attatchment points fixed."
"Yea, that would work." Karen said. "We just need to clear the route for the funicular railroad and identify the trees we will use to fix attachment points for the cable system."
With a new project to undertake, Karl, Kenny and Karen began to scope out the route and begin the clearing for the railroad. Karen got the route laid out, and Kenny went down the slope to find decent size saplings to use for rails, cutting them down to uniform 8' lengths and dragging them back up the hill. Karl busied himself on the bottom part of the slope back to the ZEV to figure out a cable route that would work, which unfortunately had a couple of pretty large Western Red Cedars that would need to be worked around in some fashion. Either they had to be cut down, or the cable would have to have a couple of joints in it.
"I don't think cutting them down is a good idea at this point Karl. It would make it too obvious we have disturbed the forest. Removing the stumps or grinding them down out here would be about impossible." Kenny said once informed of the problem.
"Kenny is right." Karen observed. "We'll just have to cable in sections and transfer loads across the connections. It will slow it down some, but still be a hell of a lot faster than packing shit up and down the slope."
By sunset all three were pretty exhausted, and they got back on the trail to Karl's doomstead. Not much of the railroad and cable system had been constructed, there was still a lot of work to be done there, and a good deal of hardware would be necessary to purchase at Home Depot. Over dinner of BBQ Moose Ribs and Baked Potatoes from Karl's Potato Towers slathered in Goat Butter and sprinkled with Bear Bacon Bits, they composed a shopping list for hardware that Kenny would purchase at Home Depot the following week. Kenny would have purchased all the materials himelf with his JP Morgan Chase Debit Card from his bizness account and taken the tax deduction for the pruchases, but Karl would not agree to that and handed Kenny 5 Benjamins from his safe to help with the prepping. Advantage in going all cash on this was there would be no record of the purchases or who made them.
Karl was most beat after dinner and around 10 pm excused hiself to hit the hay. Kenny and Karen seemed to like each other too, so maybe there was a romance possible for them, Karl thought? Best to leave the young folks to themselves to work this stuff out, and step out of the way.
"Damn, that was a hell of a day and a lot of fun!" Karen remarked to Kenny as they sat on the couch in front of the fireplace. "Doomerism isn't all that depressing when you are working and planning!"
Kenny laughed. "Yea I discovered that when I was in Junior High. Life goes on, until it doesn't anymore. That happens to everyone, regardless of a collapse. You have to live your life for the now, and do the best you can to plan for your future, whatever it might be. I have no control over what went on here before I was born, and I don't know what will happen after I die either. For right now though, things are in a pretty pitiful state, so to me the best thing to do is to spend my energy getting ready for worse times to come."
Karen's rapid exposure to the world of doomers between her father, Kenny and the material she had so far read on the Doomstead Diner was pretty overwhelming, and despite her urge to flirt more with Kenny and invite him to sleep with her, she resisted. She definitely didn't want Karl to think she was a slut who would sleep with any guy she met for sure!
"I'm pretty beat Kenny, and I have to work at Quinn's tomorrow. I'm going to turn in." Karen said, finishing the last of a Rum and Coke.
"OK Karen, sleep tight. See you in the morning for breakfast!" Kenny replied. He was very attracted to Karen and wanted to make a pass at her, but he still was thinking about Kirsten too. It was so much easier in High School when he barely dated at all, now he had two females bouncing inside his hormone driven brain, and they both seemed lovely and luscious, although in different ways. It wasn't easy getting too sleep as headed out to the van for the night's rest. As he drifted off to sleep, his final thoughts were the old saw, "Women. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em."