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Emergency Essentials/BePrepared

What Went Wrong

What Went Wrong

Postby Redneck_Packrat » Tue May 26, 2015 2:56 pm

Posted originally at FS way back when, under the "handle" remembergoliad. Part I is complete. I'll try to post a chapter a day on average. Working on Part II but no timeline on completion.
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ONE

“CARD READ ERROR PLEASE TRY AGAIN.”

Bo swore quietly under his breath as he reached back for his wallet again. He knew the card was delicate but surely the two month old ATM MasterCard couldn’t have been that scratched up that quickly! He remembered his old card would require several swipes, sometimes even a plastic bag wrapped around it, to get the magnetic reader to recognize it. As he glanced around the check stands at the Wallyworld, he noticed that there appeared to be others having the same problem. Looking into the mini-branch bank just beyond the check stand, he saw the tellers huddled and glancing out into the store proper.

Maybe it’s my imagination but they sure look nervous, Bo thought to himself as he brought his attention back to the card reader and the checker in front of him. He re-swiped his card, went through the entry of the PIN number, and selected “No” when asked if he cared to receive cash back.

While waiting for the response from the electronic cash register, he asked the checker, “This happen often?”

The blue-vested girl looked at him and replied, “No, matter of fact, that’s the first time it hasn’t read a card in a week or so.” She glanced back at the display on her side and frowned. “Sir, it is telling me ‘unable to process transaction’. That usually means the system is down for a while. Would you like to wait and see if it comes back up or pay cash?”

Bo hesitated, feeling something he couldn’t quite put a name to, tickling the back of his consciousness. “Umm….,” he said, as he glanced around, with his focus coming to rest on the bank tellers again. One of the tellers was gritting her teeth and making very restrained but adamant gestures with her hands, but all Bo could see was her shoulders and the set of her mouth as she glanced out into the store. Her eyes fell on his and as he held her gaze, her face reddened and the look in her eyes took on that of a deer staring at headlights. In that instant, Bo made a decision he would be grateful for in the weeks to come. “Yes, I’ve got cash on me, but let me grab a few other things instead of all of this. Can I change my mind on some of this stuff when I get back? I’ll only be a few minutes.”

“Sure,” said the checker, “No problem, I can back out up to ten items without having to wait for the manager to clear the register.”

“Okay, give me five minutes, I’ll be back real quick,” promises Bo.

Brain in overdrive, Bo headed purposely but without drawing attention towards the sporting goods section. As he turned into the aisle with the camping supplies he was looking ahead for the lantern mantles. As he passed by them, he grabbed the whole dispenser box hanging from the peg, and kept going to the sporting goods counter where he saw the 3 boxes of .30-30 he passed on earlier when he stopped to see what the supply situation was like, figuring he’d wait until the Federal brand was in stock since they’re a couple of bucks less, but reassured that there were three boxes of Remington cartridges there. There was no attendant behind the counter, but as had been the practice for almost a year, the ammunition was out in front of the lockable glass doors, sitting on the ledge for easy access. Bo made use of the easy access and stepped back behind the counter and got all three boxes. Noticing the ever present “ONLY SIX ITEMS PER CUSTOMER” sign, he made use of that limitation and snagged three bricks of .22 LR.

Leaving this end of the store, Bo traversed the building toward the “Mexican and International” aisle in the grocery section and found the large, 25 pound sacks of store-brand beans and rice, grabbing one of each. Readjusting his load, he reflected that he didn’t have buckets in which to store these two bags, but reasoned that he needed to rotate anyway; he could just pull his oldest buckets out and re-load them with this, the newest, purchased bags. If this is a false alarm, no problem, he thought. I’ll just come back tomorrow and grab another couple of buckets.

Carrying his awkward load to the check stand, he wondered to himself if he was overreacting. No, Bo thought, it’s not overreacting. If my card works when I get back up there, I’ll just add my kids’ Froot Loops and DVD’s back to the buggy, and we’ll have a little more food put up. On the other hand, he continued to himself, if this lasts a while, there’s not going to be another safe chance to get another couple buckets’ worth of food.

As he dropped his new selections on the conveyor, the checker said that the supervisor had come by each register and told them cash only, that even the check verification system was down, and it’d be a few hours before things were back to normal. Glancing up at the mini-bank, and noticing that nobody was to be seen in there, Bo made the snap decision to further cull his buggy of purchases down and buy only those essential and necessary items.

Out went the ream of paper and the color ink cartridge for the computer. If something needed printing he’d just do it in black and white on the back of something else, as no telling if he’d need that money before he could replace it. He overheard the neighboring checker telling her customer that the link card was not working so there was no way to use the food stamp benefits.

Turning slightly, he saw them push the food back on the conveyor and the baggy-panted, tattooed punk turn to his girlfriend and say, “Stacy, let’s just get the beer and cigarettes and we’ll come back tomorrow and use the card for the food. We ain’t gonna starve, we’ve got a box of Mac and Cheese at home for the kids, and ain’t neither one of us eat when we’re drinking—Oh yeah, get the Fritos anyway, I’ve got enough money for them, but forget that formula and crap, we’ll get it when the damn machine’s working again.”

“Good plan, John. They better have this fixed by tomorrow, ‘cause I’m outta Popsicles and candy bars for the kids too. How do they expect us to live if we can’t get food? I’m gonna call ‘em tomorrow and tell ‘em they effin’ OWE us if the link card’s still down!”

Shaking his head, Bo turned back to the checker and handed her enough money to cover his bill. On impulse, he nodded at the buggy behind her that now contained his print cartridge and paper and asked, “Is that returns?”

When she nodded yes, he reached into the buggy and grabbed the two jumbo boxes of feminine products and added them to his order, figuring, as with everything else, at least his wife Sandie would be able to make use of them. Money well spent, he thought, so long as it’s there for the getting.

Pocketing his change, and turning towards the door with his buggy, Bo saw the bank was dark. Strange, he thought, it’s only five thirty and I thought they stayed open til at least seven. With an ominous and growing ball of fear in his gut, Bo pushed his buggy toward the parking lot.
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Re: What Went Wrong

Postby fastback65 » Tue May 26, 2015 3:29 pm

Thanks Pakkratt. Interesting start.

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"Never, under any circumstances, ever become a refuge... Die if you must, but die on your home turf with your face to the wind, not in some stinking hellhole 2,000 kilometers away, among people you neither know nor care about." - Ragnar Benson
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Re: What Went Wrong

Postby Redneck_Packrat » Tue May 26, 2015 9:56 pm

TWO

Standing at the Diesel pump, debit card in hand after the prepay swipe, Bo saw what he thought he would see: “PLEASE SEE ATTENDANT”

Poking his head inside, Bo asked the cashier for the pump to be turned on out on number eleven, telling her he was filling both tanks and would come in and pay when he got them topped off. “Hurry up and do it right now, I mean fly out there and start the pump, they just faxed me to bump the price and you ain’t gonna like it much at all,” the cashier replied. Bo hurried out and lifted the handle and punched the yellow DIESEL button, glancing at the price of 3.639 in the little window. Doing some quick figuring, he decided to top off both truck tanks and the 115 gallon homemade bed tank he and his dad had built years ago before his dad retired from farming. The tank was originally designed to carry Diesel to the tractors in the field, but the wild fluctuations in the price of fuel in the last couple of years, Bo had dug the tank out of the storage shed at the farm and installed it in his recently acquired 1988 F250 Super Cab.

What a find that truck was! He posted on craigslist a WTB (want to buy) ad for free, asking for an older, carbureted Ford or Dodge pickup, and offering to pay up to two hundred dollars for one. After looking at several that were completely worn out or up on blocks, but keeping track of where they were, just in case, he got an email from a man who had an “old pickup setting out at the ranch” that hadn’t been run in years but he’d be willing to sell cheap. Thinking it was going to be another south Texas colander, covered with rust and beat to hell and back, he offered to go look at it that weekend when he had some time. “Oh, by the way,” said the seller, “you’ll need to bring two batteries if you want to try to get it started.” Turns out it was a 7.3 liter naturally aspirated Diesel with no electronics whatsoever on it with a heavy duty C6 transmission behind it.

Accelerating his plans, three hours later Bo drove out of there towing the new (to him) truck for a hundred and fifty dollars cash, and had title in hand. Couple hundred more in brake calipers and hoses, and a few vacuum lines and electric switches replaced, and enough things worked on it to pass the state inspection. This became his daily driver and he began to outfit it the way he judged it would need to be for whatever occasion he might run into.

With a shake of his head, Bo brought himself back to the present. Hanging up the nozzle reset the pump to idle, and out of curiosity Bo watched as the numbers blinked off and waited as they showed back up as all 8’s in the error check mode, then his jaw dropped at the new price: 5.159! Realizing what a favor the cashier had done him by waiting until he had started his pumping before resetting the price, he walked in and paid the forty two cash dollars that ten minutes later would have wiped out almost half his folding money. Guess being a ‘regular’ pays off, Bo thought, buying fuel from the same place and developing an acquaintance with the employees and management of a business does have its advantages. Bringing them a box of doughnuts early in the morning or offering to run grab the lone attendant a hamburger halfway through a long shift pays back in spades later on down the road. People remember someone doing them a favor.

Pulling out of the Murphy in front of the Wallyworld, all tanks topped off (which didn’t take much since he liked to keep the bed tank and at least one of the main tanks filled at all times) Bo flipped open his cell phone and called Sandie. “Hon, I’m just leaving Alice. Listen, um, I don’t know if it’s for-real this time or not, but the card didn’t work at the store, and they were going around telling the checkers cash only for time being. Not working out here at the Murphy either, but I’m not sure if they’re tied to the system inside or not, meaning that this could just be limited to Wallyworld so far—but then why would the bank be freaking out? Never mind, I’m rambling, thinking to myself. So, can you think of anything we absolutely gotta have? I’ve got about a hundred bucks left in my pocket.”

“No, I can’t think of anything. Oh wait, I’ve only got one box of girl things on the shelf. I don’t want to get into the storage tubs if we can help it. Do you mind turning around—“

“Already thought of that, sweetheart. Got a couple of jumbo boxes of super plus. Damn, they look like strips of diapers!”

“Thanks a lot, smart aleck!” Sandie grinned as she thought of anything else they might need from town. “Maybe another couple bottles of antibiotics? Ya never know, and they’re cheap.”

“Good eye, hon. I’ll stop at Tractor Supply right now. Holler if you think of anything else? Oh, and hey, you got any cash there at home?”

“About twice as much as you’ve got on you. Remember, you have been spending money as soon as we get it because of the way prices of things are going up so fast, not to mention to beat the crunch you’ve been predicting. Why do you ask?”

“Well, either send Buddy—on second thought I’d feel better if you ride with him—and go fill up the blue truck. Take cans and fill them if you think you’ll have extra money. I know we’ve got those drums of gasoline for the generator that I put the Sta-Bil in last spring, but every little bit of gas will help.”

Rolling her eyes, but knowing better than to let it into her voice, Sandie replied, “Okay, we’ll run up to the corner. Want me to see if Charles will let us charge some propane and you can settle up with him when you get by there? I’ll get Buddy to load as many empties as we can find laying around if you think that’s a good idea.”

Sandie had not completely subscribed to the idea that things were that bad, but partially to humor Bo, and partly because it wasn’t all that much different than keeping cash in a box or bank account with interest rates as low on deposits as they were, she did not resist Bo’s efforts at preparing for the worst. Lately though, with the television telling stories that just did not jive with what she saw going on in the world, Sandie was more and more appreciating her husband’s foresight and determination to keep from doing without.

“Excellent idea, hon. Shouldn’t be more than one or two empties lying around, the ones that came from the last house or two we secured. Do that.”

“Okay, I’ll do that. What else might we need from your direction, Bo? Um, let’s see…. I know the dogs don’t like it but the price is right on Tractor Supply’s dog food. It’s about five bucks a bag cheaper than Wallyworld and they WILL eat it if there’s nothing else.”

“Might grab some other odds and ends too while I’m at it, I won’t take long. All right, for sure dog food and a couple bottles of that penicillin they keep. What about cat food?”

“Yeah, grab some of that too. They don’t eat much but if you do happen to be right about things, and it’s looking more and more like you are, that’ll help to transition ‘em over to dog food to supplement their ratting and birding, but that’s all I can think of for now.”

“Okay, Sandie, I’ll be home in a bit. Love you, Bye.”

“Love you too, Bye.”

“HEY! One other thing!”

“Yeah, I was just about to hang up. What?”

“Sandie, take the .30-30 with you. And a box of shells too. Okay?”

“We’re just going to the corner, hon.”

“Humor me, okay? Would you rather—”

“—have it and not need it than need it and not have it? Yeah, I gotcha, Bo, We’ll take it, sweetie.”

“Glad you said that. Makes me feel better knowing you aren’t out there without protection. And Buddy is a damn good shot.”

“Speaking of that, you do have Little Brother with you, don’t you?”

Bo patted his thigh where the Model 85 Taurus .38 Special was laying, and the determination washed over him again that he’s going to have to find a way to help Sandie develop a way to shoot at least a long gun. “Yes I do. He’s in my pocket, has been since I left Wallyworld.”

“Okay, enough blabbing, Mr. Talker, let’s get done what we gotta do. See you at home later, darling. Bye again.”

“Bye again, love you!”
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Re: What Went Wrong

Postby Oldfart » Wed May 27, 2015 8:21 am

Good so far
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Re: What Went Wrong

Postby Redneck_Packrat » Thu May 28, 2015 7:00 am

THREE
Going into the Tractor Supply and leaving the truck with the Wallyworld purchases in it did not appeal to Bo one bit since one of his still-unfinished projects on the truck was replacing the small door vent window on the driver’s side, which means anyone could reach in and open the door from the inside if it was locked. As he sat there in the parking lot deciding how he was going to accomplish the feat of being in two places at the same time, he felt and heard at the same time a THUMP on the passenger side of the truck bed. Spinning around, he saw his neighbor grinning at him through the back glass. Looking past Lenny, he saw Lenny’s Expedition, with his wife still sitting in it. Thinking of a plan, he climbed out.

“Bo, did you catch the news just now?” Lenny was never one to beat around the bush or waste words.

“No, I just left Murphy’s and was talking to Sandie on the phone, didn’t have time to turn it on. Why?”

Lenny replied, “They just reported that the FDIC couldn’t or wouldn't cover the losses from that Spanish bank, the one that bought all those branches in the southeast a few years ago, the one that failed last Friday, appears they're hiding behind the fact that the bank is foreign owned and they're not obligated to protect people who invest in a non-US institution, or some such bullcrap. Other banks have shut down until they find out how that is going to shake out, since most of them have at least a small percentage of foreign ownership.”

“Wow, what two-faced idiots! They're the ones who went on the offensive about how this was going to solve all our problems and that this was the skittle-crapping unicorn that the country needed, back when that bank moved in. When’d you hear this?”

“It was breaking news just now on the radio. I heard it when we were just getting on the hard road, so what, about fifteen minutes or so? It was that local blowhard, I haven’t heard anything anywhere else yet, and this kid's either dead right or dead wrong. Too soon to tell which he is on this 'un.” Lenny looked at Bo with an eyebrow cocked.

“Yeah, I can confirm that something weird happened, but not exactly what.” Bo went on to relate his observations and experience at Wallyworld. “That could be why I didn’t hear anything, since I was inside the store. Hey, changing the subject, is Norine going in with you into the store?”

“No, she’s going to wait out here; all I’m getting is some more goat food. With this drought I’ve been feeding a whole lot of it. Even goats are having a hard time finding something to eat”, chuckled Lenny.

“Think she’d mind keeping an eye on ol’ Red since she’s sitting here anyways? I’ve got a bunch of stuff in the jumpseat but can’t lock it since I haven’t found a window yet.”

“Sure, no problem.” Lenny turned and motioned to his wife, pointing to his eyeball and then to Bo’s truck. When Norine nodded understanding, both men turned towards the front doors.

Bo pushed the bag buggy over to the dog food and saw that there were only three bags of Doggy Bag brand dog food left. He turned and looked for Lenny, to see if he’d already picked up some dog food, and seeing that he had, Bo grabbed all three bags. Circling the back of the store, he saw something that caught his eye: a sign that proclaimed “SALE! MANAGER SPECIAL 35.00 NO CORE CHARGE." Stacked on the floor beside the battery rack was a pallet of 12 volt deep cycle batteries. Looking closer, Bo saw that the build date on them was G7. Almost all battery manufacturers apply a round sticker with a letter and number to the battery. The letter denotes the month of assembly; the number tells the year. This is the notation that a seller will rely on for warranty if the receipt is not available. These batteries were 11½ months old, and while a properly charged battery will last two or more years in climate control, most stores will return them to the manufacturer after a year. Instead of returning them, the manager of this store elected to discount them by half and move ‘em out to customers. Sometimes impulse buying is smart. Bo picked up two of the 65 amp hour, group 24 deep cycle batteries and set them in the basket part of the buggy, behind the dog food. Turning back around, he repeated the process, continuing until the buggy was as loaded as he could get it.

His only other stop was in the clearance aisle, just to see what was there and if any of it could be of use or just looked appealing. Bo was already stocked with the things he’d routinely need to keep stuff running and in good repair, but as with the batteries, there is always just “one more thing” that slips the mind. Sure enough, there it was. Bo had been toying around for months with the idea of using his old riding lawnmower to power various odds and ends, both storebought and still as-yet only in his mind. There, in the clearance section, was an assortment of last years' stock of belts, with faded and torn cardboard sleeves of a completely different design than the ones on the display he’d passed near the batteries. Old stock, sell it cheap and get shed of it. He bought an armload of belts, but only in two or three sizes, thinking that if he built one or two devices to power with his lawn tractor he’d have spares. He’d just build to the belts if it came down to it. Looking at his watch, he headed to the front, as Sandie and Buddy should be back home about the time he could drive the 22 miles from town.

When he passed by the service desk in the center of the store, he nodded at the manager, who beckoned Bo over to the counter where there were a few other faces he’d seen in town, but belonging to people he’d never met.

“Hear the news?” asked Brian, the manager of the store.

“I heard something, but so far from only one source and from my own experience down the street at the Wal-Mart.” Bo replied without expanding, preferring to gather information than disseminate it. Some people cannot stand a pause in conversation and will rush to fill it. Others will wait it out rather than offer up more information than necessary. Bo was not a native of the Hub City area; he grew up on the coast north of Corpus Christi, and had only moved out west of town because of the trees. Growing up on a cotton farm with exactly two stunted and twisted trees, Bo wanted shade he didn’t have to crawl to get to, and the only affordable place around was west of Corpus about thirty miles. He and Sandie found eleven acres that fit his needs for the most part, and with that came the ventures to Alice instead of Corpus for most day-to-day needs, and as a result recognized faces and exchanged nods with many more people than he was on a talking basis with.

A couple of the men nodded and one said, “Looks like either you have a whole buttload of dogs and a self-propelled mower that throws belts or you’re stocking some stuff up just in case.”

“Got dogs, and at a quarter each I can find a use for these five dollar belts,” Bo answered, noncommittally. Bo kept to himself the thoughts running through his mind about what the next few weeks or months would bring, tending to play his cards close to the vest with people he didn’t know well. Only Lenny, Sandie, and Buddy knew of his concern for the future and the full breadth of his apprehension regarding where things were headed.

“Well, I’m only doing this for a few people who are regulars here, and who I know won’t burn me, but I’ll take your check if you’ve got one. I can’t do anything about taking credit cards or debit cards with their new rules of getting authorization through the register, but I’ve known you long enough to know your check is good, and if corporate can’t get it cashed, well, I know I’ll be seeing you in here again and we can settle it somehow later. Our bank’ll have to admit the whole system’s screwed if they kick it back to us, and I doubt they’ll want to do that before trying to deposit it, and once it gets to your bank they’ll have to honor it if you’ve got the money there. I’ve told these other men here the same thing, and will do this as long as I can until our deposit bank tells me to quit depositing checks.”

Bo looked at Brian. “You’ve gotten nothing from your DM about how to handle this?”

Brian replied, “Actually, yeah, the district manager called, but didn’t expressly tell me to not take checks. He said to be careful. I am. I have always had the authority to override the machine when it comes to taking a check. I’m doing it now, for certain people I know, because the machine’s down. I don’t want to start a riot though by telling the cashier to take your check on my say-so, so I’m going to total you up here, and take your check back here away from the other registers.”

Bo glanced up at the front of the store and saw lines at all three registers and silently agreed that if word got out, Brian would have to accept checks from every Tom, Dick, and Harry or risk things getting out of control. Noticing Lenny standing in one of the lines, he thought once again to himself how just a little loyalty to a store owner or manager can be invaluable in a tight situation. Lenny had a habit of shopping around and saving a buck or two here and a minute or two there, instead of developing a relationship with one store. Besides, Lenny never carried his checks anyway; more than likely they were 25 miles away, sitting on his desk in his house. “Brian, I’ve got the money in the bank to cover more than what’s in my buggy, I just couldn’t see spending the last of the cash I’ve got with me on one or two other things. Mind if I add a few things?”

“No problem, Bo, like I said, you’re honorable, you know your business better than me as to what you need and can afford to pay for.”

With that, Bo decided on one more item he had never gotten around to adding to his home inventory. Walking over to the plumbing section, he picked up a ¾ horsepower 110v submersible sump pump with male hose thread connections on the discharge. It was the type of pump that one would lower into a pond or bucket (or sump!) to drain water out. Nice thing about this pump, though, was that it had a 25 foot vertical lift capability.

With his homemade water well pumpjack to get water to the surface into a tank, this pump could lift the water up into the rooftop storage tanks to allow for a nice flow into the house with a little plumbing realignment. Not too much pressure, for sure, but plenty of flow. Bo had a pair of 275 gallon ag cage tanks, which are nylon tanks enclosed in hogwire and mounted on skids, with a 1½ inch gravity drain out the bottom of one side and a 10 or 12 inch fill bung in the top. One of these tanks set next to the well, with the new submersible pump inside it and plumbed to fill the overhead tank, which had a place to be put on the deck outside Buddy’s upstairs bedroom, would provide plenty of water each day with a single pumping. Having almost 400 gallons of water fifteen feet off the ground—the 275 gallon tank added to the two blue poly 55 gallon drums already up on the southwest side of the house which served as a solar hot water system—would make for plenty of water for a normal day’s use, or several days' use if necessary.

After Brian totaled up Bo’s purchases and took his check, Bo was sent out the front door with a load sheet for the yard crew, who by the time Bo arrived in the fenced side yard had his buggy of feed, batteries, and the pump and belts to load. It wouldn’t have done to go scooting out the front door with all that merchandise after bypassing the checkout lines, so Brian was meeting the check-paying customers out in the load yard with their newly acquired possessions.

Bo had forfeited his place in the line at the service desk by going back for the pump, so as it turns out he was the last to load up at quitting time.

Brian walked up as Bo was tying the handles of the batteries with a loop of cotton module tarp string, to keep them from sliding around and getting damaged. “Module string”, as it’s known in the Coastal Bend, is pretty handy stuff. A flat, nylon binding about a half inch in width, module string comes on rolls a bit over half a mile long and weighing in at about 25 pounds. Bo had used it since the cotton module builder had made its debut into the cotton harvesting lineup of equipment. Doubled over, and protected from a sharp edge such as the bottom of a chrome bumper, a loop of module string will pull a half ton pickup along a flat hard road, enough to get it started if it has a manual transmission. Bo knew that the hard way. Satisfied that the dog food wasn’t going anywhere, and that the batteries were tied in securely, Bo turned to Brian. “I really appreciate your accommodating a check.”

“Least I can do, if we’re headed where I think we’re headed,” replied Brian. “Listen, how good are you fixed for this, if it really goes bad? Don’t answer if you don’t want to, Bo. I just noticed that you were a little low-key around those boys in there. Not a bad idea considering you don’t know ‘em very well.”

“You’re right, Brian. I don’t know any of them past just a ‘Howdy’ in a store or the post office. You’ve seen some of the stuff I’ve come in here and bought, and you’ve always known what questions to ask and what to suggest. Yeah, I’ll tell you this, Sandie and I are okay so long as Buddy hangs around, but what can you do about a 22 year old who knows everything?” Bo grinned.

“Y’all are completely cell phone out there, right? Well, my wife’s cousin works for one of the tower companies, the one out of La Ward? Anyway, he says that with the price of propane, they’ve been holding off on keeping their standby generators topped off. Upshot is, if we lose electricity for more than a few hours, maybe ten tops, the cell towers are going to start dropping off line when their generators run out of propane. He said they don’t plan on filling ‘em unless they hear about a blow in the Gulf.”

“Hmm…. Good thing to know, Brian. You’re right, the expense of a landline out there at the house was just not worth it, especially since it was fifty year old copper wires for twenty miles or so plus on top of that they said I’d have to pay construction for the last 8,000 feet.” Bo squinted at Brian, “You’re telling me this for a reason, not just to pass the time of day. What’s up your sleeve?”

Brian held Bo’s gaze and replied, “Yep, there’s a reason. You got CB radios?”

Bo nodded. “Both trucks and a jury-rigged setup in the house for a base station. Got a thirty five dollar Wallyworld special in the house sitting on the kitchen counter, with a ten dollar Wallyworld magnet mount antenna stuck to the flat roof on the porch. Couldn’t get it to stick to the corrugated iron, but I put a piece of 3/16 flat plate on the roof and bolted it to the tin on the roof, then pookied around the bolts with silicone. SWR is about 1.3:1 but close enough to talk all the way to the highway from the kitchen. Got a deep cycle battery sitting on the back porch with the wires run through the hinge side of the doorway, where the insulation closes over ‘em and they don’t get pinched. Used a piece of 16/3 extension cord for that. Cut the factory AC plugs off about five feet from the ends, and used the middle fifteen feet of that 25 foot cord to run the power to the CB. Battery lasts at least two weeks before it even thinks about needing a charge. Been going to put a solar panel up to keep it full, but haven’t taken the time to get the thing out of the box. Bought it at Harbor Freight a year ago for my old buddy Justin. Know him? Justin Case. I’ve bought a lot of stuff for that boy over the years and dang if I don’t think ol’ Justin’s fixing to come claim his stuff!”

Brian chuckled, “Yep, I’ve been buying stuff for that boy myself. My wife asks why I come home with this or that, and I tell her I bought it for Justin Case. He’s a handy guy to have around, as much stuff as he’s got. Anyways, what channel do y’all use on the radios? We monitor 9 and use 4.”

“We’ve settled on 27, just because I married Sandie on June 27, 1998,” replied Bo. “Other than that no reason. Hey, thanks again, my friend,” Bo extended his hand to Brian and the two shook firmly. “Holler at us if you need anything. Like I said, we’re on 27, and you have our phone numbers in your computer in there.”

“What’s yours, right quick?” Brian asked, pulling out his cell phone and entering the numbers as Bo rattled them off. When Bo’s phone rang he reached for it, but Brian punched END and slipped his phone into his pocket, which silenced Bo’s phone. “Now you have mine, too. Don’t forget to save it before it rolls off your recent call list.”
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Re: What Went Wrong

Postby Redneck_Packrat » Fri May 29, 2015 5:59 am

FOUR

As Bo turned north on the Orange Grove highway, he looked over his left shoulder and noted with some satisfaction and security that the blinking lights over the intersection were still flashing.

Driving down a south Texas country highway with the radio off is one of the most pleasing things to do, Bo thought. Time to let the mind wander, time to think. I wonder if I’m overreacting, he wondered to himself. Doesn’t really matter if I am, come to think of it, since all I’ve done is pull the trigger on some food and a few things I’ve been wanting to do for a long time but haven’t put high enough on the priority list, like that water pump. Forcing water out of the ground into a tank under pressure is a very energy-hungry process. Not only do you have to lift the water the fifty five feet to the surface, you then have to pressure it up to at least thirty pounds of pressure. Hook a clamp-on ammeter to one leg of the pump wiring and you can just watch the thing gulping electricity. People in town think those with a well have free water, but the increase in the electric bill just about offsets the savings from not having a water bill. And then what happens when there is no electricity for the pump? What happens is, ya get a renewed respect for the amount of work an electric motor does!

Cruising along about 60 miles per hour, Bo’s thoughts turned to Sandie. They were one of the first successful internet dating couples. Had to be, as they met in an AOL chat room in 1996. Back then, way back in the club and cave era of the world wide web, one had a choice of America Online or Compuserve. There were a few other options available but one almost had to be a geek to use them. Bo was not. He finally had picked AOL because of the ease of operation of the system, preferring to spend time actually doing something instead of trying to remember how to do it.

Back in the beginnings of the electronic world, swapping a photograph was a complicated process: first you take a picture, get the film developed, and if you had the resources, you had a scanner and scanned the photograph. Otherwise, you took your photograph and a floppy disk to a printer or copy place and paid someone good money to scan and save a single picture to a floppy disk. Then, an hour of 2400 bps modem time and the picture was sent. Man, how things have changed. Now, in that same time, one can send several hundred photos of exquisite detail instead of just one grainy, wallet size snapshot.

Bo fell in love with Sandie even before they traded pictures. In fact, the first time they saw what each other looked like was when they exchanged pictures in snail mail. That smile is still the same all these years later, Bo mused.

Getting to know one another long distance was an adventure. With Bo in south Texas and Sandie in Joliet, Illinois, both burned up their allotted twenty hours of AOL time in the first few days of the month. Within three months, they’d exchanged enough emails to be very interested in each other and Sandie invited Bo up for Easter weekend, an invitation that was accepted eagerly by Bo. He showed up in Joliet with a solitare in a velvet lined box, and intended to go home without it. He had found his soul mate and was determined to make a happy, safe, and free life for Sandie and their blended family consisting of them and their total of four children. To make it all above board, even though the sequence of events was messed up, Bo asked Sandie’s dad for her the next time he drove up, which was the next month.

About time for Sandie to have some good come into her life, Bo thought as he turned off the highway onto the county road leading to their eleven acres of brush. At the age of nineteen, Sandie had made the mistake of climbing into a car with a friend who had been drinking. The driver missed a T intersection and flipped the car end for end seven times before coming to rest in a soybean field. In the early eighties, spinal medicine was still in the dark ages compared to where we find it now, and the ambulance crew did not stabilize her spine before pulling her from the car and onto a stretcher. After arriving at the hospital and having x-rays, Sandie found that she had broken her neck at the C6-7 level, which left her with no feeling or movement from the chest down, and while she had use of her arms and wrists, she had lost all movement in her hands and had feeling only in her thumbs, and index and middle fingers.

Lying in the bed in a hospital room, Sandie realized that she was left alive for a reason. One of those reasons was her six month old daughter who had been at the babysitter’s that night while she was out with friends. It would be a little over two years of recovery and rehabilitation before Sandie and Lynn would share the same roof again. During that time Lynn lived with her father and his folks, and served only to reinforce the realization that Sandie had made a very poor choice, thinking with anatomy other than brains when deciding to become involved with Lynn’s dad. The relationship, while off-and-on up until the wreck, was put in a permanent off mode by Sandie soon after.

After the reunion Sandie jumped both feet—er, wheels—first into making up for the lost time with her daughter and making her ready for school. Sandie had worked for a cleaning company before the wreck, and as soon as she got home approached the owner about a job. The boss offered her a job dispatching and scheduling, and she jumped at it, holding the job for most of the next fifteen years.

When she met Bo, thirteen years after the wreck, she realized that her life was not as one-dimensional as she had made it, with being tied to the phone for work from 7 a.m. until four or later in the afternoon. This was 1997, and digital cellular phones were making their entry into the market in the Chicago area. Sandie signed a year long contract with AT&T for a cell phone and began forwarding her work line to the cell phone on days she thought she could predict a light workload. This allowed Sandie to start going places, doing things, with her daughter, and with Bo and his three daughters and son, and instead of allowing her suddenly-mature (to herself at least) teenage daughter to draw away, with Bo’s help they managed to steer and develop first Lynn, then Bo’s two older daughters Renee and Annette, into responsible productive adults. Buddy, the baby and the only boy, was easy. All they had to do with him was be on their toes enough to be able to answer his always-thoughtful questions and anticipate his taking advantage of the "fine print," as kids will do.

Because of Sandie’s added needs, Bo started thinking first about the manufactured things that Sandie depended upon for her very life, things like her wheelchair. Bo researched the different brands and spent hours upon hours to the point of annoying several durable medical equipment suppliers enough that they asked him to take his business elsewhere. He finally settled on trying to steer her towards a Jazzy 1103 model mid-drive chair for Sandie to try out. The DME supplier he had found to be willing to work with him brought one out to the house for her approval, and after a few rounds both inside and outside the house, Sandie had a grin from ear to ear and pronounced it “tons and tons better” than her old chair. While not giving her the mobility of a mountain goat, it opened her range up to where almost nothing was out of her range in the flat south Texas landscape. An added plus was that it can, with modest adaptations to the fiberglass cowl over the power plant located under the seat and between the mid drive wheels, accommodate group 24 automotive size deep cycle marine batteries. That was why Bo was so excited at the find of the batteries at Tractor Supply.

Mobility issues solved, Bo turned towards preparing a supply locker which basically resembled a huge first aid kit, stocking it slowly and as money and opportunity allowed. In addition to daily needs, Bo kept an eye out for and squirreled away dressings and treatments for skin breakdowns, as people with limited sensation can overdo it and give themselves what are commonly known as bedsores, which are really areas where a bony part of the body has put pressure from the inside on the skin, causing a breakdown in the structure of the skin from the inside out, and almost all of the time results in a split in the skin and a wound which requires daily care and monitoring, and can last up to five years or more.

Bo packed away an 18 gallon Wal-Mart tub full of paper tape, 4x4 gauze, sterile saline, ABD absorbent pads, and dry collagen packing against the possibility of a future pressure sore. In addition, another tub of the same size held latex gloves, betadine swabs, sterile swabs, and single pack alcohol wipes. Most of the supplies, over time, outgrew their original tubs and have grown to a stack of tubs three high and three deep in the corner of their bedroom. Condensed into one ten-gallon tub is the bug-out supplies, which consists of enough of each item to last six months if used intelligently, and about half of the antibiotic ointments and such that could be used as first-aid supplies.

One of the things almost any spinal injury survivor deals with is the inability to eliminate wastes voluntarily. Catheters become a part of daily life, and without these vinyl or rubber tubes, making water on demand is impossible. With this in mind, and the knowledge that catheters can be reused if washed and sterilized, much as a baby diaper or baby bottle can be reused if made completely clean again, Bo set out on a program of extending the use of Sandie’s supplies while still restocking at the recommended single-use intervals, thereby building up a years-long supply of catheters against the very likely inevitability of not having a supply years, if not months, from now.

Gradually, making a list of supplies daily used in Sandie’s care and hygiene and the ‘burn rate’ through these items, Bo gradually built up a five year stock of supplies, which could be extended indefinitely with proper care and cleaning of reusable items. By rotating the stocks in the tubs they have accumulated with the first-in, first-out method assuring the longest possible life of all the items, Sandie was, barring an unusual occurrence, set for life with normally used supplies.

Such is life. Bo reflected on the quality of his kids’ attitudes and outlooks on life, and marveled at how three kids who lost their mom to suicide when they were still babies could turn out so well. Two of his three are NHS graduates, the oldest, Renee, having transferred schools and then graduated a year early thus putting herself ineligible for the NHS sash. He knew he owed it all to the commitment and dedication of Sandie in her homeschooling them and loving them as her own.

It didn’t just end there. Sandie had always had an artistic bent, and taught herself how to paint and create even with the limited use of her hands. She started out with her first love, painting with oils, and dove into that as soon as Lynn started first grade (homeschooling in Illinois varies greatly in permissibility, depending on the attitudes and intelligence of the local school authorities as to whether or not they make a stink of it) and produced some acceptable work, but wasn’t satisfied with it. Bo brought home a few trinket boxes from Hobby Lobby one day and she tried decorating those and discovered that she could manipulate and handle them much better, producing professional looking work that anyone could be proud of. While never having found a productive outlet to sell her creations, she has kept busy hand-making gifts for friends and family ever since.

The love and care she would put into each of her creations was appreciated far and wide, and the satisfaction she gained from being appreciated for her own efforts in turn bolstered her self-confidence and in turn her outlook on life turned from one of being on borrowed time to an eager, aggressive approach to life that found her thinking of the future instead of reacting to the current, which then in turn helped her to see the sense in preparing for the worst and living for the best, as Bo had always lived. Instead of seeing him as a pessimist with a doom and gloom, “sky is falling” attitude, she began to understand that it was an unstoppable optimism that drove Bo to be prepared, an optimism that he will be ready and able to survive and live, in the real world, whatever that world may be. She soon was infected by this bubbling optimism and desire to be prepared and, combined with the dichotomy reflected in the mass media’s divergence with reality, she accepted and began to participate in Bo’s preparations. Of course, she wouldn’t dare admit he was right, now, would she?

Looking at the situation from the distance of time, Bo reflected that the extra effort of Sandie’s additional needs was far outweighed by the selfless and generous efforts that she put into picking up the pieces of those kids’ lives and putting them back on the path of self-confidence and success. And as always, it brought a little lump to Bo’s throat to think of how much he loved his wife of eleven years, and he resolved again out loud to himself and the roadrunner on the side of the road that he was DAMNED if he was going to shorten such a wonderful lady’s life one single second because he was underprepared for whatever chance threw his way. He had promised her when he had the engagement ring halfway on her finger immediately after popping the question, “Sweet lady, you do what you can, and I’ll do the rest, as long as I’m here and able to do it.” The fact that she had answered by pushing her finger the rest of the way through the ring meant more to him than any word she could have uttered.

Pulling out his phone again, Bo entered Sandie’s number and hit SEND. After four rings, the voice mail picked up. Not unusual, Bo thought, especially as far out as we are, she and Buddy could be down in a draw somewhere with no signal. Since Buddy had a different cellular carrier, he tried that phone.
Redneck_Packrat
 
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Re: What Went Wrong

Postby Redneck_Packrat » Sun May 31, 2015 6:58 am

FIVE

“H’lo?”

“Hey, Bud, it’s Dad. Where might y’all be at right now?” Asked Bo.

“Um, just turning off the hard road.”

“What took y’all so long?”

“Decided to run up to Mathis and get a few things we couldn’t get here at the corner.”

“What’s going on up there?” asked Bo.

“Not much, traffic about the same as yesterday, but it was funny…. There were two cops parked out in front of the bank. Just sitting there, kinda watching, looked like watching the ATM and the front door of the bank. Any idea what that’s all about?”

“Tell ya when I get home. I’m about to Alfred, fixin’ to turn off the highway. About fifteen minutes out.”

“Ok, see ya at home.”

Buddy hung up his phone and turned to his step-mom. “That was my dad. Says we’re gonna beat him home. You were on the phone with Granny, I didn’t get to ask you… Did you see the gas price at the corner when we came back through from Mathis?”

“Yeah I did. What, almost five dollars, wasn’t it?”

“Four eighty nine, what I saw. Good thing we got the gas on the way out, huh?”

“That’s why I said to do that. Your dad’s been worrying about this for a while now, and looks like he may have been onto something.” Sandie turned her gaze out the side window, thinking about what she was going to drag out for dinner. For the most part, Sandie planned, the guys cooked. Sometimes the finished product even resembled what she had planned. Between Buddy and Bo, the meals were never dull.

It thoroughly amazed Sandie the changes she had come to embrace since moving from suburban Joliet to rural south Texas. Just a few short years ago, coming home at six o’clock would have meant a call to the local pizza joint for a couple of large pizzas and enough soda pop to wash it down. Fat chance of that around here, chuckled Sandie, with the closest place to get a pizza being 25 miles from home. Funny, I don’t miss that as much as I thought I would, she realized. It sure is cheaper to eat home cooked food, and so much better for you not to mention better tasting and more filling.

Another thing that was wildly different from her upbringing was buying in bulk. Bo’s family had always done that, living so far from competitive stores. With only one grocery store and one hardware store nearby, Bo’s folks had a habit of working up a decent list before heading to a store. Bo continued that even when he lived up north for those five years, confounding Sandie to no end. It was a bit of a culture shock to go from just running by the store for today’s and tomorrow’s food to making an outing of the trip to the grocery store, but she could see the logic in it, since the savings of driving to the warehouse store or Super Wal-Mart more than paid for the fuel to get there.

Sandie got to where she looked forward to these trips when they lived in tiny (to her) Elwood, Illinois, since it gave her much more selection and a chance to get out and see some of the world. With the Super Wal-Mart twenty miles away in Morris, and the Sam’s Club in Joliet, they would run to one or the other every couple of weeks, alternating between the two, to the point where the only things they bought locally were the short-life perishables, like milk. Having four teens in the house was very much like having four calves, so milk didn’t last long anyway.

She realized with a start as Buddy turned the corner onto the road to their place that what Bo likely had been doing was preparing her for the move to Texas. While her mom kidded them for their day trips to the big-box stores for food, and the way they stocked food up on each trip, Sandie realized that she had gotten used to it, and now didn’t mind the long drive to the bigger store with better prices, instead of the nearest grocery store. Oh, the choice was still there, but the local corner store was not well stocked with actual groceries, and what little they did have was priced by pirates.

Looking straight ahead, she saw a plume of dust rising several miles down the road, with a darker speck in the center of it, which meant it was an oncoming …. Well, an oncoming something, it was too far away to make out just what. Reaching down, she picked up the mic on the Honest Abe President series CB and said just one word, “Boo.”

“Boo who?” came the reply.

“Don’t cry, honey,” she replied with a smile in her voice. That dust speck was Bo, coming in from the other direction.

“I wouldn’t dare cry, I see you are gonna beat me home, by about a minute or two.”

“Yep. You’re just in time to help haul all this stuff to where it goes.”

Bo keyed up the mic and faked a moan, then laughing, he said, “Just be sure Buddy leaves me enough room to park next to you so neither of us is blocking in the other. You know how I like having a backup for everything.”

Bo was almost obsessed with everything having a useful backup for that friend he mentioned earlier, Justin Case. He liked to know that if he told a client he’d be there, he would not be late from a dead battery or a flat tire (and living in the mesquite brush flats were common, even with Slime) or some other unanticipated hang-up, since he could just go climb in the other truck and head out. This did present a problem, though, that it might leave Sandie without a way to get to town. So…. A backup for the backup! In addition to “her” 2001 F150 Supercab and “his” 88 F250 Supercab, the backup backup was a 1973 F350 one ton that he picked up out of a farmer’s barn in Nowhere, Illinois, years ago for the princely sum of six hundred dollars. It had earned his money back many times over in Bo’s lawn care and handyman business that had evolved into preservation and renovation work done for mortgage companies.

With only 77,000 miles on it, which was about average for a second-owner farm truck, it was as tight and dependable as anything he could have found for ten times the money. It had a flat wooden floor with stake pockets in which to slip the sideboards to make it into a grain bed, not a miniature steel dump bed like you see on most small dump trucks, so without the sides it passed as just a plain old flatbed pickup truck, albeit a dually. When he insured it the first time the agent didn’t get very particular, but that was before 9-11.

After moving to Texas, red tape required the insurance agent to verify the VIN and have on file a digital image of the vehicle. Bo removed the sides, and took the outside duals off of the truck and drove it in to the insurance office, and had it insured as a standard pickup truck with a homebuilt flat wooden cargo bed, which got it on his personal automobile policy instead of having to take out a commercial policy for the coverage. Since he did no advertising on his vehicles and never hauled new products for hire, he did not violate the conditions of a personal policy, even with the one ton.

Bo pulled through the gate and, stopping to lock it, while looking around, something was different but he couldn’t put his finger on it. It was not a hair on back of neck difference, just something out of place, something minor. In the flat as a griddle south Texas farm country, you could, with binoculars, see the curvature of the horizon in most directions. There were very few brushy areas in Bo’s neck of the (non) woods, so he could, from his gate, see the horizon from the south all the way around through the west and north to almost the northeast.

The only approach to his house by road that he couldn’t see was a wash boarded gravel road that followed the brush line around the back of his place, east of the house. This wasn’t much of a problem because even though unseen, anything going more than ten miles an hour would certainly be heard bouncing down the two miles of washboard behind the brush.

Lenny’s house was to the north of Bo’s entrance, and while neither of them had realized it, they both fit the definition of prepper. Bo’s dad called it the “siege mentality” that he acquired from living through the Great Depression.

It’s amazing, Bo thought, that eight years ago this was a thicket of mesquite brush with nothing on it, and now look. Lenny’s two story house 500 feet north, and back in the brush, semi-hidden from sight behind an old fence line that had grown up with huisache, Bo’s house, a little over 400 feet in from the gate. They had both bought their land from what turned out to be a shady developer, but he sold the owner finance paper to another outfit who so far had been honorable about carrying the note, the payments were reasonable so long and as the economy held up and Sandie’s SSDI check kept coming Bo and Sandie had the mortgage payment covered on the long, narrow patch of brush.

The land was only 450 feet wide, a rectangle 1100 some-odd deep, but the depth was into the heaviest brush. Bo estimated that the hay pasture out front was about three acres, there was an area of knockdown that had been bulldozed years ago and was clear of all but a few mature trees that stretched from the house back diagonally to the back corner of Lenny’s place, with about three acres on Bo and Sandie’s side of the line, and the balance in the southeast corner was mature, full heavy mesquite brush, about five acres. The fence line had never been dozed down the south side, so a fence had never been erected. He was sort of half way hoping that if he ever did wind up with a neighbor, that the neighbor would take it upon himself to erect a fence.

Bo wasn’t particularly interested in fencing that brush in, as he and Lenny hunted those five acres anyway, and also the neighboring acreage. Lenny fenced his north side, near the county washboard road that ran behind the brush, and Bo ran the fence down the edge of the brush, just to contain the few cows and goats the drought was allowing them to graze. The subdivision had been divided into lots of at least ten acres each, and the one to Bo’s immediate south had title issues that it did not appear anyone was interested in resolving. This suited Bo just fine, as it gave him a 450 foot buffer to the next neighbor, and about six acres more of brush to hunt, and if push come to shove, cut for firewood.

Both men had incorporated several features into their houses that would have even the most serious prepper nodding agreement. Because of Sandie, their house started out to be a ranch-style, with completely open floor plan. With only Buddy still at home when they built the house, they built a two bedroom house with all the rooms oversize and open to each other. One short, wide hallway connected the master bedroom with the great room and held the food storage. The bedrooms were at opposite ends of the house so that with only Buddy and Bo getting up and taking two steps, the whole yard was visible, including the 150 yard long driveway and front gate.

When Buddy graduated from high school, he went to work for Lenny’s home improvement business, and decided to keep his permanent residence here. Lenny worked all over the southern United States, installing various security components in motels and other commercial buildings such as earthquake tie downs, hurricane bracing, and so forth. Buddy might find himself in Palmdale, California, one month, and then the next month in Atlanta or Dallas. In between jobs he was home, and the layoffs were getting more frequent and longer.

Bo and Sandie relished their privacy, and while from the rooftop, above the scrub mesquite and huisache, one could see as far as from the gate in almost as wide an arc, that was not the case from the house windows. With Sandie’s approval the boys jointly developed a plan to add a second story room onto the house, with a separate entry and a small kitchenette in it, for Buddy to use when home, and with a interior stairway so that in inclement weather one wouldn’t have to exit the house to go up and down. From that upper level, and with one room having windows on all four walls, it commanded a view much better than that at the gate, with the added bonus of being able to see over the various sheds and outbuildings around the house, while also giving Buddy a place to call his own.

It was not nearly as impressive as Lenny’s third story cupola, which almost looked like a church belfry! Lenny had built his house up instead of out, and the ‘observatory’ fit right into the appearance. It was deceptively built, having picture windows on all four sides, ostensibly built as a source of light for the upstairs interior, but at the base of it, where one would presume that it was a strip of dark trim of 1x6, Lenny had built a deer blind on top of his house, is the easiest way to describe it. All four sides had tinted glass panels that slid horizontally to allow the barrel of a rifle to slip out very unobtrusively. With the illusion of that “trim” being at floor level, the large picture windows were the distraction that would draw eyes upwards, in hopes that they’d never have the chance to shift glance downward to the trim. While neither Lenny nor Bo came right out and mentioned it, it was tacitly agreed that that would be the main LP/OP for the two of them.

The picture windows themselves had an additional deceptive feature. They, like all the windows for most of the two houses, were scavenged from jobsites because of breakage or the frames being bent or warped, and these four were the last ones to go in on Lenny’s house. They were all glass-break casualties. Instead of replacing the panes with glass, Lenny replaced them with Lexan, reasoning that the thing sitting up there would be a great target for a road hunter to shoot out when he was out of town.

Bo never thought of himself as a prepper, more of a survivor. Oh, the thoughts of GTW had passed through his head, but with nothing of great strategic importance that would require a nuke to remove anywhere near his place, the probability of dealing with that issue was so low as to keep it on the back burner, even with the power mad dog-eaters and goat-romancing camel jockeys bumping their gums as insistently as they were.

The election of Barack Hussein Obama to the presidency was more of an eye opener for Bo, and Sandie to a lesser extent. Her attitude was more one of having to hold out a week or two at the most before being able to resupply, whereas Bo was not too convinced that in some major upheaval the sparsely populated western end of their county would be just left to fend for itself. Bo had lived through the devastation of Hurricane Celia in 1970, and had vivid memories of the National Guard roadblock between the family farm and where he grew up, and his dad gritting his teeth and yessir, nosir-ing the outsider holding a rifle at port arms as the Guardsman determined whether he would allow Bo and his dad to return home to the coast after checking on the farm after the storm had passed.

Visions of a roadblock such as this between their home and the nearest businesses, with grim faced uniforms passing judgment on whether or not to let the locals pass, made Bo decide to be able to turn his back on the rest of the world if need be and live by his and Sandie’s own devices indefinitely. This was not much of a conversion, save to increase the stocks of food to last until the second garden could be brought to maturity. Second garden, because with the drought south Texas was in, one should not expect to have much of a harvest any time soon, and better not depend on the next one. Ground water is too salty for irrigation, being good only for flushing commodes and showering, so Bo set up to catch rain runoff if and when it ever rained again. He installed gutters around the eaves and piped all the runoff into a pair of 1100 gallon fertilizer tanks left over from before his dad retired from farming. Figuring that would last about one garden’s worth, he set out to build a concrete holding tank in back of the house, of a size to hold that much water again. This way, in a wet year, they wouldn’t even have to run the well for house water.

If it ever rains again, Bo told himself, I’ll experiment with mixing well and rain water in one of the tanks and see if I can stretch the irrigation out a bit. He was thinking of Elmer Kelton’s book about west Texas in the 1950’s, “The Time it Never Rained.”

“HEY YOU!” Startled, Bo turned with a start and looked at Sandie up at the treeline waving at him. Feeling a little guilty that he was out daydreaming by the gate while Sandie and Buddy were doing all the work, he hustled to close and lock the gate.

Climbing back into the red truck, he drove across the pasture and around the house to pull up even with the blue truck in the side yard, facing the north cut in the tree line where Sandie was just motoring back in from the pasture. Both trucks were parked where either could pull into the driveway without having to jockey around the other. Bo got out and went over to the other truck and grabbed one of the bottles and started towards its place.

On the one side of the drive was the house, facing the road with a straight ramp down to the hard packed dirt of the front yard. To the other side was the 20x22 shed with the dump truck backed in one side and an old John Deere 3010LP nosed in the other side with a back blade attached to it. Sitting on the west side of the shed, in the open but with a can over the air intake, was a 70-plus year old Ford 9N tractor with a bush hog mower on it. Various implements were scattered around the north half of the yard, along with piles of “junk” (according to Sandie) salvaged from vacant houses.

Apart from the shed the machinery was in was another flat-roof 24x26 shed that was too low to drive under and leaked like a sieve, but was very handy at shading some of the tools and equipment that was stored under tarps and on pallets to keep it dry. This was the rarely used stuff, the shed being Bo’s hurry-up slap-together job out of a pile of construction debris and landscaping timbers that he had found on the county road a month after buying the land. Bo had used this as his shop area for years, until finally last year building a tool shed nearer the house with 220v power and a large carport-like overhang.

There were still loads of tools over in the old shed, but most things had been brought to the new tool shed, including the welder, torch, all the hand tools, and the table saw and bench grinder. Behind the tool shed was a short roofed overhang that sheltered the air compressor and the 3500 watt run, 5000 watt peak gasoline generator, with a double wall and soundproof insulation between them and the shed. The power to the tool shed came overhead from the rear corner of the house, nothing more than 8/2 Romex from the main house box to a branch box in the shed, but with ten minutes and a regular screwdriver, Bo could have the whole house powered by the generator. The fuel system on the generator was gravity feed, and Bo had teed into the line between the factory shutoff and the carburetor and installed another valve. This tee had a second ball valve on it, so when Bo took the generator to a job with him he could disconnect the hose from the drum, but in a time of need to run the house long-term, he had plumbed a 55 gallon drum for feeding the generator.

Beside the shed, about ten feet away from the generator, Bo had built a platform the height of his pickup bed, onto which he slid his drums of gasoline. This platform had a roof to shade the tanks, but was open to the east, having walls only on the side towards the generator and the side towards where Bo used his torch and welder. He used galvanized corrugated iron, or as most people called it, tin roofing, for those walls as well as the roof of the fuel cover. Not only did this serve to shelter the drums from the south Texas sun, it also hid them from view unless someone was behind the house a considerable distance, and not even the propane delivery man went that far back.

Bo had cobbled together a semi-fool proof method to extract gasoline from the barrel to run the generator. In the place of one of the bungs, he had fitted together enough bushings to reduce the opening from the two inch pipe thread in the barrel to half inch pipe thread. He then used three nipples and two elbows to make an inverted U which would keep any rainwater out of the barrel. Through this contraption he threaded one end of a length of quarter inch rubber fuel line. Keeping a gentle downhill slope to the rubber hose, he ran it around the corner and down to the carburetor side of the generator, taking care to miss the exhaust area of the generator by a good distance.

To use gasoline from the drum instead of the mounted 4 gallon tank on the generator, Bo simply had to close the valve under the mounted tank and, after drawing a flow through the siphon hose from the barrel and stabbing that on the open end of the valve he added, open that new valve and the fuel would siphon from the barrel into the carburetor bowl of the generator. It was not the perfect setup, but if something were to come loose, it would be the end of the hose drawing the fuel, which would shut the generator down and alert people of a problem.

Running this way, the generator would run much longer than the recommended interval for oil change. An air-cooled 4 cycle engine should have the oil changed every 25-30 hours. Bo planned to run the generator only as necessary, which in the summer would be from about three in the afternoon, the hottest part of the day, until about an hour past dark. This would keep the refrigerators cool so long as people stayed out of them during the morning, and would allow for a bit of lighting if the family outran dark getting ready for bed. Additionally, it would run the lift pump to refill the roof tanks, having them ready for the next day’s solar heating to do its magic on the hot water side.

Beneath this platform on which the gasoline sat, Bo kept his 5 gallon propane bottles. He had a number of them that he had salvaged from vacant houses, always marveling that there was someone dumb enough to pay a person to haul off propane! In addition to the fivers, he had three 7 ½ gallon (30 lb) bottles, and two 25 gallon bottles (hundred pounders.) These bottles he kept full by using the wet leg on his 250 gallon pig, using the fill hose he fueled the John Deere with. These little tanks added more than a hundred gallons to his propane storage.

One can run a house successfully on a 5 gallon bottle, Bo had discovered one time when his propane gauge on the pig stuck and he wound up with an empty pig on Christmas Eve. Good thing all those bottles were there, he had thought to himself as he hooked up a small one quickly so that Sandie could finish cooking dinner. After that happened, he went to the hardware store and bought enough flex copper line to be able to reach the valve on a 25 gallon bottle with the house feed line. It had been too short to reach up to the height of the vertical 25 gallon bottle and Bo knew better than to tip a propane bottle and allow liquid into the lines, that it would first freeze up an old regulator and then fill the lines with liquid enough to pressurize the whole system to tank pressure. Not good. Running a house off of a portable bottle involves nothing more than erecting a suitable stand for a short bottle or either digging a hole or extending the height of your riser for a tall bottle, and remembering to never, ever tip or tilt a connected bottle for any reason whatsoever.

The bottles all put away, Bo was drawn from his reverie by the smell of mesquite burning. As he walked around the corner of the house, he saw Sandie and Buddy in the front yard. “There you are slowpoke! I was wondering when you’d get through putting up those bottles and follow your nose. What’s a matter, sinuses plugged up again?” Sandie teased Bo as he took the offered glass of ice water and settled into a lawn chair made of fence pickets he had built from, you guessed it, salvage from a vacant house. Heh, he thought, they paid me to haul these pickets off too. Wonder how many people would’ve just burned ‘em or taken ‘em to a landfill?

“What’s for dinner, darling?”
“How about 59 cent chicken legs, sweet corn, and beans?”

“Gotta love a cheap date,” grinned Bo, holding out his hand to Sandie, who took it and held it between both of hers, both of them feeling that love that comes from a long day in different places and the comfort that settles in when the day is winding down, together.
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Re: What Went Wrong

Postby Redneck_Packrat » Fri Jun 05, 2015 8:45 pm

I apologize for vanishing for a few days like this, but there is a reason. My dad passed away last weekend, and it's just been hectic to the point of no time to re-read and post. I'll pick back up on it early next week. Thanks for reading!
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Re: What Went Wrong

Postby fastback65 » Sat Jun 06, 2015 12:18 pm

Take care of family first. Prayers from our house for your family.

Rick
"Never, under any circumstances, ever become a refuge... Die if you must, but die on your home turf with your face to the wind, not in some stinking hellhole 2,000 kilometers away, among people you neither know nor care about." - Ragnar Benson
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Re: What Went Wrong

Postby stjwelding » Sat Aug 15, 2015 2:19 pm

Great story, sorry to hear of your loss. When you get around to writing more we will be hear waiting.
Wayne
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