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The Long Winter

Re: The Long Winter

Postby fastback65 » Thu Apr 24, 2014 7:14 am

Chapter 59


When the sun was just about directly overhead, Marty said, “Let's take a break for lunch, Rodney. We can go over some of the finer points while we're refueling.”

“Sounds good to me,” said Rodney, not wanting to admit the old man had him about ready to drop.

They knocked the dirt off their boots and went into the house where Martha had made them a light lunch and a pitcher of iced tea. The men sat down and started in on the sandwiches and Marty said, “there is a lot more to it than putting the seeds in the ground, You need to learn about rotating your crops, you really don't want to plant the same crop in the same place, year after year. I need to teach you about cover crops, so the cover you plant can add nutrients back into the soil. There is a lot to know, and I think you will remember it better, if you take some notes as we go along.”

Martha handed Rodney a pencil and a small notebook she took from some of the school supplies they had found. “Marty and I talked about this last night,” said Martha, “so while you boys were in the garden, I dug these out.”

“Rodney, I can't stress enough, how important it is that you ask questions about anything you don't completely understand, and please drop the Mr. off my name. We are both farmers and equals as far as I am concerned.”

“Thanks, Marty,” said Rodney, “Thanks for everything. Once Janet and I got our house setup, we kind of thought that would be enough. You and Martha were kind enough to stock our larder and I guess we just thought it would last forever. We will never be able to repay you.”

“Rodney, the farming community is different than what you are used to. We take care of each other, but your food comes at a cost. The sweat of your brow, the aching in your back, and never having a day off, is the cost, but the reward is good food that hasn't been tampered with and the knowledge that by your own hand, your family is fed. I'm not discounting the help from the big man, but without your labor and dedication, it doesn't happen.”

“I'll be honest, Marty,” said Rodney, “it is a lot more work than I imagined. How can you work like that at your age?”

“I just always have,” said Marty, “I was raised with the idea that if something needed doing, you just did it. Now you can sit and think on it, or plan on how you are going to do it, or try to find an easier way to do it, but the bottom line is, sooner or later, you just need to do it. The sooner it is done, the sooner you can get on to the next crisis, and there is always one more thing that need to be done.”

“I'm beginning to see that,” agreed Rodney, “We got the beds ready, now we need to plant and then it will be weeding and then harvesting and then it starts all over again.”

“You left out praying,” said Marty, “Martha and I always say a prayer before we put the crops in the ground and we always say a prayer of thanks when we harvest the crop. In between, we pray for rain and we pray that the insects won't hurt us too bad and we pray for each other. It is not a bad habit to get into. I am thinking we need to find a preacher and start having a weekly service, failing that, we need to at least have a bible study, right here among ourselves. Are you and your family Christians, Rodney?”

“”Yeah, I suppose by definition we are, but we never attended an organized church, and the kids have had no training, but we do believe in God,” said Rodney.

“If you are willing, Martha and I would like to share the good news of salvation and everlasting life with your family. Either way, you are welcome here, but I think you should give it a try. Talk it over with your family and let us know. Now, if you are ready, grab your notebook and let's get back to it.”

Marty couldn't suppress a small chuckle as he heard Rodney groan a little while he was standing up.
"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: The Long Winter

Postby fastback65 » Fri Apr 25, 2014 5:54 am

Chapter 60


By late afternoon, Janet and Martha were sorting seed and planning the fall garden. Martha was telling her what did best in this area and what to expect come canning time. The talk turned to the children and they decided they needed to start home schooling the kids. “I can do the math and sciences,” said Janet, “ but I am not as strong in history and English.”

“I think Barbara was a teacher, before she married Tony,” said Martha, “We need to bring her into the loop and see if this is something she would be willing to take on.”

“If she is teaching, who is going to help Al with the gardening,” asked Janet?

“That is the problem,” said Martha, “We need more people and we need to get some sort of commerce going. We could grow a little extra and pay Barbara for teaching with food, but what if she needs something we don't grow, she needs to be able to be paid for her efforts and then choose whether she wants to buy food or something else. I think we need a market in town. We could sell our excess produce and dairy, and buy things we aren't able to grow for ourselves.”

“I could offer medical care, but I wouldn't want to just be paid in food, sometimes there is no substitute for money,” said Janet.

“Let's talk to Marty and Rodney and see what they think. We could put out the word and start with a trading day and go from there. I know there are still a few families in town that would be interested.”

Rodney was dragging when Marty finally called it a day. He couldn't remember working this hard in his life, but at least his family was safe and he had started to insure their survival. He thought it was worth the effort and he promised himself he would give it all he had for as long as it took. Janet placed his evening meal on the table and after she and the kids were seated, he asked her if she wanted to say grace. “I'm not sure if I know what to say,” said Janet, We never said grace at my house.”

“I know how,” said Sophie, “Mrs. Martha showed me. “Everyone bow their heads.” The familiar |God is good began and Rodney and Janet shared a glance at each other and knew at that moment, that even if they didn't feel the need for religion, the kids needed something in their lives. After clearing the table, Rodney told her of the conversation he and Marty had earlier and they decided they would at least learn more.

The next morning, Rodney woke up sore, but somehow he also felt better. He knew this would be their home and he was determined to return to as normal a life as possible. He got up and started the coffee and them woke Janet and the kids. While he was getting dressed, Janet started breakfast and he told the kids as soon as they got through eating, to brush their teeth and they would all go over to Marty's and they could gather eggs and feed the chickens. Janet told them when they got through with the chickens, they could help her and Martha plant the garden.

Marty and Martha talked at length about the market idea, and while Marty thought it was a good idea, he thought that if the people in town came up with the idea, it would be better. He told Martha he would plant a few seeds in the minds of the town folk and let it be their idea. If they didn't follow through on it, then he and Martha would start it up.

“Rodney, let's ride into the town and see whats going on. I need to talk to a few folks and see if maybe we can do a little trading,” said Marty.
"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: The Long Winter

Postby fastback65 » Mon Apr 28, 2014 11:26 am

Chapter 61


The first of the weekly markets went pretty well, although the crowd was rather sparse, the vegetables from Marty and Martha's greenhouse went very quickly along with the eggs and butter. It seemed nobody had any use for things they couldn't' eat. Marty had traded some .22 cartridges for some old but serviceable tools, and Rodney, traded some promised labor for some young chickens and a piglet. Soon enough, everyone began to pack up in a bid to get home before dark and the market was closed, with a promise to do it again in a week. Back at the farm, June and Ron, had walked over to Marty's to visit. It seemed to Marty that Ron wasn't getting out enough and he thought he should be further along in his rehabilitation. “June, are seeing to it that Ron is doing his exercises and walking everyday,” asked Marty”

“We are doing just fine, thank you,” said June. “If Ron doesn't want to walk, I am certainly not going to make him. He is doing just fine.”

“That's a load of crap,” countered Marty, “If you expect him to get better and have more stamina, you are going to have to insist he does the exercises that Janet and the Doc, told him to do. He will never get his strength back sitting on his butt and you catering to his every whim. Ron, what the hell is wrong with you, why aren't you doing your exercises?”

“What's the point, I am old an worn out, I will never be able to do anything again, I might as well just go ahead and die. There is nothing left out there for me,” Ron said.

“What about June,” asked Marty, “Do you really just want to die and leave her to fend for herself?”

“June would be better off with me gone. I am just another burden she don't need. Just an extra mouth to feed.”

“Well I'll be damned”, said Marty “I thought you had a heart attack, I didn't know your brain had died. Suit yourself, if you want to die, then go ahead and die, but don't tell yourself you are doing it to make life easier on June or anyone else. You are doing it because you are damn selfish and at some point you have gotten too lazy to try to get better. I think I am going to go to bed, Martha see them out.”

Ron and June exchanged glances and then you could see the fire relight in Ron's eyes. “I'll show him who is . June, let's go,” said Ron rising to his feet.

As soon as they were out the door, Marty came back into the living room and asked Martha, “Well, do you think that will get him going”?
"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: The Long Winter

Postby fastback65 » Tue Apr 29, 2014 5:57 am

Chapter 62


The collective had settled into a routine, after the morning chores were finished, Janet took the kids for the morning classes. She taught them math and science, using the books they had traded for at market. Then they were allowed free time for an hour or so, and then to the gardens and greenhouses, where they worked until lunch. After lunch they were allowed to have a free time for a n hour or so, and then Barbara took them in the house for history, English, and bible study, then they were free for another hour, until the boys were taken by Marty and the girls by Martha. The girls were taught how to make bread and help in the kitchen, while the boys were taught marksmanship and hunting techniques. They were also taught how to use the various tools that were found on a farm and how to harness the mules and to operate the tractor. Marty reasoned that he wouldn't be around forever and they would have to fend for themselves. Soon enough, he let them go and they had until supper to play on their own.

“You don't think we are giving them too much responsibility do you Marty,” asked his wife? “It seems they spend a lot of time on studies and working and not so much on being kids.”

“This is a different time, Martha,” explained Marty, “If we don't instill a work ethic in them now, while they are young, and if we don't teach them now, while their minds are open, they will have a hard time fending for their self when we are gone.”

“I know you're right dear, but sometimes, kids just need to be kids, why don't we give them a free day Saturday, and we will do what they want to do, after all, they are doing good in their studies, and I think that Sissy will be a better baker than I am.”

“I'll tell you what,” said Marty, “after the morning chores Saturday, I will take the boys fishing and you and Janet can do whatever you and the girls want to do.”

“OK, but let's not tell them until its time. You know how time drags when you are waiting on something,” said Martha.

Al and Barbara, had not been sitting idle. They had made a garden that would feed a dozen people and Al, had built two very large dehydrators for drying all the herbs that Barbara had grown in the separate herb garden. The herbs were proving to be popular at the weekly market and of course they traded with Marty and Martha, for butter and milk. Rodney was turning out to be the better trader of the group and had secured another milk cow as well as several goats. He found he could take the Unimog and travel to the surrounding farms and make a garden and his labor was well paid for. He planned it so that he could do several at a time so he made the best use of the fuel they had last. The Unimog seemed to work pretty well on the bio diesel he and Al were now producing.

“Caleb,” said Bruce, “I am going to declare my intentions to Sandra, and I encourage you to do the same with Susan. I have seen the way the other guys in town are looking at them at the market. He who hesitates is lost, brother.”

“Funny, I was just thinking the same thing,” said Caleb, “the worst that happen is they tell us to get lost. I am going over there right after lunch.”

“You boys need to remember one thing,” said Mr. Johnson, “those girls have lost their family and everything else they held dear. You be patient with them, don't go giving them no ultimatum. Be yourselves, I have taught you to be good boys and now you are good men. They may feel that they have no choice, but it is up to you to let them know you are there if they decide to take up with you, but they have to make the choice without feeling pressured.”

That afternoon, Bruce and Caleb, now seemingly more reserved, went to Marty and Martha's and asked if they could see the girls. “Certainly, Bruce,” said Martha, “You boys come on in, Marty and I were just going out to the barn.”

Martha called the girls down and she and Marty discreetly left through the back door. “Hi guys,” said Sandra, “What brings you over?”

“Well, frankly you do,” said Caleb, “Ever since you girls moved I here, Bruce and I haven't been able to think of anything else. I am just going to lay my cards on the table. In another time, I would have taken you out and gotten to know you better and, well I guess courted you proper. But now days, all has changed. Bruce and I have talked it over and we would just like to let you know that we are available, and we would be honored if you would consider us as possible husband material. Now before you say no, please consider that we have a working farm and we can take care of you. We will protect you and see that you have all you need. I am speaking for both of us when I say, we would never mistreat you and you be equals in every way.”

“Well, that is a lot to consider,” said Susan, “frankly, we have been thinking along the same lines. Maybe the world dying off like it did was a good thing, in a weird sort of way, it seems like a lot of things we would have never considered, are now a part of daily life. We have talked it over, and we think you two would make fine husbands, but let's take it slow.” With that, Sandra walked over to Bruce and gave him a peck on the lips and a hug, her younger sister did the same with Caleb. The boys said their goodbyes and walked back home, their feet not quite touching the ground.
"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: The Long Winter

Postby fastback65 » Thu May 01, 2014 5:40 am

Chapter 63


The fall gardens that had been carefully planted during the mid summer were ready for harvest. The entire group helped, with the Martha and June, doing most of the canning and instructing Susan and Sandra in the finer points of food preservation. Al and Barbara decided to dehydrate all of their herbs and peppers. Rodney and Janet helped harvest the other gardens after they were finished with theirs. It was a pretty successful harvest considering Rodney's and Ron's gardens were grown in a hastily prepared spot. Marty instructed Rodney in planting cover crops for his main garden and planting some cold weather crops in another plot. Soon, the manure had been worked into the soil and the gardens were laid by for the Winter. “Now we get a little break,” said Marty. “I think I am going to saddle one of the mules and see if I can do a little deer hunting. If you would like to go with me, Rodney, come on and I will show you the easy way to hunt, using a mule.”

“It would be nice to put some meat away for the Winter,” said Rodney, “Let me get my rifle and I will be right back.”

Marty saddled both mules and leading one, he rode the other over to Rodney's to save him a walk back. “Rodney, when you hunt from a mule or even a horse, you need to pay attention to the mule. You give him encouragement to go where you want to go, but let him pick the path. Now both of these mules have been hunted from a lot, and they know when they smell a deer, that I am going to shoot. This has happened so often, that when they smell a deer, they will stop and sort of brace for the noise. Watch your mule, he will smell a deer, long before you see one,” Marty explained.

“Will they rear up when you shoot,” asked Rodney?

“No sir,” said Marty, “these mules are not gun shy, but they might rear up if you try to make them walk over a snake.”

The two men set out across the field toward the wood line n an easy walk, neither the men or the mules in any particular hurry. It didn't take long before the mule Marty was riding to stop and twitch his ears. Marty eased his rifle into a shooting position and started carefully scanning the area ahead. Sure enough, there was a fine buck deer walking out from cover with his nose in the air, probably trailing a doe. Marty eased the safety off the M-14 and was caught by surprise as the metal butt plate pushed into his shoulder. The deer simply crumpled and dropped, without taking a step. Marty was thankful he had taken the animal cleanly without undue suffering and being as how the deer had not been alarmed, there was no adrenalin flowing to taint the meat. “Let's get this one hung up and bled out, and then we will work a little deeper in the woods and see if we can get you one,” said Marty.

They hung the deer and opened the chest cavity to let it cool as the blood drained, and after wrapping it in a little cheese cloth to keep the bugs away, they continued the hunt, this time with Rodney leading.

After about thirty minutes, they decided to turn around and collect Marty's deer and call it a day. Rodney nudged his mule forward and after about three steps, the mule seemed to lock up. Rodney watched as the mules ears twitched back and forth. He raised his 30.06 bolt action Winchester Model 70 and scanned the area and was rewarded with a big fat doe. He dropped the deer in her tracks and he and Marty repeated the earlier action of field dressing the deer. They then tied the deer across the mule and soon they were back to Marty's. Marty was quick to notice the coyote tracks and told Rodney, they were luck they came back when they did. “We will have to deal with these critters sooner or later. Maybe I can show you a little bit about trapping.”

Marty took out his hand held radio and told Martha they were bringing two deer back and for her to see if Ron was up to helping skin the deer. They planned to hang them in the barn overnight and the butchering would commence tomorrow.
"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: The Long Winter

Postby fastback65 » Mon May 05, 2014 11:19 am

Chapter 64


The deer were quickly butchered and the tenderloins were stripped out and prepared for supper. The rest of the deer was either canned or jerked and put into the storage rotation. Rodney took his share and Marty put his share away. Barbara and Al, as well as Ron and June, and Susan and Sandra were all invited to a supper of Tenderloin and baked potatoes. Martha had made a pecan pie with the last of her pecans, but the trees would soon be giving up a bumper crop they had been watching all summer. It was a fine repast and everyone agreed, it was the best meal in a long time. After the supper dishes were done and everyone had gone home, Sandra asked Marty if they could have a few minutes to talk to he and Martha. Marty agreed and as soon as Martha came in the room, Sandra started.

“First of all, we want to thank the two of you for taking us in. It was crazy of us to follow Al and Rodney back here and the fact that you didn't try to kill us or worse, says a lot about how nice you all are and how stupid we were. Mr. Marty, Bruce and I and Caleb and Susan have decided to set up housekeeping. We are going to move over to Mr. Johnson's for the time being, but we plan to either build a house or try and find a couple more trailers. We owe the two of you a lot, and we want you to know you will always be welcome at out place and we will still help out here all we can. Bruce came up with a plan, one day a week, he will work in the house with me, cooking, cleaning, doing the things that I will normally be responsible for and one day a week, I will work with him doing what he normally does. Sort of like cross training, I suppose. Caleb, and Sandra will do the same thing, so we will be able to every thing that needs doing if someone gets hurt or sick.”

“Sounds like a fine plan,” said Marty, “Martha and I did pretty much the same thing when we were starting out. I still don't like milking the cow and she hates feeding the mules, but we can do it if we have to. You girls go, with our blessings, Bruce and Caleb are good boys and they will take good care of you. You will always be welcome here and the offer of help is much appreciated.”

Both girls got up and hugged Marty and Martha and excused themselves to their room to start packing. “I guess thats as close as we will ever get to giving a daughter away,”said Martha.

We still got Sissy and Bobby to gt grown. We will have “grandchildren” after all,” said Marty.

The next morning was a Sunday, so after feeding the animals, Marty hitched the mules up to a wagon and he and Martha, left for a ride. Martha rarely got out of the house and Marty thought the ride would do them both good. After helping her into the wagon, he tucked a blanket around her legs and they took off. It was somewhat sobering to Martha to see again, all the empty homes. Homes that had once been filled with their friends, their neighbors, and even some relatives. Martha leaned over to Marty and said, “Marty, what will become of the world. So many are gone, I don't believe it will ever be OK again.”

“You are probably right, Martha, it will likely never be what it once was, but I am not convinced that is a bad thing. The few that are left, are closer now than they ever were. People have had to trust and rely on others like we haven't done for a very long time. In a way, I think the world is better off, people area working with their hands again, and they know that if they don't work, they won't eat. People are putting value on things again that had become worthless to them. Computers and cell phones, and cable TV, have no value anymore. Gentle rain, sunshine, and the love of your family, thats whats important now. Martha, I think we are in a much better place now than we were two short years ago. Let's go home and just enjoy each other company. We are going to be just fine.



The End
"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: The Long Winter

Postby stjwelding » Wed Apr 08, 2015 10:49 am

I just reread The Long Winter this is a great story thanks for making it
available for us to read, your talents are greatly appreciated.
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Re: The Long Winter

Postby fastback65 » Wed Apr 08, 2015 2:56 pm

You are quite welcome, Wayne. Glad you enjoyed it.
"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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