Searchers – Part 1

Posted: June 4, 2016 in Book 1 TERROR IN TEXAS
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Randy and Miguel dropped two men to work on the cattle guard cover. The trucks rolled over the cattle guard and out across the meadow.

“We’re going to have to clear more pine from this side of the arroyo. Attackers could use the trees and brush to hide.  We won’t know it before they’re at our doorstep.” Randy commented.

“Sí” Miguel tipped his straw hat back from his forehead. “Do you really think it will come to that, Señor Randy?”

“The world is going to shit, if you haven’t noticed. It’s not bad enough with the infected. When resources get scarce, if we’re not ready for it, we’ll be sitting ducks for any asshole deciding to take what we have.” He steered the pickup across a dry low water crossing then continued. “At some point we’ll have to start trading with other groups. No matter how careful we are people will figure out where we are and some of them will be willing to kill to get what we have.”

“Corregir. If the drug cartels survive and hear of a safe place to the north, there will be mucho trouble. We don’t have enough hombes to hold off attack like that.”

“I know, believe me, I know.” Randy whispered. “We need time to be ready.”

Trees quickly closed in as they left the canyon behind. The road was little more than a dirt trail wandering through the forest. They crossed McKittrick Creek, twice with low water crossings. The creek was the only major surface water in the area. After a twenty miles trek through the high country, the woods and rolling hills gave way to the rock strewn flat arid grassland of pinyon pines and juniper.

Few people knew about Pine Springs Canyon. It wasn’t nearly as big as McKittrick Canyon and had not been considered a camping attraction since the early 1900s because of its proximity to the highest and driest peaks located across the state line from New Mexico.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park was located on the Texas side of the Guadalupe Mountains and Pine Springs Canyon was protected by the high peaks. They only had to worry about a frontal attack from the east or southeast.

Pine Springs Canyon had some of Texas most varied weather, hot in the summer, calm and mild autumn weather, and cool to cold weather in the winter and early spring. Higher up in the Guadalupe Mountains there would be snow storms, freezing rain, or fog in the winter and sometimes found its way to the canyon. Early spring included high winds during winter through spring while late summer monsoons produced thunderstorms with cool nights even in summer.

“We’re going west. How far will we go?” Miguel asked after nearly an hour of driving.

“Not as far as Juarez, at least not this time. There’s a couple dozen ranches out this way and some small towns. We’ll check ‘em out. If they’re deserted, we take what we can use.”

“If people still there?”

“Try to get a feel for the kind of people they are. Maybe even establish some way of contacting them.  We’ve got the short wave radio.”

“Señorita Cassie wants the medicamentos.”

“I know. She was animate about getting the meds. We can go into Dell City. There’s a pharmacy and a few small stores. The town is small but maybe we can find some of the things we need. There’s a veterinary office that might have some of what she wants. Until we know a little more about what’s going on, I don’t want to go into Juarez. It’ll be too dangerous.”

The road widened and the first ranch came into view. Randy slowed the pickup and the truck behind him slowed enough to drop back at least fifty yards.

“What do you think?” Randy asked as he studied the buildings in the distance.

“The gate is closed. I think the people is still there. Look at the windmill in back. Someone has hung clothes on the line.”

“I think you’re right.” Randy answered. “Well leave a note on the gate and move on.”

They approached another ranch with a herd of goats wandering a front pasture. A cattle guard kept the animals from the roadway. An old man gave a careless wave from the corner of the fence. A rifle rested in the crook of his arm. Miguel pointed out two more men hidden a dozen feet away.

Randy stopped the truck. He opened the door and stepped out on the running board. He leaned over the cab of the truck.

“Hi there.” Randy called over the hood of the truck. “Name’s Randy Matherson, Mr. Goodman.”

“I ‘member you, young fella.” The old man called out.

“How’re you doing, Mr. Goodman?”

“Good ‘nough.” The man answered. “You folks going far?”

Randy shrugged. “Maybe as far as Juarez, I don’t know. We’re just scouting around to see how folks are faring. Maybe pick up supplies if we can.”

“Best stay outta that cesspool, young fella.” The old man stepped a booted foot to the bottom rail of the fencing. His companions approached from their hiding places.

“Did the infection spread that far already?” Randy’s faced mirrored his shocked.

“Is that what you’re calling it?” One of the younger men asked. “An infection? That shit’s bad. Made people bat-shit crazy. Fucker’s from the city are eating people.”

“Ain’t like no infection I ever seen before.” The second man added.

“My boys barely made it out Juarez with their families.” Mr. Goodman added. “We’re building a gate for the cattle guard, here. From what I hear, those fucks attacked a ranch on the other side of Dell. Folks killed ‘em, but it was ugly. They had to take down men, women, children, young and old alike.”

“We ain’t got much here, but we plan on protecting all sixteen acres.” The older of the two young men announced. Got no choice. This is all we got.”

“It’s going to be hard to protect you’re livestock when the infected come down this road.” Randy paused for a moment then continued. “Mr. Goodman, if I offered an alternative, would you consider leaving the ranch?”

“Don’t know why you’d do that.” Mr. Goodman responded and spit a glob of tobacco to the ground.

Randy grinned. “For one thing, we’re looking for livestock. You’ve got livestock. We need good people. I know you’re a good man, figure you’re sons learned to be the same.”

Mr. Goodman laughed. “Well, can’t fault your logic. I know you and that Army General been fixin’ up that big place in Pine Springs Canyon. You got room for a dozen people?”

Randy laughed. “We got plenty of room for you folks and your livestock. There’s plenty of work and we have kids so we’re planning on having a school.”

Mr. Goodman looked at each of the young men standing at his sides. Finally, he turned back to Randy. “You boys do your lookin’ around then head back this way and we’ll have an answer for you. We gotta talk about it with the family. If we take you up on this offer, we got trucks and a trailer for the livestock.”

“Well, I hope you decide to join us.” Randy answered. “It might be a day or two.”

“No problem.” One of the young men answered.

“If you decide to go and we don’t make it back in two day take off and head up there without us.  Stop at the cattle guard and blow your horn.”

The old man waved as Randy settled back on the driver’s seat of the truck and cranked the pickup engine. He slipped the truck in gear and steered the truck back onto the blacktop.

“You think they’ll come, Señor Randy?” Miguel asked.

Randy shrugged. “Who knows? The place is almost sitting on the road. No cover, no natural protection. They’re an easy target for the infected and criminals that comes along. Not good the way I see it.”

“Sí.” Miguel answered.

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