Archive for December, 2017

Paula and Margo parked the vehicles near the camp. Both women ignored the gathering of men and their clean up activities to walk up to the two women huddled together near the car where they had been chained.

“Hi. I’m Paula. This is Margo.” Paula stepped closer with bottles of water in hand.

The woman looked up and stared without speaking. Paula gave each of them a bottle while Margo handed them a plastic store bag with beef jerky, fruit cups and a handful of candy bars.

“I’m sorry. We didn’t find much in the truck stop.” Margo whispered.

“This is fine.” The woman whispered. She nodded to her daughter to eat, but she just stared straight ahead.

“I’m sorry about your family.” Paula sat down next to the woman.

Margo followed suit. “Steve and the guys came as soon as they saw the gunfire. I’m sorry we were too late.”

“So am I.” The woman whispered. “My name is Elaine, Elaine Ward. This is my daughter, Sandy.”

The woman pushed greasy hair from her face while she studied the bag on the ground. She looked up then silently opened the bottle of water. She took a drink then passed it to her daughter. Sandy finished the bottle of water and Elaine opened the second. They both drank without speaking for a couple minutes then peeked into the bag. Elaine opened a package of jerked meat and passed a piece to Sandy then pulled one out for herself while Margo and Paula waited quietly.

“We haven’t eaten in a couple days.” Still chewing, Elaine opened a fruit cup and passed it to her daughter.

Sandy tipped up the cup and spilled the sweet syrup and fruit into her mouth. She licked at the dribbled of syrup with a hint of a smile on her lips. When she realized what she was doing, she started crying. “They’re dead.” She looked at the food horrified. “How can I eat when Daddy and Danny are dead?”

Elaine put her arm around her daughter. “It’s alright. You have to eat. Your body is hungry. Your dad and Danny would want you to eat,” Elaine tore off another piece of jerky and put it in her mouth in a show of support for her words.

Brian approached the women. “Ladies? Is there anything I can do over here?”

Elaine looked up and studied Brian for a moment. “You’re military?”

“Yes, mam. Captain Brian Jameson. I’m sorry we couldn’t do more for your family.”

“Me too.” She introduced herself and her daughter then added. “What now? The van is destroyed?”

“You get your choice of trucks from the four these assholes were driving. You can come with us, or you can head back out to wherever you were going.” Brian answered. “We’re loading everything from your van into a truck then we’ll head back to the fueling station where we were staying. We’ll spend the rest of the night there. We can talk about your options in the morning, and you can make those decisions then.

Elaine nodded. “What about my son and husband? I’d like to bury them.”

Brian sighed. “I’m sorry. The best we can do is put them in the van and burn it in the morning. We don’t have the tools to bury them, and we can’t chance a fire tonight.”

When Zack handed Steve the camp shovel, he slid off the log and scooted over to a slight depression in the ground. He pulled away a couple handfuls of scrub grass then began to dig. He looked to see Penny watching and smiled as he wiped the moisture from his brow.

“You want to help?” Steve asked.

“Uh-huh,” Penny answered.

“I need lots of little pieces of wood.” He held his hands apart about six inches. “About this long and no bigger than your thumb, can you do that?”

Penny grinned. “Uh-huh.” She ran to a nearby tree to begin picking up sticks.

When she brought the first handful, Steve pointed at a place nearby. “There’ll be fine. Don’t wander far.”

Penny skipped away giggling while Steve completed the first hole when he had gotten down twenty inches. He cleaned to hole of the last of dirt then slid over to begin a second smaller hole. When he got to the same depth, he reached into the first hole and joined the two.

Zack hung the green tarp while Della and Darlene began sorting supplies for an evening meal. He walked over to Steve carrying an armful of small limbs and branches.

“Thought you were building a fire. What’s the hole for?”

“It’s a Dakota fire hole. Remember all the fires we saw? No one will see our fire below ground,” Steve answered.

“Want me to help?”

“Sure.” Steve passed Zack the shovel. “We need to expand the bottom of the big hole a little more. Make it about the size of a five-gallon bucket. Don’t open the top any larger if you can help it. We’re going to use that grating to cook on.”

Steve sat back and began weaving together the dried grass into a tight ball.

Zack shoveled and scooped dirt then sat back. “I think I got it.”

“Put this in the center and add sticks around it in the shape of a T-pee. Add bigger sticks as you work your way out. Leave access to light the tender.”

Della and Darlene walked over. Della sat down a pot of water. Have you got a fire going? We need to start boiling water.”

Zack stuck a lighter into the hole for a minute, then sat up just as smoke wafted from the hole in front of him.

“What are you two doing?”

“A Dakota Fire takes less fuel and burns hotter. Did you bring that metal grating?”

“We should have brought more supplies,” Della commented as she handed him the camp grill.

“A little trapping or hunting and we’ll be fine,” Steve answered. “Even at just twelve miles a day, we can be there in less than a week.”

“How far did we ride today?”

“Seven, maybe eight miles. No more than that.” Steve answered.

Della interrupted. “The way my legs and butt feel, I can’t imagine going further than we did today.

Darlene echoed Della’s sentiment then added. “Besides, I don’t think Penny can take riding more than we did today.”

“Then we’ll go as far as we can,” Steve answered.