The laughter was odd, reassuring in a way that hasn’t been heard for the last 18 months. And what’s with a campfire…reaches inside of us mere humans and gives us a sense of security and enjoyment in equal measures. I had to pause those thoughts in my head for a moment, there were folks missing, that was a cold reminder of just how bad life can get in a very short period of time.
The solitary moment of sadness was broken by yet another made-up story by Mexican David that had everyone laughing, and a knee slap or two to boot. As I glanced up I looked directly into the eyes of Kim, she was staring right back at me, no smile, no knee slapping…just a knowledgeable nod of understanding. Then her subtle gesture of a faint grin that spoke to her knowing what I was thinking. She always knows what I am thinking, especially the darker moments of reflection.
About the nicknames…many have them…all for a reason. There are folks here in our little community that share first names. To keep everyone straight we adopted nicknames where there was conflict/confusion. Each person got to adopt their own nickname…some are humorous, some make you stop and gasp…at least in the old days. The old days of ‘woke’ and ‘political correctness’ are long gone, at least here. We have returned to being real people that can laugh at each other and ourselves. It is far more natural that the old BS that fringe groups tried to force on people. Force doesn’t work for long.
Mexican David was already into another of his stories when the next security group quietly got up and headed to the OP’s. Everyone’s heads immediately popped up and saw the movement, several hands started for their sidearms, Carl started to lean over for his AR. It was absolutely quiet as if we were all sitting in church during the benediction. Sad to think how much life had changed…but it had and we were all different people now, more primal for sure. You always couldn’t be too far from the edge.
Mexican David started his story back up and you could feel the tension leave the 27 people sitting around the fire. Maria threw another piece of old juniper into the fire, a cloud of sparks quickly rose and scattered into the cool night air. Several of the older guys, myself included, hooted and covered our eyes, Rene started to frantically brush at his jacket although not a single spark had landed on him. Maria just lowered her eyes and slowly shook her head. Times change, men don’t, we never grow up. There was the immaturity and male humor even in these times…human nature.
Several minutes later Cracker David and his two team members, Ashley and Sam came slowly walking back into the ring of dancing light from the campfire. Then leaned their AK’s up against the deck, grabbed plates, and began to heap them up with ever present potatoes, carrots, bread, and the most highly prized of all, Venison burgers! The bacon was long gone and I am sure Cracker David, my son, will give me hell about it later about not getting any.
Everyone was so cool about tonight and security. Each homestead left at least two people behind after we agreed that they would have their own campfire tomorrow night. And Cracker would never know I held back some bacon for them, then again he might find out. Oh boy!
Each homestead crew was also taking turns at our OP’s keeping watch over us. They were changing about every 20 – 30 minutes to make sure everyone got a plate of food and time around the fire. We indiscriminately varied the timing. Man, paranoia or what! The changing of the guard would continue until the gathering broke-up and folks headed back home to the somewhat boring routine that had developed lately. It was kind of nice to have it boring for the last several months, although everyone had been busying harvesting, drying, canning, freezing, and generally getting the food prepared to last as long as possible. If we got lucky all that stored food would last till next harvest. But I, along with most of the others, knew it wouldn’t. It just wasn’t enough…there would be hungry folks before next harvest. But the young kids wouldn’t go hungry…we all made a pledge to that! It was bad enough for them to grow up in these rugged conditions…we won’t let them go hungry.
Even as well prepared as we were, our bountiful harvest wouldn’t last more than a 6 – 9 months at most. Luckier than most, we still had dozens of cases of food stored away from before “the fall.” I had to chuckle just a bit, “the fall” is what we called the collapse of America. They had it planned all along, but it was not a fall or a collapse that they had conspired to see take place…it was a fundamental transformation they envisioned. But they got their butts handed to them…and then the actual collapse hit. Then again, not all of history has been written, maybe they planned on this collapse. And who would have guessed it would start on a Thursday.
Kim handed me another glass of water, the lemonade was long gone. Folks drank that up real quick, the flavor and sugar was simply too irresistible. After a sip of my water I about spit it out, she turned around and smiled as she walked back to her portion of the log across the fire. I would have to ask here where, or how, she could have possibly got her hands on Pepsi. More importantly, how much more did she have! Yeah, I was a Pepsiholic before the fall.
A slew of bad economic news had been reported the week before the fall…for a change. The Bennett administration had been able to lock-up the media for years keeping the terrible economy crap out of the spotlight. It all finally started to crumble beyond even their control. But once the flood gates opened, it just got worse by the day, and speculation over that last weekend was cataclysmic. A handful of banks went under during that weekend…and that was just the start of the avalanche.
And there was good ole Uncle Joe Bennett on the TV both Saturday and Sunday telling everyone that everything was fine…naming every reason under the sun that times were actually good. BS flag!!!
Sunday he even threw in that all bank customers would be fully protected by the FDIC and no one would lose any money. Then the zinger hit…Sunday night he took a couple of questions from reporters. The last one asked if there was a plan to handle all of this. And that is when Uncle Joe slipped up.
President Bennett said that their plan was to handle everything that was coming and they had the plan in the works for a long time so not to worry. I think you could hear 100milion people collectively gasp at the same time…they asked the same question, “What was coming?”
His Press Secretary whisked him off stage so fast he almost stumbled. But then again, we were all used to him stumbling and bumbling, tripping and falling, trembling and…well, generally being a very feeble old fart…a very old, old fart with dementia.
Then 7am Monday morning brought about a whole new world. I wouldn’t call it a brave new world like the book of that name, just a new world…a very ugly new world. Before the stock markets started trading for the week another handful of banks announced that the FDIC was taking them into receivership. Immediately after that MSNBC was predicting that the S&P 500 would open down about 2%. Man were they wrong!
Within two minutes of opening the S&P was down 7%, hitting the first 15-minute trading halt trigger point. When trading started back up again after 15 minutes, it crashed to the 13% drop point causing another 15-minute halt in trading. At that point I was watching TV and witnessing what was happening…and that sinking feeling was gnawing away at my gut. Then the trading started back up once more after the second triggered halt.
Taking almost 10 minutes to hit the final trigger for the day, the market shut down at the -20% free fall point. Then it got strange…Bennett was on TV in a nationwide address almost immediately to reassure the public that everything was fine, no need to panic, The Fed wouldn’t let the economy or the markets crash. He wanted the public to “rest assured” that the FDIC would not let any bank fail…everyone would be made whole. Yeah, all of that raised some serious questions in my mind. My cell phone started to ding off the hook with incoming text messages, I ignored all of them.
I finished the last of my incredibly good Pepsi, glanced over at Kim just to see her give me that face…while she shook her head “no” real slowly. I kept staring at her hoping her stealthy reply would change. She just kept slowly giving me the “no” head shake…and added the “no” with her mouth. No it was I guess…once again her reading my mind. Dang, she is a good looking woman, a woman younger than my daughter. A daughter who I didn’t even know if she was still alive or not. I had to stop myself from slipping into a mental darkness thinking of her and the grand-kids…one day I would know, but it wouldn’t be tonight.
Anne had a very successful real estate broker in St. George and was living the high life to be sure. Her brokerage didn’t really suffer till the month before the fall, people hoping against hope that all would be fine and return to normal. I didn’t know it at the time that one of those messages I ignored during the market crash Monday was hers asking me what I thought. I could have talked to her that day if I had answered or even called back. Now it was too late, cell phones were a thing of the past. Well, at least to make calls, they were still good for music and pictures.
As soon as Joe the Clown (a.k.a. President) said “and God Bless America” at the end of his statement I clarified to myself a couple of questions…How was it he got on TV within 2 – 3 minutes of the stock market debacle to read a prepared statement? Then…why in the world was he talking about preventing a “crash” of either the markets or the economy? Just the thought of a President talking about a crash like that was no doubt going to cause exactly that! And it did.
Monday became known as “Bloody Monday” even worse than “Black Monday” back in October 1987. Then Tuesday… the “Suicide Tuesday” label stuck almost immediately to what happened the following day. At the opening bell the markets dropped 20% within a minute, and that shut it down for the rest of the day. While unknown at the time, later they estimated that about 1000 people committed suicide that day…all somehow related to the stock markets or banking industry. Banks had been harshly hit…well, more like a massacre. In two days the banking sector was down almost 75%…and Tuesday started the bank runs in earnest. Before noon, eastern time, there wasn’t a bank left open in the country…every single bank was closed tighter than a bank vault. Pun intended. And yup, the ATMs were all empty…or stolen.
President Bennett once again on TV in a nationwide broadcast urging “calm and confidence” that all was okay and that the federal government, in coordination with the FDIC and the Fed, had a plan that would ensure everything would be fine. I can remember at the time I told Laura this all seemed too organized…it was as if he was following a script. No, not for the speech, but for all of it…as if it was being carefully orchestrated. As if we were watching a great plan being unfolded before us. I didn’t know the half of it at the time…but I was on the right track.
I looked over and there sat Scott and Karen flames casting flickering firelight on their faces. They are a part of this history and thankfully they are still here to talk about it. They had it the worst of all…probably because they were the wealthiest of all of us. They had made it up here to their place the week everything was falling apart, but barely making it from the valley. At the time they had no idea how bad it would get for them and how quickly, they thought there place here was a place of safety. But we all pulled together and they were/are fine…hopefully. Now that was a crazy week when I look back on it!
At daylight Monday morning 2 months into this mess a representative from the county showed up with a Deputy. The pounded on Scott’s door nailing a notice to it like it was something out of a middle-ages movie scene. Scott was on them so fast they never even realized it. Scott had his AR pointed at them at face level, they Deputy started reaching for his Glock till he saw Karen pointing a shotgun at him through an open window. The Deputy wisely, although reluctantly, eased his hand away.
The long and short of it was the new “program” that the county was taking possession of all property over 40-acres. Of course the owners would be paid handsomely in the just announced FedNew currency. Scott made them take down the notice, the Deputy had to unload his Glock, throw away all the bullets from his mags before getting back into the nice shinny Sheriff’s Ford Explorer. Yeah, with the gasoline shortage it was nice to see that the county had plenty of gas to go around for their official business.
Over soup for lunch that day we had a planning session, I am glad we did. The next morning the County task force showed up with the BearCat. A long story short…by noon no more deputies showing up with BearCats to more people’s homes. And man, did it clarify why police departments should never had been given military armored vehicles! I guess everyone knew it was only a matter of time till militarized police turned against civilians…with their military equipment and gear. The county was now minus one BearCat and the new program was abruptly canceled. And not a single County Commissioner can be found anywhere for the last 12 months. Hummm…
I noticed Scott laughing and then put his arm around Karen as the flames flared up just a bit. She was giving him that look of love, even a little admiration thrown in. It was if they had been reborn that day so many months ago. Now, almost 1-1/2 years later they were tighter than ever, 4 “adopted” kids, a few cows roaming their pastures, and a great garden that anyone would be proud to claim. But it almost didn’t turn out that way. Thankfully we had solid people, a good plan…and a lot of luck. Theirs is just one of many stories…we all had one…some more than one.
The single most asked question these last 18 months…How did we ever let the government, at any level, get so powerful?
None of us has a good answer. I say it was a combination of treachery, complacency, and apathy. Others just call it being lazy and stupid as hell. But that has changed a lot in every aspect…at least around here.
Other Short Stories –
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