A Collector Series Story
Charles W. Bird
Charles W. Bird
Copyright © 2014
Copyright © 2014
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely accidental. This story is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced by any means without the express, written permission of the author.
Prologue: Joel Barnett had always been a recluse, he found it hard to relate to others and was uncomfortable in a group. When he graduated from the University, he had invested his inheritance from his parents and multiplied it many times over. While his wealth grew, he became more and more uncomfortable around others and practically retreated into his own shell. At the young age of 35 years old, he felt he could no longer stand it and he cashed in all his "chips" and retreated to the mountain cabin his parents had left him. The cabin sat in the middle of a 1,000 acre plot of private land, surrounded by National Forest. It was hardly a cabin, it boasted of five bedrooms, and 6,000 square feet of living space. In addition, there were two bunkhouses that would sleep thirty ranch hands each. The nearest town, Forestville, was 75 miles away over roads nearly impassable. Three times a year, a commercial food service came and stocked his storeroom and Joel supplemented that with wild game he trapped or shot on his own property. The only people he saw was the food service people and an occasional Forest Service Ranger, who would pay him a courtesy call. His rare trips into Forestville were those he could not evade and the only person with whom he had any real contact was Millie Benson, the owner of Millie's Café and Rooms. He did have a radio and electricity, there was a small water turbine on the stream that supplied enough power for lights, the shortwave transceiver radio, a walk-in freezer and a small refrigerator. Some might have thought it would be lonely there, but for Joel, it was pure heaven.
From part 1: They had found a box of new hand held radios in the old Mercantile and Joel was anxious to try to charge them up, he had been concerned by the lack of communication while they were on their foraging trip and the extra rifles and ammunition were always welcome, as was the canned food. They were all happy when the roof tops and smoking chimneys of the Aerie came into view, it had been a long and hard trip and they were all exhausted. The Scouts organized the children and opened the second bunkhouse and before nightfall, all the children had been bathed and fed. As they were all falling asleep in clean, warm bed, Millie was plotting and planning on how she was going to sew clothing for "her kids"!
Joel called a meeting of the older boys and the adults and laid out his concerns to them, "We don't know how long we are going to have to hold out up here, it could be our lifetimes or even longer. We need to start growing our own food and harvesting the forest for everything it can supply us. There are some things that are simply irreplaceable, like ammunition, medicines and cloth for clothing. Shoes are going to be a big problem soon, the boys are growing like weeds and already, their pants are above their ankles. We have pretty much cleaned out Forestville and, I suppose, we should check on Markleeville and Spring Haven. If the scavengers haven't already hit those towns, we might get lucky for a while, but the same problem is going to come back to haunt us. You guys got any suggestions?"
The boys all had suggestions like tanning hides to make clothing, asking Running Bear's people to teach them about bows and arrows and maybe his Medicine Man would share some of his herbal secrets with them. About that time, the automatic alarm went off on the transceiver, something was being broadcast on the Emergency Channel.
They all went into the kitchen as Joel turned up the volume. The signal was very weak, "Any station receiving this broadcast, this is the office of National Guard General Adam Hayes, units of our National Guard have been in battle with bandits and scavengers from Mexico and places even further south. We are holding them near a line from Randleburg to Cowles Crossing. Those north of that line should be aware that we cannot stop them all and you need to make preparations for your own safety. If you have information for us, please report on Emergency Channel 13."
Joel figured they had nothing to report and any hint that they were there might even draw the bandits right to them. They made plans to go to both Markleeville and Spring Haven the next week, they would go in force with outriders and everyone armed with at least two rifles and plenty of ammunition.
They left the Aerie on the next Tuesday morning, planning on a ten day trip to Markleeville and Spring Haven. There had been several more updates on the Emergency Channel from the National Guard, warning of possible marauders north of the line that the Guard had established in the south end of the state. Bob was left in charge of the Aerie and he had rifles stacked at strategic locations around the house and bunkhouses.
They had charged up the handheld radios they had found in Forestville and located the best channel on the transceiver to receive their transmissions. Joel and his group rode out, they had ten outriders, the older boys were grim and determined that no harm would come to those riding in the jeep. They were changing from boys to men, knowing that the safety of their folk was in their hands.
It was a four day trek to Markleeville, the small town was completely deserted. They parked the jeep and spread out, searching for anything that would be use to them. Each two searchers were guarded by an armed escort as they searched abandoned houses and buildings.
They collected blankets and sheets, toweling and any other cloth from which Millie could fashion clothing for them. They found brand new shoes and boots still in the small town Mercantile store and, they also, were stacked in the trailer. The cloth was wrapped in canvass and tied on the mules.
There were a quantity of pots and pans, silverware and plates found in the small diner and one house, well away from the others of the village contained a large quantity of firearms and ammunition. Everything of use was scavenged and placed in the trailer or packed on the back of a mule.
When they had cleaned out the town, they headed further into the mountains to Spring Haven. It was another two days to Spring Haven, the trailer was heavily loaded and Joel didn't want to lose anything they had so laboriously collected.
As they entered the village, they smelled wood smoke and the older boys went cautiously, looking for its source. On the far side of the village, they spotted a wisp of smoke coming from the chimney. They crept up to the building and peered in to window. They saw two teen boys holding a number of younger children on their laps, trying to keep them warm in front of a small fire in the fireplace.
Daniel opened the door and both teens jumped to their feet, dumping the children to the floor. The teens screamed, "Please don't hurt us or the children, some are injured and we don't know how to help them!"
George grabbed the battle med kit and raced into the room. He found cut and bruised children, one had a terrible cut over his eye and another's arm was surely broken. One of the teens asked, "Who are you, you are not the bandits we were running from!" Joel asked, "What bandits?" The teen replied, "We don't know, they were all speaking a different language, Spanish, we think."
Joel stuck his head out the door and said, "James, post your guards around the house, there may be bandits nearby." James posted six grim young warriors around the small house, each armed with a loaded rifle and a pistol.
The two teens had collected eight young boys and three girls who had been hiding in an abandoned farmhouse at the edge of town. They had been subsisting on canned food they had scavenged from the houses and kept their fire small so as to not attract any attention. Joel had the boys load up the fireplace and warm the place up.
They treated the children's injuries and got them all cleaned up and fed before spreading out to scavenge whatever of value had been left in the village. They bundled the children up in blankets they had found and planned a hasty return to the Aerie.
When then got in range, Joel was on the handheld radio, reporting on all they had learned. Bob immediately heightened the security around their home and stationed an older teen to listen to the transceiver at all times.
As they headed home, they came upon a small farm in Spring Gap, a few miles out of Spring Haven. There, they discovered a farm wagon that had a canvas canopy covering its bed. There was a draw tee and traces for two mules, so they unloaded the mules, placing their loads into the wagon, and hooked them up to pull it. Before they left, they found a store of sacked feed grain, there were a dozen sacks, so they placed them in the wagon, along with the cloth and the pots and pans and ammunition they had scavenged.
There was sufficient room for those who were walking to ride in the wagon. The boy with the broken arm rode in the jeep with Joel, they were going to have to find a way to set his arm as soon as they returned home.
They got all their salvaged goods and the children back safely to the Aerie and they had set Calvin's arm, wrapping it tightly in strips of canvass as a cast. They had nothing to kill the pain, they tried giving Calvin a small amount of bourbon, but gagged on it, so they had to proceed, even though they knew they were hurting him.
Summer was upon them and everyone was busy in the garden or working the antique mower cutting the tall grass in the meadow for use as hay. The old sickle-bar mower made an awful clatter as it passed back and forth across the meadow, the mules didn't seem to mind, but the two horses on the hay-rake shied away from the mower every time it came near.
Millie had designed and sewed canvass trousers for the boys working the fields and all were grateful for the find of the shoes. They had tried their hand at making moccasins, but they were a miserable failure, Joel promised himself that he would ask the local tribe if they could trade for some moccasins.
A general broadcast had been sent out by the National Guard asking those who could, to report on their location and numbers. Joel replied with a carefully worded message, purposefully vague as to their location and in words that only a native English speaker would understand.
As the summer was ending, a small detachment of mounted soldiers, prominently carrying an American flag, rode up to the house and an officer dismounted and called out that he was Captain David Laurey of The National Guard and could he please come up the stairs to speak with someone.
Joel came out on the porch, his rifle across his arm and replied, "You may come up alone, no others." When the Captain got to the top of the stairs, he was confronted by six armed young men, their rifles pointed directly at him.
The Captain held out his empty hands and said, "I do not fault you your caution, but it is just me and my troopers. We are Americans and we are part of the force fighting the bandits and thugs down in the valley." By asking questions that only another American would know, Joel finally told the boys to lower their rifles, the Captain was a genuine American.
He invited the troopers to tie up their horses and have a meal with them. When everyone was gathered in the sunroom, Joel proudly introduced his Family, 16 young men, 24 boys and 13 girls. Mille hollered out from the kitchen, "And one cranky old bar maid!" Joel laughed, "Were it not for Miz Millie, we would have starved long ago and be running around naked."
The Captain explained his purpose in being there, they were making a map and creating a census of all those who had survived the downfall. He told them of breaking up a gang who had built a small fort down in the valley and were terrorizing the surrounding countryside.
The General and his men were slowly pushing the Mexican Bandits back south and freeing those they had enslaved. He said, "I won't kid you Mr. Barnett, its gonna be years before we get back on our feet. We have a small munitions factory going and a couple of folks are trying their hands at making leather boots for the troops, but other than that, we don't have much."
He continued, "I'm not gonna take any of your boys, but I would like to commission you and Mr. Collins as officers. You can brevet any of your folks as sergeants or corporals. That way, nobody can accuse you of banditry if you have to chase the rogues out of here to protect your kids."
So it was that Joel was commissioned a First lieutenant in the Guard and Bob a Second Lieutenant. The Captain told them he would try to check on them a couple of times a year while he was on patrol and that they should use the transceiver on Emergency Channel 13 to call in any attacks.
The Captain and his men had been gone about three weeks, Joel had put together a small troop and they had practiced sounding the alarm and mustering with their rifles. Just before dawn, Johnny Bigelow was on watch and he spotted a group of mounted men coming across the meadow towards the Aerie. He pounded on the metal triangle enough to awaken several generations of the dead.
As they had practiced, the older boys grabbed their rifles and took up positions around the house. The teens gathered the children and rushed them into the tunnels under the house and barracks, closing and locking the doors.
The mounted men approached the house and in broken English, demanded food and silver. Joel told them to leave and they would get nothing. The leader said something in Spanish and then waved his hand, motioning his men forward.
The only sound was the sound of the rifles of the Aerie Folk, jacking a cartridge into their rifle chambers. The bandit leader either didn't care, or didn't believe the gringo boys would shoot, they would and they did. These were all mountain farm boys, the kind that believed one shot equaled one squirrel.
Six of the bandits were laying on the ground, clutching some part of their body in pain and two more had lost their hats to flying bullets. None of the bandits escaped, they had twelve of them and their leader locked on the unused welded wire chicken coop.
Joel got on the transceiver and reported the capture to the National Guard. They said they would notify Captain Laurey to come and get them. They treated the worst of the wounds of the bandits and left the remainder as the Captain's worry.
By the end of the week, they were expecting the Captain, he had radioed them that they were on their way to the Aerie. He arrived in an old farm wagon with a metal cage set in the bed. The Captain and his men left immediately, to the sounds of screams and yowls of the wounded men locked in the cage on a farm wagon without springs.
The boys started calling it the Battle of Aerie Meadow, but it brought home to them that there was a war going on and that they had to be on their toes. Those of the boys who had prior experience with the Mexican Bandits told their fellows the horrors of captivity. The all shuddered and promised they would stay alert at all times.
They spent the remaining summer and fall getting in their crops, ricking the hay and cutting firewood for winter's heat. As the first snows began to fall, they hunkered down for another winter. They had sufficient food supplies and Wise Owl, the Indian Tribe's Medicine Man had promised to come during the winter and teach the boys Indian Traditional Medicine, with Chief Running Bear translating.
Both Joel and Bob thought they should try and school the younger children, two of the older boys, Randy Nelson and Chuck Thomas had been college juniors in education, so they volunteered to "give it a go." They collected as many books as they could from around the Aerie and put together a binder of education materials so that they could hold classes.
Joel dug up an old white board and some marking felts that they had to rejuvenate in some medical alcohol, they were poor but they worked after a fashion. They held class 4 days a week in the mornings, at first the children rebelled, but the two boys made it interesting and the younger children soon became eager to learn.
They had several "radio checks" with Captain Laurey, who was their liaison with National Guard Headquarters. He would pass them news and the state of the war with the bandits and any other information he thought would be of interest to them. He couldn't tell them that the war was going well, because it was not, the Guard was hard pressed to control the bandits, they were like roaches, crawling everywhere.
There had been no word from the National Government in over a year, nobody on the radio system had any word about the National Government, not even rumors. Joel had taken to raising an American Flag each morning on the flag pole and it was getting a little ragged. Millie had trimmed it and renewed the hem several times, but the whole flag was getting rather ratty.
Just before the snows closed them in, Captain Laurey and his troop came riding through on patrol, he handed a brand new American Flag, still in the original wrapper. He said, jokingly to Joel, "We can't have our biggest fort, Fort Aerie, flying a ragged flag." Then, a little more soberly, he said, "Joel, you guys are all that there is here on the Eastern Frontier of our territory, if you fall, they will be on our backs before we know it. The bandits will come streaming through High Pass and hit us from behind before we even know they are there. You guys are guarding the only pass through these mountains and bandits know you have it guarded."
A serious Joel sat in front of the woodstove that night, pondering at what the Captain had said. Bob came to him and said, "Joel, Brother, we have a heavy responsibility, but sitting here and brooding does none of us any good. Let us, tomorrow, sit down in council with our boys, all of them, even the children for they have ownership in this, also. Let us all decide what we must do and we all agree on how to do it. You cannot assume the whole burden, you have family that will help you and do whatever you say, but let us help you make those decisions."
The next morning, as soon as everyone had eaten breakfast, Joel called for a Family Council, only those on watch, were not in the day room waiting for Joel to open the meeting.
Joel was amazed at the attention the boys and children had paid to the events of the last several weeks, even the girls were ready to help. Three of the boys, Gerald, Thomas and Gordon had been trained by the Scouts and also by the tribe's Medicine Man, Wise Owl, who they discovered had more English than even his Chief, Running Bear, knew.
The girls said they would assist in the kitchen and in the First Aid room, Millie would run the kitchen and Gerald, Thomas and Gordon would switch off manning the First Aid Room.
The older boys would form mounted patrols and roam the pass with a handheld radio. There was a place at the head of the high meadow, where the pass funneled down from the peaks, anyone braving the pass had to pass right by High Camp. The older boys would establish a station there and build a small fort to be manned at all times, Commanded by Lieutenant James Meadows.
The teen boys all volunteered for runner duty and lookout, the upstairs sunroom had windows facing all directions, four teen boys would be on duty at all times with binoculars and the telescope.
By the time the meeting was over, every person had a job and they all vowed that the bandits would not be allowed to hurt them or the folk in the lower valleys. They went about it with military precision, electing Shift Lieutenants and section Sergeants. The Aerie had become a war camp.
Some weeks later, Captain Laurey led his troopers into the meadow, they were met with a military challenge and found themselves surrounded by young warriors, all armed and their rifles pointed at them!
Young Second Shift Lieutenant Roger Mahan checked the credentials of every member of the Captain's Troop, while his squad kept them covered with loaded rifles and their safeties off! Not until every member of the Captain's party had been checked out, were they allowed to proceed to the Aerie.
When the Captain was speaking to Joel, he said, "My God, Mr. Barnett, you run a better Army than I do! How many soldiers do you have?" Joel thought for a moment, "I have sixteen up at High Pass Fort, thirty–two here at the Aerie and ten in the medical center." Captain Laurey could hardly believe his ears, "Sir, you have the second largest force in our district, only the General commands more soldiers than yourself!"
The next time the Captain arrived, he held out commissions to Joel, for himself, the rank of Major, Bob to Captain and James Meadows to Captain. All the other ranks that Joel had just assigned, were confirmed with Commissions or Warrants signed by the General. They were now officially the Aerie Battalion and the fort up on the pass was named High Pass Fort, Captain James Meadows, Commanding.
The next spring, a National Guard Convoy brought boxes of ammunition, two field guns and six machine guns, all with enough ammunition to begin a revolution. Joel sent two of the machine guns up to High Pass and enough ammunition for James to practice on them. The other four were placed strategically around the Aerie and manned full time. They would decide later where the field guns should be placed.
The boys were very proud of their new ranks and positions, they set about to guard their home and the High Pass with such diligence, no one would pass without permission nor challenge.
THE BATTLE OF HIGH PASS
The following spring, there were probes by the bandits, testing the strength and determination of the boys guarding High Pass. James did not deploy his machine guns, not wanting the bandits to know they had them.
Each time, they drove them back with rifle fire, his men were crack shots, having grown up on farms in the forest. They each could knock out a squirrel at 200 yards, otherwise their Daddies would have tanned their bottoms for wasting ammunition!
He radioed Major Joel, as all the boys called him, and advised him of the probes. Joel sent Roman Phelps with another rifle squad to strengthen the fort. Sergeant Roman was a Grand National winner of the 16 to 18 year old NRA Shooting National Competition two years running and he could split a 2 inch plank, endwise, at 100 yards!
Joel thought, "Lord help the bandit that faces Roman or any of his squad."
Up at the High Pass Fort, they settled down for a wait, knowing that the bandits would try to force the pass in the near future. Captain James was taking no chances as he doubled up his watches and made sure all his men had plenty of ammunition at their side.
They had doubled the log walls of the small fort and a new watch post was placed on the roof. They had rolled rocks and upended logs across most of the pass, the cliffs prevented anyone from climbing over the peaks surrounding the fort, so the only passage was between the two walls that they had erected across the pass itself. Any force trying to cross the pass was funneled through a twenty foot opening.
The National Guard had supplied them with a small gasoline generator and several barrels of fuel. They used the generator mostly to charge their radios, but, when the lookout spotted movement in the valley on the east side of the pass, they lit up floodlights, anyone trying to force the pass at night, had to look directly into the powerful floodlights, thus blinding them.
There had been several full strength probes at night and all had been repulsed. One morning, early, before anyone had breakfast, the main force of the bandits rushed the opening, trying to force their way past the fort. The two machine guns began sweeping the opening, mowing down bandits like hay in the meadow. By the time the attack stopped bodies lay in the pass, in places, waist deep on a standing man.
There was no way they could bury that many bodies in the stony soil of the pass, they could only pole them over the edge and let them fall into the eastward flowing river below. There were two more attacks before they ceased, the loss of life on the bandit's side was incredible, Captain James estimated them to be at least 2,000!
The emotional toll on the boys was enormous, they were, after all, still boys and many of them wept themselves to sleep at night. Joel came up from the Aerie and sat with them. They wept on his shoulders, that they had killed actual people.
After their tears had subsided, he said, "Men, and you are all men now, what you have done has saved the lives of your friends, your buddies, your brothers down at the Aerie. Those whom you killed, would have killed the children, the young teens and the girls we are protecting down in the meadow. Or, even worse, they would have enslaved them, making the girls prostitute their bodies, and the young boys also. Because of your sacrifice, the children at the Aerie remain free, they need call no man master nor submit their bodies for the pleasure of another. A whole generation of children will grow up in freedom because you gave it to them. Walk tall, Warriors of Aerie, you have earned the right to be called men among men."
He rolled out a banner that Millie had created, it was a field of blue and a large gold star in the center. Across the bottom, it said, "WARRIORS OF THE AERIE – FORT HIGH PASS"
Captain James ordered the flag run up, just under the flag of The United States. Their country may be broken, but it was still THEIR COUNTRY!
There were sporadic attacks throughout the summer but each was beaten back with heavy loss of life on the part of the bandits. Of the Warriors, there had been two minor wounds and a broken leg from a new Warrior jumping down from the lookout post on the roof of the fort.
As the winter snow closed the pass, making it impossible for any force get through, Captain James closed up the Fort and brought his troops home for the winter. His Warriors spent the winter refurbishing their weapons and helping around the Aerie. He sent his three Medics to Wise Owl at the Tribal Village to learn more of his healing arts. There Donnie Ellis met May Flower and they fell in love.
All though the winter Donnie traipsed over to the Village to be with May Flower on a daily basis. In February, he sat down with Joel and, after several false starts, he asked Joel, "Sir, may I have your permission to ask May Flower to marry me?"
The next day there was a cryptic radio message sent to the National Guard Headquarters, "Need Chaplain, send as soon as possible."
At the first spring thaw, Captain Laurey, accompanied by an Army Chaplain, knocked on the door to the Aerie. Plans were made for the wedding of Medic Second Lieutenant Donnie Ellis to May Flower, grand niece of Chief Running Bear.
Millie said she would act as Mother of the Bride and Captain James Meadows would be Best Man. It was a solemn procession that descended the front steps of the Aerie the next day, The Fort Warriors stood as Honor Guard for one of their own. Joel led a nervous young Medic Second Lieutenant down the steps, while a grinning Millie walked with a young woman, whose head was held high and her eyes glistening with unshed tears of happiness.
They met before the Chaplain and, within minutes they were Lt. and Mrs. Donald Ellis! Joel gave the new couple the use of his own bedroom for their wedding night, Donnie was the first of several red faced newly wedded husbands that summer.
Perhaps the most surprising was Roman Phelps. Nobody realized that he was sparking Chief Running Bear's Grand Daughter, Blue Willow. He had said nothing and nobody had a clue until he came to Joel asking that the Chaplain return.
Many of the new wives had husbands stationed at Fort High Pass during the summer and they waited anxiously for word from their husbands. Joel and James came up with the idea of rotating Warriors from the Fort every two weeks. They did it by squads, the benefit was that more boys became men as they served their time at High Pass Fort.
The bandits continued their probing of the Fort's defenses, none were successful and, fortunately, no Warrior was seriously injured. By the time the snows had again closed the pass and the Fort was closed for the winter, several of the new wives showed that there would be new additions to the Aerie Family.
May Flower Ellis was the first, her baby was due around Christmas and Donnie, now 19 years old. He was as nervous as a frog at a fish fry. Every time May Flower so much as groaned, Donnie was at her side. She would smile and pat his hand, telling him that everything was ok.
On Christmas Eve morning, she knew it was her time and she had Donnie take her upstairs, to the Medic Room in the Aerie. They had converted a store room in the basement to an apartment right after they had been married. The other Medics wouldn't let Donnie attend his wife, they told him he was too nervous and shaky.
The young father to be paced the floor outside the clinic and, every time he heard a sound he jumped, he was a nervous train wreck. His CO, Captain James stood with his friend, trying to calm him.
As the evening wore on, Joel also came to be with the young man. About quarter to midnight, one of the medic helpers stuck his head out the door and told them that May Flower had gone into labor. As the door closed again, they were sure that Donnie would have his finger nails chewed off to the elbow!
At five minutes past midnight, there came a piercing scream from the clinic and almost immediately, the squall of a baby. Donnie was near to collapse by the time Millie came out the door with a bundle in her arms, she pulled the blanket back to introduce Donald Ellis to his baby son!
Donnie didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so he did both and he had to be led in when he was allowed to come see the baby's mother, May Flower. They named the boy Joel James Ellis and the baby's two surrogate daddies took a proprietary role in the boy's life for many years.
There were several other births that winter and, again, Roman Phelps surprised them all. His wife, Blue Willow gave birth to twin boys! In all, there were six babies born that winter, four were boys and two were girls, Joel and Bob knew that they were going to have to get some schooling ready.
The Aerie was crowded with five married couples and their babies living there but Joel refused to even consider allowing any of those babies to live outside the protection of the armed guards that kept all those within safe.
There had been a couple of skirmishes at the lower end of the meadow, inspection of the bodies made them believe the dead were more of the bandits, most had tattoos on their bodies with words and symbols of the known Mexican Drug Cartels.
They set the two Howitzers up under a roofed shed on either side of the house and manned them 24/7. The machine guns were placed at strategic locations along the upper deck of the house and they could be moved to whatever location they were needed, as the deck went all the way around the house.
As spring approached, there were tears from both husbands and wives as the Warriors made ready to man Fort High Pass for the summer. May Flower Ellis took responsibility for the wives and bucked them up, she told them they could cry after their men had left, while they were still at the Aerie, they were to support their men in every way. They were the wives of Warriors and they were to act like it!
As Captain James led his men out, towards the High Pass, many of his Warriors had newly made clothing, made for them by their wives. They carried bundles of spare clothing and gifts of food that they were to share with their fellow Warriors.
The wail of tears did not start until the troop was well out of sight. Joel overheard May Flower as she prayed, "Oh Great Spirit, keep my man safe and bring him back to me and our baby, this I beg of you, Great Spirit." Joel said nothing, May Flower never knew he had heard her.
Those left at the Aerie spent their time on guard duty and some of the older boys and men felled logs with the idea of enlarging the living areas of the Aerie.
By mid-summer, the tree fellers had felled enough logs that they could start peeling them and erecting walls. They constructed a row of eight apartments between the bunk houses and the main house. They had timber floors and shake roofs. Each apartment had three rooms, a kitchen, bedroom and a front room. There was a small closet to be used for sanitary functions.
They had collected wood stoves from Forestville and all of the apartments had heat. Joel was concerned about electric load on the water turbine, but enough kerosene lamps had been scavenged to light all eight apartments.
Barrels of kerosene had also been scavenged and they had a good supply of lamp fuel that Joel figured would last them several years.
Beds were made and several runs made to the small towns in the area to recover mattresses, tables and other household items. They even scavenged doors, windows and toilets to fit into the apartments.
Not long after the pass opened, the bandits made a final attempt in forcing their way through. The loss of life was horrendous and the two machine guns were glowing red hot by the time the final wave was repulsed.
They made no attempt to count the dead, but Captain James reported that there was at least twice the number of bodies as the previous year. It was to be the last coordinated attack by the bandits; never again would they be strong enough to challenge the defenses of the Aerie and its Warriors.
That summer saw another change in the traffic through High Pass, a small party of families, emigrants from the lands to the east, arrived at the pass in their wagons. The emigrant children were walking beside the wagons to lighten the load coming up the steep grades.
Captain James was on the radio, reporting their arrival as they waited for permission to enter the lands of the Aerie.
He detailed two of his Warriors to guide them down to the Aerie, among the emigrants were a medical doctor and two former school teachers. Their news of the lands to the east was disheartening, famine and disease, warring factions and suicide had depleted the population.
They reported there was no order or government of any kind and the few who could farm, could not possibly feed those who could not or refused to farm.
Master Sergeant Roman and his Corporal, Gil Handly escorted the emigrants down the western slopes of the pass to the Aerie, where they were met by Joel and Bob. The emigrants were made welcome and offered places where they could establish their new homes.
Joel reported in to General Hayes of their arrival and two weeks later, Captain Laurey and his troop came by to meet the new arrivals.
Roman and Gil stayed for a couple of days, Roman to be with his wife, Blue Willow, and their twin boys. Gil was dating Spring Brook and they agreed upon a date to be wedded in the fall, after the pass was closed.
On their return trip back to Fort High Pass, Gil asked Roman to be the best man at his wedding, Roman grinned and agreed, saying, "Hey, another good man bites the dust!"
The remainder of the summer was quiet, two additional small emigrant parties arrived at Fort High Pass, requesting entry and were given permission to continue.
By the summer's end, there was a collection of small log homes at the low end of the meadow, near Clear Springs. A school house was constructed at the Aerie and they had 20 children, between the grades 1 and 8.
Doctor Bagwell took over the Clinic, he was astounded at the success the boys had with only Indian methods and medicines to work with. He kept the Medics on, teaching them all he knew, while they taught him about the Indian remedies and medicines they had found to be beneficial.
A NEW GOVERNMENT
General Hayes had made it clear he did not want to be a long term military governor and, with the arrival of the emigrants, he saw his chance to shed part of the responsibility. He divided the territory that he controlled into three "states", Aerie, River Plains and Greenbelt.
The folk who were living in those states were to hold elections for a governor and a state legislative body. He told them to keep it simple and lean, they could not afford a bloated state government and he would act as Military President for a period not to exceed two years, then they were to hold elections for a national government.
New Year's Day was set as Election Day and the new state governments were to begin immediately after the elections.
Captain James closed High Pass Fort and led his troops towards home. He had been very quiet, but there was a young woman waiting for his arrival, her eagerness was making her giddy. Walking Doe wanted desperately to become Mrs. James Meadows.
As soon as the Warriors returned Joel was asked to contact the Army Chaplain, there were two couples waiting for him to marry. It was a proud Gil Handly and James Meadows who said their, "I Do's". Joel was Best Man for James, and Roman stood up for his friend, Gil. May Flower was her cousin, Walking Doe's Matron of Honor and Mille was Mother of the Bride for Spring Brook. The felling crew presented both couples with their wedding gift, small apartments in which to live.
On New Year's Day, Joel was elected Governor of the State of Aerie and Bob was elected Deputy Governor. Seven people were elected to the Chamber of Counselors and they began governing the new state. They passed few laws, they wanted no problems such as what had destroyed their old government.
The name, THE UNITED STATES was retained and a modified flag was created with three stars on it for the three new states. It was later changed to THE UNITED WESTERN STATES, but the flag remained.
The winter passed quietly, it was evident that there would be more babies by late spring or early summer and Millie had a crew of young girls busy sewing baby blankets and booties.
Christmas was a solemn and sad occasion, Chief Running Bear died of old age and his son, Talking Stick, became Chief. Talking Stick was committed to his friends at the Aerie and was determined to bring his people forward as partners in the new state. He urged families to send their children to school at the Aerie and asked to have teachers come and teach his people English. He also asked to send a representative to the Chamber of Counselors as a non-voting member. He sent the Medicine Man, Wise Owl as their representative and before the year was out, the Chamber had voted to include Wise Owl as a voting member.
Joel's nephews/sons, Jacob and David, came to him and wanted to know about their share of the gold stored in the vault beneath the barn. They told Joel that they wanted to use it to fund the new government. Joel contacted General Hayes and he agreed to come talk with the boys.
To be continued, the Land of The United Western States will grow and prosper. Land will be reclaimed as new emigrants arrive, fleeing from the terrors that had overtaken much of North America.