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 2; 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 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 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 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 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.
Spring came early that year and caught the Fort High Pass Warriors unready to open the pass. Captain, now Major James hurriedly gathered his forces and supplies and force-marched up to the pass.
Fortunately, there was nobody seeking to come through the pass. They spent several days arranging their weapons and cleaning the winter debris from the fort and buildings.
As they were manhandling the field gun into place, the lookout heard the creaking of wagon wheels and sounded the alert. A rickety old wagon came into view, driven by a teen boy. When he stopped at the gate, young boys and a few girls came swarming out of the wagon like a disturbed anthill, the sentry, Corporal Glen Givens called for Major James to come quickly. He could see that many of the children had been hurt and several had to be carried from the wagon.
The teen driver identified himself as Bart Jeffers and told them he had been collecting abandoned children for the last 100 miles. He explained, "My Mama and Poppa were killed by bandits as we crossed the desert, only I and my little brother, Tim survived the attack. There was no way we could return, there was nothing left back at our old home. All along the way, we came across burned out wagons and children hiding in the bushes. By the time we started up the mountains I had 25 kids and we found 6 more here in the mountains."
Major James was alarmed at what Bart had related, he invited them all into the fort for food and rest. The children had been down to a few handfuls of grain and some moldy bread as food.
While the children were eating and getting cleaned up in the first warm water they had seen in months, he asked Bart to come with him as he notified Governor Joel.
He was on the radio explaining to Joel what was going on, Joel replied, "Hold them there at the Fort, I will send wagons and help to you, they should be there in two days."
When Joel announced what had happened, volunteers started putting together a relief wagon filled with food and clothing. Dr. Bagwell volunteered to go along with the relief party and they left the next morning with two heavily loaded wagons and twenty teens on horseback.
By pushing the horses to their limit, the relief party arrived at Fort High Pass just after dark of that same day. They had cans of fresh milk for the children, fresh bread, roasted meat and clothing and blankets.
Major James had the generator started for lighting and Dr. Bagwell worked until dawn repairing damaged children and teens. Bart worked side by side with the Doctor, they were HIS kids and he would help care for them.
At dawn, both the Doctor and Bart were staggering in fatigue, Major James showed them to his own bed and told them to get some sleep. He and his troopers cared for the children, several, including Major James, became very attached to a child and they made plans to become Poppas to an orphan child.
They let everyone rest the next day, before making the return trip to the Aerie. Major James sent a letter along with Doctor Bagwell stating that he and Walking Doe wanted to adopt a little boy named Gary Peters. After speaking with his troopers, he had to add several more names to that list, even single troopers wanted to take in a child.
Hardly had Bart and his wagon load of children gotten started down the pass toward The Aerie, two more wagons pulled up to the barrier, asking to be admitted.
All during the spring and early summer, two and even three wagons a week arrived at the Fort. They had to schedule a supply wagon every week, just to ensure there was sufficient food and supplies to care for those emigrating from the lands to the east.
Many of the emigrants told of awful starvation, bandits and loss of life among those living there, they said that life had become intolerable. There was no food, no medicines and bandits raided villages and small towns regularly.
The Chamber of State Counselors voted to reopen the villages of Forestville and Markleeville. Springhaven was further away, but they realized that it, also, may have to be utilized to accommodate the flood of emigrants arriving at their gates.
Joel sent a work party to Forestville to clean the place up a bit and make sure the spring was clear of trash.
Among those arriving were former school teachers, farmers and mechanics. They all found immediate employment. They enlarged the school at The Aerie and reopened the school in Forestville. By summer's end, Forestville would have 150 folks living there and Markleeville would have 80.
The population at The Aerie had grown to 400, including those of the Indian Tribe who had moved from the tribal village.
The meadow was fully farmed and Forestville, being significantly lower elevation, was planted in corn, beans and grains. The mechanics were able to restore several horse drawn harvesters and two sickle-bar mowers, also horse drawn. That fall, they had a surplus of grains and corn, after storing some of the surplus in the barns, they offered it to General Hayes for distribution to others.
In return, the General sent dried meats and smoked fish that was surplus in other communities within The United Western States. A few traders had sprung up, for a quantity of corn or wheat, he would locate machinery parts or other items that someone needed.
President General Hayes and two of his Advisors arrived to speak with Jacob and David about their gold. Joel sat in on the meeting as they hammered out currency for the new country.
Joel was impressed at what his nephews were proposing, he decided to add his cache of gold to the Treasury of the United Western States.
Both boys were turning 20 years old and the General appointed them Co-Treasurers of the fledging country. Rather than circulate the gold coins, they decided upon script that would be signed by the two Treasurers.
There were so few printing presses that had survived, counterfeiting was not considered a worry. The two were asked to come to the new capitol, Stock Town, and set up a department of the treasury. They were hesitant to leave Joel, but he urged them to stretch their wings.
The boys' ideas put the new nation on a sound fiscal foundation and its currency was highly valued by the small countries that had sprung up along the western seaboard of the continent.
There began lively commercial ventures up and down the coast and products not available in the United Western States were seen in markets. Several of the smaller countries asked admission to The United Western States and, by the time General Hayes stepped down as President, there were five more small states added to the original three.
Major James was late in closing the Fort, he did not want to leave any emigrant party stranded in the pass, so he waited until the snows had closed the trail up to the pass before he brought his troop back down to the Aerie.
When they arrived, a very pregnant Walking Doe Meadows was waiting for her husband, Major James. She had a small boy, Gary Peters Meadows, beside her and when James dismounted his horse, Walking Doe pointed to him and the little boy went running, screaming, "Daddy, Daddy", and jumped up into his arms in welcome.
They had hardly been home a week when Walking Doe began complaining of pains and James rushed her to the clinic and Dr. Bagwell. That evening, a haggard Major James Meadows met his baby daughter, whom they named Janet after James' deceased Mother. Gary was as proud as a peacock of his baby sister and would remain her guardian for both their lifetimes.
As Governor, Joel resigned as head of the military force of Aerie and named Major James Meadows as Troop Commander, his forces now numbering 150 full time soldiers. He promoted him to Lieutenant Colonel and gave him a place on the Chamber of Counselors.
The winter was particularly harsh, travel between the three villages was almost impossible. The married quarters, while warm and snug, were small and the growing families were feeling the pinch. Plans were made to enlarge the quarters by knocking out walls to create two and three bedroom units. More rows would be erected and the small collection of homes at the low end of the meadow had become a village in itself.
Each village had elected a Mayor or Headman and James spoke with Joel about assigning a couple of troopers to each village to act as policemen. While they had no crime, there was always the problem of a sneak attack by small parties of bandits. Each group of Trooper/Policemen was to be commanded by a Corporal, who was supplied with a hand held radio and a small photo-voltaic cell to keep it charged.
General Haye's people had come across a large supply of the radios and he had them assigned to each state militia. Joel agreed and suggested that Roman Phelps be raised to First Lieutenant and put in charge. James agreed that Roman would be an ideal candidate for the job and he put the plan into effect.
In later years, Roman Phelps would to the same job on a national level.
James was stumped for who to assign the command of Fort High Pass to until he remembered Gil Handly. He called him in and interviewed him. When James offered the job to him, Gil couldn't believe what he was hearing, "Meeeee, in command of the fort?"
James promised him all the support and backup he needed and he finally agreed to take on the job. Joel approved Gil's promotion to Captain and Gil set about setting up his squads for summer deployment to High Pass.
As spring struggled to come to the mountain country, the people were busy getting ready for planting and the building of additional housing.
Captain Gil gathered his troops and set about organizing their equipment and repairing anything that required attention. He had cases of ammunition pulled out of storage and checked for corrosion and all their rifles cleaned and lubricated against wear and corrosion. The supply wagon was repaired and its axels greased before it was loaded with supplies and all the horses were checked by the Farrier for loose and missing shoes.
Spring Brook Handly was very proud that her husband had been selected to command the Fort, she told her husband, just before he left with his troop, that they were expecting a baby in December. Poor Gil nearly fell off his horse, he jumped down and hugged his wife and told her to be careful while he was gone.
It was a giddy new Captain that led his troops out the gate from the Aerie and up the mountain road to High Pass. He heard his troopers giggling and he turned around in his saddle. The Corporal laughed and shouted, "Papa Gil!" Gil was well liked by the troops and they were not teasing him, they were congratulating him.
They took their time getting to the Fort, they didn't want to overwork the team pulling the freight wagon. They arrived early afternoon of the second day and set about cleaning up the Fort and making it ready.
He had hardly time to get the first watch posted when the sentry called that there was a wagon coming up the grade. It was two related families and the older boys were driving a small herd of the most magnificent horses the troopers had ever seen. They were told they were pure Arabians, the lead stallion was truly a king of the herd!
The troopers, including Captain Handly, who knew their horses, were all drooling down their shirts. The two families told them horror stories of coming across the desert and that they had been hit twice by bandits and drove them off both times.
The father of one of the families was still recovering from a bullet wound to the head and Gil told them that they had a Real Doctor down at the Aerie. They rested at the Fort until 2 days later, when they began the descent off the pass to the Aerie. Gil radioed ahead that they two families were coming and that they needed a doctor.
Joel asked Doctor Bagwell if he would ride up and meet them partway, which he did. As soon as they got back to the Aerie, Doctor Bagwell was operating on the wounded man to remove bullet particles from just above his ear. They had become infected and he was in danger of losing his hearing.
There was a wagon or two every couple of days and a constant stream of people, all headed down the pass towards the Aerie. There had been no wagons for several days when they heard screams and shouts and saw a wagon coming up the grade, the horses foaming at the mouth and running for all they were worth.
The sentry began ringing the emergency alarm and all the troopers grabbed their rifles and ran for the gate. Behind the wagon, a band of horsemen were chasing the wagon, Captain Gil ordered the field piece to be swung around and the chamber loaded.
The gunner dropped the elevation and the muzzle of the huge gun was pointed directly down the trail coming up the pass. They passed the wagon into the courtyard and the troopers stood there with their rifles pointed at the horsemen.
The horsemen decided to see if they could charge the firing line and Captain Gil shouted at the gunner, "FIRE!" The 5 inch gun belched out fire and smoke and the explosive canister downed the riders and their horses, leaving only tangled flesh and body parts on the trail. There were no survivors.
The man on the wagon hugged Captain Gil, "We were almost done for, they had been chasing us all the way up the grade and our horses are about give out!" The man's daughter gave Gil a big hug and a kiss, the poor Captain had a flaming red face and he stammered, "I, I I'm a married man, M'am."
The young woman smiled and replied, "And I am alive, thanks to you and your men!" She went around to all the rifle troopers and the gunner and gave each one a hug and kiss to thank them. The gunner swabbed out his gun with a huge grin on his face, and readied it for the next time bandits came charging up their pass.
The gun was placed behind a gate in the wall, all they had to do is unlatch the gate and roll the big gun into position to cover the trail. Some wag had painted the line, "BIG BERTHA" on the barrel of the gun and that is what all the troopers called it.
Things remained quiet for nearly a week when the sentry called for Captain Gil. They looked down the trail and saw a herd of cows! There was a whole herd of white faces being driven up the trail!
They ran out Big Bertha, just in case it was a trick and Captain Gil and his Sergeant rode out to meet the cowboys driving the herd. An old rancher was in charge, he said, "Sonny, I weren't gonna let them banditos git my cows, these be prize Herefords and wes lost nary a one. All 120 of em' are right here!"
They put the cows in the horse paddock for the night and Gil radioed down to Joel to let him know he had 120 beefsteaks on the hoof coming down to him.
Nothing could top the herd of cows until late in the summer, when they heard music coming from down the trail. It was a circus coming up the trail! The poor sentry was afraid to go wake the Captain, he had been up all night helping with two sick troopers.
Gil blinked at the Sentry when he said, "Sir, theys a circus at the gate!" Gil said."I don't believe this, a CIRCUS?" The sentry replied, "Yessir, theys a circus out front, it done even got an elephant!"
Gil went running out to the gate, still tucking his shirt in. Sure as God made little green apples, there WAS a circus at the gate and it DID have an elephant!
Gil was so tired, he had to sit on a log, Sergeant Hecklin found him holding his head in his hands, repeating, "elephant, elephant, elephant, a damned elephant! Why me, God?"
They brought the circus into the Fort and put them in the paddock. Gil got on the radio and called Colonel James, "Sir, I got an elephant here and a full circus!" James first reply was, "Captain, have you been drinking?" Gil said, "No sir, but I surely could use one right now! I really do have a circus here!"
There were children from all the villages as the circus came down the trail and entered the grounds around the Aerie. It was really a small country amusement circus with a couple of clowns, the elephant, a ragged lion and some monkeys.
Joel thought to himself, "Why not? Our folk have little to be joyful over, let's have a circus!" The woodlot was clear of logs right them, so they parked the circus in the woodlot and let them set up their tents.
They had an old steam calliope and the clowns got out and danced with the children. Their people from all three villages came to enjoy the show, the Indian Folk were squirrelly eyed when the elephant got up on her hind legs a danced a few steps!
Joel was on the radio to General Hayes, he thought it was a wonderful thing and authorized the circus to travel throughout The United Western States. The circus became a fixture, visiting all the areas of the eight states at least once a year.
COMING OF AGE
Years began to roll around, fewer and fewer emigrants came over the pass and attacks by the bandits had almost completely ceased. The population was growing and the land between Forestville and Markleeville was cleared and planted to crops.
Someone down in the State of Riverplains got some oil wells restarted and a small refinery. It wasn't much, but they were able to supply the eight states with lamp oil and a bit of oil to run a few diesel trucks for the Army.
The Aerie had 1200 residents and Meadow Village had another 300. Forestville was splitting its seams with 1,000 residents and Markleeville had gotten up to 600. Spring Haven finally had gotten to 250 residents, but they were off the beaten path.
The farms produced most of what they needed, Cotton was grown down at Riverplains and had to be imported. Greenbelt was at the far southern end of the country and not much was shipped as far as the Aerie, except dried fish and salt.
The smaller states produced rice and large quantities of wheat and fruits. They kept the Fort up at High Pass manned each summer, but not many emigrants came though anymore.
Joel was determined to open a college at the Aerie and he had several buildings constructed for it. It required several years to locate enough instructors to begin classes.
In the meantime he had been elected President of The United Western States after General Hayes had stepped down. He spent two four year terms before for he said, "THAT'S ENOUGH!"
After returning to his beloved Aerie, he guided the college through its birthing pains and happily watched the first graduates walk down the aisle. James Meadows became the Commanding General of the Army of The United Western States and, against his howling refusals, served two terms as its President. He was replaced as Commanding General by his long time friend Roman Phelps.
When they tried to draft Roman as President, he threatened to leave the country, so they did the next best thing and elected Gil Handly to the Presidency.
They never completely eradicated the bandits but the only pass through with they could attack the United Western States was High Pass and they feared Big Bertha almost as much as they feared James Meadows!
James, Bob and Joel remained friends to the end of their lives, they would frequently sit on the veranda of the Aerie, swapping tales and drinking apple brandy. Roman would sometimes join them and they would get to telling tall tales of their adventures, but none could top Gil and his circus! Every time Gil described that elephant coming up the trail towards him, they would roll in laughter and James would hand him another brandy, "Here's the drink I accused you of having!"
They all lived to ripe old age, when Joel passed away, the whole nation went into mourning. Retired General James Meadows gave the eulogy at his funeral, "WE ARE HERE TO HONOR THE MAN WHO, MORE THAN ANY OTHER PERSON, MADE THIS NATION OF OURS POSSIBLE. HE WAS NOT A WARRIOR, NOR WAS HE A FIGHTER, BUT HE WARRED AND FOUGHT TO MAKE OUR COUNTRY SUCCEED, TO KEEP OUT THOSE WHO WOULD HAVE DESTROYED US AND NURTURED THOSE WHO HAVE MADE US GREAT. AS WE SAY GOODBYE TO THIS GREAT MAN, LET US ALWAYS REMEMBER HIS VIGILANCE TOWARDS OUR SAFETY. NEVER LET YOUR GUARD DOWN."