Nine days post wave, and one day post Christmas. Jimmy
and Gary were cutting the lengths of slabwood into
pieces, that would fit into the big wood stove, with the
bow saw that Jimmy had found at the swap meet. They had a
pack of twelve extra blades for it, so they had elected
to save the chainsaw and its invaluable supplies
for the heavier work that would present itself when the
slabwood ran out, and they would be forced to cut down large sized trees and make them small
enough to fit into the stove. Slabs were easy cutting,
and as Danielle had laughingly told the pair, This
way the wood will warm you guys twice! The girls
had laughed a lot louder than the guys at that funny
The two worked well together, one would saw the slabs for
a while, and the other would finagle them loose from the
pile, and stack the cut pieces. Every half hour or so,
they would switch jobs and continue to make the pile of
cut up pieces grow.
Christmas had been great! Danielle and Ellen had a goose
in the oven quite early, and the wonderful odor that it
sent throughout the whole house, kept their mouths
watering for hours at the prospect of a traditional
Christmas dinner. Needless to say, they had a wonderful
time, and even managed to exchange some small gifts that
Danielle got a new bridle, bit and reins from Gary, and a
pair of riding boots from her parents. Jimmy thought he
saw a tear in her eye as she thanked them all. Gary got a
hunting knife, and a goose down coat.
Now thats what I call a pair of perfect
gifts. Thanks a million.
Jimmy got a Swiss army knife from the kids, and a
crossbow pistol with a dozen quarrels from Ellen. Looking
at his son-in-law, he commented, Yours arent
any more perfect than mine. They all had a good
laugh at that one.
I dont know if I want to open mine, or
Jimmys eyes showed his surprise. Why not
Ellen? You dont even know what youre
Im just afraid that this might be my last
good Christmas, and I want to savor it.
Honey, just open your gifts, Ill make sure
you make out just fine in the years to come.
With a tentative nod of her head, she slowly removed the
decorative paper from the small package, and gave a small
gasp of surprise when she saw the beautiful pendant watch
with its delicate gold chain.
Its a self winding watch, so you will always
have the time, if you wear it every day.
Oh Jimmy, I just love it. Its so delicate and
pretty. I think that its the nicest thing
youve ever given me.
OK mom, thats enough of that mushy stuff,
its time to see what we got you.
Taking the much larger and softer package from her
daughter, she opened it to find a soft cuddly bunny suit,
complete with attached feet, and a petite hood.
That should keep you warm at nights mom.
It sure will Hon, but how will your dad ever figure
out how to collect his reward for that nice watch that he
gave me tonight?
The whole group had broken up at that remark. It was one
of the best Christmas theyd ever had.
Working the saw with still undiminished enthusiasm, Jimmy
saw a couple of strangers coming out of the woods behind
the barn. His voice was a warning, as he reached for his,
ever present, .44 magnum. Gary, behind you.
Hold on Jimmy. Lets see what they want.
OK Gary, but be careful.
As the pair approached, Gary could see that were in poor
shape. What can I do for you people?
Mister, what can we do to earn some food? We
havent eaten for days, and we cant go much
Jimmy, they sure do look bad. Weve got this
big basket of buns, and I wasnt looking forward to
moving all of that wood up to the house with that cart of
yours. Lets make a deal with them, OK?
Feeding the man and woman first, they found out, between
bites, that the pair had come south from a large town
about forty miles to the north over the last seven days.
Three hours later, the work was finished, and they had
Their chances of survival were much enhanced by the small
bag that they now carried. Homemade buns, fishing hooks,
line, and two books of matches, were perhaps the things
that would make the difference as they tried to make
their way to the gulf coast where her daughter had a
It became commonplace to see refugees in singles and
small groups trudging down the road in front of the
house. Occasionally a few would hail the house, wanting
to exchange labor for food, and some of the less
disreputable ones were given food and a job cutting the
slabwood and stacking it by the house, but the vast
majority just shuffled past the house, looking neither
left or right, like an endless train of animated bodies.
Danielle remarked to no one in particular one day,
Shock is going to kill as many as starvation.
The property lines from the back pasture, to the front of
the house at the edge of the road, was patrolled by the
Rotties, and those refugees that were animated and
hostile were definitely not inclined to mess with them.
As an added precaution, several weapons were placed at
strategic locations in the house, readily accessible at a
Sheriff Brownlee showed up around noon on New Years day.
It had been snowing, on and off, for the past week, and
the temperatures were more like those that youd
expect to see in Minnesota. Riding over to the farm on
his ancient John Deere tractor must have been torture for
the old man. They had to literally pry the old
double-barreled shotgun from his hands and help him into
Sit down, right here by the stove, and Ill
get you a cup of hot tea.
Thatd be nice, Miss Danielle, real
Whatever has you out in such terrible weather? Is
something wrong in town?
Half an hour later, they had a pretty good picture of
town life, as it was now. Desperate, starving, and
freezing, the Wanderers, as the sheriff called them, had
reached the point that no one could hold them back.
Jakes brother Willy had been raided out at his
They hit old Willy on the head, and tied up both of
his boys! By the time we found them, the place had been
stripped of food, weapons, livestock, clothing, and
anything else that could be carried away. Jake put them
up at the feed store. That way theyd have a roof
over their heads, and they could help to guard the store
at the same time.
Noticing the weapons by the door, he commented,
Stay alert for trouble. It took me three hours to
get here today, so you cant depend on anyone but
yourselves if something comes up. Its bad, and
its only going to get worse, Id wager. If it
ever thaws out again, were gonna have to get out
and bury or burn those bodies that are laying along the
road. I must have seen fifty between here and town, and
Ill wager that there must be lots more under the
snowdrifts. Some of them are in really bad shape.
Id like to think it was from the animals working on
them, but Im afraid the survivors are doing some of
the work themselves, if you follow my drift.
You didnt nearly freeze yourself just to tell
us about Willy. What else is happening sheriff?
I was just getting to that Missy. I think my missus
has a touch of pneumonia. She aint doing very well
Within minutes Danielle was handing him a big plastic bag
with several smaller bags of herbs, and a couple of small
bottles of oils and elixirs that would, hopefully, help
his wife recover.
Each item has its own instructions. Follow
them closely, and remember that herbal remedies work
slower than the modern medicines, so be sure to give it
the extra time that it needs to work.
After having a big bowl of hot, leftover, goose bone and
noodle soup with a generous slice of homemade bread on
the side, sheriff Brownlee climbed on the old tractor,
and they handed him the bag of medicine and his twelve
gauge shotgun. He turned the old tractor back down the
drive, and turned to the left, back towards town.
Thankfully, the wind blown snow was now hitting his bowed
back, and with a little luck, would do so all of the way
back to his home.
While sitting around the table after supper that night,
they tried to find out what was happening to the rest of
the country, and the world too, if they could.
The little generator was purring just outside of the back
porch, and the guys had managed to attach the antenna to
the side of the porch roof where they could simply reach
out the door and turn it in any direction that they
desired. The all important grounding device was a long
bar of iron that had been driven through two feet of
frozen ground, and then down into the soft red clay for
several more feet.
They clamped the grounding cable to it, with a couple of
hose clamps, and called it a system.
Slowly turning the big vernier dial on the front of the
set, Jimmy thought he heard a voice buried under the,
always present static.
Gary, try turning the antenna around for me.
As he spun the pipe, the voice seemed to jump out at
Happy New Year.
Grabbing the mike, Jimmy depressed the big red plastic
button on the base of the microphone and yelled back,
Happy New Year!
Ten minutes later, as the signal faded into oblivion,
they had a frightening picture of the American Midwest.
The Chicago area in particular was just history.
Sam, the radio operator, was suffering from starvation,
and the extreme cold. He was nearly out of fuel for his
generator, and had informed them that this would be his
last message. Speaking in a monotone voice, he filled
them in on what was going on around him.
The blizzard hit two days after the power died, and
hasnt really stopped since then for more than an
hour or two at a time. Sometimes, I can see some of the
big buildings downtown, and they are nothing but burned
out hulks. The snow is piled up against them so deep that
a couple of floors are just gone from sight. You would
not believe the riots we had! There must be millions of
bodies out there. New Years, yes. Happy, no!
Later that night, Danielle opened a three year old,
five-gallon bottle of her homemade pomegranate wine, and
they all had a glass or two. Each of them went to bed
that night hoping for a better new year.