Chapter Seven: Harvest Of Chaos

In the weeks from early August through mid-October, America, and the world as a whole, decended into a universe of chaos. In urban America, life went from difficult to impossible to down right deadly. Food, fuel, and patience ran out. The confusing situation with Washington and the military just brought on the inevitable.

Random violence soon took on a deliberate nature. Vigilante groups fought it out with gangs of hoodlums. What police that were left tried to defend small pockets where they brought their families. Once the military retreated from it's roadblocks, the masses began their exodus. Most headed for warmer climates as Larry predicted. Those who had someplace to go tried to get there.

Once the wage and price controls began, shortages of gasoline became common, then chronic. Those who did not leave prior to the unrest were stuck. By mid-September, when it was now obvious that Washington lost control, refugees had no choice but to travel on foot.

Meanwhile, the situation in Huron County had firmed up. Roadblocks had been established and the militias were formed. Most of the training was done on the job. The rotation worked well, especially when it came harvest time. Fuel was allocated from reserves as needed. As much was done by hand as could be. An Amish community north of Bad Axe helped out where they could. Larry spent alot of time with them.

Armed with an instant camera, notebook, and various measuring devices, he was busy learning what he could about their horse-drawn equipment. The county-wide survey of beasts of burden showed a fair number. While they estimated to have enough fuel for this season, next year would mean a return to farming the old fashioned way. With luck, they would be able to fabricate some of what they needed.

Afterwards, Larry met with the engineers and managers of the few factories there were in the area. They looked over Larry's data. None were optimistic, but they did agree to give it a go. The area's electrical power plant only had enough coal for six months at best. Rationing would begin with power on for only a few hours a day. Natural gas was also a problem. But Michigan did have sources for it further upstate. Not to mention oilwells. Some form of barter would have to be developed.

The Governor of Michigan had set up a headquarters near Grayling. There was a large National Guard base there. One of the county commissioners and one of the militiamen familiar with HAM radio (both of whom were bachelors) were selected to fly up there in late September. Other representatives gathered there from across the state and even some from other state to coordinate their efforts. Just because the Federal government had taken a powder, didn't mean that everyone else did.

The situation was indeed shaping up. While it would be a long time before things returned to pre-chaos conditions, the level of fear was subsiding in Huron County. Other places were not as well off. To the south, St. Clair county was having a rough time with refugees and looters. They begged for help. Most of their better trained people were lost. They had the numbers, but were low on experience and leadership.

Hank DeWitt volunteered to help whip things into shape. An former Army officer with infantry experience, he felt obligated to have a go at it. Many of those who had been killed and were militia people from before were friends of his. He and a dozen others packed up and headed south on the 25th of September.

With the harvest in full swing, and man-power getting tight, the militia needed to recruit new people. Larry, who had been more valuable with other matters, decided to lend a hand. His buddy Al also signed up. Not wanting to leave his home defenseless, Larry choose to leave the shotgun and .38 there. He took with him his trusty M1 Garand.

For a sidearm, he did have a .44 black powder pistol. Many saw this as a joke, but Larry was actually quite good with it. He had trained before with the help of Uncle Pete. They'd tape paper targets to the sides of tires. Pete would then roll them down an incline. Larry would draw and fire when they came into view. He wasn't exactly a trick-shot, but he could hit anything within 25 feet.

Larry and Al borrowed two horses from Pete and set off to the roadblock at M-53 on the 27th. They were only to stay for 3 days, but packed 5 days worth of food and water. Larry borrowed a mule from his next door neighbor to carry the grain for the animals. It may have been only thirty miles, but it took most of the day to get there. Every hour or so, they dismounted and walked a spell. After 6 hours, they stopped for lunch near a creek, so the horses and mule could get a drink.

They arrived three hours later, a tad past 4pm. About 20 people were there. Some coming on foot or with bikes. Two others used horses, too, but had less distance. Introductions were made of the new replacements. The sheriff's deputy had yet to arrive, but the militia officer was there, Captain Kevin Harper. Larry, Al, and three others were new recruits. Kevin gave them a brief orientation of the roadblock.

A shallow creek ran east to west across the area. There was a small bridge over it. M-53 was just a two lane paved road here. Drainage ditches along either side of it. About 50 yards south of the bridge, a row of dirt-filled 55 gallon drums, brightly painted blocked the north bound lane. Another 10 yards was row, this time blocking the south bound lane. Two more staggered rows led up to the bridge itself. On the south bank, 3 drums were set on either end, giving only enough room for a vehicle to pass in the center. A long, brightly painted 2 x 10 stretched across the gap. Supports held it up about waste high and one side had a pivot with a weight attached. This made for a nice lever that could be handled easily by one man.

The bridge itself was only about 40 yards in length. In the middle and at the north end were the same set-up of drums, but no barrier. On either side past the ditch were earthworks. These were about nine feet high and formed an 'L' with the short end about 20 feet across the creek and about 40 feet along the road side.

Kevin explained that the routine was for 2 men to be at the first row of drums south of the bridge. The other two men would be at the 'gate' on the bridge's south end. A buzzer was enclosed in a box there, with wires run back to the house and tied into an alarm bell. As soon as any traffic was sighted, two short rings would be the signal. This would be if the traffic appeared non-violent from a distance.

The four men not on duty, but awake, would then be on alert to provide support. Back out on the road, the forward team would stop traffic and after an inquiry and possible search, they would then pass the traffic on to the bridge. If the people were not known, one representative would be escorted back to the house where he/she would be asked if they owned property, or had family or friends in Huron County. This information would be checked on the laptops the sheriff's office provided.

If the traffic were total strangers, then clearance would have to be recieved from headquarters in Bad Axe. With most refugees being on foot, transportation would be arranged. The county had set-up two sites in state parks for people. Someone with needed skills would be taken to an alternate location where they were needed. Anyone with a criminal record was arrested on site.

Kevin then explained what the drill was if the approaching traffic looked like trouble from afar. In this case, a the alarm would be continous. All men, awake or alseep would head directly for the earthworks. The outer patrol would retreat and with the bridge detail, also head for the earthworks. On the north end of the bridge was a box of calthrops which would be spread out, to bust any tires and maybe some feet, too. A signal would be sent to headquarters and one man would bring a small 2-meter radio for maintaining contact.

So far, they had yet to have such an event, but they would be drilled on it from time to time. Kevin would also drill the raw recruits in other matters while not serving on the roadblock itself. He stressed that while here, they always have their weapon within an arm's length away. He also advised each man to have a ruck sack with one day's food and water. First aid kits and other gear would be helpful. He handed out lists of what each member should have by their next tour of duty.

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The material you have just read is a chapter in the on-line fictional story, "When Autumn Leaves Fall" by Andrew Zarowny, copyrighted 1997. All characters and circumstances are fictional and are not intended to bare any resemblence to actual people alive or dead. You have the author's permission to copy or reproduce this material so long as you charge no money for it's reproduction or distribution.