Chapter Eight: A Committee For Progress

The Emergency Committee of Huron County held it's weekly meeting on October 3rd. Larry was able to attend, less than fresh from his first tour of roadblock duty. Agriculture was first on the agenda.

The news was fairly good. Production overall was only down about thirty percent from last year. Not bad considering only about half the fuel and energy were used. Much of the harvesting was done by hand, thanks to instruction by the local Amish settlement and the spare labor now available. Priority was given to non-hybrid crops, so that there would be seed for next season. The next year or two may see further decline, but most were confident that production would suffice in meeting the food requirements and eventually improve to surplus.

Next was the energy report. This was bleak. The local power plant might have enough coal to get through the winter. But it meant further reductions in time-on-line. Most agreed that emphasis should now be directed into providing electricity more at night than during the day. This was needed for heating purposes. The phone system could still be maintained, but by March of 2000, the coal would run out.

Natural gas, propane, and other petroleum based fuels were in dwindling supplies. Priority would be given to operating emergency vehicles. Those with private stocks of fuel would be asked to contribute, but the committee refrained from forcing people to give up their supplies.

The Security situation was next. Sherrif Jenkins was joined by both Roger Maas, and Hank DeWitt, who had just returned from training people in St. Clair County. After Jenkins gave a rundown on local crime, which there was very little of, DeWitt was permitted to explain the situation in the south.

"Things are starting to settle down. We've helped train another 500 or so men in the basics. They lost a lot of people, both from dealing with trouble from Detroit, and in their own backyard of Port Huron. Nearly a quarter of the Port Huron area is gone, burnt down, destroyed. The death toll is something like five to ten thousand. Nobody's sure of anything. I guess that's not bad considering the area had over a hundred thousand."

"I went on one recon mission to Detroit. Didn't get within 10 miles of it. The roads are a mess. Deserted vehicles, rubble. From some radio broadcasts, mainly CB, we've intercepted, half the Metro area is gone. They are literally eating each other down there. The death toll is proabably at least half a million and maybe three or four times higher than that."

"Most of those who did get out headed south into Ohio and beyond. By the time the military pulled out, gasoline was scarce. I don't think we have too much to worry about bands of marauders. At least not large groups, anyway."

"Right now, St. Clair County needs to deal with it's refugee problem. They'd like to pass about 2-3000 our way. Their own farm production will be adequate, they say. They, too, are just about out of fuel. Other than food, they are lacking in just about everything. The big worry is for an epidemic to breakout. The dying is far from over."

Roger Maas then gave his report. The Huron County Militia (HCM), were now over a 1,000 strong. Most were assigned to assisting their local law enforcement. About a third were being used for the roadblocks. Coastal patrols worried him. Most of the county was surrounded on three sides by water. As far as the land routes, he had beefed up the defenses to the west, where trouble from the small cities of Saginaw and Bay City existed.

There had been two skirmishes already and he expected more. Casaulties were light for the HCM. Now that the harvest was in, he wanted to add another few hundred. Winter would put a further strain on manpower.

Some good news followed when the manufacturers reported that they were confident about converting much of the towed farming equipment to beast-power. Leather was needed, and all animals which will die from attrition or hunting would be utilized. Making fasteners and other components for yokes and harnesses would be no problem.

Replicating other equipment from plans based on the Amish devices would be done, but in limited numbers. They were hopeful to have enough in time for the next season, but this would add to the decline in expected output. The days of high-tech, mechanized farming were gone.

The subject of refugees was next. So far, the county had some 5,000 and they proved to be grateful and helpful. They really came in handy during the harvest. However, living conditions in the shelters were not good, and would be inadequate for winter. A survey of unoccupied housing showed that they could relocate the current group, especially if families were doubled up.

As for taking on the extra load from St. Clair County, the committee had reservations. While they could feed them, providing other support would be difficult. Medical supplies were limited to begin with, and most refugees were in a sorry state. Since the current group had worked side-by-side with residents in the harvest, a level of friendship and trust had been established. This would not be the case for the new group, and winter could breed resentment and unrest.

One man spoke up and suggested that it was time to take drastic steps. He didn't say what those steps were, but he didn't have to. The subject of liquidating refugees had been on many minds from the beginning. Few openly discussed it, but many knew that at some point, it may become neccessary.

Another asked if the state government could help. The Committee Chairman said that there was little they could do. Reorganization was still an on-going process. However, he would make it a point to contact them immediately. Further discussion on taking additional refugees would be tabled.

Larry then suggested that a serious effort be made for developing alternate energy. He passed around plans he had for building simple widmills and methane distillers from scrap material. He then also passed around plans for solar cookers and dehydrators. He said all were easy to construct and was willing to teach a team of instructors. That plan was accepted without argument. Roger Maas leaned over and said to Larry, "Good thing we have an expert in using junk." That brought a round of laughter that was sorely needed.

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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.