The next few days after moving into our new home went by in a whirlwind. Shirley and I worked on details of the house making it our home. Janice came over to help out and was asked to stay. We talked to the guys on the radio in the evening usually with Janice. Many days, she and Matt enjoyed talking before the regular net would start. Janice drives herself using my old school car.
After the radio talk, Shirley said, “I talked to your mother today. Day after tomorrow, the whole family is coming over to celebrate the newest Mathews home with a pot luck dinner.”
“Okay, dear. Do I need to do anything special to get ready?”
“Just help me prepare.”
“I can do that.”
“Also, Janice will formally move in with us.”
“Well, we had talked about that before and you had wanted some alone time which we had. She’s been living here now.”
“I am willing for her to move in permanently. She was not happy at your Mom’s because of what happened to her there. I don’t think your aunt really wants to stay at her place either.”
“We have three spare bedrooms and all are separated from our room by the rest of the house.”
“I know,” she said, “I believe that our suite was an add-on because of how the rest of the house is built.”
“I agree. It probably is. When does Mary want to move in?”
“Tomorrow,” she replied.
“Oh. Well, I guess that’s okay with me.”
“I thought you would be agreeable. If you weren’t, I would bribe you with my body.”
“Now, that sounds good.” We chuckled together. “You can start tonight.”
“Bribing me with your body.”
“Oh.” We both laughed a lot. We laughed often then and still do now.
The next day, we rode over to Mary’s house and helped Mary load her personal items and bring them to our home. We spent most of the day getting her moved in and set and finishing details of Janice’s room. Shirley told them both that they would have to learn the radios and would be expected to handle our little net. She also said that we needed to work on searching for other hams on the airwaves. To do that, we would need to learn more and put up some additional antennas. That evening, we introduced Mary to our radio group. They were quite glad to hear another female voice. That was particularly true when they found out that, unlike Shirley who was married and Janice who was young, Mary was a widow and more their ages. We did not mention the unfortunate circumstances regarding the Ed’s.
Charlie was almost ready to leave Columbia. He would to go to see Jack first but really planned to join us. Jack was trying to decide what to do. Robert, on the other hand, had left Mississippi heading for Montgomery that day. Ted was going to come over tomorrow for the get together.
As I look at this later, it feels like a news report which, in a way, is what a journal is. Shirley and I go over these journals as a way of reminding us where we came from and where we want to go in the future. It’s also part of our teaching to children.
The next day came bright and clear. Georgia in the springtime and early summer is beautiful. By eleven, people were already gathering for the meal and party. We toured the grounds. The men folk talked about what I should consider to make the property into a proper farm. I was taking notes in my mind as I thought I would have to do most all of those things myself. I tried to get the subject to power and fuel for the future. No one really wanted to go there as it had fearful prospects for all of us.
The dinner was delightful. My grandmother, mother, and aunts were all good cooks and a potluck luncheon was a great opportunity to demonstrate their abilities. After everyone left, the four of us sat in the living room and talked. Mary and Janice were more willing to talk about future issues than others in the family. Shirley and I decided that we would start checking out the utility company’s offices to find maps and other information. We didn’t even know how the power we were using was being generated in reality.
After running the net on the radio, we went to bed. I noted that Robert didn’t check in. I mentioned it to Shirley. She said that maybe conditions weren’t right or he was busy. I let it go.
The next morning, we rose and looked up power offices to decide where to go. We plotted them out on an Internet map and headed out on our way after a quick breakfast. The first place we found was simply a sales office and provided us with no information. The second one was more helpful and provided mapping for power grids in our general area. Using those we determined the track on a paper map for our particular grid. We were also able to trace Dad’s house and Ted’s as well. We had a good idea regarding where to look for the rest of the families’ grid information. Taking the information with us, we went to the next stop that was the track point for our particular grid. We went inside and found more information that told us where our power originated on the bigger grid. The more I looked at this, the more I felt we had to develop our own power source and get off the grid. In the long run, this was where I thought we should be. In the short run, it was going to mean a lot of work.
I put on the list that we should start searching our property and close by areas for a water source to use to generate electricity. There was a nice creek coming down the hill behind the house but I didn’t know if it was sufficient. We would have to do some research on what exact kind of water source we would need. I made a note on that, also. We saw no one all day. We talked to Ted once and Janice twice both by two-meter repeater.
I remarked to Shirley at how deserted the area seemed to be. She agreed and said that there should be more people around if there was a three percent survival rate. She agreed with me that it might be more like three tenths of a percent. We saw no new signs that anyone had been anywhere.
As we rode back, I suggested that we set up two-meter rigs with some simple instructions on how to operate them and see if anyone gives a call. That would keep us away from people if we didn’t like what we heard or saw. As we entered our road, I suggested to Shirley that even more important would be making a natural block on the drive and make it look unused. She looked at me and I said that there had been looters and we didn’t need someone taking our place over without our knowledge much less our permission. Shirley nodded slowly and reluctantly in agreement.
We got home and prepared supper. After eating, we out to the radio room and called to every one on our net. Robert didn’t check in again. Charlie was ready to leave Columbia for us via Pooler. While it was a bit out of the way, he was going to see Jack both to meet him and, I think, to see if Jack wanted to come over here. We talked about being careful since Robert had not checked in for two days. At that point, we heard, “Contact.”
I had learned some of the procedure and said, “Go, Contact.”
“This is K4TLQ, Mitch in Talladega, Alabama. I’m sure glad to hear someone out there. Where are you folks?”
“Mitch, this is Jack. We’re located in west central Georgia south of I-20. My family came through fairly well. My wife, Shirley, is a ham and we are using ham radio to communicate with others. On the air with us are Ted, who lives in our area, Charlie in Columbia, South Carolina, Tom in Montgomery with his son, Jack in Pooler, Georgia, near Savannah, and Fred in Macon. The only one missing is Robert from northern Mississippi who was headed this way when we last talked to him. We get together at this time each evening. We are looking for other survivors to better understand our common situation and to help each other know there is someone still around in the world.”
“Jack, that’s great! I’m just glad to hear that someone is out there. It’s been very quiet around here. I’m close to the racetrack and I-20. I have heard nothing on the interstate in a while.”
“I understand, Mitch. How are you doing right now?”
“I’m well though it’s lonely. I am pretty well fixed for supplies though that situation won’t last forever. It looks like very few people survived. I have been out most days where I can see I-20 and the surrounding area. There are no moving cars on any roads. The smell can be pretty bad from the bodies. There are two small hospitals here but I haven’t been able to stomach getting close to them yet.”
“I understand. Our situation around here is similar. We are close enough to Atlanta to have made two trips up there to scavenge. We saw one person who had been shot and were shot at on the other trip. We haven’t seen any people since the first trip. Our feeling is to be wary. Also, we have learned to be watchful for dogs and other animals.”
“Roger. The dogs around here have enough livestock and chickens to eat right now but could be a problem at some time. Jack, what are your plans longer term?”
“Mitch, we are all farmers in my family. My wife and I were engineers at Tech and we are all working to establish an independent community capable of going it on our own. We believe this situation isn’t going away and we have to plan accordingly. Shirley and I were talking today about putting together a small power station using hydraulic power for the future. We believe that the power grid will eventually fail. We are also concerned about gasoline and diesel. With no maintenance and no refining, these items will eventually be in short supply.”
“Yeah, I’m a farmer but it takes more than one person to handle farming chores at harvest even with good equipment. Mine is old but good. I will need help in the fall.”
“I understand. We will try to help you then. We are also continuing to try to contact others by radio to develop more community and knowledge about conditions. Check in with us each evening when you can.”
“I will. Thanks, Jack. I will stand by.”
“Anyone else with anything this evening?” I paused. “Hearing nothing, we will close down and be in touch tomorrow night. Jack and Shirley out.” I turned off the radio.
“Shirl, what about Robert? We haven’t heard from him for two days now. It’s not that far to Montgomery where he was to meet Tom and Matthew.”
“If he doesn’t check in tomorrow night, we’ll try to find out what’s happening with him, develop a possible route and determine who should look for him. Now, what are we going to do about hydro-power?”
“We need to determine if there is a dam site here. To do that we need to know what would constitute a good dam site so we’ll know a good one when we see it. That means we need to get on the computer and research all that. We also need to find out what pieces we need to find to get a water wheel generator going. I’ve also thought about solar but the panels degenerate with time.”
“Jack, we can get all that off the Internet. I think we need to do something else on the Internet while we have it.”
“What is that, honey?”
“We need to figure out as best we can what information we will need out into the future and download it while it’s available.”
“Oh, that’s going to be quite a list.” Janice said.
“Jack, that’s why we need more computers here and why we need Mary and Janice here to help us with some of our projects.”
We walked into the living room as we talked and Janice asked, “What do we need to help you on?”
I nodded over to Shirley and she said, “I think we need to research on the Internet for anything we need now and in the future, mostly in the future.”
Mary said, “That’s a huge project. How do you figure we are going to do all that?”
I said, “We have a good connection here. I will go into town and pick up some new computers and a router and we will set up a computer network with compters for each of us. That we way we can pick subjects, run our research, download everything to a local hard drive, and have it as long as there is electricity. Shirley and I are going to work on that as our next project. I would like to make us independent of the power grid real soon. We all need to start making a list of things to download for the future. The more we can download, the better off we will be. We won’t finish.”
“That’s for sure.” Shirley said. She brought out paper and pencils. “Let’s start with each of us brainstorming and see what we get.” Everyone nodded and we gathered around the dining table and each began to write.
After half an hour, I was tired and sat up. “Let’s go over what we have so far.”
We looked over what each had. Shirley and I had a page each. Mary and Janice had a couple of pages each. We started with Shirley’s page. She read out her items. “Medical of all kinds, water filtration, hydraulic power and power plants.”
Mary interrupted saying, “I have some medical items on my list. Let’s stop at medical for a moment and make a sub list. Janice and I can start there as soon as we have computers.”
Janice said, “I brought my laptop with me. It connects on wireless and I can get on the ‘net from here when we start.”
“Great.” Shirley said. “Let’s do that Mary.” She took a fresh sheet of paper and wrote “Medical” across the top in capital letters. “What specifics did you have?”
Mary said, “I had child-bearing, birthing as separate items. What about diseases? Have any of you ever been sick?” We all looked at each other as we shook our heads. “That being the case, I don’t think diseases need much priority. I am also concerned about injuries, broken legs and the like. We don’t have a doctor or a nurse. Waiting until we need one before finding one or not preparing for the eventuality of managing without one is not a good idea.”
“I hadn’t thought of that. If someone were injured, we could have a real problem.” I said. “Shirl, that’s something to add to our ‘try to find one’ list. We also need to spend more time on the radio to determine if others are around and their condition.”
“We need Janice on the air and I will teach all of you more radio. Then we will have real help. We can get Ted to come help out on the training and in the radio work to make contacts.”
“Okay. Let’s get back to our list with sub items.”
“Jack, let’s put each main item on a separate page. That way we can add to it as we think of more to go under that particular item.” Shirley said. I smiled and nodded.
She pulled out a new page and wrote on it, “Transportation.” On another, she wrote, “Power.” On still another, “Farming and livestock.” She said, “Those are sufficient to start and we can always add more. I think it should be a target for each of us each day to add at least one main item or sub-item for research.”
“That will work.” I said as I saw the others nod in agreement. “Let’s add our thoughts to each big topic or add a new topic. Nothing is out of bounds or too silly. We just don’t know what the future will hold.”
Armament was the next big topic to be added. Quickly under that were added tactics and methods. Then hand-to-hand fighting, then bows and arrows that finished it for the moment. I added “making gunpowder” and “bullet making” a few moments later. Shirley added “flintlocks” after another moment.
I thought a moment and added a new big topic, “Home Economics” and put under it house building, plumbing, furniture making, cooking over an open fire, candle making, and electrical wiring. Mary added “washing clothes without a washer,” “sewing,” and “clothing design.”
We continued in a like manner for a couple of hours. When we finished, it was a considerable list and we all knew we had really only just started.
Shirley said, “We started this effort because we wanted learn about dam building and water generation of electricity. Let’s all go over that together. It will help us to think about what we need to keep and how to cull useless information on the front end. Also, Jack, you need to look at the network connection and determine what it is and what it should be.”
“Yes, I should have noticed when we connected our laptop to it. I just didn’t think about it.” My laptop was older and didn’t have a good network connection via wireless. I had plugged it in without looking at what was there. I looked and found a good wireless router that also accepted wired connections. That was good. We would still need another router for more connections since I also wanted a computer or two in the radio room.
While I was thinking about that, Shirley had brought up information on building dams and some basic information on water generation of power on small scale. It even included information on water flows needed and a chart for making calculations! Shirley was printing data out to give us something with which to work. It was late when we finally finished making a “shopping list.” With that, we went to bed. I guess it’s a good thing our bedroom is far from Mary’s and Janice’s since we were noisy that night!