How I Survived the Collapse: Chapter 6

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on December 9, 2016


Discuss this article at the Collapse Narratives Table inside the Diner

Kenny's mind was racing as Karl drove off on the scooter. Everything had changed. He had to re-think his plans for his own property, and he wondered about Karl's? What did he have on it, how big was it? His initial plan to keep his space completely devoid of permanent structures to make it as invisible as possible was kind of pointless now. It could be and would be found regardless at some point, it already had been.

The first thing Kenny thought about was the things he missed over the prior winter and would like to have set up. Foremost on this list was a permanent fire ring, something more substantial than the basic ring he had constructed from river stones and mud. If there were going to be more people around than just himself, some permanent seats around the ring might be nice to have. Instead of splitting all his wood for the fires, he could take a larger tree or two and cut some sections with his Husqvarna chainsaw to use for seats. They would be useful for doing stone tool knapping on as well. He flipped on his laptop and started a spreadsheet of things he would need for the next trip up, and took a walk around his campsite to decide on how best to expand it over the course of the summer. Utilizing his 3D Sketchup program, he took the Google Earth dataset to create a virtual terrain map in Sketchup, and started experimenting with potential site plans for the property.

Then there was the even bigger project of perhaps building a more permanent living accomodation. Although he had more than enough space between his van and trailer setup and the F-Dome, having a more substantial structure would be good for security. He though about how nervous he was when Karl first knocked on the Van door earlier that morning. What if Karl had not been alone? What if Karl had a gun too? What if Karl had not been a nice old guy, but a young Gang Banger looking for food, with a few buddies to take his back? At the very least, he needed some better early warning systems, and resolved to look into motion detectors and wireless security cameras during the week when he was back in Missoula.

For the main building though, there was only one possible choice. A Monolithic Dome, concrete reinforced with basalt rebar, able to withstand an F5 Tornado, Montana Wildfires, Massive Superstorm Sandy level Flooding, a 9.0 Earthquake on the Richter scale; and perhaps even a Supervolcanic eruption of Yellowstone or of La Garita Caldera, site of the largest Supervolcanic eruption known to have occurred on earth 27.8M years earlier, which produced an astounding 5000 cubic kilometers of ejecta with a Volcanic Explosive Index (VEI) of at least 8 and perhaps 9. Of course, if you happened to be downwind of such an eruption in Montana when it went off you would be buried in ash so deep it would make Pompeii's ashfall seem like a toddler sandbox, so you would be SOL there, but hopefully the wind is blowing the other way when that one goes off again.

Price on the Monolithic was an issue though, the air supported vinyl balloons to do the construction were pretty expensive, and depleting his stash of cash this way was not something he wanted to do, if maybe he could do it cheaper? His mind started to work on a way to build such a dome without having to cough up money for the balloon, along with all the money for the foam blowing equipment and the shotcrete blowing equipment? He put that on the back burner for a while though, maybe Karl would have some ideas on this.

The other big problem occupying Kenny's mind was how could he possibly find good people to be a part of this hopefully sustainable community? He went through his list of landscaping clients on his smartphone app he used for managing the client list day to day, and there seemed to be some good possibilities. There was Dave the Doctor with the big 5 acre McMansion that took practically all day to mow with the 48 inch swath of his Husqvarna Zero Turn mower. He really needed a mower with a wider swath for that property and because it took so long he wasn't making much money on it. In reality, he knew he would do better with 5 smaller 1 acre properties to mow, but Dave was a good client who always paid his bills on time, plus he knew quite a few other Doctors, Dentists, Lawyers and CPAs in the exclusive area of Missoula for the rich professionals living in gated communities. Dave's friends were always calling him to take them on as clients because he did such a nice job on Dave's property, his prices were reasonable and he was very reliable, but until he had some bigger equipment or some employees, he wasn't going to take them on.

Mark the long haul trucker also seemed like a possibility, when he was off the road he was always fixing his cars or doing projects on his house, which he bought as a fixer-upper to house flip, but ended up fixing up so much the way he liked it he decided to keep it. Mark's carpentry work was first class, he put up a beautiful addition to make a 4 car garage, which he needed because in addition to his big ass Dodge Ram 4WD pickup truck he had a vintage GTO muscle car, a fully restored Studebaker, a classic 1927 Indian motorcycle and a snow machine. Besides all that, Mark's wife Melanie was a really good baker and always gave him a slice of fresh apple pie or strudle to eat while taking a break from cutting the lawn. Even better than that were Mark's two daughters Missouri and Montana, who were really cute! Not out of high school yet, but Kenny was thinking ahead!

Then there were the people he had gone to High School with, none of whom he could really call friends but there were a few who he did talk to, mostly other misfits or geeks. Kareem was pretty cool and seemed resourceful, he was a poor kid whose mom moved out of the city in Chicago to get him away from the gangs, and Sparrow was a really nice although very shy Lakota girl he dated a few times, although he never got past 1st base with her. She sewed all her own clothes, which made her a butt of jokes also, so they had that in common. Kenny saw them occassionally when out shopping at the Mall or while working out in the Fitness club, and they would say hi although usually not exchange anything more than greetings. Kenny resolved to be more social and try to talk with them more when next he saw them.

On Sunday, Kenny decided on a new spot to clear for his fire ring and fired up his Husqvarna 18" chainsaw to fell a medium size western red cedar about 2' in diameter. There were some bigger ones around, even one MAMMOTH around 5' in diameter, but no way he was going to try felling a tree like that by himself with just the Husqvarna, robust as it was. He couldn't have sliced it up into cylinders for the stools anyhow, and besides all that it was just a grand old tree and even if he had the equipment he would have felt bad about cutting it down.

He left the stump high enough on the tree he did cut down to be useful itself as a seat, low table or work surface, and he cut 4 more sections before the trunk had tapered too much to be very good for using as seats. Most of the rest of the day was spent cutting up the rest of the tree and branches, and he stacked the wood nearby since he had chosen a location a ways from his van so it would be physically separated. He thought of it as a Ceremonial Firepit for discussions, telling stories and dancing.

Kenny still had some daylight left after cutting down the tree, so he began excavating the fire pit and started hauling up rocks from the river bed to build the ring on Sunday. He would wait until the morning to haul up some mud and clay as well, and he would have to cut down at least 2 and perhaps 3 more trees to make a clearing large enough for people to sit around the fire ring. He had hoped to go up to the lean-to to see how it was doing; before he left after the spring thaw he went up to check it out and it had suffered a bit of damage over the winter, but not too bad. He made some brief repairs before leaving, but getting it finished off as his campsite for hunting Big Horn Sheep in the fall was a project that would have to wait until the next week. With luck Karl would come and help also, that would make the task a lot quicker.

Early Monday morning around 4AM Kenny got up, finishing off for breakfast the last of one of the Subway Italian BMT heroes he had brought along for sustenance during the weekend of work on the Doomstead. No need to spend a lot of time cooking on these expeditions while Subway was still operational, and the Subways had plenty of fresh veggies and a decent amount of animal protein, along with plenty of calories since he had the fast food counter slave slather on a load of Mayo and Guacamole, and then he added extra cheese himself from a resealable cheese packet from Safeway. He packed up the table and chairs he had used for breakfast with Karl on Saturday morning and headed back for Missoula to get on with the early spring work of clearing downed branches, spraying Monsanto Roundup weed kller and seeding the lawns.

Getting in and out of his property always was a bit of a trial, even in good weather. First off there was negotiating his own private "road" into the property, which wasn't all that long maybe 500 feet, but it was narrow and a bit windy, and getting through with a split rig that was almost 35' long without getting scratched up you had to go pretty slow. If you messed up and had to back the rig up, it was even a worse problem. Kenny made that mistake a couple of times when he first got the trailer for the van, it took a good 6 months for him to get even semi-competent at backing the thing up.

Once out on the logging road, it wasn't a whole lot better, it also was pretty narrow and wasn't maintained anymore. Weyerhauser had quit logging the area quite a while back and the road was loaded with ruts and a fairly substantial amount of overgrowth, although his trips in and out had worn a tire path that was pretty easy to follow, in fact the van pretty muched followed this path by itself even without an Elon Musk designed autopilot. However, because the grades were so steep (6% down, then 8% back up, or vica-versa in the other direction), you had to go slow and careful on this stretch also, which was a good 3 miles long. The downhill stretches gave the trailer brakes a bit of a workout. Just getting to the paved road with the rig in good weather took close to an hour.

Arriving in town in Missoula, Kenny headed first to his storage unit and dropped the trailer, then over to the Fitness Center for a workout and a shower, then back to the storage unit to switch out his camping gear with his landscaping gear, and then off to a Garden Center to pick up some Apple Trees he was scheduled to plant on Mark's property. He had convinced Melanie last year that having her own Apple Trees for making strudle would be a good idea. He also had to do a full cleanup of Dave's property, and that was going to take a couple of days by itself even without seeding the riculously large and extravagant yard requisite of any successful Doctor, Dentist, Lawyer or CPA living in an upscale gated community.

After the big clients, it was off to his many smaller clients who really were paying the bills of his landscaping business. It was a form of regressive taxation really. The smaller the property you had to maintain, the larger the cost per acre to maintain it. It was a much larger percentage of the income of all the people he manicured lawns of 1/4 acre than the ones he did at an acre or more, and when they got as big as Dave the Doctor's property, it was barely a break even business for him, unless you employed laborers at minimum wage (or below, if you could get away with it). Finding reliable employees at such low wage levels was nearly impossible, so trying to upsize the business this way was quite difficult. There was an economic ceiling on it, basically only as much as Kenny himself could do in a day's work, which was pretty impressive since he had all the strengnth and energy of a 19 year old male trying to make his way through the world. So he was successful, certainly for his age, but it wasn't a perpetual thing to be milked forever nor would he ever get "rich" as a landscaper.

In the evenings after work, Kenny decided to go out each night to various restaurants, and spend more time working out at the Fitness Center, in order to run into more of the people he knew from High School. He ran into Kareem at the mall and talked with him for a while, and then bought an ounce of reefer from him since selling the stuff was what Kareem was doing for a living. Since he currently did not have a spot to grow his own ganga hydroponically, he had to buy it from the local merchants. He wasn't a big toker like his uncle the Dentist, but a few bong hits at night was a pleasant way to relax after a long day of cutting lawns out in suburbia.

Between work, recreation and eating or before bed, he researched security systems for the doomstead, and ordered a multiple camera system and motion sensor detection system off Alibaba, the Chinese Ponzi company Jack Ma had gone public with a few years earlier to become another of the global Billionaire Masters of the Universe. The system was great, and he could monitor it over the internet, at least until the internet went dark. UPS tracking told him that the stuff would arrive in about 2 weeks at his UPS box in Missoula, with free shipping. He also headed over to Home Depot to pick up some lumber to use for building a picnic table to leave permanently on the property, and to start work on the Walipini in ground Greenhouse he had planned as the main project for this summer. On Friday, before heading out for the Doomstead in Lolo, he headed over to Max's Munchies, a non-alcohol hangout for the students at Montana State University for a Mushroom & Swiss Cheese Burger, Fries and a Greek Salad. The place was packed as usual, and he saw many of the people he knew from High School, now off from school for the summer and partying. The big group of "cool people" had a big table and were yucking it up, and Kenny headed to a table in the corner. He never liked those kids in High School, and had no desire to have anything to do with them now either.

His salad arrived and just as he was about to dig in, a girl walked over.

"Hi Kenny, remember me?" she said.

She was a small and wiry girl, with strawberry blonde hair, green eyes and freckles on her nose, and everybody knew who she was. Kirsten Klark, "Miss Popularity", Homecoming Queen, the WORKS. She came from the rich part of town and drove a new Tesla SUV electric and a kick ass ZEV scooter her dad had bought for her. She hung out with the cool kids group, and had often poked fun at him in high school.

"Mind if I join you?" she asked?

Kenny was suspicious and suspected this was a trick or some kind of practical joke, but he gestured at the seat across from him.

"Sure, feel free." he responded.