How I Survived Collapse: Chapter 24

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Published on The Doomstead Diner May 31, 2017

Discuss this story at the Collapse Narratives Table inside the Diner

Kenny drove carefully through his narrow private driveway as he always did to avoid scratching up the paint job on the van or putting any dents in it.  Keeping it in good shape and respectable looking was helpful in getting the more well to do clients for his landscaping bizness.  Similarly, once out on the logging road he travelled slowly so as not to put too much stress on the shock absorbers from all the ruts in the road, which wasn’t being maintained much if at all anymore by Weyerhauser.  Only once reaching paved road did he crank up the accelerator and do the speed limit for the road of 50 mph.  Then back on another logging road to get to Karl’s place at around 25 mph or so, since although it was a dirt road was still being graded every year and was fairly smooth.

He pulled into Karl’s place and parked the Van next to Karen’s Ford Escort in one of the empty spots in the carport, and getting out he could see Karen in the distance saddling up Mr. Ed.  Quick Draw was already saddled up and peacefully munching on some new grass, a nice change from the hay she had been eating all winter.  Huckleberry was out in the pasture apparently stalking and chasing down a field mouse or some other small creature, or maybe just imagining she was, it was hard to tell from a distance.

Kenny gave a wave to Karen and got his daypack out of the van, which carried a few basic Bugout Bag tools he always carried when away from his main supplies of preps.  Contained in it were basic survival tools, things like monoline fishing filament, hooks, a polymer survival blanket, a folding campsaw, fast hatchet, fire piston and basic mess kit for cooking, among other items.  It was the lowest down on his hierarchy of prep items to put in one bag for the Final Bugout, if it ever became necessary, which he definitely hoped it never would.  For practice, he had spent a few nights away from his doomstead with just the bag, and it wasn’t too pleasant an experience.  He did manage to fish up enough trout and dig out enough grubs from rotting wood to stay nourished, and managed to stay warm enough not to freeze to death by collecting wood and getting a fire going with his fire piston, building a quick shelter which was really more of a nest of leaves and pine needles, but it was far fom comfortable.  Given time though, he was confident he could have build a better shelter.

Slinging the pack over his shoulder,  Kenny jogged over to where Karen was just finishing pulling the straps tight, and gave him a big and affectionate hug when got within range.  A hug from Karen was an entirely different experience from getting a hug from Kirsten.  Kenny felt as though he had drpped out of the world of Lilliputians and into the world of Brobdingnagians.  Besides being significantly taller than Kenny at around 6’1″ with powerful biceps from years of kayaking, there were also a couple of large pillows on her chest that Kirsten did not sport.  Kenny worried for a moment she might squeeze the life out of him like an over-enthusiastic Python,  but fortunately she released her grip before he ran out of oxygen.

“Great to see you again Kenny.”, she said with a big smile.  “Ready for your first riding lesson?”

“Ready as I’ll ever be I suppose.”, Kenny replied.

“OK, why don’t you hang your knapsack on the fence and we’ll get started.”

Kenny had of course seen numerous westerns on TV growing up, and in addition had spent some time Googling up You Tube vids on basic riding skills and technique, so he wan’t clueless.  Still, mounting a good size American Quarter Horse for the first time was a bit daunting.  Placing his foot inside the stirrup, he grapped the pommel on the Western Saddle and hoisted himself aboard, straddling the equine and enjoing the nice view from up on high.  It was a big advantage over a motorcycle to be seated up so high, although not quite as comfortable as Karl’s ZEV EV motorcycles.  It also breathed in and out, the ribs expanding and contracting between his legs.  Motorcycles didn’t do that.

Quick Draw was quite relaxed about having Kenny climb aboard her back having met him and smelled him on several occassions before, and he was obviously friends with Karl so she wasn’t too nervous.  She could tell though he wasn’t a very experienced rider and could sense his nervousness.  Karen was around and patting her though, so overall she was quite calm and just periodically dropped her head to munch on some grass while she waited to get going.

“Do you want me to walk you around the pasture, or do you want to try leading her yourself?  I’ll lead with Mr. Ed for a bit, Quick Draw will follow him.  If it’s going good, I’ll go behind you and you lead.”, Karen suggested.

“I think I can drive slow”, Kenny said with a grin.

“OK, sounds good!” Karen replied, quickly mounting Mr. Ed.  She took off on a slow walk and Kenny gave Quick Draw a light nudge with his heels, and she fell in behind Mr. Ed and followed.  He didn’t even really have to steer with the reins at all, Quick Draw was on auto-pilot in follow mode and he just held the reins lightly as they walked around the pasture.

After a couple of slow trips around the pasture, Karen turned and called back to Kenny.  “Feel up to leading yet?”, she asked.

“Uhh, yea sure.”, Kenny responded, giving Quick Draw another nudge with his heels and pulling up alongside Karen. “This is really FUN!” he effused, genuinely enjoying the ride.

Pulling out in front of Karen, Kenny took another slow trip around the pasture and then Karen yelled out to him, “Why don’t you try to speed it up a bit?  Nudge Quickdraw up to a Trot.” she suggested.

Kenny was about ready to do that anyhow, so he gave Quickdraw another couple of taps, and a little slap with the reins as he had seen the Cowboys do in all the Westerns he watched as a kid on TV.  Quick Draw picked up the pace nicely, and Kenny experimented with doing a little more steering by pulling on the reins, and running a Figure 8 around the pasture.

A few more trips this way, and Karen galloped up next to him.  “You’re doing great Kenny! I think we can get out of the pasture and do a trail ride, and have a picnic for lunch, before we go Kayaking.”

“That sounds super Karen!”, Kenny responded.

They walked both horses back to the stable area and dismounted, then headed inside to collect some food goodies for the Picnic.  Karl was busy with “Kitchen Day”, canning some veggies from his raised beds and making Chevre Goat cheese from a few gallons of his goat’s milk collected over the last few days.

“How did the riding lesson go?”, Karl inquired as he stirred some lemon juice into the goat’s milk warming on his 48″ Thermidor Professional Gas Range, fired by his supply of Amerigas propane stored in a 1000 gallon propane tank buried a few hundred yards away from the Earthship.

“Great Dad!”, Karen effused.  “Kenny’s a natural, and Quick Draw seems to like him too.  We’re going to go on a trail ride and have a picnic.”

“Sounds like fun!  Grab whatever looks good out of the fridge.  I made a batch of Chicken Salad yesterday after sending a couple of the hens to the Great Beyond.  There’s a loaf of fresh baked French Bread to make some sandwiches too.  Go grab a bottle of Vino from the Wine Cellar to wash it down with.” Karl suggested.  Not being completely clueless, he could tell Karen was on the prowl, and a nice bottle of wine was always a good lubricant for socialization.  How Kenny would deal with his problems of trying to juggle two women was his own problem.

“OK!  Kenny, you pick out the food from the fridge, I’ll go down to the wine cellar and pick out a nice bottle of Pinot Noir.  Dad has some real nice vintages down there, I checked them out!  Puts the Wine Cellar at Quinn’s to shame!”, Karen said mischievously, winking at Karl.

Karl laughed.  “Yea, well stay away from that case of Romanee-Conti DRC 1990, that cost me a fortune at auction at Sotheby’s!  It’s strictly post-SHTF stuff for a last goodbye to Industrial Civilization along with the case of 50 year old Glenlivet single malt scotch!”

Karen smiled.  “Yea, OK dad, no Romanee-Conti DRC 1990.” , Karen agreed, heading down the stairs into the Wine Cellar.

Kenny pulled out the chicken salad and put about half in an oil polymer produced plastic Tupperware container, then plucked a couple of Roma Tomatoes off the vine in Karl’s Hothouse area of the Earthship, as well as some Romaine lettuce and a small head of Raddichio and some Green Onions.  Karen arrived back upstairs and helped make the sandwiches, and then they added some of an old batch of Goat Cheese not yet finished in the fridge and store bought items including a can of Progresso Southwest Black Bean Soup to heat up over the Jetboil butane campstove, some NY Style Half Sour Jewish Batampte Pickles Karl ordered online from Brooklyn. NY and some Brazilian Bananas shipped up from former Rainforest now transformed into a Banana and Palm Oil plantation.  A nice solid lunch for a couple of hugnry millenials!

Kenny and Karen stowed the food in two sets of hand-tooled leather saddlebags from Cheaney’s Custom Saddles down in Gainesville, Texas, and Kenny bungied his Bugout Knapsack to the back of Quick Draw’s saddle.  Huckleberry was ready for the adventure too, she had watched Karen saddling up the horses, which always meant a nice trip out into the woods to chase squirrels and rabbits.

“So where are we going?” Kenny asked. “Up to the Lean-To?”

“Nah, you’ve already been there tons of times.  I’ve been exploring and found some really neat places since getting back together with dad.” Over the course of the last few weeks Karen had finally become comfortable and used to calling Karl, ‘Dad’.  “There’s a really cool spot upstream a few miles from Dad’s creek.  It’s a nice EZ trail to follow along the creek.”

“That sounds great!” Kenny replied, looking forward to seeing some new territory around the neighborhood.  He pulled out his Magellan GPS and set it to record the trail ride and to make notes on significant landmarks along the way, in case he would have to reproduce the route later without the use of a GPS.

Karen laughed.  “Geez Kenny, don’t you ever stop with this stuff?  You’re worse than dad!  We can’t get lost on this trail, you never even lose sight of the creek!”

Kenny made a fake petulant look at Karen and retorted half seriously.  “Well you never know.  The stream could get rerouted by an earthquake while we are eating the chicken salad sandwiches!”  Then he stuck his tongue out at her and they both got a good belly laugh out of it.

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