A Survivor's Tale Chapter 3

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Chapter 1 is located at:


Chapter 2 is located at:


A Survivor's Tale

Chapter 3

Dave told Kate of his plans for the next twenty four hours.

"We'll be camping here over tonight. Order of business is as follows: This morning, we'll go over the items we salvaged yesterday, and I'll try to answer any questions you might have. Late this afternoon, I'll set some snares a little ways off, and then we'll come back and talk some strategy for the next week or so. Tomorrow morning we'll retrieve whatever the snares caught overnight, and if there's been no sign of activity at the clearing, in the afternoon we'll move on. We're about fifteen miles from the town I'm intending to head for next, which might seem like a long walk, but it'll be good weather, and the day after you can rest up in town. Any questions right now?"

Kate shook her head, so David moved to the goods they had taken from the bandits the day before.

On the surface, the guns seemed to be the most valuable items they had retrieved. David picked each one up with care. Before they left the clearing yesterday he had cleared the actions of any rounds left in the guns, pocketing the cartridges. First David picked up the tall man's rifle, and again he worked the action, checking for cleanliness and smoothness.

"These guys were smart enough to keep their guns in extremely good working order, at least. These will be worth a lot in the marketplace."

"You said you never learned about rifles or shotguns, didn't you?"

"That's right," Kate answered, "and I don't remember much about the pistols."

"OK. We'll go over what we've got here. To start, the gun you shot yesterday was a Charter Arms Off-Duty model, a five-shot .38 special. It's a lightweight gun, and if you want, you can carry it from here on. You don't have to decide right now."

"A .38 special round is a light, close in, self defense round. I wouldn't depend on it for much over thirty feet, especially in a snub-nose like the Off-Duty. That should be fine for our purposes, since I try to avoid confrontation when I can. If those men hadn't been so close yesterday, I probably would have headed out rather than stick around. Fortunately, I think I made the right decision concerning those three."

"The reason I'm offering you this pistol, which, by the way, has been mine for six years, so take care of it," he grinned at her, and she smiled back, "is that the pistol we retrieved yesterday is a Ruger .357 magnum. The .357 magnum round has the same size bullet as the .38, but the case is longer, there's more powder in the charge, and consequently it's a much more powerful round. This model is the GP-100 with a four inch barrel. For my use it's perfect. It's very accurate out to fifty, sixty yards, and it's powerful enough to hunt deer. A hunting handgun should really have a longer barrel for the sake of accuracy, say seven or eight inches, but the short barrel's concealability makes it especially nice for my use. The final vote-getter for a .357 magnum pistol over a .38 special is that you can shoot a .38 special cartridge in a .357 magnum revolver, but not the reverse. That lets me decide which caliber to use."

"Any questions about the pistols?"

"Where do you get your bullets?"

"Mostly from a friend of mine, a gunsmith, back in Brownstown. He has a reloading setup, so I take him all the brass I can accumulate on the road. I don't shoot all that much, just in situations like yesterday. Occasionally I'll join a hunting party from a small town when they're running low on meat. When that happens, we're all issued guns and ammunition, because it doesn't matter who bags the game, but we return all unfired rounds. For hunting small game on my own I use snares and traps, sometimes a wrist slingshot if they're real close. It's tough to get people to trade for cartridges. Holding cartridges is something most people don't want to reveal, unless they know you real well."

"If you can spare the bullets, I'd be happy to carry your pistol. I don't know how many times I wished I'd had one before now. Is it possible for me to get some practice with it? I really think my shot was lucky."

"Skill and practice produce their own luck. It was my good fortune that you'd even fired a gun before."

David thought for a few seconds about his supplies.

"I have enough rounds with me for three practice shots, then fully load the pistol. When we get to Brownstown, we'll get some more. That will have to do."

"That's fine. Since we're trying to avoid attention right now, when do I get to practice?"

"When we reach the next town. One of my contacts there has a firing range we can use."

Kate nodded her assent.

"Ready for the rifles?"

Again Kate nodded.

"Rifles come in three major actions: bolt action; lever action; and automatic, or semi-auto. These two are lever action. The first is a Winchester, chambered in .30-.30. This is a fine hunting rifle for medium sized game, which suits this part of the country perfectly. Pre-war it wasnt legal to use anything more powerful than a shotgun slug or a handgun for hunting in Indiana, but the war has forced some changes out of necessity."

"The second gun is another nice one: a Marlin Model 1894, chambered for the .44 magnum round. This gun has a special appeal for some people, myself included. Years ago, when simplicity was the rule, it made sense for a person to carry a long gun and a sidearm chambered for the same round. That solved some problems in carrying ammunition. During the years before the war, when people drove to hunting camp in four-wheel drives, they got into the habit of carrying whatever they might possibly need, since weight wasn't a consideration."

"Anyway, I know a man in Salem who's dying to get his hands on one of these. He shoots a .44 magnum pistol, another Ruger, and would love to have this particular rifle. We've talked about it before. I'll have a lot of credit with him when I deliver this."

"Does he pay you for it?" Kate asked.

"We'll probably end up making a complicated five or six way deal with other people in Salem, until everybody's satisfied, but on my part the goodwill and having a place to stay anytime I'm in the Salem area will be a large part of it. The 'swap parties' are a lot of fun."

David next looked at the ammunition the men had been carrying.

The tall bandit had been carrying a small cardboard box with a couple dozen 30-30 cartridges, wrapped in cloth to quiet them. The other man had only had five .44 magnum shells.

"I guess the leader decided he got the gun with the most ammunition," David said to Kate. "He wasn't going to find himself outgunned if he could help it."

The pistol owner was only carrying ten shells, not even enough to load it fully twice. Besides the .357 ammunition, however, he also was carrying a small bag with twenty 9mm cartridges.

"Are those different?" Kate asked when he pulled them out.

"Yeah, they sure are," David replied, "and I wonder where they got them. If they'd stolen them I'd think they'd still have the gun, but they sure didn't have one on them. Oh, well, we'll probably never know."

He turned his attention to the other items the men had carried.

First was the food. When he'd done a quick scan of the bags yesterday he'd decided he didn't like the look of the food they'd carried, and upon closer inspection he was glad he hadn't trusted it. The wrapped meat they'd been carrying was slimy with bacteria, and David quickly tossed it downwind. The hardtack they were carrying was moldy, and although David could have scraped the surface mold and salvaged a little bit, he tossed it also after the meat, deciding the risk wasn't worth the effort.

All three, like David, carried little watertight containers of salt. David emptied all three containers into one, re-capped it and handed it to Kate. She took it solemnly with both hands. Looking into her eyes, David could see how she had had to earn her share of the salt before now.

Another little plastic container was the next item David picked up. Opening it he found a tiny fishing kit: a couple of shanks of fishing line, three hooks, some swivels and sinkers. To David it looked unused.

"Did these guys ever fish?" David asked Kate. She shook her head in response.

"As far as I know, the only food they got was what they stole from people theyd found," she replied. It was David's turn to shake his head.

"Theyre not even carrying fire. Just predators," he said, "that's disgusting. Good riddance."

Besides the bootknife, all three men carried old but good quality pocketknives, and two had carried small sharpening stones.

David pointed this out to Kate.

These guys were smart enough to carry the right tools, just too lazy, or mean, to do the work themselves. Pick out one of these knives and a sharpening stone, and start yourself a kit. Well add to it as we go along, and this afternoon Ill teach you how to keep a razor edge on the blade.

Kate hefted all three pocketknives, and selected the one that felt most comfortable in her hand. She set it, a stone, and her salt to the side. She smiled at David.

This feels so strange. Before now I really hadnt had the energy to think about the day after tomorrow. Putting together a kit to survive helps me believe there is such a thing as a future.

David smiled back at her.

Ive got plans for the future. He held up his hand to her unspoken question. Right now theyre too nebulous to talk about. I dont want to scare them away. Maybe later - much later.

David looked over the rest of the salvaged items. Besides the maps, there wasnt much left of any value, so he bundled it all up into the smaller knapsack.

What are you going to do with the rest, throw it away? Kate asked. David looked shocked.

Oh, no, dont ever throw anything away, he said forcefully, taking Kate by surprise. Everything durable has value, just because we cant see it doesnt mean we can waste it.

When we reach town, anything we dont want or think we can trade for, Ill take to the town dump. Its not really a dump, thats just what they call it. Its actually an old parking lot.

Well lay out neatly anything we want to leave behind, then well scout what other people have left. Very rarely do I find something I can use, but it happens. One time, he grinned, I found a bolt and wingnut combination that fit my mess kit just perfectly. Whoever left it apparently felt there wasnt enough intrinsic value there to barter with, but he knew better than to think no one else could find a use for it.

Scraps of material end up there, and quilters snap em up as quickly as they find em. Thats what well do with these bedrolls.

Ranger sauntered into the campsite, and David broke off speaking to greet him. Ranger dodged him, however, and walked over to investigate the meat and hardtack David had tossed aside.

Oh, gross, Kate said as Ranger sniffed the meat, but then he ignored it and picked up the hardtack in his mouth. After taking a few steps, he laid down where he could watch them and began gnawing at his prize.

David laughed aloud.

I do believe this is the first time Ive seen him turn down something to eat. Maybe if he was hungrier . . .

David got to his feet and went to his pack. He retrieved a trowel and moved to where the meat lay ignored. Quickly he dug a hole about a foot deep in the soft ground and, dumping the meat into it, filled it back in. Rangers eyes followed him the whole time, but his jaws never slowed.

The good news is, we wont have to share lunch with Ranger, either, David laughed, washing the trowel with dirt and leaves and replacing it in the pack.

David and Kate spent the next few hours trading stories about their lives pre-war, discovering common memories and shared experiences. At one point David dozed off under the afternoon sun, and Kate curled up on his shoulder to sleep.

That evening, David asked Kate if she wanted to talk survival again, and she readily agreed.

Okay, the first priority for us, I think, is to get you a complete kit, David said. But, kits are personal, and youll add and subtract as you go along and learn more skills and what works and doesnt work for you.

Minimum kit, for me, includes: knife, stone, salt, fire, snares, and a compass. Some people feel like they have to have a gun, and I can see where theyre darned useful, but they dont go in my absolute necessities kit.

David looked at her.

Half of what we salvaged off those three scumbags belongs to you. That gives you ownership of a rifle, half a handgun, a knife and a half, a stone, salt, half a fishing kit, some ammo, and various odds and ends.

Kate smiled, but realized he was speaking in earnest.

What do I do with all of that? she asked.

What you dont want to carry youll trade for kit stuff, he said. Ill help you get what you need when we get to the next swap party.

Youll need a small bag to carry it, something that can be secured quietly and safely, so that you cant drop it if you have to jump in a hurry. Belt bags are nice if you can find a good one. Leather goods are plentiful but not cheap. Well find you something you like.

The two items Id consider high priority for you right now would be fire and a compass.

Fire? Kate asked, with a wry smile.

Sorry, short for firestarter, David grinned. Fire comes in different forms. Used to be it was plentifully available: matches, lighters, there was even a gel that came in a tube, all you had to do was drive a spark into it and youd have a roaring fire in no time. Of course, we snobs in the camping club looked down our nose at that, but we kept using our matches all the same. Don and I were two of the few that used primitive fire-building skills at all, and that was very rarely.

I can still build a fire using nothing but sticks and cordage, but only if I have to. He pulled a small block of metal out of a buttoned pocket. This is a magnesium firestarter. Next time we need a fire Ill show you how it works. I also carry a small magnifying lens, for - 

Oh! Kate exclaimed, I remember how to start a fire with a magnifying glass! I did that when I was a kid.

Great! David replied. You probably have more survival skills than you realize.

Kate suddenly sat very still and looked solemnly at David.

What? he said quietly, recognizing her abrupt change in mood.

It just came to me, she said slowly. Im not running, and Im not afraid.

-- Cowardly Lion (cl0001@hotmail.com), July 27, 1999


Not to knock your story but for the sake of accuracy I have to point out that the .22 long rifle is the most widely produced bullet in the world. You can find them in almost every country and they are cheap to make. I seem to remember from my younger days that they run about three cents a pop. Chances are in a scenario like the one you are painting that would be the most plentiful type of cartridge. Right behind that is the 9mm and runner up is the .45 auto. Mostly because the military and police favor those two and they would have a tremendous need for supply.

Other than that I like the story alot but I wonder why you've evolved into a "nuts and bolts" theme instead of the drama you were working with before. Maybe you just setting the stage. Anyway, keep up the good work! Look forward to the next edition.

-- (nitpicking@again.sorry), July 27, 1999.

'preciate your thoughts, nitpicking, but i'm not sure why you consider it an 'accuracy' point. my characters just prefer to carry the available centerfire weapons over the .22. i didn't have anybody packing a 30-40 Krag. just for you, though, i'll try to work in some rimfire rounds later.

the 'nuts and bolts' is in there because i like 'nuts and bolts' in a survival yarn.


-- Cowardly Lion (cl0001@hotmail.com), July 28, 1999.

Keep it coming. Am enjoying it...I think?? If one can enjoy anything about y2k. Hannah

-- Hannah (Hannah@Colonial America.com), July 28, 1999.

Thank you Cowardly Lion. Please continue posting the fruits of your imagination (& labor).

Best Wishes,

-- Bingo1 (howe9@pop.shentel.net), July 28, 1999.

Cowardly Lion,

This was the first time reading your unfolding story. I very much enjoyed the attention to the gear. Thank you.

Sincerely, Stan Faryna

-- Stan Faryna (info@giglobal.com), July 29, 1999.

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