Monday, April 19, 2021

Remnant: Reacting

Dar Spaulding’s regard for Jarrell took a marked decline after he arrived at the Sudak farm.

Dar expected nothing less than what Jarrell had done with the firearm. Five thousand repetitions worked it magic. Early on Dar caught Jarrell babying the action of his “practice” firearm and Dar straightened him out.

At first, Jarrell was deeply offended when Dar told him to “Slap that bitch around like a three-dollar whore.”

It was how Dar had been coached and those were the words he used to “coach” Jarrell. The phrase was memorable if not politically correct.

Then Dar demonstrated as he kept the weapon mounted on his shoulder and maintained his sight picture. It wasn’t mean or punishing. It was business-like but forceful. The action made an audible “slap” at the ends of travel.

“You won’t always have clean ammo. Some magazines have sharp lips and don't want to let go of the ammo. Racking a fresh round is NOT the time for subtle” Dar said. “Momentum is your friend and you ain't gonna hurt it by slapping it around.”

Nope, the reason Dar’s estimation of Jarrell had plummeted was because Jarrell was still highly agitated.

It took Dar a minute to actually listen to what Jarrell was trying to say. Jarrell wasn’t twisted around the axle because he had just killed a man...although it was clear he didn’t have a taste for it.

Jarrell was agitated because he had solid evidence that the dam was about to burst and flood Eaton County with raiders.

“OK, start from the top. You got my attention. Tell me what you got and what you think it means” Dar commanded.

It was immensely calming to Jarrell to have the grizzled, tough-as-rawhide older man take his concerns seriously.

Dar didn’t blow him off, this time.

“Well, that is a hell of a lot more than you and I can do much about. Thing to do is kick it upstairs. Thing you gotta know about involving ‘upstairs’ is if we are bringing a problem in one hand we gotta have a solution in the other. So what is your solution?” Dar asked.

Then, at Jarrell’s recommendation, Dar took a photo of the Memo and texted it to Mayor Wagner. A couple minutes later, Dar called and brought the Mayor up-to-speed on recent events. Then he shared Jarrell’s interpretation of the document.

Wagner asked the expected question “What do you expect me to do about it?”

Jarrell had penciled out a punch-list on the back of the memo, the only clean sheet of paper available. Jarrell took a photo with his phone and sent it to the mayor.

Then Jarrell held it up so Dar could see it as he talked.

Now it was time for Jarrell to be impressed. Dar not only embellished every “bullet”, he added some tasks that Jarrell had not considered.

“I am on it” Mayor Wagner replied. “You get buttoned up there and come back here as soon as you can. I have jobs for you.”

After hanging up and reviewing Jarrell’s list, Mayor Wagnor thought for a minute and then he penciled out his own list. This was no time to rely on memory.

His first call was to Clayton Osborn. The Mayor and Clayton had a causal relationship stretching back decades. A golf league here, members on the same board-of-directors there. Clayton ran the grain elevator closest to Eaton Rapids.

“Clayton, Mayor Wagner of Eaton Rapids” the mayor announced himself.

Clayton had caller ID on his phone but he appreciated the mayor’s courtesy. Phones get changed. Contact lists get lost or corrupted. Small courtesies are the lubrication that makes civil interactions possible.

“What can I do for you?” Clayton asked.

“You aren’t going to like this, but I need your customer list for Eaton, Eaton Rapids, Hamlin and Windsor townships” the mayor said.

“You are right. I don’t like that” Clayton responded. “Why do you need them?”

“When I get off my phone I am going to send you a picture of a memo. If I read this memo right, every loose cannon in Lansing will be driving through Eaton County stealing cattle and chickens by tomorrow afternoon.” 

"I think you know the Beaudine famiy at Twin Pines. Raiders killed them today. Everybody with animals is a target" the Mayor said.

“I gotta lot of people I have been feeding and not asking much from them. I think it is time to put them to work. They can start calling your customers and tell them what is coming. Maybe some of them can move their animals and not be there when trouble comes looking for them.”

Then Mayor Wagner texted the image of the memo to Clayton Osborn.

The next thing Wagner did was to send a group text to his team leaders. He needed to see them all NOW. That would have been impossible three weeks ago but Jarrell had done a yeoman’s job slicking things up so they almost ran themselves.

Mayor Wagner explained that starting NOW, they had an all-hands-on-deck evolution. He needed everybody in town with any experience handling animals, especially large animals, to assemble in front of City Hall Poste Hasty.

Foremost in his mind was the fact that there were still sixty Limousin cattle at the Twin Pine ranch that needed to be evacuated or they would experience the same fate as the ones slaughtered earlier that day.

Leslie came to his rescue. She reminded him that Sue Greene milked cows out that way and Hank, her husband, drove tractors for a neighboring farmer.

In a thrice, Sue and Hank agreed to “move” the surviving cattle to someplace safer.

As the mayor was detailing the task to Sue and Hank, some rough-around-the-edges, older men started showing up. While Mayor Wagner had been making calls and explaining things, Dar had been making calls of his own.

Four of the veterans accompanied Sue and Hank on their errand to provide over-watch. Even as they assembled, Sue and Hank devised a plan where Hank would pull a gravity wagon filled with grain a half mile east to the edge of the Grand River bottomlands. The cattle were used to eating from the gravity wagon and would probably follow it. Once in the bottomlands, the cattle would stay out-of-sight as long as they had food, water, salt and company.

Clayton personally delivered five copies of his elevator's customer list to the Mayor.

"Not sure why they will believe you" he grumbled. "They will just figure you want to steal them for yourself."

That caused the mayor to pause and scratch his chin while he thought. "I don't believe in taking. I believe in buying. And I believe that the seller has the right to say 'No'."

"If these assholes from Lansing have their way, then there will be nothing left for me to buy. Simple as that. I want folks with animals to stay in business so I can go back next week, next month, next year and they will have something to SELL me."


  1. The next thin Wagner did was to send a group text to his team leaders.

    Thin should be thing.

  2. Long term vs. short term... ALWAYS the conundrum...

  3. Once it got to the point some months back where a just-in-time flour distribution and pizza crust baking operation was in place, that would have been a good time to start planning for when things got worse. Worse as in organized (and state sanctioned) gangs of marauders scouring the countryside looking for meat on the hoof, and killing anyone who gets in their way.

    Nevertheless, Mayor Wagner seems to be a damn good Mayor. He is a good problem solver, a good people person, and knows how to manage people and get things DONE. And he actually gives a s**t about his people. This is a relative rarity among politicians, national or local.

    It is easy for we readers of this near-future dystopian semi-fiction to second guess the characters and say to ourselves they should have done THIS, or they should have thought of THAT. But in reality, if faced with a similar set of circumstances, how many of us would always know exactly what to do and just when to do it? I suspect that in real situations such as those depicted here, only in hindsight would we be mistake-free most of the time. I find ERJ's stories thought provoking, because they get me frequently asking myself what would I do if faced with such situations.

    Besides that, these are just plain GOOD stories, the kind where you just can't wait to turn the page and find out what happens next.


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