After the firefight, we regrouped, had a handful of “After Action Report” type meetings in between the next few patrols to discuss what happened, what we did right, what we did wrong, possible solutions we could implement to do things differently. It was crystal clear that we needed to make sure that even chance encounters were handled better. We decided, with obvious reasons, that it was time to take patrolling to a higher-level. It would require more out of those who were able to patrol, but it would hopefully pay off by the added peace of mind that we wouldn’t be taken by surprise again. One of the men brought up some good ideas regarding the studying he had done before the fall regarding “feral gangs” and people of that nature, human-locust types, if you get my meaning. He had a lot of good information and with our chance encounter still fresh in our minds, we paid attention closely and developed our new plan of execution.
Going forward, regardless of whether or not that encounter was some sort of testing of the waters by potential predators in regards to our security and preparations, our patrols would stay unpredictable, frequent and more aggressive. The decision was made to actively take the patrols outside the perimeter of the ranch to look for signs of observation and infiltration. Dusk, dawn, morning, evening, high noon or in the middle of the night, the timing didn’t matter. We would not allow our guard to go down. We would engage.
After about ten days of no contact since the incident, we figured that if it was a feral-type gang, that they weren’t too connected with their deceased and weren’t looking for revenge, or they decided to move on, or they would use patience as a tool to try to see if we would be lulled into complacency. With what we had taken from the bodies, it didn’t seem like they were very well equipped, so there was a chance that it was just some random scavengers. Either way, we would not forget.
With our minds focused on more aggressive patrols, coupled with helping in our individual “off time” chores; planting, preserving food, hunting, inspecting the barbed wire fencing that Jenkins had installed years ago, etc., the rest of the spring went by pretty fast.
Despite everyone, and I mean everyone; men, women and children having more than one responsibility on the ranch, we kept each other in good spirits and health. We teamed up during shifts and did calisthenics and body weight training, about twenty-minutes each day, to keep up our strength. Even now, during hard times, working side by side and hand in hand on hard tasks can still be a morale booster and an effective tool in strengthening the cohesiveness of our little band.
As summer came on, the tempo of the patrols did not cease, but we all found a little bit of precious down-time came as we awaited the harvest of the plants and seeds we had sewn. During the down time, we played games, children and adults alike. We had a few baseball gloves and balls to toss around, a couple of decks of cards and inside Jenkins barn he had a portable basketball hoop and ball. That helped to keep spirits high.
Another game we played was for anyone able to shoulder a rifle; we had dry fire competitions. Placing a small silver coin on the barrel, the “shooter” would have to go through the entire phase of firing a shot without the coin falling off. It was frustrating and fun as we thought of different ways to play the game; changing the size of the coin, changing the rifle from an AR-type platform to a bolt-action, decreasing the time required to have the trigger pulled, “shooting” from different positions, like I said, frustrating yet fun. This helped the younger ones learn the basics of firing the shot without wasting the ammunition we had, so they could go out and take rabbits, snakes or other small game with the .22s we had. So of the younger ones, particularly one of the girls, proved as good as many of the seasoned men in this game. It also helped the adults keep their edge on shooting. It couldn’t come close to ball and dummy drills we used to do at the range – or any range time for that matter – before everything went south, but it helped. Dry fire always helped.