Chapter 8. Alone
To celebrate five year of life on the property everyone would be travelling to ‘Johnson’ and the camping area for the day. The day out served two purposes, one to get away from the property for the day and two would be to get what would be the last of the fuel from the under ground tank.
Everyone was looking forward to getting away for the day and to have a day off. For the kids it was a chance to ride in the back of the Land Rover, for the teenager’s, Kathy and John it was an opportunity to get away from the property for a while. The adults were just looking forward to doing something different from the daily chores.
Everyone climbed into the two Land Rovers and headed off for a day out. One Land Rover was towing the tanker trailer and both were fully loaded with four kids, two teenagers, four adults and of course George the dog, plus everything needed for their day out. It would be a slow trip as the roads were in a bad way with lots of ruts and wash aways, as well as a few land slides. But it all added to the adventure of the day with everyone in good spirits, just glad to be away from the property and away from the endless toyal of life.
They arrived at the camping area around eleven. Mark set up the pump and set it running pumping fuel into the tanker trailer while Carroll, Gail and Lyn went about getting lunch organized. John and Kathy with George in tow were quick to explore the area, the caravans and out building but the smaller kids were under strict instructions to not go beyond the main shop/garage area. After a great pick nick lunch the kids played some sort of ball game while everyone else just sat on the grass enjoying the fact that they did not have to do anything.
As they sat there the mode suddenly changed when they heard the sound of an approaching vehicle. There was not enough time to hide or get out of site so all they could do was wait. The girls quickly gathered up the kids and retreated into the shop building while Mark and John just stood there ground and hoped for the best. Only about 20 seconds after first hearing the vehicle it came into view, it was an old Toyota 4WD. It stopped as soon as they saw Mark, John and the Land Rovers and just sat there for a while.
Mark broke the stand off by raising his hand and waving. The old Toyota slowly inched its way towards them and then stoped. A man in his fifty’s and a younger man in his late twenty’s or early thirty’s got out of the Toyota and raised their hands and waved.
“Hello,” said the older man, and then added, “my name is Steve and this is Greg.”
“I’m Mark and this is John,” replied Mark.
“Sorry for being a bit stand offish but we have not seen anyone for about five years and that encounter did not go well,” said Steve.
“Same story for us,” replied Mark.
There was a tense silence for a few moments before Steve said, “not wishing to sound like some sort of alien but, we come in peace.”
That made Mark smile and he said, “so do we, we’re just here getting some fuel.”
“We were hoping to find some fuel,” said Steve.
“Help your self but there is not much left,” replied Mark.
Steve raised his hands as did Greg and they walked forward towards Mark and John and said, look we’re not armed, we’re just on a scavenging trip as we are running low on a few things.”
Mark and John did the same and said, “this is our annual day out to get fuel, we weren’t expecting company, have you blocks been into town lately?”
“No,” replied Steve, “last time we were in town we were lucky to get out with our lives.”
“Maryville?” asked Mark.
“Yes,” said Steve and then added, “we have a small community about forty kilometres from here, just me and the wife, another younger couple and Greg here.”
Mark waved towards the shop and everyone came out and walked towards them.
“What you see is what you get,” said Mark and then added, “this is my partner Carroll, that is Gail, Lyn, Kathy and the kids.
“Hello everyone, nice to meet you, said Steve.
“We were planning to camp here for the night, you are welcome to share our dinner,” said Carroll.
“That would be lovely, we have two rabbits we can add to dinner,” relied Steve.
“Thanks, everything is welcome,” said Carroll.
After a great dinner the kids were put to bed and everyone talked into the night about surviving the last five years. They sheared farming ideas and the problems they managed to get through. The next morning as they prepared to go there separate ways they faced a difficult decision, do they exchange the locations of there respective properties?
Mark canvassed the opinion of everyone and they all agreed that they should exchange locations, so Mark approached Steve and asked, “are you prepared to tell us your community’s location?”
“Yes,” replied Steve, “are you?”
“Yes,” said Mark, he then got a map out of the Land Rover and gave directions to Steve on how to get to the property. Steve did the same and they agreed to Mark visiting Steve’s property on or around the first of next month which would be followed by Steve visiting Mark’s property a few weeks later. The trip home was slow and uneventful and they were all very happy to be home.
A few weeks later Mark and Gail set out on their trip to visit the community they found out about from Steve and Greg during their day out at the camping area. Gail seemed very keen to come along which was a bit out of character for her but even Mark could see that she had taken a fancy to Greg. The trip there was slow but uneventful travelling along roads Mark had not been on before as they were in a different direction to the way they would go if they were heading to town.
It turned out to be very easy to find as Steve’s community was located on a main road. As Mark and Gail stoped outside the house Steve came out of the front door and approached them.
“Hi, did you have any problems getting here?” asked Steve.
Mark and Gail got out of the Land Rover and Mark said, “no problems.”
“Come in and meet everyone,” replied Steve.
Steve lead the way as Mark and Gail walked into the house and lead them straight through the house and out the back door to a paved, covered court yard where there were four people sitting at a table.
Steve said, “this is my partner Mandy and that is Peter and Joan and of course you know Greg.”
They all looked a bit uneasy which is to be expected as they had not seen any other people for over five years. Mandy was in her late forty’s with long dark hair while Peter and Joan were thirty something and very much a couple. Greg smiled at Gail and said, “hi how are you,” she just smiled back.
“Well,” said Steve and then, “how about us blokes take Mark for a tour of the property the girls can stay here and get equated.”
“Gail is our veggie expert so may be she could have a look at your veggie set up,” said Mark.
“I’m sure the girls will be happy to show her around,” replied Steve.
The men walked through the house and out the front door and then headed towards the shed. As they did Greg said, “sorry I just have to do something I will catch up in a minute.” Mark smiled to himself as Greg walked away as he had a pretty good idea were he was going. Steve gave Mark the grand tour showing him there set up. They had a small number of chooks plus a few goats and fruit trees but he explained that they relied on hunting for a lot of there food.
Gail was taken on a tour of the veggie patches which did not take long as they only had a few. She was grilled about how things were in her community, but for the most part they just seemed to be happy to have a woman to talk to. Greg court up with them but did not have much to say, he just tagged along.
Before they knew it, it was time for Mark and Gail to go. They did not have time to talk about helping each other out when needed but now Mark had seen their set up he was not sure how he could help them other than with food if they were to run short. The sort of help Mark needed was labour around harvest time so may be he could give then some of the grain in exchange for there labour. But all that would have to wait for another time. The trip home was quite and slow but without problem and Gail did not have much to say during the drive home.
A week and a bit later and it was time for Steve to come for a visit. He arrived mid morning with his partner, Mandy and Greg. They were given the grand tour of the property something Mark was not looking forward to as their set up was so different to Steve’s. Steve’s group was very much based on hunting and scavenging where as Mark’s group was more of a farming community with hunting only making up about ten percent of their food supply. The last thing Mark wanted was to give the impression that he was doing a better job than Steve, the facts were that they were both doing a good job, they were just doing it in a different way.
After the tour Mark could see that both Steve and Mandy were some what deflated. Mark, Carroll, Steve and Mandy sat on the veranda and talked about how they could help each other in the future. By the time it came for Steve to leave the two groups had formed a friendly relationship that they both hoped would lead to a closer friendship as time goes on.
Greg and Gail spent quite a bit of time together during the visit and were getting on very well. As Mark and Carroll waved goodbye to Steve, Mandy and Greg, Carroll whispered to Mark, “I think we might be loosing one of our family soon.”
“I don’t know,” said Mark, “we might gain someone.”
About a week later Greg showed up out of the blue he was riding a bike. During lunch he and Gail announced that they were going to live together. Everyone approved and wished them well, Mark made a toast to the happy couple, wishing them a long and happy life.
Mark asked Greg and Gail, “where will you be living here or at Steve’s?”
They both replied in unison, “here of course.”
The next morning Greg headed back to tell everyone the good news and hoped to be back in a few days. Everyone was keen to celebrate with a big party, a sort of wedding reception so Greg was hoping Steve’s group would come back with him. Carroll, the natural organizer went into over drive, planning the food, barking out instructions to everyone. Everyone had a job to do, John, Kathy and the kids were given the job of decoration the shed while Gail, Carroll and Lyn went through all there cloths looking for something special. Mark searched one of the out buildings for some wine he had made some time back, it was not meant for drinking he made it to use it as an antiseptic but it might be drinkable. Mark tried it and it was drinkable so he took it down and lowed it into the dam so it would be nice and cool for the big day.
Everyone was in very high spirits, it was one of those rear things in the last five years that had nothing to do with survival, it was just a wonderful thing.
A few days later Mark and John were cutting fire wood when they saw Greg riding his push bike towards them. As he got closed Mark called out to him, “hi Greg, didn’t expect you back so soon, just can’t keep away from her hay.” But then Mark saw the look on his face and realised something was wrong.
“What’s happened?” asked Mark.
Greg stopped, got of the bike, he was totally exhausted from the trip that he could hardly stand.
“What’s happened?” asked Mark again.
“Their all died, someone shot them and ransacked the place,” said Greg while trying to catch his breath. Mark and John helped Greg over to the Land Rover and he sat on the tail gate.
“Take Greg’s bike and go back to the house, tell the others about what’s happened and tell them to gather in the shed, I’ll be there in a few minutes,” Mark said to John.
John rode away while Mark stayed with Greg so he could learn all about what had happened.
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