Solar Storms 2012
by Ted Howe and Shirley Swift
Frank showed up at the crack of dawn with a large wild turkey. He and Sally, much to everyone’s surprise, cleaned it in the basement. Every once in a while their laughter drifted up the stairs and Gert kept winking at Nancy.
The women outdid themselves in baking breads and pies with only a wood stove to use. Gert made her famous turkey stuffing and the children decorated cookies. Hank and Tom had gone hunting and had bagged a deer. They hung it in the barn and brought in a rump roast that also graced their Christmas table.
The fresh cream from the milk had been made into butter and heavy cream to whip for the pies.
Henry and Ralph had chopped down a small fir and everyone helped string the popcorn that they didn’t eat and cranberries together. They cut paper strips and glued them together with a paste of flour and water. It looked like a turn of the century tree.
The men sat together talking about the whole situation, making plans for the rest of the winter. Hunting parties were planned at regular intervals as well as continuing the guard duty.
They moved the dining room table into the kitchen so everyone could sit down together for this holiday meal.
“Thank you, God for us all to be together, Ron started.
“… and safe from harm,” Gert continued.
“… and to be with people we love on this special day,” Nancy said.
“… and to have beauty in our lives,” Frank smiled at Sally.
“… and food in our tummies,” Ralph’s littlest boy said.
The group laughed together. They all knew how fortunate they were. Everyone received at least one homemade present. Sally had learned to knit and made a long scarf for Frank. Frank had carved wooden toys for each of the younger children and gave Tom and Hank each a Bowie knife. Gert embroidered initials on pieces of cloth for hankies and other scarves and socks were also made.
Not wanting to be gone for too long, Frank decided to leave mid-afternoon. Sally walked him to the door and he thanked her again for the scarf with a kiss on the cheek. Just before he left he took a small package out of his coat pocket and pressed it into her hand. “Open this when you’re alone,” he smiled.
She hugged him, said thank you, and watched as he trudged out into the snow on the new snowshoes R.J. and Nancy had given him.
Later that evening Sally was alone and opened the package. It was a tiny carved deer. She had started calling Frank her “dear deer hunter,” after her favorite movie, the “Deer Hunter.”
Early January brought a blizzard to Iowa and Frank cut down on his trips to R.J.’s farm. On the crank radio he heard about the severe looting going on in the area and bands of thieves breaking into homes and robbing and hurting people. Wanting to keep an eye out on his place he stayed home. But, Frank did steal time to talk with Sally on the CB radio almost every day.
One day in mid-January Frank was outside checking on his property when he saw eight figures sneaking up to his fence. Knowing it wasn’t R.J.’s group he instantly went into defense mode. Getting closer he noticed the men had axes and were chopping at his fence. Firing a warning shot over their heads, Frank yelled, “Get back!”
The desperate men turned and started firing their weapons at Frank.
Rolling and diving for cover Frank returned fire; hitting a man in the leg and shooting another man in the chest killing him instantly. Seeing their dead friend the other seven men retreated into the woods firing as they went heading east toward R.J.’s place.
Ron and R.J. were bringing in a pail of milk in the early morning when they heard gun shots from the West. “Sounds like it’s coming from Frank’s place.” They hurried their steps, Ron sloshing the milk and R. J. holding his rifle at the ready, almost running backwards.
“Did you hear that?” Ron asked as Jil met him at the door.
“No, what?” she asked as she took the pail.
“Gun shots. Don’t say anything.”
The color drained from Jil’s face and she took the milk into the kitchen without saying anything. The kids were teasing over which of the cereals they were going to have and the women were laughing over how to fix the potatoes for breakfast. “Almost normal,” she thought.
“Damn,” Frank muttered aloud as he approached the dead man. Just then Frank heard R.J. on the CB trying to get in touch.
“Sorry R.J., kind of busy,” Frank shouted toward the CB radio knowing R.J. couldn’t hear him. He dragged the dead body off into the woods.
When Frank didn’t answer the radio, R.J. quietly nodded to Jim and Henry for them to come join him and Ron on the porch.
“There were gun shots over at Frank’s a few minutes ago.”
Jim instinctively grabbed his gun. He was going to be ready for anything.
“What are we going to do?” asked Henry.
“Nothing for now. We have a standing 9 a.m. radio time. That’s only fifteen minutes from now. If Frank needs us, he’ll contact us sooner.”
“Maybe we should go over … ” Jim suggested.
“We have to be patient, Jim,” Ron added.
“I’m more concerned about the people Frank was shooting at than I am about Frank,” R.J. grinned. “Frank doesn’t miss.”
“My kind of guy,” Jim smiled.
“Let’s go eat. Don’t say anything to the women yet,” R. J. said.
Nancy noticed her husband glancing at the clock several times close to nine. She called Jil aside. “Something is going on. R.J. has been watching the time closely.”
“I’m not supposed to say anything, but the men heard gunshots when they were outside.”
“R.J. and Frank talk each morning at 9. Maybe we’ll hear something then.”
“Got your ears on, big guy?” R. J. was talking into the radio’s microphone.
“Yeah. I’m here. Gotta’ talk private.”
R.J. looked around. The women and children were cleaning up after breakfast. He noticed Nancy was watching uneasily though.
“I killed some dumb bastard that was trying to steal my horse.”
“Yeah. ’Winged another one. They’re heading your way. They’re armed.”
“Thanks. We’ll be prepared. Out.”
R. J. turned around to see everyone had crowded around. “Jim?”
“We need to be alert. Ralph, Ron, you two go upstairs with your rifles and watch. I repeat, watch. Do not shoot. The rest of us will stay down here. Unless they have armor piercing ammo, their bullets can’t get through the shutters. Remember, don’t shoot unless I tell you.” If anyone was going to shoot, it would be him.
“Henry, want to come with me to the barn?” R.J. asked.
“Yep. My horses are in there too.”
The men hurriedly got dressed and took their places in the barn loft. The body warmth from the eight horses had made the barn warm and the loft too hot for the heavy overcoats. They shed them and piled them with their scarves, and gloves.
“Better kill the lights,” R.J. said. When they did it was almost pitch black in the loft. But they could see the horizon easily enough. Within a few minutes seven figures could be seen creeping up the hillside from the west. Sure enough, one of them was limping and was being helped.
From inside the house Jim shouted, “That’s far enough. State your intentions.”
The men crouched down. They didn’t think they would be seen so quickly. “Fire!” someone shouted and they opened fire on the house. R.J. listened as bullets ka-thunked against the windows and walls. He’d have a bunch of patching in the spring – if they’d be there in the spring.
“Damn,” Frank swore again walking around his home. “Can’t let anything happen to R.J. and Nancy and Sally.” Frank grabbed his double barrel shotgun and loaded it up. “It’s not your fight, Frank.” He tried to talk himself out of doing anything rash. Torn about staying put or helping out he answered himself, “Yes it is my fight. They are my friends.” Frank grabbed his 50-Cal muzzleloader and sheathing his bowie knife headed out the door fast on the heels of the seven would-be thieves. When Frank arrived at R.J.’s the place was under fire.
The men in the house did not return fire. Inside the house the children whimpered as they were sent to the basement. Tom and Hank stayed in the kitchen with Jim. Both teens were old enough to stay with the men..
“Oh my God!” cried Sally as she and the other women joined the children downstairs.
“Keep it together,” Jil seethed. “You’ll frighten the children.” Children? Sally was scaring her.
“I’ve got you in my sights!” Jim yelled as he took aim at one of the marauders and fired his handgun.
“Got ya’,” Jim yelled as a man fell to the ground, rolled around for a bit, got up and dragging his gun took off running down the hill. He was soon followed by the other injured man.
“You’re yellow!” screamed the mob’s leader after the fleeing men. He shot in their direction. “You two go get the horses,” he shouted, pointing at two other armed men. They slunk off toward the barn.
“You have the element of surprise Frank. Keep your head down and don’t get yourself killed,” Frank continued talking to himself. Just then a shot rang out from the house. Jim had shot someone and that someone was running down the hill toward Frank. He smiled.
“Element of surprise,” Frank thought again as the fleeing man ran toward him. Seizing the opportunity Frank jumped out of the trees and using his Bowie Knife, instantly killed the thief. Hearing a gasp, Frank whirled around and was face to face with another culprit. All of his military experience and over 40 years of survivalist training paid off as Frank reacted quickly and threw his knife killing that man as well. After moving the bodies off the path Frank crept closer to the home.
“Keep firing on the house, boys!” the leader yelled at the two other men.
In the barn R.J. and Henry heard the group’s intention to steal the horses. “What do we do R.J.?” Henry asked looking at the younger man.
“Protect the horses, but protect yourself first,” R.J. answered as the barn doors swung open letting in light from the outside.
“Damn, look at them horses,” one of the thieves said as they entered the barn.
“Leave them horses alone!” Henry yelled standing up.
“Get down, Henry!” R.J. yelled too late as one of the men fired at the hayloft.
“I’m hit,” Henry screamed. grabbing his arm and falling backward into the hay.
“This ain’t happening,” R.J. yelled as he pumped his 12-gauge Mossburg and fired down at them. “Here’s some birdshot for you, you cocksuckers.” R.J. yelled at them again as he fired off another round at the would-be thieves. If he intended to hit them, he would have.
Soon it was quiet in the barn. The two men had run back outside.
“How ya’ doin’, Henry?”
“I’m okay,” Henry managed, white as a ghost. “Is my arm still there?” Henry asked not wanting to look down.
R.J. smiled having seen plenty of injuries during his times overseas. “It’s only a scratch. Wrap it up with this,” R.J. said grabbing his neck scarf.
There was some commotion outside. It sounded like the mob was arguing.
“They got guys shooting from the house and the barns,” screamed a guy.
“I’m out of here.” screamed another.
“Come back, you jerkoff!” yelled the leader.
“Ooof,” came an agonizing cry from another just after R.J. heard a gunshot coming from the house.
“R.J., you there?” a quiet voice came over R.J.’s walkie-talkie.
“Yup, Jim – still here.”
“Saw the guys go into the barn.”
“Henry’s been shot in the arm – just a flesh wound.”
“I shot two with my trusty Glock 19.”
“How many still out there?”
“There was seven – two ran off quick. You scared another one off and there is one on the ground at the moment.”
“So three left?”
“Yeah the leader is a smart S.O.B.. He’s standing out of range.”
“Okay, Jim … keep everyone calm. Maybe I’ll sneak up on him. Out.”
“Out.” Jim said putting down the walkie-talkie.
Frank had been watching from the edge of the woods. He casually took his 50-Cal muzzle loader off his back. He took the top of his powder horn out with his teeth and poured the powder in. He corked the powder horn and let it swing from his belt again. Then he dug into his coat pocket for a ball and pre-cut patch. He wrapped the ball in the patch and dropped it into the muzzle of the barrel. The ramrod was clipped to the barrel of the Cal-50 and he used the ball starter and then the ramrod to tamp the ball and powder into place. He clipped it back onto the barrel and then slipped the cap over the nipple at the breach end. He drew back the hammer to cock the weapon. Frank did all of this by rote as he watched the goings on at R.J.’s place. He slung the muzzle loader over his shoulder carefully and slipped his Remington double barreled 12-gauge out from under his overcoat. “Now or never,” Frank said emerging from the woods and going into battle mode.
“You sons of bitches!” Frank yelled from the edge of the woods. “Leave my friends alone!”
“Boom!” went the familiar sound of Frank’s shotgun and R.J. shuddered as a death scream came from the thieves. He couldn’t see the action but there was no doubt, the old hermit had come through.
“Bastards, I got ya’ now!” Frank yelled as he stepped out of the shadows.
“Boom!” the Remington roared again, emptying the second barrel and another man fell. That left the group’s leader and Frank face to face. Frank knew the guy had the drop on him so he had to be quick.
“You’re out of ammo, you bearded freak,” he shouted leveling his rifle at Frank.
“I suppose I am,” Frank sneered.
Frank let the Remington fall to the ground and at the same time whipping the 50-Cal black powder gun into shooting position. He fired before the thief knew what hit him.
“Never leave home without a spare,” Frank muttered and spit out some chew, as the guy fell dead in his tracks. “R.J., you can come out now!” He picked up his 12-gauge and walked toward the barn.
From the house Jim watched the whole scene unfold in front of him. The massive man came out of the woods and shot three men in a matter of seconds – even though the third man had the drop on Frank. Amazing.
“Frank,” R.J. called out, coming out of the barn holding onto Henry who had his overcoat on half-way. “Glad to see you, Frank.”
“I’ll bet you are, youngin’,” Frank said spiting some chew again. He was standing over the cowering man Jim had shot.
“What do we do with this bastard?” Frank asked reloading his shotgun.
“Can he walk?” R.J. called out.
“Can you walk, you bastard?” Frank asked the man on the ground.
“Uummp. I think so,” the man said trying to sit up.
“Let him go, Frank … enough killing today.”
“Get up and get moving,” Frank spit at the man pushing him down the path and kicking his rump. “Don’t let me see you around here again.” Frank yelled. “Ole Bess here has your number,” Frank called out holding up his 50-Cal.
“You know lettin’ him go is revenge beggin’ to happen,” Frank nodded toward the fleeing man.
“Henry, what’s goin’ on with your arm?” Frank asked changing the subject.
“Ain’t nuttin’ but a scratch,” Frank laughed as he looked at his arm wrapped in a wool scarf.
R.J. was shaking his head, looking at the three dead bodies.
“It had to be done, R.J. You understand war. It was either them or us.”
“You’re right, Frank. I just didn’t expect war to be waged on my own farm.”
“You take Henry inside R.J. and I’ll move the bodies behind the barn. When the weather thaws a bit Ill help bury them.”
“Thanks,” R.J. answered walking toward the house with Henry.
“When you’re done come inside and warm up a bit. There’s coffee and probably some chow.”
When R.J. and Henry got to the backdoor Jim and Nancy met them.
“Henry’s shot. Can you help him?” He took Henry’s gun and helped him out of his boots and overcoat. Then he shrugged out of his outside gear as well.
“Come with me,” Nancy said to Henry, leading him to the bathroom.
Nancy had a whole store of bandages, anti-biotic creams, pain pills and surgical items. She deftly unwrapped the wool scarf and cut the sleeve of Henry’s shirt off. After applying a goodly amount of hydrogen peroxide on a clean cloth she held it to Henry’s wound. His wife showed up just as he winced and was ready to swear.
“Be civil, dear,” his wife smiled, putting her hand at the nape of his neck. She massaged the area extending into his back and he relaxed.
“How is it, Nancy?”
“Fixable,” she smiled and made sure the wound was clean. She put a large amount of antibiotic cream on a pad and then wrapped it with tape. Nancy offered him a choice of Aspirin, Ibuprophen, or Vicodin.
“Aspirin for now, thanks,” he said and downed the pills without water.
Ralph and the teens joined the men in the back room. They were all looking out the window or open back door.
“Holy smokes, R.J., that’s one quick S.O.B.” Jim said nodding toward Frank. The 6 foot 4 burly guy with a long full beard, dressed in a fur coat and hat was quite a sight dragging the bodies behind the barn.
“And mean,” Hank added and then went to the bathroom to check on his dad.
Jim sat down at the table beneath the window. Ron and Ralph pulled up some chairs from along the wall as R.J. still watched out the window. Tom leaned against the wall.
“Told you he was good,” R.J. smiled. “Figured when those poor bastards headed my way Frank was tracking them slowly. If you or I didn’t get scare them off, I knew he would.”
“That was more than just scare tactics,” Jim answered.
“Unfortunately. I was hoping I’d seen all the war I was ever going to see.”
The women had brought the kids up from the basement and were serving up the slightly burned fried potatoes and reheating the scrambled eggs made before the whole skirmish started.
Frank’s deep voice rang out, “Hello in the cabin!” as he waved to the men waiting for him. The kids forgot their breakfast and yelled out “Frank,” as they ran toward the “Mountain Man” giving him a big hug.
“Got something for you,” Frank laughed, reaching into his vest pocket and producing some candies.
“Go in the other room now kids. I gotta’ to talk to your dad,” Frank said standing in the back room. He shed his weapons, hanging them on pegs on the wall.
Just then the little group reemerged from the bathroom. Realizing the men needed to “re-group” Nancy herded the kids back to the kitchen.
“Saw you from the woods” Frank said to Jim. “Didn’t know at Christmas that you’re such a good shot. You took down two from some distance.”
“Saw you from the house get three – you’re a pretty impressive shot.” Jim said.
Beth, Ralph’s wife and their daughter brought out steaming mugs of coffee.
“Get some coffee in ya’ Frank.” R.J. said as Frank sat down and accepted the steaming brew.
“What you packing today?” Frank asked Jim.
“Just my Glock 19 again,” Jim replied as he took the gun from his holster and put it on the table.
“A silly little handgun,” Frank grinned as he reached over and grabbed the gun and looked at it.
Jim refrained himself from arguing with the man holding his gun. Usually if you mess with his handgun you mess with him but after seeing what he saw tonight he made an exception.
“I’ve got some extra ammo at my place for your Glock if you need it.” Frank said setting the gun back down on the table and taking a sip of coffee.
“Nancy says I’ll be fine” Henry said walking back out to the kitchen.
“Knew you would be,” Frank said laughing.
“How long were you in the woods, Frank?” R.J. asked.
“Right after our conversation – was just biding my time,” Frank laughed.
“Waiting for us to get our asses shot up?” Henry said holding up his arm.
“Waiting to even the odds,” Frank said. “They shot up my place pretty good before they ran.”
“You know there are still four out there,” Jim said pushing back his chair.
“Between us,” Frank looked around waiting for their complete attention, “I got them too,” Frank said quietly.
“What?” Ron and Henry said in unison
“I didn’t hear any gun shots,” Ralph said.
“You don’t need a gun when you got the element of surprise and this,” Frank said unsheathing his foot-long Bowie knife. “You guys scared them right to me – one at a time.”
“So do I have bodies all over my woods?” R.J. asked.
“Reckon so, but they’re under brush out of the way so kids can’t see them … can’t guarantee the wild animals won’t get them.”
“That leaves just the one I shot that you guys let go,” Jim said.
“For now,” Frank said grinning and giving a slight nod to R.J. quietly indicating he was going to track the injured man. “Well guys, I’ve got to get back home. Thanks for the coffee.” Frank said standing up.
“Thanks for the help Frank,” R.J. said standing up and shaking his hand.
“Take care of that arm Henry,” Frank said gathering his gear. Sally had been lingering near the kitchen door and she smiled at him. Frank winked at her as he pulled on his overcoat. “Talk to ya’ at 9 tomorrow, R.J. or call if ya’ need me.”
“Watch your back, big guy.”
“Yup; say goodbye to the kids and Nancy,” Frank called over his shoulder.
The men watched as he blended into the trees. “Now that is one guy I wouldn’t want to tangle with,” Tom said to R.J. as he closed and locked the door.
“He’s nothing but a big Teddy Bear to me and the kids.” Nancy said standing in the kitchen doorway.
“Yeah a big, angry, Grizzly Bear,” R.J. said laughing.
“Not bad for farmers, war vets, and a city slicker.” Ron said.
“Don’t forget about the mountain man,” Sally chimed in.
“And don’t get too full of yourselves boys. You won’t have Frank to help out all the time,” Nancy said snickering.