Alliance formed with Camp Brook after successful diplomatic mission

This is the top story from the May 27, 2019 issue of The Informer. This is also the first issue in which some of the text and photos start to degrade, for reasons I have been unable to discern. As a result, there is gibberish text at the end of the story, but I leave it in case someone can determine its meaning.

Jason Nash and Faye Knight rode lookout from the bed of one of the trucks as it left Gilead on its diplomatic mission to Camp Brook Road. Each truck, flying the new Gilead flag, carried four armed passengers in addition to the driver as a precaution against being outgunned by Raiders on Route 12.

On May 24, a convoy of three pickup trucks carrying 15 heavily armed Gilead citizens made the short trip down Route 12 to Camp Brook Road in hopes of establishing a mutual defense and cooperation pact. After a tense  initial contact, the mission succeeded in forming a friendly alliance that benefits both areas.

“I would call this an incredible victory for us,” said Joe Tobiason, who planned and led the mission. “We accomplished everything we set out to do, and even took it a step or two further, accomplishing it all without any violence, and even without any arguments.”

One immediate effect of the agreement will be that Gilead’s patrols can be reduced by three people, since the Southern Patrol will no longer be necessary; Camp Brook is the only area to our south and will be adequately covered by their efforts. “They have very good security,” said Rich Bennington, Gilead’s recently-elected Defense Coordinator. “When we came up to their barricade, it was laid out exactly how I would have done it.”

Little wonder, though, as Bennington and the rest of the Gilead diplomatic mission soon found out that a veteran of the Iraq war was in charge of the Camp Brook defenses.

A tense first-contact

After rolling out of Gilead and onto Route 12, the convoy was on high alert for Raiders or any other threats that might materialize. “I don’t mind saying, my palms were sweaty and my hands were shaking,” said Jason Nash, 17. “I’ve been on patrol a bunch of times, but that’s always been in woods right around here, where I’ve been hunting for years. This trip down 12 was like a different world, with all the abandoned cars, abandoned houses, and worst of all, the possibility of Raiders.”

In addition to tensions already high about the trip down Route 12, nobody in the group knew what to expect when they turned onto Camp Brook Road, although they knew it had to be handled carefully.

“As soon as we passed the first houses on Camp Brook, we started going really slowly – no more than 15 miles per hour – and I shouted at each house as we passed that we were from Gilead and wanted to talk to them about defending each other from Raiders,” said Tobiason.

The first several houses were empty and looked as though they had been broken into – windows were broken and doors splintered on their hinges. “But then, right around the first curve, we came up to their road barricade with about 10 guns pointed right at us,” said Tobiason. “I recognized Cory Bingham and a couple of other guys, so I held out our white flag for them to see as I got out of the cab.”

As had been planned in case of a Camp Brook Road barricade, everyone in the vehicles set down their firearms and held both hands out where the sentries could see them. “We had armed ourselves only because of the danger posed by Raiders,” explained Tobiason, “so now that we had gotten to the Camp Brook folks, it was time to show them we weren’t there to make trouble.”

Tobiason went up to the barricade and explained to the folks there what the Gilead delegation was hoping to accomplish, and in short order the barricade was moved aside so the convoy could enter Camp Brook’s enclave. “Most of them had already pointed their guns away from us when they saw me and a few others they recognized as being from Gilead,” Tobiason said.

Bennington said the Camp Brook defenses at the blockade were top-notch. “I was talking to Frank Barnard, the guy who does their defense planning, and he showed me the layout of their barricade and patrols, and it was impressive,” Bennington enthused. “Once I saw the barricade plan, I saw that we wouldn’t have stood a chance if we had meant to attack these guys.”

Bennington said the Camp Brook barricade is placed in a spot where steep, wooded hills close in on both sides of the road, creating a naturally defensible position. In addition to the guarded barricade blocking the road, sentries occupy the high ground on either side of the road, hidden by the woods and therefore able to fire down upon attackers.“

I think two things helped make the mission a success,” said Bennington. “First, was Joe’s commitment to plan it so we didn’t have a confrontation, and second was that Camp Brook is secure, and they know it. You don’t start shooting at people when you know you’re fundamentally secure.”

Elizabeth Larsen, who also was part of the mission, said she also considered another factor critical to the mission’s success. “You can’t forget that Joe has something like 20 years of marketing experience under his belt,” she said. “He is inherently diplomatic and can get a read on people and their needs very quickly. I think that made a huge difference.”

An alliance of equals

The agreement with Camp Brook Road is, at its core, a non-agression and mutual aid compact, and includes not just the homes along Camp Brook Road, but also Brink Hill, Dartt Hill, and Campbell Roads, all of which extend south of Camp Brook’s east/west trajectory.

Camp Brook and Gilead agree to prevent incursions by outsiders into each other’s territories, the border of which was agreed to be the top of the ridgeline between the two areas. The agreement also stipulates that monthly meetings will be held between representatives of each enclave’s leadership committees to update one another on security concerns, resource-sharing possibilities in case of shortages on one side or the other, and any news of the outside world.

Resource-sharing at this time was determined to be unnecessary. Through discussions, both the Gilead and Camp Brook delegations discovered that they have plenty of hay and wood, and no shortage of food or food-procurement possibilities, since Camp Brook residents all have gardens, and a small dairy on Brink Hill serves the same function as the Chambers’ dairy in Gilead.

One advantage that Gilead has over Camp Brook is the ability to convert automobiles and other equipment to run on vegetable oil, but this was determined to be virtually a wash, since Camp Brook has a large number of horses available to its residents – more than 50, compared to Gilead’s 10. Camp Brook residents also have plenty of animal-powered equipment to use with the horses for haying, logging and other harvesting activities. “It’s more work-intensive,” said Jan Westerman, a member of the Camp Brook Road Board of Directors, as they have named their elected leadership. “But at the same time, we have almost 100 people and a lot of horses to get around on and work the equipment, so we think our work plans are going to get us by pretty well.”

Nonetheless, it was agreed that to even out this disparity would be in everyone’s best interest. Therefore, Camp Brook will provide studs for the three Gilead mares, so a breeding program can begin. This addresses Gilead’s lack of stallions (the only male horses in Gilead are geldings). In return, Eric Quinton agreed to teach John Rountree, Camp Brook’s mechanic, how to convert diesel engines to run on vegetable oil, and would also provide a list of the parts necessary to make such conversions.

Camp Brook also isn’t lacking in solar power, as only seven of its 31 Survivor households are without solar panels; the rest have enough solar power for at least some of their power-generation needs. The solar energy helps keep Camp Brook’s four electric vehicles in service – two SUVs, a full-sized sedan, and a compact.

Tobiason said he was very gratified that the mission was, in his words, “an unqualified success.” As they were planning the mission, one of the outcomes he and the other GDC members feared was a radically disparate set of circumstances that would engender rivalry between the two enclaves. “We were cautious about how we presented ourselves and our resources,” said Tobiason. “We didn’t bring our best weapons, we didn’t bring our best vehicles, and we didn’t bring anything with us that wasn’t absolutely necessary to the mission.”

The objective, he explained, was to avoid giving the impression that Gilead was overly well-to-do, in case the Camp Brook Survivors were in dire straits and might seek to share resources with which Gilead can ill afford to part. “What we found, however, was that they are doing really well,” Tobiason said. “That’s good news for our southern border, and I think they were pretty glad they don’t have to worry about their northern border.”

The GDC’s diplomatic success in Camp Brook will be followed by a mission to Randolph, scheduled for tomorrow, May 28th. “This one has the potential to be far more dangerous,” said Jim Nash, the GDC member in charge of planning the Randolph mission with Bennington. “We really don’t know what to expect, since towns seem to have been hit much harder by the Pandemic than rural areas like ours, and at the same time the survivors can’t necessarily take advantage of natural resources like we can, so they might have needs they can’t meet on their own. They might even be desperate enough to attack, which is our primary fear.”

Despite the northern border being covered by the Tatro Hill enclave, Bennington isn’t sure it’s enough of a bulwark to protect Gilead from determined attackers. “It’s better than nothing, but some sort of non-aggression agreement with folks in Randolph would be much better,” he said. “If things are bad in Randolph and they start causing trouble for Tatro Hill, that’s going to directly impact us.”

Bennington and Nash note that if no single body of authority can be identified in Randolph, the mission will need to gather as much intelligence as possible about the potential threat posed by Survivors there. “One of my nightmare scenarios is that Raiders have taken up residence in Randolph,” said Bennington. “In that case, once they finish fighting each other, the winners will emerge as a leadership that is ruthless and potentially very effective at organized raids.“

I’m sincerely hoping we just find a group of nice folks who want to work hard and live through this until our country is back on its feet,” Nash said. “But at the same time, I’m glad we emptied out the sporting goods store’s ammo and guns.”Seeing the potential for lse/K false/S/Transparency/Type/Group>>endobj333 0 obj<</BBox[242.135 1214.82 477.576 1178.1]/Filter/FlateDecode/Group 332 0 R/Length 63/Matrix[1.0 0.0 0.0 1.0 0.0 0.0]/Resources<</ExtGState<</GS0 326 0 R>>>>/Subtype/Form>>streamH‰2P0 BC…l.}÷` …ôb.# #=CcS C#C =#  #cS=   ]c3=s#…¢T®4.€   $úÕendstreamendobj334 0 obj<</CS/DeviceCMYK/I false/K false/S/Transparency/Type/Group>>endobj335 0 obj<</ox[588.196 1185.62 708.436 1144.22]/Filter/FlateDecode/Group 334 0 R/Length 60/Matrix[1.0 0.0 0.0 1.0 0.0 0.0]/Resources<</ExtGState<</GS0 326 0 R>>>>/Subtype/Form>>streamH‰2P0 BC…l.}÷` …ôb.Sendstreamendobj336 0 obj<</CS/DeviceCMYK/I false/K false/S/Transparency/Type/Group>>endobj337 0 obj<</Length 1445/Subtype/XML/Type/Metadata>>stream<x:xmpmeta xmlns:x=”adobe:ns:meta/” x:xmptk=”Adobe XMP Core 5.0-c060 61.134777, 2010/02/12-17:32:00        “> <rdf:RDF xmlns:rdf=”http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#”>  <rdf:Description rdf:about=””

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Supplies will last one year; long-term outlook uncertain

This is another top story from the May 20, 2019 edition; some of the conclusions are rather grim.

Based on an inventory of supplies and skills, it looks like the Gilead will be able to maintain itself as a self-contained community for at least one year, depending largely on the weather: the severity of the winter, and the adequate mix of rain and sun for gardens, and for growing and harvesting hay and corn for the Chambers Dairy.

Biomass

Without electricity, most households have to put up hay by hand, instead of using a hay elevator. Above, Jason Nash is put to work on a 200-bale wagon full of first-cut.

 

Hay: The hay situation is good for at least a year at the dairy. Sam and Diane Chambers say they typically like to have a year and-a-half of hay and silage on-hand so that a bad haying year won’t set them back. Also, noted Diane, they had to remove 40 of their 50 cows from production because the trucks stopped coming to pick up the milk a couple months ago, leaving only local consumers to take up the slack. “So we won’t need as much hay and silage as we have in the past,” Diane said.

This means Gilead’s small collection of 10 horses should have no trouble getting their hay from the fields the Chamberses won’t be using. “The fields we won’t need this summer could be hayed for the horses,” suggested Sam.

Firewood: The heating situation is not quite as rosy as the hay outlook. Most people have at least some firewood left from this past winter, and unused firewood from homes of those who didn’t survive the Pandemic will help pad out the supplies. However, most households will need at least three more cords of wood, which will need to be cut and split immediately if it’s going to be dry enough to burn by October/November. Most families started this process last month, but distribution of gasoline and two-cycle oil for chainsaws is uneven, so progress is also uneven.

Food

Milk: The Gilead area is in great shape when it comes to milk and its derivatives. Chambers notes that he is almost out of the grain concentrate he typically feeds his cows twice a day, but that shouldn’t be an issue. “They’ll keep producing on a diet of just hay and silage,” he said. “It’s just that their production won’t be as high.”

Sam and Diane Chambers' dairy cows eat the last of their grain concentrate. They'll still produce milk without it, but not as much as before.

Given that Gilead residents have had more than enough milk for their needs during the past two months, the reduction in production shouldn’t be a problem. The challenge now seems to be establishing a system that uses all the produced milk with minimal waste. Gilead residents have already started (and some cases, have been for years) producing their own cheese, butter and yogurt from raw milk.

Gardens: Every Gilead household has planted a garden each spring, so this year should be no different in that regard, although the scale will be greater for each one, and the stakes higher. “You can bet I’m going to be a hell of a lot more diligent about weeding and keeping the woodchucks out,” said teacher Liz Larsen. “This year we can’t just say, ‘Oh well, we didn’t get much out of the garden this year.’ We have to make it work, or this winter could be very bad.”

Similarly, those with blueberry bushes, apple trees and other fruit crops will be working to keep bugs, birds and other competitors from getting to the food before it can be harvested.

Livestock: Aside from the milkers at the Chambers Dairy, which are a primary source of protein, Gilead residents are generally well off when it comes to livestock. Ten of the Survivor households have anywhere from five to 50 chickens each, which means eggs will be forthcoming all summer, as well as new chicks.

“They can find their own food throughout the summer,” said Jim Nash, who has about 45 chickens roaming his property. “But winter is another story. We’re going to have to have grain for them all winter, as well as for the horses, goats, cows, and pigs. We’re probably okay for this coming winter, but after that, we have some hard issues to address.”

Three Gilead households have beef cattle that are scheduled for slaughter this Fall, and one household has goats, although the latter are for their wool rather than food. “At least, that’s our intention,” said Emily Villiers, owner of the goats. “But if we get hungry and they start looking less like sweaters and more like food, we’ll just do what has to be done.”

Another four households have one or more pigs, adding up to six of the animals. “The same discussion about grain supplies will have to take place regarding the pigs,” said Chuck

The Gilead's apple trees are tended carefully, as every calorie of food is going to be needed in winter now that grocery stores look to be a thing of the past.

Calhoun, who owns two pigs. “They’re a relatively inefficient protein source compared to beef, because they don’t convert grass to protein, like beef or goats do, and they don’t eat bugs, like chickens. They’re grain-intensive, which can be a problem.”

Energy/fuel

Electricity: All but six households have solar power for at least part of their homes’ electric needs, so many households can maintain a semblance of 21st century life, using their computers and printers, running a few household appliances, and charging rechargeable items.

Homes without solar panels typically have generators, but almost all are gasoline-powered, which means they’re all but useless, since virtually all gasoline will have to be saved for chainsaws to use for cutting firewood. Eric Quinton, a mechanic who converts gasoline and diesel engines to run on vegetable oil, says he can convert generators, but he has limited supplies of parts and says it would probably serve Gilead better if he reserved them for vehicle engines.

“I’m perfectly content without electricity for now,” said Chester Knight, a retired construction worker. “I’m sure if we had a really serious need crop up, Karl [Larsen] or Dave [Childers] wouldn’t mind letting me drop by to charge my screw gun or use his blender or something.”

Fuel: As noted in the first edition of The Gilead Informer, a supply run that procured vegetable oil and diesel from several area restaurants and businesses was successful. The run yielded a total of about 200 gallons of vegetable oil and 500 gallons of diesel. Sam Chambers says his family’s dairy should be able to get through the summer with that amount of fuel, but it will be close. Quinton, who filters and stores the vegetable oil, says he would be able to fix the Chambers’ diesel equipment to run on vegetable oil once the diesel runs out, if that looks like it would be the best way to go.

Other supplies

Although most Gilead residents have supplies of clothes, shoes, candles, soap and other necessities that will last for at least a year, if not quite a bit longer, it’s still worthwhile to consider where long-term supplies of such goods will come from. The know-how for producing some of these goods does exist, although primarily in books owned by residents, rather than as first-hand experience. Difficult-to-produce goods, and some which are likely impossible, includes the below list of items. Possible methods of replacing them as we run out have been noted, but there is currently no approved plan for doing so:

Salt: Only choice is to procure from surrounding stores; not available in any other way.

Candles and matches: Need to figure out how to make tallow for candles. Might be better to replace candles with lanterns, as fueling them is easier. No viable alternative for matches.

String, yarn and rope: Fleece animals (goats and sheep) can yield string and yarn, if the few folks who know how to spin and knit are willing and able. Flax could be grown for rope and possibly clothing, although amount of land needed for flax cultivation might be prohibitive, and processing into fiber could be difficult.

Cloth/fabric: As per above paragraph, fleece animals may be the only option; not such a great outlook for summer clothing, since cotton isn’t available and doesn’t grow locally.

Soap: Need to find out how to make it. Basic ingredients are lye and fat, and lye can be produced with ashes, of which the Gilead has plenty.

Borax and other cleaning aids: Likely will have to be replaced with home-made soap.

Leavening (Baking soda/baking powder): Yeast and yeast-like substitutes will have to be used, in particular by maintaining cultured doughs.

Any metal implements or tools: Preservation of existing supplies is critical; no capabilities or knowledge for metal-working exists among Survivor families.

Other supplies will be considered as they become apparent.

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Filed under 5/20/2019

GDC establishes patrols and blockades

This is one of the two headline stories from the May 20, 2019 issue of The Informer.

This map shows patrols and barriers protecting the Gilead. The orange strips next to Route 12 are "Dead Zones" that will be kept clear of trees so patrols can more easily identify incursions.

Defensive measures planned since the May 4 attack on the Gilead have been steadily implemented over the last few weeks, according to Gilead Defense Committee members, with the most critical ones already in place. “We have made extraordinary progress, and I’m a lot more optimistic today than I have been throughout this entire process,” said Rich Bennington, GDC member and the de facto head of the security effort, by virtue of his background in security consulting. “I wouldn’t say I’m sleeping soundly yet, but we’re in pretty good shape.”

The Informer delineates below the measures that have been planned by the GDC, along with a brief description and status report on each one.

Route 12 blockade

This is regarded as the Gilead’s primary vulnerability, as Raiders have been traveling this highway looking for places to loot. Gilead’s intersection with Route 12 has been blocked entirely, and barricades (consisting of large-diameter tree-trunks) have been placed along Route 12 wherever there are no natural barriers to vehicles leaving the highway, especially north of the intersection (see diagram from last week’s edition for details).

On Route 12 south of Gilead, there is no need for additional barriers, as the side of the road drops off steeply and is blocked by a guard-rail. The only other way for a Route 12 incursion further south would be before the bridge over Gilead Brook, and that area is being monitored 24 hours a day by an armed sentry stationed behind the Jones’s empty home. This sentry is part of the five-person team stationed at Route 12 at all times. Two man the barricade that blocks the road, while another two are stationed in the tree-line behind the Shareburg house, keeping an eye on the hay fields that border Route 12.

“We’ve seen a few individual vehicles and a couple of convoys go by here over the last several days,” said Karl Larsen, who has Route 12 sentry duty three days per week. “But none of them have been repeats, and all but one kept moving when they saw that we were stoutly defended.”

The one exception, Larsen said, was a man and woman with a small child who stopped at the barricade and asked for food and directions to Snowsville. “Dave [Childers] covered them with his weapon, in case it was a trick, while I gave them directions and handed over my lunch and his,” said Larsen. “They looked like they were in pretty bad shape, and we felt bad for them.”

Part of the sentry duty is to record all passing vehicle colors and types, license plates, and numbers of people, so that possible reconnaissance missions can be identified. So far, nothing of the sort has been seen. An extra store of food is now being kept at the barricades to offer to those who ask for a handout and appear to be in need.

Tatro Hill and Spooner Hill Roads

Because it is a direct connection between the heart of Gilead to Route 12, Tatro Hill Road is considered by the GDC as a vulnerability to be addressed, despite the fact that its intersection with Route 12 is not part of Gilead. The effort was initially complicated by the fact that Tatro survivors (about 10 of them) have already come together to make decisions that affect their area, and a road block was not part of their plans. However, after the GDC met with the Tatro survivors on May 17 and described the attacks on Gilead, Tatro and Gilead jointly decided to block access to Tatro Hill Rd. at Route 12, and agreed that Tatro citizens would patrol the immediate surrounding area to ensure incursions don’t take place.

Spooner Road also runs from Route 12 into Gilead, but because it peters out into a rough track before getting to McIntosh Hill Rd. (see diagram), it is not as high a priority as Tatro Hill Rd. The three survivors from that road have agreed to work with the Tatro folks to jointly patrol their areas.

“Although it’s a relatively small agreement, finalized on handshakes all around, I would still call this our first diplomatic victory,” said Bennington of the Tatro Hill/Spooner Road agreement. “And even more important, it means we don’t have to worry about our northern border.”

‘Dead zone’

In order to further protect against incursions from Route 12, the GDC decided that a 50-foot wide swath along the highway will be kept clear of trees and tall undergrowth, so that trespassers will have to traverse the open area in order to get into the Gilead’s woods. The path of the “dead zone,” as it is being called, is marked in orange on the diagram. “It’s a tactically advantageous feature of the area,” said Bennington. “That long, continuous path has been kept clear of trees for decades because of the power lines that run along there, so all we have to do is make sure it stays that way.”

Border patrols

The GDC examined several topographical maps of the Gilead area, as well as tapping into years of experience hunting and hiking throughout the area, and concluded that patrols would be allocated as per the below areas.

Route 12 Patrol: Consisting of four people, this patrol would cover the Dead Zone between the Gilead/Route 12 Blockade and the top of Spooner Road.

Southern Patrol: Manned by only three people, this very long border is thought to be relatively safe. The only area to the south is the Camp Brook Road region, and although we have not yet sent a mission to establish contact, there is every reason to believe we will have friendly relations with any survivors there. Additionally, it’s unlikely any significant incursions of Raiders could be expected from Camp Brook Road, given the wide area of rough terrain between there and Gilead.

Western ridge: Given the roughness of the terrain and steep mountains separating Gilead from its neighbors in Rochester, it is unlikely the western flank will pose a problem. Occasional patrols will be sent up that way to look for signs of reconaissance being conducted, but is is presumed largely safe. Additionally, the GDC has included Rochester as one of its major destinations for a diplomatic mission, which should further ensure Gilead’s safety to the west.

Chambers Dairy: Because of the Dairy’s critical role in Gilead’s survival as an independent community, the Chambers family will be exempted from all patrol and guard duties, and their perimeter will be guarded by a patrol of three. In any event, the Dairy will be guarded 24/7.

Bennington, who designed most of the patrol areas and schedules, said the logistics of the patrols will be grueling until people get used to it. Bennington noted that Gilead consists of 17 households of survivors, adding up to 51 people, 31 of whom are available for patrol or sentry duty. “Right now, we’re looking at 12 people needed for our regular patrols, which means we don’t have enough for three full shifts,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough schedule, but hopefully we’ll be able to cut down the numbers once we’ve established contact with the Camp Brook Road folks.”

“One thing for sure,” said Bret Villiers, a welder who lives on McIntosh Hill, “is that every single person who can work is going to be busy from sunup to sundown every day, whether on patrol or working to get hay, wood, and food in for the winter.”

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Filed under 5/20/2019

Reactions to attack: sadness and resolve

The below article is another from the May 13, 2019 issue of The Informer, in which a Raider attack is repelled.

Shotgun shells and .22 bullet casings litter the ground where Charles Calhoun, Martha Arceneaux, and Mark Cohen fended off Raiders trying to cross the hayfield next to the abandoned Shareburg home.

Although the assault on Gilead was fended off successfully with no injuries to any of our residents, it still left a streak of trauma throughout the community. Two Raiders have been killed, one of them by 17 year-old Paul Tobiason, and three homes were damaged in the firefight.

The psychological scars, say some, are even more acute than those caused by the apparent collapse of the society as a whole. “It’s kind of like when news of the Pandemic first started to appear,” said local carpenter Robert Jamison, husband of GDC member Chelsea Graff. “The headlines invoked images of horrible possibilities, and then the pictures we saw in the papers started to make those seem more real, but it never seemed real until we saw our friends and neighbors starting to contract the illness and die.

“This attack is the same, in that I knew intellectually that society has fallen apart, but until it came to our front door, so to speak, it was hard to internalize.”

Jamison is not alone in that sentiment. “Knowing that people want to take what you have is one thing, but seeing them actually try – seeing their faces as they shoot at you and your neighbors – is a feeling I’ll never forget,” said Joanne Costas, who was involved in the firefight at close range.

But at the same time, Costas says she couldn’t help feeling deep sorrow for the attackers after the raid. “I know they were trying to kill us, just like Raiders killed poor Steve and Emma a couple weeks ago, but when I saw those lifeless bodies left behind, I couldn’t…”

Costas was unable to continue her thought, but later conveyed that she couldn’t help but felt sorry for the Raiders. “One of the bodies was of a kid, really,” she said. “He couldn’t be more than 16 or 17 years old, and he was really thin. These people are desperate to survive, and aggression is probably the only thing they have found that keeps them from starving to death.”

Joe Tobiason echoed Costas. “For all we know, these people were decent, law-abiding folks wherever they’re from, but now they have no way of getting food,” he said. “I would think they asked for help from the first few places they came to, but I’m sure they were turned down, since everyone’s desperate and afraid. The logical next step is to become predators.”

Shara Tobiason said that her son Paul did not wish to talk about his shooting of one of the Raiders; all she would say about his reaction to the attack was that he was shaken up about it. “He was very eager to be on sentry duty,” she said, “but I think he didn’t expect anything this violent and personal to happen.”

Rich Bennington and Stan Lyon, both combat veterans of the Afghan wars, were less emotionally affected by the battle, analyzing it with a more logical set of sensibilities. “This was a pretty good live-fire exercise, bascially,” said Lyon. “We got a good sense of how well our defenses are working, we saw where we probably should beef up a few things, and we saw that our people are incredibly brave.”

Bennington agreed with Lyon’s latter point. “I’ve seen combat situations where well-trained soldiers sh-t themselves and can’t get their arms to raise their weapons,” he said. “But here we saw kids and housewives with no combat training running into the thick of battle. I was f—ing amazed.”

Bennington speculates that the defenders’ passion is fired by the knowledge that they are defending their homes and families, rather than merely following orders to execute missions in a foreign country.

Mark Cohen, who helped prevent Raiders from crossing the hayfield next to the Shareburg house, found that the attack hardened his resolve to bolster the Gilead defenses. “I don’t ever want to have to shoot at another human being again,” he said. “I did what I had to do because they were shooting at us, but when I look back on it, it makes me sick.”

Cohen said he knows he wounded at least one Raider, if not more, and that the lack of medical facilities could mean that relatively minor wounds become fatal. “I don’t want that on my conscience, or on anyone else’s,” he said, “especially not a 17 year-old kid [Paul Tobiason]. We need to have defenses that not only stop Raiders, but prevent them from even wanting to consider us as a target.”

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Filed under 5/13/2019

Raider attack repelled

This is the top story of the May 13, 2019 issue of The Informer, issue #3.

The formation of the Gilead Defense Committee last week in response to the murders of Steve and Emma Jones by Raiders proved to be just in time to avoid an even worse

One of the two Raiders killed by Gilead defenders during a failed assault on the Route 12 blockade.

incursion. On May 10, less than a week after the first assault, a three-vehicle convoy of about a dozen people attempted to ram the barricades blocking access to Gilead Brook Road from Route 12, and a fierce firefight ensued when the vehicles were unable to penetrate the barriers.

No Gilead residents were hurt, but two Raiders were killed and at least three others wounded before the group fled, leaving behind their fallen comrades and one disabled vehicle.

The attack, coming six days after the tragic deaths and looting at the Jones home, was foiled by the hasty defensive preparations made by all Gilead residents, based on the proposals put forth by the GDC after days of intensive planning and discussions.

“We figured the attacks are going to come in two broad phases,” said GDC member Mark Cohen. “The first phase will be what we’ve seen so far – disorganized, desperate people who are basically out to grab whatever they can to survive for another few days.”

Cohen said that the GDC speculates that this first type of Raider will eventually be replaced by more organized groups that realize they have to cooperate if they want to survive in more than just the most basic sense. “This second phase is probably the biggest long-term threat, if there’s enough people left for it to materialize,” Cohen explained. “But for our immediate purposes, we decided that protecting ourselves from Raiders passing by on Route 12 is job number one.”

Toward that end, teams of workers erected a barricade where Gilead Brook Rd. meets Route 12. The barricade consists of two large hemlock trunks – each one about three feet in diameter –  laying across Gilead, backed up by a row of metal barrels that have been filled with dirt and rocks.The hay field to the north of the intersection was a concern for the GDC as they planned Route 12 security measures, since Raiders could easily bypass the road blockade by leaving the highway and driving across the field or traversing it on foot. The plan, therefore, is to line the field with large logs along Route 12 to prevent vehicles from penetrating the Gilead by leaving the highway.

“We didn’t have the whole hayfield blocked off yet, but we did have it blocked up to the Shareburg’s abandoned house just north of the intersection,” said GDC member Charles Calhoun. “That proved pretty helpful during this last raid, from what I saw during the attack.”

How the firefight unfolded

Although Calhoun was up in the Costas’s stand of pines cutting a tree to drag into place when he heard shots from the firefight, he still managed to make it to the scene in time to help defend the Gilead. “I pulled Felicity out of her traces as fast as I could, grabbed my shotgun, and rode bareback to Rich [Bennington] and Stanley [Lyon]’s place,” said Calhoun. “I left her behind their woodshed and ran up to where Martha [Arceneaux] and Mark [Cohen] were stationed, and helped them fire on the Raiders who were crossing the barricades and trying to come across the hayfield north of our road.”

According to Calhoun, about half of the Raiders were attempting to cross the hayfield, while the other half were in a nose-to-nose shootout with Bennington and Lyon, who were manning the main barricade, pinned down behind the earth-filled barrels. “We were literally 15 feet away from these people,” said Lyon. “They were shooting from behind their vehicles and there were a lot more of them. If Paul [Tobiason] and Joanne [Costas] hadn’t come up from their posts down the hill from the Joneses’ house, I’m not sure how it would have turned out.”

As it was, Tobiason and Costas were able to surprise the Raiders by emerging from the trees on the south side of the road, firing at them from behind the Jones home. This provided Lyon and Bennington with the cover they needed to gain an advantage over the Raiders, the immediate result of which was the killing of one of the Raiders by either Bennington or Lyon (neither is sure whose shot was the fatal one). Immediately thereafter, Tobiason was able to kill a second Raider.

Meanwhile, Calhoun, Arceneaux and Cohen had the other group of Raiders pinned down by the Shareburg’s abandoned home, preventing them from making a dash across the open field around the house, and from engaging Lyon and Bennington at the blockade.

“I know I put quite a lot of shot into a few of those guys,” said Calhoun, who was armed with a 20-gauge shotgun. “It wasn’t lethal from that range, but it did keep their heads down.”

The rest of the sentries were armed with auto-loading rifles or shotguns, at Bennington’s insistence. “I think that for patrol and sentry purposes, auto-loaders are the way to go,” he said. “We don’t have time to make sure everyone on sentry duty is a crack shot, so if you can’t have quality shooting, you might as well have quantity.”

According to Lyon and Bennington, once the Raiders found themselves bogged down and unable to advance, the attack began to lose momentum and they started getting back into their cars and shouting to the others that they needed to leave. “Most of them were wounded, and once it was obvious that two of them were dead, they defeated themselves by shouting it to their pals and calling for a retreat,” said Lyon. “Once we saw that happening, we quit firing. There’s no need to waste ammo on a battle that’s over.”

One of the Raiders’ vehicles – a 2014 Kia hybrid SUV with New York plates – was too damaged to drive, and was left at the barricade. The other vehicles limped away with at least one flat tire each and riddled with bullet holes.“I think we can call this a successful first encounter for our defenses,” said Bennington, “but I won’t be able to relax until we have every single defensive measure in place.

“I might get a good night’s sleep in six months or so,” he concluded.

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GDC begins setting up a micro-civilization

This summary is from the May 6, 2019 issue of The Informer, the same issue that chronicled the murder of two Gilead residents by Raiders passing by on Route 12.

This photo, taken during the Gilead procurement mission, shows Bethel village's Main Street completely abandoned. The bodies of Pandemic victims that were prevalent a few weeks ago had been removed.

The newly-formed, nine-member Gilead Defense Committee faces a raft of complex decisions, most of them with life-or-death consequences hanging in the balance. Among the most innocuous of issues to be decided is how the GDC will operate – will it have a chair, vice-chair, clerk, etc.? How often will we vote for members? Will it draft a constitution by which Gilead will govern itself until the restoration of U.S. authority?

Of more immediate importance is the issue of how residents of the Gilead will defend themselves against attacks like the one that took the lives of Steve and Emma Jones. Through initial discussions and planning meetings that lasted up until press time, the broad brushstrokes of a defense plan appear to fit into the following parameters:

Patrols: The Gilead faces a dearth of adequate manpower to patrol its “borders,” no matter how the boundaries are drawn. “Even if we assume the tightest possible perimeter, we still need more manpower than we currently have,” said Rich Bennington, whose military and security experience is emerging as an increasingly valuable asset as the defense planning progresses. “So we’ll have armed patrols, but we’ll have to supplement them with other measures.”

Blockades: One of the greatest threats to the Gilead is an armed incursion by a group of raiders in one or more vehicles, since this would give them greater speed and mobility along the road. Therefore, road blockades are almost certain to be installed at the intersection of Gilead with Route 12, and likely along Tatro Road, which is the other main entry into the Gilead from Route 12.

Other installations: Although incursions by raiders from Route 12 is seen as the primary threat, Bennington and others suggest that the entire perimeter of the Gilead area must be guarded for two primary reasons. “First, we can’t be sure that there aren’t folks from other areas who know enough about the forests to get through them and threaten our families and resources,” said GDC member Jim Nash. “And second, it’s only a matter of time before raiders become more sophisticated to contend with the fact that resources are getting harder to come by. Once all the easy pickings are gone, folks are going to band together, organize, and strategize. We have to be prepared for that.” Ideas under consideration include camouflaged sentry posts, foot patrols, horseback patrols, and clearing forest areas along key ridgelines to deprive invaders of cover.

Training: Very few of Gilead’s residents are combat trained, and therefore will have to go through some “basic training” exercises under Bennington’s and Lyons’ direction. Virtually all Gilead residents have firearms experience, however, so that will not be as much of an issue.

Allocating resources

Other issues to be addressed by the GDC include the allocation of resources that aren’t owned by individual families, dividing labor, and “diplomatic” efforts at reaching out to other communities of survivors. “For example, we need to have a clear plan for allocation of the fuel in a way that benefits everyone the most,” said Joe Tobiason, GDC member. “There are several of us who would love to have some of that fuel to make our lives easier, but if everyone uses it for a few little things here and there, we could find ourselves without enough to run Sam’s haying equipment.”

Charles Calhoun echoed Tobiason’s sentiment. “If we’re not extremely careful about how we do this, we could literally kill ourselves by not building up enough biomass for our animals to get through the winter,” he said. “And hay isn’t the only issue; we also have to cut a lot of trees and get them out of the woods, since everyone is all of a sudden on wood heat.”

Calhoun said his draft horses and equipment can work steadily to get trees down and drying, but he can’t get enough out for 17 households in a single summer. “We’re talking about over 100 cords per year,” he said, “so we’re going to have to fuel Mark Costas’s skidder.”

A quick survey of Gilead residents conducted at the GDC meeting and by door-to-door checking indicated that most households have at least half of the upcoming winter’s wood already put up, left over from this past winter. A few households, like Calhoun’s, generally have at least a two-year supply of wood.

“I’m willing to share wood to keep people from freezing,” said Calhoun, “but if I’m devoting most of my time to getting firewood out, neither me nor my horses are going to be available for other work I have to do around my farm.”

Division of labor

This latter issue, of course, raises the same concern for several Gilead residents who have unique areas of expertise. For example, Sam Chambers likely cannot be expected to spend time on long patrols or sentry duty, given the time consuming commitment of running his dairy, which is the primary lifeline for everyone in the Gilead. Similarly, Eric Quinton is the sole mechanic with the know-how and equipment to retro-fit diesel and gasoline engines to run on vegetable oil, and to keep them running.

“Undoubtedly, we are going to have to carefully divide our work so that everyone adds value wherever they can,” said Nash. “Let’s face it, there are lots of us who have skill-sets that are absolutely useless in this situation, and I’m one of them; who the hell needs public relations consulting when society has collapsed?”

Nash said that it’s likely he and others with “obsolete” skills would be put to use as laborers at the dairy, in gardens, on patrol, and on lookout duty. “There’s a huge amount of work to be done everywhere,” he said, “and so me and lots of others might have to tend gardens for those who are busy with other critical work, or maybe grow extra food for them.”

Diplomacy

And finally, the GDC will have to put together a small group that can reach out to neighboring survivors. “It’s tempting to just hunker down in our valley and hold on to our stuff, but that’s the kind of thinking that’ll get us killed in the long-run,” contends Bennington. “We need other people in other communities – assuming there are other communities – so we can trade for things we might need, and even more importantly, so we can establish safe borders.”

Bennington said his chief concern is to ensure that Route 12 is the border we can allocate the most resources toward defending. “If we have to worry about our south ridges, the pass to Rochester, the border with Randolph and God knows what else, then we’re doomed,” he predicted. “We need friendlies on as many sides as possible.”

This photo, taken during the Gilead procurement mission, shows Bethel village's Main Street completely abandoned. The bodies of Pandemic victims that were prevalent a few weeks ago had been removed.

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Raiders kill residents, rob home

Survivors Committee renamed; will focus on defense issues

The bodies of Steve and Emma Jones were found sitting in their chairs, slumped over the kitchen table, above. They both had bullet wounds to their heads, although there was no sign the victims tried to resist the aggressors.

In a murderous May 4th raid on the home of Steve and Emma Jones, whose house is the first on Gilead Brook Road and directly abuts Route 12, both residents were killed and their home emptied of food and other valuables. Although the assailants are of unknown identity, Joe and Shara Tobiason, who live across the road from the Jones home, said the thieves numbered about a dozen, and were in a pickup truck and a late-model Toyota sedan, both with Massachusetts license plates.

They were also heavily-armed, said Tobiason. “We had the windows open, and heard vehicle doors slam and quite a few voices we didn’t recognize, which was really surprising since we haven’t heard cars on the highway for weeks,” said Tobiason. “I looked out the window and saw men with guns kicking down Steve and Emma’s door, so I got Shara and the kids into the basement and ran out the back door and headed for Rich [Bennington] and Stanley [Lyon]’s place for help.”

Tobiason noted that he’s generally a pacifist and doesn’t keep any weapons in his house, and so knew he needed to get help before trying to aid the Joneses. “Unfortunately, Rich and Stanley were both helping Sam [Chambers] manure one of the hay fields, so nobody was home,” Tobiason said, “so I continued on to the Blackwells.”

Julie and Scott Blackwell were home, Tobiason related, but by the time they all made their way back to a safe vantage point behind the Tobiason home, the thieves were throwing the last of their stolen booty in the back of the pickup truck and leaving. Hesitant to start a shoot-out with a group that out-manned and out-gunned them, the Blackwells and Tobiason decided to remain hidden.

“It was absolutely the right thing to do,” said Rich Bennington, an Afghan war veteran and security consultant. “From what Joe and Julie told me, these thieves had semi-automatic weapons, and all Julie and Scott had were a couple of bolt-action .22’s. They would have gotten themselves and maybe others killed if they had started anything.”

After the raiders were out of sight on Highway 12 heading toward Randolph, Tobiason and the Blackwells ran to the Jones residence to see if Steve and Emma were safe. “That’s when we found their bodies in the kitchen,” said Tobiason. “To me, it didn’t even look like they had posed any threat to the thieves, because they were both slumped over the kitchen table, both shot in the head. It looked like an execution, plain and simple.”

Paradigm shift

The Gilead Survivors Committee, organized as an ad-hoc group to handle issues that affect the entire neighborhood, held a meeting the same evening as the murders, just hours after burying the Joneses in the Gilead Cemetery. Although emotions were still raw, the meeting was characterized largely by rational discourse and cool-headed decision-making. “This is absolutely a wake-up call for us,” said Jim Nash, a PR consultant and one of the planners who proposed the resource-procurement mission executed late last month. “Based on what little we knew up until today, we were damn near alone around here, but now it seems there are other survivors from farther away who have no compunction about taking advantage of the lack of law enforcement.”

This new situation, Nash said at the meeting, requires a radical shift in Gilead residents’ thinking. “Basically, this means we need to defend ourselves, because nobody else is going to do it for us.”

Bennington agreed, and it seemed most residents at the meeting naturally looked to him for guidance, given his military experience and background as a consultant in security matters.

After much discussion and debate, the committee agreed that a group of 17 people was far too cumbersome to get anything done in a timely manner, and settled on a nine-person group, dubbed the Gilead Defense Committee. The GDC will essentially be the decision-making body of the Gilead area, focused primarily on the pressing need to ensure that Route 12 does not become an unmanageable threat to the Gilead’s continued survival.

Although based purely on speculation, the consensus at the meeting was that the collapse caused by the pandemic left cities in much worse shape than those in smaller towns or the countryside, since city survivors would be unable to support themselves for more than a few weeks without power, with shops and stores as their only sources of food and drinking water. “It seems to make sense that once the cities were tapped out of supplies, people had no choice but to escape to the countryside to see what they could find,” said Karl Larsen, a retired FBI agent. “And what they found has probably been places like this, where people have stored-up supplies, so they quickly hit places that are right along the road, and then move on. We can only expect more of the same, I suspect.”

Larsen, who lives about two miles down Gilead Brook Road from Route 12, says he isn’t too anxious about raiders getting that far, but those who live in the first several hundred yards of the road, he said, need to be protected. “And if anyone passing by looking for supplies were to get an idea that we’re as well-stocked as we are,” he said, “we could all be in for some serious trouble.”

The newly-formed GDC took its first vote on the same evening it formed, resolving to create a collaborative defense of the Gilead area from raiders. The resolution read as follows:

“We, the Gilead Defense Committee, as the duly elected representatives of the Gilead survivors of the Pandemic, resolve to formulate detailed plans for the defense of our homes, our families, and our resources, and commit to always placing the interests of the group and its survival over our own members’ personal interests and preferences.”

Given the urgent nature of the defense issues the GDC faces, their second vote was to defer formulation of rules, regulations, and procedures that will govern the functioning of the GDC and any subcommittees it forms. “There’s lots more to be done,” said Nash, “like elect a committee chair, decide how often to elect members, how to break deadlocks, and a million other things, but none of that will mean sh-t if we don’t figure out how to defend ourselves, so I think we made the right decision about how to go forward.”

GDC members elected

The GDC members elected by the now-disbanded, 30-member Gilead Survivors Committee include nine representatives listed below in alphabetical order. Typical news of this sort would also include a delineation of how the GDC will function, what its roles will be, and much more; however, due to the exigencies at hand – primarily the possibility of additional raids in the near future – the GDC will focus on that task only, and details will emerge at future meetings, the frequency of which was decided to be “as needed” by a unanimous voice-vote of all those in attendance. The Gilead Informer will provide this additional critical information as soon as it becomes available.

Martha Arceneaux: A social worker and patient advocate at Gifford Medical Center in Randolph. Has lived in Gilead 8 years. Married to Jennifer Godin, an EMT with White River Valley Ambulance.

Richard Bennington: Security consultant working primarily with private security corporations that have contracts with U.S. and foreign governments. Also an Afghan War veteran with combat experience. Has lived in Gilead 12 years. Married to Stanley Lyon, also an Afghan War vet and an insurance company actuary.

Charles Calhoun: Logger, forester, and farmer who uses his draft horses for much of his heavy work. Lifelong resident of Gilead. Married to Jeanne, also a logger, forester, and farmer. Three kids: Ben, Jamie and Prudence

Samuel Chambers: Dairy and beef cattle farmer. Lifelong resident of Gilead. Married to Diane, also a dairy and beef cattle farmer. Two kids: Samuel Jr. and Marcus.

Mark Cohen: A novelist and freelance writer. Five year resident of Gilead. Married to Sharon, also a novelist and writer. One daughter: Rebecca.

Chelsea Graff: A high school history and social studies teacher at Randolph. Five-year resident of Gilead. Life partner of Robert Jamison, a carpenter.

James Nash: Independent public relations consultant. Five-year resident of Gilead. Married to Stella, an equine riding instructor. Three kids: Jason, Mary, and Josephine.

Eric Quinton: Automobile mechanic. Eight-year resident of Gilead. Married to Bella, a veterinarian’s assistant. Two kids: Lief and Charles.

Joseph Tobiason: Marketing and advertising consultant. 20-year resident of Gilead. Married to Shara. Two kids: Paul and Allison.

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