Boys Become Men: Book Four ~ Backwoods Survival

Chapter Three

From Chapter 2

About 2 am, just as the new moon was rising, the bandits were back. This time the bandits had explosives and were about to blow up the main gate when they were hit by hot water and steam! The boiler house crew had rigged up a hose from the steam cleaner, used to clean machinery, and they doused the bandits with boiling water and live steam! The bandits were blinded by the steam and they were scalded by the hot water, they were screaming and tearing at their clothes, trying to get the hot water off them. The bandits were screaming in agony, the fight had been boiled out of them! They locked the bandits up in an unused hog pen while they sent to Auburn for Lt. Mason and his troopers. When the troopers finally arrived, they couldn't help laughing at the pitiful bandits, half cooked, nearly naked and still soaking wet. Three days later, the entire bunch of them were hanged in the Provisional Capitol of Auburn!


Jake and Jason agreed to suggest a Community Senate to their folk and they selected Charlie Haskins to get the ball rolling. Everybody knew Old Charlie and he had the "gift of gab" and would get everyone to talking about the idea of a Senate.

They stood on the porch of their home watching Charlie talking with the people and they could see many heads shaking in the affirmative, so they figured they had taken the right approach. They went back inside to discuss what they were going to do about the new area government's request that they take in more orphan children and teens.

Jake said, "You know, they are keeping those kids in the old Mountain View Hospital."

Jason replied, "You mean they are keeping children in that tumbledown old wreck of a place over in Placerville?"

Jake said, "Yeah, it was condemned years ago as a fire trap!"

Jason thought for a bit and then said, "We have four warehouses here that are not being used right now, what say we do a little rebuilding?"

Jake thought it over and then said, "Yeah, we can make rooms in them and each building would have twenty apartments in it. Four kids could live in each apartment."

Jason was doing some quick figuring on a scratchpad and said, "We will have to start up the plywood line and probably have to run the lumber mill for some 2x4s and crossbeams, but, let's do it!" The two men made up some rough drawings and a work plan that they presented to the brand new Meadow Valley Senate two days later.

The Senate liked the idea and said they would contribute the manpower for the construction. They voted to supply the labor "free of charge" and ask the mothers to volunteer as house mothers and chaperones.

That very night, the roving patrol brought in a bedraggled bunch of teen boys who had a hair-raising story to tell. Their leader, Paul Douglass, was only sixteen. He stood on the porch and related their story to Jake and Jason. Before the youngster was half-way through his tale, all of Meadow Valley was there listening to how they escaped from a Mexican Bandit Fort down in Sacramento.

Their horror at what the boys was telling was evident, clenched fists were being shaken and some men even ran for their rifles. Jake asked the teen if there were any more children enslaved at the fort and the boy replied, "No, sir, we brought them all with us, but there are more kids living in hiding all over, theys won't have no trouble catchin' more kids fer theys fort building."

The boy let out an ear piercing whistle, and twenty small children came running from the underbrush just outside the gate. The children were bedraggled and most were barefoot. It was obvious they had not had a good meal in a very long time and mothers began raiding their own food stocks to feed the children even before the last child had emerged from the bushes. The condition of the children would have melted even the hardest heart. It was difficult to tell who was crying the hardest, the newly arrived children or the people of the lumbermill.


Lumber Mill JPG


Maggie McPherson had been elected leader of the Senate and she hollered out, "Mr. Jake, we don't need no vote on this, we will get started tomorrow at first light, you just keep the wood flowing an' we'll put you up a first-class children's home right quick for OUR kids!"

The woman was as good as her word, the next morning it was hardly light enough to see and there were men stripping out old walls in all four of the warehouses. It took them two days to get the lumber mill started up, by the time the workmen and also a goodly number of hammer-swinging women, were ready for the lumber and plywood. The first loads were being delivered to the worksite, still hot from the press!

They were running the drykiln around the clock, pushing out kiln-dried lumber for the new rooms. By the time the first building was completed, a brand new First Lieutenant Jimmie Mason was delivering the first contingent of orphans to them.

He brought sixty-two boys ranging in age from sixteen down to just seven years of age. Some of the boys had been hurt and were bandaged and Maggie hollered for some help. The First Aid cart was pulled up to the porch and clinic was held right there on the porch of the "Big House".

The children, who had arrived just a few weeks earlier, took charge of the newly arrived children and showed them how to use the showers and where the food for snacks was stored. The new children could not believe that the snacks were for them and they could get a cookie or a handful of fresh berries anytime they were hungry!

Before it was time to sit down for supper, the hurt boys had all been cared for, some of them had very red faces from being bathed by women, but they were all clean and had clean clothes on that had no "wildlife" in them and no holes either!

Those boys who had not been hurt took the hint and hurried to get cleaned up before those women decided to undress them and give them a bath too! Many did not make it and they were being scrubbed by a mother who seemed to know where all the dirty spots were!

Jake asked the cooks to hurry up supper. He could see the boys' heads nodding from exhaustion. As the boys sat down to supper in the Dining Hall, there were "ooooohhs and aahhhhh" as those same women, who had bathed them, brought out platters of roast beef, corn on the cob swimming in melted butter, mashed potatoes and green beans.

As the women retreated to the kitchen, the head cook, Gloria McDougal, told them there was plenty if anyone wanted seconds! She knew it was going to be a race, whether the children ate seconds or fell asleep at the table! Either way, she and her cooks would take care of them.

Not one of the boys had been able to sleep a full night in the slave camp and the women had spotted several boys who had been brutally molested. Abbie McCutcheon had been in charge of the First Aide and she was still in the Big House, crying out her distress over what she had treated! She had always hated the abstract idea of slavery, but now she had an active, well founded hate for both slavery AND the slavers! She had treated injuries that all she knew about was from reading her Nursing textbooks while in college. To see them in real life had her stunned and shedding tears when she thought no one was looking. Trouble was, ALL her co-workers knew and were joining her in shedding tears.

When all the boys had eaten their fill, the women brought out bowls of ice cream and trays of toppings. The boys all groaned, but not one of them refused a bowl of ice cream! The women sent food and desserts into the Big House for the boys who were still there in recovery. NO boy was going to go without whatever treats they were able to get together for them! There were some young boys who had no idea what ice cream was and had to be taught that too big a spoonful meant that the boy would have an instant headache.

They had run out of metal frame bunks and the carpenters put together wooden bunks, strung with strips of canvas. The Mattresses were homemade also, but nobody complained, there was not a single new boy still awake by the time they shut down the turbine generator and the lights went out!

By the time they were finished rebuilding the four warehouses, there were four-hundred children living in the new apartments. It was going to be a full time job just keeping the hot water boiler fired for showers.

In the winter, they would have to use the wood-fired heaters the maintenance shop was building, to keep the children from freezing. They were building steel box standing fireplaces for each end of the rooms in the warehouses where there was a common wall and they could be regulated by adjusting a damper on the flue. It would not be as good as a forced air furnace, but no child was going to be shivering and shaking from the cold.

They had three hundred boys and one hundred girls in residence and they had enough room, now, for another hundred or so children! The way things were going, they knew those extra spots would be filled shortly.

Jake and Jason were scrubbing their brains, trying to come up with more space that they knew they were going to need. Turning away a child in need was NOT an option! So far, they had not turned away a child or an adult, except for the Mexican Bandits, and they were sure they were not going to start any time soon!

The Provisional Army brought up some tents and school was begun. Some of the children had not been in school for a couple of years and some of the younger children had never had any schooling at all, so there were remedial courses for them and regular school teachers had been found for the rest of them.

Local Provisional Second Lieutenant Denny Williams took guarding Meadow Valley seriously, he had recruited a force of twenty older teens and they mounted patrols around the valley each night. Each was armed with a variety of weapons, but they preferred their long knives. Each morning, a wagon was needed to retrieve the dead bodies as well as those sufficiently alive to hang.

Some of the older teens living in the new apartments offered to help and Denny's Meadow Valley Rangers grew by another ten troopers. He had to have some riding lessons for the new boys, but they were willing learners, they had seen up close and personal what the Bandits did to people and they were not anxious for it to happen again or to them!

Denny assigned the most gentle horses to the new troopers until they had become accustomed to riding. Some of the boys had riding experience before and those boys he assigned to the roving patrols. He assigned roving patrols to ride the ridges, looking for anyone sneaking up to the top of a ridge to observe the folk living at Meadow Valley.

They spent that summer combing the forest for stragglers, it was mostly young people, however, a few intact families had managed to survive and they were brought in, also.

All the troopers carried homemade MedPacs and had been trained in emergency first aid, they got lots of practice! Two Rangers even delivered a baby! A teen girl had escaped from a slave camp down in the valley, where she had been regularly assaulted by her captors. She was full term when she escaped and she begged to two Rangers who found her to save her baby.

There was no sign that the baby was fathered by her Mexican captors and, when they placed the baby in her arms, she cried and said, "His name is Johnny, just like his Daddy!" She later told them that her Johnny had been killed protecting her from the bandits. The tiny baby had a shock of bright red hair and the bluest eyes they had ever seen.

The girl's health was bad, she was coughing a lot and Keven White, the senior of the two troopers thought she had TB. They rigged a travois for her and tried to get her back to The Fort, but she didn't make it. Her last words were, "Take care of My Little Johnny." Kevin said he would make the boy his own son and Lonney Michaels, his sidekick trooper said he would be the boy's Uncle Lonney!

Kevin made a place for the child next to his own bunk and asked one of the girls to watch the boy if both he and Lonney were out on patrol. Both young men were proud of that little boy and they would be in his life for as long as they lived. As the child became old enough to talk, he mangled his Uncle Lonney's name and it came out, "Unca Looney!" Lonney would carry that name to his grave, proud that his first nephew gave it to him. Before the emergency had eased, "Unca Looney" would have twenty nieces and nephews along with four children of his own, all boys.


Denny sent out a patrol to check Atlas Peak and to take a look down the eastern slope. It was rugged country, but it was possible that intruders could climb as high as the pass and get into their valley.

The patrol came flying back in the dark, not worrying about branches and limbs that might smack them. Provisional Sergeant Jerry Campbell reported to Denny, "Sir, theys a big encampment down on Pine Meadow and theys looks ta' be Mexicans, Sir."

Denny asked, "Could you tell how many are there?"

Jerry replied, "Sir, theys be hundreds, I's cain't count that high, Sir."

Denny started to pull the rope on the old school bell they had recovered, it made a fine alarm bell. Denny had been promoted to First Lieutenant by the Meadow Valley Senate and he now commanded two companies of troops. One was a Volunteer Troop and was composed mostly of the men who worked the mill. The other Company was composed of the older boys and was a permanent Troop.

Both Troops mustered at the call of the bell.

Sixty troopers fell into companies to be mustered. They all had their rifles and bags of ammunition tied to their belts. The men in the boiler house had been reloading expended shells and casting new bullets from old lead-babbit bearings that had been in the junk pile.

Jake came out of the house with Jason on his tail, both were buckling their gun belts around their waists and had rifles slung over their shoulders. Denny knuckled his brow in salute and reported, "Companies One and Two, mustered and ready for action, sirs!"

Jake questioned the scouts about what they had seen while Jason was rounding up two wagons loaded with supplies and ammunition. They departed immediately and by dark that evening, the force had reached the ridge. The leaders were peering over, watching an encampment below.

Both Jake and Jason agreed the people below them were Mexicans and he saw no women or children, just men walking around, so they were sure it was not families. Off to one side was a cage-like structure and they could see people being held inside. They watched helplessly as they saw a woman dragged from the cage and taken to a hut. The guard stripped her clothes from her before shoving her inside the doorway of the hut.

It was fortunate they were too far away to hear the girl's screams. It was all Denny and Jake could do to prevent the troopers from charging down on the encampment right then. Even when they had stopped the charge, the troopers were seething angry and near rebellion! Some of the boys they had rescued before had told them about what the bandits did, especially to women, but this was the first time they had witnessed it for themselves.

What they had seen already put them into a white-hot fury, it would be a miracle if any of the bandit-slavers survived the attack. As Denny backed the troop down from the ridge, some of the new men were practically in rebellion, until the older hands explained to them that they were NOT abandoning those held in slavery, merely coordinating their attack so that no bandit would escape them!

Denny and Jake called all the sergeants to come together for a planning meeting where they decided to hit the bandits just before dawn. They assigned two squads to rescue the prisoners and the remainder of the troopers would hit the bandits as they responded to the attack. The older troopers were standing there, listening to Denny and Jake while they were sharpening their knives, there was going to be no living bandits after the attack!

Nobody got much sleep that night, every time any of them closed their eyes, they saw again the woman being stripped of her clothing and shoved into the leader's hut.

The attack was set for five am, but everyone was up by three! They fixed a quick meal and some hot coffee before saddling their horses and checking their rifles. Many of the men had homemade bandoliers filled with extra shells that they could grab in a hurry to reload their rifles. They didn't plan on leaving any of the bandits alive anyway!

Just before 5 am, the troopers mounted up and worked their horses down the ravine. They arrived at the bottom just downstream of the bandit camp. Denny arranged the men into two wings and they would form an apex at the edge of the bandit encampment.

Jake was to lead the outermost wing and Jason was to command the wagons and see that ammunition was kept flowing to the troopers. Jason used some of the younger boys, much to their disgust, as runners to keep the Troopers supplied with ammunition.

Nick Blevins, who was but 11 years old, showed his buddies his knife that he had gotten from his older brother and told his companions what he was going to do with it. Suddenly, the cook wagon was cleaned out of knives and there were a dozen grinning boys who were holding an ammo bag in one hand and a knife in the other! Any downed bandit was fair game and not even one survived beyond daylight!

The "Boys from Hell" got them all! Somehow, the name got around and, by the next day, they became known as the HELL BOYS of FORESTHILL!

At Denny's signal, the angry troopers sent their horses charging the encampment, screaming and shouting like all the furies in Hell! They swooped down on the bandits struggling to understand what was happening. Many of them never even had a chance to pull up their trousers before they received a bullet through their head.

Denny sent Jake to secure the first Bandit Leader's tent and to rescue the woman, if she was still inside. Jake and a trooper charged the hut by roping the top and pulling it over.

The bandit leader was struggling to pull up his trousers when Jake's lasso dropped around his neck and Jake's horse yanked the man to his knees. Jake jumped off his horse and kicked the bandit leader where it hurt the most. The bandit fell face down in the dirt, screaming in pain and clutching at himself while Jake stood on the man's neck. Sergeant Montgomery Jones tied him up. "Montie" was a huge black man, the Bandit leader didn't have a chance, Montie placed his foot on the man's neck and held him down as he wrapped a rope around the bandit like a cocoon.

The other Bandit Leader was screaming obscenities that nobody really needed to speak Spanish for them to understand what he was saying. Jake leaned over and kicked the screaming man full in the groin, putting an end to his screaming as he tried to recover his breath. Every time the man tried to scream, Jake repeated the process, until the man could no longer stand the pain and he lay there panting and glaring at Jake.

There was a grinning boy standing next to the captive Bandit leader, every time Jake looked at the boy, the boy asked, 'Can I, Mr. Jake,..." as he waved the razor sharp butcher knife across the bandit's throat! The bandit leader saw his own death in that boy's eyes as he prayed to whatever God might take pity on him. The boy spent several hours tormenting the bandit leader. By that time, the bandit leader did not know what was going to be cut off first, his head or his manhood before Jake allowed the boy the honor of slicing the bandit's head from his shoulders

Monty gently pulled a crying girl child from the bandit leader's blankets and held her, soothing her sobs. He finally was able to wrap a blanket around her, hiding her nakedness and giving her some feeling of security. She was only twelve years old! She was NOT a woman as they had thought, yet they could all see she was bleeding from between her legs from the assault!

The child had blood running down her thighs and one of the women took the child from Monty's arms. Promising him that she would care for her and get the bleeding stopped. Jake had to stop Monty from strangling the Bandit with his bare hands before the bandit's head went rolling down the slope!

When the troopers had completed their charge, only the second bandit leader remained alive. While he watched, the troopers dragged the dead and dying bandits into a pile and tossed all their belongings on top of them before setting the pile on fire. There were a few who were not yet quite dead and they screamed in agony as the fire reached them.

Without saying a word, Jake placed his own rope around the bandit leader's neck and prodded him to a nearby oak tree. The man was screaming, "NO, NO, por favor, nombre de Christo, NO!" The naked man tried to cover his manhood as he was dragged towards the tree he evidently feared disgrace more than death!

Jake made no reply as he threw the rope around a limb and tied it off to his saddle. He then backed up his horse while the bandit leader lost control of his bladder. Jake backed his horse slowly, he intended for the man to strangle a slow death. The man's screaming finally ceased as he hung there, his body twitching as he died a slow and painful death.

After the leader had strangled, Jake tied off the rope to the tree and left the bandit leader swinging in the breeze as a warning to others who might be tempted to try their hand at banditry! Death by hanging was NOT the ONLY punishment, the torture was worse!

They had rescued thirty prisoners, most of them were teen boys and they were all naked, dirty and starving. The troopers shared their rations with them and even gave them their own bedrolls that they might cover themselves against the chill mountain air. The women gathered the few girls they had rescued and cut up their own clothing to drape around the naked girls to give them a measure of privacy and security.

The horses were working hard to carry double riders back up the canyon walls so all of the troopers dismounted and led their horses up to the top, letting the rescued prisoners ride. They walked the horses all the way back to Foresthill and their homes at Meadow Valley Lumber Mill. Most of the rescued prisoners were asleep in the saddle, they had been afraid to sleep for days, not knowing which of them would be selected for torture or worse.

The little girl that Monty had rescued insisted she ride on his horse, She waved shyly to Monty and he began thinking maybe he needed a daughter! His own wife and family had been down in Sacramento when the bombs dropped and he had never been able to find even a trace of them, despite searching the area several times.

Monty was amazed at the bravery and resilience of the girl child, after all she had been through, she had the courage to smile at him and wave. By the time they had returned to Foresthill, he had made up his mind, he WAS that child's Papa! The little girl did not see a huge black man, she saw a hero!

When they reached the mill yard, mothers and fathers were there to receive the former prisoners. They had bowls of hot corn mush with cream and honey mixed in it, a sweet roll and a cup of milk for each one of them before they took them to the showers to get cleaned up. The fathers took the youngest boys and the mothers took all the girls and helped them get a warm shower with the first soap any of them had seen since their capture.

The older teen boys were taken by the troopers and were given a bar of homemade soap, a wash cloth and a big, fluffy towel. Everyone showered and the troopers knew what was going to happen. They were not wrong, they had seen it before. The boys had tried to be strong for their younger brothers, but the minute they stepped into the warm showers, they broke down in sobs and wails.

The older men stepped into the showers, fully clothed and just held them, they had all seen it before and they knew what to do. It took the older boys some time before they could speak, they held onto the men who had rescued them as they relived the horror they had been subjected to.

When everyone had gotten cleaned up, they were shown the dormitories and the rooms that were to be their very own, as they left the showers the older men gave them fresh, clean trousers and wooden clogs to put on until the Mothers could get them shirts and underwear from the storeroom. When the rescued young people saw what was to be their home, none of them, boys, girls or young adults of both sexes could speak, their tears spoke for them!


Boy Bunkhouse JPG


The folks at Meadow Valley Lumber Company had even found some paint to dress up the new dorms a bit and the rustic buildings shone like castles in the young people's eyes! They bolted for the door to see what was inside and the troopers could hear their exclamations of wonder and delight as they stood outside the buildings, listening to the happy teens inside as they discovered their rooms that had REAL BEDS in them, fluffy pillows and mattresses and warm blankets.

The young folk who had been rescued, were exhausted from their ordeal and most of them were asleep on their own beds within minutes. It was a sleep they believed had come from heaven, no bandits yanked them awake to perform slave duties, none of them were forced to perform sex acts. Their clothes were clean, their beds soft and covered with clean sheets and blankets and they had been fed a meal of more food than they had eaten in an entire week as slaves. Their only fear was they would awaken and find it was all just a dream!

Jason sat with Jake as they compared notes and poured out what had taken place, neither could contain themselves at the horror those young folk had endured. It made all their hard work and effort seem worthwhile, but, they knew that more was yet to come.

They and all the rest of the troopers were going to have their own nightmares as they relived what they had seen in that slaver camp! More than one strong man awoke that night to the sound of screaming and discovered the screams were his own! More than a few of the rescued children found themselves attracted to a crying man and they snuggled up to that man, giving him comfort and solace.

Two days later, little Mary Beth McAlister walked up to Trooper Montgomery Jones and asked him to be her Papa. She had seen both her mother and father murdered in cold blood and she was, at twelve years old, all alone, sore and frightened after her rape by the bandit leader. The elderly man sat in the dirt of the yard and held the child in his arms, tears were flooding down his wrinkled old face as he stammered, "I would love to be yore Papa, let's us go see Mr. Jake and make it kinda official." So it was that Monty Jones applied for family quarters so that he could live with his new daughter!


Jake and Jason agreed that they could no longer hide their presence; they had to put roving troopers out as Rangers to scout out any intruder before they could become established. There was no way they were going to sleep easy at night, not knowing whether or not the cancer of slavery or banditry was again taking root in their valley.

There was no place in the area that people could homestead, it was all mature deep pine forest. The only folks that would be arriving unannounced would be those who intended harm to them and the people they were protecting or, for some, they were refugees themselves.

They formed two squads of Rangers and asked for volunteers, they were swamped with applicants! They were both teen boys and teen girls, even the girls had a hate so real concerning the bandits and slavers, both Jake and Jason almost felt sorry for the bandits!

They put Corporal Phil Heath in charge of one squad and Corporal Bill Higgins in charge of the second squad. The two squads would alternate weeks of duty and they would man the lookout point at Atlas Peak as well as patrol the forested areas around the mill. They told both Squad Leaders that it was up to them how many troopers they assigned to each function.

Each squad was provided with separate quarters in the Dorm and would consist of nine troopers plus the Squad Leader. They could call upon additional troopers if the need arose.

The Rangers decided to mark themselves while on duty, they would wear a pine sprig in their hat. It was not long before they were referred to as "The Pine Tree Rangers" and were allowed to wear their decoration at all times, as they were all subject to emergency call-up at any time. The mark became distinctive and it was a matter of great pride to the trooper wearing the pine branch. They were looked upon with envy by their fellow troopers and respect by all those living in Meadow Valley!

There were no further emergencies until just after the first snow of the next winter. Bill and his Rangers had the duty when Toby Doan came flying down the trail "hell bent for election"! He jumped off his horse and began ringing the emergency bell furiously.

When the regular troopers came running, he screamed, "Refugees, they are hurt and bleeding at Knob Creek Campground!"

Jake was first on the scene, he asked Toby, "Are the other Pine Tree Rangers with them?"

Toby replied, "Yes sir, and theys need help mostest, Sir! Theys hurted bad and theys be too many for usins to care for, Sir!" In his excitement, Toby forgot all the rules of language he had been taught.

Jake and Jason rounded up both Trooper Platoons and headed for Knob Creek, their saddlebags stuffed with medical supplies, bandages and food to be prepared for the injured. They left at a gallop, pushing their horses as hard as they dared with Trooper Toby Doan leading the way on a fresh horse, his own horse was nearly blown.

By the time they reached the campground, the horses were lathered up and were beginning to blow. The Troopers jumped from the saddles, dropping their reins so the horses would not stray. They carried their saddlebags to where the Rangers were assisting the wounded people and began assisting the Pine Tree Rangers in caring for the injured people.

The wounded people had come up from Sacramento and Stockton to escape the Mexican gangs and drug cartels that had taken the area over. They were a party of eighty-five men, women and children.

Their story of conditions down in the cities horrified all who listened and many of those they had just rescued would be asking to join the Pine Tree Rangers at their first opportunity!

It was difficult to treat their injuries as the refugees related all that they had seen and what had happened to them. Their race across the great central valley to reach the foothills that led to Meadow Valley had been filled with mayhem and murder, at least half their number had been killed by their pursuers. Many of their rescuers were losing their breakfasts as their story unfolded.

They were asked, "Why come here, what do you know about us?"

Everyone who was asked, answered the same way, "The stories are told about a haven in the mountains called Meadow Valley and a place called Forest Hill. If you can make it to there, you will be safe!"

There was no way the Rangers and Troopers could bring all the injured people back to Meadow Valley, they had to send for all the wagons and draft horses they owned. It would take another day to get all the wagons up to Knob Creek and yet another day to get the injured people back down the mountain.

When the additional wagons arrived being pulled by huge horses, their drivers told the children they were called PERCHERONS and they were filled with clothing and food. Men and Women were in the wagons to serve out the food and clothing.

The refugees just stared at the food, it had been so long since they had even seen things like hams, beef roasts, jugs of milk, fresh butter and sweets like pies and cookies that their minds could not comprehend what they were seeing. Some just collapsed, crying as the food was passed out to them.

Denny posted guards around the campground, just in case the refugees had been followed. They spent a quiet night, broken only by the sound of hurt people crying.

The children who had been injured bothered them the most, no trooper or ranger slept that night as they sat and comforted those who had been injured. More than a few troopers held an injured child in his arms throughout the night. Most of those troopers became Papas, some not for the first time! Even those troopers who were not quite old enough to adopt a child were allowed to adopt one boy or girl anyway.

When all the wagons had arrived, they found that the women had covered the wagon floors with mattresses and blankets from the Dorms and they had placed large containers of soup, loaves of fresh baked bread, tubs of butter and containers of milk for the children. There were three cooked hams to be cut up to make sandwiches for everyone and there were boxes of fresh apples and pears to be distributed to the children as they made their slow way back to the mill.

The sugars in the fruit revived many of the younger children and they clamored to be allowed to ride the Giant Horses. Some had to settle riding beside the drovers, but they all got to see their first glimpse of their new home as they entered the clearing that surrounded their log wall.

The wagon teamsters took their time coming back down the mountain, they wanted to save their passengers as much jostling as they could. Many of the small children had a death grip on their cookies and they nibbled on them all the way down the mountains. Mothers walked around the wagons with sacks filled with cookies and large jars of milks for anyone who wanted them.

When they arrived at Meadow Valley, they discovered that the women had sent a messenger to the Army down in Auburn and there were Army Doctors available to assist with the injured.

The poor Army Doctors performed emergency surgery all night long, an orderly was needed for each doctor just to wipe away his tears. Three of the Doctors asked for and received permission to stay on at Meadow Valley and it was not long before they formed readymade families. They created an Army Medical Post there, that included a small Army Hospital, complete with a surgery and a portable x-ray machine.

The Army Soldiers who had accompanied the Doctors looked around with envy as they saw the Dorms and living conditions of the Meadow Valley Troopers! There were many who promised themselves that they would ask for a transfer as soon as the returned to their headquarters. One young First Lieutenant said, "Hell, their troopers got better quarters than I do and they don't have to share bunks!"

It would be a long time before all of the injured people from the Great Central Valley would be healed and an even longer time before they would feel safe again. The problem with the Mexican Gangs and Cartels was going to have to be addressed, the sooner the better!


Things do not seem to be improving and the bandits living in the lowlands are beginning to threaten those who have taken refuge in the mountains. They can expect raids at any time now.