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The Fort

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Chapter Two

I’d been driving for about five hours to get to the Base since it was located in a remote area of the Chiricahua Mountains in Arizona. The scenery was beautiful, but frankly, the roads were rough, and my butt felt like it was taking root in the seat of my small car, which was one of the old gas models still kept on hand for long-distance trips. It had taken me almost six months to get the permit to use it, but I had high hopes that it would be worth the inconvenience since there was a lot of information that had not been made available to the public about the Fort. Getting an appointment with the chief curator of the Base, which was now a living museum, had taken almost as long. I suspect that he got a lot of requests to come and visit and take a tour, which he more or less blew off since the place was open to anyone who could make it there and pay the entrance fee. This, to my way of thinking, meant that there were damned few visitors, to begin with, given the length of the trip and the fact that electric cars, even ones with solar power extenders, couldn’t make it. I think that the location of the facility was intentional because unless you had business there and knew where it was, why would you make such a trip? It also had to do with the secrecy of the Base in the early days.

In Old America, there was a series of laws that were entitled “Posse Comitatus,” which in effect prevented the use of the United States Military to settle domestic issues within the Continental United States. Sort of like ancient Rome. The Legions were never allowed within the city walls. Such things as riot control, auxiliary police, and border patrol were more or less the functions of the National Guard and Border Patrol. This, to my understanding, resulted in nothing more than controlled chaos. But at the same time, when those stupid bastards in the Congress authorized the sitting President War powers, they came in handy as cannon fodder when the Army either was running short on men, or they needed to eliminate human-beings under a secret agreement which the United Nations referred to as “Agenda 21”. Poor Bastards.

As I drove down the winding road, forced to go slowly only because you never knew if the damned road was going to make a hairpin curve or not, I began to think back on the history of Base One or The Fort, as it was often called, and why it was there. I also started to reflect on the dark age of America at the time of its reconstruction.

America was at war in the Middle East. Members of the Congress and Senate weren’t doing the job they were elected to do. This in favor of working deals with one another that would guarantee they would make tons of money. The sitting President was totally ignoring the Constitution of the United States in favor of ruling the nation via Executive Order. As a result, our Gross National Product had taken a nosedive, and the Federal Reserve was printing money like it was toilet paper. Not to mention the fact that the United Nations was doing everything it could to destroy America and turn it into a third world nation. Things finally came to a head during December of 2016 when the global economy collapsed. Hyperinflation set in, and the modern dark ages began. A loaf of bread was a thousand dollars, and like old Germany, people were using wheel barrels to carry cash to the grocery store just to buy a gallon of milk for their children. I remember a former professor of mine showing us pictures of children taking their pet dogs to the butcher and later sitting on the sidewalk, holding the dog’s head in their arms crying.

It didn’t take long for the power grids to fail. Some said China or Russia had launched a high-altitude nuclear missile causing an EMP to burn out the electrical system; others said that electricity had become so unaffordable that the grid was just shut down. Once that happened, food trucks stopped moving through the country to supply the grocery stores, and people began to starve to death. In later years it was determined that within the first thirty days of the total collapse of the economy and the power grids, over ninety percent of the population died from starvation, violence, or the failure of medical appliances, such as Pace Makers, and other things. Then disease from the rotting corpses that no one could or would dispose of took the rest.

There was, however, a small percentage of the population called “Preppers” who had somehow seen what was coming and secretly laid in food and weapons stores to last them at least a couple of years. Most people thought they were nuttier than fruitcakes, but in the end, many survived. At least until their supplies ran out, then those that had the foresight to obtain what was later referred to as heritage seeds began to plant gardens and hunt for meat. At least those who didn’t resort to other methods of keeping food in the pantry. For a time, cannibalism ran rampant, and I have been told that even today, cannibals are still found in certain parts of the country. In the high desert areas, or the backwoods of remote locations such as the one I was traveling through at this very moment. The thought of it sent a cold chill running up and down my spine.

Where was the Fort in all of this? That’s what I had come to find out. I had two reasons for doing this, one historical and the other private. You see, my Great Great Grandfather, Lieutenant General William Stanton was the man who built and commanded the Fort and the fighting Battalion known as the “Lightning Strike Force,” which was reputed to be deadlier than any other U.S. Army Special Operations Force since the Green Berets or the Rangers. From what I understand, he and his First Sergeant hand-selected every man and woman that served in this unit and trained them himself. The fact that he was my Grandfather is one that I shamelessly pointed out in my letter to the Curator in the hope that it might influence him enough to invite me to come and do research at the Fort. It did, and I was on my way to learn history, both the good and bad of both my country and my family.

As I drove, I began to see signs; “CONUS BASE ONE,” “ACTIVE MINEFIELD, STAY ON ROAD,” “PROCEED TO MAIN GATE,” “SLOW.” As I slowed at what looked like a concrete guard shack, a man wearing the Uniform of the United States Army with Private First Class Stripes, and the shoulder patch of the “Lightning Strike Force” stepped out and waved me through. There was no need to check my pass or credentials because this was no longer an active military installation but a living museum, hence the uniform.

As I drove through the gate, I was directed to the car park located on what I presumed to be the old parade ground. As I parked in this empty and spacious field, I couldn’t help but notice that on its edge, closest to the Control building, there stood three structures. One appeared to be a gallows, one that was apparently a platform to stand on, and finally, what I immediately recognized as a whipping post. As I got out of the car and got my carryall, I looked carefully at the scene. I noticed that there were no placards on the whipping post or the platform, but there was one in front of the gallows, and I went over to read it; “Three men were tried and sentenced to death on this gallows. Their debt paid, they were buried with full Military Honors with their compatriots in the Field of Honor”.

“Seems rather generous of your Grandfather, doesn’t it? Bill Stanton the Second, right?” said a voice from behind me.

I turned and was met by a tall man wearing the same uniform as the guard at the gate, but he was wearing shoulder tabs bearing the Stars of a Lieutenant General, and the name tag that clearly read “STANTON” on it. “Family legend and rumors say that he was a son of a bitch with a heart,” I replied, pointing at the name tag with a raised eyebrow.

Smiling, he said, “This is supposed to be a living museum, and as a head curator, I’m meant to be the Base Commander, so they make me impersonate your Grandfather, Name’s Joe Habershaw”; he said sticking his steady hand out to shake mine. “You got here just in time for chow, so why don’t you grab your bag and come over to the mess hall with me and have lunch. I’ll get one of the guys to take it over to the guest quarters while we eat”.

As I followed him, I couldn’t help but notice the layout of the Base. Small and compact, yet it seemed to meet all of the needs of a regular military installation. On one side was located what I could only assume was the Hydroponics/fish farm and garden areas. Next to the mess hall was what appeared to be a hospital and next to that, a church or chapel. On the far side was located a large three-storied barracks made of adobe brick, but in excellent repair and below that a large recreational area. To the right was a Post Exchange Annex, where the inhabitants could make small purchases such as soap, toothpaste, and everything necessary to maintain proper hygiene plus a few other sundries such as books, music recordings, etc. “Seems you have quite a place here, Mr. Habershaw.”

“We like it. Your Grandfather knew what he was doing when he built the place. Down past the Hydroponics and fish farm is a path that leads to the horse and livestock barns. The old armories are located in the barracks and in the emergency escape tunnels. Come on, let’s eat. I’m starved”, he said as we entered the spacious mess hall.

I was struck by the hugeness of the place and the fact that the enormously long food line was packed with food, fresh and steaming hot. So much so that it seemed almost wasteful considering that they no longer fed close to two thousand men and women three times a day. “Good God!” I exclaimed. “Just how many people do you feed in a day?”

“Don’t panic, Dr. Stanton,” he said, laughing. “Even though we aren’t an active military base, we have a sizable contingent of personnel to run the farming operations, a small staff at the hospital in the event of accidents, and of course the retirement village and administrative staff. None of this food will go to waste, and what’s left will go into food processing for storage.”

“Storage?”

“Yeah sure, anything left over is freeze-dried and then vacuum packed. Just add hot water, and you’ve got a meal. We use most of it during the winter months when the gardens are fallow, but we have fresh rabbit, chicken, and occasionally beef, or pork. Most of the time, we just freeze-dry veggies and gravies, that kind of thing”.

“I see,” I said, not really seeing at all. Instead, I followed Habershaw’s lead and picked up a metal tray and started walking down the line making a few selections as I went along. By the time I got to the end of the line and to the dessert area, I had a full tray, so I elected to find a place to sit which, as it turned out was at the table marked “Commander’s Table” with my host. As I sat down, one of the kitchen personnel brought over a delicious looking bowl of strawberry shortcake that I had been eyeing until I realized that I didn’t have any room left on the tray.

“You’ll have to forgive the Chef,” Habershaw said. “Strawberry Short Cake is kind of a tradition around here during the summer months.”

“Tradition?”

“For almost two years. It was one of General Stanton’s favorites and his daughter, your Great Aunt; Marie worked as the dessert chef for many years and made sure that it was always available when possible. She made other things also, but it was a traditional dessert with all the men”.

“Well, I wouldn’t want to break with tradition,” I replied and dug into the most delicious meal I had in a long time. When I finally got to the strawberry shortcake, I took my first bite and decided that for this alone, the entire trip was worth it. As I bit down on my first spoonful, I was delighted to find the most delicious, sweetest and juiciest strawberry that I had ever tasted, covered in rich, thick whipped cream and soft spongy shortcake just soaked with strawberry juice. “My God, this is beautiful!” I exclaimed.

“I thought that you’d like it. When you’ve finished, I’ll take you over to the quest quarters so that you can get cleaned up and get some rest before we get to the tour and your research. I’ve made sure that the cool box in your quarters has some steaks in it so that you can have a nice dinner. There is a charcoal grill outside the back door, and you can roast some corn on the cob. It’s not fancy, but it’s how we do things around here. You’ll have electricity from the sun down until nine PM, and then after that, you’ll have to light the oil lamps. There’s a wood-burning kitchen stove, a coffee pot, and some cups, plates, and silverware there also, but if you drink coffee in the morning, you might as well come on over to the mess hall and have a cup, less work and it tastes pretty good”.

Pushing myself back from the table and patting my stomach, “To be honest with you Joe, it was a really long and tiring trip, and in all probability, I may not get to the steaks after this meal. I may just read a little and then hit the rack. I’m exhausted”.

“Not a problem,” he said. Come on, I’ll take you on over, and we can talk on the way”, he said, getting up, taking his tray, and walking over to the window where they were washed. After scraping it into a barrel and putting it through the window, I followed his lead. When I had placed my tray in the window, we proceeded out the door and across the parking lot toward a separate group of buildings with small lawns in front of the doors.

“About how many visitors do you get a year?” I asked as we walked.

“Usually about four or five people a year. But this has been a slow year, and we’ve only had one. You,”; he replied.

“That’s odd, don’t you think?” I said, surprised. “After all, this place is important to American History.”

“Well, considering what you had to go through to get here, are you really that surprised?”

Thinking on the gas permits and the cost of the car rental and travel time, I replied, “No, not really, I suppose. But not everybody is a historian or has a family connection with the first Commander, and to be honest, if it weren’t for those facts, I doubt that I would have made the trip myself, except there’s been something festering in the back of my mind that won’t go away”.

“Oh? What’s that? He asked curiously.

“There is an old saying that goes, “The victors are the ones who write their version of history.” After years of listening to the older family members tell their versions of who General Stanton was, and his exploits, I decided that it was time to find out what the truth was. I’m afraid that I had become as cynical as many of my old professors were when I was in college, and I hated them for it.”

“How so?’ he asked.

“I am a Conservative, both by family tradition and personal inclination. When I was in college, I had to take several courses in Old American history and New American history. The professors were notably liberal and took every opportunity they could to bash America, and my Grandfather, it pissed me off so badly that I was hard-pressed to keep my mouth shut because they were known for flunking those who objected to their bashing. Look!” I said in an exasperated tone looking at him. “I love my country, and I take great pride in the fact that Lt. General Will Stanton was my great, great, Grandfather, but I need to know the truth, good or bad”.

“I think I understand what you’re saying,” he said. If I were in your position, I believe I would want to know also. I have a feeling that you’ll find the next couple of days very interesting. Here we are”, he said, opening the door to what turned out to be a nicely appointed guest bungalow. “I’ll meet you at the mess hall in the morning, and then we’ll have the dollar tour,” he said, waving goodnight.

As the door closed, I turned and followed the short hallway toward the bedroom where someone had put my carryall on the bed. I unzipped the bag, took out my extra clothes, and hung them in the small closet. Then I took my toiletries to the spacious bathroom, washed up, and then went about the task of relaxing a bit before hitting the rack. The rack being the spacious King size bed in the bedroom. As I wandered around, I found the kitchen which had a sink and counter, and a beautiful old fashioned wood burning kitchen stove that had to be at least a hundred years old and in perfect repair. On top of it was the promised coffee pot, and in a small box next to the stove was wood cut to the length of the stove’s firebox. Next to the back door was what I guessed to be the icebox. In point of fact, it was a slightly modern version of an antique icebox. I opened it and found two beautiful steaks with a couple of fresh cobs of corn and a small can of coffee. At the bottom was a large block of ice that served to keep everything fresh. In other words, it was a broad, ornate ice chest. I cracked open the back door and saw the grill filled with charcoal and a can of lighter fluid on the stand next to it just waiting to be lit and heated for the meat that it no doubt cook to perfection.

Leaving the kitchen and walking down the short hallway toward the living room, I noticed a small brass placard mounted on the wall. It read, “Those who have graced these quarters with their presence; DEMPSEY, HENLEY, DUNFORD, DEMPSY JR. & WIFE, CHIEF JOSEPH PROUDFOOT.” All names from history and all of them had stayed here at one time or another. I somehow felt honored.

Going into the living room, I found a comfortable looking couch and an armchair with a lamp and a large oil lamp sitting on the small table next to it. The sun had not set yet, and there was enough light coming through the large window to read, so I sat and began to go over the notes that I made about the legends and tales that I had been told as I was growing up, about Lt. General William Stanton. As I read and the sun went down, the electric light next to the chair began to shine with brightness as the electricity came on for the entire Fort. With it came the sounds of music and laughter from the barracks area.

On the surface, it appeared William Steven Stanton was a bit of a failure for most of his life. He served in the United States Army from 1969 to 1973, and his service was at best nebulous, at worst, a complete lie. The family tradition was Grandfather would tell stories of combat and many of the horrors of war. According to him, he was a prisoner of the Vietnamese and the only survivor of his unit. For many years he fought against those who called him a liar and stood his ground, even when threatened with the “Stolen Valor Act.”

Interestingly, he was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and never charged under the Act. Even so, as time passed, he spoke less and less of his time in the Army and tried to get on with his life. After two failed marriages, he finally met his final wife Jean, who, for some reason, supported him as he tried and failed to start several businesses. As he grew older, he began to suffer severe physical problems, which resulted in the amputation of his lower left leg and a double orchiectomy (castration). By this time he was sixty-three years old and not in the best of health. Finally, he was forced to accept Social Security to survive. According to family history, his wife Jean was also on disability and Social Security due to mental health issues that prevented her from working. There were some in the family that said she had to be crazy to stay married to him for so long. The two of them together were able to combine their incomes and live not luxuriously but somewhat comfortable. The story went that to eat, they were forced to go to several churches and the Salvation Army every month just because after paying rent and other bills, they didn’t have enough money for groceries. This may explain the enormity of the mess hall and the amount of food I saw. Then again, as I sat there thinking about it, I began to realize that the amount of food that I saw in the mess hall just might be enough to feed two thousand plus men and women one meal. I began to doubt that there would be leftovers for food processing.

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