By Kurt Saxon
When the collapse comes, whether from a total economic breakdown or nuclear
war, surviving city dwellers will scatter. Millions not killed by the war,
the fires, the rioting and the street battles, will take to the countrysides.
The roads leading out of the doomed cities will be hopelessly clogged with
wrecked vehicles, looking like any foggy morning on the San Francisco freeways.
As many city people as will be trapped in the jams, scads will make it to
the main arteries from the cities to the smaller towns.
These will be the "lucky". The provident will have left before the chaos.
But the lucky will get out by sheer luck, with little or no gear, no extra
gas, probably a gun or two, a box of canned goods and a few bottles of booze
they looted. But no meaningful survival gear.
Until they get to the nearest town, it will be dog-eat-dog. Every man for
himself and let the devil take the hindmost. If they stop for an overturned
car ahead, it will just be to search the passengers for any useful items
and to siphon out any gas left in the car.
Finally, dozens of individual vehicles will reach the nearest town. In most
cases, the townsmen will have the roads barricaded. They could not hope to
accommodate hoards of improvident city types so will, all too often, just
block their way and turn them back at gunpoint.
This method is wrong and I will explain why in my next editorial, "Roadblock".
But at this time, I want to tell you what will happen as a result of total
road blocking, which will be common around most American towns.
You can easily imagine such roadblocks, made of cars strung across the road,
bristling with guns held by determined townsmen. Signs reading, "Go Back
Or Get Shot!" or "Yankee Go Home!" and suchlike, will let the refugees grouping
at the roadblocks know they are unwelcome.
Although up to then, these refugees will have been individuals, they will
now form into mobs. Being improvident and having no chance on their own,
instant leaders will spring up before the roadblocks and offer the mobs their
protection and guidance.
In times of catastrophe and confusion, the average person is too often willing
to follow anyone who says he has an answer. Anyone with any sort of previous
authority, or who will do the thinking for those unable to think, will find
a ready-made army to go wherever he leads and do whatever he orders.
"Lucifer's Hammer", by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, describes two such
leaders and many of their sub-leaders, all relatively unqualified even in
times of order. But when the comet came close to Earth, the most unlikely
leadership was accepted, and like Jim Jones of Guyana, brought savagery and
death to all their followers.
The two main leaders in "Lucifer's Hammer" were a black Army Sergeant and
a white religious fanatic. It was an interracial group, made up mostly of
a band of soldiers, black activists and white losers picked up on the line
Food was scarce so cannibalism became, not only acceptable, but mandatory.
The eating of human flesh was part of the initiation into the band. If one
would not eat he was eaten.This was first ordered by the Sergeant, as an
immediate alternative to starvation.
It was later made a commandment by the religious co-leader, as a sign of
faith in the idea that they were God's chosen. Only the chosen would be blessed
with victory over the surviving technologists who had brought God's wrath
on a sinful world. And God would forgive their cannibalism and any other
horrors committed while bringing His Kingdom into fruition.
His degenerate ravings are pretty much mirrored on TV by Pat Robertson and
Anal Roberts. The kind of people who swallow everything these perverts say,
ended up swallowing human flesh, just as eagerly. So, like a swarm of locusts,
these cannibalistic fanatics proceed to ravage and destroy the only hope
for a future civilization.
There will indeed be such leaders as Sergeant Hooker and the messianic Reverend
Henry Armitage. There will also be bands made up of cults living inside or
outside of cities. These cults will move out first and do what they will
with the uninitiated or those who will not convert.
But the most common bands will be groups turned back from roadblocks. These,
as well as the rest, will form Killer Caravans, pooling their resources.
The leader, whether a politician, soldier or self acknowledged messiah, will
have a ready-made, media brain-washed band of killers to do his bidding.
His first act will be to kill off the uncooperative and anyone who can't
see him as the rightful head. At first, the loudest will be followed. If
the loudest does not keep the majority on his side, his position and/or his
life will be in jeopardy.
Of course, if the loudest proves really incompetent, another might kill him
without fear of the majority. Also, the loudest might appoint a deputy or
two, both to keep the malcontents in line and to keep one of the deputies
from taking his place.
So with the leadership established, the malcontents killed off and their
property confiscated by the group, the Killer Caravan is formed. It has its
leaders, either military or charismatic, or both. It has its armed foragers
and looters. It has its compliment of women and children as dependents.
But what it lacks is a direction, a place to go, a purpose. All it has as
a social organism made up of improvident establishment hacks, urban workers
and welfare loafers, is the collective will to survive.
With resources pooled and the unwilling either dead or driven off, the Killer
Caravan forms up. It then moves back down the road to any promising side
road giving access to a route around the restricted town.
The side road they choose might pass your home. With too little food to last,
and nothing to lose, they will most certainly move against you. The Killer
Caravan might number from 20 to 100 or more people.
Regardless of how much or how little you had stored away, the Killer Caravan
would strip you of everything. Nor would they feel a need to spare your life.
After commandeering your vehicles, weapons, and total food supply, they would
hardly expect you to feel anything but hatred for them. Giving in to them
would be no guarantee that they would let you and your family live.
First, they would camp on your place until there was nothing left. There
would be no sense in believing they would actually settle in on your property
and share it with you and help you work it. They would not be farmers anyhow
and since you would have only one or two cash crops and a subsistence garden,
such a mob would have no reason to take over your holdings on a long-term
No, they would camp on your place for a day or two and gather up everything
you had that they wanted. After a short time, there would not be enough to
feed the band and they would move on the the next farm, probably leaving
These are the kind of people the boondockers must prepare against. You should
set up a communications network with your neighbors with walkie talkies.
Chances are, the Killer Caravans would attack only one farm along their route
at a time. This would give your neighbors a chance to meet at the first farm
on their route so as to meet them in force.
Fighting Killer Caravans would be different from defending against lone refugees
and their families. In the case of loners, you might be generous, set out
food enough for them to get to the next area, and with a moderate show of
force, save yourself from all-out attack.
But with Killer Caravans, you must show deadly force at once and keep it
up until the survivors are discouraged into moving on. First, they will have
no alternative to attacking you, as they will face chronic shortages which
will halt their caravan without replenishment. Second, their morale will
depend on victories. With the low morale of the members, the leaders might
just as well pass out the poison.
Regardless of the numbers in a caravan, there is little likelihood that it
would be made up of professionally trained ex-servicemen. Even so, if you
can impede them, and inflict a high enough casualty rate, they will move
on, even if they have to do so on foot.
The common conception of a Killer Caravan is of a well-organized, well-equipped,
well-armed, disciplined unit. It is said that such caravans would sweep all
before them. "Lucifer's Hammer" paints a picture of an almost overwhelming
If such a group would take a few farms and stay put, they could start their
own survival community. But the Killer Caravan would not have the quality
of personnel to become a successful survival group. They would be vulnerable,
relying mainly on the disunity and incompetence of farmers along their route.
Upon seeing a raider, shoot him in the right shoulder, if possible. (Anyone
with the minimum of practice can hit a six by six inch target at 200 yards,
almost every shot.)
You might think a clean kill would be better, but not when you are dealing
with a Killer Caravan. A body is just one less mouth to feed. But a man with
his main shoulder shot would be a useless drain on the food and medical supplies.
Also, in the heat of an action, the others would be far less apt to identify
with a corpse than a mate screaming at them for help. Further, a few such
injuries would cause the women to bitch and urge them to move on. Another
thing about wounding a raider is that with the scarcity of medical supplies,
his suffering and probable death would give his fellows a lot of food for
thought. If it occurred to them that the object was to wound and maim, any
number of them would be apt to vote to move on.
I would never shoot a woman or a child, unless they were shooting at me.
Dead wives and kids enrage the husbands and make them just as intent on revenge
as on taking the position.