Prior to the war, Balmorhea had been a state park with a lake and a small forest. The water was pretty rare out in this part of the country and if we were going to try to farm, it would be of utmost importance. There were many vacant homes, both from years of a down-turned economy and from the initial wave of the creatures coming from El Paso. The residents had already figured out that the best way to deal with them was noise reduction and putting up lots of fences, so the knowledge that we had about the infected wasn’t as important as it had been to Jasper’s group.
What worried me was how quickly the townspeople accepted us with little to no questions. When we asked them about scavengers or marauders, they’d never seen any. I’d been able to impress upon the town’s mayor the need for security through our stories of what had happened to us during our journey from Illinois. While there wasn’t much between here and where El Paso had been, there were sure to be groups forming who would eventually begin expanding their search for food and resources.
The townspeople even accepted Alejandro for what he was. Initially a few of the residents had been against us because we traveled with someone who looked just like the creatures that had killed so many in their community and we thought we would have to continue moving west. But the local pastor, a man named Emilio, had helped everyone to see past the surface and recognizing that he was just a normal person who’d been injured. Now Alejandro was a treasured part of the community because of his knowledge of farming and how to use our few horses to help plow the ground without injuring them.
The weather wasn’t nearly as bad down here and according to the residents who’d lived there a while, the winter wasn’t really any worse than what they usually experienced. Of course, we all hoped that it was a sign that the clouds were settling and that the temperatures would return to normal, but there was no telling what would happen. We were in totally theoretical territory here. In fact, one of the theories was that after the nuclear winter, the earth would right itself by super-heating and that would throw us into a nuclear summer. Only time would tell what would actually happen though.
Until then, we had to make do with what we had. My little group had wisely liberated a livestock feed store of just about every vegetable seed package that it had. For the umpteenth time on the trip from the cannibals’ camp, I was thankful for the horses. Without the water and food that they allowed us to carry we wouldn’t have made it very far across the cold dry west Texas plains.
Now that we were here and the winter had given away to a pseudo-spring, it was time to plant the crops that we hoped would survive and help to provide sustenance for us. The vehicles in the town still worked since we were far enough away from El Paso to avoid the EMP, but over the course of the year all the gasoline had been siphoned off for use to help heat people’s homes so the horses had again proved invaluable to us once again.
Alejandro helped the townsfolk develop makeshift plows to speed up the digging process. The first couple of designs weren’t necessarily failures, but it took a lot of work for little gain. He’d been able to perfect his plow design over the last month in preparation for the spring. What he’d come up with was to remove the blades from lawnmowers and using normal, everyday shop tools he bent the blades into a U shape, then secured them to a metal frame made from the rear axle of small cars. The wheels were necessary to keep the blades at the right height instead of digging too deep or too shallow. After that, he’d mounted a small platform and bolted a lawn chair to it. Voila! It was an instant plow that could be pulled by two horses and increased our ability to farm.