Before Crawford and James reached Rockledge with their prisoner, Childs and Roberts had already had a big day. Early in the morning in a clearing just outside town, they assembled about one hundred and fifty men of all ages. The men were dressed in various types of hunting gear and old military fatigues collected from old trunks and backroom closets; soldiers may finish their tour, but they never leave their past. Roberts watched them as they stood either silent or holding quiet conversations between them. They were armed with all types of weapons: shotguns, semi auto rifles, and bolt action rifles with scopes. Even Tom Barns outfitted himself in his favorite deer hunting camouflage bib overalls. Barns held his old double barrel loosely in his arms as he quietly talked to the man next to him.
At the head of the group, Roberts climbed up on a crate somebody had dragged out and began to speak. “Gentlemen, you have chosen to be here today for a number of reasons. Some of you are here because you are pissed. Some because you feel the government must be reined in. Some here because this is your land and be damned if anyone is going to take it from you.” There were quite a number of affirmative nods from the crowd. “And some of you are here because your friend or your family is here, and you feel obligated to follow.” Roberts paused. “Whatever your reason, I feel that I must tell you what you are up against.” He turned and waved his hand towards Childs standing behind him. “This is John Childs. Some of you might know him, others might not. John has seen more combat than most of us ever dreamed of. He has scouted the area around our town and has something to share with you. Before he gets into the details, let me tell you in short what is happening. I…we believe that the situation here was not an accident gotten out of hand. It is part of a plan bigger than we may even suspect. The problem is that no one but us seems to believe it. I fear that we are going to be made an example of and that means that those people wanting to make that example are coming here. They aren’t going to be friendly, and I don’t think they will be looking for prisoners. You see, the trouble with prisoners is that sooner or later they get to tell their side of the story.
“Like Waco.” A man shouted from the crowd. Roberts recognized the man as being from an isolated ranch north of town. Roberts remembered him as pulling no punches as to how he felt about the intruding government.
Roberts held up his hand. “I am not sure if the two can be compared. But the end result may be the same. The fact we can’t communicate with the outside world is no accident. I believe somebody only wants one side of the story told… and that is their side.” Roberts looked at the crowd of men. He had their total attention now. “Gentlemen, most of you have known me for better than fifteen years. Some of you have known me since I was a kid. I’m not afraid to say I’m a little scared. This is very serious. The only way I can see us getting out of this in one piece is to hold together. We have to outlast them and keep them off of us until the truth gets out. We are working on that right now. John here will be in charge of the tactical commands. He has already gotten with a few of you that are helping with the roadblocks. One of them reported back that there is some more activity on the north road.” Roberts looked at the men, his jaw set in grim resolve. “Whatever is going to happen may happen soon. Nobody is going to be upset if any of you decided to sit this out. But if you stay, mean it. We can’t afford to have anyone bugging out at the last minute.”
Roberts waited for someone to speak. Finally, a voice came from an old rancher standing in the back. “Hank, you mind getting down? We need to get started, and time’s a wasting.” The crowd laughed at the comment. Roberts smiled. He had to say what he did, but he knew in his heart there would be no quitters in this crowd. It is their land after all. Isn’t that the point?