The back room of the dairy barn was so warm you could see the heat waves warping the air as they escaped out into the cold each time the door was opened. Gazing out the window Paul could see the remains of the dairy herd standing out in the lightly snow dusted field, some with their heads stuck through the portable hay rack as they grazed on the round bale left there for them. There were only about 20 or so Holsteins left from a herd that Paul knew once numbered in the hundreds.
Sad, they had lost so much.
The dairy barn stood out on top of a slowly rising hill surrounded by open fields. Not the ideal place to have a meeting of this type. It was way too open and in daylight no less. If the Feds had any drones or other high altitude eyes up there they would all be sitting ducks and there was plenty of open ground for helicopters to land a strike team or worse, for several helicopters to land all at once.
No helicopters, drones or other aircraft had been seen in months however.
Inside the steel covered structure with all the metal racks and equipment any type of snooping or surveillance was almost impossible. Still Paul didn't like being this exposed. He had placed several teams of listening posts around the dairy farm and the slightest hint of chopper blades or engines would trigger an immediate evacuation.
This farm was the middle point of the county and a fairly well known landmark with easy access for the leadership of both militia teams. Secondary access roads coming in from every corner of the compass and a wood line in every direction about half a mile out. Once you got off this exposed hill there were multiple escape routs open.
As he waited for the other leaders to show up Paul allowed his mind to wander. He was not the person he would have picked to be the leader of this rebellion or whatever you wanted to call it. As far as military experience went Paul had very little. He had done one stretch in the Navy as a radar technician on the Valley Forge and after that was over he transferred his reserve requirement to a State National Guard maintenance unit. No command experience nor had he ever seen combat outside some blips on a radar screen in the gulf, but he did seem to have a good head for this type of guerrilla defense he had been leading.
What really set Paul above others at first was actually the saddest part of his life. Paul's wife Jesse had died of cancer about one year before all this had started. Of their three children one, his eldest son, had been killed in a car accident years ago and the other two, a boy and a girl, were out of the country. His younger son had taken a job with an oil company some years back and was, last paul had heard, still in Nigeria. When things started looking bad Paul had told him to stay put and as far as he knew he had. Paul's daughter had married a German national she met while attending university in Europe during a Summer exchange program so she was safely out of the picture as well. All Paul had for local family were five sisters and too many nieces and nephews to count but not a one of them shared his last name now and so far none of them had been targeted by the Feds either.
When it came time to resist the never ending chain of regulations, rules and crackdowns Paul really felt he had nothing to lose. In fact he was so out spoken about his refusal to comply he was really throwing it back in the Federal faces so to speak. They had to act especially after one of the local television stations did a piece on him. After that Paul had scattered his stock among his inlaws, hid his expensive and/or sentimental possessions in various locations and left his house, barn and out buildings abandoned. The feds had burned the house and buildings during a raid out of nothing more than vindictiveness since he wasn't there.
If Jesse were still alive Paul wouldn't be here. He knew that with cold certainty.
Essentially Paul was untouchable except by direct physical attack and his defiance had moved people everywhere to sympathy for the cause. When the county citizens had cried for justice the Sheriff had surprised everyone and declared the entire county independent from Federal regulations and promised no support would be given to any federal agents inside it's boundaries. The Sheriff had been picked up the next day with a list of made up Federal charges. The county citizens then refused to hold another election and most of the few deputies had resigned and joined the militia.
Not to be out maneuvered the Federal agents found their patsies among the county commissioners and judges. They had some stooge appointed as Sheriff although he had never set foot in the county as far as anyone could tell but instead stayed safe in the regional Fed headquarters.
The first few months had been tough. Hiding in forgotten wooded hollows and abandoned barns while houses were raided, families moved out by force and property seized. Sympathizers would leave food and other provision out for him. All Paul had to do was make sure they saw him at the edge of the woods and after nightfall things were appear.
Eventually others joined him. Some like Paul had no close family, others had seen their families taken, still others had been absent when the feds showed up and had no clue what had happened. With each raid the resistance grew and they were not always within this particular county either. All across the State the various Federal agencies were raiding and enforcing their regulations .
As the resistance grew and learned to fight back the raids died to a trickle. The Federal boys had their hands full all over the country and were feeling the pinch of being spread so thin. In the last three months there had not been one excursion into the Militia's area of operations and Paul, along with a few others in the group were beginning to think it might be time to take this fight to the Feds instead of waiting around.
That's what this meeting was all about.