How I Survived Collapse: Chapter 3

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on November 11, 2016


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Note to Readers:  I'm quite backed up with HISC chapters and several non-fiction articles, so I will be publishing during the week as well as the Sunday Brunch article for a while to work through the backlog.  Check back on the Diner regularly to look for new chapters of HISC.

Karl's Story

It was midsummer of 2017 when I sensed something was different around the mountain.  An occassional whiff of a fire burning in the evening; an occassion crack and thud of a large tree being felled.  I knew most of the people who owned cabins on this side of Lolo National Forest, and they mostly did not make outdoor fires and they never felled trees.

I'm pretty much a hermit, have been since I moved here in the late 1970s.  The rest of the folks around here who own cabins just use them during the summer for the most part, although a few come up in the fall for hunting season also.  Nobody else stays through the winter. No other TEOTWAWKI preppers I was aware of, and nobody I would have the least bit in common with.  This was something different though, and it wasn't just the smell and the sound.  There was something different in the ether, and as I meditated in the evening as the sun set, I could feel the waves of a different kind of energy.  This had not been in the ether since leaving the Matrix.

I value my privacy though, and the fewer the people who know about where I live, the better.  However, it's impossible not to have anyone know where you live.  You do need communications with the outside world, you have to periodically go into town for supplies, and you have to somehow or another make a living to pay taxes on your land and buy things you need or at least want for living comfortably.

Making money turned out to be less of a problem than I thought when I first moved here as latecomer in the Back to the Land movement in the 1970s.  After graduating from Princeton with a degree in Theoretical Physics in 1970, I got a job on Wall Street and for a few years made very good money for the era.  Two things occuring during this time made continuing onward with it unbearable for me.

First was the extreme level of the corruption in politics that was so evident at the time, as Tricky Dick Nixon was exposed in the Watergate Hearings as the scum sucking criminal he had been since the 1950s.  Second was the even more corrupt Investment Banking industry I was working for on Wall Street.  This became evident to me in the Bankruptcy of NYC in 1975, when the TBTF banks essentially conspired to take over the government of NY by cutting them off from the Bond Market.  These events made it completely evident to me that our society was completely corrupt and I wanted as little to do with it as possible.

At first I just returned home to my family's Dairy Farm in Wisconson.  At the time, my Grandfather still owned it, and exactly who was going to inherit the farm was a subject of much debate between my mother and her 2 brothers, my uncles.  I worked on the farm along with several of my cousins, although I didn't really need the money at the time since I had saved a good deal during the Wall Street years.  The pay was ridiculously low, even lower than the minimum wage of the time because using relatives, a dairy owner could get away with assigning long hours to his kids and grandkids, and nobody except the owner of the dairy itself made any kind of decent money.  Generally my cousins all tended to drift away from the farm after a year or two the most and it became evident to them they would be dirt poor as long as they kept working for my grandfather.

For me though, it was just relaxation and a way station on the way to somewhere else, a chance to unwind after 4 years of Hell on Wall Street and constant pressure to "perform".  What perform meant was to cheat as many people out of as much money as possible as often as possible.  Optimizing all 3 variables made you a great Performer, and garnered you raises, bonuses and a trip up the corporate ladder as well.  Then you would battle with the other Top Performers in Round 2 of Wall Street Thunderdome.  Hang out and succeed at this like Lloyd Blankfein, evenetually you work your way to Master of the Universe level, pick your own Congressmen and Senators and Rule the World from the 50th floor of a lower Manhattan skyscraper.  I never made it that far, in fact I was out of the ring after round 2.

It wasn't until I was in the Feed Store picking up a load of cattle feed and listening to a couple of older farmers complain about the prices they were getting and how much money they were going to lose that year that how to make some good money without being a complete Wall Street Scumbag became apparent to me.  These guys simply had no clue about how to hedge their milk prices on the futures market!  It took some convincing, but I finally got one of them to let me do some Hedging on his production.  I had to put up $10K of my own money to convince him I was serious.

In the following 6 months, while most of his buddies were losing money, we made almost $100K! lol.  That was enough to convince everyone.  Pretty soon I was managing the hedges for half a dozen Dairy farms in the neighborhood, including my Grandfather's, and I no longer had to milk the cows either!  I probably could have jumped a generation and got the Dairy farm from Grandad, but I really had no desire to run a dairy bizness.  I was still too connected to the Matrix at this point, and went roaming some more.

I foud myself gravitating toward the Native American movement gaining steam after the standoff with the FBI at Wounded Knee and spend some time living on the reservation with an indigenous woman, but the cultural differences were too much, and I found I wasn't suited to being together with a woman all the time.  I valued my time alone too much, and I wasn't good at making compromises.  I left the reservation and went looking for my own place, which I found adjacent to Lolo National Forest.

At this point I had quite a bit of money in 1970s dollars, and used only about 1/4 of it to buy almost 200 acres, which included a part of a mountain and an old Gold Mine.  I continued doing hedging for my Dairy friends in Wisconson, and branched out into the new and growing world of computers and the Dot Com era.  I was fabulously successful too…for a while until the Dot Com bust came in the early naughties.  Before that though, I almost tripled my land holdings around Lolo, and built a passive solar house into the side of the mountain.  I almost lost all of it with the dot com bust though,  all the land pledged on margin went to creditors and I only managed to keep a few acres with the house on it and my claim on the Gold mine.

As the 00s progressed I climbed slowly back out of the hole, pledging to myself I would never take such a risk again.  I lied to myself though, because I did do it again, in 2007 when I saw that Bear Stearns was going down the toilet.  I was looking at the Real Estate Bubble, and saw exactly the same thing happening as with the Dot Com Bubble.  This time though, I was on the oppositie side of the trade, and I "shorted the phone book".  If I had lost, I would have lost everything.  But this time, I didn't lose, I won, BIG TIME.  I was able to buy back everything I lost in the dot com bubble, plus some.  After that, I swore off the casino gambling for good though, and just hedged around the fringes of the market in mostly "safe" equities and bonds.

Like everyone else with some paper wealth at this time, I was looking for ways to "secure my wealth".  I had my own Gold Mine, which was semi-productive with a lot of hard work, though this was getting tougher to do as I hit my 60s.  I did stack up a decent amount of physical gold, and silver as well which I bought whenever the price was being hammered down by the TBTF banks.  I also bought a lot of other "hard assets", including nearly an armory worth of weapons on the black market.  I stored all of it in one of the unproductive shafts in the gold mine.

As the collapse continued to progress into the second decade of the 21st Century, although I felt pretty secure in my location, it gradually dawned on me that we weren't just looking at a secular cycle, but that in fact the whole system of industrialization was going down the toilet, and the paper wealth I had was destined to go worthless with it.  That included the deeds to my properties and everything else I had accumulated over my 64 years walking the earth.

I also had no heirs, no wife and nobody to leave it all to either, assuming they could hold on to it.  In my meditations, I began to wonder just what the purpose was for me to continue onward, why was I doing this?  It seemed utterly futile to me, and I descended into a funk which lasted until the summer of 2017, when I smelled those first campfires and heard the thud of those trees hitting the ground.  It was coming from somewhere to the east of my property, but from the distance I was from it, pretty hard to pinpoint exactly where.

I didn't pinpoint it with any kind of fancy reconaissance, I cheated.  I went to the records office in Missoula, and found that a 10 acre property downstream from me about 5 miles away had been purchased by a fellow named Kenny Klarwood.  Once I knew where it was, I went to reconoitter it.  I didn't want to contact Kenny at the time, I was pretty paranoid in those years since as I was aging and felt less able to defend myself.  I set myself up on high ground and watched mostly through my Zeiss optics binoculars to observe him.

I quickly noticed a pattern, Kenny showed up mostly on the weekends, though as fall came closer those became 3 and 4 day weekends.  He was always alone, and he seemed pretty obssesed with secrecy.  During the week when he wasn't there, I went in to observe the work he was doing on the property.  The road he cut in was postively serpentine, if you didn't know where to turn and when, you went no further.  He also put brush in along the road to disguise it; he clearly did not want visitors.

So, OK, now I was pretty sure he was a prepper since I observed him digging out at least 2 caches.  I didn't disturb them once covered over, but I was pretty sure it was food and tools.

In mid October though, something changed.  He parked his van and trailer differently.  Previously he had never disengaged the trailer.  He also took the wheels off both and put them up on blocks instead.  He stacked the tires near his wood pile and covered them with a tarp.

Most surprising then was what came out of his trailer.  A stack of metal poles which he started bolting together with an electric screw gun and ratchet set.  I quickly deduced he was putting togeter a geodesic dome.  The structure went up quick enough, but he had a hell of a time by himself muscling the big vinyl cover for the thing.  This was no small tent, and that wasn't lightweight material.  I was sorely tempted at this point to go introduce myself and help him, but I still wasn't very sure of him.  He looked like just a kid!  But he wasn't a stupid kid, he hooked up his winch with block & tackles to a couple of the larger trees and got the machine to do the heavy lifting.

What surprised me even more was that he didn't leave after a week…then two!  I realized then he intended to stay the whole winter at his camp, because once the first snow fell there was no way he was getting out with his rig!  Now I was really intrigued.  Would this kid be able to last through an entire Montana w‌inter on his own in this encampment?

I resolved to help him if I saw him get into any trouble, and I periodically went up to my perch on the mountain with my Zeiss binoculars and my Vortex Razor spotting scope to watch him. He never did get in any trouble through the winter, and I was amazed watching him.  He actually knew stone tool knapping and was making his own tools!

Finally, as the winter came to a close, I was convinced the kid was for real.  The spring thaw came a bit late that year in April, but as the snow began to melt I saw him begin to start packing up his camp.  The tires went back on the Van and the Trailer.  He tidied up the campsite and disguised his firewood pile with brush.  Then he began to take down his geodesic dome and once again I was tempted to introduce myself and help him, but I was curious to see how long it would take him to get it down by himself.  It came down a lot faster than it went up.  Instead of winching the cover off, he started dissassembling it from the inside, and the cover gradually dropped down on top of him.  He used some saplings to keep it propped up enough so it didn't drop all the way down.  When the structure was all out, he removed the saplings until it was flat on the ground, then swept it of dirt and rolled it up, sweeping as he rolled to get the dirt off the bottom.  Finally, to get it into his trailer, he pulled it in with his winch.  It was quite impressive.

When he finally left, you would barely have known anyone had spent the winter there, or even that it wasn't anything but more raw land on the edge of Lolo National Forest.  You would have to be right on top of the place to find the wood pile, and he left no permanent structures up there, not even a lean-to like the one he had built up at the tree line in the National Forest.  At that point, I decided that if he showed up again over the spring and summer, I would go and introduce myself to him.  In the meantime, as a kind of present, I went up on the mountain to do some fix up work on his lean-to, which he had left rather unfinished.  I could tell he did that on purpose, because he didn't want to waste time on this if it would get blown over in a summer storm and he wasn't around to maintain it.  I was around though and had plenty of time on my hands to do this.

All of a sudden it dawned on me, I did have a purpose!  My funk lifted and it was like an enormous weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

A week went by, then two, then 3 and he didn't return.  I began to worry that he wasn't coming back, but why would he buy this land for just one winter?  I fretted on this, but then on week 4, once again the van and trailer showed up on the property.  I crossed the distance to his property quickly on my off road electric scooter early the morning after he arrived, and knocked on the door of his van.  He opened the door looking surprised and suspicious, and he was holding a Glock in his hand.

"HEY!  DON'T SHOOT! I exclaimed.  "I'm a neighbor!"  Fortunately, he didn't shoot, and it was the beginning of a wonderful friendship between an old hermit and a young prepper.