Published on The Doomstead Diner on October 23, 2016
Discuss this Story at the Collapse Narratives Table inside the Diner
This is the fictional story of Kenny, who graduated High School in 2015. It is written sometimes in the present tense, other times in the past tense looking back at his life in 2050 or so. Kenny SURVIVED the collapse, as did some others, but it was never easy and there were many sacrifices along the way.
Kenny is the only child of a formerly middle class couple who gradually descended into poverty during Kenny's JHS & HS years. His father lost his job after the financial crisis in 2008, but struggled on to maintain a middle class life and was able to find lower paid work to carry on while amassing credit card debt and falling further behind on mortgage payments. They were able to sell the home at the end of 2016 and took a small amount of money out of it.
I will be writing Kenny's story as a serial novel here on the Diner, to keep me occupied when there aren't any other real good stories ongoing in the present day world of collapse I haven't already beat to death on the pages of the Diner. No idea how often I will write new chapters as of now. Probably more often if readers pat me on the back periodically telling me how much they enjoy it. lol. OK, now that I have finished soliciting praise, let's hear from Kenny!
Captain Obvious Note: "Kenny" is obviously my fictional alter-ego self. My middle name is Kenneth. Ah, to be 18 again and in perfect health with a Great Adventure ahead! I can only imagine now what it would be like…
In High School, I was known as "Kenny the Kollapsnik". That's because around 2012 I was surfing the internet on my smartphone and ran into a website called "The Doomstead Diner". I was around 13 at the time, my town of Missoula, MT was not doing too well and I got interested in why this was all occuring. I surfed through a lot of websites back then besides the Diner, Economic Undertow, Peak Surfer, Daily Impact, Cassandra's Legacy, The Archduid Report, Clusterfuck Nation, Zero Hedge, and many others although the Diner was always the best one. By the time I got to High School, I was a full fledged "Kollapsnik" and "Prepper", at least as much as any teenager living in Mom's Basement can be a prepper anyhow. I had my Bugout Bags which attached to my Bicycle and Trailer, and then when I was 16 and got my Driver's License I used all my savings from cutting lawns and Christmas and Birthday presents to buy a used van from Craig's list as my wheels and "Bugout Machine".
I was pretty much a Loner in HS, pretty soon after I started talking about this stuff at the Lunch Table the other Sheeple (Lambs to the Slaughter?) at the table started poking fun at me and I never fit in too well. I didn't have a girlfriend and so I had a lot of free time on my hands outside of school, so I busied myself learning primitive skills instead of playing video games on the X-box. The basement was full of chips from stone tool knapping which my mom was always yelling at me to clean up. She was happier about the little Hydroponics set up I built since I grew lots of herbs and spices which were pretty expensive in the grocery store, and mom was always trying to save money in those days, because my dad had lost his job in IT when it was outsourced to India.
I lost a lot of perks I had as a kid when that happened, I was on the Soccer Travel Team and was 1st string Goalie, and that was one of the first things cut when we went on the "Austerity" budget. After a year of Unemployment, my dad was able finally to get a new job working as a manager at Walmart, but it was much lower paid than his old job. My mom also went to work at this time, getting a job at a sewing supply store that she had always frequented because sewing is her hobby. Together, they were just about able to meet the mortgage payment and all the other bills, but there wasn't too much left over after that. I started cutting lawns around the neighborhood for my spending money, and we still had relatives who were doing OK, like my dad's brother who was a Dentist and had a pretty good practice in Boise. He was a super nice guy with a big bushy mustache and always dropped a C-note on me for X-mas and Birthdays. He even let me smoke some ganga with him when I graduated high school, and I started growing some reefer with my hydroponics set up. He bought it from me, so that was a HUGE source of income for me the year after I graduated HS while still living in mom's basement. He smoked the stuff like a CHIMNEY, and really the only limit on how much I could make at that time growing Mary Jane was how much I could grow and how fast in that space to sell to him. I made almost $10K from him that year, all cash and tax free!
I also was still cutting lawns, and once I got the van and then a trailer besides that, I got a lot more lawns and could cover a lot more territory. Right out of HS, in that year I made almost $30K, and only reported half of it as income to the IRS. Living at home my expense were low, and most of it got plowed into savings, although I kept buying new preps that year, including a 20' F-Dome, a 2000W multifuel generator, 500W of solar panels and numerous other items.
After all the expenses of buying preps plus also contributing to paying the mortgage on the McMansion, I still had around $20K at the end of the year. I made more money that year than my dad did working as a manager at Walmart, and I didn't go into debt to go to college like most of my High School buddies and their girlfriends.
The period from 2008 to 2016 took a big toll on my dad though, he started drinking heavily and smoking a lot after getting axed from his IT job. He started getting all sorts of medical problems, Peripheral Artery Disease and Liver Disease too. Whenever the doctors told him he needed to stop smoking and drinking, he would come home and smoke and drink MORE! He didn't want to live anymore, he was commiting slow suicide, and it finally worked a little over a year after my HS graduation. He had a massive coronary while working at Walmart and yelling at one of his supervisors.
After his death, my mom decided to sell the McMansion and go live with my Uncle the Dentist in Boise in a Guest House on their property, and after the mortgage was paid off and the Bankster fees were paid, there was still left over around $40K, and my mom gave me half of that. She also gave me half of his Life Insurance policy for another $50K, so at this point I was literally ROLLING in Dough. Not sure whether I would have been able to make it through the Zero Point without that Stash of Cash or not. It did make things a lot easier to negotiate though, for as long as the money was working anyhow, which was only for another 5 years or so until 2022.
My mom had Social Security survivor bennies from my dad, and she was in pretty decent shape in the Guest House in Boise, so I decided I would try to make it on my own. With a nice Stash of Cash and a decent landscaping bizness going, I figured the best thing to do was to stick around Missoula until TSHTF in earnest. RE on the Diner seemed to think the Pigmen could keep the monetary system running until 2020 or so, and he was pretty close on that prediction, it actually went south for good in 2021. But I am getting ahead of myself here.
While Missoula isn't a huge town by any stretch of the imagination, it's still just as stupidly designed as any town in post-industrial Amerika. Rents are also ridiculously high, especially if you only go back to your apartment to sleep most of the time. So I took RE's advice and got a 24/7 accessible storage unit for most of my stuff and my trailer when not using it for the landscaping biz, and lived in my van, a 1998 Chevy Conversion Van which I picked up on Craig's List for $4000. It was the second van I bought and in much better shape than the first one which had a lot of rust and very cranky transmission. It also had a raised roof unlike the first one, and I could just about stand up in it since I am not too tall.
I got a membership at the Missoula Fitness Club where I went every morning for a workout and shower before heading out for a day of cutting grass. For my mail, I got a box at the local UPS store, which I also used for doing faxing and making copies of documents for the landscaping biz. I got a 10 gig plan on my smart phone for internet access and portable wi-fi when no free wifi was available, but most of the time while in town free wifi was available so I usually did not use up more than about half my bandwidth for the month. I made a free wordpress blog for my landscaping business, as well as free Facebook and Google+ accounts, and several free email addresses. I made a nice Steering Wheel desk out of Walnut carving it with hand tools from planks I bought at Home Depot, along with the desk in the back of the van so it was very easy to do all the office work for the landscaping business in the van.
For food during this period, I mostly subsisted on Subway Heros, Take n' Bake Pizzas, Rotisserie Chickens, cans of Progresso and Campbell's Chunky Soup and Sushi from the deli counter at Safeway. I also would take myself out to a nice sit down dinner in one of the local bars or restaraunts on Friday evening, before heading out to the property I bought in Lolo. I kept up with a few of the people I knew from HS this way, though I didn't really think of them as friends.
Through 2017 I continued to make pretty good money doing "landscaping" (mostly just cutting grass really) and my nest egg was growing, so at this point I felt secure enough to buy some Hunting Land on the edge of the Lolo National Forest just north of Lolo Hot Springs. I got the land pretty cheap because it was well off road with no access in, I had to cut the "road" in which was really just wide enough for me to squeeze my van and trailer through. I disguised my road in with brush, even though it was already coming off an old logging road which was no longer in use. My property was about 10 miles away from the nearest paved road, with only a few hunting cabins sprinkled around the area.
My pattern through the summer was preparing the property to live on through the winter, when access would only be possible by snow machine and I would be essentially trapped there until the spring thaw. I leveled the ground where I parked my van and trailer, which was back breaking work utilizing just pick and shovel and a wheelbarrow. I took many trips down to the creek bed to gather rocks to build rock walls, and I dug out several caches for my food supplies, stored in large water tight plastic contaners. I marked the locations of my food caches both with lat/lon coordinates on my gps as well as triangulating with my compass off major landmarks, and committed these to memory by visiting each of them every weekend, until I could practically find the locations blindfolded. I had 5 caches in all, 2 on my own property and another 3 secreted on park land near the property.
I had plenty of wood split for heating fuel for the small wood stove I had installed in my van, but I also brought in 4 5 gallon cans of kerosene for a kerosene heater I picked up on sale at Walmart for the low, low price every day of $150. For more fuel backup, I had 4 more 5 gallon cannisters of Propane, the type used for outdoor BBQs.
For electricity, my main storage was 2 large 12V 120AH Marine Deep cycle batteries, with several means to keep them charged up. I bought a 2000W Yamaha portable generator which ran on both gasoline and propane, 2 250W Solar PV panels and 2 RV Wind Turbines. I didn't really use much electricity over the winter though, mostly just running some diode lights in the van and my laptop and smart phone. Internet access through the 4G network was spotty in the area, but I climbed one of the taller trees and put an antenna up and that resolved that problem, so I had good internet access through the winter except on some real bad weather days.
When late October rolled around and my grass cutting jobs and leaf raking jobs were petering out, before the first snowfall hit in 2017, I packed everything from my Storage Unit I thought I would need for the winter and headed for my Doomstead in Lolo.
Coming Soon to a Laptop Near You: Chapter 2- My First Winter