Published on The Doomstead Diner on November 16, 2016
Discuss this story at the Collapse Narratives Table inside the Diner
"What do you mean 'neighbor'? Kenny asked suspiciously. The Glock still had the safety off. "The nearest cabin is almost a mile away, and nobody ever seems to be there."
"Yea that one is empty. It's been up for sale for a few years. I live over yonder, about 5 miles upstream.", Karl replied, gesturing his hand towards the west.
Kenny looked the man over, he seemed to be in his 50s and wasn't carrying a weapon, at least not one large enough to see easily. Maybe he had an ankle holster, but that didn't seem too likely either, so he holstered the Glock. He didn't seem threatening, although for an older guy he looked to be in very good shape. 5 miles away though was a pretty long hike so early in the morning, and Kenny didn't hear a 4 wheeler coming on to his property.
"5 miles? You walked all the way over here this morning just to say hi?" Kenny asked incredulously.
"Walk? Hell no I rode over on my scooter." Karl said, gesturing toward his ZEV.
The ZEV got Kenny's prepper antennae up as he looked out at the vehicle from the van.
"Electric?" Kenny inquired, raising an eyebrow.
"Yup. It's the Cat's Pajama's. It's got a range almost 100 miles on a charge and it will do highway speeds, although not on back country like this. I came around via the logging roads and then in on the road you cut in here. Took about 30 minutes because it's a lot longer driving around that way than to come straight over as the crow flies."
Kenny was astounded. Not only did this fellow know where his camp was, he also knew where his road in came from! It was a bit crushing to know he could be so easily located. He was going to have to find out how he was found so easily.
"My name's Karl. What's yours?" Karl asked, even though he already knew Kenny's name from the county records office. It might have made Kenny even more jumpy to feel he had been spied on.
"I'm Kenny. Mind if I come out and have a look at the scooter?"
"Sure. You can take it for a spin too, at least if you know how to ride anyhow. No gearshift, very simple."
Kenny put on his shoes and walked with Karl over to the ZEV. It was camo colored with a very robust looking double frame. No obvious motor that he could see.
"Where's the motor?", Kenny asked.
"Hub motor. The wheel itself is the motor. Very efficient.", Karl replied. "Go on, take it for a ride, just don't turn the throttle too quick, it will jump right out from under you. It has a lot of pick-up."
Kenny climbed on the scooter and flipped up the kickstand. It felt very light, with almost all the weight at the axle height, unlike motorcycles with the engine up above the wheels. Turning the key on the ignition, there was no sound, and no starter button to push either. The only thing that changed was a green diode light came on and the electronic speedometer screen lit up.
Kenny twisted the throttle gingerly, and felt the scooter begin to move. Picking up his feet, he drove it slowly around his van and trailer once, then a second time a bit faster. It made almost no sound at all, just a low hum when under way. When he came to a halt, dead silence again.
"Wow! That is just TOO COOL!" Kenny exclaimed. "I am going to HAVE to get one of these!"
Karl laughed. "Yea, they're a lot of fun. I have a couple of different models, including a trike with a dumping bed on the back for hauling around stuff at my place. I also have an electric Polaris Ranger utility vehicle for bigger loads. I'm not as young as I used to be and hauling back a moose humping all the meat out on my back is not something I am fond of anymore. Makes the joints hurt."
"So, how long have you known I was here?" Kenny asked.
Karl put up his hand with his palm facing outward, the universal sign language to STOP. "Wait. Before we get into that, I've got a present for you."
Karl went around to the back of the ZEV and opened the 6 cubic foot camo colored fiberglass lockbox on the back, withdrawing a reed woven picnic basket. Kenny smiled at the contrast between the two old and new containers.
"Got some fresh eggs from my chickens and some goat cheese from my goats and some Bear Bacon from my freezer for breakfast."
"Wow, that sounds really good! Usually when I come up on the weekends to work on the property I just bring up a Subway Hero and a Take & Bake Pizza and a couple of cans of Chunky Soup. I do have some nice Arabica Coffee Beans from a cottage roaster in Missoula though."
"That sounds GREAT! I hardly ever get good coffee anymore, the closest grocery is 20 miles away and they only carry Maxwell House canned stuff. I don't travel into Missoula too often."
Kenny got his cooking gear out of the trailer, along with a folding table and a couple of folding chairs, a couple of mess kits to cook with and Hobo Knives to use for silverware. Karl fried up the Bear Bacon and then made a big Goat Cheese Omellette with 6 of the freshly laid chicken eggs, while Kenny ground up the coffee beans using a hand grinder. He boiled up some water from the stream in his stainless steel kettle, then letting the coffee and water soak in the French Press for a bit before pouring the steaming hot Java into the stainless steel drinking cups in the mess kits. Breakfast was ready in about 20 minutes, and Kevin & Karl sat down to enjoy the feast.
"So…", Kevin repeated, "how long have you known I was here?"
"Not too long after you first came last summer. I smelled your campfires and then heard it when you started knocking down the trees to make the clearing here and cut the road in. Well, I more felt the trees coming down than heard them, it's the low frequency sounds that travel so far, mostly through the ground. You don't really hear it with your ears, but you do sense it."
"But how did you know where I WAS? 5 miles is a lot of radius, and this is a small campsite."
Karl laughed. "Well, I probably would have found it after a week or two of riding around either on one of the scooters or one of my horses, but I cheated on this and went into the records office in Missoula to look up properties that had been transacted recently. I have a decent amount of real estate around here, so I like to know who my neighbors are."
"CRAP!" Kenny exclaimed. "I never though about that! That sure does make it easy to find anyone, no matter how remote your site is."
"Yup. No real secrecy these days, and no way to stay entirely private either, no matter how far out you go, and this really isn't all that far out either. Besides all the public records of property transactions, there's Google Earth too, and it's also pretty easy to fly drones to look for infrared signatures and really nail down the location of anyone, anywhere on earth. I've been at this game a long time, and once the internet went up I realized that true privacy and true isolation were gone for good. Or at least for so long as the internet is still up and running, anyhow."
Kenny was shocked. This old guy seemed to know as much if not more about prepping and the ever increasing surveillance by the Police State than he did!
"So…how long have you been around here Karl? When did you get started?" Kenny inquired with increasing interest.
"A LOOONNG time ago, Sonny Boy. Before you were even a swimmer in your dad's nuts." Karl said with a big grin. "I moved up here back in the 70s, been here ever since with a few trips away here and there, mostly back in the 90s. Haven't travelled outside the Fascist States of Amerika since 9-11 and the Trade Center went down."
Kenny's ears perked up hearing the term "Fascist States of Amerika". There was only one place he heard that term used regularly. The Doomstead Diner.
"Why do you call this the "Fascist States of Amerika?", Kenny inquired. "Where did you hear that?"
"Oh, I'm still "connected" to the internet. I'm not a primitivist or rewilder by any means, as should be obvious by my electric scooter over there. " Karl responded, thumbing at the ZEV. "I've been reading and watching as the spin down accelerates, and there are a few Bloggers on the net who cover this in detail. I follow a fellow on a Blog called the Doomstead Diner who goes by the handle RE and writes ridiculously long articles about the economics going on here. When I read one of his first articles on the Diner, "Da Fed: Central Banking According to RE", it resonated with me. I've been lurking on the Diner ever since, and he calls it the "FSoA" all the time.
"You're a lurker on the Diner?!?!?", Kenny exclaimed, completely flabberghasted. "I'm a Diner lurker too! I've been reading RE's shit on the Diner since I was in Junior High!"
Karl let out a huge belly laugh. "Well, that does explain a few things then. How come you don't post up there and just lurk?"
"Well, at first I just didn't think I had too much too contribute, I was just in Junior High. The forum there was also kind of nuts, either they were getting into abstract arguments about religion, or they were napalming each other to beat the band. Then once I did learn some stuff and got my own ideas about what was ongoing, I started to get paranoid about anyone knowing about it and tracking my posting on the internet. So I never posted up, but I read the Diner every day, along with quite a few other websites concerned with collapse topics."
"Not that much different from me." Karl mused. "Mostly my paranoia keeps me from posting up, but besides that the regular posters there get too testy for me most of the time. I mostly just read the blog articles and only venture into the Forum occassionally."
"So, where do you think this is going Karl? Seriously. And how SOON? Like RE always says, it's the TIMELINE that's the big question mark, not so much what the end result will be".
"Well, it's obviously going down the toilet, that's for sure. But I am as unsure about the timeline or exactly how far down the ladder we're going to go here as the next Kollapsnik out there. Extinction is certainly a possibility, but even if it is there is no way I will be the Last Man Left Standing on Earth, although maybe you have a shot at that." Karl said with a wry laugh. "Climate change could screw everything, or the Nincompoop Neo-cons, war mongers and terrorists on all sides might start pitching the nukes out everywhere. WTF knows on this or how it will play out?"
Karl continued onward…
"Meanwhile, I've spent the last 40 years around here, sort of straddling two worlds and trying to stay out of the rat race as much as possible, and I was pretty successful at doing that. It's not the least bit sustainable though, for the obvious reason I'm up here by myself, a hermit for the most part, no wife or children. If it is going to be sustainable, at least a few more people are going to be necessary. I was giving up hope on that until you showed up. That's why I came over to meet with you."
Kevin nodded in understanding. "Yea, I run up into that problem myself when I think about what I am doing, and my obsession with security and secrecy. I can't live up here forever by myself, although I prefer that to the idea of ending up in a FEMA Concentration Camp or as Cannon Fodder in some stupid war or BBQ meat for Zombies cruising the streets of Missoula when Safeway runs out of food. I just don't know what else to do right now though. RE on the Diner talks all the time about "forming community" and his SUN☼ Project, but HTF do you DO that? I'm a loner, I don't have many friends. Wait… I don't have ANY friends. How do you make a community if you have no friends?"
Karl sighed. "Yes I know where you are coming from, more than you can imagine since I have spent 40 years with no friends, living in isolation. But I think there is a reason we have met, a reason why we both were drawn to this patch of the earth at this time. I think we need to work this out, how to find others and to let go some of the obsession with security and remaining hidden. I am sure there are still good people out there, we just need to find them before TSHTF."
Kenny & Karl fell into silence for a while, and took their mess kits down to the stream to clean them off. As they walked back up the hill to the campsite, Kenny broke the silence.
"You are right Karl. Somehow we have to find others and make a community around here. I don't know how really yet but I do know people in Missoula, I have many that I work for with my landscaping business and a few people I still know from high school, although they are mostly clueless idiots. Maybe I'll be able to find some decent folks."
Karl smiled and got visibly more happy. "YES! You're still out there and people are starting to wake up. I think we can make a difference here, Lolo has a lot of resources and there aren't a whole lot of people around here at the moment. We can work together to make this work. I wondered how you were making a living and how you afforded this land. So you are a landscaper?"
Kenny laughed. "Well, 'landscaper' is the professional term. Mostly I cut grass for people who still are making decent money. But I started the business before I graduated High School, and it keeps growing. Right now I am making more money than most my age in Missoula, a lot more than most of my classmates who went to college and are now sinking ever deeper in debt. I like it because it is my own business and I don't have anyone bossing me around. I don't spend a lot of money during the week, so I have plenty to invest in my Doomstead and prepping up."
"You have done an amazing job Kenny, considering you are so young. The work you have done in getting your property ready for TSHTF scenario is amazing, and your mobile camping setup is quite impressive. You'll have to come by my property also and have a look, maybe it will give you some ideas here. It's a more permanent setup than yours though, and cost a good deal more money too and a lot of years of work to get it where it is now."
"I'd really love to see your place Karl! Thanks for the invite! Maybe next weekend when I come up I can come over?"
"Sure. That would be great! I have to get back over there now though, it's getting close to milking time for the goats and I gotta feed the chickens and the horses. We can chat over the internet though, or text on the cell phones. Let's exchange email addys and phone numbers."
They exchanged their contact information, and Kenny watched Karl drive off on the ZEV out the access road, somewhat in disbelief he had met this fellow living so close to him, who was so much older but seemed so in synch with his own thoughts. He was a "Boomer", and Boomers were supposed to be clueless and wasteful enablers of the industrial society. In Karl though, he already felt he had a real friend, the first real friend he could remember since grade school. It was a warm feeling.