Well, the cat’s out of the bag now.

Here at TUAK Central I often speak of my neighbor W. I must now confess to you that I made W up. There is no guy named W. W is not a guy.

My neighbor is actually the well-known-in-certain-circles writer Claire Wolfe, whom I have had the privilege of calling friend for several years.

Since both she and I blog, that has raised occasional issues. For example I couldn’t ever photograph her dogs, because two of them are pretty distinctive and lots of people know what they look like. The only one I could ever photograph or even talk about was Beauty – whose name isn’t Beauty – because she looks like every other Australian Cattledog on the planet.

But I’m now free to tell a story I’ve wanted to be able to tell for years. I could never say just how I ended up in this particular patch of paradise because Claire is directly to blame, and the first rule of Claire is that what you know about her whereabouts stay with you and nobody else. But I have direct permission to tell this story, and so now I will.


I first became aware of Claire in the late ’90’s. It’d been years since I’d met anybody who agreed with a single thing I believed about individual liberty. I was going through some bad personal stuff, and had honestly begun to entertain the possibility that I was just crazy – that the rest of the world was right and I was wrong. But here was this erudite lady, clearly not crazy, saying just what I was thinking, only better. At the time that was quite a gift right there.

She and I “met” several years later, on the forum formerly known as The Claire Files, where she was an on-and-off regular. Time went by, and we got to corresponding. I’m also a writer, though mostly without an audience. She read and enjoyed some of my stuff, and even gave me the privilege of editing/proofingreading and admiring some of her works in progress.

I lived in Southern California, where I’d made the terrible mistake of moving with my family a few years earlier, chasing work. I hated it there from the moment I arrived, and the “safe corporate job” that brought me there lasted exactly two years. My marriage had very acrimoniously broken up, and I was in a bad way. I wanted out, but had a daughter who liked it there and I had promised not to haul her all around the country as I had been hauled when I was a boy. I promised her that we would stay where we were until she moved away from me, but that the very day she was officially ensconced elsewhere all promises were off because I was moving out of state and it would probably be somewhere really off the map. I was sick of life, and especially of cities and the meaningless jobs they hold. I told my daughter that I was going to tie a traffic light to the front bumper of my truck and drive into the boonies until somebody asked me what that funny-looking yellow thing was. There I would stop, and there I would stay.

I didn’t know where that would be. I had no prospects at all, but as long as my daughter was with me it didn’t matter – I was stuck where I was.

Years passed, and it was clear that Daughter would soon move out. The “where will I go” question became more immediate. I figured I’d look up people I’d corresponded with in Montana, or Wyoming. It was a pretty vague plan, but I definitely wasn’t staying in Kali.

Life, as I may have given the impression, sucked. It had sucked pretty consistently for years. I dreaded the beginning of every day, and drank myself stupid every night I could afford to. There were times when I considered sucking on a shotgun. But there was my daughter to consider, and besides … maybe the next step would be better. I didn’t really believe it would.

Then, for like the first time in my life, the Fairy Godmother Department noticed my existence. Out of the blue I got an email from Claire. She knew some people in the Southwestern high desert, and wondered if that area had ever interested me. It had – I’ve always loved the desert – but getting established in a desert area can be really hard. I’d worked a lot of temp jobs and wasn’t the least picky about work, but there still had to be work wherever I went. She invited me to visit these peoples’ homesteads. She wouldn’t be there, but she’d told the others about me and they said I could come.

Well, that was pretty weird but what the hell? I’m a free man, aren’t I? I can go spend a week with strangers if I want to. So I did. And we all got along famously, but it was clear from the first that financially it wouldn’t work out. The deal for joining this group was that you buy a parcel of land nearby and build your own homestead there. They’d help all they could, but nobody was going to hand me anything. That was fine with me, perfectly fair, but I knew I couldn’t do it. Between marginal employment, california rents and child support (despite my daughter actually living with me) I was living from month to month – I had no stored money at all. So that was out, and it made me sad because this place was freakin’ perfect. Crap.

About six months later Claire invited me back. I really didn’t see the point, but this time she said she would be there and I’d always wanted to meet Claire Wolfe in person so I went.

Claire has testified that we didn’t get along at first, and I’m afraid that’s true. It was a windy summer week, Claire really doesn’t do the wind all that happily, and so she spent much of the week sequestered in her little trailer here. I took that as rejection and kept my distance. She interpreted my keeping my distance (and shyness-related surliness) as rejection, and we got off on the wrong foot entirely. Nevertheless, at the end of the week she made me an incredible offer. She was only visiting, and only needed the little trailer from time to time. In return for certain labor-related services in future, I could stay right here if I wanted to.

Wow. I skeptically considered that offer from all sides for about five microseconds before accepting. But I was still stuck in California. Little did I know, that fairy godmother was still on the job and was about to lay a HUGE favor on me.

The first part didn’t seem like much of a favor. A certain federal agency, which I had been ducking for several years, caught up with me and proceeded to make my life financially impossible. They didn’t even contact me, they contacted the payroll department of the company where I was occupying a cubicle and arranged for them to just send the lion’s share of my pay to them instead. It was now impossible for me to support my daughter or myself. A series of telephone calls found them pretty unresponsive to a “If I starve, I won’t be making money” argument. I was in deep trouble.

But then my daughter – who knew nothing of this – announced that she was moving in with her long-time boyfriend, and if that worked out they would be getting married at the end of the year. I’d seen that coming for some time and hadn’t been very supportive of the idea, but now she presented me with a fait accompli – I just didn’t get a vote. I said, “Okay, Sweetheart. In the name of amity I’ll help you move. But remember what I said about my own plans. If you need me in the near future, you’re going to have to come where I am because it won’t be here.” She said she knew.

So I quit my job, left no forwarding address, and loaded my truck. What wouldn’t fit in the truck, I abandoned.

That was going on four years ago. I’ve visited California exactly once since then, to attend my daughter’s wedding. She’s doing fine without me, somewhat better (I admit) than I quietly expected her to.

And me? I’m a ragged, crotchety old cedar rat. This place might have been designed for such as me. No, I was never able to buy that parcel and become a real stakeholder. But I’ve worked hard to be useful enough that neither Claire nor the others would regret their act of blatant charity, and so far it looks like I’ve got them fooled. A year ago Claire lost her cabin-sweet-cabin to taxes and moved down here for a while. I worried how that was going to work between us, because as I mentioned we’d only actually met once and it didn’t go so good. But after some bumpy bits we fit in well. She likes her privacy and I like mine, but we also enjoy getting together for a meal or a movie or a palaver from time to time.

(Ed Note – Claire tells me I need to add that the reason I never moved out of her trailer, even though she came back for it, is that another – slightly better – one was available for her.)

She’s never really adjusted to the desert, being more of a forest person. I don’t know if she’ll stay a lot longer, though I hope she does. She’s a good neighbor to me, and I like to think I’ve been a good one to her.

But anyway, that’s the story. I’ve never been so happy in my life. And Claire Wolfe is entirely to blame for it – along with unnamed others in this undisclosed location.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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4 Responses to Well, the cat’s out of the bag now.

  1. desert fox says:

    Joel,

    I have had the privilege of meeting Claire and some of her friends (your neighbors).

    They are good people.

    You better mind your P’s and Q’s and do whatever it takes to stay where you are. You couldn’t ask for a better deal.

    OTOH – it is said that a friend is someone who knows all your faults and likes you anyway … so I think you are set as far as W and D and L are concerned. (Not that you HAVE any faults of course )

    Cheers.

  2. Pat H. says:

    Many of us “love” Claire for her tireless work over the years, congrats for being a valuable neighbor.

    Now, I’m going to forget this post ever existed.

  3. Ahab says:

    Hey Dude,

    You look pretty much like I pictured in my mind’s eye. Good guess on my part.

    I’m very new to both your site and Claire Wolfe, having reached you both very late in life, not that it matters. After reading your piece about the Wizard Wolfe, I think you and I agree about the woman. From what I’ve read of hers, she couldn’t have captured my thoughts any better had she been a mind reading adept. Far as that goes, you too.

    I won’t bore you with my mental ramblings except to say we share an independent streak. Your site, and expression of thought give me a kind of peace, that I am not alone in this. I do lament it took me so long to get there, though.

  4. Buck says:

    Like we didn’t know. Dude………. first thing Evelyn asked me when I told her you were moving:
    “He’s going where Claire is isn’t he?”
    So she was just a pinch early in that female intuition thing.
    I have disturbing news……… I’m looking at property in that general vicinity(general vicinity being sort of guess based on my rambling mind) and a back up a bit North.
    If you are not nice I’ll bring Motherbatherick.

To the stake with the heretic!