On Empowerment

GC Guy said something kind of startling this morning, while enthusing about his new rifle and spotlight. He said, “Thanks for talking me down and taking that trip yesterday. I was really freaked and out of my element, and you helped … empower me.”

That was nice. I replied something like, “Well, I respect anybody who moves here from the city and makes a go of it. Anything I can do to help that along, it’s a pleasure.”

And I meant that and all, but thinking further on the subject I felt like kind of a fraud for having said it. I have no special qualifications for living happily out here. I’m from Detroit and lived most of my life in cities, same as most people. It’s not like I moved here to get a break from my lifetime busting horses on Montana ranches or anything. If anything, I’m unqualified. There’s a lot of work involved, and I’m the laziest guy I know.

So that got me thinking about the whole subject of ’empowerment.’ Because that’s really what I like about living out in the boondocks.

It always used to bother me that I was so dependent for my very life on structures built by other people. It just struck me as wrong that I didn’t know how to do anything on my own. Isn’t adulthood about growth and maturity? And isn’t a part of maturity the ability to take care of yourself, your own needs, your own defense? Look, I’m not completely crazy, I like the comforts that come with modern living. Who wouldn’t? But there’s something infantilizing about it as well, if the only way to gain those comforts is to abandon self-determination and depend entirely on others.

Here, if you want a house you’d better be willing to build yourself one. If you want the wonders of modern living, like electricity and running water, you need to arrange those things for yourself. For some of the more fundamental things, like food, well, I could have picked a more congenial location. But even that isn’t out of the question in the future. We’re working on it.

Now we’re looking at a … well, not a crisis, exactly. A challenge. The change in wildlife behavior is actually minor, compared to the fact that this afternoon we’ve learned that yet another town south of us is being evacuated. Shortly before quitting time I said to GC Guy, “When I got here there was some infrastructure built but not a stone on a stone. Now we’ve got a big barn and three houses, and I helped build every one of them. That’s the first time I ever had that chance, and I’m not gonna drive away from it and pray it doesn’t burn. So if they can’t stop the fire in the forest and it looks like coming here, I’m gonna send Click and the boys to the city and get ready to fight fire.”

GC Guy had been thinking the same thing. “We’ve got access to at least three tractors. If we start with the southernmost houses, we’ve got time to clear the brush and trees from around everybody we know. I’m in.”

And that was what I wanted to hear, and it kind of settled my earlier question. What is ’empowerment?’ It’s power. It’s adulthood.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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10 Responses to On Empowerment

  1. Bob B. says:

    stop bein so damn hard on yourself. take yes for an answer, enjoy it. your new found skills have been attained by hard work. kinda fun isn’t it? to be old and wise one has to have been young and stupid. growin up is rather interesting, no matter at what age it happens.

  2. Big Wooly says:

    I’m concerned about your preliminary plans for firefighting. While I commend and appreciate the fact that you are willing to fight to defend your homestead, I hope that those plans include a bug-out scenario just in case things get untenable. Clearing brush is fine, but when wind-whipped ashes start falling and if your limited water supply fails, I sincerely hope your wisdom includes a failsafe escape. We look to you for tips on how to survive. Don’t let us down.
    We’d be pissed.

  3. M J says:


    Good luck to you. I hope that everything turns out OK.

    One thing that I have learned from you is that there are still some good folks around in the world. You, Sir, are one to ride the river with.

    Good luck.

    PS Remember to have an escape route, GOOD bag and last but never least NEVER trust in what you think a fire might do. Damn thing will do what you least expect.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I’ve never fought a large wildfire. I’ve studied accounts of people in CA who didn’t evacuate when told.

    Two common themes emerge:
    1) they cleared, as you and GC guy are planning.

    2) They laid in a lot of water, and prepared to dispense it in tiny spurts. Few defied the fire by spraying a lot of water on it, but many of the successful ones spent a day or three with a backpack sprayer dousing wind-blown embers and such as they found them.

    Good luck and god speed. As hard as I know you have worked, nothing there is worth losing the tip of your pinky finger. Plan to fight, but be ready to leave if that is the sensible thing to do. Buildings can be replaced, you can’t.


  5. Anonymous says:

    A few years back, a big wildfire in our area was reported, at various times, to be spreading at a rate of 6 mph. That doesn’t sound like much, but it means that;
    1. You can’t out-walk it
    2. You can barely outrun it
    3. It could totally engulf or surround your entire gulch in less than half an hour.

    Be very aware at all times and stay safe. K

  6. Joel says:

    Relax, guys. I hope to die here, but not in the next few days or weeks.

    The wash is a nice, wide, non-flammable road out of here. It’s been my private highway for years, and I know every rock in it all the way to the county road.

    Rule 46: 4WD is your friend.

  7. Matt says:

    Cement houses don’t burn as easily as stick built. Metal roofing and Ceramic tiles don’t ignite as easily as asphalt shingle either.

    Tubs of water and sacking on the roofs, clear defenseable space, bury the gas and propane.

  8. suek says:

    “Anything I can do to help that along, it’s a pleasure.”

    And I meant that and all, but thinking further on the subject I felt like kind of a fraud for having said it.”

    “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”…and don’t you forget it! On the other hand, wisdom is learning how much we don’t know.

    Stay safe. Hope your next survival lessons aren’t _too_ extreme.

  9. Good luck y’all. Clear out those combustibles! And remember fire travels uphill WAY faster than you can. Don’t let yourself get pinned between fire and a hill…

  10. MamaLiberty says:

    Stay safe… and I hope your neighbors don’t wait until the last minute to get the horses out to safer quarters. They can be absolute hell to catch or load once they get frightened. And the smell of brush or forest fire scares the hell out of them.

To the stake with the heretic!