Saturday, June 2, 2018

The old man and the hills

Out here in the American West, men like him blend into the fabric of the landscape. When he goes into town, he puts on freshly washed clothes and looks like any other retiree from one of the small single family houses or an apartment complex in the sprawling former agricultural population center.

But he is not. His home up in the mountains, an hour or more outside of town - depending on the weather - has none of the amenities even modern Americans out West have become used to.

He has no running water, no other electricity than from his small Japanese made generator, which he runs just two or three hours a day, and no structure in the shape of a house. It is probably better not to describe the physical details of the man's home and surroundings in too much detail. The county building inspectors and the zoning board discovered Google Maps and Google Earth a few years ago. With their newfound technical skills, zoning boards all over the American West went on an enforcement binge.

This did not affect the man in the hills because his only structure is an outhouse with a luxurious square footage double that of a traditional outhouse. What did affect him was the spike in real estate prices, driven up by unlimited speculation and mortgage tricks, made worse by increasing demand for marijuana, before the Great Depression of 2007/2008.
Chainsaws and industrial size generators moved in next door and throughout the patchwork of valleys in the region.

With denser population and - he and others believe - climate change, he spent more time away from the home in the hills in recent years fighting fires across the West. It means good money and maybe a chance at retirement.

The story of the man's life is yet another one of those that really should have been made into a book or a movie.

A good title would be "The kind American".

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