All the pretty horses

Tap Water

Where I was raised as a boy in rural Alaska, during the late seventies & eighties, the outer limits of civilization lay somewhere many leagues behind our back yard. We lived a subsistence lifestyle, with little in the way of luxury, or even basic creature comforts–seventy miles from the nearest highway (or to be more precise, seventy miles from the nearest “landing”), our source of transportation was a flat-bottomed river boat during the summer, and a dog team by winter.

We did not have electricity, indoor plumbing, or running water. If we wanted to eat it, read it, or otherwise consume it, “it” had to be hauled from somewhere by one of the aforementioned vehicles. That means we didn’t watch a lot of television, listen to a lot of radio, play a lot (any) of video games.

The sound of Dad’s 7mm magnum punching a hole in the sound barrier meant that something had just died, and that we were all going to eat.

I grew up with a solid appreciation for how thin the barrier between having things, and not having things, really is.

Few people who live on a highway system with instant access to power, water, internet, and food have an idea how good they really have it, and what it would be like if it were all suddenly taken away from them; no real appreciation for the civilized world they inhabit, or the wilderness patiently waiting just on the other side of that fragile veil.

That wilderness is a question as much as it is a place. A very simple question, but also a very powerful one. The question is this: if the electricity were turned off, would you know how to turn it back on?

My current writing project is a novel titled The Book of Ten, and within its covers I describe the true consequence of not having a firm answer to that query.

Thanks for tuning in–more to follow…

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4 Responses to “All the pretty horses”

  1. I love this! I never lived that far off the grid, but I do know what your dad’s 7mm sounds like:) Being capable of surviving if the power is shut off is never far from my mind.

    • I’m so glad we’ve managed to stay connected over the years, Barrie! I saw your FB post a week or so ago about working at Sheep Creek Lodge for Jeff & PJ and it really brought back some memories…

  2. Back in my twenties I did get a taste of this kind of life, not living off the grid, but living in a tent for months with no running water, clearing land of 30 trees (my husband and I each had our own chain saw), building my own home, coming home from work to cut down a tree for wood to heat the home that night, living from paycheck to paycheck, going without grocery shopping for months and getting the shakes standing in line wondering if I would have enough money for groceries when I did go. In no way does it compare to your life growing up but those eight years taught me to never take anything for granted; to be appreciative. I would like to think that I am ready if the electricity goes off–food, water, shelter, heat, light but definietly no way to turn it back on. Having parents that grew up in the Depression is an advantage but I need a generator, fuel and some way to commuicate with the outside world. Thanks again, Jason, for cranking up my brain cells.

    • Oh, I think it compares to my story, only a slight difference of degree, Margie. The scene you’re describing is pretty incredible, and one few people can fully appreciate who’ve grown up & lived in “town” for their entire lives. Thank you for sharing your story with us 🙂

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