Saturday, April 13, 2013


Meet Gilbert and Donna---friendly acquaintances at our pondside  camp.  That's our rigs on the far side
 Every day we all walked around the pond for exercise.
Then I learned that they actually lived here behind that wall of foliage. 
 Of course I want the story so I approach their camp.
They invite me in. 
Their little dog is the love of their life.  They also feed 5 feral cats.
I tell them about this blog and ask permission to tell their story. He consults with his wife and they agree.
Donna shows me the details of their lifestyle.  They have lived like this for 4 years. When Gilbert lost his job they received food stamp money ---$367 a month.  Their trailer park rent was $300 which they didn't have. Donna suggested they could go live in the woods----and they did.

At first they didn't even have a tent.  Someone gave them one and slowly they acquired the equipment they now have----mostly by donation.  Donna shows me her cooking technique:  A flat stone in the middle of the fire where the skillet is put.
That's the shower back there---in a really lovely glade.
Another camper gave them the work table.
For middle of the night urges, this handy ring.
Gilbert shows off his coleman lanterns.
As we talked a friend brought them some ice.  Lasts 5 days.
I began an extensive interview.  They were amazingly open. Here's the story:
Married 24 years---he 57--she 46.  They met when he was the maintenance man in her
complex.  She was attracted to him and deliberately broke things for him to fix--till he "got the message." She became an alcoholic but got sober 20 years ago.  They tried living in a mission for awhile but had to sleep separately --they rejected that option.
Donna has medical problems which are handled by Choctaw Indian services.  They have kids who respect their choice of outdoor living and visit often--taking them shopping etc.  They eat healthy, she says---vegetables at every meal.  Both emphasized how they have come to love living this way---that the clamor of town makes them anxious to return here.  The surprising thing is that $367 is enough to sustain them--with just a bit of help from friends---taking them shopping occasionally--and moving camp when they must.  Gilbert was arrested recently for failure to pay old traffic tickets.  An understanding Judge (Stanley) reviewed the total situation and dropped all charges and fines---only directed Gilbert to go do some good deed for others.  He did---that very day--but that's another story.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  I call them heroes because they boldly embraced a lifestyle they could afford---instead of burdening their kids or the state (in any serious way) Our society can easily furnish this amount.
THEY FOUND A LIFE---an enjoyable life in a very odd place.  They do no harm.
THEY HAVE EACH OTHER---that makes all the difference. 
I gave them a pep talk---told them that one of the great souls (Thoreau) chose to go live by a pond---told them that you (my readers) would be inspired by their story.
I gave them one of my water cans and all of my collected aluminum cans (thank you CB for inspiring me to retrieve cans  wherever I see them and recycle).
Gave them batteries for their radio and $20 for sharing their story.



Rob said...

It's good to see you back... even the photos were easy to look at!

I wouldn't use the word 'hero' for living your life your way.
Hero used to have a special meaning.

Picking up the aluminum cans to recycle is a great thing to do.

George said...

Nice posting. Lots of positives about them except for your comment that our government can "easily furnish" the food stamp money. $367 a month is $88,000 over 20 years, certainly their expected life span.
We are 16+ trillion in debt for many reasons including this one. Food stamp use is dramatically increasing as are disability payments, among other things as well. The spending has a limit you know.

I don't know if you are familiar with the totality of the Ann Rand movement of the 30's. It also included Isabel Paterson and Rose Wilder Lane who together are credited with starting the Libertarian party. These folks stood for more than just "follow your bliss" and do your own thing. They stood for personal responsibility and keeping the government out of our lives, which is one of the genius ideas of our founding fathers which we have unfortunately lost.
It isn't easy to make transitions in life and people no longer can get free land to farm and hunt as they used to, so everything is complicated and all intertwined and I have no answers to this massive problem.
But a massive problem it most certainly is.

Sondra said...

I used to get $30 a month for my scout troop by picking up cans! ITS money on the ground..

Anonymous said...

Good story. I'd like to hear the story of Gilbert's good deed helping others.

Anonymous said...

In response to George: I am far less bothered by THEIR food stamp money as it seems obvious they are in need. It's the one's driving better vehicle's than I chose to drive (I can afford most any care made, fo cash, but choose to drive a $3,000 vehicle), and buying candy and junk food with their food stamps that get my goat.

Anonymous said...

The debt was mentioned. If you want to see where the debt came from look at what it was in the year 2000 & what it had changed to by 2006, that was not food stamps.

Then... Trillions used in paying off the gambling debts of the bankers & insurance companies then Ann Rand is brought up about $367 in food stamps.

The term you want is corporate welfare.

This is not political, there has been no change in management of the USA since 2000, just a different face in the chair.

Randy said...

George: As always thanks for your insightful comment. Dealing with the debt and with the casualties of capitalism (i.e. the social safety net)puzzles me as well.
One solution I think I am modeling is to live mobile and simply---enjoying terrific freedom---connecting creatively with my friends and sharing myself on the internet.
Buckminster Fuller once said that it would be a good investment to subsidize a million people if just one of them came up with a new thing or idea useful to humanity. I'm betting that leisure promotes creativity in some percentage of people.

Pam said...

Whenever there is a discussion about food stamps, someone always pipes in with a tale of folks using food stamps for candy, steak, or whatever else they think food stamps shouldn't be spent on. It's a pet peeve of mine so excuse the upcoming rant.

I am so sick of hearing folks say that. First of all, quit being so damn nosy in the checkout line! Seriously, who stands there taking inventory of another person's purchases and watching how they pay? And then to judge them without knowing their circumstances? It's not only shameful but shows a lack of imagination.

Maybe the woman buying steak has a child she's trying desperately to keep off drugs or out of gangs and the steak was a one-time reward for an "A" in algebra or participation in an after-school program. Maybe the candy is for a son who grew two feet in six months and is so skinny she needs to get as many cheap calories in him as possible. Honestly, I could think of hundreds of scenarios about why someone might be buying what they're buying.

I use to run errands for an elderly woman who lived in my apartment building and sometimes that involved using her food stamps to pick up a few items for her. I would then buy my own items with cash. I had people make snotty comments about what I was buying for myself because they had seen me use the food stamps for my neighbors items and jumped to conclusions. Here I was doing a kind act and being judged by nosy busybodies.

Yes, food stamp use is going up. So are free lunch programs. We should be outraged, not because these programs exist but because they are so badly needed. I wish people would get half as mad at all the corporate welfare as they do at the safety net programs which are the only thing preventing thousands of children from going hungry at night. Many of these children come from families where one or both parents DO work but don't make enough money to live on. Check out the statistics sometime on how many Walmart employees are on food stamps. Then check out their profits last year.

Anyway, Randy, sorry for the rant. I liked your story about these folks. I just paid my taxes and I don't begrudge them one cent. I wish more of my money went to things like this rather than to rebuilding countries we bombed or bailing out corporate fat cats.

Beth said...

"I'm betting that leisure promotes creativity in some percentage of people."

Randy you bring up an interesting point here.

I've noticed over the years that I need lots of unstructured time (leisure) in order to tap into creative flow and find that the daily grind of work often makes machines out of people.

Beth said...

Another thing people might not be aware of regarding food stamps is that it doesn't cover "prepared" food items like McDonalds or a roasted chicken in the grocery store.

If you're homeless (on the street), you often don't have good access to prepare, clean up, store, or cook food. So convenience food (which can be crap) will trump whipping up a fresh salad any day.

Personally, I'd like to see food stamps cover more items like a deli sandwich or salad bar.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Pam for taking the time to say everything I wanted to say.

The ultra-wealthy profiteers--Wall Street bankers, military contractors, etc.--absolutely LOVE the so-called "big government" that makes their massive accumulation of wealth possible. They also support a propaganda system that tells you to hate "big government" and apply Ayn Rand's teachings to poor children and the unfortunate. It's the biggest scam in the world--the same greedy elites that profit from government in every way imaginable somehow convince lower and middle income people to turn on each other and denounce poor children and the infirm for getting a few bucks just to survive.

To all who are worried about the government "stealing" your money to help the poor: I will vote to stop the government from "stealing" your money to help the poor, when you vote to stop the government from stealing my money to fund the world's largest military, hundreds of military bases all over the world, domestic surveillance of our private emails and phone calls, an endless "war on terrorism," Israeli apartheid, etc. etc.

End of rant...


Randy said...

Pam, Beth, Stephen: Bingo! Double bingo!! Better said than I could. Few right wingers can proportionalize the relative drain on tax revenue of corporate versus social welfare.
I think that technology has given us abundance and will give us ever more abundance---so that fewer and fewer of us need to work so hard and so long---the challenge is to allocate it wisely--rewarding the clever and industrious for their efforts while at the same time sustaining the laboring masses and the casualties. It can be done.

George said...

You all talk as if this system can go on like this forever. I do agree with the statements about big business and the US war machine, but the sad part of it all is that it doesn't seem likely that any significant changes will occur. It's just total deadlock.
If indeed it does all fail, those who have developed self-reliance instead of dependency will have the best chance of a future.

Anonymous said...

Randy, I wished the North Pond Hermit had known about food stamps and used them. Interesting story and wonder what will ever happen to the guy.? Stealing is wrong period..However...

As far as the couple living in the woods behind the folage, they are harming no one. I am a taxpayer and I know a lot of folks are receiving food stamps these days.. and it is okay with me if these folks receive the food stamp money and are allowed to live in peace. There place seems very nice! 'Way better than under a bridge somewhere... Keep the wonderful stories coming Randy! I do enjoy your blog! K. in Oklahoma

Edd said...

What would the country/world be like if we ALL lived this way...hmmmm? Not really possible now is it folks?

Sorry, but these people are far from heroes. The real heroes are the people that earned the money, probably working at a job they don't like but do it anyway, only to have it forcibly taken from them to give to these people.

I'll reserve the term "heroes" for those that truly deserve it.

I completely believe in a social safety net as bad things happen to good people, but this isn't the case here or with the other millions on all the other forms of public assistance.

Don't fool yourself into thinking you are doing people a favor, to make yourself feel better or whatever illogic you use to rationalize it, by allowing them to continue this way of life you are perpetuating a pernicious construct. You are telling/teaching people like this they are no good, society has no use for you and perpetuate the victim mentality too many of these people possess.

It is a cruel, inhumane form of punishment to allow people to not take care of themselves... and also for those that believe it is acceptable.

Randy said...

Edd: "Don't fool yourself into thinking you are doing people a favor, to make yourself feel better or whatever illogic you use to rationalize it, by allowing them to continue this way of life you are perpetuating a pernicious construct. You are telling/teaching people like this they are no good, society has no use for you and perpetuate the victim mentality too many of these people possess.

It is a cruel, inhumane form of punishment to allow people to not take care of themselves... and also for those that believe it is acceptable."

The challenging fact---Edd--is that Capitalism for all its contributions has a downside: Unemployment. Technology allows fewer people to produce more goods and (theoretically) have shorter work careers. But it hasn't yet because workers are insecure about their future. So they stay on the payroll and millions don't have jobs.
What is needed IMHO is a cultural
consensus that COLLECTIVELY we will guarantee that you won't starve if you quit work and open up a job for someone else. Social Security was a good start. (needs tweaking)
The second cultural shift needed is to affirm the dignity and worth of people doing what I am doing---creatively amusing themselves INEXPENSIVELY.
I saw the seeds of creativity growing in these pondside folks as they adapted to frugal living.
What would you recommend for these folks.

Anonymous said...

Edd, you don't know anything about these people, other than the snippet of their life Randy published.

From Randy's post we know one or both worked in the past, Donna has unspecified health problems, and Gilbert lost his job.

You don't know how long they worked and paid taxes, before needing the meager public assistance they're receiving. You don't know the circumstances of why Gilbert lost his job and whether he's able to get another one. You know very little other than your judgmental, self-righteous assumptions and generalizations. For all you know, they have "taken care of themselves" and others for the better part of their lives and paid a significant percentage of their earnings as taxes, before needing to utilize the social safety net you seem to endorse in theory but not in practice.

Little known fact: After preaching her hateful, judgmental version of selfishness and self-reliance to everyone else for most of her life, Ayn Rand died from a self-inflicted disease (lung cancer from smoking) ON GOVERNMENT ASSISTANCE. Ah, but it was okay, because in her mind, she was a "maker" and paid into the system for years.

Very few people are one-dimensional "makers" or "takers" over the course of a lifetime. Sometimes we are strong "makers" and contribute to others and society, while other times we have problems and are "takers" from others and society.

In the grand scheme of things, these folks are harmless and in some ways heroic. I certainly don't mind a few bucks going to them in their time of need. They didn't start MULTI-TRILLION DOLLAR wars that killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of innocent people or crash the economy because of their unbridled greed and thirst for power. They didn't spend a lifetime getting fabulously rich from government contracts or bailouts.

But, they are poor and powerless, and therefore easy to attack.


Randy said...

And yeah Edd: Read what Stephen said.

Michael said...

I remember the first time playing Monopoly as a small child. I also remember the burning question in my mind at the time. I wondered when this game will end if it has no time limit? I didn't want to commit to some game that could last forever. But for whatever reason the game always ended within a reasonable time. I was amazed by this.

Now much older I pondered the scene as the makers and marketers of the game and how they understood it wouldn't be such a big seller if it didn't end within a reasonable time. If you know how the game works, you are a student of history, and you truly know how the free market works you know that free markets, like the game of Monopoly always end up as monopolies. So do you think Parker Brothers executives were well educated enough to know about The Iron Law of Oligarchy?


The Iron Law of Oligarchy

A hundred years ago a German sociologist, Robert Michael's came up with "The Iron Law of Oligarchy", which said that democracy will always devolve into oligarchies and plutocracies ruled by the few and ruled by the rich, unless the process is interrupted by a revolution.

In America we've broken up these oligarchies by periodic revolutions. The revolution of 1776, the Civil War, the New Deal, every one about 80 years apart. And it's been 80 years since the New Deal started.

This is in a very real way oligarchy. IT'S TIME FOR A REVOLUTION.

Abraham Lincoln, December, 1847
"[T]he habits of our whole species fall into three great classes - useful labour, useless labour and idleness. Of these the first only is meritorious; and to it all the products of labour rightfully belong; but the two latter, while they exist, are heavy pensioners upon the first, robbing it of a large portion of its just rights."

He went on the say that government should drive useless labor out of existence. Mitt Romney on the other hand wants to defend the useless labor income of the Paris Hiltons of the world who make their livings sitting around the pool waiting for the dividend check to arrive and then pay a fraction of the income tax that working people must pay.


Maybe teaching the public the rules of the free market game was such a dangerous proposition that Parker Brothers game up with many distractions like "The Game of Life" and "Candyland".

I actuality, I think we don't want a free market.

We want a FAIR MARKET.

Free markets devolve quickly into corruption. It's important to get the language right.

Michael said...

Blogger and Facebook friend, the well know Daniel Suelo the subject of the book "The Man Who Quit Money" has a lot to add in this Facebook thread.

Daniel Suelo: Christopher Ketchum recently wrote this article on the true purpose of the game Monopoly

" 1903, a Maryland actress named Lizzie Magie created a proto-Monopoly as a tool for teaching the philosophy of Henry George, a nineteenth-century writer who had popularized the notion that no single person could claim to 'own' land. In his book Progress and Poverty (1879), George called private land ownership an 'erroneous and destructive principle' and argued that land should be held in common, with members of society acting collectively as 'the general landlord.'"

Monopoly is Theft, Harpers Magazine, October, 2012

Michael said...

More from a related thread:

Jeff S
sounds interesting, with 25 residents it could be possible.

Ben Gall
Jeff Sr, I live in the only other single tax artist community left in the USA also founded on the Georgist principles in 1894 and full of artists and culture in general. With 16,000 people the township flourishes and still has the incredible low tax burden of....ALL-IN at the most $1,250! Only add low costs for trash handling and utilities all fully managed by the township itself. Started as an Utopia I still works well!!

Randy said...

Michael: I googled Georgian economics and learned about the single tax system. I think I like it. Seems fair: All the people own the land and natural resources and all the improvements and extractions leave room for capitalistic enterprise and riches.
Was delighted to learn that the system---to some extent--is still used in two places in the US: Fairfield Alabama and Arden, Delaware. Recommend all check it out:,_Delaware
Thanks for educating me.

Michael said...

Your welcome but I got the info from Daniel Suelo. One of my most favorite people. Here's an excellent interview him:
One's of these days I'm going to meet him. We've corresponded on a number of things and I'm honored that he's commented on my blog occasionally.