I say one thing for living off the grid: you don’t feel the pain of the current coronavirus quarantine.
“You guys okay?” friends ask.
“Uh, sure. Why?”
“Well, the quarantine.” Long pause. “Coronavirus?”
“Oh! Yeah, yeah. Sure. Well, we’re sort of always quarantined. The nature of the place. Yeah, we’re in no danger of breathing in any coronavirus.”
But we might scare the neighbors.
If we had any neighbors.
Well, we have some. What part of rural America doesn’t? They’re friendly and agreeable, too. But the nearest is a sneeze-proof mile away. And only one-two miles away — can actually see our off-grid homestead. There aren’t even any public roads from which you can spy on this gem of a hideaway. Not that we’re exactly trying to hideaway. We’re living with the land here; not prepping it for armageddon.
No bunkers. No silos. No Faraday cages. But we are patrolling. And that’s what might alarm folks. If they ever saw us…
OK, yes, I do wear camouflage quite a bit, but not because I’m trying to hide. It’s just that, as a hunter who reviews gear and writes about it for various publications and websites, I get sent a lot of camo. Jackets, shirts, pants, caps in all the latest must-have patterns guaranteed to fool the sharpest-eyed eagle. Just like the previous two dozen patterns.
And yeah, I also usually have a handgun on my person and a long gun in our ranch workhorse, a Polaris Ranger. (Saddles quickly, no hay, grain, or brushing required, carries three abreast and has a big trunk.) So, do the math. Guy dressed in camo, cruising boundary fence of isolated ranch while brandishing firearms… paranoid preppers?
This is getting more complicated than it really is, so let me back up and lay it out.
Dancing Springs Ranch is surrounded by private rangeland on three sides and National Forest on the fourth. This part of the Rockies is home to the usual cast of characters: grouse, turkeys, and pheasants. Mule deer, elk, and moose. Skunks, coons, and coyotes. Cougars, bears and the odd outcast wolf looking to start a new pack. Or eat a dog. A lion killed a neighbor’s German shepherd a few miles north of us two months ago. So I pack heat.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not paranoid. I’ve spent a significant chunk of my life prowling wilderness from grizzly bear tundra in the Brooks Range to Cape buffalo swamps in Mozambique and venomous brown snake lairs in the Australian Outback. Betsy has kayaked whitewater rivers from Alaska to Chile. We’ve hiked, hunted, and slept under the stars in and around things that sting, scratch, and bite and have the scars and antibodies to prove it. The deadliest of these were and still are mosquitos, ticks, and the bacteria and viruses they carry and transmit. Trust me, you do not want to get Lyme disease and you do not want to play host to a colony of anaerobic flagellated protozoans known as Giardia while 200 air miles from the nearest doctor or pharmacy.
So, like good Boy Scouts, we’re prepared. We’re vaccinated against what we need to be vaccinated against. We use permethrin to keep ticks at bay, long sleeved shirts and Deet to ward off mosquitos when absolutely necessary. And we keep a firearm in the Ranger while working the ranch and patrolling its bounds. The patrolling, by the way, really is to discourage and intercept trespassers. Four legged ones. Maintaining some four miles of livestock fence is a regular obligation.
We don’t really expect a hidden grizzly or lurking cougar, but stuff happens. We’re more likely to need a high speed projectile for terminating a rabid skunk or coon than a predatory bear. Nevertheless, I’d feel pretty stupid, not to mention negligent, if a cougar jumped my setter, not to mention my wife or one of the grandkids. And I don’t want my obituary to read “Veteran hunter, backcountry trekker, outdoor photographer, and wildlife conservationist killed by rabid skunk.”
So that’s why we’re safe from coronavirus and that’s why we patrol the bounds with at least one firearm in the Ranger. We’re really not a cult of preppers guarding our toilet paper stash.