Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Mountain Devil

 This is a story I wrote of my series "Growing Up Gunnison" you can find it HERE


The Mountain Devil

It had to be the late 70’s or early 80’s Nix and I got invited up to help scout for elk at one of our rancher friends (who will remain nameless for hopefully obvious reasons) pack in camps.

I think it was late August and we rode in for several hours on horseback. We started right at the ranch and headed into an area I had never been to before.

Good thing we took the dude horses since neither Nix or I were very good with them, but things went nice and smooth.



We got to the camp in early afternoon and our rancher friend’s grandpa was there waiting on us with coffee and beans. We’ll call him Fenster.

Our friend left us in his care and went back down the mountain to the ranch to take care of his usual work load.

Fenster was a crusty old rancher who had spent his entire life on the ranch. “Born in a log cabin and likely die in one too” I remember him saying as we were introduced.

Fenster turned out to be quite the mountain man as well.

He knew the area we were as only someone who had spent their entire lives there could.

He took out for a ride over some of the easier terrain to do some glassing, and it seemed like every break in the trees or ridge top held a story about some dude (that is what they called the hunting clients) or another either shooting a monster deer, elk or bear.

Along with the success stories were peppered stories of great train wrecks that some dude had caused.

He even told us a story of a dude that had shot his guides horse out from under him, when he fell asleep and was startled by the guides return through the trees.

It was great fun for a couple high school punks who had hunted a lot but had never been privy to the closed ranching community. Fenster gave us quite and education traipsing all over those ridges.

The greatest stories came at night around the fire. Fenster would sip on a bottle of Old Quaker and tell us tales of the Gunnison Valley that his granddad had told him growing up.

The last night we were in camp Fenster imbibed a little more than usual. He told us some of the stories we had heard before, but then he just stared into the fire for a while.

After a time he looked at us and asked, “I got somthin to tell you boys but you can’t tell no one else.”

Nix and I looked at each other and naturally we shook our heads in agreement.

“This ain’t for those outside to know about.” he said after a time.

“It happened when I was just a young shaver…5 mebbee 6. We had a hard winter and during spring calving something was coming in and killing our calves.”

“Actually now that I think of it it started a couple weeks earlier with someone breaking into our root cellar out by the barn and stealing food from it.”

“I remembered that because that is how we caught him.”

“Who?” Nix asked.

“The f**kin’ Mountain Devil that’s who!”

Nix and I both sat back as this was the first time in the week we had been with him that we had heard a course word escape Fenster’s lips.

Fenster just stared into the fire and didn’t say anything. Nix elbowed me and nodded towards the old man…”your turn” he mouthed at me.

I swallowed and said “Fenster, What’s a mountain devil?” in as meek and innocent voice as I could muster.

Fenster took a long pull of Old Quaker and cleared his throat. “Well I only seen a youngun, and we only had him for a day, but he was sure a sight to see.”



“Ya see my Granddad didn’t take to someone stealing our food, not to mention our calves, so he kinda rigged up a special latch for our root cellar door and turned it into a trap.”

I’m pretty sure he was expecting to catch one of our theivin’ neighbors, but weren't we surprised at about 4 in the morning when we heard a gawdawful hootin’ and a hollerin’, and a banging and crashing coming from outside.”

“It woke everyone up and granddad and pa run out with guns…they said after that there was a couple somethings big and dark pounding on the roof of the root cellar.”

“They shot in the air a couple times and whatever they were ran off!”

Nix and I were completely enthralled by this point. We had heard some of the ranch kids mention mountain devils but neither of us had heard of anyone with first hand experience.

“So what did they do?” Nix couldn’t contain himself.

Fenster looked sideways at him but continued on.

“Pa lit some lanterns and they stood guard until first light. The whole time there was whining and screeching coming from the cellar, with similar noises coming off the hillside behind the old log house.”

“You probably saw it at the ranch. It sets up closer to the tree-line than the new house, and we park hay equipment in front of it.”

“Ya I saw that.” I said hurriedly “Then what?”

“They waited until it was light and went out to see what they had caught.”

“By this time the answering sounds on the hillside had gone quiet, and the cellar noises had mellowed as well.”

“I remember looking past my mama in the doorway while she held a shotgun, and granddad and pa walking over to the cellar to see what was in it.”

“They went up to the door and tired to look through the cracks with a flashlight. Finally pa told granddad to watch and undid the lock and opened the door a bit and shined the flashlight in.”

“I remember watchin’ him stumble back while holding his gun on the door, and he was shakin’, I mean down right hands shaking!”



I ain’t never seen my pa scared before or since but he was sore afraid right then!”

“What was it!” one of us asked, I don’t remember who.

“Turns out it was a baby, more like a toddler or kid.”

“What are you talking about !?” Nix sounded annoyed.

“It was a kid mountain devil. It was about five feet tall and covered in hair…Oh and it stunk to high heaven!”

“I guess when pa opened the door it went back into a corner and kind curled up in a ball and just laid there, kinda whining.”

“There was a lot of discussion about what they was gonna do with it. I remember ma wanted to call the sheriff, but granddad would have nothing of that!”

“He was the type that handled his own problems, and he didn’t want no “gubernet” men on our place.”

“So they took turns “guarding” the devil, and by that afternoon all us kids had pestered the adults enough to let us see it.”

“They wouldn’t let us in the cellar but they did let us walk by the door while the pa held a flashlight and his gun on the devil.”

“By that time the devil was sitting leaning with his back against the wall.”

“I will never forget looking into his eyes and seeing…well it’s hard to say… not a person but someone, inside. It was like you know a dog. A dog has a personality, but this was a lot more.”

“I think I should mention that the devils killed our dogs when all the hoopin’ and a hollerin’ was going on.”

“It started getting towards sundown when we heard the first “WHOOPS” up on the hillside. Pa got everyone inside the cabin, and locked up the cellar as best he could.”

“As soon as the sun went down it started.”

“What” I said.

“The attack.”

“They started throwing things on the house and against the walls. Pa had the wooden shutters closed so we couldn’t see what was going on, but I remember huddling in the bathtub and crying with my sister whilst mama sat there with a shotgun.”

“Things crashed against the house all night long. Every once in a while the whole thing would shudder when something big would hit it.”

“By morning the noises stopped. Pa and granddad went out loaded for bear, but we didn’t hear a shot.”

After a while they came back in and told us to “come and see”.”

“Outside was a disaster! Rocks and sticks and even logs were on our roof, the logs on the side of the house were all dented up.”

“We went over to the root cellar, or at least where the root cellar had been and there was just a crater in the ground.”

“The mountain devils had tore the thing completely apart getting their youngster back.”

“After that we didn’t lose anymore calves, and never seen ’em at the home place again.”

“You mean you have seen them?” Nix asked.

Fenster hesitated once again before answering. “Well I think that kid we caught was pretty close to my age, and like I said there was something there when I met its eyes.”

“Pretty near every year since I been coming up to this elk camp, one of them mountain devils will let me see it.”

“I never know when or where but I will usually come around a bend somewhere and there it will be looking at me.”

“Been happening since I was about 15. I’m not sure how long these thing live, but I’m sure feeling my age, and that’s all I got to say about it.”

Fenster just shut up after that and no matter what we said he wouldn’t give us any more details.

The only thing he told us was to look at the old house and the pit where the root cellar was when we go back down to the ranch.

Nix and I didn’t get much sleep that night, and in the morning Fenster loaded us all up on the dude horses and led us back down the mountain to the camp.

We got to the ranch and immediately Nix and took off to look at the old log house. The side facing the uphill tree line was covered in dents. A couple of the logs were cracked and some looked like big gouges had been taken out of them.

Next we wandered over to the barn and in the side of a small hill you could see where there had once been a dugout, most likely a cellar. The area had been opened up like a crater some time in the past.

Our friend saw what we were doing and came over with a worried expression on his face.

“What exactly did granddad talk about up there in camp?”

“He told us…” Nix started “Not much, just hunting stuff” I interrupted.

He looked at us narrowed his eyes and said in a low tone. “If you ever tell you will never be welcome here again.”

As of this day while Nix and I have discussed it many times, we have never shared this story, until now.

Fenster, and his son, our friend’s dad have both passed, and they don’t take dudes up on the mountain much any more.

I do wonder if Fenster’s mountain devils still live up there, and maybe some day before I pass, I may go and try to find out.


Truth or not? You Decide...

Randy

Saturday, August 22, 2020

The Library for Preppers and Homesteaders

What books should you have in your library?

You have a library right?

I have a couple thousand on just about every topic, but I really don't need all of them.

I am putting this list together of 5 books (plus a bonus) I think are important, that you can get from Amazon, and yes they will be from affiliate links, but well worth your time and investment.



1.  The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live it. By John Seymour


Amazon.com: The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It: The ...

I have the previous edition of this book and it is pure gold for those trying to make their way on their own small piece of land.




2. The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery


The Encyclopedia of Country Living - Northwest Nature Shop


This is the 50th Anniversary edition, but any of the editions are great!
This is the book that launched me into seriously pursuing the move to a homestead.
My wife and I even corresponded with Carla about one of the later editions before she passed away!





The Disaster Preparedness Handbook: A Guide for Families by Arthur ...

Very detailed book going into most aspects of surviving a disaster.
This book has some good and handy forms that you will find useful in the back.





Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills  -     By: Abigail Gehring


Another more or less complete guide to doing it yourself on the homestead.
Excellent and popular book!






The Backyard Homestead Book


Even if you live on a large spread this book give you lots of insight into doing this in a small efficient way for big results!



You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start and Succeed in a ...

While I don't own this one, I must have checked it out of our library 100 times!
Joel takes you through many, many ideas on making an income on a homestead.
If I could pick one book on learning to make a living from the land this would be it.


So there are 6 of the best books out there to put in your library.
It was difficult finding ones that were still in print and immensely useful.
Check them out and if you can't afford them try your local library's inter-library loan, they can probably get them for you.

Still clinging to my God and my guns

Randy

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Are We Facing Famine in America?

 

Has our agribusiness model broken?


Image for post

With a full page ad in the New York Times, Tyson Foods warned, “The food supply chain is breaking.” Tyson doesn’t seem to be alone in this sentiment. Many other large food producers have cut back, or shut down completely in the wake of the current pandemic.

What does the future hold for the agricultural model in this country, and is this something we should have seen coming? What can we do to stop it, or at least to live with the consequences of the choices Big Food has forced on our farms and farmers?

David Beasly the director of the UN food agency recently warned that the world could face a famine of Biblical proportions within a few months.

Facing a possible famine with a possibly broken agribusiness model, where do we go from here?

The Soviet Model

A teenage Ukrainian girl boarded the train to Kiev with her mother. They were a well-to-do family with both parents holding government offices. They lived in a small rural city and were going to Kiev to buy necessities that were not available locally. They carried with them the equivalent of several hundred dollars in order to stock up while they were in the capital.

This teen girl, now a US citizen, told me what she saw when they entered the largest market in Kiev. Bare shelves! Row after row of them. She told me that there were a few loaves of bread, some fish and poultry in the meat section and very few fruits and vegetables.

This family was rich compared to their neighbors, but was unable to buy much with all that cash because it simply wasn’t available.

This was Soviet era Ukraine with all the wonders of collective farming. The Soviets had highly mechanized production but were forced to sell all the food produced to the government. I know that is a very simplified version of how the system worked, but it is fairly accurate.

All across the USSR, the government had its hands in the production of the peoples’ food. Mandated inefficiencies by Stalin were somewhat alleviated by subsequent leaders, but the system was still far from efficient. Add into that a few years of bad crop production, and the usual corruption and you had a recipe for the famines that helped bring down the Soviets.

American Farmers

American farmers aren’t anything like the old Soviets, you say. True. But I will say the system that American farmers are forced into has all the hallmarks of one that will collapse upon itself, given the right (wrong?) set of circumstances.

Instead of selling what they produce to people, the farmers sell to a cooperative (collective?). Most of what farmers grow is then fed to animals. Then these animals are put into a pipeline of processors, and then distributors, and finally to groceries where people can buy the product several times removed.

The Government makes sure it stays involved with the whole process by passing laws that make it illegal for a farmer to sell milk, eggs, meat, cheese, along with several other products directly to the consumer. For sure there are small communities of people who ignore these laws and buy directly from those willing to take the chance and sell directly to them.

The American farmer is now, for the most part, just a cog in the American agribusiness corporate model. And similar to how the Soviet model came apart, we are seeing something that could break down agribusiness in the coming months.

Meat Producers

I mentioned Tyson at the beginning of this piece. However, there are more, many more who are following suit. The animals have been raised and are ready to be processed (butchered and moved on), but the meat packing plants are closed, so many of these animals are just being killed so that they no longer have to be fed.

If the pipeline of animals has been stopped, then there is no reason to start raising new replacement animals. Tyson holds contracts with poultry growers all around, near their processing plants. These contracts stipulate how many and how fast the birds must be raised. If no birds are being processed, then no new birds are being started. No grain is being purchased for food, and everything grinds to a halt.

Many of these producers live contract to contract and carry a mountain of debt. A stoppage in the pipeline of animals has the possibility of finishing many of them.

Egg Producers

Egg producers are in a similar boat. Eggs are being given away all across the country. Thousands of dozens, all because there is no restaurant market for them at this time. At least these birds don’t have to be killed to produce. But food still needs to be purchased in order to keep them alive during this time.

Eggs might be the go-to source of protein for many who are not able to locate meat for sale. Government restriction on selling eggs is less restrictive than on selling meat, so some egg producers may survive an agribusiness crash.

Milk Producers

Milk producers have been living on government subsidies for years. Recent milk prices have just stayed at rock bottom, far less than the cost to produce. Many dairy farmers across the country are being forced to dump part of each day’s production of milk since school and restaurant orders have dried up.

Grain Farmers

As I said earlier, most of the grain grown in this country goes into feeding animals. Grain farmers are going to plant this spring no matter what happens, so there will be a fall crop. What that crop is worth when harvest comes is a matter of speculation.

Grain farmers can sell to the public, but why should they, and who would buy it? Monocrop farming relies on a system like we have in place, where all the surpluses can be shipped around and used far away from where it was produced.

What do we do?

That is the big question begging for an answer. If the system fails, cities may end up like Kiev, with no food on the shelves. Do you remember what happened to the toilet paper?

American agribusiness is not set up for a disruption in the flow of goods like we have shaping up. It teeters, facing a collapse that, if we don’t prepare for it, we may see far worse things than we have seen from this pandemic.

There is a way people can take charge of their own food security, and face this possible crisis head-on with confidence. It started back in the 60’s, and is enjoying a modern renaissance of sorts.

Back to the Land

The Back to the Land movement had people leaving the cities, buying a plot of land, and growing their own food so that they knew what was in it and that it was humanely produced. There are many excellent books in publication that tell you just how to do this, and most of the information is still accurate. A person can buy a plot of land and humanely produce most of their own food without buying into the agribusiness model.

If that is not an option for you, the current iterations of this movement are homesteaders and off-gridders. There is much overlap in these movements, but the main thing seems to be self-sufficiency.

Homesteaders

Modern homesteading looks much like regular farming did 100+ years ago. A small family farm that has a biodiverse selection of crops and animals provides a well balanced land usage along with increased fertility and production. This allows the homesteader to produce a healthy food supply, and in many cases a marketable crop.

Government Reform

If American agribusiness is truly broken, the best thing the government can do is to loosen the restrictions it has placed on small producers like homesteaders. You should be able to go to your local farmer and buy milk. You should be able to buy meat right from the farmer. Lifting these restrictions will help Americans.

The current trend of trying to eat locally will expand many times, with the result being Americans having access to more locally grown, healthy food than ever before. We will have to be willing to spend more of our budget on food, realizing the artificially low prices we enjoy now is a construct of a greedy middleman system with very little to do with supply and demand.

The current news keeps saying things will be different when we emerge from this pandemic. Let’s hope that we can take our current agricultural system and turn it into a healthy one that will help small American farmers and homesteaders instead of rich middlemen.

Sources:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/coronavirus-famines-united-nations-warning/

https://www.businessinsider.com/tyson-millions-of-pounds-of-meat-will-disappear-coronavirus-2020-4

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/dairy-farmers-hit-hard-by-coronavirus-are-spilling-a-lot-of-milk/

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