Most of our friends are, like us: Of a certain age, which means we’ve lived through all kinds of mayhem, and of a certain calmer disposition that comes from surviving a few decades. Chicken Little types of our vintage have either succumbed to cardiac arrest or have greatly calmed down, owing either to pharmaceutical aids or nerve damage. At this point in life, we’ve seen a lot and it takes more to get us excited. I rarely have the energy to get hysterical any longer, which was a regular occurrence in my life when I was younger.
Which is why is strikes me as so strange — and ominous — that I’ve recently had a couple of semi-serious survivalist talks with friends.
On a recent trip, my husband and I ended up talking about possible scenarios in the event of total economic collapse. Could we, maybe, turn our house into a boardinghouse? Scrape that tortured bit of earth next to our house and plant a garden and live off the earth? Walk everywhere?
Then, later in the trip, we had a similar conversation with some good friends who own property in the Hill Country. That was comforting, because one of them was a doctor who owned a gun, even though he didn’t know whether he could shoot it at anything but varmints. But yes, we could all end up on their property and, if things got really desperate, hoard some drugs for end-of-life issues. Yes, everything would be fine, except there was a pesky little problem with lacking a water source. But we decided we’d work it out somehow.
At times like this, I realize I’m not much good as a survivalist. I’ve got two brown thumbs, I don’t really like to work outside, I’ve only shot a gun once, and I’m very fond of civilization. Who would want somebody like me around? Good conversationalist, when she’s in the mood, but kind of a burden on all the other, more practical types who can dig holes, raise crops, hunt and fish. Jeez, come a famine and they’d be feeding me to the dogs.
It also makes me regretful — what with all the dire Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac news today — that my family and I left our neighborhood in Dallas, where we lived across the street from somebody I’d want in my corner if society ever takes a nosedive. That somebody was our neighbor, Buddy, who was a doctor, hunter, pragmatist, and one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. I mean, sure, Buddy and I spent much of our time arguing about politics (and, one day, reached a point where my husband feared Buddy might possibly attack me with a rake). But if civilization crumbled, I could become suddenly very accommodating about politics.
When we lived in Dallas and my husband traveled, I slept more easily because Buddy was across the street. I had his number next to my bed and, in event of emergency, would have dialed him before I called 911.
One time, I told Buddy that and he looked as pleased as if i’d just taken back every terrible thing I’d ever said about the John Birch Society. “You can consider me armed and dangerous,” Buddy said. If survivalist times are upon us — I guess that’s the greatest compliment anybody can give.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)