The New American Peasant

  

Dear G.,

 

I remember experts saying no American will have a permanent job, because things will keep getting more complex from now on. These people always smiled as they said this, like You saps can never count on anything staying the same. You will need computer skills to bake bread, and so forth.

 

They keep talking about continuing education being needed to survive, and–now I may surprise you–I agree! No, I haven’t gone over to the side of our oppressors, just the opposite. What I am thinking about is re-education the other way.

 

My grandmother told my sister and I how she played with materials from nature. She said “We would go into the woods and find loose pieces of tree bark and make a little doll house out of it. For carpets we would use sheets of moss. It made a beautiful green rug.” She made dolls from clothes pins and their dresses from hollyhock blossoms. Her eyes would light up as she remembered how happy this made her. “We didn’t need toys from the store,” she said. “We found things in nature to play with and we had a good time.”

 

What about the re-education? What if we had the skills of the peasant? May not sound too exciting, but a lot of people do manage to live on such a basic level and even live happily. Art Bell said that his wife’s people live on such a basic level that if the entire world’s economy crashed it would not change their lives in any way. Unless someone told them, they would not even know it had crashed!

 

Please indulge me, George, but here is my fantasy, which I hope does not always have to be a fantasy:

I recently spent a peasant afternoon with the director of a local low-tech training center, or re-training center as he calls it. We watched as a group of young people learned to split short logs into shakes, or shingles. They used heavy mallets and a splitting tool he called a froe. “Do a good job kids,” said the teacher, a peasant-faced man of about sixty years of age. “You are making the coverings for your future homes.”

 

One group was heating iron rods red hot over a fire to burn holes in the shakes. This was for attaching them to a geodesic framework made of willow branches.

 

“Why don’t you just drill the holes,” I asked. “Oh that is fine if you have a hand drill and bits,” he explained. “But if you don’t, you can find a piece of rod or wire to heat and push it through the wood. It really works. I remember seeing it in the early part of ‘The Vikings’–the scene where they were making a boat.”

 

He anticipated my next question. “For fastening we use fence or baling wire. Someone says we could use kudzu vines, after the goats have eaten the leaves off of it.” This man wanted to raise goats on kudzu. Said he read that as many as nine dairy goats can’t deplete one acre of kudzu. It grows so fast.

 

Well, G, these are some dreams about the New American Peasant. He or she can win out by going back to nature and living a simpler life. When I mentioned my dreams to a fellow survivalist, he asked “How long could we live that way?” My question is, how long would we have to?

 

Maybe Thoreau was onto something, G? Think how Abraham lived in a tent–his whole life. Are we better than him?

 

Very sincerely,

 

Karl