On Retreat

My interest in nature, territory, and warfare started as a perfect storm when I was a young boy walking through the forests surrounding my paternal grandparents home. What began as leisurely walks with my pellet gun, plinking beer cans, turned into long marches with other neighborhood boys. We eventually acquired some gear and camouflage, built obstacle courses, and began setting up a base near a stream behind an expanding housing development. Very often we would get into shootouts with other boys who lived in the developments that saw us as ruffians and dirtballs.

We launched these battles with pellets, fists, rocks, and firecrackers for a tree house at the edge of the forest. One final conflict ended in a stalemate as they ratted us out to their parents due to our aggressive tendencies and lack of empathy. In our minds we weren’t ‘playing’ with other children, but defending what we saw as ours by right. The people occupying these housing developments have the law on their side, as local police will always protect capital investments over historic local seniority. So we backed off and retreated to our sanctuary deeper in the woods than they cared to tread.

With the tree house lost I made the decision one night to dawn a black balaclava, fill an old beer bottle with gasoline, jam a rag in it, and make sure that if the tree house wasn’t ours then no one could have it.

The place this occurred was hunted and protected by my family, and a few others, long before the subdivision was established. Naturally I considered it ours, and still do to this day.

Years passed and my boys that once patrolled the woods grew to be, what can be loosely considered, ‘men’, and slowly fell to drugs, booze, and the siren song of urban and distant lands, pregnant with the promise of the ‘good life’. Now the stream is surrounded by cookie-cutter houses made of cheap particle board and plastic, but appear on the surface as if they are worth the pride their owners flaunt while cutting their ChemLawn grass.

After a brief series of departures and sojourns of my own I returned to this place permanently, called by a distant but distinct echoing in my heart and mind. Often the disgust and pain of seeing the forest ripped apart for unappreciative and nihilistic outsiders drove me to desperate notions of escape so often found in others who share my disposition; To retreat and get a plot of land that is very far away, build a cabin, have a dog, and be left alone, with a small garden and a lot of books.

But the thing is, this used to be that kind of place and is why my family settled here. It is no longer remote in the way it once was, even within my relatively short lifetime much has changed for the worse. If there is no militant ruralism this pattern will continue here and elsewhere. Once pristine groves, woodlots, and wetlands will be replaced with brutalist housing blocks, McMansions, and tax theft schemes disguised as community development projects.

You cannot run and outlast the spread, waiting for your turn to die, when you wont have to worry about anything anymore. If you think that way, regardless of age, you are about as useful as a baby boomer at a Franzia and Xanax party, funded by a robust retirement plan that you will never know the likes of.

You must stand your ground. Expand your territory, make it robust, find the others, and know how and what to do when the edge sneaks up to meet you.


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