Friday, October 30, 2020, exactly 467 days ago, was the last time I went to “work.” Beginning the next morning Deb and I began executing our master plan in earnest, acquiring Ernie a few days later. We did a “shakedown cruise” in March and set off in search of America the First of May.
Today, well into my 65th year, I officially retired.
I’ll be honest with you here — it’s bittersweet. As a man, my labor always has defined me. From my very first jobs picking strawberries and baling hay, to decades of high-profile work in the corporate world, to my last gigs as a gun salesman and a warehouse manager, I’ve compiled quite the odd resumé. Overall, though, I’m incredibly proud of my working life.
So what’s next?
I can’t say that I’ll never collect another paycheck. I’m definitely not finished with “work.” Reaching this milestone today is at once liberating and sobering — and all I know for sure is that from here on out I’ll be living my very best American Life.
Every time we step out of the Wrangler or the Ranger and wander across The Mountain, I’m grateful for the walking sticks we bought months ago at Wall Drug in South Dakota. They’re made of American Hophornbeam (a.k.a. ironwood) harvested in the Black Hills, a little heavy but stout as hell.
Deb and I are neither as strong nor as agile as we once were, but we’re getting our legs under us. Walking sticks help. Back in December I cut an Eastern Red Cedar sapling near the area cleared by the backhoe, and it’s been drying in Deb’s cousin’s garage since. Soon one of us will be traipsing The Mountain with a walking stick from The Mountain.
We returned to the property’s eastern boundary this morning. This time we we weren’t under any time pressure and walked south at a more leisurely pace, stopping frequently and observing our surroundings.
In two places we discovered our first surface water, normally dry runs fed by melting snow. We noted their locations and dropped waypoints on our GPS app.
One reason we were scouting the eastern edge of The Mountain is to explore the feasibility of building a UTV trail just inside the perimeter — essentially a patrol road with scenery. This trip we confirmed that we can, indeed, make that happen, and we can do it with very little effort.
There was one other consideration for this trail — specifically, that access from the road be somewhat indirect and, if possible, visible only from the high side. As we walked back toward the road, Deb spied a possibility and I followed her. Sure enough, she’d found the ideal route, exiting the brush in an inconspicuous spot.
Her discovery came with the bonus of a patio — seriously. A hundred feet off the road are two large, flat ledges, perfect for the occasional getaway.
We ended today porch-sittin’ and retirement-toastin’ with Deb’s cousin and his dogs. My role was to smoke a box-pressed Nicaraguan cigar and sip Kentucky bourbon.
Deb drove us back to the campground.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.