Impermanence & simplicity

After we voted last Tuesday, Deb and I dropped by The Mountain and then drove east to Gassville. We stopped and lingered a long time at an antiques store on the south side of US 62. The place was a trove of stuff that’s right up our nostalgic alley — much more than a run-of-the-mill junk shop, easily the best such place we’d visited down here.

The proprietor, Jerry, an elderly native of the area and a proud Patriot, was friendly and kind, spinning stories and playfully answering our questions. We told him we’d be back once we had a proper place to store what we’d buy from him, and we aimed to keep that promise.

This morning Deb ran across a news story about a fire that destroyed five buildings in Gassville last night. An image captured by the local fire chief took our breath away — it was the antiques shop we’d visited less than a week ago.

Ten local fire departments and an estimated 70 firefighters had battled the blaze for over five hours. A neighboring heating-and-cooling business was spared.

Media accounts are reporting one death, a man, though his identity hasn’t been released. It’s tragic whoever it is, but we’re hoping it isn’t Jerry.

We’re saddened by the news. Although it happened across the White in Baxter County, ten miles from The Mountain, this is our community now. We’re connected to this place and these people. It hurts.

More than once in yesterday’s post I invoked “simple” or “simplicity” to characterize the dream that Deb and I are building. You might take that to mean that we’re leaving the modern world behind — shunning or altogether ditching electronic devices, doing without many conveniences.

The common perception of simplicity (vs. complexity) seems to revolve around technology. Making that a pivot point is a mistake, I think. It’s not the way we approach it.

It’s the old “shiny object” trap — demonizing a thing rather than focusing on process, effect, outcome. Sure, reliance on a material object can complicate life unnecessarily. Often, however, perhaps more often than not, technology simplifies.

We need to recognize that there’s no difference between blind devotion to technology and categorical rejection of it.

Not long ago I had a brief back-and-forth on social media about our trailcams on The Mountain. When people objected to the kind of devices we use, it wasn’t because they’re high-tech digital cameras that record to tiny memory cards — no, it was the cellular link that bothered ’em. That, in terms of cost and complexity, was a bridge too far.

I see it differently. While a camera without a cell link certainly is less expensive and its operation less complex, we can set up our trailcams in remote places, ignore them and leave the area undisturbed for months at a time. Unless we’re baiting or feeding, we don’t have to visit them at all.

To me, that’s simplicity. Hiking in and harvesting images every time we want to see what’s happening is complicated. An extra layer of technology makes the difference, and I can justify the cost.

In many ways, I guess, I’m a Luddite. This isn’t one of them.

That said, it’s absolutely true that country living means doing without certain conveniences most Americans take for granted. It’s a lifestyle that rewards practicality and self-sufficiency. Deb and I can testify that out in the country, there’s a certain allure to “old ways,” skills practiced by our Depression-era grandparents.

Compared to the way people typically live these days, those practices might be considered “primitive.” Country folks take that as a compliment, knowing that with skill comes independence that the vast majority of Americans can never claim.

It’s an exercise in balance, of course. We still live in the 21st Century. To one degree or another we’re still willing participants in modern society.

In that context, then, we’ll pursue simplicity as we define it.

Over today’s first cup of coffee, Deb and I decided to postpone our next trip to The Mountain until tomorrow. We were halfway through our second cup when we got a call from the contractor who’ll be putting in our septic system, the same guy who did the original backhoe work last December — he was out at the homesite to re-acquaint himself with things, in preparation for beginning his work.

We knew he’d be doing that either today or tomorrow, and we would’ve liked to meet him there, but it really wasn’t necessary. It’s all good.

Later we made a spur-of-the-moment run up to Lilliehobbs in Omaha for lunch — chicken salad sandwich for Deb, grilled cheese for me, hot’n’hearty corn chowder for both of us. Sweet tea, of course. As long as we were that far north, we crossed into Missouri to check on Outlaw Joe.

We caught Joe closing early, on his way out the door just as we approached. Obviously glad to see us, he invited us inside and flipped the lights back on. We talked and reminisced for a bit, telling him about our progress on The Mountain and listening to his hopeful report on the future of his shop.

He calls us his “spiritual counselors.”

We bought a bottle of locally distilled bourbon. Y’know, I figured it was the least we could do. Such a great guy.

Rolling back down US 65, my thoughts returned to last night’s fire in Gassville. I considered how impermanent and fragile life and business are. And that, in a way, was why it was important for us to visit Outlaw Joe today.

As I finish composing this post, it’s snowing here in Harrison. It’ll continue past midnight, they say, bringing us another inch or two.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

#LetsGoBrandon #FJB

Our battle-scarred young buck made another appearance yesterday afternoon.

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