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Yesterday was veteran’s day.

It’s amazing how much you can learn about someone sometimes, in just a short conversation.  There’s a pullover off of Highway 27, it’s a lonely stretch of road that goes through some nature reserve near my house, and this time of year, there are always trucks and suvs parked along the side; it’s one of the few spots in surrounding towns where hunting is allowed.  Medfield Wildlife Preserve or somesuch.  I used to park there and take walks sometimes, took a girl there once in high school for one of those walk to the middle of the field and look at the sky dates. It’s the start of an old abandoned road, blocked by a gate that is never really locked, and lined with big old trees on both sides. That’s where I parked today. I needed to answer a txt message, and didn’t want to do it while driving. To tell you the truth, I haven’t pulled into that spot in a long time, there’s usually a cop parked there, and a bunch of hunting vehicles.  Even here in suburban Massachusetts, my Darwin fish and “Yes We Did!” Obama stickers are not all that popular, especially with huntin’ locals.  In any case, There was one vehicle there, making it’s way through the gate. –  Stop – get out – open gate – get in – drive through – get out – close gate – walk directly towards the little red Scion parked in the lot and look menacing… wait what?  That last part happened so fast I barely had a chance to roll my window down and say “howdy”.  So this is the guy I met today; he told me a bit of his story, shook my hand, scared me a little and made me think… here’s how that last part went.  We’ll call him Ted…

Ted is a single father of five, a veteran himself. He did not say, but he looked Vietnam aged, and he teared up ever so briefly when mentioning a friend of his, a brother in arms, that he had lost and was thinking about on this day.  We both shared a look, in the depth of that moment, a sadness a connectedness, and then it was gone…

Ted was there on the public land, to cut deadwood.  I think he may have been hassled for it in the past, which is why he came over to explain himself.  We both assumed that the other one worked for Fisheries or something, and was going to tell them to stop whatever it is they’re doing.  We were both wearing flannel… honest mistake really.  He leaned in my window and looked around at my messy foreign car, and proceeded to explain himself.  He works on a tug boat, see, two weeks on, and two weeks off. This is his two weeks off, obviously, and he likes to use that time to teach his kids to be self sufficient.  At least I think that’s what he was hinting at, he didn’t say self sufficiency so much as hint at a scary nebulous future for which the children are the only answer.  I don’t mean to inject a creepy feeling into what he said here, but I have to say I felt it a little.  It’s a sentiment that I have heard often in the Tea Party rhetoric of late.  This government (which is to say this Black President) is so corrupt, so evil and has such evil intentions for this nation, that there is probably going to be some kind of actual armed revolution in the near future, for which back to nature skills will somehow be important.  In any scenario like that, some sort of armed rebellion in modern times, ditch digging, ammunition manufacture and first aid triage are likely to do you more good really, but that’s only IMHO.  But being who I am, I do of course approve of using resources wisely, being self sufficient, all these things are good; all these things can enable us to live our lives without attachment; to be happy.  Or we can choose to do these things out of fear of other.

He introduced himself partway through the conversation (Ted is a pseudonym), and offered his hand, which was wide, and calloused and not cold despite the weather.  We shook, and he nodded, “Good, strong shake!” He said approvingly –  I didn’t know guys still said that sort of thing, I guess they do.  He wasn’t a bone crusher, thank god, can’t stand those guys; he had an honest handshake, and friendly; and I think he was simply acknowledging the same in me, really.  In any case, when I replied, “Actually, that’s because I’m a massage therapist!” and handed him a card, he seemed a little taken back, but he didn’t immediately run away and  he continued his story…

He collects the wood for the people in the area that get low income fuel assistance (I wonder if he knows that this is  a Kennedy baby?) and he distributes it in the area.  He said he does it because he’s part of the system too, he gets assistance now, because he has too.  As the conversation wrapped up (he realized I was in no way going to stop him from taking the wood) he said some things about the current government being so damned bad you have to teach your kids these things; to take care of themselves, since no one else will.  I have mixed feelings about this last part really.  This is that nebulous fear-of-the-future talk that makes me so uncomfortable these days. I guess because it always makes me think “OK, so now you’re finally paying attention, but where were you ten years ago when we had a drunken frat boy running the place shooting his six-guns off.  What exactly is it that makes you so upset about Obama…?”  Anyway, that’s neither here nor there really.  I mean, I agree with the guy to a great extent, a lot of the reason I have moved back here is to learn me some self reliance.  My income can only get so high (I’m only capable of a certain number of massages a week); so… time to start learning how to do some things for myself so that someday I MIGHT be able to retire.  If I can can enough tomatoes now; will I be able to afford the really good medical care when I’m old? Who knows, but I guess I buy into it a bit myself.

I suppose the thing that scared me slightly is that his motive was more fear and anger at those in charge, than desire to develop any sort of self reliance; doing things yourself is only something you resort to when the damn government’s no good.  That doesn’t seem right somehow…  He was on government land, taking government wood for a government subsidized low cost fuel program; all by his own assertion.  And he was at the same time bashing the entire government for some nebulous sense of impending doom. So why do the Koch Brothers/Tea Party side of these things bother me so much?  There is admittedly a bit of common ground between the Koch Machine and the Occupy Wall St folks… very little, but some.  There is a sense of disgust with the way things have gotten.  The biggest difference is where everyone places the blame, and really at this point who cares who’s to blame?  Does it matter that it was Reagan’s policies of Clinton’s, one of the Bush’s or Obama’s policies… none of them is responsible for the way that the world is… we are, we the people… right?