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In 1980, I moved to Missouri, hoping to live off the grid and under the radar for a change. The first time I ever stepped foot in the great state, I had a rude awakening. From overzealous DEA agents to nosy tax men , I quickly learned it wouldn’t be that easy getting the government out of my life.
I had just interviewed with a major independent newspaper and was driving the back roads looking for a new home outside of town. I love living near water, so I was looking for a place with ponds or a creek running through it. As I traveled down the gravel roads, I stopped at each bridge, culvert, and creek. Each time I got out, I could hear a soft thumping noise just out of sight. At first, I thought nothing of it, but after hearing this sound several times, I recognized the noise. It was the sound of blades whirring on a small helicopter. Then I saw it. The whirly-bird was in camouflage, and ironically, it stuck out badly in the skyline of blue, making me wonder who these guys were actually trying to hide from.
I have to admit, I then used my powers for evil. I figured they were looking for pot, as it was harvest time, so I went under the next bridge, put on my gloves and pulled the biggest thistle bush I could find. Then, as the agents got curious, I quickly threw the thistle bush in the back of my truck and high-tailed it down the road. I turned right, then turned left, and within three minutes I came into direct contact with a road block just for me. They were not amused as I told them I boil thistle down for tea, calling me a trouble-maker.
I did find a lovely home to rent, with 2,000 acres, four ponds, and a big creek running through it. I also found a new friend in the county tax man. He didn’t like my sense of humor, either. He taxed my truck, my motorcycle, my car, my flat boat, and even my old camper. He was not the kind of neighbor I was looking for in Missouri.
As I set up for deer hunting, I found a few more friends. I hunt with a re-curve bow, which means I have to get within twenty yards of my prey, so I have to be creative. I had a rancher drop a round bale of grass beneath an old apple tree near our field, which happened to border a nature preserve. I made a nice home in the middle of that round bale, and spent many an afternoon hunting right there.
One day I noticed a flash just across the property line. I watched closely and soon I realized I had a DNR agent watching me. All he could see was the top of my hat, so I propped my hat up with a stick and backtracked around to the fence and commenced to scare the daylights out of him. We eventually became friends, and he even showed me his “stuffed” deer that he puts out to catch road poachers. That poor deer looked like Swiss cheese, with holes everywhere. I got a kick out of that.
Soon after living in Missouri I realized if I want the government out of my business I must use different tactics– one of them being, “never make a government agent look stupid.” That lesson cost me my anonymity– the opposite effect I was looking for.
Have a great week, Off-The-Gridders!