“You people actually live out here?”
Facts are that humans are flocking creatures. Outside that norm and things become somewhat difficult to understand. Two hundred years ago the majority of Americans were rural folks. Today, it’s all turned around. Everyone wants to live in the city. Just Google “the best places in the US to live” and most likely your answer will be, “The best cities in the US to live.” Take away the noises, light pollution, smells of gas fumes and associated odors, and the sounds of loud music and honking horns and many folks start getting anxious, perhaps even scared.
“It’s just too quiet out here…”
Even a camping trip must be accompanied by a blaring radio and loud talk, cars parked in long rows, people yelling and screaming. Quiet has become the antithesis of modern life. And yet in some places there live those who seek tranquility and nature’s beauty and who abhor crowds and everything else that speaks of a society wedded to chronic consumption and flamboyancy. Living one’s life through the eyes of others is so embedded in the modern psyche that no one thinks of it as abnormal, perhaps even a bit psychotic. Of course, we all want to survive and feel safe; but the farther one gets from the city the less one needs to impress others, and the idea of “self-actualization” becomes genuinely self-actualization.
“It gets too dark out here at night…”
The road narrows and then narrows again as green leafy things press inward making it look more and more like a tunnel. A mile and then another mile and a mile more; and at the very end, tucked amidst a ring of mesquites, granjenos, chapotes, brazils, colima, assorted cacti and scattered yucca one finds the cottage and a couple of small barns. From the lean-to attached to one of the barns come the ringing tones of hammer against anvil.
“Why are the woods so close to the house?”
Visiting city folks want things open and cleared out so they can see if anyone sneaks up on them. They want their car doors locked and they sit on edge always looking around.
“You need to clear the trees back a ways…”
Under the lean-to roof one finds a consortium of anvil surfaces. For the uppity who believe that an anvil must be shaped in a certain manner this deep woods setup may not do. Who knows, someday one of those anvil things dressed appropriately might find its way under the lean-to. But every time I watch Nepalese blacksmiths and bladesmiths produce works of art with nothing more than the end of a twenty-five pound sledgehammer I start thinking that Americans are, indeed, spoiled and not as creative as they believe themselves to be. Oh well, it’s not important. A railroad rail, a forklift blade, a mass of flat steel from the junkyard, a bunch of steel plates welded together, or like the Nepalese the head of a sledgehammer flat on the ground. Granted the fully forged blacksmith anvil is the king but oh so outrageously expensive—especially for those who want to live frugally and as unencumbered by things as possible. The lean-to houses other tools the deep woods smith (and knife maker) might use. A forge built off a design created by a fellow Texan named Tim Lively. A couple of inexpensive belt grinders, a drill press, a bench grinder, several work tables, sundry hammers, bits, tongs; and a revolver in its holster hanging from a nail. What smithy workplace would be complete without a pile of scrap steel? Perhaps it’s all about my past. No secret that I grew up within feet of a blacksmith shop. The shop owner’s son and I were kids in elementary school. We’d peruse the shop and especially the scrap pile. No one had time to teach us anything or even talk to us so we learned through osmosis. I don’t think either one of us guessed that some day a bona fide blacksmith shop would be as rare as an ivory-billed woodpecker. Where did everything go, I often wonder? Did I just get old or did the religion of unfettered capitalism and its obsession with never ending “growth and development” finally eat away at the very soul of America?