The following post is a continuation of On Government and Responsibility.
As a native born Texan, there was never a doubt that ‘the eyes of Texas were upon me’ and that Texas was the best state in the union. Yet after retiring for the third time, I began to seriously think about becoming an expatriate. I owned a successful ranch in the in a lowly populated area in Panhandle of Texas. The ranch exported food and energy. I was secure in my person and secure in my finances.
One of my careers took me around the world, often to troubled locations. I became a student of history and specifically warfare. I remember looking at the Fulda Gap toward the old DDR (East Germany) and listening to a friend with the DIA expound on how Napoleon chose it for an escape route after loosing the battle of Leipzeig – and how it was now a great place for a Soviet battle tank breakout into western Europe. Our discussion turned to special atomic demolitions, the A-64, and warthogs. The consensus was, that the Soviet Eighth Guard Army and First Guard Tank Army would see the US 68th Armored Regiment stationed at Wildflecken, a mere speed bump on their way to the west.
What does this have to do with me leaving Texas? For one, the geography around my ranch was almost optimal for battle tank warfare. The ranch was geographic ground zero in an immense oil and natural gas producing area. This was valuable in an economic sense and in a military sense. The region also included refineries not far away in Borger and the PanTex Plant, the final assembly point for nuclear weapons.
In the post WWII decades, Texas allowed itself to become overrun with illegal Mexican immigrants. The problem is that many of these immigrants have no ambition of assimilating into our society. They choose to speak Mexican (a dialect of Spanish) rather than English and they export US earned monies back to families in Mexico rather than investing the US. These are the sort of people that would rather flee than underwrite the sacrifice necessary to change their own government and misery it creates. The only geographic difference between Juarez and El Paso is the Rio Grande. The only economic difference is government. And what a difference good government makes!
Too much of Texas south of Austin is firmly under Hispanic control. Worse, the Mexican immigrants mutter about the Reconquista and they are not referring to the Battle of Covadonga in 722 AD. Every Texan learns about Mexican perfidy associated with the Zimmerman Note. Every Texan suspects Mexico of plotting a conquest to reclaim Texas territory. I suspect that this is true.
So, there I was, living in a wonderful land of plenty, exporting food and energy. Always in the back of my mind were how the state was losing its national identity to illegal immigration, and how valuable the region would be to an invading mechanized army. But after all, the Panhandle is a long way from the Rio Grande. I knew it would be a bad day for our Hispanic brothers if they crossed the Rio with territory on their mind, but on the other hand, I realized that governments don’t always apply logic to strategy. I lived in a region with highly desirable resources and optimal for battle tank engagement. An Abrams battle tank in action is an awesome thing and although I had no doubt which side would ultimately prevail, I didn’t want to be in the way either.
We literally ‘bet the ranch’ on our first natural gas well. We mortgaged everything and borrowed to the limit. Had I any idea of the outrageous risk I was underwriting I would never have done what we did. God favored my family and that first well was a success and that was just a beginning. We drilled and drilled and drilled and made money and made money and made money. And we were taxed and taxed and taxed and ultimately axed by taxes.
The county where I lived realized that oil and gas production and their related businesses were easy sources of revenue. Their predatory taxation included my ranch production. That first big year we paid $30,000.00 in county taxes alone and I thought that it couldn’t get any worse. Our total progressive tax burden, federal, state (Texas has no income tax but still manages to extract taxes through permits, fees, and sales taxes. Then there are school taxes, hospital district taxes, and other taxes ad naseum), and county reached 51%. That’s right, taxing entities got more of my dollar in taxes than it allowed me to keep. My family was paying their fair share all right – and a lot more.
Then there was the drought of 2011. Old timers remembered the 1950s as the time it never rained even though they generally had about 10” of rain per year. In 2011, the ranch received 2.38” – for the entire year! Like other ranchers I sold cattle keeping only a select few to keep the genetic line. Were it not for the Ogallala aquifer and its mountain recharge region, we would have had to truck in water. That year the grass never turned green. What few trees there were on the prairie withered and died. The threat of fire increased beyond measure. Then there was the unrelenting wind. Sustained winds in excess of 40mph that never quit brought waves of sand that covered fence posts. I broke out my old desert warfare goggles.
My chronologically adult children showed no interest in becoming ranchers or oilmen. The daughter was in medical school and sons engaged in their own businesses. My parents were dead and I was an only child. There were no longer family ties to Texas.
I ordered Rawles’ book on retreats. My goals were to identify locations with low population pressure, limited or no natural resources that would become targets for taxation or confiscation, terrain not contusive to mechanized battle, and regions of copious rainfall. My focus was on locating three disparate retreats spread across the country. I put the ranch up for sale. I put the production up for sale. A neighbor wrote me a huge check for the ranch and its houses and barns. A big oil firm bought the production. And I paid my fair share of taxes on the income. Gradually those monies were converted into real estate, gold, and silver.
I miss Texas. I miss the big, generous people. I always will. I don’t miss the taxes, the unrelenting wind, and the low rainfall. I still wake up each morning to the lowing of cattle, but I look out of my bedroom windows and see trees and mountain ridges. The dew drips off the metal roof like rainfall and the other day we had five inches of rain. Anything planted grows and life begins anew.
I am no longer a Panhandle Rancher; I am a mountain rancher but I will still use the pseudonym. Friends, it takes courage to pick up and leave the familiar and the comfortable. That path was made somewhat easier for me in that I had moved from place to place during a federal career. I will approach my seventh decade secure in my mountain retreat, a region of no industry nor natural resources other than the timber that heats my house and shields my property, secure in water and food, warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I beg each of you who might be city dwellers to look anew at the life you are leading. The long commute, neighbors you don’t know, grocery stores you depend upon – and think. Open your minds to the possibilities of new places and new situations. Sheeple can become sheepledogs. I believe this. I do. There has never been a better time to flee the cities and embark upon a path to self-sufficiency.