Anatomy of a Pack-Rat

Larry Stewart was born in Detroit, Michigan, April 14th, 1962. His father, Michael, worked at Dodge Main on the assembly line. Larry's mother, Carol, was a housewife, raising Larry and his two older brothers, and three years later, a younger sister. From early on, Larry showed great aptitude for working with his mind and hands. Building blocks, Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, etc..., were always fully utilized during playtime.

Summers were often spent on his Uncle Pete's farm in Ubly, about in the middle of Michigan's Thumb region. The whole family spent a lot of time there during the summer of 1967, when Detroit had it's quota of riots which plagued the cities in the 1960's. Larry was both scared and excited. He could sense the concern his parents had. But he was also awe-struck watching the deployment of the military to squelch the rioters. Needless to say, the event made a lasting impression on him.

Larry was also impressed in those days with America's race into space. He found the whole concept of rocketing off to distant planets appealing. Larry's curiosity was enhanced by this, and he learned to read quickly. Much of his free time was spent in a local library. At the age of eight, his Uncle Pete gave Larry a small telescope kit his he had purchased from a mail order company that specialized in selling scientific equipment and surplus materials. It was just a simple refractor telescope, consisting of two tubes of sturdy cardboard and two plastic caps with glass lenses attached in them. The device only took a few minutes to assemble. Larry could focus it by moving one tube in or out of the other. While not very powerful, it nourished a desire for learning more about the nature of the universe.

Building things became second nature to Larry. He soon entered his plastic model building phase. After awhile, he became quite good at it, especially once he learned that patience would be rewarded. His models were always the best built and painted of all his contemporaries. Cars, planes, ships, and military vehicles soon filled his room, and then the basement and even the garage. His parents wanted Larry to get rid of some before he bought anymore. It was when his mother decided to sell some of her needle work that Larry decided to join her at the local church rummage sale. Along side his mother's crafts, Larry brought a box of models. They were a success. Those he didn't sell for cash, he swapped for comic books and trading cards.

By the age of twelve, Larry was not only earning money from mowing lawns, shoveling snow, and delivering newspapers, but he also began dealing in various collectibles. He'd buy a box of old comic books for a dollar at a garage sale and quickly turn around and resell them to collectors at a tidy profit. Good old Uncle Pete had given him a starter coin collecting set for Christmas and Larry also began following that path as well. When it became legal to own gold again late in 1974, Larry was there with cash to buy some. Along with junk silver coins from before 1965, Larry was on his way to accumulating a nice little stash of cash.

When Larry turned sixteen, like all of that age, he wanted to begin driving a car. He had already learned two summers ago on Uncle Pete's farm. Naturally, Larry just didn't want to just drive, but wanted to buy his own car to drive. He had enough money to purchase one. His father went car hunting with Larry, who had made a list from the used car ads in the newspapers. He settled on buying a 1966 Plymouth Sport Fury with a 318 cubic inch engine.

Thus, Larry entered his backyard mechanic phase. Not only maintaining his vehicle, but improving and modifying it as well. His father had long before included Larry in the work done on the family cars. Larry also helped out when his older brothers work on their cars, not to mention helping Uncle Pete work on his truck and tractor on the farm. Larry made a great shave-tail mechanic. He could tune an engine just with his ear. Diagnosing problems came easily. His friends always called him up when they had trouble. Larry was all too happy to help, especially when he was paid for his labors.

Unfortunately, hard times were about to fall on the family. The economy was in bad shape. The U.S. automobile industry was getting clobbered by imports. Factories were closing and workers were laid off. To make matters worse, the value of money was shrinking by a period of severe inflation. This affected the Stewart family. Larry's father was occasionally laid off from work. His mother was now working part-time as a waitress to help pay the bills.

Larry's own hope for going to a major university now looked grim. Although his grades were good enough for getting some help in both grants and scholarships, it still wouldn't be enough. Even just going to a local community college meant Larry had to sell off some of his horde of gold and silver, both which had increased substantially in value. Larry did not want to burden the family. In fact, he wanted to pitch in and help as much as he could.

Larry decided to take a course for a associates degree as an electronics technician at the community college. He sold off some of his cache of goods and also got himself a job in a small factory. Working days and going to school at night was a hard regiment to maintain. But both school and work came easy to Larry. Within a few months, after learning how to operate every type of machine in the factory, Larry was offered a position as assistant repairman. Working on lathes, surface grinders, and other machines, Larry quickly became a highly prized employee, and began earning some decent money.

Still living at home, Larry was able to save a good deal of his income, even while paying for school and contributing to the family coffers. This really came in handy when his sister Alice needed braces for her teeth. By 1982, the economy started to improve. Larry's father was working full time again. When Larry finished school, he quickly got a job for a major supplier to the auto industry repairing their new computer-controlled machine tools. But while he began making more money, he also began paying higher taxes. Larry soon began to develop politically.

Several influences began converging all at once. Larry's new girlfriend, Nancy Parker, was active in the Libertarian Party. Much of this was due to the fact that Nancy liked to smoke marijuana and saw no reason why it shouldn't be legalized, sold, and even taxed, just like alcohol and tobacco. Larry began attending meetings with her. As it turned out, Michigan had a large number of party members. Larry quickly accepted much of the party's platforms and basic premise that there wasn't a dime's bit of difference between the Democrats and Republicans, or Republicrats as they were referred to by the Libertarians.

Another influence that began shaping Larry's politics, and his mind, was a local talk radio host. He had always listened to music stations on the radio, until he happened across this dramatic, and enthusiastic voice arguing with a caller about taxation. The host, Scott Sharp, began screaming at the caller, saying things like, "Your head is firmly suspended in the fog of the unknown" and "You need an epistemological house cleaning". Scott Sharp then began talking about an author by the name of Ayn Rand and several of the books she had written. Larry stopped off at a bookstore that very day and bought copies of "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead". Later, he furthered his introduction into the philosophy of Objectivism by reading Rand's non-fiction works, like "For The New Intellectual", "The Virtue Of Selfishness", and "Philosophy: Who Needs It".

Within a few months, Larry became one of the bright stars at the local Libertarian gatherings. His grasp of the subject matter, the way he presented his arguments, all impressed the others, including Nancy. Many in the group were becoming involved in the Tax-Protest movement. A few had stopped filing and were jailed. This is when Larry began to question the whole approach. If they were to engage in a struggle against tyranny, there had to be a more effective, and less legally dangerous way to do so.

At this time, one last piece of the puzzle fell into place. The Cold War seemed to get hotter, especially when President Reagan proposed his Strategic Defense Initiative, or Star Wars program as the media dubbed it. There was more talk now about 'First-Strike' weapons, and some military strategists began talking about fighting limited-scale nuclear wars.

Larry now became acquainted with a new term for his vocabulary, 'Survivalist'. He had seen a fellow on TV who published a monthly newspaper on survivalism. This chap also sold books that contained a wide range of how-to manuals and articles from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. There were also books about improvised weaponry, too. Larry bought these and began subscribing to the newspaper.

For the most part, the common image of survivalists was that of over-grown Boy Scouts armed to the teeth with secret hide-outs in 'them-thar-hills' with stockpiles of dehydrated food to last for two or more years. However, the personage from whom Larry had been buying books from had a different approach. This message was one of living a modest, self- sufficient lifestyle. Relocating to a small rural community, learning a marketable skill and setting up a small business that would benefit the community. Instead of hiding out in a bunker, you establish good relations with your neighbors and learn to cooperate with each other.

This made a lot of sense to Larry. The message was one very positive and constructive, not one of fear and paranoia. He began to seriously consider following this advice. The challenge of being self-sufficient appealed to him. It peaked his curiosity. Just how far could he push himself, depend upon himself. Could he achieve a high degree of freedom and independence?

What's more, could this be a better way to oppose tyranny, by disengaging himself as much as possible from 'The System'? The more he could do by himself, the more he could utilize his resources to their limits, the less income he would need to survive. The less income earned, the less taxes he'd have to pay. In Ayn Rand's novel, "Atlas Shrugged", the hero, John Galt, rebelled against 'The System' by leading a strike of the mind. Galt convinced other productive people to stop their contributions to society at large. To close their businesses, to work menial jobs instead of giving their all and deny society the products of their creativity and industry.

This message seemed to be a sound method to Larry of how best to oppose tyranny. Rather than taking the sword of violence, Galt and his followers waged a basically peaceful, economic war against 'The Looters' of the world. As their numbers grew, there were hardships felt by all. There were consequences to their actions. Galt's people deliberately worked towards crashing 'The System', stopping 'the motor of the world'.

Larry soon realized that while the Libertarians may have a good message, it was not catching on and would not work by itself to stop bad government. The Tax-Protesters were also a dead-end. All they would accomplish was to set themselves up to be run-over by the juggernaut of The Law. Larry now decided that his path was clear. He would follow John Galt. By utilizing the concepts embraced by survivalism, he would lessen his dependence on money. Larry would voluntarily earn less and pay less. He became a soldier in the struggle between the individual and the collective. And he would do so by becoming a peasant, a modern day serf, who's only lord was He who blessed Larry with an active mind and a yearning for freedom.

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The material you have just read is a chapter in the on-line fictional story, "When Autumn Leaves Fall" by Andrew Zarowny, copyrighted 1997. All characters and circumstances are fictional and are not intended to bare any resemblence to actual people alive or dead. You have the author's permission to copy or reproduce this material so long as you charge no money for it's reproduction or distribution.

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