Survivalist of a Different Stripe

Sat, Sep 14, 2013 - 3:12am

I walked along the dike, its packed dirt roadway cracked and dusty in the setting late summer sun. I’d hitchhiked all day, trying to get to my grandfather on the day his postcard had indicated he would be at his orchard. Not wanting to waste money frivolously on phone calls, he often communicated by blank white postcards written densely on both sides to impart non-urgent information. As he travelled nearly constantly, it was usually impossible to reach him, or even leave a message more accurately than within a couple of days.

I already knew I would not find him there, for I had earlier encountered an older man, methodically advancing on the seat of his horse-drawn carriage, transporting some barrels:

- Good afternoon. I’m looking for my grandfather – could you point me toward his land? His name is Lawrence Yossarian.

The gentleman eyed me for a moment, with a small but benign smile, squinting and adjusting his hat against the sun.

- So, you are the Professor’s grandson, eh? His land is back there, half a mile the way I came -- but you won’t find him today. He left this morning. I can take you to his neighbor’s house, if you want. My name’s James Yossarian. Nice to meet you, cousin.

Grandpa’s neighbor had given me dinner and the news that he’d left for the train earlier that day. Wanting to at least SEE the reason for my trip – the mostly finished cellar in the middle of the land, pretty close to what I at the time considered the middle of nowhere – I declined the elderly gentleman’s offer of lodging, and walked on. As I tried to sleep later that night on the cement in the bare concrete box that radiated heat until the dawn hours, listening to crickets and mosquitos, I was more bemused at the situation than angry. I cursed my decision to (more or less on a whim) take up his invitation without calling him first, but also wondered about the wisdom of his enterprise. Just as importantly, I pondered why in the first decade and a half of my life, no one had informed me of the existence of a small and loose, but definitely CLAN of a dozen or so families of my distant relatives living in the area, halfway across the country from my home town.

At the time, my grandfather had been 70 years old, attempting farming for the first time in his adult life. Sure, he had the help of his neighbors (gradually, after they accepted that he intended to stay), and the local day-laborers and tractor owners – but he cultivated the 30 or so acres pretty much on his own. He had from the start nearly always managed to break even or better. Being still in high school, I did not truly (or even superficially) understand the reason for his determination to prove he could do it, but even then admired the sheer willpower necessary to have accomplished what he had.

It was only later, gradually – both from him and the rest of the family – that I managed to learn the source of the drive to master his own estate. After a youth of being raised as the eldest son to continue managing the family farm, having just received his PhD equivalent agricultural engineer diploma, he had arrived at the cusp of beginning his career. He was to take on the mantle of the small, but still sizeable estate of his parents. Unfortunately, his timing could not have been more badly off. Seeing as mass transport was not available at the time of his graduation, he hitchhiked and walked the 200 or so miles back from his university. Straight into the arms of the Red Army, advancing from the east. It was 1945, and as if sh*t had not already gotten real enough, things were about to get worse.

He was taken as a prisoner of war, and eventually hauled off with a sizeable (but not overwhelming – SOME portion of labor force was decreed necessary to keep in-country) portion of military-age men to a wonderful vacation destination administered by the friendly, humanistically-minded gentlemen working for a small subdivision of the NKVD known as ГУЛаг.

After two years of what was affectionately called ‘a little work’ at a resort to the far northeast, he was eventually released and made his way back to his family’s homestead. As he told me later, he was shuffling along, with dirty, torn and disheveled clothes, a beard down to his chest. Outside the large town close to his village, he had hitched a ride with someone who turned out to be a distant cousin, who had not recognized him at first. Only to find that his family’s land had been nationalized and confiscated, his father stripped of his teaching position at the university, and he and his entire family blacklisted (doubly, for his father had been not only a landowner, but a no-good CLERIC as well).

He never talked about his years in the camp, brushing it off with a curt “It was hard”. I regret not having pushed harder to learn more about it at the time (now, of course, when it’s far too late), but he did often praise meals by saying “it’s a heckuva lot better than rotten potatoes and boiled belt leather”.

Grandfather proceeded to dig ditches, arrange gardens, load trucks and take on any number of menial jobs for the next several years – until the repression of evil, parasitic self-sufficient landowners and the clergy had eased enough for him to be able to secure a teaching position at a small, rural agricultural vocational school training farmhands in viniculture and cattle husbandry. He worked there until he retired, training young men who would eventually work on the collective farms and state vineyards throughout the country – that had been taken from families like his.

So nearly 50 years later, when the government announced the program of (partial) reparations, he signed up to a process that would eventually yield him a document. This note attested to the fact that, according to the contemporary land and property valuations from the 1940’s (and the wonderful bail-in formulas applied to calculate compensation – 100% up to X amount, 50% up to X+N amount, 25% above Y amount, etc.), he was entitled to the equivalent of about a third of his family’s former land and holdings. This amount was approximately 300 gold crowns, if my memory serves correctly.

The land value at the time had been calculated, recorded and in earlier years even transacted in units of gold crowns, based on both the quality of soil and cultivation characteristics of an agricultural property (climate, groundwater, irrigation, infrastructure, etc.). Throughout the decades after WWII, governments and agricultural experts tried to come up with a better system of classifying arable lands, but due to the lack of a better alternative, and the inertia of having all land records nationwide denominated in this unit, gold crown value remains to this day. Incidentally, agricultural subsidies from the state and ‘federal’ governments are issued by area, not by land quality – but fiat valuations of property are of course based on gold crowns – and hence of course the taxes levied on their sale. So this gold standard lives on…

The ‘gold crown value equivalent’ pieces of scrip (their value announced by fiat, in fiat, naturally) went to widows, elderly pensioners, and in most cases to the children of those dispossessed at the time. Most people bought Treasury bonds, apartments/houses, in a few cases equities on the newly opened stock market, or (in woefully too many cases) sold them at a discount for cash to speculators and oligarchs. Grandpa, naturally, did nothing of the sort. Poring over land auction announcements, one day he took the 3+ hour train ride to the small village I eventually ended up at, walking the last few miles to the meeting room of the tiny village hall.

When time came to submit bids for the parcels being sold off, the assembled village-folk eyed with suspicion this elderly, bearded, thin old man from the capital wearing a tweed jacket, who had come to bid on the lands they and their relatives had worked on all these decades long. He attributed his success at being able to get the land to the fact that he had walked through the small crowd, introducing himself, and shaking the hands of each of the assembled (mostly gruff, from what I imagine) locals. “They knew I was a working man, from shaking my hand.” he said. They warmed up to him (his family name probably also helped), the village selectmen made sure he was able to get a lot at a fair price. Later over the years, while undoubtedly rolling their eyes in disbelief sometimes at the old fogey attempting to plant wheat, then sunflowers, finally an ORCHARD by himself – they gave him or helped him get lodging, rides, plowing, fertilizer, milk, access to a fruit warehouse co-op and market, or a warmer coat – as need dictated.

When he died seventeen years later, he still had thick, hard, cracked, soil-stained calluses on his hands. He had ultimately planted 300 or so fruit trees by himself in the orchard, and had workmen put in another 700 or so. He was planning on building a pumping system to keep his irrigation reservoir full from the river on the other side of the dike, and to build out electrical lines to power canning machinery. His mantra, to his dying day: “Christian first. Human second. (insert nationality here) third. Peasant to the grave.” His grave distrust of politicians, bankers, geopolitics – the system and TPTB, as it were, seemed eccentric and old-fashioned, at the time. Not so much as the years wore on… One of his many teachings, certainly one of those most important to him: “Fertile soil will ALWAYS feed a family willing to till it, regardless of whatever happens in the world.” His instructions when he bequeathed it to us were NEVER to sell the land, except to buy an estate of equivalent value elsewhere – or to donate it to the church.

Got farmland and a community who knows and (even if grudgingly) respects you? Knowledge of the land and how to cultivate it? Willingness and ability to get hands dirty, and to remain determined enough to weather what storms may come?

About the Author


Sep 14, 2013 - 3:28am


And now to exit stage right (better make that left)

Sep 14, 2013 - 3:30am


first to be second

gold slut
Sep 14, 2013 - 3:33am

Turd! With these low prices I


With these low prices I can feel another lump of yellow shiny slipping from the grasp of the EE and into mine.

Keep stacking.

El Gordo
Sep 14, 2013 - 5:00am


Just a small little garden for me. 

Sep 14, 2013 - 5:20am
Sep 14, 2013 - 5:27am
Motley Fool
Sep 14, 2013 - 5:30am


Lovely story. Thanks for sharing.

Sep 14, 2013 - 6:03am

Stone soup - -

Once upon a time a there was great famine and people thought they had to hoard food to survive. One day two soldiers returning from war arrived in a village asking for a meal, but the villagers refused.

“Then we will make stone soup," one of the soldiers said mysteriously. They asked only for a big cauldron and water to fill it. They set it in the middle of the village square and built a large fire underneath. Then one of the soldiers produced an ornate bag from his cape, removed three very ordinary stones, and dropped them into the water with great ceremony.

Stone Soup Kettle

When a crowd gathered with curiosity, the soldier said, "A good soup needs salt and pepper." Since that was not so much to give up, one of the peasants sent his daughter to fetch some salt and pepper.

Then the other soldier said to himself rather loudly, "Oh, I do love stone soup, but stone soup with carrots...that's hard to beat." Overhearing this, another villager sent his son home to fetch a carrot hidden in the cellar – after all, it was just a carrot, not really that much.

"Magnificent, thank you!" exclaimed the soldier. "You know, I once had stone soup with salt beef as well, and it was fit for the king!" So the village butcher managed to find a little salt beef. And so it went, until soon there were onions, potatoes, barley, cabbage, and milk for the soup.

"A great soup would be even better with bread and cider," a villager volunteered, and brought them forth. Now it was a feast, which the soldiers happily shared with the villagers. Everyone agreed they had never before tasted anything as good, and sang and danced and celebrated well into the night.

Sep 14, 2013 - 6:53am

JY, Beautiful, well written

JY, Beautiful, well written story!! Thanks so much!

Am I the only one that finds it difficult to understand Andrew Maguire? Not sure if it's the quality of the audio of the phone and/or his heavy accent? Yeah, yeah, He has no accent. I'm the one with the heavy New Yawk accident. 

gold slut
Sep 14, 2013 - 7:35am

Maguire interview

Yes GL, sounded very muffled when I listened but I got most of what was said. He uses some quaint English terms and he used one which is so pertinent for what he was describing - 'the jig is up!' Think I may have to get a T shirt made up with that on it.

Sep 14, 2013 - 7:36am


I really enjoyed reading this.

Sep 14, 2013 - 7:38am

Green Lantern

I suggest you watch "Trainspotting"

then you get back to Andrew's interview and admire how easy it is to follow.


JY, please share your stories as often as you can!

Sep 14, 2013 - 7:54am

The Jig is up?  Too bad.  I

The Jig is up? Too bad. I enjoy a good jig. And there is at least one Turd that plays a mean Irish Whistle. He'll be upset too!

Irish Dance Group - Irish Step Dancing (Riverdance) 2009
Sep 14, 2013 - 8:54am


Great unravelling of banking fraud from Scott Bartle.

Sep 14, 2013 - 8:56am

The Parable of the Coffee Bean

Due to the fact that I cant live without coffee, and since we were sharing stories why not share one of my favorites. A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up; she was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose. Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word. In a few minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, '"Tell me what you see." 'Carrots, eggs, and coffee,' she replied. Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, 'What does it mean, mother?' Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.. 'Which are you?' she asked her daughter. 'When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean? Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength? Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart? Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest - do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean? May we all be coffee. Cipher

Sep 14, 2013 - 9:04am

Beautiful Memorial

Nice piece of writing and thanks for sharing your grandfather with us on a Saturday morning. yes

I feel like I went back in time.

Sep 14, 2013 - 9:15am

Ok, well, I'm going to have

Ok, well, I'm going to have to listen to the full Maguire interview tonite again. I missed 1/2 of it. Plus interrupted too many times. I really need to hear what he is saying. Is this the real deal? Or is it more wishful thinking?

Hopefully by tonite the blogisphere will have some summaries and articles written on it to generate some good discussion on the issue.

Whenever news like this breaks, I wonder how seriously people take it because they have been desensitized by story after story of things breaking down? I haven't seen any wow's, holy shit, yet from those of you who listened to it and heard the whole thing. Maybe by tonite? 

Have a beautiful day! Sun shining and birds singing where I am.

Sep 14, 2013 - 9:18am


My guess would be that this info does not have much effect anymore on those of us who know the deal. The CFTC won't do anything and neither will Chilton. I emailed Chilton....again.... last night. Will post reply if I get one.

Sep 14, 2013 - 9:23am


I see what you mean with desensitized.

Fact is that because of Turd, we already know what he's talking about. I guess that we are waiting for the day the CFTC can't just ignore all of it anymore. Andrew actually mentions the LIBOR scandal, and we need a LIBOR moment for the metals, when everything just spills out into mainstream public.

My personal guess when it will happen: when too many investors complain that they only get funny-money-settled instead of delivery of their metals.

Be Prepared
Sep 14, 2013 - 9:26am
gold slut
Sep 14, 2013 - 9:27am

@ GL Re;Maguire

Wow, holy shit, and of course, the jig is up!

I think that Maguire is the best analyst who I have heard and I like the way he is so reserved and conservative about things, so if he says things are seriously bad for the bullion banks, he gets my attention!

Gold Dog
Sep 14, 2013 - 9:49am

Thanks JY

Very good story.

I also liked the stone soup and I am drinking some changed water right now.

I have not purchased Orlev's book that GL has been writing about but do wonder about the most effective way, or any way, that I can help effect change here in the States.

Being type A I want to see results for my effort. I have been able to put me and mine in a much better place to weather the storm but I would like to use some "contrails" to ward off the storm, failing that, how to work to see that we end up in a better place as a nation and a world afterward has me a bit baffled. The job seems so big and I am just one man.

I am open to suggestions on how to move the needle some small amount on a macro level. I will be semi-retiring soon and will have a great deal of time. It seems unbelievable selfish to just use my new time to play....How do I give back to my community and country to make a difference?

Your Wondering Friend,


Edit to change a garbled sentence.

PS- My wife and I sit on various charitable boards and I have been named a lifetime trustee of one of my favorites that helps children. These activities have helped on the local level. I guess my real question is do I become active in the local Tea Party? Run for municipal office?(My wife just finished up a stint...her main thrust was to make our local government more efficient and thereby lower property taxes-cut the fat, which she did a good job of doing.) Or, is there some other organization I can become active in that can use my talents and checkbook?

PPS- I think someone on the other thread mentioned having to wait to get silver. I placed a pretty big order with Silver Doc and had silver in my hands one week later. As info.

Sep 14, 2013 - 10:03am

Gold Dog, good for you with

Gold Dog, good for you with supporting good causes. Me and the lady in my life support Sokids (connected to The Tyler Foundation) and are helping at this Gala amongst an ongoing support over the years. Good friend of ours runs this. Great cause.

We would love your help GD. PM me if you want. It truly is an amazing job they do.

Since October 2008, Shine On! Kids has been a member of the International Confederation of Childhood Cancer Parent Organizations (ICCCPO). This worldwide organization is dedicated to realizing cooperation and the sharing of information and experiences between parent groups across the globe. The goal of ICCCPO is to provide the growing network of organizations the resources and support to improve the treatment and care of children with cancer in their home countries.

Be Prepared
Sep 14, 2013 - 10:04am

Without Public Humiliation...

the whistle blowers mentioned won't and don't have a forum upon which to gain traction with a much larger audience who could demand action from the TPTB. We know that the CFTC knows about this manipulation and I believe they have been complicit in this control by the major banks and the Fed. They won't do anything about this information because they have a vested interest in keeping the jig on....

This system has been running on vapors for awhile, so I do wonder with the engine finally seizes.... I mean the U.S. government keeps putting out numbers that everything is turning up rosy <smirk>. The BRIC nations will keep the cheap train on metals going as long as there is a real ounce of metals flowing into their coffers. Santa has allows said that holding will make you bleed because TPTB want you to puke up your metal before the coming revaluation. :-)

Howard Roark
Sep 14, 2013 - 10:07am

@GL and achmachat

"Trainspotting" is good warm-up to the imagination required to follow all this. But don´t forget my other reference (other thread) to the movie "Pi" from Darren Aronosky (nothing to do with the recent "The life of Pi", please...).



The Doc
Sep 14, 2013 - 10:17am

Scandal Brewing as Metals

Scandal Brewing as Metals Manipulation Cover-Up Nears Crital Point of Mainstream Awareness! Metals and Markets

In this week’s Metals & Markets, Ronald Mann, CEO of DNA Precious Metals joins Eric Dubin & The Doc to discuss:

Be Prepared
Sep 14, 2013 - 10:20am

@JY - Generational Perspective...

Thank you for sharing a very personal story about your family and your grandfather. I feel like I got to share a little in life's truest treasures. I do believe it's the greatest wealth of the human condition... the ability to share knowledge through the telling of our histories and experiences. This world and its people seem to turn faster each day and seem to have little time to hear the wisdom from the generations before them. 

It's so difficult for me to understand why the people sheeple can't see that governments and their "Homeland Security" teams, i.e. KGB, Stasi, Khmer Rouge, Uprava Državne Bezbednosti, etc., within the last two generations will do horrific things to their own people to preserve their own power and control. I want to think that the U.S. won't embrace this path, but it's hard not to see the evidence and the mechanisms being put into place.

Sep 14, 2013 - 10:48am

Libor and other "scandals'

If it's like any other recent "scandal" (aka govt. business as usual) it will amount to nothing except more legal bills and fines that will be gladly accepted by the US Treasury or DOJ.

Libor meant nothing. HSBC laundering money meant nothing.

JPM suppressing metals possibly on behalf of an arrangement with either the Treasury/Fed or some other 3rd party country (China) that's possibly part of some grand deal between the two countries isn't going to be allowed to amount to anything.

Heck, all these fines on all these banks is basically cheaply borrowed money from the Fed anyway. Borrow from Peter to pay Paul back...and forth, with 0.25% interest being paid by the Fed for banks to hold their money that was pushed on them.

Is that crazy or what? Where can I sign up for that deal???

My expectations of anything coming from this is minimal even though my hope about it is still there. If this suppression is all about disguising the decreasing value of the USD or the burgeoning US debt and US monetary policy etc then this 'revelation' sure as hell won't be allowed to blossom based on truth or judicial integrity etc.

The rule of law has changed and is dying and selective enforcement (when necessary, and not before) of the law is where we're at as a country and as a populace on Earth. It's not that one or two etc countries are becoming despotic in certain ways that veer away from their previously perceived norms of democracy and rule of law.

It's many countries seemingly all at once veering in that direction slowly and in some barely perceptible (or blatant) ways that are becoming the new normal. We're in the moment of transition watching it happen all around us.

Sep 14, 2013 - 11:10am

Great stuff!

Very well-written. Thanks, JY!

Mr. Fix
Sep 14, 2013 - 11:21am

DPH, re, "Libor and other "scandals'"

Wow, I could have written it myself, thanks for saving me the time. 

 I completely agree with your premise that nothing will come of this, the criminals are in full control of anything that resembles “law enforcement”. 

 The manipulation will continue until supplies are exhausted, and even then, war and famine may be used as a diversion to make it all irrelevant to most.

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