P.J. O’Rourke: ‘What I would do if the economy collapsed…’

From P.J. O’Rourke and American Consequences:

Maybe it’s a sign of the age we live in…

I used to daydream about enormous wealth – champagne and caviar. Now I find myself daydreaming about what my family and I would do if the economy collapsed.

Or maybe it’s just a sign of my age – These days, champagne and caviar give me indigestion…

Anyway, what would we do? I’m not so worried about us personally going broke. If we personally go broke, we’ll just mooch off other people – about half of America seems to do that already. But what if the entire economic system fails and everybody goes broke and nobody has any money and the money isn’t worth anything anyway? Then what would we do?

We have five mouths to feed – my wife and I, daughters Muffin and Poppet, and son Buster. Plus, we’ve got three dogs (Georgie, Clio, and Bodey) who are so much a part of the family that Muffin, Poppet, and Buster would rather have Mom and Dad digging up buried bones than let Georgie, Clio, and Bodey go without kibble.

Fortunately, we live on a farm. So we’re more self-sufficient than many of our fellow citizens. Unfortunately, it’s a tree farm. Anyone for fillet of spruce?

But we’ve got six chickens…

“Five chickens,” says Buster. “Georgie was chasing Henny-Penny and Henny-Penny ran out in the road and got hit by a car.”

We’ve got five chickens. So we each get one egg a day, plus what we grow in the garden. “What did we grow in the garden this year?” I ask my wife.

“Eleven tomatoes, one oregano plant, and three green peppers,” replies my wife (an excellent woman, but not a champion vegetable gardener). “And two of the green peppers were eaten by a groundhog.”

Which, being that I’m a hunter, I intend to shoot. Spaghetti Groundhogolonese.

Because I’m a hunter, the family will expect me to put meat on the table. Although what kind of meat they should be expecting (other than groundhog) is another matter.

To tell the truth, the kind of hunter I am is the go-to-a-fancy-quail-plantation kind, where they chase a lot of birds at you and every now and then you shoot a quail (or, if you’re Dick Cheney, a lawyer).

I have a small, lightweight, fancy-quail-plantation type of shotgun, a 28-gauge side-by-side firing little shells with 7½ shot in them. Using this to shoot something that would feed a family (which a quail wouldn’t) is problematic. I might as well throw a frisbee at Canadian geese.

As for actual big game, such as moose, my only hope would be something like a mafia hit. I’d have to lure the moose to a sit-down someplace where it thought it was safe (Loyal Order of Moose fraternal gathering at the local Moose Lodge?), and sneak up behind it, and at very close range… Bada Bing!

And even this, with a 28-gauge and 7½ shot, might only annoy the moose.

I decide I should take an inventory of the survival skills that we have in our family.

My wife was PR executive before the kids came along. If the economic collapse needs some good press, she’s the go-to person.

Eldest daughter Muffin is “fashion forward” and knows everything about clothing. Maybe she can keep us shielded from the elements with chicken feathers and groundhog fur.

I know how to operate a chainsaw and have 10 fingers and 10 toes to prove it. (Never mind the – oops – shredded work boot and overall cuff.) Thanks to my chainsaw, the tree farm, and the many fireplaces in our old farmhouse, we’ll keep warm.

“There’s a family of squirrels living in the chimney,” says my wife.

Smelly, but warm.

We’ll need fuel for the chainsaw, however. But middle child Poppet is studying chemistry in high school. “We can distill ethanol fuel from spruce logs, right, Poppet?” I ask.

“I’m studying biology,” says Poppet. “I can dissect a frog.”

And it just so happens we have a whole pond full of frogs!

Frog legs taste like chicken. Buster is the expert at taking care of chickens. (He’s grounded for a month.)

Looking over this inventory, I realize… We’re screwed.

I know that, as a family, if we want to survive economic collapse, we should start learning how to become “survivalists.” Or, as I guess they call it nowadays, “preppers.”

But, as a family, we don’t really seem to be cut out for that. We don’t have the right mindset.

I understand that “prepping” starts with digging a large hole in the yard that will contain a defensible underground shelter stocked with food and water and supplied with a chemical toilet.

“EWWWW! A chemical toilet?! Gross!” says eldest daughter Muffin. “I’m locking myself in my bedroom.”

And any prepper who proposes digging a large hole in the yard is not married to a wife who just paid the landscaping contractor $10,000 for new hedges, ornamental shrubs, herbaceous borders, and foundation plantings.

Then there’s stocking up on food. If I put “200 cans of Chef Boyardee beef ravioli” on the shopping list, my wife just assumes I’ve been drinking and crosses it off.

And once we’re in the defensible underground shelter, I believe we’re supposed to shoot our neighbors when they try to get in there with us.

But we live way out in the country and don’t have many neighbors.

Our situation is hopeless. “What should we do?” I ask my family.

My wife says, “I know what you should do – knock it off with the daydreaming and get back to work. Go write something.”

Point taken. But… still… It wouldn’t be long before we were reduced to eating… I look at our three plump, over-nourished dogs… Is it just my imagination, or are the dogs looking at plump, over-nourished me?


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