In the Heat of the Oklahoma Jungle
Categories: Life Stories
It was 115 degrees. We were operating at a bit of a slow pace mid day as the sweltering Mid July Heat steadily, consistently kept the sweat coming forth. Who needs a sauna when you live in this? The kids would be outside for a while, then back into the campground bathrooms for some cooling. The girls bathroom was our makeshift kitchen and pantry, and the boys room with a refrigerator and a freezer full of food. Both had laundry machines that ran around the clock. For the 28 of us it was a constant door knocking process since the laundry machines would be full in one bathroom, and the struggle of going into the wrong gender room gradually waned . We had begun to live together and struggle together enough that, like family, you just got used to it.
This was our plan:
There is a lot of excitement in buying land, in building on your land, and in knowing that what you build will be paid for. That was much of the motivation for what we were doing. But the fact that before all of this began, Lizard Entertainment had signed contract with us, and they had a contract with Discovery Channel for a Living off the Grid show put us over the top. We had a signing bonus long before negociated which would pay out on arrival day. It would pay for the supplies to move forward and keep going. We had given up everything to be here. Janie quit a tenured position with the university. Marty and Diane sold off a lifetime collection of antiques at an auction for about 1/10th value to avoid dragging them around with them. Zach left his wife and baby to do this, while Darren came all the way from the Northeast. Brandon and Jared came on this adventure from California. We messed up our credit when we broke lease in our apartment complex, and my wife quit her job. But it all was worth it for what we had to look forward to. The Tubbs came with their 5 children and Tyler gave up a great position with a construction company to do this. Dylan left his job. Drew, Marty, and Tyler planned in a way that had all of their construction tools accessible from the git-go. Skyler and Drew made themselves available to help. We had disrupted many others lives by offering them the opportunity. My sister and her husband almost let their house and business go to come do this, but opted out due to health reasons at the last minute.
Lizard Trading Company came to town offering us new hope. Our recently cancelled Discovery contract had left us here, stranded in our project. Our project was our lives, and that's why cancellation of the project for them meant a cancellation of the lives we were currently living. We were trying to move forward, but why? Our motives had changed, and we couldn't do anything about it. Ruth had to go home to Texas to hop on her tractor and mow her acreage. We couldn't find a good reason for her to return. So she waited for us to call her and say that we had a new contract.
My Snap-on tool truck was plugged in to a receptacle in the bathroom through a long extension cord. I could have parked it in a spot in the RV park, but it was so far away from the bathrooms, our kitchen, and who would want to walk in that sun if they didn't have to. But we kept tripping the breaker with my big roof a/c unit. Running non-stop meant a cool and comfortable 95 degrees inside. It would have to do.
We ate by the fire of the old cookstove, which sat outside, so we baked in the sun while we cooked. Some of us had no sense when it came to work. We all worked hard through thick or thin. There was some conflict but we worked through most of it.
I sidetracked onto building a geodesic dome. I don't recommend it. Building one from scratch requires a massive amount of cuts, and square buildings are much easier. Considering that most of the wood I used was ripped 2x6's from pallets we took apart, and that meant more cutting than you can imagine. The fact that all of our saws, and the A/C units in the trucks meant that when two saws hit at the same time, we tripped another breaker, this was not exactly as planned. We were willing to be here, and to suffer for the sake of a great documentary project, and the construction of our homes. But it was the documentary that brought funding that put us on a timeline and got us here in a hurry on a wing and a prayer. We were to start shooting on Tuesday. Bonus was to pay out on Monday. What we got on Tuesday instead of a crew and a paycheck was news of a cancelled contract with Discovery.
The children enjoyed their craft time with Janie. When the cicadas came out at night, all the kids were picking them up and petting their bellies to make them squawk and laughing. They were finding poisonous snakes, and telling stories about the ones that got away. The little ones came running to tell the tale of how Sienna Killed it. When I asked where it was, then they said, "It flew away." We have four witnesses to the story, each under 6 years old, and no snake as evidence. But when pulled aside, their stories match. Sienna killed a snake, and it flew away.