posted: May 30th, 2009 | by:Bert
©Bert Gildart: What follows is advice provided by Bill D, a fellow Airstream owner and a gentleman I met this winter in Anza Borrego. Bill and his partner Larry are well educated, and have enjoyed successful medical careers. Bill worked as a charge RN for the Veteran’s Administration Hospital. (To understand why he has contributed his thoughts, scroll down and read my three previous posts.)
Now retired, both have developed an interest in history, much being devoted to the highly unusual life style of Marshall South, a man who took his family into the wilderness for 17 years. Bill, who shares my enthusiasm for South, has helped me with research, and I count him among my friends.
From his home at Yaquitepec, South wrote hundreds of magazine stories and penned several novels, and Janie and I have written about the family in several blogs (Post1…Forerunners of the Hippies?, Post 2, Lessons from Yaquitepec). Magazine stories will soon follow.
I have also reported on the life of Bill and Larry, and did so this past February (”Ghost Mountain or Brokeback Mountain? Maybe There Is No Choice” ). Because of their lifestyle they are in a particularly good situation to offer advice about violence, for they’ve experienced their share of hostility and have given much thought to defending themselves and to defusing hostile situations. Provided here are Bill’s suggestions on dealing with aggressive behavior, and the important thing is that his techniques seemed to have worked, as follows:
By Bill D: Your recent article, “When To Consider Protective Measures Against Hostility“, struck a chord with us (I think we touched on that topic briefly when you visited us at our campsite at Vallecito County Park). During the past two years of camping, we have experienced that just having an Airstream trailer is an attention getter, and the image of two men living in it kicks it up a notch. So our “antennas” are always on alert to detect any attitudes of prejudice and/or hate, which could also lead to violence, as was the case of Satendar Singh in a California state park.
We take preemptive measures such as saying “Hi” to our neighbors as we walk our dogs and take time to talk to those who appear approachable. We have found that flying the United States Flag seems to have a pacifying effect on any nearby “rednecks” or potential troublemakers. Below are two incidents that we experienced that could have resulted in violence:
We were camping in the middle of the week in an almost empty, quiet wooded park near Julian, CA. Late in the afternoon, several vehicles with men arrived across the park road from us and started to set up a tent while music was blaring out from their opened car door. They started drinking and whooping it up with very loud talking, swearing and ugly laughing. Our Airstream was somewhat screened by thick bushes and we were flying the Earth Flag. We contemplated the possibility of moving or returning home.
The next morning we raised the United States Flag on our high flagpole. We were pleasantly surprised when one of the offending men walked over and thanked us for flying the flag. He said he was a Vietnam War veteran and appreciated it, and went on to apologize for their noisy behavior the night before.
On another trip, we were camping at the beach, which often attracts partying campers. At first we thought we were lucky to have quiet neighbors, but when the neighbors of the site just on the other side of the bushes returned to their RV late in the evening after eating dinner in town, they proceeded to turn on very loud music that pulsated through our closed Airstream.
We contacted the Camp Host who talked to them. They turned down the volume at 10 p.m. but I heard them laughing and talking loudly. The music then returned and park rangers drove by and agreed that the music was too loud and they talked to the offending party. The music stopped and after the rangers left I heard them talk loudly about “those fags”.
I feared for our safety and the safety of our trailer. So Larry stayed inside the trailer with the dogs while I stayed out in the dark near our Airstream and kept an eye on the trailer and any suspicious activity (I had an iron fire poker and ax nearby). Around midnight I heard our neighbor’s footsteps approach and stop on the roadside of our truck. He shined a flashlight into our site, saw me, and he then returned to his RV. By 2 a.m. all was quiet and I retired.
The next morning I raised the American Flag high on our flagpole and we had no further problems with our neighbors, except for an occasional scowl from them as they walked by. What I learned from this incident is that it is better to not complain or draw negative attention to a neighbor’s offending behavior (I’m sure it spoiled both of our evenings.)
As a preventive measure I try to find something neutral to say, an “icebreaker”, such as “Hi!” or “sorry for the diesel truck noise as I was getting the trailer in the right place”. I am often pleasantly surprised when they say, “no problem” or “I didn’t even hear it”. That initial face-to-face neutral verbal exchange almost always seems to go a long way in reducing the apprehension that both parties undoubtedly experience when first moving in. And, as mentioned above, flying the American Flag seems to help. But if I felt we were in danger of violence, I would hitch up the trailer and put the outside gear back into the truck incase we needed to move early and quickly. Larry reports that people are not as receptive to him once they see that he is an Asian-American.
I agree with your assessment in your article, “Routine Ranger Patrol Turned Violent”, that economic hard times increase the likelihood of violence. I prefer to use the phrase, “potential perpetrators of violence”, rather than “Fringe Dwellers” (Marshal South was probably thought of as a “Fringe Dweller” by the community of Julian). This morning I found an excellent book on this subject: Violence: The Enduring Problem, by Alex Alvarez and Ronet Bachman, Sage Publications, Inc., November 2, 2007. The authors state that all violence, at some level, is the result of an “us” versus “them” mentality, and xenophobia, the tendency to have contempt for foreigners and other strangers, is particularly likely in times of economic hardship, increasing the likelihood that hate crimes and other forms of violence will occur.
The new law allowing guns in our national parks and wildlife refuges could increase the level of violence and could result in a war zone.
Bert, after my articles in my History Safari Express column about our trip to Julian and photographing the Marshal South frieze and unraveling the Marshal South story, I have posted subsequent articles that contain references to Marshal South and quotes from his writings (now that I have blanket permission from Diana Lindsay (Sunbelt Publishers), editor of Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles):
“Ghost Mountain spring hikes“, April 5, 2009, ”Yaquitepec Spring“, April 29, 2009, ”Desert heat“, May 7, 2009, ”Ocean breeze“, May 16, 2009. (My annual trailer wash, wax & treat article will be posted this Saturday.)
As you might have heard in the news, we are happy that our marriage status, along with 18,000 other same-sex marriages, has been upheld by the California Supreme Court, and we look forward to the day that all people have equal rights.
Bill closes his article by expressing his thanks for my postings on violence, offering his permission to quote him. And now I would like to offer others who might have thoughts on the subject of violence to provide their comments.