He doesn't like to call it a compound, so I won't. It does have 10 inch thick concrete walls, though. When I heard that Ed Brown was allowing visitors to his "home" in New Hampshire, I had to visit.
Ed and Elaine Brown are a pair of famous tax protestors who are evading arrest in a standoff with the feds.
I exited the highway and passed a Wal Mart. Soon the road became only one lane each way. Soon it was winding through farmland. Shortly after it became a dirt road. The RV hopped over the potholes as veered left onto their street.
All of a sudden there were no more houses. Ahead was a small gravel road heading through the woods. Left over from a few weeks ago was a red, white, and blue sign that advertised a "freedom concert". The date on it was a week prior.
I cautiously pulled into the gravel driveway. I'd read that they have a lot of guns and, by many accounts, are crazy. Would they be happy to have company? Would they be suspicious of me?
I pulled into a clearing and got a good look. To the right was a huge house with a 360 degree viewing tower at the top. Surrounding the house was a huge yard with a few RVs and tents on it. I wasn't the only one visiting.
Coming towards me was a guy about my age dressed in a t-shirt and camouflage pants. He was holding an AR-15 semi automatic rifle, the civilian version of the venerable M-16. Things were already getting interesting.
I rolled down my window.
"Hi! You can park down there."
Friendly for a guy with a gun.
I parked and got out.
"Hey, is it just you? Ed wants me to look inside the RV, if you don't mind."
"It's just me. Go for it."
I opened the back door and let him peek inside. Satisfied, I followed him to the front porch.
Seated were the Browns, a mousy hippie girl, an older sunburned guy, and a family. The family was interesting. I later found out that the father was one of George Bush Sr.'s advisers. His wife was Hispanic, and they had three kids. To give you an idea of his thoughts on the government - his kids don't have social security numbers.
Joining the circle was a little bit awkward. Conversation stopped and they all looked at me.
"Hi. I'm Tynan."
They weren't impressed.
"Uhh... I drove here from Texas to see what it's really like."
"Where in Texas?"
"Oh! You must know Alex Jones!"
It was a test, and I was failing badly.
"No, I don't know who that is."
"Are you part of the freedom movement? He's on the radio down there in Austin."
"No, I'm not."
Things weren't off to a good start. I wasn't one of them and they knew it.
I sat down and felt a bit like an outcast. Ed Brown shifted his attention to his pocket. He pulled out a bullet.
"Now kids, what is this one?"
One of the kids replied with a knowing smile on his face.
Ed beamed with pride. "That's right. What's this one?"
Carl, the sunburned guy next to me, leaned over to me.
"Smart kids, all of them."
He pulled the last bullet out of his pocket.
"How about this one?"
"Wow! That's a big one!"
The three kids were awed. It was a big bullet - it was a 50 caliber anti tank round.
"Do you have any guns for that?"
Ed chuckled, "Yep. Two of them."
When Ed spoke, it was always in a confident and matter of fact tone. His people gave him their full attention and marveled in every word. He'd sometimes betray a satisfied grin. It's fun being in charge.
Carl looked over at me and said, "So. What's your position on 9/11?"
"No. Like what do you think about it?"
"I don't, really. It was six years ago and the number of deaths are totally insignificant."
I wasn't trying to frustrate him, but I didn't understand what he meant.
"No. Do you think terrorists did it?"
"I don't know the first thing about it. Probably."
For the next half hour my attention was begrudgingly consumed by Carl. He explained in excruciating detail how the whole thing was a government plot. It became clear to me that if anyone was crazy here, it was him.
"You should have come here yesterday," interjected Jason, the young guy with the AR-15, "we were attacked. There were shots fired in the woods and they were banging on the RVs."
Part of me wished I was there. It sounded exciting.
They asked me about the RV, and approved of my alternate lifestyle. Maybe we weren't so different. Carl had an RV too, a busted up Winnebago from the 70s that was parked on the far side of the lawn.
When I told them about Life Nomadic, it struck a nerve with Carl.
"You need to stockpile!"
I explained that I wanted less stuff, but he explained that the world economy was going to collapse soon and that I would definitely not survive. He would. He had enough toilet paper.
Ed joined the conversation. The kids had left, so he addressed me for the first time since I got there.
"Toiled paper," he mused, "Toilet paper will be like gold if something like that happens. The women will demand it. I stockpile the 260 sheet rolls. One eighty isn't enough, and they cost the same amount. Where are you going on your trip?"
I got as far as Japan, the second stop.
He drifted off as if recalling a fond memory.
"Osaka..." he continued, "I've never been there, but I'd like to go. I don't know why. It just sounds nice."
He smiled, "I can almost smell the air."
It was sad, in a way. He probably wouldn't ever leave the property alive. He'd been there for six months and the US Marshals and New Hampshire police dropped by frequently. He frequently told us that this would end in violence. It was the only way, he said.
"Let them shoot me. Let them shoot my wife. For each of us, five of them will die. I'll take that exchange any day, gentlemen."
He always called people gentlemen.
"I have a wish list with 50 people on it. It's already out there. If they take me out, they go too. Not their families. They'll come after my family, but I don't do that. It's not right."
Out of nowhere a newcomer added a comment, "This is probably the free-est place in the world right now! Don't you think?"
Ed rolled his eyes slightly and looked deflated.
We went inside for a quick tour. It was a beautiful house that wasn't quite finished. Tile floors ended and plywood continued. The kitchen had huge granite countertops. We made our way into the garage. My interest piqued when I saw his batteries. Connected to the wind turbines and six solar panels were 24 huge batteries. I can last a day on my RV battery, and each of his batteries was at least 3 times the size.
Their home is completely self sufficient, with enough power to run the fridge, lights, and even laundry machines. Water is pumped from a well and sewage goes into a septic tank.
"They told me, 'see how you like it when we cut your power!'" Ed snorted, "I like it just fine! I don't need their power anyway."
He didn't. In fact, I was offered food half a dozen times at least. There was no shortage of that either.
We sat out on the porch for a few hours. Once we got up to test out a homemade M-80. It was successful. Then Jason tried a bomb that he made from chlorine and alcohol. It seemed like a failure until we'd all given up and it exploded and shot chlorine everywhere.
Another time an impromptu meat fight started between Jason and Ed. Jason tried to serve Ed a sausage that had been outside for 24 hours. Ed took a bite and threw it at Jason. Jason threw a huge T Bone steak at him.
It's easy and fun to make Ed look like he's crazy, but he's not.
What I don't write about are the hours of talking that took place in between the exciting or strange moments. Ed's against the income tax, but that's not what he's about. Like pretty much everyone on the internet, Ed is sick and tired of the government absorbing our freedoms and operating corruptly.
The difference is that unlike everyone on the internet, Ed Brown is standing up for himself. The tax issue was just the straw that broke the camel's back. He got sick of being pushed around by the government and decided to fight back.
Soon it was getting dark. I'd been there for almost four hours and still had to drive down to Boston.
"Hey man, do you want to stay here and help us?"
It was Jason, the guy with the gun.
Tempting. My ordinary life is defined by whim and pleasure. If I fail to do something, it's not a big deal. These guys are on a mission fighting for survival. They weren't making chlorine bombs to play a prank, they were making them because they will be at war some day in the forseeable future.
"No, I have to go."
It wasn't my battle to fight.