Tom Ross: Where can I get a good used dairy cow?

Ten-dollar gas will bring a return to the simple life

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I read some absolutely chilling news on the Internet during the weekend, and in the interest of getting your workweek off to a swell start, I thought I'd pass it along.

A guy named Bill Browder, who manages a wildly successful investment fund in Moscow, released several scenarios under which the price of crude oil might jump to dizzying heights. Here's the scary part:

As reported by Nelson Schwartz, a senior writer for Fortune magazine, Browder foresees series of events that could lead to crude oil being priced at $262 a barrel.

Even with the price of crude already rising to $67 a barrel this week, that would translate into a fourfold increase. And if the price of gasoline at the pump did the same thing, we'd be faced with paying $9.60 a gallon for unleaded.

Can you imagine how your life in Steamboat Springs would change if petroleum were that costly? You could park your SUV and rent it out as affordable housing.

Yeah baby, my family and I just moved into that blue Escalade -- third SUV on the right on Pahwintah Street.

Of course, that's not going to happen. Right?

The truth is, Browder highlighted several examples of hypothetical political unrest in oil-producing states, then he used mathematical models to extrapolate the effects of previous oil crises to project hypothetical crude oil prices in case something really bad happens.

Only the most extreme of those scenarios would result in crude topping $260. That would involve the jihadists overwhelming the Kingdom of Saud and shutting off the flow of black gold from Saudi Arabia. Certainly, that could never happen.

But, just for grins, imagine what you would do if an international oil crisis knocked the pins out from under our economy and we had to go back to subsistence agriculture in the Yampa Valley.

Could you do it? Could you become self-sufficient in the Rocky Mountains? Could you raise enough food to survive in a town where the growing season isn't much longer than 40 days? What would you do first?

Right off the bat, I'd get some of those studded bicycle tires for my old Gary Fisher hard-tail. I don't look forward to riding my bicycle in winter like some of the folks in this town, but I figure it would save me $20 a day.

I'm thinking I'd track down that lady to whom I gave my crummy wood-burning stove more than five years ago, and ask whether I could have it back. I still have a stovepipe -- all I need is a stove. Then, I would drag the old chainsaw out of the garage, get it tuned, and start harvesting wood for the winter of 2006-07. I'd start by cutting down that nice pine tree in the front yard of the neighbors across the street.

Next, I'd go shopping for a good used dairy cow. There was a time when every household in Old Town Steamboat had at least one dairy cow. And believe me, brother, in an era of $10 gasoline, you and I cannot afford store-bought milk. There's nothing like dairy fat to insulate you against the cold.

Next, I'd ride my bicycle to the Wal-Mart and purchase a .22-caliber rifle and a couple of boxes of shells. I can't shoot, but I could practice on the neighborhood magpies. With woodchuck season approaching, I'm going to want to get busy on those yellow-bellied marmots first thing in the spring. They make a good stew.

Before planting season arrives, I'll apply for membership on the "Committee to Persuade Union Pacific Railway to Add Passenger Cars to Coal Trains." Without the economy of rail transportation, many of us will never set eyes on Denver again.

As soon as the snow melts from the south side of the house, I'll use salvaged 2-by-6-inch decking and an old sliding glass door to build a cold frame. I'll fill it with compost and plant onions, carrots and lettuce.

Later in the spring, I'll build a chicken coop. Then I'll study bee keeping and get my hive set up.

Life will be so much simpler in the years after the ultimate gas crisis. I can hardly wait to be a subsistence farmer in the Rocky Mountains.

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