Unfortunately poverty seems to be sweeping our nation. The unemployment rates have recently been at all time highs and debt is just getting larger and larger. The man you are about to meet is living in poverty, but not because he lost his job or his home, because he chose to.
Meet Dan Price. He is around 50 years old. 20 years ago he had a wife, a job, and 2 kids. Price read “Payne Hollow,” a 1974 book about author Harlan Hubbard’s rejection of modernity and his primitive home on the shore of the Ohio River. Price’s marriage dissolved, and the whole family moved to Oregon. Price opted to move alone into a tiny cabin in the woods, then a flophouse, then a teepee, and finally into an underground “Hobbit hole” on a horse pasture near a river, where he still lives.
With his one spoon, one fork and one knife, Price prepares very simple meals. He adds oats, nuts and grains to whatever cereals are on sale, and since he doesn’t have a refrigerator where he can store milk, he pours water on his cereal.
Price thumbs through an issue of “Moonlight Chronicles,” an illustrated journal of his life’s adventures that he produced for about 20 years. “Chronicles” served as an artistic outlet and a modest income stream for Price, allowing him to approach sponsors for goods such as tents and clothing in exchange for mentions in his journal.
For Price, who has no washing machine or dryer, doing laundry means cleaning his clothes in the river that runs along the edge of his property. He dries his clothing on a line. “What happens when you get richer and richer is you dream of making a paradise for yourself,” he said. “What I have here is what rich people have.”
He removes one cottonwood each autumn, replacing those trees with evergreens which he says tend not to drop large limbs during storms. Price leases the property for $100 per year.
Price avoids buying new tools, preferring instead to find them at garage sales or on Craigslist, and to wear them out as much as possible before replacing them.
Price’s version of the simple life costs $5,000 a year, which he earns from publishing a wilderness zine and doing odd jobs around Joseph, his eastern Oregon town. “I like being able to do what I want to do,” said Price, “I don’t believe in houses or mortgages. Who in their right mind would spend their lifetime paying for a building they never get to spend time in because they are always working?”
For exercise, Price curls a barbell he made from scrap material and concrete. He hasn’t kept health insurance over the years. Three years ago, Price got a $3,000 bill from a hospital after suffering a kidney stone. “I said dude, I don’t have $3,000. Can I set up a payment plan?”
For six dollars, Price buys a file to sharpen a friend’s chainsaw before cutting down a tree in the meadow where he lives. “People get this real high when they buy something. That’s why they buy stuff all the time. I’m the opposite. When I buy something I get this depressed feeling.”
Price helps dismantle a teepee at a Nez Perce Native American photo exhibit in Joseph, where he volunteers the expertise he gained from living in a teepee before building the hobbit hole.
Price saw an ad for a job to work as a caretaker at the local cemetery. “It was like a revelation. Caretaker, there’s something so cool about that word. Like being a monk. I love mowing and taking care of a place. I wanted the job so badly I started cleaning up [the grounds] before I got the job.”
Pretty inspiring huh? Makes you realize how you do not need the “stuff” you have. Or that the stuff is just not as important.