Rural folks living what ‘Preppers’ seek

Published 10:10 am Friday, April 7, 2017

by Tom Purcell

Get this: More people are fleeing big cities for rural areas and some are doing so because they fear a major financial collapse is imminent.

According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, big cities are losing population at a rapid clip. Chicago’s Cook County saw 66,000 people move out in 2016.

Many of these people are moving to rural areas in the Northwest and elsewhere. The Chicago Tribune explains that a growing number of them are survivalists who seek homes that they can defend in the event that a collapse occurs.

Lucky for me, I already have a rural homestead outside of Pittsburgh. I bought the modest fixer-upper 20 years ago. It sits high on a big piece of ground near a small town I shall refer to as Hickberry.

My father and I did some basic renovations to make it livable. I lived in it for a few years, then rented it out to live the high life in Washington, D.C. I moved back to the house five years ago and am almost done with a total rehab.

But here’s one thing I learned along the way: The people in metro Washington are way different from the good-natured people of Hickberry.

You see, D.C. is populated with thousands of people with master’s degrees, who rely on other people to feed them and keep them sheltered when it is raining.

If something calamitous goes down, they won’t have any idea how to survive.

Unlike the sophisticated folks in Washington, however, my Hickberry neighbors are resourceful and clever. They rely on no man.

My neighbors know how to grow, trap or shoot their own food. More importantly, they know how to make their own alcohol. No matter what might happen, they will stay relatively comfortable and safe.

If all heck breaks loose, my neighbors and I will be just fine.

All of my neighbors have shotguns and pistols and they know how to use them. Nobody with any sense would ever try to break into their homes to rob them — unless he wants a load of buckshot deposited in his derriere.

There is no need for contingency plans in places like Hickberry.

If the electricity shuts down, all my town will lose is one stoplight and a couple of streetlamps. If the water stops pumping, few will mind; a lot of folks have wells that produce tasty water. If there is a food shortage at the supermarket, country folks are prepared. All of my neighbors have deer meat stashed somewhere within their houses.

Even if an electrical glitch stops everyone’s car from running — late-model automobile motors are computerized — my neighbors will be fine. Their 1976 AMC Pacers — and other pre-computerized cars that so many country folks keep on blocks — will be put to good use.

A few years ago, a professor in England made the news by criticizing today’s young people for their inability to fix anything. They didn’t grow up building shacks and go-karts, as I and millions of other kids did in the ‘70s. No, they grew up with electronic devices that hardly ever break and get replaced with new electronic devices if they do break.

These little snowflakes will be in for a world of hurt if the doomsday scenario that the “preppers” and survivalists keep preparing for ever does come to fruition.

I’ll be just fine in Hickberry, though.

I’ll still be able to amble down to the VFW to sing Willie Nelson tunes on karaoke night. I’ll snack on some deer jerky as I enjoy a snort of a neighbor’s homemade hooch.

So I can see why more people are fleeing big cities for rural places like Hickberry.

TOM PURCELL, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood” and “Wicked Is the Whiskey,” a Sean McClanahan mystery novel, both available at, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. Send comments to Tom at