Now he’s midway through putting up a sixth house, a log cabin that will have a spacious kitchen, bathrooms with composting toilets, Internet access via satellite and a root cellar to store cabbage and potatoes through the winter. (Besides being more comfortable than his existing cabin, he needs the space to house his 10 adult children and their families, should his doomsday scenario come true.) The property also has a sawmill, a one-acre manmade lake with two pet swans, a gatehouse that arches over the long driveway and several gardens. It’s surrounded by mountains and wild apple trees and bears and tiny plants called club moss that look like pine trees if you get close. He’s got a mill for grinding flour, and on the day I visit his wife has whipped up potato onion soup made from produce grown in the garden and apple turnovers with apples that grow nearby.
This idyllic spot is in the mountains of West Virginia, miles away from supermarkets and cell phone towers.
At age 87, the former Congressman from Maryland spends his days working on his property, building cabins, working in gardens, tinkering with solar panels and watching the swans.
So what if he sees doomsday on the horizon; Bartlett is totally prepared for solar storms and the loss of our vulnerable power grid. If the rest of us lose access to Downton Abbey or Facebook, Bartlett will just shake his head at our refusal to listen to him. During his time in Congress he railed for protection of the power grid to no avail.
But he sounds like my kind of guy:
It’s all part of practicing what you preach, he says. In Bartlett’s case, that’s a lifestyle that relies on the government and other people as little as possible. Certainly, that was always his political platform; as the congressman from Maryland’s 6th district, he advocated limited government, living within one’s means—and, more surprising perhaps for a conservative Republican, expanding green energy. In 2005, he founded the Peak Oil Caucus, a group concerned that the world will soon deplete its supply of oil. (“Roscoe was green before it was cool to be green,” Maryland Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer once said.) He’s staunchly anti-abortion but searched for middle ground on stem cell research, and he’s a Second Amendment proponent who has never owned a gun.He does have internet access through satellite but other than that, he's on his own.
I can think of worse places to live than the mountains of West Virginia with no television or cell phones.
Photo credit: Jason Koebler