Tuesday, July 30, 2013

"I don't know what the hell this ‘logistics’ is that Marshall is always talking about, but I want some of it." -- Fleet Admiral E. J. King: To a staff officer. (1942)

Logistics: the detailed coordination of a complex operation involving  people, facilities, supplies, services, transportation, maintenance and equipment.


When you are considering a move to the country,  this is one critical aspect of the evolution that people sometimes pay too little attention to.  If you are coming from a city or suburbia, there are logistical aspects of rural living that you simply haven't had to deal with before. That being so, these particular issues don't surface until you have moved and run into them head first.

Roughly speaking, the availability of services, supplies, emergency services, police protection and everything else in this category is inversely proportional to your distance from the nearest town that has what you need. The further out you are, the more difficult and more expensive it is to obtain the object or service you find yourself requiring in a timely manner. The smaller the town, the less chance they will have the infrastructure to meet your needs.

So if you are looking for a secure, safe location and want to minimize possible negative interaction with people,  the very fact that you need low population density will make it more difficult to get what you need to maintain  the quality of life you are used to.

For example, my elderly mother came to visit me. She lives in a retirement community in Sacramento, California. Her every whim is catered to there, and she only has to walk from her little house to the community center to get whatever she may want in the way of supplies, entertainment or refreshments. She can get in her Prius and be at any kind of store or shop she could ever desire or imagine in under five minutes.  When she came here, it was quite a shock to her. It takes about 40 minutes to drive to town. When you get there, you have two grocery stores to choose from, and a couple of fast food joints. No Starbucks, no Olive Garden. She made a huge fuss in a little cafe I took her to because she couldn't get a a "frappacino."  She's a nice lady but she was frustrated that our town didn't offer "the most basic comforts and amenities." She was serious, too. It's a matter of expectations.

If you have any medical issues, then some rural county in the far away is probably not the place for you. There are no specialists, and there may not even be a hospital. Rural America is losing it's county hospitals at an accelerating pace as the rural population declines. If you don't mind driving two hours one way over twisting , narrow mountain roads to visit your doctor , then you'll be ok. Unless you have an emergency.

My county has two ambulances.  If one of them is out picking up Uncle Willy who had a stroke, and the other is hauling someone from the jail to the hospital, then you've got some wait time before they get to you. When it's your turn, it might take 50 minutes or more to reach the more distant areas of the county.  A ladder broke on me once and dropped me a long way to the ground. It took the ambulance about 35 minutes to get out to the trail going up the mountain to my house even though they were not busy when the call came in, and then they had a tough time getting up to the house. It goes with the territory. If you have heart problems, that's an aspect of logistics you had better give some thought to.

I am frequently consumed with envy when I read posts where people have gone to Costco or Sam's and bought case lots of tuna, or rice, or any of the other things you need for long term storage. For them, it's a ten minute trip and they think nothing of it.  For me, it would have to be a two day affair. One day to drive down to the city and buy the supplies I needed,  then an overnight stay there, then another day to drive all the way back.  There's no Barnes and Noble for me to go potter around in, so I buy my books and magazines largely from Amazon. It's not the same though,  so you just have to give up the pleasure of browsing in your favorite stores. A trip to a mall is an overnight affair and a big event.  It really boils down to this, you can't escape the negative aspects of population density without losing most or all of the positive aspects of the same environment. I have known people who came up here for the country life, who didn't last even a year because they couldn't make that adjustment.

If you are not a good handy man, and an all around fix it yourself type of  person, then don't move to the country.  The costs of getting someone to drive out to your place , fix a bad valve on a washing machine, and drive back are going to be very high. Not least because the guy who comes to do the work may be the only washing machine repair man in your county.  Low population density means a low concentration of people working in any one area.  If you do have a job that requires a professional,  what you are likely to run into is somebody who works from home and wants to be paid in cash.  Suppose you need work done on the roof. The roofer will be a local fellow who has five or six illegals working for him. He doesn't have insurance, they sure don't have insurance, and your homeowners insurance isn't going to cover it when one of them takes a fall off the roof.  But they know Juan Alvarado Grijalva Gomez, the attorney in the town 45 miles away who handles personal injury law cases for all the Hispanics in the area.  Someone in the family had better be able to fix or repair just about everything that comes down the pike. If there isn't someone in your crew that has those skills, you are going to have a very, very tough time in the mountains.

Have you ever seen those bumper stickers that say " I don't dial 911."   My brother T was in law enforcement at just about every level during his career. He used to tell me that usually, the police just get there in time to write a report and call the people who clean up the mess.  If you live way out in the country, there aren't going to be a lot of law enforcement officers to call on. Most likely, you will have a Sheriff, and five or six deputies. That means that when your moment of need arises, there may be only one or two deputies actually on duty.  If the guy on duty is at the far end of the county because somebody did a 911 hangup and he now has to go do a physical check, you are SOL.  (Surely Out of Luck.)

Don't think for a moment that there are no crazies, no druggies, crack heads, and assorted other sociopaths out in the county. There are. Subscribe to the local paper of the county you are considering moving to and I will guarantee you that you'll be shocked at the amount of crime. Most of it is drug related.   If some of these guys show up on your doorstep, you are going to have to deal with it yourself.  If you are not sure you can, then stay in suburbia or an urban environment.  Because we've been at war continually for 10 years there are a lot of veterans who know full well what to do, and that they will do it, if they have to protect their families. But if you have never been in that position, then you don't know for sure how you'll react. If you think you can do what's necessary, then you probably will be able to. But if you are like some people I've met, who say "I could never take a human life, no matter what the circumstances" then you honestly don't need to be living out in the country.  Remember, the world is full of mentally ill people, and just plain old monsters. We have had some appalling things happen here over the years, as bad as anything that happens in cities. Some aspects of modern life you can't escape by moving to a rural area.

If it snows here, and it does every winter, then you'd best be prepared to sit at home for a good long while. We have two dump trucks from the 1950's. That's our snow removal and road clearance capability. These two trucks try to keep the main road into the county clear. Everybody else is on their own. If you live up a "possum trail" like I do,  you are going to be at home until it gets warm enough for the snow to start melting off.  Four wheel drive helps, but it absolutely is not a panacea for snow, and after an ice storm it doesn't help at all. 

When I was working, I used to park my Jeep down by the side of the paved county road. Then I'd walk the mile and a half from the Jeep, through the woods, up the mountain, to the house.  The next morning, I'd walk back down through the snow, in the dark forest, to the Jeep. If there was just snow I could usually make it to the main road and on to work. If there was ice, I didn't even bother trying to walk down there. These days I just stay home when it's that bad. Of course, if I pick one of those days to have a heart attack I'm gone, because they won't be able to get to me and I can't get out to get to town. Some things you just can't control so there's no point in worrying about them.

 If you have trees come down, you and anybody else that lives on those roads will have to clear them. The county road crew will be busy on the main road, so it's up to you and others that need the road to clear it.  Don't expect to stay inside by the fire and let the other people around you do the work. It's an all hands evolution and to maintain your reputation you need to do your share.  If the power goes out county wide after some big storm, it can take as long as two weeks to get power back. First they do the town, then they do the lake where the rich people live, then they start on the rest of the county. The fewer the people that live in your area, the lower the priority. Rural electric membership cooperatives have limited manpower and limited equipment. They can't afford to keep large quantities of consumables in warehouses. So once again, you might have to deal with an outage a lot longer than your suburban or city dwelling counterpart.

Logistics tends to be neglected because it's boring. Nobody wants to be a logistics officer. In the Marine Corps, just about every logistics type I met was a fallen angel, who washed out of flight school. You don't make it through flight school , you fill a slot at a school for the "bad occupational specialties."  On a personal level, it's easy to get carried away by the beauty of an area, and just say that you'll work things out as they come along.  As the British Army says " Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance."   Make sure you have it all laid out before you make the move. There are a lot of homes up here that have been on the market for years because the people who built them folded their tent after the first blizzard, or ice storm, or medical emergency, or other logistical issue that they hadn't planned on.


  1. Preach it, Brother. Darn good advice.

  2. Another great stop and think post. I have already thought about winter driving. When its bad I plan to stay home. If I need to get to the nearest big town, I will stay on the state roads and avoid the county roads in open areas. Our town as 2k folks no hospital, but we do have a F.D. in town. Living in rural america can be described as the good, the bad, and the ugly.

  3. Well, one way to look at it is that when things go to hell in a hand basket, we won't miss what we didn't have in the first place. I used to like driving in snow but now I hate it, because if I wind up ditched I get worn out trying to dig out. We still have a nice little hospital but if you have any real problems a helicopter has to come from the city and haul you down there. All they can do at our hospital is minor things like sewing up chain saw cuts.

  4. Harry - wow! you nailed it with this one! jam and i have a few different friends who are planning to move here full-time. we have been trying to talk very frankly to them about all of the pros and cons but both couples just love coming to "the country" on weekends in the summer and they love all of the dances and events that we have. we only have events in the summer because that's when the "cottagers" are here and we can make money off of them for our community centre.

    anyway, our friends have the rose-coloured glasses on and as we try to tell them about freezing pipes, water tanks blowing up, not being able to plow the driveway, constantly running down to the basement to turn the heater on/off so that the pipes won't freeze - in addition to the fact that our nearest town is 9,000 people with one grocery store, one hardware store and a licquor store. to get to the big city (36,000) is an hour and a half away and it has one mall, a walmart, some fast food joints etc., and that is where the hospital is. i also told them that when jam got sucker-punched at one of our dances and was out cold for a minute - it was our VFD and MFRs that took care of him as the ambulance was fast but didn't get there for about an hour and 45 mins and then they have an hour and 45 mins to get you to the hospital. that's 3 hours!!!! and i told them of my own experience being one of the first VFD members to arrive to a house where one of our friends had a heart attack and i had to perform CPR for 4 mins, pass off for 4 mins, back on, until the ambulance got there! - i had never done that in my life and now when the beeper goes off we fly out the door with our VFD bag which is always packed and at the ready.

    the wife of one of the couple's loves shopping - she shops every single day!!! and she said to me "i'm not sure what i will do when i get here but i just love the country!" and i keep trying to impress on her that she will have to stay in all the time in the summer because of the black flies, mosquitoes, deer flies and horse flies (she gets really sick from bites. like really sick!), but that she will also have to stay in during winter as well! it is all falling on deaf ears but i am really trying.

    the other wife of the other couple always has her hair done - she gets her hair and nails done before she comes to the country?!?!?!? i showed her what were once my beautiful, well-manicured hands and she gasped! i had been scrubbing my hands for hours before an event but i still couldn't get all of the dirt out. they have a really nice trailer right now but she wants to rip it out and build a 2-story a-frame house. it will be beautiful! it will cost a fortune! and i don't think they will last one winter. so i keep trying to get her to come out for 2 full weeks and pretend that their pump has stopped working. or to pretend the electricity is out for 3 days - she would die if she couldn't use her hair blowdryer!!! i tell her about boiling snow for 3 weeks when our pipes froze for washing dishes, flushing the toilet and bathing.

    i tell our 2 sets of friends about bathing in a bin in the kitchen and about washing clothes by hand. they think it is so quaint. their husbands are a little more knowledgeable but jamie tries to tell them about all of the things that WILL go wrong.

    anyway - all of this to say that i couldn't agree with this post more! and i would like your permission to copy the text, with no blog details or anything, just the text and then paste it into a word document for each of them and print it out for them. they are not internet/blog people or i would just direct them to this post. and of course, i will add a line about the authour being Harry Flashman.

    your friend,

    1. Kymber, your comment was better than my post. It was "real life"and mine was philosophical in nature. I really want to thank you for writing it, because it amplified and supported my post and made it more worthwhile. You and your husband are tougher than I am, you have it rougher comfort wise. But I don't have the beautiful land you do, right on the water. I guess I can't complain though, I'm too old to rough it like that.

  5. crap - i didn't realize it was such a long comment. my bad.

    1. Bad nothing! I'm grateful to you, it made my blog better.

  6. Great article with excellent points. I like Kymber's comment also (I didn't think it was too long at all).

    1. John, I certainly didn't think it was too long either. She's a darn good writer, and the two of them live the lifestyle, all the way.