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09/02/2003 Archived Entry: "Back from the LRT conclave"
HI ALL, AND THANKS FOR YOUR PATIENCE AND KINDNESS. I'm back from the Liberty Round Table conclave. And now that my new hosting service is recovering from its hiccups (yeah, trouble comes in bunches), let's roll. There are still some tech problems to overcome. I can't yet access the POP and SMTP accounts on the new host site, for instance. But all troubles should be ironed out soon and we'll never, never, never ... well, hardly ever;-) ... have a disruption on this blog again.
But I confess that while Wolfesblog was struggling, I was off having an absolute ball.
The conclave was phantasmagoric, and my only regret is that more Net friends and Wolfesblog readers and contributors weren't there.
This was the seventh LRT conclave and only the second I've attended. Because I won't fly commercially, it's difficult to make the long trips for a long weekend (although many LRTers do drive amazingly long distances to be there). But this time organizer Sunni Maravillosa and a generous attendee arranged a great treat. A knight of the Liberty Round Table picked me up in a private plane and flew me to the conclave site in great style. AND he didn't take my ... er, knitting needles away. Or even make me check them with an orange "steal me" tag in my unlocked-by-law luggage. We soared over the mountains well armed and safe.
So my conclave experience started right off with a revival of freedom and individual initiative.
The conclave has always been a moveable feast, and this year it was held in what may be its most wonderful location -- a ranch in Montana that not only offered sweet spring water and a shady grove of aspen trees for camping, but that had three -- count 'em -- three shooting ranges for our practice and pleasure. Better yet, our host family was truly extraordinary. They opened their land to us at the last minute when the planned conclave location fell through. They fed us goat kebobs and goat burgers from their own herd and made us a huge bowl of
delicious tapioca pudding (which I believe was also made from goat's milk). They fired up their sweat lodge for the few who wanted to participate in the powerful physical and spiritual ritual of the sweat. And they gave us the joy of being around a family that has truly, truly made the most of freedom and the astonishing power of homeschooling. What their "kids" could build or venture puts most adult abilities to shame.
On Sunday, the libertarian movement's favorite firearms instructor gave a defensive pistol class, which I took along with nine or 10 others. I was out of practice and was humbled by three young men who were that much better than all the rest of us. But by the end of the day, I was back to form -- far from the world's best shot, but not fumbling so badly, either.
Monday, Our Favorite Instructor gave a rifle class, which unfortunately I had to miss because we were on our way home by then. But there was still rifle-shooting aplenty for anyone who wanted to experience it. One of the huge hits of the weekend was a Serbu .50 BMG bolt-action rifle set up on a 130-yard range. Its owner brought a big can of ammo and let us all have at it. (We were supposed to pay him $1.50 per round to cover the cost of that monster ammo. I hope everyone paid up; the owner was too nice to be much of an enforcer.) The thunder of that big gun rocked the whole ranch. I took my couple of shots with trepidation. (I'm not a big-rifle person.) But to my surprise, thanks to a good muzzle brake and a bipod, it wasn't much worse to shoot than a 12-gauge shotgun. Standing nearby while others shot was actually scarier; the huge pressure wave was a major chest-thumper and many bystanders wore double ear protection against the sound.
Afterward, I got to take home a round of the ammo which, for those of you who haven't seen it, is 3/4-inch wide at the base of the cartridge, 5-1/2 inches long, and shoots a bullet that is (of course) 1/2-inch in diameter. I'm not sure of the weight of the bullet in my souvenir cartridge, but between 570 and 800 grains is what I see on Web sites. Compare that to 230 grains of lead in a typical .45 ACP round. .50 BMG is one of the gun-banners' favorite recent targets, but I'll have to laugh if the anti-self-defense propagandists ever claim this monster is some little gang-banger's "weapon of choice." Most drugged-out gangstas couldn't even lift the such a firearm, let alone shoot it.
For me, a highlight of the weekend was my hour in the sweat lodge. Of the 30 or so attendees, only three men and three women sweated (in separate sessions). I can understand the reluctance of those who didn't want to try it. I suppose that having a spiritual experience, buck naked, with a bunch of mostly strangers is pretty offputting to the typical rational, very private libertarian. But it was truly something powerful, being there in the cave-dark and the hot, intense air with two other strong women, unseen but deeply felt presences, breathing and purifying our thoughts and our bodies. I'll be glad to the end of my days that I did it, and that I did it with these two great souls.
Yet, of all the many highlights of the weekend, I really have to say the people were the greatest. And I speak as pretty much a "non-people person." An unusual number of the great lights of libertarianism were at this gathering. And with them were many people far less known but no less powerful in their commitment to living free. (The LRT is dedicated to doing not philosophizing.) Even with all the activities going on, we had plenty of time to sit in the shade and talk from morning to midnight as we wished.
You might notice I'm not naming names. The rules of the conclave enforce privacy. No photography, no naming of attendees, no pinpointing of the host site. Which is fine and welcome, but leaves me unable to credit my gallant pilot, our loving hosts, or most of the outstanding individuals whose presence made the conclave something special. Still, I salute the general and his troops who organized the gathering at the original site, then had to change tactics just days before the conclave. They pulled off a miracle. I salute my shy pilot and our unshy, extraordinary hosts. I was delighted to meet the great hunter and the elf, both of whom I corresponded with years ago but never met until now. The gruff, grizzled pioneer and his sunny son delighted everyone. The kindest man in the libertarian movement was there without his constant companion. There was the quiet, handsome fellow with the depths I didn't get to see and the big, strapping, laughing one who tended the fire, braved the sweat lodge, emerged ecstatic -- and wouldn't tell me a thing about it. And there was the other quiet knight who had been willing, though not able, to fly me to all that freedom. Don Lobo Tiggre and Sunni I can name, since they're well known as the organizers. But if I try to mention, even obliquely, all the others who stood out in my mind, I'll leave someone out simply because there were so many.
I can't end, though, without commenting on a group of teen-and-twenty-somethings who were (yet another) highlight of the gathering. They weren't just a highlight in the sense of "oh, that made the weekend nice." They were a highlight because they reminded a lot of us that freedom does have a future ... and the future is them.
Too many libertarian gatherings are populated by forty-and-fifty-somethings, with only a smattering of younger people. You get the feeling freedom will just die off, with no one to care about it or carry the torch. At the LRT conclave, perhaps as many as 1/3 were college-aged. And you couldn't dream a better bunch to carry freedom into the future. There were three young men in particular, and one among those especially, who stood out as potential leaders -- whether it be intellectual leaders or leaders of some more action-oriented resistance to tyranny. They were crack shots, fiery spirits, sharp thinkers, laughing monkeywrenchers, and bold doers. The one had a reputation that preceded him: "Impressive" was the word everyone used. I can testify that the word simply isn't strong enough. That someone should be so intellectually astute, so talented, so warm and kind, and look like a Renaissance angel on top of all that ... well, it's too much. But freedom surely deserves such a guardian.
I'm thrilled I had a chance to meet him, outstanding among so many other outstanding individuals. And even though I can't mention him by name, I assure you, you will hear of him someday. Soon, I hope.
There was an energy at this gathering that, if we knew how to harness it, would move the world. I came away with a conviction that we freedom lovers are far, far more powerful than we know. Whether we'll understand the nature of our power and honor it well enough to to make use of it is another matter. But the power was there, without a doubt, swelling and waiting to break free.
Posted by Claire @ 06:14 PM CST