In our series “Notes on a Pandemic,” we invite Texans to share their coronavirus experiences with us—both the lighthearted moments and the deeply painful ones. White Bear, who helms a “mutual assistance group” in West Texas, tells his story to Katy Vine.

Ten years ago, my wife and I started a disaster preparation service, also called a mutual assistance group, out on our land in West Texas. Word got out about us on Yahoo chat groups and Texas preparedness groups. I got on there and started talking. 

Then, once we started getting interest, we vetted members: If you’re a loose cannon with a big gun and lots of money, I don’t want to have anything to do with you. If you have something to contribute, for the good of all, you’re welcome. So to vet them, my wife and I would sit with them and drink coffee. Interested parties would camp in our camper, and if they decided to join the group they had to build a spot on the compound and store enough shit for a year.

I won’t give you an exact number, but quite a good number of people have joined our organization. Virtually all our people have advanced degrees. A bunch have come out since this virus started. Right now, I’ve got two people in the 27-day quarantine we require before they can join us; they’ve got 12 days left. I just got a call from another member; they know the routine.

My wife and I used to work for the government and we saw that stuff just isn’t right. We moved to this remote property sixteen or seventeen years ago. We built a main house, gardens, barns, storage facilities. We’re self-sustaining. I have orchards and vineyards and gardens and greenhouses. We imagined everything from pandemics to the zombie apocalypse. Civil unrest. We have a lot of ex-military in our group who foresee the shit hitting the fan, loss of law and order, uprising and violence. We’re prepared for just about anything that comes.

We’ve been preparing for a disaster like this for a long time. We have our own radio system out here, so everybody can communicate. Also: Do you know what an EMP is? It’s an electromagnetic pulse. Let’s say someone wanted to bomb Fort Bliss; they would send an EMP and all of our trucks’ computers would stop running—anything with a computer would stop. So we buy dead microwaves and reinforce them with a metal screen and line the inside. Those are called Faraday cages. They stop any EMP from getting to the electronics. We have microwaves around the ranch with radios and communication equipment and computers. That’s not on our minds a lot; it’s just one of the bases we cover. The main thing is: have enough preparedness supplies until the dogs get tired of eating zombies. (We keep a sense of humor. We’re not over-the-top preppers.)

We can live out here indefinitely. I make my own wine. In wine there is joy; in beer there is happiness; in water there is bacteria.

There’s nothing I can say if you’re not already prepared. You’re in the city? The city will eat itself. When truckers stop trucking, you better head your ass right here. But we don’t have space for anyone else out here. The time to join has come and gone.

Without a doubt, more people are going to be prepared after this. Just like you—I’m sure you’ve got more than one bottle of water or one package of mac and cheese. You’re going to have something next time. My mother-in-law came out of the Depression; those folks saved everything. What are you going to do when your toilet paper runs out? Call Ghostbusters?

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