Dolly Freed’s call to simple living and to abandoning ship on the money economy/wage slavedom is the simplest, yet most poignant I think I’ve come across yet. “It’s feasible. It’s easy. It can be done. It should be done. Do it.”
Well, well, well, if it wasn’t a freegan manifesto. Dolly doesn’t call her book Possum Living that, probably never even heard the word “freegan,” but all the ingredients are there:
(a) Fuck the money economy (Who wants to work a full-time job when you don’t have to?)
(b) Wean yourself off of your obsession with material possessions because it’s easier to live without them than it is to work for the money to buy them.
(c) Learn how to provide for yourself—hunt, garden, forage, dumpster dive, scavenge, diy, borrow, build, and make, and then sit back and love the non-working life.
Though she often quotes the Bible to back up her points, Dolly claims that she and her possum-living pops aren’t religious, idealistic, or anything else that most of the back-to-the-woods folks, then and now, seem very often to be.
No she says proudly, “We’re just incredibly lazy. You wouldn’t believe it! We have an anarchy here wherein neither has to do anything we don’t feel like doing. (Except to feed the creatures. You can’t neglect animals in your care.) Normally I do the housework and the Old Fool does the garden, the heavy work, and the care of the creatures. Not because we have sexist roles, but because the housework bugs him more than it bugs me, and vice versa. If I don’t feel like doing the dishes for a couple of days, why I just don’t do them. I often feed the animals if Daddy feels like goofing off, and he often does the dishes. The anarchy works for us because we love each other and don’t abuse it. It amazed me that so many people must either dominate or be dominated, like a bunch of monkeys on Monkey Island at the zoo.”
But Possum Living is more practice than preach, and in it you’ll find tips for hunting and fishing (and cooking the bounty), instructions for raising rabbits and chickens in your cellar, moonshine recipes, tips for saving money on food (buy your grains at the animal feed store, for one), and instructions on diy health care (coincidentally, all of Dolly’s remedies are moonshine), housing (buy a cheap wreck and fix it up with scavenged materials), schooling (hello, public library), clothing (thrift stores), and law (a very strange chapter mostly involving suggestions for bullying others into doing what you’ve decided is right). The chapters on brewing your own booze are the best I’ve ever seen and the most simple: no fancy gadgets to buy (as there always were in your average brewing/distilling book) and diy as hell.
“Fat and sassy”—that’s how Dolly describes her totem the possum, and it’s how I’d describe her book (though it was an incredibly quick read at 218 liberally spaced pages). And what a lady! She wrote Possum Living when she was 18 years old, and a year after a small publisher printed it (Universe Books, 1979), Bantam picked it up and printed the hell out of it.
Most interesting, perhaps, is that the most recent printing (Tin House Books, 2010) is accompanied by an afterward written by an older, wiser Ms. Freed. Her Dad, who she lived with during her possum days, she left to drown in moonshine, and then she got her GED, put herself through college, and became a NASA engineer.
She regrets, she says in the afterward, the take on diy law she advocated when she was 18 and especially regrets recommending having children out of wedlock. These days she lives in Texas with a couple of kids and a couple of air conditioners. Her possum days are long behind her, but with a little help from her book, yours don’t have to be.
Should you get a’ itching to get yourself some Possum Living, click on the link above. Apparently, by buying it that way, I’ll end up getting money, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Otherwise, I bet your local library has a copy, and I bet you have a pen you could use to copy down all Dolly’s instructions possum-style.