Life Off the Grid — A Joshua Johnson story written by Andrea Carnegie

This story was the winning 2014 scholarship essay from Lake Pend Oreille High School in Sandpoint

For eight or nine years I lived up a mountain on Trapper Creek on Van Dyke Road, off the grid. This means I had no electricity, running water, or automatic heat. It was me, my older brother Jesse, my two older sisters Jenny and Sam, and our mom and dad. We had to use kerosene lamps, motor generators, and a wood stove. Not having anything to do regarding electronics, we developed a great imagination, became very athletic, and grew a very strong relationship between us all. I have had many experiences living up there; I will only be sharing a few involving wildlife and my family.

Spring, 7 years old:

My oldest sister Sam got a bike for her birthday a couple months before spring started. My older brother Jesse was jealous because he had to wait another couple months for his birthday to get his bike. One day he asked Sam if they could share it until he gets his, “no way!” Sam said. Jesse got mad and stole the bike and headed straight down the steep driveway, SMACK! Right into a cinnamon bear’s behind. Both Jesse and the bear ran in opposite directions. The bear was just as scared as Jesse was.

Early spring, 5 years old,

There was a huge moose outside in our front yard. Mom and we four kids wanted to get a closer look at it so we all stepped outside. Eventually we ended up getting too close and the moose charged at us. Naturally, we all ran. My mom, Jesse, and I made it in time to jump into the shed out of the way. Jenny was right behind me and Sam was right behind her. After the three of us made it to the shed, Jenny tripped; this moose is charging full speed at them still. It was like a scene from a scary movie. Sam picked up Jenny by the hood of her jacket and threw her behind the shed just in time.

Summer, 6 years old:

One day my sister Jenny and I were hiking a few miles upward from the house in the woods. We came across a fence that was knocked down and looked like it had been that way for quite a while. When we lifted the fence it had a sign on it that said CAUTION: Yellowstone Trouble Bears Dropped here! That most definitely explained the fact that there was a black bear that caused very much trouble for me and my family, which kept coming around all summer long getting into our garbage and what not. This bear looked like it had been in fights with many other bears. It had scars and seemingly shaved places on its head.

We had a golden retriever named Cody that was very protective of the family. One day the black bear tried to get into the house when it was just the kids at home. There was nothing we could do. We figured we would just let it come in like it wanted and escape out the back of the trailer. Cody went to the front steps where the bear was and barked and growled and snipped at the bear while the bear was growling and swinging its big paws at the dog. Eventually the bear gave up and never did get into the trailer.

Our dad was doing some work in Oklahoma at the time and when he came back we told him about our bear problems. He sat up in the little loft we had built above the trailer with a gun waiting for the bear. The bear had come by the house every single day until that point. It was as if the bear knew it would be shot if it went onto the property because it did not come around until about an hour after my dad had given up and gone back into the house.

One day we finally got rid of the bear. It was turned with its bottom toward us eating our garbage. It was just after the fourth of July and we had some left over fireworks. One of which was a roman candle; before they were illegal. All the kids including myself went outside with these candles, lit them, and aimed them toward the bear. The first shot went right between its legs. The bear stood up quickly and looked around like ‘what  in the world was that?!’  The second shot hit it in the shoulder; the third shot hit it right in the bottom. That was the shot that affected him enough to run away and never come back.

Spring, 4 or 5 years old,

We had two driveways, one that was a hill and one that was an around the comer hilL Mom and I went to check the mail and started heading down the around the comer driveway. There stood a huge white moose in the way. So we decided to do the smart thing and head for the other driveway. One of the dogs had gotten out of the house and started barking at the moose, and chased it to the other driveway. The moose decide to run up the driveway that mom and I were going down. We turned around and started running! Mom picked me up, ran a few feet, got tired and set me back down again to run on my own. Again mom picked me up, ran a few feet, got tired and set me back down to run on my own. This continued until we made it safely to the house. When we got into the trailer we were extremely winded and hearts pounding because of the run and the fright. Everyone in the house was just sitting there relaxed like nothing had happened. Jenny was even enjoying some peanut m&m’s.

There are so many more stories not documented in this essay. To tell them all I would have to write a book. Something I just might do one day. Those were some of the best times in my life. I suppose that when you are young is when the best times of your life usually are.

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