Posted by: terrapraeta | January 14, 2010

Free Charlie!

And somebody told me
“Big Brother’s watching you”
And somebody else said
“You know it’s not true”
Who do you believe?
Well the police have all gone crazy
You never had it so bad
They take away the dignity
That you never really had
They know all about you
They even know what you drink
And if they thought you were worth it
They could sus out what you think
And think your crazy

Subhumans, Big Brother

I keep looking for signs that things really are moving into Collapse. Some days, I’m looking at the number of people I know that are unemployed, other days I’m looking at political stances on a global scale. Then there is the behavior of, and activities of the US Legal System.

I found it interesting last year when Kenny split town whilst on probation and it came to light that no warrant had been issued for his arrest. My thought was simply that the cost of issuing that warrant (which would, when served, include the cost of extradition) was greater than the local courts concern over his threat to society. In other words, that the prosecutor, judge, etc believed that even though he had been convicted of a felony, that they did not honestly believe he would engage in such behavior a second time. Or in yet other words, they saw a kid make a stupid decision, which he may or may not have acted on in the long run, but that it was not a choice he would make again. Good for him, anyway. He still will need to deal with the repercussions of running away, but this allows him to do so on his own time.

Now for the other side of the coin. Amazingly, I only just heard about this yesterday, even though it is right here in my own neighborhood, but apparently the Federal Government has decided that it is time that they create a precedent regarding people trying to exist outside the system.

Charlie Toups is the ultimate ski bum. For the last thirty odd years, he has skied 120 days every season, working odd jobs, usually on the mountain, camping in his car at or near the base camp, living his life outside the scope of the classic American Dream. For some reason, the powers that be decided to put a stop to it this year. And man are they pushing hard.

What got me the most… he has been charged with assaulting a forest service officer. Did he take a swing? Did he push and shove? Did he run away? No. He “tensed up” and “grew irate” when he was told he was being arrested. And the next day, one of the arresting officers had a mild heart irregularity. Or at least that is how I read it. And this is a basis for assault charges? In point of fact, and traditional legal precedent it is not. And if the system still works at all, the charges will not hold up in court. But it seems obvious to me that this is the act of a government trying to seal up the holes in a system that is beginning to get threadbare.

In some ways, this really concerns me, especially since I was planning to do a lot of public land camping on my trip later this year. Probably won’t really effect me since I will not be staying in the same area for any length of time. Not long enough for forestry officials to get to know my face, maybe not even long enough for them to see it. But just the same, I will be watching as this story unfolds so that I can take into account exactly how far the government tries to push this – and just as important – how successful they are at doing so.

If anyone feels like petition signing….



  1. UPDATE.

    Charlie is free.

  2. This is a disturbing story. It sure appears that they are fishing for precedents… maybe to bust and fine (formerly?) middle class people who try to remain viable by living on public lands.

    Kids, if they ever come after you… clenching your hands and tensing up could land you in jail for a very long time… And how does a person “prove” they did not tense up?! Bad stuff.

    Intimidation. Not for ski bums though… as they say, Charlie was unique… the intimidation is meant for other folks…

  3. Hey vera —

    That’s how I see it. Even the conditions of his release disturb me a little. They knew it would not hold up in court… at least after the story started getting attention… so instead they partially “break” him by making a deal that let’s him go about his life as long as he stays off their turf. Read: lives a different life from that which he has chosen. Bullshit.


  4. Tp, exactly. They knew it would not hold up. They knew he wanted to go out and ski. So they made him shuffle to “save” their face.

    They’ll find others even more vulnerable.

  5. It has “always”[1] been illegal to “live”[2] on National Forest/National Park land. And there is other Federal/State land around here where it is illegal to camp[3] at all. It is also illegal on these lands to collect leaf or root based foods (fruit, nuts and mushrooms are ok).

    All of these laws exist for the sole purpose of making sure that everyone lives the approved lifestyle even though they are justified by the “if everyone did it” argument. Overly restrictive hunting and fishing laws do the same thing.

    What I find odd is that they allowed it for so long and suddenly decided they needed to enforce it. Reading between the lines of the article, the Forest Service is dropping the charges and instituting an “administrative” punishment[4] while holding the threat of prosecution over his head for 2 years.

    I also notice that the release story has him actively resisting arrest (refusing a police order) and yelling while the initial story just had him tensing up and clenching his hands.

    I note that there is really no recourse for Charlie and I’m glad they’re going to allow him to ski.

    Overall, this is just depressing.


    [1] Ever since I first looked it up
    [2] Defined as camping for more than 2 weeks
    [3] Camp is defined, oddly, as sleeping at night or in a tent/camper, so theoretically you could sleep during the day in your car and be awake at night to avoid this charge. I am not a lawyer, YMMV.
    [4] Due Process? We don’t need no stinkin Due process.

  6. Hey —

    All true Jim… from what I have seen out here, they only lightly enforce these rules… or at least that *was* the case. They enforce areas with easy access, “free” camping areas and the like, but as soon as you go somewhere that is off the beaten track its generally no big deal. A function of the *amount* of public land in the Western States, I suspect. Hell… one of my neighbors camped in his car for the first six months he was here, directly across the river from one of the hotspots. But he was *across* the river, so he never encountered a single ranger.

    Likewise I had a conversation with him and several other neighbors about the feasibility of a nomadic tribe living in the mountains around here. We pretty quickly decided it would be quite easy, so long as the group in question was lightly equipped and moving a lot.

    But now…. we’ll have to see what shakes out……


  7. Naperville finally kicked out (wrote an then enforced an ordinance against) Scott Huber, who had been living on the downtown streets for the last 8 years.

    Biz is bad enough, collapse ‘n all, so they had to finally draw the line. Can’t go on having these folks either:

    1)freeloading and dirtying up our quaint marketplace/resort;
    2)reminding us that it sucks out there, somewhere for those poor type folks;
    3)reminding us (not in denial) that the bad times are happening right here
    4)illustrating that there might be a different way (and why am I working my ass off);

  8. Hey —

    Was he the only one? I spent about three months living out of my (broken and parked) car back in, what? ’88? We had three full timers then. The bicycle lady being the one I remember most vividly. Her entire family died when their house burnt down and so she took to the streets…….

    It was a real mixed bag back then… places like Naperville had no real enforcement but also no services at all. So we were all really, truly on our own………..


  9. tp,
    I also understand that BLM land might have different rules from Forest Service Land but we have no BLM land here so I don’t know for sure.

    The whole story makes me wonder if
    a) someone complained
    b) a new guy at the park service wanted to get noticed.


  10. Hey —

    Yes, BLM has much less strict rules in a lot of ways… although the 14 day camping still applies. It’s just enforced less, as well.

    If it is as simple as your a or b, I’ll be happy. My concern is that it has a deeper motivation. That they are starting to “guard the exits” in a way that before they felt was unnecessary. Of course I hate talking about “they” cos its meaningless, but I don’t have anything more specific to go on right now!


  11. “My concern is that it has a deeper motivation. That they are starting to “guard the exits” in a way that before they felt was unnecessary.”

    You know, I don’t really worry about this scenario. First, I don’t think the mainstream world (and there is nothing more mainstream than a civil servant) has any concept of how bad things really are. And second, I think that by the time “they” decide to “guard the exits” it won’t be possible and there’ll be bigger fish to fry than some ski bum. During the depression it became illegal to grow your own wheat (because it hurt the interstate commerce of wheat farmers). That is the kind of door slamming I think we need to look for.


  12. I want to add:
    This guy was living on the margins, certainly, but he was still working(participating in the economy) for his food and for his pleasure.


  13. Hey —

    Yeah… maybe… I just keep filling away things like this in case, down the road, some sort of pattern emerges 😉

    And yeah, he was still working, still participating… but in the mountains of colorado, especially in the ski towns, “participation” is far less than what you find in most of the country. Bro deals and such *change* some of the fundamental assumptions I was surrounded by back in the midwest……


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