BEING PREPARED is just the sensible thing to do, Scott Hunt tells me. Power outage? Superstorm? Nuclear attack? He’ll be ready. That’s why he has a pickup truck that runs on wood.
We’re standing by a toolshed in the backyard of Hunt’s home near Pickens, South Carolina, staring at a tall metal contraption that sits in the rusting bed of a Ford F-100. It’s a generator that can turn wood chips into wood gas, which, in turn, can run an internal combustion engine.
“I look at a tree, I see a battery,” Hunt says amiably, grabbing his yellow Bernzomatic Fat Boy torch and firing up the “gassifier.” He fans the flame with a gush of compressed air and the truck rumbles to life. “It’s my Mad Max backup.”
The 46-year-old Hunt, whose blue polo shirt and neat goatee say soccer dad more than road warrior, believes in backups. He’s got his water supply: a 1,600-gallon spring- and well-fed tank on a hill overlooking his property. He’s got power and heat: an enormous wood-fueled generator, a diesel generator, a propane generator, an old Army immersion heater, solar panels, a wood-burning stove, and solar ovens. There’s food: five rotating vegetable gardens backed by a basement full of canned salmon and refried beans, white and red wheat kernels, potatoes, and dried milk. To turn the wheat into flour, he’s rigged up an old Healthmaster 750 exercycle with a belt and grinding wheel. “In a grid-down situation,” Hunt says, “I believe you need to be prepared to live like in the 1800s.”
To that end, he takes home security very seriously. In his office, there’s a shoulder-high gun safe and piles of rifle cartridges. There are camouflaged lookout posts hidden in the woods beyond his house, infrared sensors planted around the perimeter of the property, and a concealed Smith and Wesson .38 that Hunt carries at all times.
Even to the grocery store? I ask.
“We’re living in a time of instability,” he says, wiping his hands on his jeans. “It doesn’t take long for people to turn into animals.”
Hunt isn’t alone in all of this. By phone I connect with a man I’ll identify only as David, a Houston resident whose house looks like all the other stucco McMansions in his gated community. But as David will tell you, the pantry is overstocked with food, there’s an unusually large amount of medical supplies in the hall closet, and he has two gun safes. Inside his office closet are four stuffed backpacks and a pair of oversize military duffel bags loaded with water filters, food, first-aid equipment, and duct tape. There are also four military load-bearing vests, the kind Army troops wear in Afghanistan: one for David and one each for his wife and two teenagers. Outside his front windows, the flower beds are raised 16 inches off the ground, higher than you’d see in normal gardens. This serves a particular purpose, David says.