Doomsday Preppers Week 8: Of Castles and Kings
This season of Doomsday Preppers has seen a real focus on preppers gearing up for a national or global economic collapse. Silly preppers! Didn't you know all it takes to avoid that is a trillion-dollar coin?
Brent is a little different in that he is preparing for survival after an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), which can come from any number of sources, some natural and some man-made. The Carrington event is the best known natural EMP, and the bad news is that we are in a period in time where our sun is pumping out solar flares and coronal mass ejections with disturbing frequency. To date, the large "X" class flares like those Mr. Carrington saw in 1859 have missed Earth, but if one fires in our direction, our advance warning may be measured only in days before the side of the planet facing the flare goes back to the Dark Ages when our entire electrical grid and every bit of un-shielded electrical barbeques itself. Think this is a fear of fiction or old news? Think again: a minor solar storm put six million in the dark in Canada as recently as 1989.
Our hero, however, is fearful of the manmade kind of EMP, which occurs when a nuclear device detonates high in the atmosphere, frying everything in its bird's eye view. It's not something to scoff at: the U.S. government has military experts that view a nuclear-triggered EMP as our greatest threat.
A former engineer and military officer, Brent is building a castle in western North Carolina to protect his ten children, ranging in age from 8-41. His medieval dream house has 6,000 square feet of living space above the dirt, and a 2,000 square-foot bunker below. He's spent a million dollars on it so far, and it won't even keep you dry.
It's also where Brent has sunk his fortune, and he's going to have his kids duke it out to determine which — one from each failed marriage — become trustees of his castle estate.
I do question the utility of Brent's castle construction, however. While it may be nice when finished (and I'm in love with his great room fireplace), the castle features massive open windows that will provide few places for defenders to hide. Instead of a defensive stronghold, he's created a deathtrap. Brent may have been a soldier (and an engineer), but he rather obviously wasn't tasked with building defensive fortifications if a liberal arts schmo like myself can find holes in his defenses you could drive a Willys Jeep through.
The worst part of the "Brent experience," however, was watching him attempt to train his kids how to shoot. Maybe some sadists find it hilarious to give a 100-pound girl a double-barrel 12-gauge loaded with buckshot to shoot. I did not. I also did not find it amusing to have one half-assed "expert" wade into the middle of a bunch of untrained shooters with loaded weapons who seemed on the cusp of muzzling each other or themselves every single movement. We were also almost treated to an out-of-battery discharge, as one of the girls attempted to pull the trigger on a Mosin-Nagant without the bolt being properly closed.
Now, this is almost certainly biased against medieval-minded idiots, but if you have scads of money to waste, build a functional and far less ornate defensive structure (a traditional keep would function relatively well) and spend far more on amassing a common weapons cache and professional training for those whom you would presumably have saving one another, not shooting one another.
As they are all likely to be executed in the bunker, due to bad design turning his castle into a lightning rod -- you'll have to watch, I can't bear any more -- and much of their food seems to consist of expired MREs, maybe firearms training is the least of their worries.
On the opposite end of the Tar Heel State, Derek Price is building a castle of his own (state tourism board hint, "state of castles" has a nice ring to it) near Bear Grass. How small is Bear Grass? When you do a search for it in Google Maps, it gives you a "well, it's sorta around here." I grew up 20 miles away and never heard of the place.
Anyway, the Price family runs a small Old West theme park called Deadwood under a Carolina blue sky, and they're using the park as an admitted money-making venture to fund the (formerly secret) dual nature of the park as a prepper's compound, where everything has a dual purpose. Here, the Price family has set itself apart from virtually every prepper in both seasons of the show with the possible exception of John Adrain, Week 4's inventor.
Their preps pay for themselves and, most importantly, have a constantly used "normal" function -- and that, dear reader, is the most responsible way to prep.
The family's tourist train runs on bio-diesel created from oil used in their restaurant. The miniature golf course was designed to include protected sniper's nests with purposefully designed fields of fire that control the "town" of Deadwood and the road leading in. The main defensive structure has reinforced concrete walls eight inches thick that are all but impervious to small-arms fire, and hidden passages provide escape routes and connect structures and firing positions, in a unique blend that is part Disney and part Fort Knox. If Brent had been smart, he would have hired Derek Price to build his castle. For someone who calls himself paranoid, Price seems to be a sharp, shrewd, and clever man.
Perhaps, however, Price is too clever for his own good.
While he had the foresight to plant bamboo on his property 20 years ago as a prepping material source, ringing the backside of the park's property with punji stake traps seems to me to be a fatality waiting to happen. You wouldn't leave a loaded gun out in public and I sincerely hope that the punji traps were strictly for the benefit of the camera, and were dismantled as soon as filming was done.
The Price family hopes to use the theme park's muzzle-loading cannon as a real weapon, and frankly, the thought terrifies me. There is no way I can tell if the sort of cannon they used on the show is a legitimate military antique or a blank-firing cannon created just as a loud noise-making prop, but when they fired it on the show, it appeared to have been filled with the lightweight plastic pellets used in airsoft guns.
While the tiny plastic pellets were enough to create a neat effect on paper targets for the cameras, real lead or steel shot is far more dense, and would create much higher pressures within the cannon. We're fortunate to live in a time when metallurgy is quite advanced and artillery is proofed, tested, and scanned repeatedly so the detonation of an artillery piece is relatively rare, but we don't have to look backward any further than weeks to see the deadly effect of crude cannons in amateur hands.
In my opinion, the Price family has made just one key mistake, and that is showing the world that their theme park is more than it seems. The show's experts are less impressed with the Price family operation than I am, and have them ranked on the show's "prepper score" leaderboard behind some world-class idiots and people that have hours' or even days' worth of travel under even the best conditions to get to their bug-out locations.
The longer I watch the show and get a feel for the eventualities the featured preppers are preparing for, the less faith I have in the show's experts. I'll take my chances with some of the less flashy, more frugal, and more inventive preppers than those who seem to suggest throwing money around will make them live longer.
Check out the previous installments in Bob Owens' ongoing critique of Doomsday Preppers: