August 28, 2012
Our cabin is at the end of a narrow, dead-end gravel drive, that most people can’t find even when with directions. We’re on a ridge that makes a long point on one fork or another of the Chippewa River, one of the few designated a “wild river” by the State. There are no public landings on the little lake it flows into, or upstream for many miles, either. Now and then a kayak or two, or a group of canoeists paddle by, but not often, and our place is almost invisible from the water.
My girlfriend and I have been here, just the two of us, for almost a month this trip, as we often are. In the twenty years I’ve owned this place, I have called the sheriff perhaps three times, with complaints about kids on ATVs, or someone lighting fireworks out on the lake.We swim naked in the river, in a sheltered spot that no one can see unless they’re trying to. I’ve spent many nights here all alone, too, and I’ve never really worried about staying safe.
Now that my dog Ruby, the German Shepherd, is gone:
–We carry two-way radios when we are alone, so we can reach one another if we need to.
–We have a code word we use to call to one another if one of us is swimming or alone; it’s a derivative of the “Men on the Land” warning used at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.
—We keep a loaded shotgun in the cabin to scare off any intruders. It is very effective.
Today, T was out in the water, clearing away a deadfall that had come with the last high water; I spotted four men walking upstream toward her from their fishing boats.
In all likelihood, we were perfectly safe. They probably had no idea that we were there, or that either of us was vulnerable. They most likely meant no harm.
Alix Dobkin’s song, “Some Boys,” came into my mind. And the lyrics told me a different story.
Maybe there’s no harm done
But more than two
Like as not they’re out to get you…
So I called to her with our code word, and she stopped what she was doing and came up the hill to the cabin.
Do men take these steps to protect themselves? Do they ever have to stop and consider the possible threat to their safety–to their very lives–that other men, unknown men, represent?
I don’t think so. And this freedom from fear that they enjoy, without thought, or care, or worry–this is what male privilege smells like.