Libertarians, Not the Political Kind

Recurring themes are common at our house.  We’ve been talking about Free Will lately – the belief that humans have the power to control their own thoughts and actions – and now, it comes up everywhere.  It’s not a mystical phenomenon, the concept of Free Will is so broad and basic that one could probably relate it to just about anything.  But still, the coincidences happen with other stuff too.  It happens after we read out loud a book about President Theodore Roosevelt (who like all historical figures, was a pretty self-centered dude).  Now Teddy shows up everywhere:  movies, other books, art on display at Salvage Vanguard, and most recently, Terlingua, the former quicksilver mine turned ghost town turned free-thinker colony.  Actually, the more we read and the more we interact with people doing cool stuff, the more these weird connections happen to feed our appreciation for daily experiences.

Books, and Interacting With People Doing Cool Stuff:  two huge spiders that weave the webs of connections that make life worth living.  I’m talking about people living the Free Will lifestyle.  People who are self-aware (not self-centered);  people who lead with their passions and still make money without a drive to get rich; people breaking off from the pathway worn by the masses and opting instead to blaze their own trail.  Pioneers.  American heroes.

Josh Hare – Hops & Grain Brewery, East Austin

The world to Josh is simple, black and white, but he’s thoughtful and smart enough to know that the entire spectrum of colors can be found in just these two.  He’s like the Captain Ahab of our generation.  Only instead of the insane obsession to be killed by a God/Satan whale, he has a passion for making beer.  Instead of steering a doomed ship and clomping around on a wooden leg, he’s steering (stirring) some of the best beer in Austin and making a profit to boot.

Josh was a home-brewer for years, learned some larger scale stuff at a Colorado brewery, and decided to go commercial in Austin in 2010.  A common story in Austin these days, where craft breweries pop up about as often as new farmers markets.  But there’s one thing that elevates Josh above the plane of new local brewers and into the awesome-sphere:  he’s not a trust fund baby; he’s not independently wealthy; and he skipped the banks for funding.

A 29-year Abilene kid in a T-shirt and running shoes doesn’t walk into Wells Fargo and ask for half a million dollars to open a brewery without being shown the door.  Even a really smart and really hard-working one.  So instead, Josh interpreted his vision for a sustainable craft brewery into a business plan that investors could understand.  With just his passion and clarity of vision, Josh infected 43 individual investors with a contagious itch to help fund his project with few-strings attached cash.  He took the money, found the space, bought the equipment, hired an installer, and was instantly selling every drop of beer he could possibly make.  After just one year, he purchased equipment to more than double his output, and still, the shelves at Central Market and Whole Foods are empty of his 6-pack cans of Alt and Pale Dog more often than not.  The dude’s a craft business genius, without being a greedy business man.

Not only is Hops & Grain debt-free, it’s also a force for community cohesion.  They donate beer to non-profit events, host local business events, give spent grain away to local beef producers, and open the tasting room every two weeks to a farmer’s market.

Josh is flexing Free Will as the new economy poster child for young people.  Gone are the days where going to college is what you do to get a job, since over half of college graduates these days aren’t finding job in their studied field (if they’re finding jobs at all).  Innovators like Josh aren’t finding jobs – they’re MAKING jobs.  They don’t sit around waiting for someone to hand them a paycheck for having whatever degree they earned – they have a dream, then they make that shit happen.  Josh ‘Poster Boy’ Hare was so passionate and so convincing of what he wanted to do, that he inspired investors to pay for the endeavor, and now he’s selling beer by the truckload and hired his third employee to help keep up with demand.  If Max decides to go to college, I hope there’s a degree is Joshism, because it might be is only hope at landing a job and developing a successful career.

Hops & Grain Champion

John and Jo Dwyer, Angel Valley Farm, Jollyville

John and Jo used to run a business that I think had something to do with car parts.  They quit that to start a certified organic farm in Jollyville near Cedar Park, and for the past 15+ years, Angel Valley Farm has consistently produced some of the highest quality produce in the region.  During that time, they’ve become an open source for anyone interested in growing local organic vegetables, and developed one of the most loyal customer bases around, rival only to stalwarts like Boggy Creek Farm and Tecolote Farm.

Their following is so loyal, that the entire farm is supported entirely on two weekly seasonal farm stands – good enough for John and Jo to earn a pretty good living.  You don’t just snap your fingers to make something like that happen, it takes some serious dedication to growing seriously good vegetables to make that happen.

So why did they recently make the decision to sell it all and move to the San Juan Islands above Washington State?  Because they wanted to.  Free Will baby.  Farming they way they do isn’t easy  – it takes a toll on the body, which is linked closely to the soul.  If walking away from a high-paying corporate job to start an organic farm is ballsy, how about quitting a very successful organic farm in Central Texas to live low-key on Orcas Island, where I’m pretty sure 100-degree days is not part of the local vocabulary?  Colossal elephantiasis, that’s what.  I love these guys, they’re like my spirit guide aunt/uncle, so down to earth and real that if you ran over them with a plow, they’d just shape shift themselves back together like the T1000, only instead of liquid metal they’re like human humus, fertilizing the inspiration of their friends and acquaintances with their awesomeness.

Jo and John Dwyer

Jake V Pup Walther, Native Roots Landscape, Kerrville

The history of our home town sounds ok on paper.  Shingle makers settled near the Guadalupe in the mid-1800s to harvest Cypress trees that were milled and shipped to nearby San Antonio.  The economy gradually expanded and diversified into ranching, then some other stuff including tourism, and pretty much held tough despite whatever slumping trends were occurring throughout the rest of the country.  Which I guess is a good thing, but if economic slumps have a hard time getting over the hills and into the Kerrville valley sometimes, then so does culture and independent thought – the place sometimes feels like an air tight bowl where not much gets in and not much gets out.

Kerrville is one the richest small towns in America, though there’s no obvious indication of that to a casual observer, as most of the that money is held tight by ultra conservative old white people who live their lives in fear.  Kerrville prospered even through the Great Depression, and by the 1950s, the booming economy had pretty much wiped out most any structure that represented the town’s history.  The motto seems to have always been, “tear down the old, build up the ugly.”  Kerrville is also known as the hometown of the serial baby killer nurse Genine Jones, the site of several 1980s slave ranches, a place where the huge gap between the rich and poor seems to grow wider every year, and more to topic, a place that experiences a “significant out-migration of young adults raised in the area”.

It’s no wonder this last fact is true – Kerrville generally tries to suck as much as possible.  The old people that come to die here tend to strongly resist anything that hints of change as best they can, because change is scary.  The resulting suckiness of this town tends to keep development and opportunity for young people in check.  The kids leave, the old people come but only for the last few years of their life.  We have only one 4A high school, but at least 10 times as many nursing/retirement homes and a respectable number of undertakers.

But still, somehow, despite trying so hard to be a crappy place for young adults, Kerrville can still be a desirable place to live.  The Guadalupe River starts just upstream, so there’s no city sludge or other point-source pollution outlets to muck it up as it flows through the heart of town.  Kerrville Folk Fest brings in the free spirits for 18 days out of every year, the Cailloux Foundation is the rare exception of deep pockets actually being used for the greater good, and lifetime residents like Joe Herring Jr. are tirelessly fighting to preserve what history the town has left.  There’s even a few trees left.

Actually, there’s more than a handful of writers, poets, business owners, teachers, coaches, preachers, social workers, service workers, and all-around awesome people in Kerrville, trees of the community.  They’re just overwhelmed by the relatively small but still dominant contingency of close-minded, bitter, and scared people who have the power to stall cultural development here to be noticed sometimes.  So it takes a young person with a pioneering mentality and the ability to see the remnant positives of Kerrville to make the jump away from cities like Austin, with its rich and vibrant buzz, and into the pit of Kerrville, with its chain stores and small clots of close-minded people.

Brother Jake is one of those.  After graduating from A&M, Jake lucked out to find a great job in a field he studied, working for a great guy at Madrone Landscape Architecture in Austin.  As a small company doing big work, Jake was exposed to just about everything – it was a dream job for even experienced landscape architects, much less a punk fresh out of school.  And yet, there was an inner urge in Jake to to do something more independent, even if it meant sacrificing the plush job and risking a career that was on track to greatness.

So last year, Native Roots Landscape in Kerrville was born.  Jake immediately picked up several small jobs and one big one, big enough to keep him busy for six months, and established an office on historic Jefferson Street in Kerrville to start putting down some roots to build a successful business in a notoriously tight town.  And at least for now, it’s working.

Buttrot and VPup


Jessie Temple, Murphy Street Raspa Co., Alpine, TX

Jessie comes from a family of bright lights.  Scholars, entertainers, novelists, ambassadors – there’s rumor that a boat captain uncle who’s actually a Robin Hood pirate.  It’s actually alot to live up to.  How do you blaze your own path when your family history has already torn up the world in their wanderings and wonderings?

I guess follow your heart.  I guess if you’re not quite as content as you’d like to be, quit your job as an architect in Austin and take over a snow cone stand in the desert.

The historic building was a furniture factory in the early 1900s, then a grocery store, now it’s Jessie’s home and work in the hub of the Big Bend region of West Texas.  Not easily described in words, you just have to experience it.  Both the snow cones and the desert.

Jessie and Rodeo

Godspeed friends, blaze the path.



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