Paul Arney referred Hunter to participate here. And we played a long game of back and forth over the course of a few months as we tried to schedule our meeting. It turned out just perfectly, though, as it tends to. We chatted outside Hunter’s blacksmith shop, Orion Forge, on a rad piece of steel furniture for a while before heading into his office for the recording.
It was such a pleasure learning about Hunter’s past and how he ended up here with his shop and about some of his future plans. I’m sorry you don’t get to enjoy it as it paved the way for the sincere conversation you’ll read or listen to below. This interview has a decidedly different tone than many and one that carries with it some raw honesty and maybe even some admission of not getting it right some of the time. Among a long list of enjoyable characteristics, it is Hunter’s genuine introspection and humility that I found the most endearing.
HD: My name is Hunter. I describe myself as a sensitive blacksmith - blue collar craftsman.
ACT: What concerns you about life that affects you personally? And what motivates you to do something about it?
HD: I think the most overwhelming concern I have right now is for our environment. So, the first part of the question is easier for me. We're living on a planet that's changing radically. I see that in certain species are behaving differently. And I think these violent acts that humans are committing... something's wrong with the species. They're doing things that aren't normal. It's all indicative of this planet that's unwell. So, I worry about that.
But what do I do? I don't. I have two motorcycles and a snowmobile and I burn diesel in my work rig and I burn gas in the other rig. Yeah, well, when those issues come up, I'll vote always for the environment and I'll engage in discussions about why I think we should save the Endangered Species Act or the Wilderness Act or whatever, but I don't know what I do. I just add another worry. None of us are doing anything. I just kind of pile it onto the initial worry.
There's a melancholy or there's a feeling in my stomach when I think about it. It's hard to separate it from the current state of politics in America. There's this overwhelming depression. It feels like a darkness or a heaviness or a weight. So, that affects me. When I wake up and I listen to the news, which I try to do every day because I do want to be informed, I feel this sadness. That's the immediate effect. That's the tangible effect on my life. I don't know if it makes me a different friend or partner or son or uncle, but I know it's there.
ACT: As you make your way through your routines, what do people mean to you, individual to individual?
HD: There's always a measure of using people that I know and love as a mirror. I do get to learn about myself through these people. At least a handful of my closest folks have children now, which is something that I don't have, and so I get to see how they interact and how they are raising these little people and I get to hang out with the little people and, I guess, feel what that feels like. It almost fosters a feeling of regret in me when I'm hanging out with the youngsters 'cause I'm not gonna have kids. At almost 50 I just don't feel like I want to do it.
I've really grown pretty bad at not letting my temper get frayed from strangers. It's part of living in Bend and seeing the town that I moved to change and feeling that there's a different onda or vibe in town. A person that I don't know that drives in a way that I don't think is cool will get me so angry. I'm much better now because I made a decision thanks to my girlfriend. That's my mantra now, He's doing his thing; I'm doing mine. So, some of the people in town, what they mean to me, You need to not judge them. Why are you investing your energy in this person? Who knows why they're driving like that? Who knows why they were curt to the checker in front of you? Maybe they just got diagnosed with cancer. Why are you judging them immediately? And why is it so close to the surface? I've got very little reserve of tolerance.
The strangers that we meet... I get to be nice. I get to be a nice person to them. And that's just something that is important to me. I get to be polite. I get to be thankful. I get to be genuinely appreciative and look people in the eye and say thank you. I get to slow down long enough to do that. That's something I do pretty well. That's the way my dad raised us. Every interaction is a legitimate interaction. I can let they guy that's been yapping on his cell phone the whole time while the checker's doing his or her work... I can let that go. I can try.
I've always had help in this shop. And that's a relationship that I'm now learning about. I've been an employee a lot in my life. I've been an assistant guide. And I've been the lead guide. And that's really the most of my professional interactions with people, which makes up a lot of my interactions. Well, now I have this job. And I have the clients and I have the vendors, right - I deal with the steel guy, I deal with the screws guy, the rivets guy - and the customer, but then I also have these employees. And I, for all the wilderness teaching or leadership teaching I've done, only really sorted it out in the last year and a half. This is a leadership position. I feel like I need to be better and continue to work on my leadership with my employees. I need to not be as frustrated as I can be. I need to be just a better boss and more thankful and more appreciative. We all just want the pat on the back or the pat on the head and I can forget to do that. So, my employees have meant learning how to, essentially, be cooler and more appreciative and thankful. And boy, in turn, when I behave that way it just feels better at the end of the day.
I was incredibly rude to some people recently. They're new to Bend. They bought the house next door to one that we're renting. And you know, they paid $800,000 for it. They come from a city. And they immediately started pointing out things in the neighborhood that they thought weren't cool or weren't right. Then, this winter when we were doing all that shoveling, everyone on the street came out to shovel. Except they didn't ever shovel. At any rate, not my favorite people. And I got back from a mountain bike ride the other day with one of my neighbors that was shoveling with me and these people were out. And I got out and I ignored 'em. They were out and they said hi to my neighbor and he was talking to them and he was being genuine. And I pretty much got my bike off the car and I went inside. I was just in this haste. I didn't want to deal with them. I went in and I told my girlfriend I just did that. And you know what? The very, very, very, very first thing that I thought about when I woke up the next day was that. Why didn't I say hey? Why wouldn't I extend that... that's not how I was raised. Saying hey and answering a question and being pleasant and then going on inside would have been less energy than worrying about it then waking up and thinking about it first thing in the morning. Okay, I'm 49 - another life lesson. I didn't take it to the point where I'd go up there and apologize for something like that, but the next time I see them I'll give them the time of day. So, those people mean that to me. Whatever that means. Those people can help me be a better person. I don't want to be the thing that I see happening to Bend, but I just was to them.
ACT: Do you feel a sense of purpose or a responsibility to affect positive change?
HD: I don't know. Maybe that's my problem; maybe I don't. Maybe it's the lack of the sense of purpose that makes it feel overwhelming and that I can't affect change. I don't know if I do. I woke up thinking about me being rude to my neighbors... maybe that's where it starts or maybe that's where it ends. Maybe it's just my purpose is to be a nicer person. And I don't have to behave that way and I can behave nicer and maybe that's all I do. I'm not driven that way.
I'm involved in a couple different arts organizations and I've been on the boards of those organizations. It wasn't a mandate. I chose to run and was elected to be on these boards and will do so again. Well, that's a sense of purpose. But again, it's my little community that I chose. It's easier to recognize the need to be part of that community. I guess I do have a sense of purpose for my little chosen communities. I don't know how it relates to us as humanity or even us as America. It all feels out of my control… short of voting.
I went to a very liberal college where social responsibility was a constant theme and it was an environmental school, as well. The idea of stewardship and working hard to protect and preserve and save and educate about the environment is what we did, and so it's appalling that I feel so disconnected from that now.
It's all according to plan, right? That apathy, which I think is what I'm describing, is probably predictable for the other side of the equation. They know that people are gonna be apathetic as long as the TV still gets all those channels and the beer stays cold in the fridge. I say it sarcastically, but it's working for me. I haven't waved the sign on the street corner to wake up.
ACT: What keeps you going? How do you make meaning out of this whole thing?
HD: God, I feel so shallow... these deep questions. I don't know! It really feels like I come to this workplace that I love and I feel gratitude that I get to do this. That I found or created this life. Work sustains me. And the people that I love. That is an important part of my existence is spending time with the people that I've grown close to and that I love. Some of them have families and getting to be in that and part of that. And sharing meals and space and adventure with a relatively small number of loved ones. It's the folks that I've seen no reason not to grow close to and love that sustain. Coupled with the work, I think that's enough.
ACT: I want to give you an opportunity to put last words out there if you feel so inclined.
HD: I really appreciate the opportunity to get to talk about it. I don't have enough of these types of conversations. Maybe this is the thing that changes... well, certainly it's gonna change me because I got to talk one more time about treating my neighbors the way I treated them and I'm gonna take away even more of that. Maybe it's conversations like this that happen more and more and more and this model is used to force us to think about some of these things and get to examine the ways in which we respond to some of these questions. I appreciate the opportunity to have a real interaction, one that feels like it has some intention behind it.