Tipi TALE



Article Published: Jan. 21, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Tipi TALE

Brett Butler assesses his home for repairs as part of his daily chores.

Photo by Nobu Tanaka



A young man named Brett Butler lives in these mountains and represents a paradigm that is closer to nature.

Featured in The New York Times Sunday edition at the start of this year, Butler, well dressed, clean and courteous, is living the change he wants to see. But his attitude and the shape of his home aren't ordinary. Butler, 24, lives by himself in a tipi "off the grid" in Boone.

Growing up in a suburban neighborhood, Butler always dreamed of living outside, "When the opportunity came," he said, "I had no other choice...I looked at my life and can't find XYZ for why it won't work."
For three years Butler has lived alone in his tipi with seasons to accompany him. Confident in his, survival abilities, he thrives off of what he traps or finds.

"I'm going to do this, and I'm not going to let anything stop me," he said.

Butler grew up blessed with more than he necessarily wanted. While in college at Appalachian State University, his view on what was needed for a fulfilling life changed.

Butler has chosen to fulfill his dreams.

"I eat some really weird stuff, roadkill, stuff I hunt and pick up," he said.

Butler shares this not as a confession, but a matter of fact. "Sometimes I will eat a possum."

A gathering was organized at the beansTalk coffee shop Monday, Jan. 18, to celebrate his sudden fame. He had been instructing a group that if you find meat that still has fleas, it is likely fine to eat. He then explained the process of skinning and quartering meat. A good rule of thumb, he added, was that "roadkill" found during weather below freezing can make a safe dinner.

"Take a Nalgene (bottle), fill it with boiling water, and cover it with a sock," he said, cautioning to make sure that the sock does not have any holes in it.

Since his sudden fame produced by the Times coverage, he has been living in his tipi and sharing with others the ability to live a self-sufficient life.

"It's my choice," he said. "I'm free to do as I want."

Butler understands that he is making the choice between living influenced by the seasons and listening to the earth.

When asked if thoughts of a comfortable lifestyle crossed his mind during nights that temperatures were frigid, he explained that he can have all the things he wants, even if he doesn't live in a penthouse. Seeing the dedication to his beliefs, a penthouse may be shooting low. But given the choice, he would rather share the encouragement of living differently.

Butler's decision to live on his own, opposing obsessions of consumerism, was influenced by his hope to encourage those who see his lifestyle to take charge in their lives.

"It doesn't matter what it is," he said. "I want them to say, 'I have a vision, I have a dream, and I want to make it happen.' And then I want to see it come to fruition for them. This just happens to be my dream, and I made it happen."

Butler has no intention to return to his former life whether today or in 50 years. Being recognized nationally, he hopes to use the name he is making for himself to educate elementary through high school aged students about sustainable living and help individuals build homesteads and gardens that can sustain themselves.

"People don't have to live the normal day to day life that they have, and they can live off the grid and still be totally interactive with society, and not be a hermit, and not be a social outcast," he said. "It's all a matter of choice."

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