Live Free or Die
by Vin Suprynowicz
Go where the land meets the water, anywhere in New England, and you will begin to
understand how firmly the region of my birth lies in bondage to the Cult of the
Town and state governments throughout New England traditionally buy and dump tons of
sea sand--or whatever will pass for it --along the shorelines of their municipal
beaches and parks. It doesnít matter whether the shoreline of the lake, river or
ocean cove in question was originally a reeded marshland, offering pristine habitat
to waterfowl and a hundred other creatures--the kind of place I (for one) would far
rather spend my time communing with nature during that nine months of the year when
itís NOT "time to turn, so you wonít burn."
No matter: What the majority of taxpayers want is a sandy beach for picnicking and
sunbathing (in fact, precious little "swimming" ever transpires), and that is what
they darned well get. What? The autumn storms and winter ice annually erode the sand
away, as nature attempts to restore these areas to their normal, fertile condition,
with beds of reeds and cattails to naturally strain away pollutants? Never mind; just
bring back the sand trucks every spring, raking out a new sandy beach by Memorial Day.
The state is never out of resources; taxes spring eternal.
Actually, the institutionalized destruction goes much deeper than this. "Urban
Renewal," in New England, often includes development of new office complexes and
highways on "unused" or "blighted" land. For 40 years now, the larger New England
cities have bulldozed interstate highways through the "seedy, decrepit" areas of
docks and profitable but low-rent private businesses which used to line their
waterfronts, throwing small business owners on the dole and erecting their new
throughways atop impassable 20-foot concrete embankments, until two whole generations
have grown up within a mile or two of the ocean or the navigable Connecticut River in
Hartford, Springfield, New Haven or Boston without so much as SEEING the water that
gave their cities birth, except as a distant glitter far below the highway bridge
they take to work.
But let a private citizen try to turn a slice of his own private, rocky shoreline
into a boat dock, a sliver of sandy beach, or even a well-intentioned but
"unpermitted" refuge for turtles and wood ducks (yes, I know of just such cases,
in Connecticut and New Jersey)--let him try to similarly adjust nature to his needs
or wishes--and suddenly the state authorities descend like locusts, seizing and
destroying the privately-held turtles, demanding to see all the required permits,
showering liens and injunctions like a freak April snow shower.
Whatís more, the very populace who blithely speed along on the shore-destroying
freeways, who consider it their civic right to lie in pure white sand where geese
and fox and a hundred other creatures used to raise their young, cheer with glee as
these "greedy" private "despoilers of nature" are brought low, for daring to offend
against the state-enforced religion of Environmentalism ... on their own property.
How dare such troglodytes tamper with sacred resources belonging to all the people,
doing whatever they please with no more justification than the fact they happen to
hold some bogus "private deed"? Of course, the notion that one need only "apply for
a permit" is nothing but misdirection, equivalent to telling the Jews as they
boarded the trains to the East that they should be careful to "label your luggage
carefully for when you return."
Big commercial developers who make big campaign contributions may well get some
kind of hypocritical "certificate of environmental compliance" for THEIR plans to pave
and channelize the local waterfront ... requiring yet more government seizure of
private property for another big "flood control project," upstream ... but the little
guy faces years of hoop-jumping as his permit applications are lost, or returned for
re-filing on updated forms, before theyíre finally denied.
At which point, the poor sad sack will learn to his dismay that itís too late to
declare, "Well then, your whole permitting process is bogus, and Iím going ahead anyway."
At that point, the long-suffering citizen will be advised by a stern-voiced judge that
he waived his right to appeal the validity of the permitting process when he filed his
application (way back in the days when he was told "Thatís all there is to it,") thus
tacitly acknowledging the right of the state to either grant or withhold its permission
for the project in question!
Just ask 67-year-old carpenter Carl Drega, of Columbia, N.H.
Laughed out of court
In 1981, 80 feet of the riverbank along Dregaís property collapsed during a rainstorm.
Drega decided to dump and pack enough dirt to repair the erosion damage, restoring his
lot along the Connecticut River to its original size.
A state conservation officer, Sergeant Eric Stohl, claimed to have spotted the project
from the river while passing the Drega property on a fish-stocking operation (the
riverís natural ecology harbored huge runs of shad and Atlantic salmon, as well as
native pike, pickerel, and brook trout. So most New England state governments--these
devoted acolytes of environmental purity--now routinely stock bass, and brown and
rainbow trout, none of which is native and few of which survive long enough to reproduce).
The state hauled Drega into court, attempting to block his tiny "project." This was
piled on top of earlier actions by the Town of Columbia, some dating back more than
20 years, and starting when the town hauled Drega into court and threatened him with
liens, judgments and (ultimately) property seizure over a "zoning violation" which
was comprised of his failure to finish a house covered with tarpaper within a time
frame which the town considered reasonable, former selectman Kenneth Parkhurst told
the Boston Globe.
Drega tried for years to fight the authorities on their own terms, in court. Needless
to say, as a quasi-literate product of the government schools, and no lawyer, his
filings became a laughing stock both in the courts and in the newspapers to which he
sent copies, begging for help. "The dispute, punctuated by years of hearings and
court orders, became an obsession for Drega," wrote reporters Matthew Brelis and
Kathleen Burge in an Aug. 20 follow-up in the Boston Globe.
Drega "filed personal lawsuits against the state officials involved and contacted
newspapers, including the Globe, imploring them to write about the
injustice being done to him."
In court in 1995, the Globe reports that Drega explained, "The reason
Iím like this on this case, when I started my project 10 years ago I was issued permits
and everything I needed. When I reapplied 10 years later, thatís when Eric Stohl came
in and the Wetlands Board had absolutely no records. ... I am liable for everything
thatís done there. In the New Hampshire Wetlands Board, if itís not done according to
the plan, they can take it out. And if I donít have the money to take it out, theyíll
take it out. And if I canít pay for it, theyíll take my property."
I sort the incoming letters-to-the-editor for a major metropolitan newspaper. The
receipt of such sheafs of heartfelt, illiterate pleadings from folks at their witís
end (child custody leads the list, though property rights also feature prominently),
pleading for help from SOMEONE, has become an almost daily occurrence.
Since such tirades are too long, rambling, and "not of general public interest" to
run as letters, I diligently forward them to the city desk, in hopes an editor there
may occasionally assign a reporter to check them out. They never do ... unless the
author shoots somebody, at which point there ensues a mad scramble through the
wastebaskets. In newsrooms around the country, the running joke when a large number
of such missives or phone calls come in on the same day is that "It must be a full moon."
Reporters cover the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy is adept at putting out its version
of events in reasonable-sounding, easy-to-quote form. Those who canít get with the
program are generally ridiculed by reporters as "gadflies," "malcontents," and (more
recently) "black helicopter conspiracy nuts." Their rambling, disjointed stories donít
tend to fit into the standard 12 inches.
By 1995, it was obvious that Carl Drega was running out of patience. Town selectman
Vickie Bunnell, 42 (since appointed a part-time state judge) accompanied a town tax
assessor to Dregaís property in a dispute over an assessment. Drega fired shots into
the air to drive them away. (In New England, special property tax assessments are
common, and especially cruel to senior citizens. The courts have ruled that if the
town decides to run a municipal water or sewer line along a street fronting oneís
property, the property owner can be assessed the amount by which the town figures the
propertyís value has been enhanced--usually in the thousands of dollars--even if the
property owner has a perfectly good well and septic system, and opts not to tie into
the new municipal lines. Failure to pay can eventually lead to eviction, and the
property being auctioned off).
Carl Drega could see what was coming. He couldnít have been ignorant of the government
tactics used to ambush and murder harmless civilians at Waco and Ruby Ridge. He bought
a $575 AR-15--the legal, semi-auto version of the standard military M-16--in a gun
store in Waltham, Massachusetts, a state with some of the most restrictive gun laws
in America. He also began equipping his property with early-warning electronic noise
and motion detectors against the inevitable government assault.
Too light a round
But they didnít come for Carl Drega at home. On Tuesday Aug. 19, at about 2:30 on a
warm summer afternoon, New Hampshire State Troopers Leslie Lord, 45 (a former police
chief of nearby Pittsburg) and Scott Phillips, 32, arrested Drega in the parking lot
of LaPerleís IGA supermarket in neighboring Colebrook, N.H.
("Arrest" comes from the French word for "stop." Whenever agents of the state brace
a citizen, stop him and demand to see his papers, he has been "arrested," no matter
whether he has been "read his rights," no matter what niceties the court may apply
to the various steps of the process).
Why was Carl Drega arrested that day? New Hampshire Attorney General Phillip
McLaughlin pulls out his best weasel words, reporting the troopers had stopped
Dregaís pickup because of a "perception of defects." Earlier wire accounts reported
they were preparing to ticket him for having "rust holes in the bed of his pickup
But Carl Drega had had enough. He walked back to Trooper Lordís cruiser and shot
the uniformed government agent seven times. Then he shot Trooper Philips, as the
brave officer attempted to run away. Both died. Drega then commandeered Lordís cruiser
and drove to the office of former selectman--now lawyer and part-time Judge--Vickie
Bunnell, 44. Bunnell reportedly carried a handgun in her purse out of fear of Drega.
But if so, she evidently had no well-thought-out plan to use it. Bunnell ran out the
back. Drega calmly walked to the rear of the building and shot her in the back from a
range of about 30 feet. Bunnell died. Dennis Joos, 50, editor of the local Colebrook
News and Sentinel, worked in the office next door. Unarmed, he ran out and tackled
Drega. Drega walked about 15 feet with Joos still clutching him around the legs,
advising the editor to "Mind your own (expletive) business," according to reporter
Claire Knapper of the local weekly.
Joos did not let go. Drega shot Joos in the spine. He died. Drega then drove across
the state line to Bloomfield, Vt., where he fired at New Hampshire Fish and Game
Warden Wayne Saunders, sending his car off the road. Saunders was struck on the
badge and in the arm, but his injuries were not considered life-threatening.
Police from various agencies soon spotted the abandoned police cruiser Drega had
been driving ... still in Vermont. As they approached the vehicle, they began taking
fire from a nearby hilltop where Drega had positioned himself, apparently still armed
with the AR-15 and about 150 rounds of ammunition. Although he managed to wound two
more New Hampshire state troopers and a U.S. Border Patrol agent before he himself
was killed by police gunfire, none of those injuries were life-threatening, either.
(Those preparing to defend themselves against assaults by armed government agents on
their own property should take note that these failures do not appear attributable to
Dregaís marksmanship--after all, he scored plenty of hits--but rather to his dependence
on the now-military-standard .223 cartridge, which has nowhere near the stopping power
of the previous NATO standard .308, or the even earlier U.S. standard 30.06. Some
states wonít even allow deer to be hunted with the .223, due to its low likelihood
of producing a "clean kill" with one hit).
Fertilizer and tractor fuel
Immediately, the demonization of Carl Drega began. A neighbor told the Globe
about seeing a police cruiser pull up to the Drega house at 2:50 p.m., and leave at 3:10
p.m., minutes before smoke began to pour from the house. Ignoring the likelihood that a
uniformed officer might have been sent to see if Drega had gone home, "Authorities
believe the fire was set by Drega," the Globe reported on Aug. 20, thereafter reporting
as a matter of established fact that Drega burned down his own home. Isnít it funny how
they always do that?
Searching the barn and the remaining property later that week, "Authorities found 450
pounds of ammonium nitrate, the substance used in the World Trade Center and Oklahoma
City bombings, as well as cans of diesel fuel," came the breathless Aug. 31 report by
Boston Globe reporter Royal Ford.
Trenches on the property held PVC pipe carrying wires to remote noise and motion
detectors. No remote booby-traps were discovered, though the barn and a hillside
bunker contained ammunition, parts for AK-47s and the AR-15, "and a few boxes of
silver dollars," as well as "homemade blasting caps, guns, night scopes, a bullet-proof
helmet (sic) and books on bombs and booby traps," as well as "the makings of 86 pipe
"The makings," eh? I wonder how many wholesale hardware outlets in this country
currently stock "the makings" of 8,600 pipe bombs? The FBI was johnny on the spot, of
course, helping New Hampshire State Police Sgt. John McMaster search the three-story
barn, with its "concrete bunkers" containing not only ammunition, but also "canned
food, soda, and a refrigerator."
(I wonder if my basement would suddenly become a "concrete bunker" if I had a run-in
with the law? How about yours?)
But it was the 400 pounds of ammonium nitrate (the estimate kept dropping during the
week) and the 61 gallons of diesel fuel in five-gallon containers that gave authorities
"Realizing the he had walked into the most dangerous private arsenal he had ever seen,
McMaster began climbing the stairs to the second floor," reported Brian MacQuarrie
and Judy Rakowsky of the Boston Globe on Aug. 22. "Halfway up, (State
Trooper Jack) Meaney shouted for him to stop: He had just picked up a bomb-making
manual opened to a chapter on how to booby-trap stairs...
"The large stores of dangerous materials, combined with the discovery of three
instruction manuals on explosives and booby traps, helped persuade N.H. authorities
that they should destroy the barn with a controlled burn and explosion," which they
"Some federal agents initially questioned the plan to destroy the huge cache of
evidence that may have shown whether Drega had links to militia groups or criminals,"
the Globe also breathlessly reports, though the paper at least had the
decency to note no such affiliations were ever established.
(One wonders whether the newspaper would have given equal play to someone lamenting
that they thus lost the chance to search for hypothetical links between Drega and the
Irish Republic Army, Drega and the Ted Kennedy campaign staff, or Drega and the
Buddhist nuns who laundered campaign contributions for Al Gore).
Ammonium nitrate is, of course, a common fertilizer, sold in 50-pound bags to anyone
who wants it--no questions asked--in garden stores in all 50 states.
Farmers all over the nation store more than 60 gallons of diesel fuel at a time, and
even know how to combine the diesel fuel with the ammonium nitrate to make a relatively
weak explosive, useful in blowing up tree stumps. Purchase of blasting caps for this
purpose is also perfectly legal. If this and a few hundred rounds of military surplus
ammo constituted "the most dangerous private arsenal" the head of the New Hampshire
state police bomb squad had ever seen, he must not get out much. Anyway, the buildings
are all burned to the ground now--just like at Waco--and the newspaper reporters--
trained to just report the facts and never express opinions--had ruled within days
that Carl Drega was "diabolical and paranoid."
The remaining question is, did government agents Vickie Bunnell, Leslie Lord, and
Scott Phillips deserve to die? Did Carl Drega pick the right time and place to say
"Thatís as many of my rights as youíre going to take; it stops right here?"
Or IS that the right question? The problem with the question is that the oppressor
state and its ant-like agents are both devious and clever: Except when faced with
overt resistance and a chance to make an example of some social outcasts on TV, they
rarely send black-clad agents to pour out of cattle trailers in our front yards, guns
No, they generally see to it that our chemical castration is so gradual that there
can NEVER be a majority consensus that this is finally the right time to respond in
force. In this death of a thousand cuts weíre ALWAYS confronted with some harmless
old functionary who obviously loves his grandkids, some pleasant young bureaucrat who
doubtless loves her cat and bakes cookies for her co-workers and smilingly assures us
sheís "just doing her job" as she requests our Social Security number here ...
our thumbprint there ... the signed permission slip from your kidís elementary school
principal for possessing a gun within a quarter-mile of the school ... and a urine
sample, please, if youíll just follow the matron into the little room ...
"Those are the rules," after all, "everybody has to do it; I just do what they tell
me; if you donít like it you can write your congressman." When ... when is it finally
the right moment to respond, "Iíll tell you what; why donít you take this steel-cored
round of .223 to my congressman? In fact, take him a whole handful, and tell him to
have a nice day ... when you see him in hell!"?
Carl Drega decided the day to finally say that, was the day they came to arrest him
on the private property of a supermarket parking lot, supposedly for having rust holes
in the bed of his pickup.
Does anyone believe thatís really why they stopped Carl Drega?
Lots more coming
I am not--repeat, not--advising anyone to go forth and start shooting cops and
bureaucrats. To start with, oneís own life expectancy at that point grows quite short,
limiting oneís options to continue fighting for freedom on other fronts.
Most of us--unlike Carl Drega--also have families to think of. Third, there may be
other solutions. Just as much of the farmland near Rome sat vacant by the fall of the
Roman Empire--it simply proved cheaper to move on than to endure the confiscatory
Roman taxes--so do James Dale Davidson and William Rees-Mogg predict in their new
book, "The Sovereign Individual," that Internet encryption may allow many to spirit
their hard-earned assets beyond the reach of this newer, oppressive slave state,
making "the tax man in search of someone to audit" the laughing stock of the 21st
And finally, such a course invites obvious risks of mistaken identity, collateral
damage to relatively innocent bystanders (witness newspaperman Coos), and an end to
due process ... a concept for which I still harbor some respect, even if our government
oppressors do not. What I do know is, in little more than 30 years, we have gone from
a nation where the "quiet enjoyment" of oneís private property was a sacred right, to
a day when the so-called property "owner" faces a hovering hoard of taxmen and
regulators threatening to lien, foreclose, and "go to auction" at the first sign of
private defiance of their collective will ... a relationship between government and
private property rights which my dictionary defines as "fascism."
Carl Drega tried to fight them, for years, on their own terms and in their own
courts. We know how far that got him.
What I do know is that this is why the tyrants are moving so quickly to take away our
Because they know in their hearts that if they continue the way theyíve been going,
boxing Americans into smaller and smaller corners, leaving us no freedom to decide
how to raise and school and discipline our kids, no freedom to purchase (or do without)
the medical care we want on the open market, no freedom to withdraw $2,500 from our
own bank accounts (let alone move it out of the country) without federal permission,
no freedom even to arrange the dirt and trees on our own property to please ourselves
... if they keep going down this road, there are going to be a lot more Carl Dregas,
hundreds of them, thousands of them, fed up and not taking it any more, a lot more
pools of blood drawing flies in the municipal parking lots, a lot more self-righteous
government weasels who were "only doing their jobs" twitching their death-dances in
the warm afternoon sun ... and soon.
When is the right time to say, "Enough, no more. On this spot I stand, and fight,
and die"? When theyíre stacking our luggage and loading us on the box cars? A fat lot
of good it will do us, then. Mr. Jefferson declared for us that "whenever any Form
of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People, to
alter or abolish it."
Was Mr. Jefferson only saying we have a right to vote in a new crop of politicians
every couple of years, as the pro-government extremists insist? No. The Declaration
fearlessly declared that the Minutemen of Lexington and Concord had been right to
shoot down Redcoats who were "only doing their jobs" in Massachusetts the year
before. And it put the nations of the world on notice that Gen. Washington was
planning to shoot, himself, a whole lot more.
"You must be kidding!" come the outraged cries. "This guy shot a fleeing woman in the
Oh, pardon me. Did Judge Bunnell propose to fight a straightforward duel with Mr.
Drega, one on one, mano a mano, to determine who should have a right to decide whether
he could build a tarpaper shack on his own property?
Of course not. The top bureaucrats generally manage to be sipping lemonade on the
porch when the process they put in motion "reaches its final conclusion," with padlocks
and police tape and furniture on the sidewalk ... or the incinerated resister buried
in the ashes. Go watch "Escape from Sobibor." When the Jewish concentration camp
inmates finally start to kill their German oppressors, tell me how long you spend
worrying that they "didnít give the poor, jackbooted fellows a fair, sporting chance."
Each and every one of us must decide for him or herself when the day has come to stand
fast, raise our weapons to our shoulders, and (quoting president Jefferson, this time)
water the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots, and of tyrants. Give up the right
to make that decision, and we become nothing better than the beasts in the field,
waiting to be milked until we can give no more, and then shuffling off without
objection, heads bowed, to the soap factory.
Carl Drega was a resident of New Hampshire. On the day Carl Drega decided was a good
day to die--on the day they towed it away--the license plates on his rusty pickup
still bore the New Hampshire state motto: "Live Free or Die."
Carl Drega was different from most of us, all right. He believed it still meant
Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas
Review-Journal. Readers may contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The web
site for the Suprynowicz column is at http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The
column is syndicated in the United States and Canada via Mountain Media
Syndications, P.O. Box 4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.
© 1997 Vin Suprynowicz
The national media finished off what the local media had begun a decade ago: Carl
Drega spent the last ten years of his life defending his property from the
bureaucrats who wanted to steal it. Instead of reporting the truth while one man
fought valiantly to protect his life's work from those who would steal it, the local
media chose to ridicule Carl Drega. Finally, after being forced to exhaust all of his
resources in a futile attempt to defend his property and his innocence, Carl Drega
had had enough. Unavailable in the courtroom, and with no help from the local lapdog
media, Carl Drega had only one option left to find justice. Then he died.
After he was dead and after several others were dead, did the national media tell the
truth? Or, did the national media paint Carl Drega as a kook with possible militia
ties? Why is it the pattern and practice of the media to demonize people who believe
that they have a right to protect their property from thieves?
What you just read is the truth. What you just read should have been how Carl Drega
would be remembered. If what you just read had been written ten years ago, Carl
Drega would still have his house and the corrupt individuals who tried to steal it
might still be alive.
Any "news" person in New Hampshire who knew the truth and failed to report it should
be ashamed. A piece of America died with Carl Drega. If the "justice" system and the
media do not start seeking and reporting the truth, more pieces of America are
destined to die.
The above story is so moving that you may cancel your subscription to the Times.
Remember Carl Drega as reported here--he deserves that much from all of us.