CONCORD, NH (AP) – The days of an off-grid New Hampshire man living as a hermit seem over. “River Dave,” whose cabin in the woods burned down after nearly three decades on a property he was ordered to vacate, says he doesn’t think he can resume his way of life.
“I don’t see how I could ever be a hermit again because society won’t allow it,” David Lidstone said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Lidstone, 81, said that even if he could rebuild his cabin, which burned down last week, “I would have people coming in every weekend so I can’t get out of the company anymore. I hid too many years and made relationships, and those relationships continued to develop. “
Lidstone, a professional lumberjack who chopped his firewood and grew his food in the woods along the River Merrimack in the town of Canterbury, said he was not mourning the loss of his life in isolation.
“Maybe the things I tried to avoid are the things I really need in life,” said Lidstone, who has moved away from his family. “I grew up never being hugged or kissed, or any close contact.
“Someone once asked me about my wife, ‘Did you really love her? And the question shocked me a bit for a second. I … I never loved anyone in my life. And I got shocked because I didn’t realize it. And that’s why I was a hermit. Now I can see a love expressed that I had never had before. “
He was jailed on July 15 for civil contempt and was told he would be released if he agreed to leave the cabin following a land dispute that dates back to 2016. Landowner Leonard Giles, 86 year-old from South Burlington, Vermont, wanted Lidstone to leave the property.
The property, unbuilt and mainly used for harvesting timber, has been in the same family since 1963.
Lidstone had said that a former owner of the family had given his word years ago that he could live there, but had nothing in writing. He later disputed that he was even on the property. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.
Canterbury Fire Chief Michael Gamache said while the investigation is not complete and arson is not ruled out as a potential cause, the blaze was more likely caused by an accident. He said a representative for Giles who began tearing down the cabin on August 4 deactivated the solar panels, which still contained an electrical charge. He also used an electric saw to cut metal brackets that held the panels to the roof. Either action could have created sparks to start smoking things up.
“He finished his day around a quarter to three and a fire was noticed around 3:15 am,” Gamache said.
He also said it was also possible that the results were inconclusive. “At the moment, there is nothing more to do on the site.”
In the meantime, many people across the country and beyond have offered to help Lidstone, either by raising money or providing him with a place to live. Lidstone said he was grateful for all the support. He is still trying to find out where he would go next, although he wouldn’t mind staying in New Hampshire, where he has developed a strong relationship.
One proposal under consideration is that he live on a property belonging to the Concord Friends Meeting, a Quaker meeting in Canterbury which is not far from the hut site. Lidstone worked on the meeting house while it was being built in 2010. The congregation is expected to come to an agreement on the matter.
The property overlooks the Merrimack.
“It certainly occurred to us that this is a neighbor in need,” said Richard Kleinschmidt, co-clerk of the Quakers meeting, “and how can we help him? “
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