81-year-old David “River Dave” Lidstone lived in the woods along the Merrimack River in New Hampshire for nearly three decades.
He was effectively “off the grid” — cutting his own firewood, growing his own food and tending to his chickens. Locals say Lidstone embodies the “live free or die” New Hampshire spirit.
“I’ve done every bit of it. There isn’t a nail in this house I didn’t drive myself” River Dave once told the granite state’s local television as he described his home.
But, River Dave’s off-the-grid existence ended when he was accused of squatting on the land by the property owner. Making matters even worse, his cabin has was burned to the ground and the fire is being investigated by local authorities.
Lidstone, a U.S. Air Force veteran and a father of four, was jailed on July 15 on civil contempt sanction. He was told he would be released if he agreed to leave the cabin. “River Dave” refused.
“You came with your guns, you arrested me, brought me in here, you’ve got all my possessions. You keep ’em. I’ll sit here with your uniform on until I rot, sir,” Lidstone told the judge.
The property owner, 86 year old Leonard Giles of Vermont, claimed that he didn’t even know Lidstone was there until 2015. In his complaint against Lidstone, Giles said he learned of “waste disposal” and the “potential zoning violations” from the town.
Despite the charges, River Dave has many supporters, including his friend of 20 years Jodie Gedeon. An avid kayaker, Gedeon helped organize support for Lidstone.
“He’s just a really, really, big caring guy, and just chooses to live off the grid. It really is about humanity, it really is about compassion, empathy … he’s not hurting anybody,” she said in an interview last week.
Reports claim that the cabin was mostly destroyed in the fire, as firefighters had difficultly locating and reaching the fire. At present, the State Fire Marshal’s Office is reportedly investigating the source of the fire.