By Harold, Editor-At-Large
July 4th every tenth year, we have a family reunion on my Dad’s side of the family. This year, I happened to be the oldest survivor, (There were a couple of cousins-in-law that were a couple of years older than I, but I was the oldest direct descendant at 70.) remaining of my Dad and his brother’s families. I had several younger second cousins and the conversation got around to the world situation and our economy and how we felt for the coming future.
In Defense of Survival
They were aware that I have long advocated keeping food in reserve to weather the hard times, not because I am religious, but because our first years of marriage were hard times indeed. When pressed to define my mindset, I was a bit cautious because how I feel about myself and my description has been so bastardized in the media and public just as the word gay is now used to describe homosexuals and has no bearing as a descriptive factor.
I told them that I considered myself a survivor, equipped in both mind and possessions and even though I now have health issues, I intended to survive as long as possible no matter what happened. I had repeatedly stressed that the media had misconstrued the “survivor” tag as some mentally defective person who was a threat to society and this was not what I was. I have long advocated keeping your skills up-to-date, learning new skills and keeping a supply of goods on hand to enable you to become a survivor when the rest of the world goes down.
After being bombarded with a lot of ballyhoo, I issued a challenge to one of the second cousins and two of his sons. This cousin was in his forties and one son was in his twenties and the other nearing the end of his teenage years. I have a small patch of woods immediately adjacent to my property and I challenged them to spend a night in the woods with me, within sight of my house using only things they could gather in fifteen minutes and be limited to what they could carry on a web pistol belt or in a shoulder bag. A pack was not permitted and fifteen minutes was all the time allocated.
We had been in the basement for several hours rotating my stock and restocking in a different manner since my survival strategy has switched from bugging out to bugging in and as a consequence a lot of the material I will no longer need and will probably either sell it to relations or swap for something more usable. They were free to pick from the supplies I had on the table to spend the night.
To the Woods
In seventeen minutes, we left the house and entered the woods to spend the evening. The two boys soon consumed the trail snacks they had grabbed and one of them even had an empty canteen. I had my web pistol belt with the old army suspenders we used in the 60′s that had the two magazine pouches on the front of the suspenders. I had a sheath knife, a handi tool, a quart stainless water bottle in the round carrying container that has the extra pouch sewed on it and inside the container is a small pot on the bottom, the bottle and then a cup on top. In the small square pouch, I had my little knockdown hobo stove, some soup packets, zip lock bags, cordage, tea and sweetener packets and a small first aid kit in one of those aluminum wallets they sell in wallyworld. On the back of my belt, army style like we used to do, I had a light weight poncho, a blanket, two 55 gallon garbage bags and a full mosquito net all folded neatly together and draped over the belt secured by small bungee cords. I had also gathered up a gallon jug of water and an inflatable cushion because I have a prostate condition requiring this.
We entered the woods at around six pm and the mosquitoes were very intense and voracious. One of the cruelest things about nature, is the stinkier and dirtier you get, the more the insects and other vermin will let you alone. I discovered this the hard way as a boy when I would go to the woods after chores (milking cows, feeding pigs, chickens, gathering eggs, etc.) for the day to cut timber to fulfill a contract for bridge flooring my Dad had with the county. When I started out clean and fresh from a shower, the mosquitoes would really be hungry. By afternoon, they did not bother me so much. One evening I watched one try to impale my arm and after several tries when it could not penetrate my skin and I killed it. Still had to have my shower in the evenings (after we had running water and a dip in the creek before that) just to be able to live with myself.
Dealing with Mosquitoes
I pulled several dryer sheets I had grabbed from the laundry room and stuffed in one of the magazine pouches along with a can of beanie weenies and two of the mountain house pouches with scrambled eggs, ham and peppers. I still had room in the other pouch for some other incidental items I took, like my glucose tester and diabetes pills. I had immediately hung a dryer sheet on my shirtfront when I entered the woods and the mosquitoes were leaving me alone. I set up my little stove and gathered a large pile of dry twigs and small branches from the litter on the floor of the woods, (I try and leave it in it’s natural state as much as possible) and got a fire going in a few minutes and then threw some green leaves from a black walnut tree in the woods and smoked the area good. I suggested they stand in the smoke until it saturated their clothing and then the mosquitoes would leave them alone.
Axes, Bow Saws and Safety
One item to add in this little posting was this is the same second cousin who a year or so ago, bought an axe and promptly nearly cut his leg off. He said he knew not to cut green growing trees, but thought since the tree was dead it would be okay. It was a hickory and hitting a dead hickory is just like hitting a spring. Ax rebounded and cut his leg badly just above the boot. I told him never to do that and to only use wood that is already broken up and lying freely on the floor of the woods. His statement was that you could build a cook fire for several months just on what was scattered on the floor alone. I told him that while that was true, the need to keep your fire area completely clear of clutter, leaves, dead wood, etc, was imperative because of that factor of burning for quite some time.
I know he learned a lesson on proper use of an ax since he wanted to know how I cut my wood and I took the bow saw frame out of the scabbard, put it together and set the blade in it and cut wood three times as fast as you could chop it. He said, I guess you don’t take an ax to the woods with you then and I told him not since I was a young man lopping tree branches off the downed trees so we could cut them into logs and had the bow saw been invented then, I would have used it. I carry it with frame dismounted and two extra blades (3 in all) in a machete scabbard and it weighs less than a hand ax.
Before I even fixed myself some soup for my evening meal, I had to apply some Vicks vapo rub on one of the boys’ neck and face to keep him from getting further eaten up by the mosquitoes. I graciously allowed the one with the empty canteen to fill from my gallon jug and when I took the pot from under my water jug and fueled the fire with good dry large twig pieces, letting it burn down to coals and then put the pot of water on to boil and added the Mrs. Grass’ double noodle soup to the pot, they were ready to eat their belts. I went ahead and ate my soup and then told them that if they wanted to share the other packet of soup I had and the can of beanie weenies they could go ahead and fuel the stove and cook the soup. That was the fastest soup job I ever saw.
As it got darker, I shook out the mosquito net and using some of the cordage, I tied it to several of the saplings in the area and piled up some dry leaves inside and threw the light blanket I had in the roll on the leaves and crawled inside the mosquito net after I had hung a dryer sheet inside it for some time. I only had one mosquito to kill during the night and I could hear them constantly slapping the mosquitoes most of the night.
One Gone By Morning
One of the boys, the youngest, gave up around midnight and returned to the house. At first they were not going to let him in, but they finally relented. This camp out was taking place about seventy-five feet from the house and my woods patch is seventy by one hundred forty in area.
When we woke up the next morning, my second cousin asked me if I was going to take pity on them and let them go to the house for breakfast. I told him no, that I thought it was a twenty four hour period we were going to experience. He really had a glum look on his face until I pulled out the pouches of breakfast. After getting a fire going again and boiling the water to add to the breakfast pouches, they were in a lot better mood. About noon, we called it quits after I had spent the morning on lectures and demonstrations and we went back to the house.
But They Are Willing To Learn
They spent the next two days with my literature and me and looked over what I had planned. Now they want to go spend a week this fall in an eighty-acre patch of timber my brother-in-law has down on the river that is pretty isolated for this part of the country, since my brother-in-law’s house at a mile and a half distance is the closest inhabitant to the area. The plan is to take only what can be carried in a small backpack and pistol belts, no firearms and eat at least one meal a day from what we can gather in the woods.
To tell the truth, I am looking forward to it and if they learn half as much then as they did a couple of days ago, they will be very much the better for it. The younger son of his will not go, but there is another distant cousin who wants to go along with us. I told him that I had treated them no differently than I had my boy scout explorers back in 1958 and the only thing new I had used since then was the Bic lighter to start the fire instead of the Zippo I had back then, and the water bottle, cook pot and the dehydrated rations. I told them that I had used some C rations back then and the beanie weenies were exactly the same as they had been in 1958.
The Old Dog Teaches
I guess us old dogs can teach the younger generation a thing or two still, if they would just listen and utilize this knowledge I try to pass on while I am still here. When I am gone it is gone also and I tell them this.
I may have stepped into something deeper with this than I intended. Cousin now wants to know if they can bring other people along on the week jaunt and if I would consider doing overnight seminars several times a year for small groups. I had to reluctantly inform him that the property we are going to use this fall belongs to a brother-in-law and it is his coon hunting preserve and I was doubtful if he would go along with using it constantly notwithstanding that constant use would rapidly cause deterioration from its natural state. Added to that is my physical health is not good enough to do something like that on a regular basis. I then asked him where he was when I was much younger and could have used the extra help when we did live in the woods and had to do this stuff just to eke out an existence. I told him that if he could make arrangements with property owners that had decent sized woods to conduct such experiments in, I would consider stopping in as my health permitted for several sessions, but would have to be assured of liability insurance being provided for something like that. It is a shame that such a requirement has to be now days due to our litigous society.
It is with deep regret that I have to say that I was unable to finish this week in the woods this past fall due to health limitations. I sure wish I would have been able to do so.
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