I am not like most people; mainly because of the way I was raised as a child. Hunting, fishing, trapping, and outdoor/survival skills were not only practiced but often encouraged by my father. In hindsight I can say it wasn’t necessarily that he thought I might need the skills someday. I think it was more because it was a good way to keep me and my brothers out of trouble. It seemed to work.
My father was always the type of guy to take us out of school for the important things in life. The opening day of fall firearms deer season (a damn near holiday in Michigan), a week of spring camping ‘up north’ in the backwoods of Fairview, Michigan to turkey hunt, even when we were too young to hunt.
As my father always says, “There are some things that schools just can’t teach.”
Too bad not everyone sees it that way.
One of my early experiences of ‘roughing it’ was with a friend when we were about 12 years old. He and I hiked to a remote spot on a piece of State land in the dog days of summer. We set up a tent and brought with us no supplies other than matches, oil, flour, a couple of empty canteens, fillet knives, a travel fishing pole each and of course, our Crossman pellet rifles. Not those underpowered Daisy lever-actions, but the good [Crosman] Model 760s.
We boiled our water from a nearby lake, we ate bullheads (Michigan’s version of a small catfish) from that same lake for breakfast, lunch and dinner for two days. We started our own fires from tinder and down logs in the area. We then hunted blackbirds with our pellet rifles because squirrels were scarce, and fish just didn’t sound appealing any longer.
I hate to sound clichéd, but believe it or not, blackbirds taste like chicken – they have dark and light meat like a turkey though. Just remember if you attempt this on your own, you need about ten birds per person to make a meal. Our blackbirds went just fine with the cattail roots we dug up and boiled like potatoes for dinner on the last night of our adventure.
My friend and I later critiqued our successful trip, knowing that we could do ‘it’. That we could survive on our own if need be.
Many years later I reflect back on that incident, and although I am one of few people I know who has eaten blackbird, I also know that we were extremely naïve that we could do ‘it’ on our own. A fine example of the innocence of youth.
Now having my own family, a wife and two small boys, I know I could not do it on my own. I know that at some point in time I am going to have to sleep and cannot protect my family 24/7. I know that any knowledge I have will be woefully underscored by the knowledge of a joined group. I understand that the work I would have to do to provide for my family in a disaster situation can be lessened by more members of a combined ‘family’. Many hands do make light work.
So although I was on board with combining a larger family if the need arises, I had other people to convince.
First was my wife.
This was easier than I expected. I persuaded my then citified wife, who is the exact polar opposite of me in most things in real life, to read a couple of survival books; fiction and non-fiction. She agreed much to my astonishment, if of course you call reading listening and buying the books downloading them to MP3. Whoever said print is dead is right.
The change of direction in my wife’s way of thinking amazed me. She immediately began to ask ‘what if’ questions and prepare for disaster situations. She required the off-road stroller be kept in her vehicle at all times in case she had to walk with the children if her vehicle became disabled during an event. She keeps extra water in her car and even asked me to plan the easiest routes home for her avoiding expressways and major travel arteries.
Of course, not everything with the Misses has gone according to plan. While talking about routes of travel, I advised her that she should rest during the day and travel only at night, walking like she was on a battlefield.
Her response, as though she immediately knew better, was, “Well, I’m going with a different plan.”
Much to my consternation I asked what that was.
My wife smiled and said bluntly, “I’m going with the idea that the good in people will outweigh the bad.”
“Yeah,” I replied, “let me know how that works for you.”
Conversation between my wife and I next turned to planning on who to invite to our retreat/home. It was decided on her family as mine all live several hundred miles away. And invite isn’t so much the right word. More like convince.
I would like to say that it was easy to convince my in-laws to leave their city homes in a disaster situation as it was to convince my wife to read (well, listen to) the survival books I had suggested. It wasn’t for some of them.
When I first suggested the idea, my mother-in-law looked up from her Kindle wireless reading device and asked mockingly, “What type of books are you reading exactly?”
“Don’t you know that print is dead?” I asked sarcastically. “I’m not reading any books. This is about lifestyle change in case things go bad.”
I proceeded to tell her, and the rest of my in-laws, about my concerns of a ‘double-dip’ recession leading to depression, pandemics, food or fuel shortages, extended power outages, natural disasters, economic collapse of a deflated or hyper-inflated dollar and the worst case scenario, the disintegration of our government.
My mother-in-law stopped me on the last one and stated, “Well, I really don’t think I want to be around if that happens.”
I didn’t say anything, but thought, ‘I wonder of Romans thought the same thing as their Empire fell around them?’
I then asked my in-laws to think about it and just do something simple at first. Start out small and build from there has always been my philosophy. I asked them to start sorting their change – saving all pre-1965 dimes and quarters and start saving nickels. Everyone was shocked to find out that a pre 1965 dime has, at the time we were talking about it anyway, about $2.65 worth of silver in it.
A few days later my father-in-law responded to the above request by stating that he didn’t think saving coins was ‘where it was at’. He believed that having cash on hand was more important. When my wife (yes, it was actually my wife who piped up first) retorted back that paper money would have no value in an economic collapse, my father-in-law responded carelessly by stating that he could be reached at their cottage near Reed City, Michigan and that if the phone lines were down, we could send him a letter there.
“Great idea,” I told my wife, “he has no firearms, no coins, nothing to barter with, and zero food.”
So back at the disaster preparedness drawing board, I set out my concerns on paper. By the time I was done I had seven pages of why we need to prepare along with travel routes to our retreat (and a secondary retreat in case the primary is compromised) both driving and walking. I ran down a list on what to pack and what not to pack – including a note to my sister-in-law to leave her ‘beauty products’ at home as they couldn’t be bartered for anything. I concluded with what we will continue to do in the next few years, as a group, to fully prepare for an extended disaster event, including food stocks, ammunition purchases, medical supplies, et cetera.
Well, something must have clicked. Our preparedness family went from two adults (my wife and I) to seven adults (father-, mother-, daughter-, her husband, and brother-in-law).
“Nice work,” my wife and brother-in-law both said when they heard the news. My brother-in-law had been a steadfast supporter since the beginning.
“Thanks, but seven is an unlucky number,” I said.
My wife looked at me, mouth agape, before she responded, “I do believe that seven is a lucky number.”
“Not when you need shifts of two or four for security patrols,” I responded.
I turned to my brother-in-law and asked, “What about your friend, Ryan? He seems to have a good head on his shoulders.”
“No way,” my wife responded hastily. “Family only.”
My brother-in-law stated flatly, “Yeah, you might want to reconsider. Ryan has a generator, has over 2,000 rounds of ammunition stored in his basement and is a self taught auto mechanic.”
I could only think back to my father’s words right then.
‘There are some things that schools just can’t teach.’
Without hesitation, I replied, “Ryan’s in.”
We are just starting this adventure of preparing for the worst. I have no idea where it will take us, other than giving us the peace of mind that when ‘it’ does hit the fan, we will be ready.