Getting By In Wyoming, by DBF

Retiring back in Wyoming, where I grew up, has been a real blessing. I had way too much of living in cities during my thirty years with the military. I think a lot of folks out here could be called preppers, but for us it is just the smart way to do things. We don’t have to wait for the system to collapse; every year the weather, or some other thing, has us getting by on our own. We use a lot of the techniques discussed on SurvivalBlog, and there are a few others I’ll list here that you might want to think about.

Fire Starter

I carry a few pieces of inner tube rubber in the pocket of each jacket. Once lit, one will burn hot, and is pretty tough to blow out. A piece the size of a matchbook will burn for five minutes. They work best if you snip a series of cuts in them from one edge to make a fringe.

Dressing Too Warmly

I heard that the Eskimos have a rule about not leaving home without enough clothing to survive the night. I try to follow that rule too, but what do you do with that jacket when you are hiking in the heat of the day? You can overhand knot the sleeves around your waist, but you’ll be constantly pulling up the jacket and tightening the knot. Along with the inner tube rubber, I also keep a piece of shoelace in my pocket. Tying the lace around the knotted sleeves keeps the knot from slipping.


These days, without a cup of coffee, I just don’t have the go-power to start my morning. Except for a little that is grown in Hawaii, all our coffee is imported. I used to worry about losing that supply, but it’s really the caffeine that I need. There are several plants here that can be used to make coffee substitutes, but they don’t have the caffeine. I found I can add a pinch of pure caffeine to other drinks and get the same lift. (Two grains of pure caffeine equals a cup of coffee.) So, $20 buys something like a 20-year supply of caffeine.

Alcohol Stove

I don’t understand why these aren’t more popular among the preppers. Non-pressurized alcohol stoves are widely used on sailboats because they are safe, never fail, and the fuel stores forever. I’m guessing that most folks think you have to purchase alcohol as gas line antifreeze, and they don’t know that many automotive parts stores stock methanol in five gallon containers for about $5 a gallon. I’ve got backup stoves using all of the other fuels, but I usually grab my alcohol stove. There are some good ultralight alcohol stoves for backpacking too.


If you or someone you know drinks those boxed wines, save the plastic bladders. They are tough and have a wide, air-tight opening. Some are Mylar. Here are a few of the uses I’ve found for them:

  • Put a little shredded foam rubber or down inside to make an insulated, inflatable seat pad or pillow.
  • Fill them with grains, legumes, or other foods for food storage.
  • They make good hot water bottles and cold packs.
  • They keep dog food dry inside a dog’s pack, which is no small feat.
  • Fill them with drinks or sauces. They can be safely frozen.

Toilet Paper

I’ve been told that outhouses once had Sears catalogs instead of toilet paper. I think that all ended when the catalogs went to glossy pages. Well, those phone books that keep showing up in your mailbox aren’t glossy, and they are easy to store. Cowboy up; they are way softer than corncobs.


If you are going to be out in the wide open spaces, get yourself a real rifle. I guess those carbines have a place in the city, but out here a rifle needs at least a 20-inch barrel. In addition to the velocity loss and the muzzle blast, those little guns are just too hard to hold steady when you have to shoot without a rest.


It used to be that grain came in jute or woven plastic sacks, and we used them for all sorts of things. The grain sacks are now paper, but you can buy woven plastic sandbags. If you shop the web and buy in quantity, sandbags can be had for less than twenty cents each. I recently got 1000 camouflaged bags for $175. That may sound like a lot of bags, but do the math; you will likely find you need at least that many. An eight-foot square shelter/bunker with overhead protection will take every one of them. That bunker will stand up to a lot of storms, radiation, and bullets. Old barbed wire laid between the layers of bags keeps the bags from slipping. Sunlight breaks down the material in these bags, so if they can’t be shaded, smear them with mud.


Some hunters use these for sneaking up on antelope. You need one in your bunker. While you are peeking over the top of your sandbags trying to locate a threat, that threat may be steadying his crosshairs on your head. Mine is a 5X sportscope/periscope for $50.

Backup Heat

Last winter we had a storm that left us snowbound and without power for a week. It was no big deal; it didn’t even make the news. I’ve got lots of warm clothes. However, if the waterlines in the house were to freeze and burst, that would be a big deal. I get by burning wood as a backup heat source, but I need electrical power to run the 110 volt blower to get much heat output. Rather than run my generator twenty-four hours a day, I added a 12-volt blower from a car heater. I can power that with a car battery when the generator isn’t running.

No Heat

Because you may have to leave the house for days at a time, be prepared to protect the plumbing when the fire dies out. This is a fairly involved process, but it is absolutely essential if your pipes are to survive a long power outage in freezing temperatures. The waterlines and appliances must be drained, and the sewer lines must be protected with antifreeze:

  1. Start by shutting off the water supply to the house.
  2. Turn off the hot water heater and drain it. While it is draining, sequentially open each hot water faucet for a minute; you will draw some of the hot water out of the lines. IMPORTANT: Never have the water heater turned on, unless the tank is full of water.
  3. The lines to the freezeless outdoor faucets are likely to be the first things to freeze, since they extend outside the house. Even a lot of plumbers don’t know that water will not drain through a freezeless faucet with gravity alone. These lines must be blown out with air pressure, just like lawn sprinkler systems get blown out in the fall. I have made up an adapter that connects my air compressor air tank to a faucet inside the house (not a freezeless faucet). If air is pumped directly from the compressor into the line, it will just bubble through without moving much water. This is why I suggest you connect to the air tank; to blow out waterlines, a large volume of low pressure air needs to be dumped into the waterline all at once. Put no more than 60 psi in the tank, open a faucet at the far end of a line to be drained, and then open the air valve to dump the air into the line.
  4. To drain the other lines, repeat this, sequentially opening each water faucet inside the house (hot and cold) one at a time. Treat the water heater input valve as one of these faucets, i.e., closed except when blowing out that line. For the hot water lines, the water heater tank will be dissipating most of your pressure so you may need to pressurize it first, and then open the hot water faucets. There is still going to be water in the lines going to water users, like the toilets, washing machine, dishwasher, water softener, pressure pump, and filters. Each of these will have to be operated with the air pressure on to get the water out of the lines, then drained, or pumped/sponged out.
  5. The sewer drain lines do not have water in them, except for the toilets and drain traps. A lot of this water can be forced out using a toilet plunger. The remaining water must be protected from freezing by adding about a cup of RV antifreeze.
  6. Remember that there are other things in the house, like jars of food and drinks, that can freeze and break, too.


Whether it is moving cattle or fixing the road, few people would last long here without a hand from their neighbors. I’m thankful they have been there to help me; I’m always looking for ways I can help them too. When I buy something, like food storage, sand bags, surgical masks, and other items, I always get extra so I’ll have something to share. I’ve found that when people’s resources get scarce, people you can trust get scarce too. The best defense against that is sharing. Those with nothing to share had better be willing to work. I’ve got some hard jobs waiting for them. I have little enthusiasm for helping folks who won’t help themselves. Remember Who is John Galt?. As for those surgical masks, as a kid I had hay fever and had to wear one anytime I worked around grain dust or livestock. I found it was impossible to keep a good seal against my face until I learned to wet the paper edge of the mask.

Warning Signs

At my turnoff, I have a sign that says “Welcome”. These are good times; I’m glad to entertain strangers. If the times ever get bad and I feel someone crossing onto my property represents a threat, I have different signs ready to put up. I don’t plan to put myself at risk by going out to talk with them about it. These signs make it very clear that coming any closer will not be tolerated.


Out here, it would be tough to get by without a good dog. He is a beloved member of the family and has real work to do. However, a bad dog cannot be tolerated. You must not keep a dog that is not compatible with your family and your neighbors. Good breeding will go a long way toward ensuring a good dog, and serious training is essential. Your dog must be reliable enough to have the run of the property. A chained dog cannot do his work and is vulnerable to predators. Keeping a dog chained is no substitute for training. Eventually he will get off the chain and be twice as bad as before. Ideally, you should have two dogs with staggered ages. Two dogs can do four times the work of one. Sadly, they don’t live forever, so having a second dog makes the loss of your best friend a little less traumatic.


I’ve seen some postings about using solar power to keep music players, electronic games, and even videos operating. It seems to me that this is just perpetuating some of the same nonsense that got this country into the mess it is in. If you want entertainment, learn to play an instrument. Pick up a guitar or a fiddle (no accordions please) and spend a few hours learning the basics. If you think you don’t have the time, get rid of that stinking TV set. Stick with it for a week, and you will be playing some simple songs and having a good time doing it. Also, sing along. Don’t worry if you aren’t gifted with a good voice; half of today’s popular singers don’t have one either. If you do have a good voice, you’ll literally be able to sing for your supper. If your voice is not so great, you can still lead others in sing-along songs, and if your voice is so bad it makes your dog howl, get a harmonica or penny whistle. Music builds camaraderie and lifts spirits. It has been an important part of troops marching, church congregations, Boy Scouts at campfires, and sailors at sea. A musician will always be a valued part of the community.

Public Land

A large part of the west is public land that can be identified as school sections, state lands, National Forest, BLM, parks and monuments, military reservations, and more. I have read numerous postings by preppers who include this public land as a bug out destination– a place they can go to “live off the land”. In the interest of avoiding conflicts, let me explain how the locals would feel about these people showing up and setting up camp. The majority of public land is permitted/leased for uses such as grazing; mineral, oil, and gas extraction; cabins and homes; and timber sales. Some of these permit holders are big outfits with lots of employees. They build the roads, fences, buildings, mines, wells, and water systems. Many permits are permanently obligated to nearby “base property” owners. The land (and its water) is vital to their livelihood, and they are very protective of it. I’m not making any moral or legal judgments here, but I am explaining why I tread lightly when I’m on “their” lease land.

Thank you for your tips in SurvivalBlog. They have been a help to me, and I hope mine can be of some use to you, too.