In the 1970s as a native Texan living in Houston, I was a listener and reader of Howard Ruff, and I was a devotee of Mel Tappan and Jeff Cooper. I subscribed to Mel Tappan’s Personal Survival and had two of his books– Survival Guns and Tappan on Survival. I even paid to talk to him about preps on the telephone. Then I journeyed to Oregon looking for a place and met the man. I was surprised to see him in a wheel chair, complete with a 45 strapped to the chair. I explained to him about a chapter in his book that I (the newbie) felt had too much diversification. I felt that as a scout I would want a rifle and a pistol in the same caliber, and we had a hearty discussion on it. I still feel the same way, although my feeling is that a scout does not engage in a fight unless he has too.
Then I went to Gunsite and took two practical rifle courses and a pistol course. I went to a school run by “Wally York and Sons” to become a guide and learned to shoot large caliber guns by Elmer Keith. I got real good at shooting my Ruger 44 mag. Then, in 2008, I took a pistol course at Front Site in Nevada. Being in my sixties, I’m not as good as I used to be when I was in my twenties. I feel one should be proficient in both rifle and pistol, although your rifle should be your primary focus. The idea is not to have anybody get that close to you. Going for the pistol is either a last ditch effort or to get to a rifle.
I built a solar still on the roof of my garage (much to the chagrin of my former wife); the results I fed to a ’65 Chevy truck. I found out I needed bigger ports in the carburetor and a fuel filter closer to the engine because the alcohol cleaned out all the rust and debris in the fuel tank. It was simply trial and error.
I had farms in Mississippi, then Florida, and then Idaho. I raised chickens– Buff Opringtons, Rhode Islands Reds, White Leghorns, Aracanas, Minorcas, and meat birds. Of these I like the Buffs the best, as they get broody, and I have had hens raise chicks to add to the flock. I’ve also raised pigs, calves, and horses, and I’ve grown a big organic garden on all the farms. Idaho was the most difficult place to raise a garden, but I struggled through by building a hot house and working with a friend from church, who had a huge green house and had lived his whole life there (except for time he spent in WW2). I grew a lot of my hay, cutting it with a gasoline fueled swather and diesel tractors. Stockpiling diesel was my main concern since the farm trucks ran on diesel. However, I came to the conclusion that if my 2000 gallon bunker of diesel ran out, I was closer to making alcohol than diesel. My thinking was about running the farm, rather than driving anywhere, because in a SHTF scenario, where are you going if there is nothing to be got when you get there?
I had a horse-drawn wagon that could be pulled by a team or a single horse. I also had packing equipment that I used to pack “dudes” into the mountains to hunt and a field with 18 head of horses in it. I also began to think about the situation where you are not where you want to be in a SHTF scenario. One would probably not get there in their vehicle without fuel being available. If you are hauling most of your stuff with you, the word “improbable” comes to mind. Space or lack of it in your vehicle, carrying enough fuel to get you there, the weight of your stuff in the vehicle effecting your mpg, and terrain if you have to leave the road system are obstacles.
I have given some lectures at several survival gatherings and attended several where I felt that there were more questions than answers. I was being warned of the Golden Horde coming to Idaho, and I felt, “Why come here, where most people coming would not be prepared for the cold and would struggle to survive? Why would anyone head north in a SHTF scenario? It is more difficult getting there, and then you need to stockpile wood to cook and heat with, build a structure to live in, get the ground ready for planting, and a myriad of other things. If you get there in the winter, you are in for a real ride. I cannot envision people walking north if there is no fuel for driving vehicles. The number of people that have horsemanship to ride, herd, and pack animals are low. This person still has to travel through Nevada and Utah to get to me in Idaho. There are large areas without water or food along the way. Even if the horde rides, they can only make 15-20 miles a day, if everything goes according to hoyle for them. Then, if they are walking, it will take longer for them. I am sure most will follow the highway system and not cut across country, unless they were prepared enough to get a map, just a map not topo. I feel they have their work cut out for them. Resupplying has to be an issue with them because to pack-carry enough to get there is a lot.
I have a map that I got from Survival Press in 1977 that shows areas blacked out that are danger areas surrounding major U.S. population centers along with maps that show fallout patterns in the U.S. and isolated regions in the U.S. I saw a map like this on the Internet lately, and there is not a lot of difference now except that Salt Lake City is blacked out. I have asked the question before and never get a good answer to, “Why head north into snow country, where life is harder.” I hear people say they will head to the woods and live like Indians/mountain men. Well, the Indians were born into a hard life and lived it everyday of their life and did not drop in after going to the 7-11 store. Also the Indians were opportunist when it came to hunting, and they also did control burns to keep wildlife close. They also planted gardens but not the plains Indians who mainly traded with other Indians to get some supplies before the whites came into their lives. The mountain man was a hardy individual, but not many of them went solo. They endured some real hardships. Most people today are not that hardy; even most “hunters” quit less than a mile from the road or just hunt close. This is not a slam; it’s just facts. People born today are not as hardy, in my opinion, as those born in the 1800’s to say 1950. The nation was more rural; the people cooked and heated with wood, and they enjoyed no indoor running water or indoor plumbing.
I have a friend who lives in Alaska. He does not use any fuel-fed machines to hunt, travel, or cut wood. He uses an axe, a one-man saw, mauls, sledge, spittingmaul, and crossbuck saw to cut his lumber and firewood. A dog team pulls his sleds and a wheeled sled. He partnered with an old sourdough, who is now deceased, and learned from him. His big luxury is he has installed some solar panels for led lights and some entertainment. He admits a chain saw would be great, but it’s a machine. He says they all break sometime, and it would make him depend on someone else. He grows a big garden and has a green house to get started in. He works everyday to keep himself and his dogs fed. He does draw Sosicla Security of about $1,000 a month, and he gets the Alaskan Permanent Fund once a year, which varies in amount from year to year for being an Alaskan. He also supplements with his trapping revenue and sometimes guide/cook revenue. His armory consist of two Remington rifles, one 30/06, 35 Whelen, and two ruger 10/22’s (one with a regular one-inch 4x scope and the other fitted with a peep site). His shotguns are two 12 gauge 870 pumps (one with a rifled barrel and extended magazine for shooting bears while he’s fishing), two S&W 44 mags, and two Ruger semi auto 22’s. He has a reloading outfit for all center fire weapons and says he has enough bullets and powder on hand to last him a long time as he only shoots about a box a year, maybe. He did tell me that when ammo started to get scarce and expensive he did buy twenty thousand rounds of yellowjacket and stinger 22 ammo. His main hunting weapon are snares, which as he says hunt 24/7. He did tell me that his old sourdough buddy left him a garand from WW2, but he rarely shoots it because it devours ammo if you let it. He is not concerned about a SHTF scenario, because he feels we got there a long time ago, and he is not too concerned about visitors or a golden horde. He says, “It does not matter what time of year, getting here is difficult.”
Now I am back in Texas in the Houston area. I have access to a small farm midway to Dallas that belongs to an old high school friend and his wife. It’s really off the road, down a so-called two lane road to actually an even smaller road to the farm. It has a log home and another portable building set up to live in. The farm is still dependent on community water, with a plan for a well sometime soon with a cistern fed from the roof of the home. The neighbors are like-minded people with a communications system already in place to aid each other. I am facing how to get my stuff to the farm when the SHTF happens, but I have been waiting since 1976. I still feel one needs to prepare for any event. Being close to the Gulf of México, there is always the threat of hurricanes. My adage is still: Having it and not needing it beats needing and not having it. I still remember my Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared.