The above title to this article was drafted tongue in cheek, but it seems correct for the points that I hope to make. The article will contain a lot of “I”s and “me”s, but I promise that I am not a raging narcissist. I am only relating events as they have happened to me and how they helped me to navigate the uncertainties of the future. I would like to take credit for planning each positive event, but a lot of it was due to dumb luck and good fortune. Hopefully, however, there may be something in this narrative that is of value to you.
I was born and raised in Los Angeles. My early years were somewhat difficult, as my parents divorced when I was young and money was always in short supply. I became somewhat of an introvert, as my mother struggled to find a way in life for the two of us. I learned to become somewhat of a scrounger, always looking for whatever I could find wherever I could find it. I also learned to do without. With the selfishness of youth, I learned that I would have to look out for #1. Although I did not fit in very well with others, school became the bright spot of my day, along with regular attendance at a local, Christian church that taught me a healthy respect for the Lord, who has been a blessing throughout the years.
I was fortunate to have been able to take a 1200 hour vocational course in electricity, electronics, and audio in high school. Unfortunately, the public school system rarely offers this type of education now, choosing instead to prepare students to earn the college degrees necessary to apply for non-existent jobs. Private schools offer classes in the trades, and some online classes are available as well. When the SHTF, a degree in Ethnic Sciences will have little value compared to the training and experience of, say, a qualified mechanic or welder.
The vocational schooling provided me with a set of skills that served me well for 21 years in the electronic parts and equipment distribution industry, as my employers found that I knew more about the technical aspects and operation of what they were selling than they did. Shortly after getting my first job, right after graduation, I got married and started a family. Along came the Watts riots, and my family and I lived just inside the curfew area, near where the National Guard was staged. Shortly after, I bought my first firearm, practicing with it weekly.
With my background in electronics, I began servicing some of the radio equipment for a local, suburban police department and helped equip a “situation command room” for that city. I was encouraged by city management to join the police department as a reserve police officer and did so. This was a volunteer position that could be compared to an internship in other fields. The “salary” was training in firearms, CPR, first aid, the law, crisis intervention, self defense techniques, and other valuable skills plus many opportunities to interact with people under stressful, and often hazardous, conditions.
The riots and an environment that was not conducive to raising a family made me realize that it was necessary for me to move from the city for our safety. That was a SHTF event for us, if you will, back in the early 1960s. At this point, my “prepping” journey began, even though the phrase had yet been coined. I began to realize the value of my personal reputation, in both the electronics field and as a public servant. (Please understand that a police officer, even a reserve officer, was generally viewed in a different light back then.) My experience and skills in the electronics business allowed me to find a job and relocate to northern California (not the Bay area but further north) and to subsequently locate in a rural, foothill community.
I continued my employment in the electronic parts distribution industry, where my background gave me a big advantage, particularly in selling to large industrial accounts. Aided by my experience as a reserve police officer, I later joined the county sheriff’s department as a reserve deputy in 1976. At the age of 38, my family and I sustained another SHTF event. The multi-million dollar company for whom I had worked for eight years was being liquidated, and I was given virtually no notice to leave my management position, unless I wanted to move us back into the big city! Consumer electronics suddenly became disposable, and the industrial business alone was not large enough to sustain the company. An entire industry had disappeared almost overnight, and there were no other jobs of that type available. Money became tight, and I supplemented the income needed to support my wife, five boys, and me by reloading large quantities of ammunition and selling it at gun shows. The profits from this skill often paid our monthly mortgage.
As luck would have it, the sheriff’s department was critically short-handed, and I was invited to continue working as a reserve deputy but for forty hours a week and with pay! With no benefits but no payroll deductions for insurance, dues, and so forth, I was taking home more money than some of the regular deputies! With a good record on the job and personal contacts that I had developed within the department, I was invited to apply for one of the first full-time positions when they became available a short time later. I was hired and sent, at the county’s expense, to the police academy, where I was the oldest recruit in the class. Again, I was fortunate to receive training in all of the areas mentioned above plus others too numerous to list. My greatest learning experiences were, however, gained from dealing with people on the street; this taught me human nature, both at its worst and its best.
California’s Proposition 13 in the early 1980s strained local public safety budgets. Again, I found myself unemployed, along with 16 other deputies. We had another personal SHTF! The hydrogen-filled, 5-gallon buckets of rice and beans in addition to other stored foods I had prepped with the aid of the local LDS food warehouse, helped sustain us at this time. I had also developed a barter relationship with a wholesale food distributor, who would often let me know when he was about to periodically clean out his one square city block-sized freezer, containing overstock, partial cases, freight damaged boxes, samples, and various types of fast food. Among the items bartared for were french fries, hamburgers, tacos, pizza, corn dogs, and other frozen eatables. Our microwave worked overtime, as we ate every type of junk food imaginable during those times. It all tasted like steak and lobster to us!
I accepted two temporary law enforcement jobs, which required me to commute long distances on my weekends until, in 1985, my good work record and experience placed me #1 on the list to be hired by the local police department in the area in which I lived. Over time, I became a training officer, a crime scene investigator, and a firearms instructor. I received valuable training in each of those areas. After several years, I was asked to participate in the local narcotics task force, where I stayed for three years, receiving even more training and specializing in the seizure of methamphetamine labs. As the drug lab cases wound their way through the court system, I developed personal contacts with both district attorneys and defense attorneys, and I achieved a reputation for honesty on the witness stand and in my investigations. These personal contacts and my good reputation would serve me well when I was hired by the District Attorney’s office for the position of District Attorney Investigator at the age of 56, an age many considered too old for a Law Enforcement Officer. Although a college degree is normally required for this position, offsetting experience and training allowed me to qualify with only a high school diploma.
I retired at the age of 66 but continued working part time for another three years as an evidence technician for the drug task force. I was compelled to leave the workplace at the age of 69 when, close to death, I was faced with fighting the first of what would become two cases of cancer; SHTF again! I am completely cancer free at this time, and the prognosis is very good, thanks to a fantastic doctor and the help of God, not necessarily in that order. I could go back to work with just a phone call or two. However, if I am ever going to have any time to enjoy myself, it is now.
Today, I live in a small foothill community about 100 miles from a city of any size. I have married a second time, and our house is fully paid for. We have an SUV and a small economy car, both of which are paid for, and no outstanding bills or credit card debt. Our RV/bugout vehicle is fully self-contained and is largely paid for. Short of a garden, I feel that we are prepared for virtually any crisis as far as water, food, shelter, personal security, medical supplies, ready cash, PMs, EMP, emergency communications, and personal contact with like-minded and trusted friends is concerned.
If you have managed to stay awake thus far, please believe me when I tell you that this article is not meant to be self serving or to impress the reader with “how I did it” or “look at me”. I realize that law enforcement is not for everyone, and please recognize that the profession was significantly different until just a few years ago. The same was true for society in general for that matter, but that is another subject altogether. The purpose of this article is to point out some of the things that have been of value to me in sustaining regular employment, maintaining a comfortable standard of living, and having the resources to prepare for an uncertain future, despite several setbacks.
The highlighted items above are things that, in my experience, will be of immense value to anyone during their lifetime, regardless of their chosen field or occupation. Yeah, I know, some things, such as training, have been highlighted several times, but training relative to your job makes you more valuable to your current or potential employer(s), and it positions you for promotion or raises. An employer rarely invests training time and dollars in an employee without expecting a return on that investment. This training can also almost always be of value in your personal life. When you leave a job, the training and experience goes with you. Being trained to operate heavy machinery as a construction worker, for example, can make you invaluable when the SHTF. Suck up all the OJT (on the job training) you can get. More than one person, for example, has learned the ins and outs of the food distribution industry while being paid as a stock clerk and has gone on to open their own store.
Keep detailed, written records of your employment and duties and any training you may have received while working or on your own time. List associations, supervisors, or contacts that you have made, so as to be able to use them for references later. If you are commended for doing a job well, tactfully suggest that it be put in writing. When the time comes to discuss your training and experience in order to qualify for a job or promotion, don’t be shy about talking about it and displaying it.
Your personal good reputation is a commodity that is hard to earn and takes time to establish but is immensely valuable. It is tested every time you apply for a job. It isn’t good for your new employer to call your last employer only to learn that you are disliked by all your co-workers and never show up to work on time. Occasionally step back and try to look at yourself through the eyes of a co-worker or employer. Would you enjoy working with yourself or giving yourself a job, promotion, or raise? If not, fix the problem!
Your credit report reflects, in a way of thinking, your personal reputation, and of course it affects your ability to obtain cash and credit and even some jobs. Having a reputation for dishonesty or evading responsibility is devastating and is very difficult to repair. Accepting responsibility and demonstrating honesty are rare traits in these times, and they will always be considered valuable assets. Having a good reputation will get you good jobs that exist by word of mouth only and are often not even advertised. Consider yourself to be a marketable commodity, and work to make yourself more valuable, both to others and for your own benefit. This is not a matter of “giving in to the system” or “losing your identity” but is actually an act of selfishness and self-preservation, as you are the one who will ultimately benefit from it. Although there are those who may disagree with me, a little selfishness is a good thing, as long as it is not at the expense of others. Aside from our Savior, no one will take care of you but you.
A knowledge of human nature is an intangible item that cannot be demonstrated by a certificate or resume. It is, however, a very valuable asset that will serve you well on a daily basis. In a SHTF situation, that knowledge may give you the edge in bartering, assessing threat, establishing trust, and more. Don’t miss opportunities to engage others and observe their actions, even if you have to invest some of your time to do it. Even temporary jobs, such as waitressing or delivering, allow you to gain experience observing human nature, which may later serve you well in a crisis situation.
Luck has certainly been on my side on several occasions; however, like prepping for the future, luck can be slanted in your favor by setting goals (a fancy term for pushing in the direction you want to move) and working hard to achieve them as well as seizing opportunities. Although I did not realize it at the time, an example of luck plus proof of JWR’s oft repeated saying of “two is one and one is none” is when I donated my time to a second occupation as a reserve officer only to have that develop into a full-time profession that would support my family and me for 28 years after my original chosen career and source of income disappeared.
For those of you who have already reached a ripe old age and have already realized these things, I apologize for taking up your time. For those of you just starting out or who are further down the age ladder than me, I hope some of this may be of value to you.
Be safe, and prep as if your life depended on it.