Friday, December 28, 2012

The Most Important Survival Tool

            Well, I did say that my post was going to be about the most important tool you would carry with you in a survival situation. So here it is … this post is about your mind.
            That’s right, your mind
            Your mind is probably the single most important item you’ll carry with you if you find yourself in a survival situation. More than anything else, what is in your head, the knowledge, the attitude and the experience you might have will have a definite effect on the outcome if you should find yourself in a possibly negative situation.
            That’s a five dollar way of saying that your ass is in the wind and you might have problems getting out alive, let alone in one piece.
            So where do we start with this?
            In the past I’ve told my students (yes, I’ve had a few of those) that the preparation for an emergency event will begin years, if you’re sufficiently lucky, before you get anywhere near a risky situation.
            The first thing you need to do is to go to a library and begin with something so old fashioned I’m quite certain that some of you aren’t going to have any idea what I’m talking about. You’ll need to look for a few books. That’s right, I said BOOKS. Paper, cardboard, linen, stitching and glue covered things with print all over the inside. Think of them as a crash proof tablet if it helps. There are five books I’d recommend to begin with …. listed,  in no particular order …..
             “98.6 degrees, The Art of Keeping your Ass Alive” by Cody Lundin
            “Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking” by Tom Brown Jr.
            “Hawke’s Special Forces Survival Handbook” by Mykel Hawke
            “How to Shit in the Woods” by Kathleen Meyer
            “Survive! Essential Skills and Tactics to get You out of Anywhere – Alive” by Les Stroud
             Between these five books, you’ll get a fair grasp of what kinds of skills are essential to survive an emergency situation and a feel for the broad spectrum of viewpoints in the field of survival. Read each one of them through once, just read, don’t try to do anything else. The second time you read them, take notes … notes on what you agree with, what you disagree with and, most importantly, the places where you have questions.
One small thing to keep in mind, as tempting as it may be, DON’T TAKE NOTES IN THE BOOKS FROM THE LIBRARY. They tend to get really upset when you do that …… if you search around on the net, you can find these books on the web for a minimal price.
             Once you get a pretty good feel for what they tell you about in the books, it’s time to take the next step, begin to practice the skills you’ve been reading about. Now, to do this you’ll need a couple of items, the first one is a good knife. If you look around you’ll find thousands upon thousands of arguments about what kind of knife, how long the blade should be and what it should be made from, what the handle should be made of, who designs the best knife, who makes the best knife and on and on and on ad nauseum.
             A friendly bit of advice …. First, don’t buy a knife you wouldn’t use if you decided to chuck the whole thing tomorrow. Lots of people do after they try the skills for the first time, don’t be embarrassed, a lot of them also change their minds later and take it up again. No big deal, but you don’t want to saddle yourself with a knife that’s going to haunt you because you can’t/won’t use it for anything else. Get a knife you’re comfortable with, from a reliable, well known knife manufacturer. Here are a few I’ve recommended to people in the past, based on personal experience.
            “Charge AL” by Leatherman … has a good selection of tools
            “Handyman” by Wenger Swiss Army Knives … also has a nice selection of tools appropriate for survival or home use
            “Bushcraft Black” by Mora of Sweden

            Every one of these knives can be as easily used at home as they can in the field and the most expensive of them is about eighty dollars; that would be the Leatherman. With that one, you’ll have a fistful of tools fit for use on your car, around the house or in the middle of nowhere.
            I know people who’ll take this as heresy, but there is no reason on God’s green earth for you to spend a few hundred dollars on a knife that you probably won’t ever use to it’s fullest possible extant. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t even want you to spend over a hundred dollars on a knife. I use a T1 Tracker, from TOPS Knives and designed by Tom Brown Jr. … yes, it set me back a pretty good amount but you know what? I’m still trying to find the fail point of the knife. So far, it’s done everything I’ve demanded of it and has come back, laughing.
             Pretty damn good knife in my view, and fun to play with.
             So you have the knife now, the next thing you’ll want is either cotton or hemp cordage. This will give you the two things you need to perform most of the basic skills that will keep you alive. Take the knife, learn to sharpen it yourself. A medium grit diamond hone with a leather case will do most of the work. Don’t worry about just exactly how to do it as there are a number of manufacturers who will happily show you the way they endorse on their website. Be careful while you’re getting the hang of it though, you may want to keep all your fingers where they presently are ….
               In between practice sessions with sharpening your knife, take some of your cord and disassemble it.
               Untwist it
               See how it’s put together

               Then try to put it back together … not so easy, eh?
               After you get the hang of caring for your knife, and you start to realize just how impossible it is to reassemble the string, now comes the fun part. Go back to the books again and, in the comfort of your garage, or basement, begin to learn to do the things you see in the books.
               Having problems with it?
               Getting angry about it? Frustrated?
               Put it down, walk away, and wait until you calm down enough, to pick it up again.
               Right now time is a luxury you have, use it, enjoy it … this all should be fun, if it isn’t, you won’t learn anything except how to be angry.
               Do you really need lessons in how to be angry?

   Didn’t think so ….

               This is one of those sneaky lessons that coyote teachers like to embed in other lessons, but since I’m not a coyote teacher I’ll pass the secret along to you so that if you should decide to teach your children stuff like this, which I fervently hope you do, you’ll know what you’re teaching them by having them do it.
What you’ll be doing is teaching them, drum roll please …..

               ooooooooo … now isn’t that just the DIRTIEST trick to play on someone?

               So … to continue … you’ve been told that your mind is your primary survival tool, and that knowledge is one of the blades of that fabulous Swiss Army knife that we all carry with us every minute, every hour and every day of our lives, right? Now you’ve been given a clue of one of the many skills you’ll need to employ that tool effectively.
There are others, to be quite certain, but that’s one of the more important skills you can have. Practice it often and you’ll eventually be a master of it.
              What’s that you say?
              How can you practice it often?

Do you work on your car? Go ahead and try to tell me there aren’t times when you want to beat whoever designed the thing to death, slowly, with a dull hammer. Here’s what you do, take whatever tool is in your hand, wipe it clean …
             Put it down, walk away, and wait until you calm down enough, to pick it up again.

You’re having a bad day at the office? Copier won’t work? Terminal is locked up, again? Just take that cup of coffee you’ve been contemplating with evil intent ….
             Put it down, walk away, and wait until you calm down enough, to pick it up again.

             Are you seeing the pattern yet? Getting the drift?
             OK, onwards again … so, you’ve been practicing your skills in some sheltered area where you won’t have your spouse looking at you with evil intent (this is not the time to bring up Positive Coping Mechanisms, it could lead to either injury or death) and you’re getting pretty good. As a matter of fact, you’ve MASTERED the skills. Now you know how to build a fire without matches, you can hit a pigeon with a rabbit stick from forty feet away and your shelter isn’t just up in record time, you can make it with less available material than anyone else in your survival club.
             Yes, survival club, every one of you will gain from seeing the mistakes other people make and eventually come to the realization that everybody wins when survival involves a community. You’ll also see that your weaknesses will be compensated for by someone else’s strengths and vice versa.
              So you’re beginning to feel like Jeremiah Johnson wasn’t such a big deal after all, because you can do everything he did with less material and help than he ever had … you’re the big kahuna of survival, right?
              Time to take the next step junior, take your act on the road …
              It may be scary but now is when you take that first baby step towards nearly complete independence.
              Go to a nearby park, it doesn’t matter what kind of park it is as long as it has a fairly good variety of trees and maybe even a pond or river.
              Now, making certain you do this only when the weather is safe, you begin practicing your skills again. You may also want to look through those books again (you should be perusing through them every time you get a few minutes) and find out how many ways there are to perform any single skill. Learn every skill you can, even the ones you suck at, ESPECIALLY the ones you suck at.
              I still can’t make decent cordage …. and it’s been years …..
              Are you beginning to see a pattern here?
              Every time you perfect your skills in a particular setting or set of conditions, you’re going to step it up a notch but preferably without putting yourself in harm’s way. If you eventually do get to the point where you’re contemplating going into the wilderness with your skills to do a ‘naked survival’ exercise, I would strongly urge that you don’t do that without taking care to insure you can be quickly located and evacuated if it should become necessary. There isn’t a lawyer looking over my shoulder to make certain I tell you that, it’s just the professional rescuer in me poking his head out and saying, “WAAAAAIIIIT a MINUTE!!!! The idea of this article and these instructions is to keep people from becoming statistics, not lead them into becoming one themselves!
              This is only the first article on getting yourself ready, mentally, for ANY emergency situation. So I’m going to close this by advocating for you to take the initiative and find someone who can teach you first aid and CPR, these are two more skill sets you’ll need … if not now, then sometime in the future.
              Knowledge is Power
              Fortune favors the prepared mind

Don’t forget these two bon mots …. ever
So, until the next article comes screaming out of this keyboard ….

Keep your steel sharp and your powder dry ….  Storm.



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