Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

October 3, 2013

On the modern frontier

By Dan Graves Daily News
Greensburg Daily News

---- — They say the one thing you should do in case you find yourself in a survival situation is not to panic. As far as I’m concerned, the best thing is to find a fast food joint and order a Big McSomething and a chocolate shake.

Everyone has a fear of finding themselves in a situation where they must survive on their will and knowledge of what to do in such situations. Unfortunately, in today’s world where people depend on Kroger, Old Navy, Public Service, and Uncle Harry’s Modular Home Sales, the possibility of the average person being able to fend for themselves is quite slim. Only a very small percentage of people could find shelter or force themselves to eat grubs when nothing else is available. I have to admit that dining on something that doesn’t have fur or legs would be a last ditch, desperate move, but if worse came to worse I might consider it.

Having spent a few weekends idling around inside while waiting for the lawn to grow enough to mow, I spent some time thinking about continued existence should the plug be pulled on our cushy, pampered lifestyle. Or, in another scene, what if a hapless soul found themselves hopelessly lost in the wilderness with no hope of rescue for a long time. Could the average person find the three main ingredients necessary to guarantee returning to the real world of depending on the local Mini-Mart?

Those three necessities are shelter, fire, and food in that order. I didn’t include clothing because if anyone gets caught in a dire situation while buck naked, they deserve the inevitable outcome. So for realistic purposes, at least some type of clothing is assumed to be available. As far as shelter is concerned, the objective is to construct something to break the wind and offer at least minimal protection from the elements. For simplicity’s sake we’ll assume that the unfortunate victim is stranded with a hatchet and a K-Bar knife with an eight inch blade and a serrated saw-toothed back. With these tools, small trees can be cut to construct a lean-to. If neither of these tools are readily at hand, a one-man cross-cut saw will suffice. The structure can then be covered with the tarpaulin, also on hand, as a roof. Everyone knows that these are essential items for survival and should be kept readily at hand at all times.

Next comes the problem of finding food. Depending on the area, small game is the most likely source of the necessary protein and catching it is the only obstacle to overcome. Just remember that if it can bite back there may be a problem with who eats who.

The most popular method is to set a snare or box trap. Since setting snares can be hazardous due to the danger of accidentally tripping it and hanging yourself, the box trap is the most logical choice. The first task is finding a small but sturdy box.That should pose no problem since you have a box in which you carry the hatchet, knife, saw, and tarpaulin. Place a support stick under one end of the box and set a trigger to which a string is tied. Tie the other end of the string to the bait and place it under the box (string and bait carried in your knap sack). Find a good hiding spot where you can see the box and wait for a victim. It may take a week or two, but eventually something, hopefully edible, will take the bait and trip the support, dropping the box over it. If something wearing a black and white coat, about the size of a house cat is the victim, kick over the box, climb the nearest tree and start over.

Now you may have a problem. How to get your meal out from under the box. No matter what it is, it’s going to be a little unhappy about the situation and sticking your hand under the box may cost you a finger or two.

You have two choices. You can either stick the barrel of your shotgun (of course you’ll have a shotgun) under the box and pull the trigger, or you can set fire to the box and have a ready cooked meal. Sorry, but survival under these condition is not pretty. Which brings us to the last item on the list, fire.

How do you start a fire without the benefit of matches? Many methods have been advanced by experienced outdoorsmen, such as striking a flint spark into flammable tender, but if you’re in a flintless and tenderless area, the only choices may be waiting for lightning to strike or rubbing two sticks together.

Take my word for it. Rubbing sticks together will get you nothing but two scruffed sticks. After watching a TV show on the subject, I tried their method of using a small plank (in your knapsack) and a stick with a sharpened end. After boring a small pocket in the plank (boring bit in the knapsack), I placed the sharp end in the pocket and began spinning it rapidly by rubbing the stick between my hands. Two things happened. I got a few small blisters on my hands and the arthritis in my shoulder informed me that I would be eating my rabbit raw.

I finally got results after I cut the heads off two kitchen matches (I forgot they were in the knapsack), placed them in the pocket and rubbed. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any tender handy and all my efforts produced was a miniature spout of flame that went out immediately. Later, a friend informed me that I must have a bow to rotate the stick rapidly enough to produce the friction necessary to create combustible heat. According to him, the early American Indians used this tool quite successfully. If I’m ever in a survival situation I’ll be sure to have an Apache warrior with me.

In the final analysis I have decided that setting the snare would be the best option after all. Might as well hang yourself and get it over with quickly.