Sunday, July 3, 2011

Pioneers Take the Arrows

Rush Limbaugh is fond of the phrase "Pioneers take the arrows" when talking about early adaptors of new electronic gadgets. That colorful corollary from our wild west past is still applicable today.

On a recent vacation I made it a point to stop by the historic site of Fort Bridger on my way up to see my sister. Little remains of the original "fort" and most of the buildings are reconstructions of improvements made by a later inhabitant, William Alexander Carter, who turned the fort from "little more than a crude collection rough-hewn log buildings" into a trading post with an ice house and other amenities. However, the fort's founder, Jim Bridger didn't fare so well.

Back on the Interstate I began comparing my current mode of travel and overnighting conditions with those of Jim Bridger, the Mountain Men and early pioneers.

I was traveling at 75 MPH (honest officer) in a heated vehicle on smooth tarmac while fiddling with the radio and snacking on Polypropylene and aluminized foil packaged foods.

Just a hundred and sixty some odd years ago pioneers traveling the same route would have been walking at a pace of from three to five MPH with lower speeds for rough terrain. Snack food was pemmican, jerky or berries scooped up along the way if in season. If they wanted music well, there was always singing, harmonicas and maybe a fiddle or two.

When I'd had enough fiddling with "good" music radio stations that seemed to go out of range just as I found them I'd pull into an inn, usually after dark, and dine at a nearby fast food McEmporium before retiring to a heated room for some "reality" television before a shower and sleep between clean sheets under a light blanket.

There were no inns for the travelers who pioneered these routes those many years ago. They'd need to stop before sunset to make camp, gather firewood (or dried dung) and prepare food. Red meat, fish and fowl, taken on the march, had to be eaten before it spoiled unless winter froze it.

Survivalist gurus make a big deal of telling students about heating rocks in the campfire, burying and them sleeping on the heated ground. (Almost easy with today's metal shovels, but try digging in the dirt with the wooden shovels of yesteryear.) However they don't show you the labor involved in gathering big rocks, digging a trench and burying the rocks after a long day of hiking through the wilderness. Yeah, it works, but it'll be pretty cold before you go to all that work for a heated "room" and, of course, there was reality harmonica playing which was probably more entertaining than the reality shows of today.

As I maneuvered over smooth concrete on six degree grades at 75 MPH through gorges cut through mountainsides I thought of the pioneers who'd climbed over those same ridgelines scrambling to maintain a balance between sustaining altitude (Colin Fletcher tells us to surrender elevation grudgingly because it must be re-acquired on the next hill.) and line of march to the next waterhole. Neither you nor I would willingly stay at Jim Bridger's place today when a Hyatt or a Hilton was within reach, but in its day Fort Bridger was a destination pioneers strived to reach before sundown because it offered supplies and amenities (a two holer?) not available on the trail.

So, what's all this reminiscing got to do with survival? Without electricity so called "First World" civilizations will be knocked back into Jim Bridger's world. That means horses and mules, buggies and freight wagons, hand pumped well water and harmonicas.

How prepared are you to feed, clothe and entertain yourself if the lights go out?

Superfluous Survival Tip of the week:

I've just started reading the Emergency Preparedness and Survival Guide an anthology of past articles from Backwoods Home Magazine. I received the book "free" with a two year renewal of my subscription to the magazine.

Both the book and the magazine are chock full of a mixture of sustainable farming/ranching advice and reviews of modern day tools and techniques. If you've aspirations of canning produce from your own backyard garden, baking homemade bread in your backyard in a homemade solar oven or controlling the squirrel population in your backyard Backwoods Home Magazine is a subscription you ought to look into.

I subscribe to the dead tree edition because I can't possibly try all the stuff they tell you how to do and I'll want access to that information if the lights go out.

You can peruse the electronic version of Backwoods Home Magazine while the lights are still on here.

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Dusty Diggen's writes:
I live in the desert of Arizona in an old miners cabin,just 11 miles off from the paved road.

Most that stop by can't even begin to think of all the complications of living out,no lights,no tv, no phone, very little water, no flush toilet,

I do have wild Blue satilite and solar panels, so to me I am really livin hi.

It takes me about 1 1/2 hr to make that short trip in my 1953 CJ-5 , the old timers traveled that road every day with horse and team.

The temp has been 80+ at night and 119 during the day, I just wish I could be that tough, how did they do it?

It is very interesting to hear about all these city survival types that think they are just going to live out here off the land.

I hope they bring lots of good stuff for me to use when they are..........gone.

I have called myself Dusty Diggen's as Me and my cabin and are always dusty !
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You're right, Dusty, folks who think they can live off the land should try catching a rabbit sometime. Snare, trap, bow & arrow, pellet gun even with a firearm it ain't easy if you can't get the rabbit to cooperate.
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