By C. Davis February 1, 2015
People really should avert their gaze from the modern survival thinking for just a bit and also look at how the guys who wandered the west 150 or so years ago did it.
- Community – We were not meant to survive in isolation forever. There are many skills we can learn from one another. Nothing will help people survive more than a tight knit community that cares for its members. In this community, you will find different skills, access to different resources, and a psychological morale improvement. Finding others with the same mindset will help you survive long-term, and make the situation far more bearable than braving the dark times alone.
Turns out the popular image of the Old West as a place where manly men solved their differences by shooting themselves in the face simply isn’t true. People were more likely to cooperate than fight – in a harsh and lawless world, it was better to side with your neighbor for mutual benefit than start shooting. One estimate places the number of bank robberies at about a dozen for the entire frontier period.
- Many small towns in the Texas Hill Country have a secret. Beneath our town’s main street are old tunnels that were built to protect settlers in case of Indian raids. That makes me feel a little safer next time I shop for pickles knowing that if a nuclear bomb goes off my family can go underground. (quote – Sophie) Build or have in mind a hideout in your BOL or better said a hideout in your hideout.
- “We don’t dial 911” – there won’t be any. Every type of gun known to man is here to protect their family and property. A good rule is to honk first when driving up unexpectedly to a ranch so as not to spook anyone. Watching those old cowboy movies gave me a good idea: use both hands when shooting guns.
- Shooting your dinner. Or shooting to protect yourself. Learn to hit something with a bullet and you’ll be better fed and it may even keep you and your family alive.
- Repairing guns and reusing ammo. Limited or no ammo availability for my SHTF Guns meant the brass has to last as long as possible. Semi-auto rifles are harder on brass than bolt, falling block or other type’s rifles. With semi-autos, you have brass elongation; you need to trim your brass frequently, full-length size on every load. And after a few reloads, you basically run out of brass life (Read more about: SHTF Guns and Ammo)
A broken gunstock could be repaired with rawhide. The wet, pliable hide would be stretched over the broken pieces at the break, then either laced or nailed in place. As the rawhide dried it shrank, holding the broken stock together as effectively as if it had been replaced.
- Stockpiling Wood and keeping warm was a chore in winter. About the only thing folks had to burn was wood. There was a woodpile or a woodshed associated with just about every house. There were no iron stoves in early Texas – they didn’t start coming in until late in the Republic period. Heat came from a fireplace, & it generally wasn’t very effective. Along the Rio Grande, especially in the poorer regions, there were no fireplaces in houses. That’s because Spain & later Mexico taxed chimneys. Those people cooked out-of-doors. Because they mostly built of adobe, their house – walls were very thick, so even a small fire indoors would keep the place fairly warm. In summer going into a properly – built adobe house is like walking into a cave. They stay fairly cool even on the hottest days.
- Brain Tanning Leather – learning the process of skinning a deer, fleshing, stretching, drying, scraping, soaking, brain tanning, and then smoking the hide to waterproof. Deer hides, horse hides, coon hides – was used for just about everything, & rawhide was very useful. It used to be called ‘Mexican iron.’ The stuff is stiff as a plank, but if you put it in boiling water for a while, it becomes pliable. You can then use it in place of nails to tie a corral’s stringers to the posts. As it dried it would shrink, holding the stringers as effectively as nails.
- Mostly, clothing was hand-made on the frontier. Almost any source of cloth could be used to make shirts or dresses. One of the reasons floursacks, for many years, were made of patterned cloth, was the fact that women collected them to make shirts or dresses, for themselves, their husbands, & their children. I can remember when I was a kid, farm ladies using white flour sacks to make children’s underwear.
- Blacksmithing. Being able to make something useful like a horseshoe, tool, or cooking utensil from scrap metal could come in very handy. This is a skill people will barter for. Blacksmith work does require a good deal of practice and some special equipment, but it’s a skill worth learning and the learning curve is cut a bit if you already know how to weld or do other metal work.
- Preserving food without a fridge. Many people have forgotten this old method of preserving food, especially meet. Here is one of the easiest methods available and doesn’t take much time. You will need fresh pork, pickling salt, brown sugar, and crocks or jars for storage.
First, cut the pork into slabs. Generally, four- to six-inch slabs work best. Mix 1/2 pound of pickling salt with 1/4 cup of brown sugar. This is enough to cover twelve pounds of pork. Liberally cover the pork with this mixture. Next, pack the meat into sterilized crocks or jars. You should make sure it is tightly packed. Cover the meat with cheesecloth.
Using the temperature chart of your house, determine where to store your crocks. You need to keep the meat in an area that is about 36°F – no higher than 38°F. You also do not want an area that could see freezing temperatures. Leave the meat in this cool storage for at least one month. After that time, you can wrap the meat in plastic or moisture-proof paper and leave it stored all winter. You now have salt-cured pork for any occasion.
Many older people remember having a smokehouse on their land when they were young. Meat would be salted and hung to cure in these cool, dry areas. You could build a storage room for handing meat without too much work. The room should have excellent air circulation and stay cool without freezing.
Canned Meat – If you are familiar with canning fruits and vegetables, you should know that you can also can meat. You have to make sure you get the temperature of the meat high enough to kill bacteria before it seals. Chicken and beef are good options for canning, as are fish. You can cook the meat before you can and seal it. For example, you could make beef stew and preserve it in cans. Stewed chicken also cans and preserves well. Raw packing is another option you can try as well.
- Navigation and Orientation – basic compass, map, landmarks; preparation for traveling outdoors; reading nature signs, stars, and sun to navigate through wilderness; knowing the best routes and time to travel.
Whether someone is going to bug in or bug out to somewhere safer, they need to know where they plan to take a stand and stay. Transportation is a very important issue to consider and how much of what they have can be moved to where they are planning to go. Fuel will be a huge consideration as the lack of it prohibits how far someone can go. Something else everyone should understand is how to read maps. You will likely not have any GPS system to guide you and the good old fashioned paper map may be the only way to show you where you are going. Understanding topographic maps is also key here
- Trapping – trapping animals for clothing and food; using dead falls and snares; proper preparation of traps; understanding their use and safety.
- Gardening. Growing your own vegetables and fruits, knowing soil conditions, how to get water to your plants, extending your harvest season, and common garden pests will be vital to having a continuous food supply. Check out The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers for some great old-time gardening tips.
- Saving seeds. The other end of gardening is being able to plant again next year. Saving seed can be kind of intimidating and mysterious, especially for plants like carrots that don’t go to seed in their first growing season. Start with non-hybrid seeds and a reference book like Seed to Seed and practice saving some kind of seed from your next garden. This is definitely a learned skill, but could be vital to a continued food supply.
- Building a home, or another shelter, or a fort, or a fence. Knowing how to use hand tools and simple machines will go a long way if you have to rebuild.
- Start a Fire without Matches and learn how to keep the fire going 24/7. Prepare your fireboard. Cut a groove in the fireboard. This will be your track for the spindle.
Take the tip of your spindle and place it in the groove of your fireboard. Start rubbing the tip of the spindle up and down the groove.
Have your tinder nest at the end of the fireboard, so that you’ll plow embers into as you’re rubbing. Once you catch one, blow the nest gently and get that fire going. (learn more methods)
- Cooking over a fire. You may have other methods to cook your food available, like a solar oven or barbeque grill, but an open fire is the most primitive and one of the most common means of cooking in a grid down emergency.
- Tracking – identifying animal tracks; understanding process of tracking. (tracking animals)
- The Bee Hunter. One of the most important men on the frontier was the bee hunter. Sugar was almost impossible to come by. Honey, which was called ‘long sweetenin” in Texas, was the only source of sweetening for many years.
- Knowing and preparing wild edibles. Which plants in your area are safe to eat and what parts of them are edible? A little foraging can add variety to your diet or even sustain life if there’s nothing else to eat.
- Learn how to maintain light at night. One of the most depressing situations is to spend night in near to total darkness. Besides this, not being able to see at night is dangerous. Learning how to make candles and wicks should be a skill to consider learning. Fats and other oils will burn and can be obtained throughout nature and the outdoors. Long term solar battery rechargers for flashlights and LED battery powered lanterns are another option.
- Maintain proper hygiene. This is one of the top priorities because disease and sickness can and do take down the toughest man. People must realize that after a terrible disaster it is not like someone that goes camping, comes back dirty, and takes a nice long shower or a hot bath. After SHTF the water to the faucets, as well the hot water heater, may not work. Bathing on at least a semi-regular basis is necessary to avoid all sorts of bacteria from building up on the skin and causing a variety of health concerning ailments that will then have to be treated. People should plan on just how they will keep themselves clean, even thinking about sponge baths as an option.
- A car or a horse?
Some people say about SHTF that unless you’re living on an oil well or in a gas tank you won’t have access to gas.
Riding a horse. They make this look easy in the movies, but there is a learning curve involved. A horse is transportation, a pack animal, and a friend. Learning to ride one can get you places when roads are impassable or vehicles aren’t working. Plus, your gas reserves won’t last forever when SHTF.
Texans love all kinds of horse powered transportation. Should an EMP attack render cars useless, they’ll get around riding their horses or driving their horse drawn carriages, buggy’s, hay wagons, chuck wagons and buck board wagons. During the summer on country roads you can run into wagon trains filled with hundreds of people driving their wagons, which is an awesome sight to behold! And yes they still ride their horses into town for a coke, hamburger and even a beer.
There were vast herds of wild horses in early Texas. The horses were considered an excellent source of meat. Many of them were shot for food. Others were captured, but if a horse resisted being tamed and saddle-broke, it usually wound up on the table.
- Herbal remedies. When the doctor’s not around, knowing which herbs to use and how to use them to treat common ailments like cough, fever, headache, etc. can be a great blessing to your family or others around that may need the help. (herbal remedies)
- Learn first aid. Treating yourself and or others will probably be the only thing someone can do as medical professionals are going to be few and far between. Many places offer free classes on first aid because they want people in the community to be prepared. A good first aid book along with a first aid kit is something every household should have before, during, and after a disaster. Primitive conditions should be expected when anyone is helping someone after a catastrophe. A stockpile of antibiotics are always a good idea. Even acquiring the skill of making your own antibiotics can save lives as infection is something that will become an epidemic, especially with minor cuts and abrasives that are sure to be plenty.
- Don’t throw away anything that may be useful at some point. Personally, I don’t like to keep too many things in my house. So I throw away much stuff. And most of us do that because we know that if we have to, we can immediately buy another one. But our grandparents NEVER threw away jars, plastic bags, casseroles, boxes, cans, metal in general.
- Stealth. While the survivalist mindset might seem to stem from weathering bad times, it is actually based in a basic enjoyment of nature. Nature is a gift, and the ability to live comfortably from its provisions is one of the most life-changing experiences a person can ever have. The art of survival seems to have been lost over the years, but before the technology boom in the last century, it was commonplace to know and understand survivalist principles.
One of the most basic skills when in the wild is a combination of two methods. These methods are called the “Fox Walk” and “Wide-Angle Vision.” These were the basic “bread and butter” of how tribal populations would hunt and stalk without leaving any trace. Learning lessons from these peoples, it has enlightened us on how to live from the land. (Native American Survival skills)
- How to pan for gold – Although gold pans were much in evidence during the early days of the Gold Rush, miners used them less and less as time went on and they created better gold extraction devices but much more expensive. Even today, however, some gold seekers will use the light and simple pans for prospecting, systematically sampling gravels as they work up a stream, for example, and knowing that when the gold “color” stops, a vein or two of gold feeding into the stream may be close at hand.
- Understand the psychology of desperate people. This is a difficult one. After a SHTF event people are going to, simply put, go crazy. That neighbor that was in control during many minor emergencies may be the one pounding on your door with whacked out eyes demanding what you have because they did not prepare for anything. In the Wild West most of the travelers when they spotted another traveler – they went around him thinking it’s wiser not to encounter at all.
- Every cowboy knows that a rope is an important tool. Sure they can lasso a cow, but it serves so many other uses that it would be impossible to list. Suffice to say that that’s one thing that you never can have enough of and I’ve been known to use my son’s lariat in a pinch to tie down furniture on the utility trailer.