Well folks, we are back for another segment of the 5 Stages of Preparedness. In case you missed it, we have covered 1 of the 3 different survival types for the Intermediate Stage that I have identified. These 3 being:
- The Doomsday Bunker Dweller
- The Jeremiah Johnson Mountain Man
- The Mad Max Scavenger
Last go-round, we covered Doomsday Bunker Dwellers. Although we did note several pros, what we REALLY seemed to find was the common misconceptions and mistruths that are easy to believe. That being the mindset of any of a handful of films from "City of Ember", "A Boy and His Dog", to light hearted "Blast from the Past". The fact is, no one...regardless of skills and income level, can shut the door to a shelter and shut themselves out from the world. In reality, certain assumptions and concessions must be made. Now, does that mean that I think bunkers are a waste? Absolutely not. Nothing could be further from the truth. Bunkers are absolutely necessary in the EOTWAWKI. Yet, what we picture in our mind and how it would be used is far different from reality.
So, I am not so keen on that. After all, look what you would be like if you DID hide out for a year..or years...at a time. Man, in Fallout 3, it took me all kinds of time to learn skills....ok ok. That's a video game.
But, go read it. If you disagree...let me know. I may still argue with you about how I am right, I still consider your thoughts (and I may steal them....)
So, again, a quick definition of the Intermediate Stage. This is the period of time up to 1 year. At this point, supplies and food is still readily available...though that is not to say that it's easy to get...which is a very important side note.
Ole JJ, much like the movie, is a man who lives 100% off of the land. He has little to no conventional needs. He doesn't need canned goods. He doesn't need vehicles. He doesn't need prebuilt shelters. But, JJ is just a name and I identity this man from a movie character. Though you can see where I am going with this, what you may not think about is that this lifestyle identifies that civilization...or the lack thereof...is much more dangerous than anything to be found in nature. In nature this man fights the elements, fights the animals, but he doesn't have to concern himself with the troubles that created the EOTWAWKI, whether that is plague, nuclear fallout, invasion, etc. He would much rather take his chances against a random black bear in the wilderness than some trigger happy, half-starved Mad Max in a dark alley of a city.
There are so many Pros to this lifestyle and I believe that most people identify with it. Why? Because most of us that read this have some sort of rural background. Did you build forts as a kid? Did you specifically looks for cedar trees to play in because it was easy to build platforms on it's many branches? Did you deer hunt or bass fish constantly? Did you spend endless summers tending your family garden? If you did, your first instinct during the EOTWAWKI is "good riddance...off to the woods I go. I have the skills. I can make a fire. I can find food. I can build shelter".
And while all of these are certainly true, even for me, the fact is that my life has never been dependant on ANY of these...much less the summation. I have never HAD to start a fire. I have never HAD to kill an animal to eat. And these are day 3 activities. What about the winter months when your body needs Vitamin C instead of just meat? Or a real shelter from the somehow-above-freezing rains of Alabama that penetrate into your soul. Even if the stars align and you are able to do these in the best of conditions, how will you deal with the unfortunate things that will come your way?
Now. Add in that I am a father to 3 children under 8.
No, my friends, I am not this man and neither or you. It's a funny thing to talk to friends and people I know, to read the comments on my Google+ and other threads I follow. People think they will disappear into the highlands and life will go on. Just like the previous post where maybe 1% of Doomsday Bunker Dwellers actually afford the all-inclusive resort of a shelter we all imagine, only 1% of us who THINK we are Jeremiah Johnson really can pull it off.
But, if we COULD....let's examine the pros. Some of them.
- Independence on premanufactured goods. That's a big one. Maybe THE big one. If you can provide for yourself via hunting and gardening, not only is it healthier and a better long term situation, but it provides stability and safety. Being able to build a shelter in-situ, keeps you from having to source building supplies, tools, etc as well as avoiding the need for squatting in someone's barn (whether it's abandoned or not). Keeping from venturing into populated areas keeps the exposure against...whatever caused this...low. Also, it keeps you from randomly getting shot. Face it. There will be plenty of people out there...scavengers in particular....who will have no problem popping you for your stuff.
- Provides a constant and readily available commodity in which you can barter or sell. There will be plenty of people out there who will not have the skills to hunt/trap/grow their own. Chances are, you wouldn't have any problem securing more than you need. If that's the case, you can avoid scavenging entirely and barter for items rather than exposing yourself
- Safety from humanity. For whatever reason, we can rest assure that humans are the cause for EOTWAWKI. Being a mountain man secludes you from the cause AND the effect. For whatever caused the end of the world, you can rest assured that it would be centered around population centers. Seeing how being away from population centers is your bag...it's a non-issue. However, let's examine the behaviour of the 3 lifestyles, since avoiding humanity entirely isn't exactly possible. You won't really have to bother with the bunker dwellers other than if you were out rambling and accidentally kicked over their ant nest, which you wouldn't do anyway, since you are a mountain man, living off the land and minding your own business. They like to stay hunkered down, so as long as you don't go prying on any cellar doors, you should be ok. You wouldn't have to deal with scavengers since they are limited to the proximity of supplies in towns and cities. If they did wander into your neck of the woods, you would almost certainly know they were there before they knew you were there. Other mountain men are certainly a potential cause of strife. I'd like to say that there would be a certain amount of respect, but you just never know. But, statistically speaking, there would be very few of the Mountain Men and a whole lot of land to cover. So, encounters should be far and few in between.
- Immune from many drastic changes. Being JJ the Mountain Man offers quite the buffer against the unknown. You will, or should be, stockpiled against potential threats, whatever that may be. You shouldn't be caught off guard by most things that get thrown at you. Where a sudden cold spell may cause you to burn up a lot of that wood you already cut, it might kill most anyone else in the cities who couldn't keep themselves warm or scavenge for food. We don't even have to touch on the particulars on being immune from political and social changes. These wouldn't concern you in the slightest.
- Diverse and Refined Skillset. I understand that sounds like "having skills because you have skills", but bear with me. Though we are only considering up to the first year, the skills that are needed to be a JJ for that first year, plus the refinement over that year of the skills, will be invaluable for the next 2 Stages of Preparedness. Face it, all the Twinkies and Pork-n-Beans will get eaten within the first year or so. So, after that point, EVERYONE will have to have these skills. Better to have them already and have the routine ironed out than having to transition. This would also allow you to have the choicest lands available. Everyone will eventually push away from cities. Once again, better to have laid claim to the good stuff than have to settle for the remainder.
- Almost no one will have the skillset to pull this lifestyle off, as we have written it. Again, even if you have the ability to do all of these things, can you do them under pressure? Have you practiced them? That's the key, and while lots of people DO try these things in the wild, their lives are never in jeopardy and if things went south, they would pack up camp and head home. Face it, it would only take a small hit to any of the necessities of life to sink most of us. Wet tinder. Ill prepared clothing. Lack of flora and fauna in a particular area. Heck, just inclimate weather on Day 1 might sink the ship.
- Human interaction. Specifically, the lack of . Being JJ the Mountain Man is all about self centeredness. You don't need anyone's help. You don't have to provide for anyone but yourself. We briefly mentioned this in the Doomsday Bunker Dwellers post. Like it or not, even the most independent and self absorbed people still need human interaction. That's a fact. And while I know most people are thinking about "someone to talk to", they aren't thinking about other things. Again, thinking about the "small things that could sink the ship", how about an infection? If only someone was there to run into town and brave the crazies for a moment to get you medication. Or if you just came down with a debilitating cold and needed someone to feed you? I won't delve into human sexuality, though I am saying that it's a bigger thing than anyone would like to admit. Suffice to say that we all need someone, like it or not.
- Lack of modern conveniences. Just because you are JJ doesn't mean that modern conveniences aren't nice or sometimes even necessary. Face it. I don't care who you are, you can't rely on trapping your whole life. You are going to need a regular source of firearms and ammunition. You are going to get old, and with that comes debilitating injuries and nags like arthritis. So, a regular supply of medication, from simple vitamins, to flu shots, to specialty medications are going to be needed. Just think about being a diabetic, for example. Sure would be nice to have an old fashioned generator laying around for those really nasty cold spells, or building your shelter/bunker. Even if you are an A+ farmer, you are going to needs seeds at least once. So, scavenging trips are going to happen. That doesn't mean that JJ has sworn them off, but it does mean that if he wants them, he has to go get them. That introduces a lot of variables. While a scavenging trip or two is probably not going to be the end of JJ, reliance on scavenging, such as Mad Max, becomes a numbers game.
- No solution to Stage 5: The End Game. This ties in to the very end of bullet #2 above. No one wants to think about it, but we won't always exist in our glory years. Between the hard work, frequent accidents, and just plain growing old, by the time you are in your late 50s, you will probably be unable to perform the tasks every day that you need to complete. So, if you can't grow your own good, repair your own shelter, who will? That's right. Community and family are necessary in your twilight years. That is, unless you are willing to work so hard for a long period of time just to die a slow, probably painful, and very desolate death. On the other hand, having a family...specifically children, insures that you have some sort of comfort in your late years.
Take me, for example. I FEEL like I fit more snuggly in this category than the others, yet I have to be honest with myself and identity my shortcomings. Do I have a fairly long list of skills that fit JJ? Yep. I CAN farm. I CAN hunt and fish. I CAN build my own shelter. Yet, I admit that I don't practice them in a "life or death" situation, and that makes QUITE the difference. Nor do I have faith that I can do all of this for a family of 5. I am not sure that I could handle all the things that mother nature could throw at me. After all, it's not how you live in the sunny and 70s that matter, but how you make do with the bone soaking snot freezing winters. Now, that being said, with my plan for a shelter and sufficient stock in a rural area and frequent scavenging trips, I could pull it off. So, It's more of a 75%-15%-10%. between the 3. So, like I said. Not strict adherence, but heavily biased towards it with some supplement from the rest.
To sum up, this lifestyle is terrific for avoiding unwanted human interaction. While avoiding...whatever it is in humans that has caused the EOTWAWKI AND the future humans, whether it's ...despots....cutthroats...etc. It's a two edged sword, however. I think we can see the downfall of having NO human interaction. It frees oneself from dependence on manufactured goods...almost. But, a scavenging trip here and there is far superior to doing it for a living. This lifestyle will offer plenty of bumps and bruises, but that's a far cry from the cut-throat mentality to be found elsewhere. There are plenty of inherent dangers, however, simply from the type of work that would have to be done everyday. My grandfather, for example, has gardened his whole life and accidentally stabbed himself with a tiller and nearly bled to death. But, in this post-apocalyptic world, danger surrounds you, so pick your poison. It is hard work. It does take skills most people won't initially have. But, if you have them, it gives you a definite heads-up on the competition for the next stage of life. Like we said, eventually everyone will HAVE to possess these skills. So, learn now or learn later.
Again, this isn't the end-all-be-all definition of JJ the Mountain Man. But, it's a start. I believe it gives a good glimpse into the second of three lifestyles that we will see in the EOTWAWKI. I would love to hear your thoughts!