Eat the frozen dead

Why are more than 90% of Americans unprepared to survive? The short answer would be that they were not taught or trained how to survive in harsh conditions. Then why not?

When was the last time you had to drill in the woods for your next meal or wash your clothes in a nearby stream? How many Americans depend solely on firewood to heat their homes and cook, or do they do without electricity, refrigeration, or freezers?

How many Americans have starved to death as a result of severe winters or prolonged droughts? When was the last time you heard that a group of 86 people traveling to California got caught in a severe snowstorm and only 41 survived by eating the frozen dead?

The first settlers always ventured in large groups known as “wagons” that consisted of immigrants of all ages and all walks of life. These pioneer groups were basically a microcosm of a modern neighborhood community, but with one big difference. These people were forced to get to know each other, work together, and needed to be able to trust and depend on each other for their collective survival.

Unlike modern society, pioneers and settlers had no choice but to be self-sufficient and totally dependent on gifts, talents, ingenuity, and especially their individual strengths and faith.

The land was rarely kind or cooperative and they faced life-threatening challenges from both climate and terrain. But they faced it together as a community or, if you will, a mobile neighborhood.

Unlike modern neighbors, these people worked together, battled marauders together, wept and laughed together, forged raging rivers, scaled rugged mountains, and crossed scorching deserts together. Donner’s group ended up getting lost together and were only able to travel a mile a day making their own way through the Sierra Mountains, lagging behind with winter catching up with them. Even then, they were still together.

Pioneering women learned to stock up on their own household items. There were no Vons, Kroger’s, Costco’s, IGA, or Walmart … Guess what? … not even in 7-11. They had to learn to be creative and make what they needed from their environment: dried gourds for containers, kitchen utensils carved out of wood, soap made from butter or grease, or a baby crib from a hollowed out log. Even their clothes were made of tanned animal skins; Davy Crockett even had a hat made from a slow raccoon …

The food was no different, it also came from the land, not from the supermarket. They ate what they could gather, grow, and harvest, or chase, catch, or shoot. Winters would force neighbors to meet and share their tents or recently caught game. Since winter meals consisted mainly of corn and dried or fresh game, they eagerly awaited spring for fresh wild berries and edible plants.

Chances are, we all have a cordial relationship with two or three neighbors and, in desperate moments, know them well enough to borrow a couple of eggs or a cup of sugar, or even a lawn mower. But we are not likely to ask a neighbor for some embers to start the fire, or an ax to chop wood to keep warm or to share their winter meal, as a family of black bears broke in and ate everything.
Health was always a major concern, because a prolonged illness meant precious time lost to hunting, gathering, and preparations for ongoing survival needs. They had no pharmacies with cough syrup or aspirin, no hospitals, much less an ambulance to take you there.

Do you need to send a message to a friend? Put on your hiking boots or hop on your mule … without cell phones, email or text messages, faxes or telegrams. Can you imagine if Pony Express mail delivery was our only option to deliver a message, through severe or stormy weather, bandits, a lame horse, or a broken saddle?

A recent national survey found that few Americans have food or water storage in the event of a disaster or emergency. How many children today are taught the skill of planting and harvesting a garden, much less preserving the crop through canning or dehydration? Thousands more people would have perished during the 1929-33 Dust Bowl / Great Depression were it not for the fact that they were children and grandchildren of American pioneers and were taught to plan and prepare for disasters or emergencies.

Although pioneer families were extremely resourceful and almost self-sufficient, neighbors were highly valued on the border, unlike most neighborhoods today. Like I said, most Americans don’t even know most of their neighbors, much less work together in a tight-knit community. In a pioneer community, if a family was in need, neighbors from miles away would come running to help out in any way they could. Pioneer neighborhoods even came together to help a newcomer build a cabin or a neighbor to harvest his harvest.

They would transform these events into a celebration of life and new beginnings with a lavish banquet. The true expression of community was evident everywhere, with the men working, the women preparing the food, tending to the babies and children of the neighborhood playing together, inventing new games. Can you imagine any of those or similar activities in today’s cities or urban communities? For pioneers and settlers, it was the norm.

Today’s societies are fractured, dysfunctional and antisocial, fast-paced, disinterested, and self-centered. As a result of neighbors disengaging and isolating themselves from each other, it becomes “each for himself” in a disaster or emergency and it becomes easy for neighbors to eventually confront each other, rather than work together. Coupled with the fact that most Americans are unprepared for disaster within our dense urban populations, only havoc and chaos can ensue. Without a united and well-organized community, the result is each for himself and the survival of the fittest or the most prepared. Most disasters find neighbors killing other neighbors for a variety of reasons. Would one neighbor kill another if that neighbor helped him build his house or helped cut firewood for the winter?

Another important reason Americans are unprepared is because they don’t think anything bad is going to happen. Most Americans have never experienced a serious disaster that has interrupted life as they know it for an extended period, such as a falling dollar, the EMP, a major earthquake, or a pandemic. People get distracted in major ways, trying to make a living and paying taxes, and spend the rest of their time entertaining themselves with everything from sports and movies to parties, bar breaks and hobbies.

People are so preoccupied with themselves that they can no longer simply drive from one place to another without talking on the cell phone, texting, or listening to the radio or stereo. It’s as if Americans no longer have quiet time to just think about anything because their brains are preoccupied with music and the imputed chatter of a myriad of electronic devices. Americans are truly lost and alone in more ways than one, and therefore will definitely be lost, helpless, and vulnerable in a major disaster or catastrophe.

Watch the National Geographic movie “After Armageddon” and ask yourself what you would do under the same circumstances … you will find yourself and your family shifting gears in an attempt to be fully prepared.

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