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OPINION: On assessing one's ability to survive [The Moultrie Observer, Ga. :: ]
[February 02, 2014]

OPINION: On assessing one's ability to survive [The Moultrie Observer, Ga. :: ]

(Moultrie Observer (GA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 01--MOULTRIE -- This week I was invited to sign up for a Wilderness Skills Institute in North Carolina. I'm not really sure why they invited me. My guess is they got my email address from those occasions when I actually did some internet research on survival skills.

Right up front I will say that I am interested in such skills because I've always been fascinated about how our primitive ancestors survived. But let me make it clear, I'm not one of those "Doomsday Preppers" who store up foods, dig fallout shelters and mount machine guns on the roof of their houses. If our society should ever break down to that point, then just take me out in the first wave of whatever invades us.

That said, routinely we read about people getting lost in the wilderness. Some actually have skills to minimize the pain, and some are just lucky and are found before they freeze to death.

I know it's very unlikely that more than a very few of us would ever be subjected to such a challenge, but it's like playing the lottery and the chances of winning. If you're the winner, the statistics don't matter.

Ever since I was a kid, I've studied survival skills. Growing up on a farm and spending a lot of time on the creek banks gave me some insight into what I should know in this regard.

Among the skills that I have acquired along the way is the ability to build shelter from what the forest offers. I can structure a hut from palmetto that will turn rain. I can build a fish trap from vines. I've done this on more than one occasion and actually caught fish in them. I can build a fire by rubbing sticks together.

Again, I don't expect to ever be in a situation that would require these skills in a venue of life and death. But I also never expected to have a kidney stone that would cause me to remodel an emergency room and speak in tongues. Just knowing that I have acquired some of these skills helps promote confidence.

I received a lot of ragging from my friends after I learned to build a fire by rubbing sticks together. There came the expected retorts like, "Hey, I can rub two matches together and do that." Or the standard, "Why don't you just buy a Bic?" My response was, "Why learn to play a guitar? Just turn on the radio." One thing learning some of these skills did for me was to give me a greater appreciation for those who came along long before us. Fire was probably the greatest discovery of mankind. It set the stage for so much more in the course of human progress. It allowed us to cook our food. As well, it allowed us to forge metal into weapons so that we could kill each other.

I also saw much irony in the fact that way back then a human who didn't even know the earth was round could build a fire without matches or a lighter. Meanwhile, there's a trainload of Ph.d's today who can't rub sticks together and build a fire. They may comprehend the physics, but they don't know the mechanics.

I once read about a big corporation that took some of its management people and put them out in the wilderness. The idea was for them to assess their abilities and resources and survive, feeling that the confidence that would result could manifest itself in business operations. Of course they had the assurance that if they could not meet the challenge, someone would come rescue them.

I've often wondered how that might work with Congress. Maybe we could take a sampling from both parties and put them on an island, forcing them to work together to survive ... and maybe without the assurance that someone would come get them if they failed. They might not even need to rub two sticks together to get a fire, given the perpetual friction between the two groups.

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