Eating the Frozen Dead
By Douglas Hoover
Why are over 90% of Americans unprepared for survival? The short answer would be, they were not taught or trained how to survive under severe conditions. So why not?
When was the last time you had to forage in the woods for your next meal or wash your clothes in a nearby creek? How many Americans rely solely on firewood for heating their homes and for cooking, or manage without electricity, refrigeration or freezers?
How many Americans have starved to death as a result of severe winters or extended drought? When was the last time you heard a group of 86 people traveling to California got caught in a severe snow storm with only 41 surviving by eating the frozen dead?
Early settlers would always venture out in large groups known as "wagon trains" consisting of immigrants of all ages and all walks of life. These groups of pioneers were basically a microcosm of a modern neighborhood community, but with one major difference. These people were forced to get to know each other, work together and needed to be able to trust and rely 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 each other's 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 the weather and terrain. But they faced it together as a community or, if you will, a mobile neighborhood.
Unlike modern neighbors, these people worked together, fought off marauders together, cried and laughed together, forged raging rivers, climbed rugged mountains and crossed scorching deserts together. The Donner party ended up getting lost together and could only travel one mile a day blazing their own trail through the Sierra mountains, falling behind schedule with winter overtaking them. Even then, they were still together.
Pioneer women learned to supply their own household goods. There were no Vons, Kroger's, Costco's, IGA or Walmart... Guess what?... not even a 7-11. They had to learn how to be creative and make what they needed from their surroundings: dried gourds for containers, kitchen implements carved from wood, soap made from lard or fat, or a baby cradle from a hollowed-out log. Even their clothes were made from tanned animal hides; Davy Crockett even had a hat made from a slow raccoon...
Food was no different, it too came from the land, not the supermarket. They ate what could be gathered, grown and harvested, or chased down, trapped or shot. Winters would force neighbors to come together and share their stores or recently captured game. Since winter meals consisted mostly of corn and dried or fresh game, they were anxiously awaiting spring for the fresh wild berries and edible plants.
We all most likely have a cordial relationship with two or three neighbors and in desperate times may know them well enough to borrow a couple of eggs or a cup of sugar, or even a lawn mower. But it is not likely we would ask a neighbor for some fireplace coals to restart our fire, or an axe to cut firewood to stay warm or to share their stash of winter food since a family of black bears broke in and ate everything.
Health was always a major concern, because an extended illness meant precious time lost for hunting, gathering and preparations for continuous survival needs. They had no pharmacies with cough syrup or aspirin and no hospitals, much less an ambulance to get you there.
Need to get a message to a friend? Put on your hiking boots or hop on your mule... no cell phones, email or texting, fax or telegrams. Can you imagine if Pony Express mail delivery was our only option to deliver a message, through severe or stormy weather, bandits, lame horse or broken saddle?
In a recent national survey it was discovered that few Americans have food or water storage in case of a disaster or emergency. How many children today are taught the skill of how to plant and harvest a garden, let alone preserve the crop through canning or dehydration? Thousands more people would have perished during the Dust Bowl/Great Depression 1929-33 if not for the fact that they were the children and grandchildren of American pioneers and were taught to plan and prep for disaster or emergencies.
Although pioneer families were extremely resourceful and nearly self-sufficient, neighbors were highly valued on the frontier, unlike most neighborhoods today. As I said, most Americans don't even know most of their neighbors, let alone work together in a closely knit community. In a pioneer community, if a family was in need, neighbors from miles away would come running to help in whatever capacity they could. Pioneer neighborhoods would even come together to help a newcomer build a cabin or a neighbor harvest his crop.
They would transform these events into a celebration of life and new beginnings with a generous banquet feast. The true expression of community was evident everywhere, with the men working, the women preparing the food, tending to infants and the neighborhood children playing together, inventing new games. Can you imagine any of those or similar activities in today's cities or urban communities? For the 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 dis-associating and isolating themselves from one another, it becomes "every man for himself" in a disaster or emergency and it becomes easy for neighbors to eventually turn on each other, rather than work together. Coupled with the fact that most Americans are unprepared for a disaster within our dense urban populations, only havoc and mayhem can ensue. Without a close-knit, well-organized community, the outcome is every man for himself and survival of the fittest or the most prepared. Most disasters find neighbors killing neighbors for a myriad of reasons. Would any neighbor kill another if that neighbor helped him build his house or helped him chop wood for the winter?
Another major reason Americans are not prepared is because they don't believe anything bad is going to happen. The majority of Americans have never experienced a serious disaster that disrupted life as they know it for an extended period of time such as the dollar crash, EMP, major earthquake or pandemic. People are distracted in a major way, trying to make a living and paying taxes, and spending the rest of the time entertaining themselves with everything from sports and movies to parties, bar-hopping and hobbies.
People are so preoccupied with self 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 is as if Americans no longer have quiet time to simply think about anything because their brains are preoccupied with music and jabber imputed from a myriad of electronics. Americans are truly lost and alone in more ways than one and therefore will definitely be lost, helpless and vulnerable in a serious disaster or catastrophe.
Watch National Geographic's movie "After Armageddon" and ask yourself what you would do under the same circumstances... you will find yourself and family shifting gears in an attempt to become totally prepared.