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Survival: The Last Laugh


By Ron Hood, Ed.D. (ABD)

Introduction | 1 - Beginning | 2 - Innovation | 3 - Woods Master | 4 - Exposure

SURVIVAL: The living or continuing longer than another person or thing.

Survival is the subject for this electronic book. For whatever reason you have chosen to examine these pages, there is one thing certain. The conditions you may be faced with in a survival challenge areuncertain. I have no way of knowing exactly what information you will be needing to succeed. I do know, however, that there are many ways to solve a problem. There may well be a best way, but there are also other satisfactory answers resulting in the same product: your personal survival.

I do not presume to provide you with the skills to run naked into the woods, look directly to the eyes of nature, and say, "I'm going to beat you!" It can't be done. Rather the intention is to help you to find answers that will teach you hownot to challenge nature. These writings will help you to learn to survive with the least amount of pain and the greatest possibility of a future.

Nor is the book limited to woodsy wilderness survival issues. You will discover that it contains some of the concepts and attitudes you may need to survive the pressures of the urban environment, an environment many times more dangerous to you than the woods are ever likely to be.

Through the years, I have had the opportunity to experience many different kinds of survival challenges. Some of them were real threats to my life and some of them were self-imposed and very personal tests of my skills. I have also had the good fortune, over the years, to have been able to lead over 5000 students into the wilderness to teach them survival skills. Through this association with people I've seen a kind of pattern. The pattern starts with a frowning insecurity, a sort of "What am I doing here?" look the on the first day and ends with a smile and an obvious sense of personal power and security, by the last day.

There exists in most of us a lingering distrust of the vagaries of nature, almost a fear of the wilderness environment. A fear? Yep. Most of us have spent the majority of our lives in a synthetic environment. An environment almost totally controlled by humanity. Our shelters are made by a community of builders, our foods are not produced by the consumer, nor are the clothes... most of what we own or use is produced by another. To me it seems odd that even with this great dependence on the production of others, we feel fairly secure.

Clearly we know and moderately trust the environment we occupy. As individuals, we feel confident. However, when we take those same fairly confident, mostly competent persons into the woods for the first time, what do we see? Fear: a stricken look creeps across their faces. "What was that noise... was it a bear?... Rattlesnakes, is it safe to sleep on the ground? Do you think that it will rain? Does this thing bite? Is it poisonous?" Questions couched in a vessel of fear.

Lets stop here for just a moment. Why are so many of us nervous in the wilderness? Certainly more and more individuals are partaking in the joys of nature. Yet even these persons seem to need the security of an overloaded backpack. The stove, the pots and pans, a sort of house on your back, an insulation provided by the artifacts of the synthetic environment. Can't we just cast aside these affectations and plunge wholly into the wilderness as primitive persons once did? Nope, it isn't practical. Those artifacts serve to not only isolate us from the pressures of survival living, but also to shelter the environment from us. Imagine for a moment the effect of tens of thousands of persons munching, hacking, and trapping their way through the wilderness. What a horrible thought.

So you travel into the land of blue skies, you eyeball the fleecy white clouds wondering at their journey across the heavens. You stop for a moment, breathless, sweat snaking down your cheeks the air coming hot and raspy in your throat. You stoop, cup in hand, to a crystal brook rimmed with green grasses, ferns and all manner of plant life. You see the shadowy form of a small fish dart under the bank as you fill your cup with a clear, cold and somehow almost sacramental fluid. The water is... well... better somehow than the water in the city, It is more invigorating. It is also full of cow shit. Ah yes, the simple pleasures.

What has all of this to do with survival? Just this. Imagine you are out there, wherever there happens to be. What if you lost your equipment in a river crossing? Or maybe one of those new type banditos-of-the-woods steals your unattended backpacking gear? Or you get lost? Or...? The possibilities are almost endless, and limited mostly by your imagination. (If you want to explore these dark possibilities, do it at night, just before you leave for the woods. It's so much more fun.) The point is, you are there, possibly lost, possibly without water, food or whatever. What do you do? This book will help you decide. It cannot, however, give you all of the survival skills. Nothing but years of experience can do that.

Just a Thought

In the million or so years since humans began to make tools, we've come up with an incredible array of survival techniques. Many of them are good, and some are rotten. But a million years of survival skills is hard to imagine. Try this idea on for size...

Draw a line ten feet long and say that it represents a million years. The line is what authorities believe is the time span our species has been developing its survival skills. Now halve it to five hundred thousand years, halve it again, and so on. Here is what you get for your one million years of human endeavor.

If 10 Feet equals one million years, then:





Feet =



Feet =



inches =



inches =



inches =



inches =



inch =



inch =

244 years

Thus, we can see that on a time line ten feet long equal to one million years, the period from the signing of the Declaration of Independence until today is represented by about the thickness of two pages of a paper book. Think about it. The synthetic environment we know began about 200 years ago. Survival started for humanity at the beginning of the time line and continues on today. There is a lot to know and a lot more to forget. No one of us will ever know it all and what is more important, it isn't necessary. I know how to survive most situations, and I will. So can you. This book is intended to give you a little more of the "will" to live. When all is done and said, our definition of "Survival" will remain the same except we will have added another part to the definition: Survival is the last laugh.

(As long as there is an interest in what I am writing, I will continue to add new material to these pages until you have as complete a document as I can present to you in this wonderful electronic communications medium. I hope that you will take the time to send me a note with your comments. Without your comments it will be like tossing words into a vacuum, and I will be lonely.)

Ron Hood
Copyright Ron Hood 1995

Introduction | 1 - Beginning | 2 - Innovation | 3 - Woods Master | 4 - Exposure

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