By now, some of you may have noticed my overall absence from the community. Not that it matters in the grand scheme of things. I’m just another voice frequently lost in the sea of rhetoric and bull shit. However, I’m probably considered one of the OGs of my time. I entered the fray at a time when survival was experiencing a renaissance, nearly 25 years ago. I’ve seen and been a part of much of the hype, all these years, often to my chagrin. I’ve been around during the inception of what is reality survival television. I’ve also been around to witness the twisted thinking it has created.
So tired I grew of all the bull shit spawned within the community, a few years ago I made a decision to distance myself from it.
Two years ago, I decided to write a book. The intent was to have it released last year, but I put it on hold. Though most of it is complete, pictures included, I’m not sure I will ever complete it, primarily because I’ve lost interest in the project. That said, I am including the rough draft (non edited) intro of the book here, because while for the last year I’ve been more and more absent from the community, It is interesting to note how those undertones of ire made it into the book. The intro gives an insight into how I’ve been feeling for a few years.
Oh to go back to my youth, a time when rules really didn’t apply, except those laid down by my parents. [chuckling] Even they didn’t apply at times. Back then, if we wanted to play pirates, any old stick would do as a sword. If we wanted to play cowboys and Indians, often times, we would just use our hands held in the shape of a pistol and that was well enough. Even today, as I watch my kids play, they are so full of wonderment and excitement, the things they use are only secondary to their imaginations. Of course, today they’ve graduated from using stick swords to something a little more sword like in nature—a Chef’s knife sharpening rod. I mean c’mon, just look at it! It looks like a sword. If I had one of those growing up, I could’ve been a real pirate.
When we wanted to go camping, we would make makeshift bindles and carry our supplies in them. Our lean-tos were nothing more than a bed sheet, or one of dad’s old tarps we found lying in the corner of the garage. An old empty coffee can mom had thrown out was a perfect billy. Who cared about what knot you used to tie up that old sheet or tarp. If it held, that’s all we cared about. Our knives? Well, that was a different story altogether. We had to sneak into the kitchen and steal mom’s most prized knife and hope she never found out, or get into dad’s old tackle box and grab his old fishing knife, covered with more rust, fish blood and scales, than you can shake a stick at. With gear in tow, we would set out on our own personal backyard adventure. Back then our gear didn’t matter. Having fun was our number one priority. Come to think of it, gear really didn’t matter, even well into my early adult years. Sure gear choices became more a matter of practicality, but never was it “we had to have this brand or that brand”. Then again, I really didn’t follow the Sears, L.L Bean catalog, or other outdoorsy magazines. I guess ignorance truly was bliss.
Sometime, in the earlier part of the nineties, I discovered this thing called the internet, and a whole new world opened up to me. I was now able to chat with others about their outdoor pursuits. And that’s when it started, what I now call the “out of control spiral down the rabbit hole into a world full of out of control commercialism, superfluous hero worship, and high school shenanigans, to include all the heel gnawing and backbiting so prolific in high school.” All of a sudden, what I had wasn’t good enough anymore, never mind it had worked wonderfully until then. Not to be left behind, I did what anyone else my age would do—I jumped in the shark tank and started swimming with the sharks. I began acquiring this gear and that gear while poking fun of those who chose much simpler items—just like the items I used to carry that had worked so wonderfully for me. If you didn’t know at least five different knots and their applications, you weren’t allowed to hang with the cool kids. And you were really special, if you could spin up a hand-drill coal and might even be allowed into the inner circle of deities. Oh and dare not the person who would challenge the thoughts and ideas of the community, for that person would have the ravenous vultures descend on them and pluck them apart. I mean it’s okay to be innovative and all, just don’t go against the standards set forth by the community… I’m still trying to figure out who those are that set said standards. Seems to me it starts with mr/mrs popular, then driven by the international society of fan boys.
Sadly, today, none of that has changed. Quite frankly, it has actually gotten much worse, thanks to the ever growing popularity of social media. The only thing different is I have distanced myself, as far as possible, from those circles and behavior. Truthfully, I am quite repulsed by others who find fulfillment in poking fun of others for their philosophies and ideologies. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I do find it rather amusing when someone attempts to back me into a corner using whimsical fallacies, because I now challenge certain community ideologies. Perhaps it is age, wisdom, or a combination of both, but ever since my “giveadamn” broke, and am no longer shackled by products and the rhetoric of others, I find my time out of doors and in the wild more enjoyable. I guess one can akin it to that moment in the movie “The Matrix” when Neo swallows the red pill and the truth opens up to him.
I know what you’re thinking, “Oh no is this going to be a book all about Alan’s rants?” The answer is no, that’s another book all together, though I may inject my opinions here and there. This book is about the tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way throughout the years in the outdoors. Most of the things here are original with me, as far as I know, including my opinions, lol.
Here, let’s start with one of my opinions. I think it’s ridiculous to hear over and over again and to see charts about the many knots every camper, bushcrafter, outdoorsman should know. The only knot you need to know is an overhand knot. An overhand knot used as part of a system will meet all of your camp needs—setting ridgelines, hanging bear bags, lashing poles, etc.. I can sense it already, the shutter some of you are experiencing from just reading this. Don’t worry, I’ll explain my position later in the book and share the systems I use.
This book is not about the brand of gear you take, that’s a personal matter. It is not the product, but how you use what you have. Throughout this book, however, I may refer to a product, but only because it is what I use. That said, the reader will find I am spartan in what I choose for gear. I don’t believe it is necessary to pay a king’s ransom in order to enjoy the outdoors. That is left to the whim of others who find fulfillment in spending on such things.
Another thing you may find is I challenge conventional wisdom. It’s not because I am hell bent on challenging everything, rather I attempt to examine things in a logical fashion. And if the logic makes more sense, then why not do it the way it makes more sense?
I have a good friend who is a talented martial artists. He tells me that one day he looks at a bow staff, holds it, and examines it. Now mind you he’s never used a bow staff to any great degree. He, for what ever reason, decides to compete with it for the first time. Well, long story short, he goes on to defeat a grand champion, not once, but several times. Why did this happen? Because he looked at it through a fresh set of eyes, not eyes clouded by rules set forth by who knows who. The grand champion was just doing what he had been taught. My buddy just used logic and common sense.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Use logic and common sense. Don’t be afraid to experiment and challenge conventional wisdom. Sure you may make some enemies along the way, but you’ll also feel liberated. Someone once told me “Free Thinking has it’s price”. I agree, and I’d be happy to pay more than I have for what I’ve learned.