April 23, 2011
by Linda Brady Traynham
If only the extraordinarily sensible Dr. Paul were six foot two, with a baritone voice, and would slow down his speech…but he has so much to say, and he will always be beaten by a taller slow-talker with a deeper voice mouthing platitudes and outright nonsense.
Those of us who are “preppers” do so for the very reason you point out: the dregs of our society are supported by the government, as are the weakest members. One of the hardest things I have to do, and I do it pretty frequently, is remind myself that we cannot save everyone. We cannot do it now, and we certainly will not be able to do so in the future which is coming our way at a frightening pace. We must harden our hearts as best we can, or we will all perish together. Let us suppose–and I do not believe the numbers are this good–that 10% of the population has stored six months’ food and can protect it, and that the 2% who still run small farms and ranches are not counted among that number but could preserve livestock and family members from the locusts. At the very best, that would be shy of an eighth of the population able to eat after the crash of the dollar, and does not begin to take into consideration collapse of electric grids and government confiscation. That reduces the matter to very simple arithmetic, indeed: what will feed me for two months will feed me and one other person for one. Four of us will last only two weeks. Eight of us will be out of food in one. As Francisco said to Hank, “It is against the sin of forgiveness I came to warn you,” or close enough. We simply cannot accept anyone into our “family” who isn’t worth what he or she will eat. We have to go back to first principles: if you do not work you do not eat, and unless you produce something of value that a survivalist colony needs as well as earn what you eat, there will be no place for you. Things go wrong; there must be a surplus produced to make up for that and to produce trade goods. The ugliest phrase in the English language will turn out to be, “I thought of that but I didn’t get around to buying it.”
Is a Doctor worth feeding–if he comes with a car full of standard medications? Quite probably. Will a Veterinarian do just as well and even better? Quite probably! We will need to preserve cows, goats, and chickens more than we do people, and the Vet can sew up wounds and has/had access to many medications that humans and livestock both use, such as penicillin and tetracycline.
Obviously, we have no use for the drummer from a rock band (no matter how famous), and a minister had better have other skills as well. How much does he have to contribute if he wants us to take in his wife, a teenaged son, and three children under ten? More than he is ever likely to have, and I’m a staunch Christian.
Can I use a book keeper with arthritis? Yes, of course I can! Somebody has to log inventory, supplies in, supplies out. That is a very time-consuming, exacting job, and one of the things driving me near berserk is how frequently things have disappeared, been ruined, been consumed, or nobody knows where they are. To my horror, I discovered recently that every single propane tank that was supposed to be ready to house people in old motor homes or RVs has been emptied. NOW is a bad time to find out, but it would be anywhere from lethal to extremely inconvenient when there is no more “just in time” inventory. In a time when all we have on hand is all there may ever be it will be urgent to know what we have. On top of which, those tanks run about $20 each to fill and such things add up. No, you can’t fill them from the big propane tank, at least not safely, and all that is in there is all there is, too.
The very sad truth is that most of the population has no idea how to be of the slightest use, and has not made preparations. If someone shows up with a large trailer stuffed to the gills seeking sanctuary we will be able to afford to give him/her/them a trial period to determine if protection and a blessed supply of pure, clean water is worth whatever he/they can offer while they feed themselves. The chances of a bedraggled, desperate couple pulling a toddler in a little red wagon being of any value is very slim. The chances are that members of most families wouldn’t qualify if the oldest generations had made provisions and their progeny had not. I really have no use for a Senior Vice President of one of America’s most famous banks, based on that qualification alone. Fortunately, she is a demon organizer, young, fit, a superb bargainer, and a fine shot who turns into Elly Mae Clampett the moment she hits the ranch, so if my beautiful, very much beloved daughter can traverse the dangerous distance from Dallas to where I live, she can stay. Do I need an accountant being groomed as CFO for a corporation in Seattle? Well…if he can make it here, yes, because he is young, fit, a splendid shot, skilled in martial arts, a magnificent negotiator, an organizer, and a hunter. Yes, I need him, and then we’ll think about him being my son. Do I need Russell Longcore?! Well…he’s awful bright, has an operatic quality voice, and several other skills he can tell you about if he chooses, and somebody has to scrub bathrooms. Actually, everybody has to take turns at scut work. One of my great strengths is that I know when I’m a a leader with command presence and when I’m what’s known as a “warm body,” who can peel potatoes or patch tears in clothing. If there is no electricity it would be nice to have someone who can sing Nessum Dorma and Una Furtiva Lagrima while circling the herd at night. I can teach someone to ride. I can’t teach them to be sensible and as terrific as Russ is! Can I use a really good carpenter who can get along? Sure. Would I take trained military personnel who can be trusted? Of course. Would most of the people in the 175,000 living far too close to me be of any use at all other than as noted? Almost certainly not. If they could be, they wouldn’t be refugees.
One of the things that really needs thinking about and agreement on ahead of time is what sort of social structure a colony needs to survive, and I’ll tell you flat out not to apply for mine unless you understand and can accept that it sure isn’t going to be a democracy. We aren’t going to count snouts on anything more complex than what’s for dinner, and then only from what’s in season and what the Stores Keeper says we can have. No, gentlemen–ladies, if any–I am not joking at all. We’re going to have ourselves a nice little feudal fiefdom for the very simple reasons that a) I have a five year head start, b) I’ve thought all this out carefully, and c) in case anyone has forgotten those are my cattle, goats, pigs, chickens, horses, water, and shelter we’re talking about. I’m no Catherine the Great; anybody who follows the very clear rules will do fine. I’m not bossy, but when I say, “Darlin’ when you get a moment would you…” that is an ORDER and I expect it to be attended to reasonably soon. Nobody has to. They can leave, instead. I have such dreadful rules, too! NOTHING is to be wasted. Leaving an animal unwatered isn’t quite a hanging offense, but don’t do it twice. Or else. Or else what? Or else we’ll throw you out…if you’re lucky. The livestock and gardens, plus our skills and dedication, are what will keep us alive…if anything does. NO fighting, loud, angry voices, backbiting, or jealousy. Because I don’t like it, and that’s my food on your plate even if you did help grow it. Don’t worry. I’m never unreasonable. Unless a better candidate comes along (snort of laughter) Mr. C. (as the hands call darling Charles) makes the decisions around the place. Why? Because he knows how to do it all himself! You don’t reach his rank in the military without learning a thing or two–and he doesn’t boss people around, either, given any choice at all. He is the “go to” man no matter what the problem is because he knows HOW to do whatever it is, fix whatever it is, or come up with a magnificent field fix. If absolutely necessary he’ll “lay a little leadership on you,” as he says, but if he does, you’ll know you deserve it. “Cut brush for the goats every day” means “cut brush for the goats every day.” It’s free, they like it, and it saves feed. If you ask for help, he’ll explain why or show you how. I don’t care how other people choose to set up their colonies, and if you choose to go for elected officials, a boss thug, or to be run by the clergy it’s fine with me. Y’all have a good time. I’ve considered every form of government there is, and for small groups sort of an organized family structure will work best. I am supposing that most of you have read apocalyptic fiction. Remember Patriot? They were all responsible for providing their own food, all of them drank coffee, and within three weeks they were out! Breakfast was oatmeal and lunch was a big pot of (unseasoned, as nearly as anyone said) rice. Dinner was deer or the MRE du jour. No thank you. Three years later the only garden has herbs and they don’t own a single head of stock. They sat around and argued and voted for days on whether and how to rescue a little town that had been taken over by bikers. By the time they finally quit voting and brangling only one traumatized little boy was still alive.
Some things are not suitable to vote on. I could probably come up with a sensible plan for such a situation, but WHY, when I have a man who taught tactics at a l’il ol’ military institution you may have heard of? Mind, I can do the Audie Murphy thing, having found myself in situations where my body was in motion before most people would realize I had “thought” about it at all; most mothers have! I just don’t see any need to reinvent wheels. If I think the neighbors need rescuing I’ll leave it to men trained for the job to plan it and the young and fit to execute the plan while I go make hot cocoa or lemonade, depending upon which I think will be most soothing when I tuck the rescued into a bed with nice, clean sheets and hand them one of the precious, preserved Valium while I croon “There, there, now.” I’m 70 years old, for goodness’ sake, and not trained to take point or rappel off roofs. There are those whose job it is to ride horses and shout “Wolverines!” (Possibly. I prefer nice, quiet ops.) and those of us who know when to make a big pot of hearty soup and contemplate whether it is time to go hide in the woods.
You see what I mean: if you haven’t really thought things like this through, the only kind of two cents you need to be throwing in is mentioning a skill nobody knew you had that is pertinent to the job that needs doing. I wouldn’t put it off much longer.
Linda Brady Traynham,