Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Who ya gonna call?

In normal times, one or two people can get along pretty well by themselves.  You have electronic devices to help you keep tabs on what's going on around your place.  Law and Order, such as it is these days, is in effect.  Unless you live too far out, like me, you can call the police if you have a problem.

The general consensus among people who give it a lot of thought, though, is that it takes a group of people to make things function when all is not as it should be.  Katrina is a good example. I spent a lot of money on books, trying to learn about Katrina without relying on the notoriously inaccurate and sensational news media.  I drew some useful conclusions from that research, and one of them was that mom and pop holding up in their second floor apartment and hoping the trouble will just pass them by does not work as a survival strategy.

For my brothers in the West, forming a group to work together in extraordinary times poses no problem. First, my brother has a purpose built compound out in the Sierras, where he prepositions supplies and equipment. He has a group of friends who come up there for a week at a time, twice a year, for hunting and fishing get togethers. 

My brothers are both linked to country people in the region through family marriages.  I think my brothers would have more people to cooperate with than they could really use, but planning is my middle brothers strong point. He ran a business in California for many years and he understands operational estimates and logistics.

Neither of them would have any trouble at all mentally throwing a switch and trading today's world for whatever might come along.  I think they've solved any problems that are foreseeable , long ago.

I have most things under control, but the issue of additional people up here is a tough one.  I don't want to surrender any of my autonomy, and I don't want to give up any control.  But the groups I have communicated with , if I affiliated with them , would cause me to do just that.  In any group there has to be a strong leader, and I wouldn't join one that didn't have that because under stress, they wouldn't make it. At the same time, I'm not interested in being told what to do.  I call the shots on my own place and I always will.

The reasonable thing to do is to invite people I know very well, have known for years, to come in an emergency.  There are very few people that meet that bill.  For thirty years I've deliberately avoided close contact with people to the extent possible.  Building up a group of trusted associates who might be able to make it here, under those restraints , is not easy.

I have been talking with some other individuals who have been "in the business" for many years, to see what they thought. Recently I got a very insightful communication from an individual who is well known in the community.  He gave me the ok to publish extracts of his letter , and I am doing so here for anyone else struggling with the issue.

That thing about one dynamic me, thats a problem. It means that either he's the most motivated and everyone else just goes along, or he's the only thing holding the group together, or he's in a position to ramrod ideas and plans over the objections of others. Either way, he's a lot of eggs in one basket....if something happens to him or he just quits or goes nuts.....the whole group can fall apart.

I always say that if a person is going to join a group like this, it should be a group that you've 'organically' developed....shooting buddies and casual acquaintances who it turns out have the same concerns and interests. Kinda like dating the girls next door before you go hitting the internet dating sites. But you're so isolated, and you don't seem to really do much socializing, so I'm not sure how you'd even go about meeting like-minded individuals without this sort of event.

Back in the '90s we had all sortsa groups rise and fall in these parts of the woods. It seemed like 90% were guys who thought that survivalism was guns, ammo, BDU's and calling each other by made-up ranks and planning for a UN invasion. Lots of ammo, little food. Of course, its entirely possible that there are some truly well-done groups here and they are simply below the radar. I've no doubt about that...I'm pretty sure I've run into them a time or two in my travels. And I've seem some very interesting homes built up in the hills.

Just looking at history shows that 'tribes' form on a common denominator. Family, religion, politics, shared experience, etc. Throw a handful strangers together and I'd put their chances below that of an equally geared/equipped group comprised of family members, or church members, or that sort of thing. You're part of a tribe already...a Marine. I would guess, although I might be wrong, that you'd feel more comfortable in a group comprised of former servicemen (esp. Marines) than you would of total strangers. I've encountered two or three people like you, that is to say, people who have what is essentially a 'family stronghold' prepared and who are expecting their extended family to draw in and populate it in a crisis. To me, thats the most optimal situation since that brings a level of trust and familiarity that is very hard to come by outside of family relationships. Its a shame you and your brother(s) don't get along better, it would seem you guys have an ideal setup... one of you sets up the homestead and the others pre-position gear there 'just in case'. World comes to an end, you all meet at the brothers home.

I had a tight little circle of friends here that I'd known for many years before we discovered that we were all on the same wavelength. We never made anything 'official' but we all wound up with the same guns (AR, 870,P35,10/22,etc) and we'd let each other know when we came across deals on food and supplies. We all knew that we could count on the other ones in a crisis if we needed a place to stay or ran short on something.

At this point I redacted part of the letter to preserve the writers anonymity. It refers to an incident he was involved in that many of us are aware of.

 Sadly, life isn't static and those friends had to move to find jobs, or their families required them to move elsewhere, etc, and now its just me and one or two other buddies. But I keep my eyes open for opportunities to make new allies. 

Don't for a minute think that I'm trying to tell you what to do, I wouldn't presume that....BUT, if I had invested as much as you have into your location, I'd be unbelievably reluctant to share that information with any group no matter how well vetted and professional they seem. But thats ME. I know you're no fool and you wouldn't take risks if you didnt think they were to your benefit.

Good luck with the group thing. I hope it works out...I think you'd like having some folks you could 'be yourself' around without worrying that they think youre nuts. Thats what I love most about the relationships I have with other survivalists....I get to fly my freak flag and no one thinks I'm crazy. But be careful, man....

If anyone recognizes who wrote that, please don't say so on the blog.  His operational security is very good and it was a favor for him to allow me to print his thoughts. I'd be very embarrassed if he was in any way compromised as a result.

I've about given up on preexisting groups. The down side aspects are far more numerous than the plus side.  I may discuss this issue with my kids and see if they have some good candidates they could bring from the city with them. Perhaps they know some twenty somethings who have no place to go in a disaster or collapse. I'm still working on it.


  1. Adversity creates allies. Need changes attitudes and a stressful environment forces change. You are putting the cart before the horse a bit here. Build it and they will come. You cannot find a group based on mutual need and understanding until outside forces make the changes that bring about those needs.

    I still hold to the opinion your children will be back in the nest before this thing is over and done with. The cities will empty and millions will be looking for safe ports to settle into. Right now people can afford to be individualistic because debt based economics and a huge welfare state make it affordable. That is going to change. Your efforts right now should be to prepare for that change and anticipate those who will come looking for a safe place. Figure out how many you can handle or afford to take in and how you will adjust accordingly.

    1. The kids will be back here if things go sour in the city.

      My concern at the moment is the same issue you highlighted. I don't want to wait til things go awry and then try to figure out "who and where." A well organized, well established group offers a lot of benefits. For one thing, if you affiliate before the crunch, you know the capabilities of the members. You know the advantages and assets they offer. You also know the responsibilities they expect you to fulfill. I don't think I will find allies around here. I'm not part of the social structure, and more importantly, everything here is based on blood relationships and intermarriage. I don't fit in with any of the ready made "groups" on those counts. It's anticipating who will come that I'm working on. I've been trying to see what's available and so far I haven't found anything that I felt like I would fit into. My old group, people I would have trusted and would have wanted to come, have gotten divorced, gotten sick, moved away, etc. They just aren't viable anymore. If the kids can find four or five of their associates who would be assets that would work. But the downside is that twenty somethings, unless they are veterans, might be "weak" in the skills and attitudes I'd need. It may be all I can come up with though. One big issue is that you absolutely have to be able to get along with whoever comes. My old crowd, I knew and there would not have been insurmountable personality issues.

    2. Honestly Harry you are not going to know who you can count on or work with etc. until those circumstances are on us. There maybe some scenarios that might give you a clue before hand but I doubt anyone will put themselves into those positions willingly if they don't have to.

      I would suggest just playing fast and loose and plan on actual numbers not maybe's and let the circumstances sort em out. The pre-formed group ala Rawly-world is a complete fantasy even if they think it is set in stone. No plan survives first contact with the enemy.

    3. Don't you think that after "the day" it will be a little late to try to get a trustworthy group together? I think unless you do at least some pre-selection, the logistics alone of getting people from some city 300 miles away to here would be impossible. In your case, you have family living around you, but aren't a lot of them elderly? The work load would go up considerably if it you had to do everything for yourselves, and I don't think everybody would be able to just turn in at night. Somebody would have to stay up and keep an eye on things, like the "fire watch" in a barracks.

      I have no objection to modifying plans, but I have always been vehement about having one. That's why I am where I am, and have what I have. I can be sure of one thing, if the worst happens people here are going to amalgamate with the rest of their clans, and everybody else can go to the devil.

      Out of curiosity, I have a good idea of who lives at or near your place. Are you going to try to work through things with just that handful of people? What if your son is gone? I never really worried about this stuff until I started slowing down from age, and realized that I might not be able to keep the boat afloat with just myself and my wife here. Especially with the Zombies that already create a hazard in the mountains. If they were unleashed by a breakdown, it would be really bad for me because I think eventually they would find me.

    4. I think you are looking at things like a Napoleon while I am looking at them like Wellington. What I am saying is you are never going to find the right group now because you have no way of figuring out who will work out and how the circumstances will interfere with each until it happens.

      I can pretty much imagine how things will go down around here and am pretty confident which of my friends and relatives will be showing up at my door. That list changes even now as some move, some change their current situation and some age beyond the point of being useful for the first type of activities I envisioned. This constant change will never stop and if you adjust your plans with each change you will never have a plan anyway because you will always be adjusting it.

      I bought a crate of a certain firearm not because I have specific people in mind to use them but because I am pretty sure I will have enough people when the time comes. I know many out there cry "train" constantly but I am not planning on having a military camp only a sustainable farm. The human resource of prepping is not something you can stock up on only spread the seeds and see what grows when you need it.

    5. Maybe we are saying the same thing in different terminology. You feel confident you know who is coming, and you know them well enough to know how they fit in.

      I need the same sense of control. I want an idea of who is coming, what their strengths and weaknesses are. You are in the fortunate position of being able to draw on relatives, the best and most trust worthy people for the "job."

      Since my kids moved off, I am not sure I can count on them coming. It may be they can go North to Kymber and J, but not South to me. The one thing I don't want is to get stuck up here with just the wife and I, because this is not a defensible position. Once people find it, they can come in from 360 degrees. I'm not looking for an armed camp either, but it's dangerous enough living out here now, let alone if the system breaks down completely. I didn't spend 30 years gathering all this stuff to turn it over to criminals and get killed in the process.

      There must be some way to firm up what happens on the day. Working through my kids is the only way I can think of.

    6. Maybe. I mean I have a pretty good idea because it's pretty obvious some, like my brother, will be stuck with four cars, a boat and a huge house with two daughters and no job or way to get food when TSHTF. I am pretty sure he will end up out here but we have never even talked about it because he doesn't think a collapse is coming. I have a few friends locally that are going to need more than their little lots in the small town can provide for em. They already come out and pick stuff etc. so I am sure those relationships will flourish when the time comes, or maybe they will find a better offer.

      As far as I see it this is a painfully slow collapse. The signs are there but they are taking years longer to manifest than experts thought they would take. Before it is final the changes will come slow enough just people adapting to them will bring em to you.

    7. The rapidity, or lack thereof, of an implosion would depend on the nature of the event. If the economic debacle brings about a collapse, that will probably be just as it is now, a slowly accelerating process that makes life harder and harder for people until the society just blows up. When the government checks stop coming or won't buy what people want, then things will get out of hand. That could take awhile.

      Some sort of Black Swan event could change things overnight. There are plenty of potential problems there. EMP, either man made or natural, pandemic, some sort of terrorist attacks using nuclear or radiological devices. A major natural catastrophe, or series of events of that nature.
      Just no telling how much time a person would have to adjust.

      I've been anticipating some major dislocation for thirty years and it has not happened yet. Despite all the negative tendencies in society today that make me think the scenario of a collapse is more and more likely, perhaps it will never come. Maybe we'll just quietly go Third World and that will be it.

  2. I hope for your sake that it stays quiet if that's how you prefer it to be. My husband grew up in solitude. Now there's all kinds of people that made developed houses there. It's sad driving back into his neck of the woods. He used to want to drive by to see what things look like, now he doesn't. He has memories of digging up arrowheads, going fishing, and hanging out in his cabin that he and his dad built.

    The only thing that's hard about living that way is if something bad happens there's no one there to help.

    I posted once more about Mesa Verde. We went on the Balcony House tour: I watched a documentary about the tribes in that area today. It was really interesting!

    1. I can sympathize with your husband. This county was very sparsely populated when I came here in the summer of 1986. It was difficult to get to, as the road network was poor and wound through the mountains. Now, the population has more than doubled, the town is much larger, and some parts of the county, such as the lake, look like Orlando or Leesburg. My area is still fairly intact because it's mostly national forest. You're right, basically out here there's no one to help. I can handle that well enough now, but that's the problem if there were to be some kind of event where the normal business as usual routine didn't work. Then two old people might not be enough to keep things going.

      I saw your first post on Mesa Verde, and particularly liked the pictures. I'm glad you've done another one, I'll come by and take a look. It's very beautiful out there

  3. I think the writter of your letter is implying that you seek out like minded people. Not look for other survival groups, but find some buddies who also like to shoot, maybe at a local gun range or sportsmans club. My husband is the social one in our family who does that and has a group of friends that are loyal to each other. I am the quite one who would rather pull weeds from the garden than spend the day out burning black powder with good companions. When and if tshtf his freinds will be here to help, the kids and their families will be here too.

    1. That's the point he's making. I've been visiting out of the area groups , now and then, and also recently met with some local people but I haven't found a situation that suited me.

      My dilemma is that I am not really very sociable, and though I have joined things like the gun club, I usually go out and shoot by myself when everybody else is at work. I'm not really one for visiting or doing things with others. If I were, I'm sure this would not be an issue for me. But as it is, I need to retain my privacy which makes the natural association of like interests problematic for me. Your way is a good way, and largely what the fellow who wrote the letter was advocating.

    2. Even if you are not a sociable person you have made great investments to take care of other people. I hope your kids are making good choices in the friends they acquire. I suppose that when you are our age (60s) you do these things for the next generation anyway.

    3. Well, when we started following a self sufficient lifestyle, my wife and I were 33. I've been doing it for a long time. It was only after retirement a few years ago that I began losing touch with people who I knew well enough to trust, because I stopped interacting with people at work.

      If the kids come, and there are four of us, we can make it in terms of working, getting done what needs to be done. I'm not sure about the security aspect of it. There is a lot more violence here, and across the country, now than there was then. For one thing, it's a lot easier to get into this county now. For another, there is a huge Hispanic community, over 100,000 in a county only an hour away by car. Most of them are not bad or violent people, but some of them are very bad people and they are the ones who worry me.

  4. The idea of a group of like minded people is probably a good one, but what does a person do when there don't seem to be any like minded in the surrounding area? Part of the problem is that like you, Harry, I am not very sociable. I'm not tuned in to city life at all, even though that is where I live. I don't frequent the bars, which seems to be the biggest form of socializing here. I don't golf, which is the second most popular activity. The idea of shopping all day with girl friends gives me a headache. I am perfectly content living alone in my little apartment. I value my privacy. Although I know a lot of people to pass the time of day with, not one has ever given any indication of an interest in preparedness, even when I have dropped hints to find out if they had any thoughts in that direction.

    My only group would be immediate family - kids and grandkids. A couple of them think I am a bit off the beam with all of the canning and dehydrating and stockpiling supplies. One keeps abreast of what is going on and shows promise towards preparedness. The one who really gets it is moving to Arizona the end of August! And I have no clue what we would do in the event of a collapse. They have the room, and I have the food and supplies and three rooms. We might be able to come up with a plan if I could get some of them to acknowledge that our country is in trouble, but I doubt that will happen any time soon. I'm very much afraid when it sinks in, it will be too late.

    1. Vicki, if geography doesn't prevent it, you could go live with some of your kids in a less urban environment. You could bring your supplies which would no doubt be welcome. The problem becomes transportation, and whether the roads are safe when you decide to make the move. Katrina showed how quickly anarchy and chaos can descent on an area, and how useless the authorities are when it happens.

      Too many people don't pay attention to what's going on. That's a common malady here. People don't look any further than the border of the county.

      I'm sure you and I will work out some solution to our mutual problem with this issue. I haven't worried about it overly much until recently, but with so much turmoil in the country and the world at large I decided I needed to start giving some thought to this issue.

  5. Hey Harry,


    I don't know how you feel about it 'Harry, but If I was in your neck of woods when the 'ferret droppings hit the fan' I would roll up to your place with a white flag. I would then respectfully request asylum.
    Of course you would be in command. I respect your skills, experience and knowledge. There is a lot I could learn from you.
    I got a lot of gear and some food (lots of food) so I would not be a burden and I would gladly take the 0000 to 0400 watch (Im use to staying up late anyway)

    Harry' if you guys found yourselves in down in my part of Texas. You' all would be treated like royalty....My house is kinda small, but you all can stay here for free and bring the entire ferret recon division.

    1. CC, I think when things let go, the chances of anyone being able to travel any distance would be nil. When the power goes, gas pumps don't function. Credit cards don't work. Businesses shut down. Then there's also the jolly thought that attacking people on the highway is already a sport in some parts of the county, and I would expect that to expand dramatically.

      I appreciate your kind offer of a place down there but I doubt I could get there. And , I certainly could not move my supplies and equipment.

  6. We have been lucky where we live. While it is outside the city, it's not far outside but for one reason or another people that have skills have moved onto our street. We have two nurses, construction worker, engineer and country boy with equipment and hunting skills. We have all decided to raise chickens, grow gardens and one neighbor is going to start goats. Within a mile or two our friends know small engine repair and maintenance, have a method to make fuel, livestock, a natural lake with fish, work working, etc. We have a spring fed lake as a water source although it's at the bottom of the hill. Not everything we need but trying to pull in the neighbors, then the community to see who knows how to do what. The one thing I really want to learn is foraging because I know my yard is full of edibles that I need to recognize (other than the obvious dandelion, plantain, etc).

    1. Kathy, that's the solution to the problem that is generally hailed as the best way to handle the question. The old axiom that there is strength is numbers has a strong basis in fact. During Katrina, there were instances where neighbors banded together to pool resources and resist the looters. They had a lot more success than the lone wolf types who simply wore out. Physical exhaustion simply wears a person down to the point where they are no longer effective.

      Food is always tough and the more people in your group, the more difficult it becomes if no one has done anything about storage. Even if you can grow crops and raise animals, you'll need salt, flour, yeast, etc. Some things just have to be laid back in advance. In all probability, some of the people in your vicinity have done that.

  7. Harry, I may be wrong, but I just don't think you are cut out for any kind of "group". It's just not in your DNA. Remember that post a while ago about you going to lunch with those local fellas and you promptly left when the discussion turned to shooting animals? If you have people you know show up at your door and they start talking like that what will you do? I tend to think you only have enough room (and patience) at your place for you and yours. Don't sweat it. --Troy

    1. Troy, it wasn't so much the idea of killing animals, which I could do, if need be. It was the gratuitous violence, setting dogs on woodchucks for fun, that rankled. They just weren't my kind of people.

      I will probably go with my kids and some of their friends, though I want to meet the potential additions to make sure they will fit in. I can accommodate about 12 people comfortably here, a few more if some of them are couples. I'm not sure I would need that many people.

      It will work out. I'm being careful about getting myself in a situation that would not work in the long term.

  8. It makes sense to have a "group" to face things. All that Army of One bs is just that, bs. Nobody can pull all the guard duty, do all the gardening, all the repairing, etc, etc and then have time to be sick or hurt. Settlers in injun country is a picture that comes to mind.
    I myself am anti social of the kind that thinks most folks are not just idiots but blooming idiots!
    I usually have 1 close friend even though I may be friendly with a few other fellas, but that group is only 3-4 guys. None of them are sports fans or TV watchers or the like.
    This "path" of ours brings out lots of its own blooming idiots. I always get disgusted @ gun show and the like listening to all the ex sooper snipers & seals & recon marines with their factory full auto sks's.
    I need a team also, to be a part of or in front of or behind but Ive got no answer on finding them. I think in this instance it takes a lot of luck.
    One of the best all around prepared guys I knew got bored waiting for "it," he's a true believer & still prepared, to a degree, but he's sorta moved on.
    Im jealous of your place Harry but Id be in the same boat as far as finding people to work with.
    I suppose the big question, past initial frienship, is how is someone gonna handle REAL bad times. No grocery store, no electric, no law, the 2 way rifle range? Short of prior service, no way to tell.
    There was a lot more than primitive medicine that contributed to shorter lifespans in preceding times, STRESS.

    1. I think the worst thing a person could do would be to have individuals come to his location, then find out that there were personality conficts, or that some of the people were not as they had represented themselves. I have some experience of finding out the hard way that some individuals who seem perfectly normal can go berserk if the right button gets pushed.

      Better to take a long time to make your decisions on this issue than to be hasty. Always assuming that there is time to think it over.

  9. Well it is certainly worth being discerning about.

    Those are some huge fish!

  10. Those are salmon. My brothers catch the fish in Oregon. They smoke the salmon, it's quite tasty.

  11. Think I know whose words that was but it doesn't matter.

    From your situation my concern is if you got involved with an already dedicated group you could become target # X. It is never good to be worth more to someone dead than alive, especially if they are strangers!

    A few friends of your kids would be a good answer.

    I suppose finding group mates is sort of like dating. Sitting alone in the corner not talking to any girls is, unless you look like Brad Pitt and they running, a guaranteed way not to get lucky. You've got to put yourself out there. You may have some online friends locally. If I were 2 states to the east we would have some things to talk about.

    Best I can figure putting yourself intentionally into situations where you will interact with potentially useful people such as shooting clubs/ ranges, canning groups, preparedness meetings, etc all is a good start. Do the small talk thing and see where it goes.

    FWIW my thoughts here are about half experience and half conjecture. At my last duty station I was involved with some individuals who could be described as a very loose group. At past and present stations I have met with individuals in arguably useful situations.

    As to real groups at home between family and real 3S friends I have some pretty serious tribe. Down here I have peaceful friendly southern neighbors, who I suspect would be good folks to have around for the next 2 wk hurricane (judging by duck hunting paraphernalia every house has a shotgun or 5) and some work buddies who are pretty useful people for whatever. Suppose we all do the best we can.

  12. I'm not a prepper but I am kinda prepared. Not many I could rely on in that situation. My brother would be my best as we're like minded and I could trust him, I think that's where family win in a situation like that - trust. CClose friends become like family but most of mine don't have the skills needed!
    Very interesting blog by the way. Lots of food for thought in an extreme sort of way.

  13. Kev,
    I suppose I may seem extreme. I spent 16 years in the Marine Corps, in 36 foreign countries. I was in Lebanon during the 1982-1983 disaster. So I look at the world the way it really is, not as most Americans do. The United States is not at all like most of the planet, but people here make the mistake of assuming it is. Bad decision.

    Then too, I've lived way out in the Blue Ridge Mountains since 1986. And I mean, way out. My property borders national forest on three sides, and I own the mountain down to the flat on the fourth. I have no neighbors, and don't want any.
    I can't hear people, see them, and at night I don't see any artificial lights out there. I have lived here 28 years and don't intermix with people other than to go to the store.

    Family is always best. I tell my kids that in the extreme, we in this family each have three people we can trust. There are four of us and we can trust each other.
    There are a few others I trust, as well, but they are way off from here and wouldn't be able to interact in an emergency.

    If you are giving some thought to the current state of affairs, and wondering how you fit in, you are well on the way to being a "prepper." You might want to pick up a copy of J.W. Rawle's book, How to Survive the End of the World as We Know it.

    An asteroid may never hit the earth, but strange things do occur, i.e. Katrina, and it's too late then to get your act together.

    Good luck.

    1. I'll give the book a look, I've got more than a few on the subject! There are so many crap ones out there that its good to have a recommendation. A good one is The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse by Fernando "Ferfal" Aguirre. A first hand account of the trouble they went through (and are still experiencing) in Argentina.
      I guess the main thing I've equipped myself with is skills and knowledge. I'm a carpenter, grew up on a farm and can grow pretty much anything to eat, I hunt, I've been on survival courses, preserve food. I've got a patch of land to grow our own food on, but being in England we've got neighbours, I'd love to live more remote but I've got a a young family and a wife who doesn't want to live too far from other people, so this is the best compromise.
      A lot of my friends have jokingly said they'd come here in an emergency as I'm the best prepared. I've jokingly told them that unless they have some skill or asset to bring to the table not to bother as they'd be turned away! Harsh maybe?