Wednesday, July 31, 2013



GGGGRRRRRAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!! E screamed as she buried her hatch into the skull of the raider – well up the side of the cheek of the hatched head. Her left hand twisting her Kabar that had slipped between his ribs and into his right ventricle. His life faded from his eyes . . . .

E awakened with a growl and the touch of a smallish hand on her ankle. No one walked up and shook her out of her nightmares . . . a lesson learned years in the past.

She focused, drew a deep breath, cleared her vision and looked into the concerned eyes of Willie.

“OK grams??” Willie asked, her voice tinged with concern.

“Yes child . . . . just reliving the first date with your granddad. It was memorable.” E allowed the dream and some of the memories to fade. “Long ago and far away” she mumbled. “What do you need Willie?”

“I’d like to borrow the Ruger M7 7mm mag, dozen rounds or so and I could use a few more mags for my 1911, I’m only carrying three. Fred and I are getting ready to head out – he’s riding by in the next half hour or so. We’ll see what we can see to the southwest; maybe pick up a scout getting sloppy.”

E shook her head - wondering yet again what this beautiful 15 year old was doing calling off a weapons inventory like she was shopping for their next meal. A sigh passed her lips and she rose from her plush leather chair – a little luxury Brad had given her for their 25th anniversary – and headed to the armory with Willie.

Her requested weapon was drawn with a dozen hand loads for the 7mm and half dozen magazines for the 1911. She walked with her granddaughter to the barn, helped her saddle Malud – and odd mix of Clydesdale and Tennessee Walker – and waited with her for Fred to arrive.

“You let me off easy tonight little one.” E said, looking Willie in the eye. “Nah Gram, time just slipped away. Besides 20 reps for you doesn’t seem like much of a challenge, I’ll get a chance to get even down the road”, as a knowing smile settled across her mouth. “I suspect you will child, I suspect you will.” E knew better that to think Willie had forgotten their little side bet after the morning range trip. She’d keep an eye on this girl to see what she came up with.

They both turned towards the road as they heard Fred cantering up. Turning towards Willie, E gave her a quick reminder, “Keep your mind on your business missy and not his butt!” She watched for Willie’s reaction – a bit of a gleam in her eye.

“But it’s such a nice butt gram!” Willie replied – playing along with gram. Both knew this was deadly business, but a little banter helped take the edge off a bit.

Fred dropped from a canter through a trot and walk to finally halt in front of the two women. His horse, Thumper, carried him easily. E did a quick scan of his weapons – a well-used Glock 17, half dozen magazines and his family’s AR10 slung on his back with three magazines in his chest rig. It would do.

“Take good care of my granddaughter young man!” E ordered, just a bit of an edge to her voice.

“Yes Ma’am, I intend to! We’ll check in by land line once we complete our sweep and take our positions. We’ll launch a flare if a shit storm happens E!” Everyone that took up a guard position carried a couple slap flares as a call for help. It was primitive, but it was effective.

“Fair enough you two, Keep your head in the game – you can fool around later after your shift if over!” Just a touch of a wicked grin crossed her face; it was not lost on Willie or Fred. Obviously she knew their relationship was “advancing”. Ah well, there would be time to sort that out later.

“OK gram, I’ll keep my hands off him!” Looking at E her face became serious – “Our head is always in the game gram – I remember your three rules . . . . each and every day!”.

“I know child. Be safe! Now get your ass in gear – time’s wasting!”

With that “blessing” Fred and Willie headed off at their usual easy canter – Malud and Thumper changing leads as they headed down the road.

E checked her watch – 6 PM, still a couple hours of daylight left and just at the beginning of the 3rd shift of the day. She headed for her “control bunker” – a reinforced concrete bunker built into the same hill as their home. While it started as the bunker for their section alone – over the years it had grown into providing communications for the county’s security forces. Gramps had been there at the beginning when the security forces were built on the back of the sheriff’s department. Her dad had assumed command after gramps passed and she had taken the reins when her parents had been killed a number of years back. Should the need arise, Brad could join her to manage his officers as well.

There were a couple of operators on duty per 6-hour shift, each sitting in front of a 1970’s patch panel. E shook her head and reflected once again that in 2093 their primary communications gear for the security of the entire county was over 120 years old . . . “How can that be” she muttered to herself.

“Make a sweep ladies – pay particular attention to outpost six please.” E requested.

“The sweep” was done at the beginning of each shift. The operator plugged into the outpost’s jack ID, pressed the “ring” button and expected to have a conversation that went something like:

“One” came the short reply into her ear. “Status” the operator asked. “Quiet and clear Ma’am! Replacements just walked in, we’ll overlap for an hour and they’ll be headed home.” “Thanks One – chat with you again in 6. Out”

And so it went. The county they were located in was approximately twenty five miles square. Operator One position handled the South and East boundaries, Operator Two position the West and North boundaries. There were outposts around every two miles – 50 in all. Each operator was responsible for communications with approximately 25 outposts. And, should the need arise, additional operators could easily be added to the mix.

And so the polling went, including outpost six which was located near where Willie and Fred were headed, until E was satisfied that at least for now, in this moment in time – all was quiet.

There was a “rise” – and not much more than that about ten miles south west. That was Fred and Willie’s destination. A combination of easy trot and slow canter got them there about 7:30PM with an hour or more of usable daylight left. There was a fighting position that had been built at the “peak” – low to the ground, well-fortified and with its own comm line. As young as they were – Willie 15 and Fred approaching 20 – they were exactly what E wanted, focused on their job. Reports of a raiding party coming up from the south had popped up repeatedly over the past two weeks. They had picked some bad fights and had been “thinned” a bit leaving dead along their trail. Current estimates of their strength was around thirty to fifty raiders. Typically raiders would retire after such losses – these were not. Perhaps their home base was gone, perhaps they had been forced out – regardless, they appeared determined even if the reports on their armament had them on the weak side.

Raiders always sent out scouts – usually a single rider on one of their faster horses. Few used motorized transport nowadays. Scouts would look for prey, report back and then it was “on”.

The rise in sight, Fred and Willie picked up their scanning. Anything could indicate that someone either passed by or was coming. Thumper and Malud had great “noses” and no reluctance to share their concern of another horse or human in the area. Broken branches, physical tracks, puffs of dust . . . all taken in with the ease of old hands. Still, they saw nothing. A small pond offered the horses great shelter, water and nearby grass insured they could snack while Willie and Fred had a look around from the position at the top of the peak. Their approach was quiet, focused down the ridges and out into the flats . . . looking, looking, looking.

BBAAHHLLAAAMMM! Rang a shot, a scruffy looking fellow was standing at the entrance to their destination, a smoking SA revolver in his right hand. Willie’s response was simply automatic – a quick draw and two rounds hammered the man’s chest. A ping rang out – “Shit!!! Armor!!”” Willie had joined her hands by then and smoothly lifted her point of aim to the man’s nose. A single trigger press and he dropped like a rock. The longest three seconds of her young life.

“Fuck that hurts!!!” Fred was pressing his gloved hand over his right thigh. “Shit, shit, shit – where the hell did he come from??”

Fred was bleeding pretty damn bad. Willie popped one of her flares insuring that help was on the way. Then she grabbed a length of cord she always carried in her pocket. Two loops had been tied in it, one at an end and a second about eight to ten inches away. She ran the cord around Fred’s leg about three inches above the wound and centered between the two loops. Luckily the wound was on the outside of his leg, no danger of an arterial hit. And, it looked like it had simply gouged a channel through his leg – he was missing meat but he’d live. She wadded her bandana over the wound, threaded the other end of the cord through the end loop and cinched it fairly loose with a half hitch. She finished applying make shift tourniquet by tying off the remaining cord to the second loop. She inserted a spare magazine between the two loops and used it as a windless to tighten the tourniquet until the bleeding diminished significantly. Finally she tied it in place with the remaining length of cord. It wasn’t pretty but it worked.

“Nice work there missy – now drop your hardware slow and easy.”

Willie looked over her left shoulder only to see scout number two holding a big assed revolver level with the middle of her back. She looked at Fred, willing him to sit still. Her arms came up slowly and her hands were well away from her body.

“Shit, you’re nothing but a little squirt! How the hell did you shoot Ralph??” You’ll have to pay you know. The Boss will want to find out what you know. Once you spill your guts, well . . . I suspect we’ll have the pleasure of your company! That your boyfriend?? Care to tell him good bye??”

The gun started to move towards Fred, a grin pasted on the raider’s face. . . .

As his head simply disappeared in a pink mist.

“Holy crap Willie – how’d you pull that off?? I thought this was our last ride together!” Fred shook his head in amazement. Willie simply shook – a tremor rolled through her body as it realized all that had happened in the past 5 minutes or so.

“Wasn’t me Fred, it wasn’t me!” A deep breath calmed her as George Talbot walked around the side of the fighting position. He carried an old 30-06, his first hunting rifle that was pushing nearly 80 years old. “What the hell you two kids doing way out here?”

“We were going to see whether the raiders were scouting our area.” Willie replied, “I guess we have our answer. Two none the less! Why are you way out here George, I thought it’d be another 10 minutes or so before someone responded to my flare.”

“You’re probably right Willie – I’ve been tracking this whitetail for the past little bit, just happened to be downhill when I heard the shots. I saw your signal and headed on up as quiet as I could. That gent seemed to mean you both harm so I thought I would resolve the issue for you!”

“We’re certainly more than in your debt George! Thanks!” The adrenalin rush was bleeding off as a cold sweat began to appear on both Willie and Fred. “Take a seat Willie, I can hear your party coming, I’ll keep watch for a few minutes until they get here!”

Willie sat next to Fred, gathered herself and took a ragged, deep breath. Then she cleared her head and checked on Fred’s tourniquet. All seemed good as a couple of guards from post six arrived going full tilt.

Pleasantries were exchanged, Fred was helped onto Thumper and Willie and Fred – along with the returning shift from post six, returned to the compound.

About halfway back they could hear Sam as he was charging towards them – E well forward in the saddle, her battle face on full display.

Sam planted and came to a sliding stop.

“You two alright??” “Fred, how you doing?” E asked, looking at his bandaged thigh.

“We’re fine gram, we’re fine. We need to invite George and his family to Sunday dinner though, he literally saved our asses up there.” Willie was “back” – focused, in control.

“Let’s get Fred to Doc Horton, then we can chat. I sent a crew up to fetch the bodies and find their horses, perhaps they’ll have been sloppy and we’ll find some intel. I asked Sara and Harry to take your watch tonight. Once Fred is settled, we’ll debrief.

“Yes Ma’am, I’ll put the horses away and meet you at the docs.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Training - Distance training . . .


Is your training becoming myopic? Are you running the same drills, using the same targets, engaging them the same way at the same distance? Yeah . . . . me too.

Since the focus of most my teaching is defensive pistol, that is where I spend most of my efforts – 7 yards or less, 10 yards thrown in for good measure. My drills do include draw from my IWB holster and always contain mag changes. Still, I don’t spend much time past 30 feet. The results could have been much better . . . heavy sigh.


I used my range bag gun – a Ruger .22/45 and my carry weapon, my Glock 17. Each engagement was 10 rounds. All were from 50 feet, aimed fire. For reference, the distance from the edge of the paper to the edge of the silhouette is approximately 6 inches. So, I could cop a plea that the .22 groups were 6 in groups . . . . but . . . . well, there ya go.

Shapes 1 – 5 were the results of my .22 cal engagements.

Shifting to the Glock, I ran three courses of fire, 10 rounds a piece – 70% on 6 and 7, 80% for head shots. One flyer – high and left.

For combat effect hits at 50 feet, 29 of the 30 rounds would have gotten the threat’s attention. Still, it’s obvious I need to balance a bit more distance shooting into my range trips.

Remember, if you are ever unfortunate enough to actually draw your weapon to defend yourself, your family or your friends, each and every round that leaves the muzzle belongs to you. Make damn sure you can hit what you shoot at.

Stretch your distances, cross the 10 yard line and work the 50ft and 75ft distance a bit more. Push yourself to gain confidence in your long range shooting.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Homestead


E left the barn and walked to the front porch. Their home was a patchwork of additions and modifications that acknowledged today’s world. A broad front porch offered respite on warm evenings during the summer. And, a screened in “summer kitchen” off the back offered storage for frozen meat that was harvested to feed her family and hands during the cold winter months.

Each window had a shutter . . . . of 3/8 inch steel. It would stop most rounds though high powered rifle rounds were beyond their ability. The area directly below the windows was also protected by steel plate – backed by concrete block and a couple feet of packed sand. This offered solid protection for all but the .50 cal rounds or larger. And, thankfully – few of those rounds were still out there.

Her home had the feel of “family” . It had been built by her father – an art professor who worked magic with wood and concrete and metal. In fact, most of the furniture in the home was built from oak and cherry and hickory harvested on this very farm. Her mother’s touch could be seen in the rows and rows of books in their “library” in the basement. It was, quite literally a library with nearly 3,500 volumes covering everything from making soap to “Little House on the Prairie” through all the disciplines of mathematics and the sciences. She had been a school teacher with a passion for teaching, reading and learning. She missed them terribly – both killed in the last reinforced raid a number of years earlier. E was determined that she would pass on both their legacies of education and self-reliance to her children and grandchildren.

The basement also held their family armory – a room sized reinforced safe with dozens of weapons, tens of thousands of rounds of hand-made ammunition and a wide array of edged fighting tools. It was a formidable cache that provided the entire family a fair bit of comfort.

Finishing out the basement was their “pantry”. Much of this portion of the basement consisted of a separate storage area that was built well into the hillside and then covered for concealment. All totaled there was roughly 2,500 square feet of floor space that held shelving providing storage for about 6 months of supplies for all households on the property. Virtually all of it was grown or harvested on the property. Everything from pickles (and the dill to flavor them) to the stone ground flour. It represented a continuous effort on the part of all that the stock was well maintained, rotated and replenished as various growing seasons rolled by.

A remote corner held the “power room” and housed an aging diesel powered generator, refurbished lead acid batteries and an ancient military grade inverter. She considered all of these as “backup” systems. Traditional systems of lighting, heating and cooling has long since been abandoned and replaced with much older technologies. E dearly loved her grandpa’s Kerosene lamps – and that is what provided their evening’s light. As for electricity to run their comm system, shortwave and HF transceivers – that was provided by the battery bank and charged daily from salvaged solar panels. As long as they limited their listening time and transmit power, she was confident this equipment would last for decades more.

The primary house was meant for “family” – E and Brad, Bill and Marion – Willie’s parents, Jan (Bill’s twin sister) and Ted – the parents of “the twins” James and Johanna and finally Freddie and Alice. It was a strong family with their son Bill choosing one of Brad’s deputies – Marion – as his wife. Jan fell in love with Pastor Ted on the first Sunday he led worship in one of their town’s small churches. And Freddie had been making eyes at their neighbor’s daughter since they were in diapers together. Their marriage was no surprise at all . . . other than being on the same day as Jan and Ted. Still, it had been a wonderful day!

The home was large enough that each family had a bedroom, sitting room and a “nursery” of their own. Both her grandfather and father had a powerful belief that as “the slide” took hold of the nation and the world – the ultimate survival tool was the family. Close knit, skilled, determined and willing to sacrifice their last full measure for each other. In the early years of the swarms their theory was tested multiple times. Their continued survival was a testament to just how right they both had been.

Their farm was also a reflection of both her parents and grandparents. Grandpa had seen the very beginning of “the slide” – his journal detailed its processes and his thoughts of the cause and where it was all headed. Surely he was part soothsayer for his predictions were stunningly accurate.

His fears lead him to purchase property that could sustain a core group of 20-30 people. It was a tract of land that grew an entire section beginning with his family’s farm and added to as he could. The house was located roughly in the center of the square mile of property, 640 acres. He had some simple requirements – a running stream with a sizable pond. 100 acres or so of timber – much planted in a rotation crop of Ash for firewood. A steep hillside to build their home into – this embankment held their arms cache and pantry as well. Two to three hundred acres of tillable land that could be used to raise oats, wheat, corn and traditional truck garden fare was of primary concern. An orchard with a variety of apples, peaches, pears and plums appealed to his sweet tooth and a small vineyard simply because Gramps enjoyed his wine.

The remaining hundred or so acres was divided into fifteen homesteads that eventually housed the hands and their families that were needed to work the land. The exchange was simple – work for shelter and food. Over time hands became family and to the surrounding countryside – the “Triple C” farm was, indeed – one big family.

Closer observation – much closer observation – revealed fighting positions scattered along the entire perimeter of the property. Each position was large enough to hold four fighters. Crossing fields of fire provided a lethal deterrent to raiders and well placed IEDs bolstered this. In all, there were twenty such positions. E made sure that at least once a month a drill reminded each person of their position and purpose. To say she used a “firm hand” would soften it much too much. Describing her as a hard driving SOB would be much, much closer to the truth.

Under the barn, beneath many feet of dirt, stone and concrete were their fuel stores. These had been built up over the years, little by little. Chemically enhanced to extend their storage – they would provide a few thousand miles range per vehicle. Few knew of this unique resource – and E liked it that way. It was a mix of gasoline, diesel, bio-diesel and kerosene. Their vehicles included two Jeep Wranglers, a number of Ford F250 diesels, a pair of Ford 150s, a number of quads and six dirt bikes taken from raiders over the years. In any other era these would be considered “ancient” - yet in today’s reality, they were a true boon. Each had been salvaged over the years, spare parts assembled over time and then lovingly maintained and protected. Their primary job? Just to sit in waiting in case they were needed yet again. All vehicles were in good working order and were driven, in turn throughout the year. That said – horses, wagons, bicycles and feet were the primary mode of transportation. The vehicles were primarily seen as “bug out” insurance or as fighting vehicles should the need arise.

As evening settled, the family began to gather. The table was huge, made of oak left from a stall her grandmother once had. At least that was the family story. Untold meals had been eaten around the table. E had warm memories of Thanksgiving, Christmas meals and birthdays – all while seated at this very table.

Once everyone was in their place Ted asked that they bow their head for the blessing. “Lord, bless this food to your servants; let us always remember it is in service to others that we are shown your way. We pray for a bountiful harvest, the safety of those working the land and those that protect it. We ask that you protect us and our community from those intent on doing us harm. And, we ask for the strength to defend our home and those we love. In Jesus’s name, we pray, Amen!” “Amen!” was the response from all seated around the table.

It was surprising the comfort this small task brought E, yet it offered her the opportunity for peace each and every night. This night their meal was simple – a venison roast with new potatoes, carrots and fruit. Bread was passed and soon a simple desert of apple crisp made the rounds.

This was E’s core – her home, her farm and her family. She would die, if need be, to defend any one of her family or the farm hands of her extended family. They would do the same – without hesitation.

Soon enough they would all be tested again . . . .

Sunday, July 28, 2013

2 - E and the Sheriff


E buttoned up the range, checked the security system and grabbed Sam’s reins. He gave her “the look” from his left eye as she firmly placed her booted foot in the stirrup and swung her right leg over his back, settled into the saddle, secured her ’94 lever action .45 Colt into its scabbard and started off towards Brad’s office.

“Hang in there Sam – just going to see the sheriff. We’ll have you back in the barn in an hour or so.”

Sam left out a sharp snort – as if to say he’d heard that crap before. Still, a firm press of E’s thighs worked Sam up from a quickened walk through a trot and easily into a canter. No need to rush, the mile or so to the sheriff’s office was clear and safe.

Something about the phrase “what’s old is new again” popped into her mind as she rode across the bridge just north of town. All along the street parking places had been replaced by hitching posts and horses. It’s not that various fuels weren’t available – they were expensive, nearly $50 per gallon for gasoline, $45 for diesel, $70 for “bio-diesel” and while natural gas was the cheapest at around $15 per cubic foot – with the job situation being what it is, even that was a true luxury.

So, the people had reverted to a truly bio-friendly mode of transportation – the horse. It was an easy transition really. Long distance trips were not that frequent, even in areas where raiders were rare. The Midwest had broad areas that easily reverted to grasslands as calls for traditional crops of corn and beans (at least in E’s region of the country) diminished. Life slowed – perhaps one of the few blessings of “the slide”.

Fifteen minutes at a slow canter saw her draw up in front of the sheriff’s office.  E dismounted - a quick Highwayman’s Hitch made sure Sam wouldn’t wander off towards some of the mares just down the block. She stretched and walked through the door into the outer lobby. Obviously a quiet day – she could see him hunched over his desk, the end of his pencil held lightly in his mouth.

“Hey hun – why the serious face?” she asked with a smile.

Brad looked up and greeted her with the same grin that made her fall in love with him over 40 years earlier. “Where to start?” he grumbled – “Shift schedules to review and revise, inventory to update, ammo manufacturing to review, defenses to tighten up . . . . take your pick sweetie.” Still, the grin remained and that gave her comfort. It was much more welcome that the grim faces during the hard times all those 40 years in the past.

“Was that you and Willie bangin’ away earlier?” he asked, his eyebrow in a “spockesque” cant. Did anyone even know who Spock was anymore E wondered?

“Yep, the girl is a natural. Ran the whole drill, sub five minutes without a single miss. She tapped the 500 yard target as easily as though it were at the 50. Hell, it’s getting that I can’t even see – or barely hear for that matter – the 500 yard plate. She’s quick and deadly.”

“I wanted such a different life for her” said Brad – just a bit of his age was showing around the edges. “A sixteen year old girl should not have the distinction of being our best sniper – it feels unseemly . . . .” He just let the sentence hang out there for a bit.

“Yep, I agree” said E. “Yet, it’s the hand we – and she – was dealt. She’s OK, I’m watching her close. We’ve not seen swarms in her lifetime. Even reinforced raids have only showed up a handful of times in the last 15 years. This last year – only that raiding party in March – and there were only 30 or so of them. She did her job, looked at the bodies and understood it was them or her and her family. She’s a strong kid.” E had long since reconciled the issues of life and death in her mind. The swarms took care of that. You fought or died. You killed every raider. You gave no quarter. And she had taught her granddaughter well.

“I know hun, I know. Guess I’m still just a softie.” Brad wasn’t though – they both knew that. They met during the second swarm raid ending up in the same fighting position, it ended with knives and hatchets – their magazines empty at their feet. They went in 20 year old kids – and came out essentially husband and wife. There are other bonds of matrimony – few as strong as mortal combat. They had been together ever since.

“I read the intel this morning – seems the “big three” are stirring up some trouble for us again.” A wrinkle of concern creased her forehead – inherited from her grandmother who had what the family had called the “nose wrinkle”. It meant the same thing – E wanted answers.

“I had a short QSO with our sources in all three locations. Two of the raiding parties are about the same size as the one who made it here in March – thirty-ish. The one out of St. Louis started larger, around a hundred riders. They picked some bad fights though – they’ve been hurt. They just keep coming though, not sure what that’s all about but its cut their size about in half. We’ll see a scout or two soon. Then maybe we’ll find out what’s going on. All three parties are hungry, desperate and only moderately armed – mostly lever action rifles, revolvers and a couple high power bolt action rifles. Our sources saw absolutely no “black guns”. I suspect parts and ammunition is still decreasing. We only had one pickup from March – and it was in pretty bad shape.”

“How are we doing?” Her spreadsheets popping up in her mind – one of her many gifts. She knew, within a couple percentage points, what her fighting resources were.

“The armory is just working one shift – five days a week. We’ve been lucky with the inventory of community weapons as well as individual firearms – we’re in good shape. If this party of raiders gets this far – perhaps we’ll be able to add to our stores a bit.”

“Our ammunition manufacturing is keeping up with demand. Your tight round count for training helps. Nothing wasted. We’ve been able to trade some cattle for a couple ton of lead and a couple hundred pounds of scrap tin this year – that helps. It seems that powder manufacturing is picking up in “Free Wyoming” – we’ll send a party out there after this next winter. We’re OK E, just need to be careful.” Brad leaned back and took in his wife of forty plus years. She was as lean, tough and beautiful as the day the fates had thrown them together in that god awful hell. He was lucky to have her – and he knew it.

E nodded and let out a sigh. “Just checking. Willie and Fred are going to have a look-see southwest to see if they can pick up a scout or two. I pray they head west – “Free Wyoming” has to have a lot of the raiders licking their chops. Still, I’ll tighten things up a bit. How far out do our sources think they are?”

“’bout a week to ten days. They’re on horseback – that slows them down considerably and limits their supplies. The fights they’ve picked helps too. Hell, if they’d put their back into it – they could make do on their own down around St. Louis. I simply do not understand this need to raid – I truly don’t.”

E shook her head “nor do I love. It’s simply evil – pure and simple. And when faced with evil . . . well, you kill it. Period. When they stop comin’, we’ll stop killin’. Until then, we’ll tend our weapons and our crops.” And, with a big breath, she turned on her heel and headed for the door.

“Don’t be late – I have a nice venison roast in the Dutch oven. It’ll be ready by 6PM.

“No Ma-am!”

Sam gave E a bit of a nicker as she mounted and headed out to “the farm”. This was still the Midwest – they had farms, not ranches. “Busy day, busy day” she thought, going to be nice to kick off the boots and put my feet up after dinner!” she thought. The press of her thighs brought Sam to the same moderate canter both were used to as she headed out of town.

Looking at her watch E confirmed she had long since lost her bet with Willie. “Wonder if I can still rip off 20?? Perhaps a bit of a race with Ms. Willie” she thought with a smile.

Twenty minutes later found Sam in his stall brushed and picked for the night. Her tack was hung in the tack room and a scoop of oats and flak of hay satisfied Sam.

Nearly supper time.

Friday, July 26, 2013

A story - Part 1 - Into the darkness . . .


Old NFO posted a great short story awhile back – truly fun and entertaining.  With imitation being the sincerest form of flattery . . . I have an offering.

Not sure where this story came from but it seems to be pretty much writing itself.  Not sure of it’s ultimate length either, it will need considerable fleshing out.  Still, that said – let me offer its beginning for your entertainment and comment.


Into the darkness . . . .

August 2093

“Damn it, damn it, damn it . . . . Grandma E is gonna be pissed!!!”

Willie was running the trail to the range at full tilt – and she was late, late, late. A quick glance at her watch showed her fifteen minutes behind already! “Damn it!!” Kyle was beating the crap out of her back, she just had never been able to get her two-point adjusted right this morning. A quick yank on the adjustment tab solved her problem a bit but jammed her rear plate hard into her lower back.

Instinctively (well, after hours of “training” by Grandma E) she listened for battle rattle as she ran. Three mags for her carbine across her chest, three more for her 1911 – all was quiet. A water bottle over each hip, med kit in the middle of her butt and her 1911 mounted on a dropdown on her right thigh – all was quiet. She wished her front plate fit her newly expanded chest – yet there was nothing she could do about that.

The morning heat was already giving a hint at what was coming later in the day; the summer had been a hot one. Hot and dry.

“We’ll take another hit on crops again this year.” She thought, remembering how her dad had that worried look on his face this growing season. It would mean more raiders – people desperate for food, desperate for water, desperate for relief from “the slide” as people had taken to call it.

Finally the gate to the range appeared . . . . with Grandma E standing next to it. “Damn it!!!!”

She came to a halt in front of her in a crisp imitation of what the military called “attention”.

“Twenty!” Barked Grandma.

Willie dropped instantly and punched out 20 picture perfect pushups.

“It’s how he died you know! Being slow. Not paying attention. Being late. Don’t think you’re immune to dying little girl. Death will come just as quickly for you as it did for your brother Kyle!”

Willie knew better than to talk back. She finished her twenty, calmed her breathing and waited. She’d only been a shooter for two years and tomorrow would be her 16th birthday. Gram (which she only called Grandma E in those few private moments girl and woman found together) was as much on edge as her dad was. Everyone felt it. “The slide” – even 70 some years after it began, showed no signs of abating. And Gram was responsible for the defense of the community – no favor would be shown to her just because she was a relative – even a granddaughter. The news – such as it was – showed raiding parties from Minneapolis, Chicago and Saint Louis were moving. Some would reach them. She and Kyle would be busy – whether such business was appropriate for a soon-to-be sixteen year old girl or not, it was coming.

“Rifle range, lane 1, kneeling with cover!” came the order. Willie took her position behind a barricade. There was no need to load and make ready, the entire community was hot – each and every firearm that could be, was loaded.

“Roll right, two rounds, center mass, fifty yards . . . . . FIGHT!!” Willy canted her vintage AR10 forty five degrees right, picked up the iron sights, loosed the safety, rolled out right and drove two rounds into the silhouette fifty yards down range. She rolled back behind the cover.

“Rule one!” shouted Gram.

“Make sure he’s dead!!” shouted Willie as she rolled out and sent another round into the steel.

“Rule two!” shouted Gram.

“Make sure he’s dead!!” shouted Willie. Again a round went downrange into the steel.

“Rule three!”

“Make sure he’s dead!!” shouted Willie. A final round rang steel.

Those were Grandma E’s rules of engagement. Every attacker died – no quarter. Their community was small – yet determined and prosperous in their own way. They had enough food, power, water to live. She was determined it would remain that way. Come their way, mean them harm – she gave no quarter and expected her fighters to do the same.

“Lane two, 300 yards, one round, center mass.”

Willie safed her weapon rose and ran to lane two. On her stomach, legs behind, feet flat to the ground, weapon shouldered so her whole body absorbed the recoil. Still no wind, her top mounted scope was zeroed for 300, safety off, smooth trigger press . . . round four rings steel at 300 yards.

“Who’s your team’s sniper Willie??” yells Gram.

“I am.” Shouts Willie as round five goes down range.

“What’s your job?”

“Shoot raiders!” Round six rings steel.

“When?” Barks Gram.

“Right fucking now!!!” Screams Willie as the next round hit’s steel ending her lane two shooting.

“Lane three, two rounds, center mass – fire at will!”

Again Willie safes her weapon comes up and runs to lane three. Dropping into position she quiets her mind, quiets her breathing, unsafes her weapon and quickly sends two rounds down range hearing the satisfying clang of lead on steel 500 yards down range.

“Safe your weapon! Stand!” As Willie complies, Grandma E confronts her.

“You were late! You were slow by a couple seconds! Your hits were all over the place! Where the hell is your head?? Just because you named your rifle for your dead brother doesn’t mean he’s here to protect you! You shoot poorly – you die! You shoot slow – you die! You’re slow getting to your post – you die! Damn it Willie!!”

“I am not going to cry!” “I am not going to cry!” Yet a single tear begins to slide down her right cheek, she blinks. And she sees Gram’s face soften.

“Child – no tears. They help nothing. They fix nothing. They bring no one back. You’re one of the best shooters I’ve seen – and I’ve seen a lot of them in my day. That’s a lot of responsibility – and no room for excuses. You understand?”

“Yes Ma’am, I do” Willie affirms.

“Then get your crap together! Folks here are depending on your skill to keep them safe. Don’t let them down!”

“No Ma’am!”

Gram’s face hardens again . . .

“Pistol range, lane one, two rounds head, two rounds center mass. Fight!!”

Pleasantries over – Willie races to lane one of the pistol range. Her standard “scrimmage line” is thirty feet. Kyle drops on his two-point sling and with a smooth draw stroke four rounds do down range – two to the head, two to the chest. Her weapon quickly back to her holster as she picks up her primary weapon – Kyle.

“Rule one!” shouts Gram.

“Make sure he’s dead!!” shouts Willie drops her primary weapon and draws her sidearm sending two to the head and two to the chest.

“Rule two!” shouts Gram.

“Make sure he’s dead!!” shouts Willie. Two rounds to the head, two to the chest.

“Rule three!”

“Make sure he’s dead!!” shouts Willie. The steel rings a final four times.

“Twenty!” barks Gram

Willie quickly reholsters, slings Kyle over her back, drops and gives another twenty picture perfect pushups.

“You’re DONE! Top off! Police your brass!!” Willie quickly exchanges her partial magazines for full ones and secures her weapons. A quick pass through both the pistol range and rifle range to pick up her spent casings finishes her range trip. Finished, she stands before her Grandmother. Finally, Gram’s face softens.

“Not bad child, not bad. You on duty tonight?” She knew the answer to that of course – southwest quadrant watch tower, midnight until 6 AM. “Yes Ma’am, I am – as you know perfectly well!” Her lips drawing up into a pixie smile.

“Don’t get lippie little girl!” Gram said with a smile crossing her lips as well.

“Yes Ma’am!” Replied Willie with just a bit more emphasis on the Ma’am.

“You read the morning intel? They’re about two days out with scouts likely only a single day out.” Gram looking in her eyes trying to see understanding of what this report meant.

“Yes Ma’am I did. They’ll likely come into our quad. Frank and I plan on mounting a foot patrol this afternoon to scope things out. If they come our way, we’ll be ready!”

“Fair enough.” Raising an eyebrow just a bit and putting same pixie smile on her face that Willie had done early Grams asks, “Up for a little bet??”

“Ssssuuuurrrreeeee?” replies Willie – cautious of any bet with Gram.

“Well, I’ll take Sam (Gram’s horse) home but I need to pass by the Sherriff’s office first. Bet you I can still beat your sorry little butt home! Looser drops and gives 20!”

“You’re on Grams!!” Her feet already pounding down the trail back to the town!

A genuine smile came across Grandma E’s face. “Proud of that little critter! Looks like I’ll owe her 20 after supper tonight!”

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Basic Prepping - Power!! Give me power!!


The word “power” means many things to folks. When applied to Basic Prepping the mind wanders to wind generators, gas/lp generators, solar cells . . . . there’s a great deal of tech out there designed to give you reliable power in the event your part of the grid goes down.

That said, I find that today the technology that I miss most when power goes away are my primary communication systems – my cell phone, tablets and computer. And, honestly, my Samsung Note II can perform many of my computer tasks – so if I can keep that up and on the air, I’m happy as a clam.

So that’s where I’d like to focus – what is my favorite technology to keep my phone and tablets up and running when I’m on the move and there is no access to “the grid”? My two parameters – it’s needs to fit into my backpack and it needs to provide power for the duration of my trip/trek, regardless of its length.

My most recent trip was a 4-day remote camping trip on a small island off the tip of Door County in Wisconsin named Rock Island. Four families were on the trip with a total of 7 cell phones. (Yes, I know – wilderness is to provide relief from the phone. Yet, when you own your own business and clients expect to reach you 24/7 – well, some of us do not have the luxury of being fully disconnected.) How to keep everyone charged up for the whole trip?

My solution was twofold – a power “brick” and a solar charger.

Power Brick

In June of 2009 my wife and I went to Alaska. It was a “canned” tour, but we went with our best friends, saw as much as we possibly could have in 2 weeks and had a great time. However, being a life-long geek I wondered if there was a way I could provide power to my little netbook during long flight times. I found what I call a Power Brick. Basically, it’s nothing more than a very large lithium-ion battery about the size of a traditional brick. The MP3450 is made by Tekkeon. It has a unique adaptor that allows you to couple two batteries together so the final configuration I carry provides 23,200 mAh of power. Look at that number just one more time . . . .

It was designed to provide a wide range of voltage outputs for a wide range of devices and comes equipped with everything from a cigarette lighter connector to a USB port. I also purchased their adaptor kit and a second battery to create my “Power Brick”. It did a great job powering my little Netbook for well over 15 hours as well as being a backup charger for my cell phone.



If you go to the Amazon link for this product, it really gets hammered. Honestly, I do not know why. Perhaps the folks have not taken time to read the instruction on proper charging. Perhaps it is unreasonable expectations of the product. I can only share that I have had this brick since 2009 and remain satisfied with it.

Prior to my latest trip I fully charged the brick – about a 6 hour process. I packed it in a freezer zip lock (we usually get wet a couple of days), and then simply set it out on one of the tables on the campsite for everyone to use. There were 7 cell phones and an older Kindle. The brick probably charged phones a dozen times with full charges to the phones averaging about 2 hours. As I indicated above, the dual-battery combination provides for 23,200 mAh of power – let’s estimate 20 full charges? Not too shabby.

Price for the dual-battery brick – around $250. For a “prepper” looking for emergency power to keep cell phone and tablet charged, I believe this is a solid alternative that should be considered.

Solar Panel

In years gone by, I created a portable solar system using a Unisol 32W flexible solar panel (long since out of production), a regulator to even out variations in the voltage out of the panel and a storage battery. The system was large and cumbersome – but a fun project. For this last trip I thought that surely there must be some new geek toy out there that I could find as a backup to the Power Brick. Sure enough, there was . . . the sCharger by Suntactics.




This is a 14W charger (they have a 5W as well) with dual USB outputs that provide a regulated output to account for the variations in voltage from the solar panel when light intensity changes. There is no battery attached – the panel charges the tablet, cell phone, iPod, camera directly. Since it is fairly small, it is easily moved as the sun tracks through the sky.

It comes with two USB ports, one with an automatic reset for Apple products. Seems some apple devices frown on using non-apple chargers so they simply stop charging after about 10 minutes. The auto-reset port then detects this and “resets” giving you another 10 minutes of charge time. This process is repeated until your device is charged. The panel charged the iPhones on the trip in about 3 hours in full sun.

My phone is the Samsung Note II and honestly, I wasn’t too happy. I got a 50% charge in about 3 hours off the panel where I would get a full charge in about 2 hours off the Power Brick. Yet virtually everyone else could charge off the panel in about 2 hours. I plan on investigating this since I can see no reason for the panel not fully charging the Note II – I’ll let you know what I find.

While a bit pricy at $240 this is a great option if you spend a lot of time off the grid and need power to charge phones, cameras or tablets. It is well build, comes with a carrying case and room for USB cables and easily fits in my 5.11 Tactical 72-hour Rush pack . . . . along with my Power Brick.

One other thought about power, toys and wilderness travel. Much of your power issues can be handled by better power management. Turn off phone options like gps, WiFi and Bluetooth connections. Dim your display and shorten the time it takes to turn off down to its lowest settings. If you need to touch base with folks back home – establish a communications schedule – say 6AM, Noon and 6PM – anything really, as long as it’s agreed on by both parties, then turn your phone off. These simple choices will go a long way towards reducing your power requirements.

So there you have it. If you are going to spend a substantial time off the grid on a trek or paddle and want a couple of dependable options to provide power for your cell phones and tablets, these two products are what I use. Take some time to check them out. Let me know what you think.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Training - Dot Torture


I did a post a while back on Marksmanship and its various meanings. One of the drills I mentioned in the post was Dot Torture. Originally developed by David Blinder of the drill sheet was modified as seen below by the folks at


This drill has a very specific purpose in testing your marksmanship ability – making very small groups of holes. It is NOT a speed drill. It allows you to focus on stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger press and breath control. A good goal – make a single “hole” in each circle. The drill is simple:

  • Dot 1 – Draw, 5 rounds, slow fire
  • Dot 2 – Draw, 1 round, repeat 5 times
  • Dot 3 & 4 – Draw, 1 round on 3, 1 round on 4, repeat 4 times
  • Dot 5 – Draw, 5 rounds, dominant hand only
  • Dot 6 & 7 – Draw, 2 rounds on 6, 2 rounds on 7, repeat 4 times
  • Dot 8 – From the read position, support hand only, 5 rounds
  • Dot 9 & 10 2 magazines – 1 round each, Draw, 1 round on 9, speed reload, 1 round on 10, repeat 3 times

Your total round count will be 50 rounds. Begin shooting this drill from 3 yards. Once you reach 100%, set a time limit and decrease it as you improve. Or, move back to 7 yards, 10 yards – keep pushing your limits. Drills like this will give you the confidence you need to make the tough shot should the need ever arise.

As for scoring – two ways to look at it. First, clean is “clean” – meaning no round is outside the ring or “greases” the ring. Second way would be standard target scoring – if a round greases the ring it’s “inside” the ring. Which ever one you choose really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you can use this tool as a solid yardstick to measure your performance and measure your marksmanship.

And, as an aside – given the news lately regarding “Stand Your Ground” – if you ever are involved in a shooting and you keep these target results in your range good, they offer proof positive that you take your defensive skill set very seriously. If you don’t keep a range log – begin one. There is value in your seeing improvement in your shooting skills and there is value in having written documentation of each and every range trip.

Today I simply made time to hit the range (well, a little time anyway). I shot two Dot Torture drills, one with my .22/45 Ruger range gun and one with my carry Glock 17. Let me walk through each target.


Actually a pretty good run with the exception of Dot 5 – Dominant Hand only, 5 rounds, with a draw for each round. A caution on this dot is that you are shooting with your dominant hand and mentally your confidence is high you can make the shot. It allows things like grip, sight picture, sight alignment and trigger press to get a bit sloppy because your aren’t “working” at it. WORK AT EACH AND EVERY SHOT. As you can see, I DID NOT work at it as hard as I could have.

Note that on Dot 8 – from the ready, Support Hand only I had all rounds within the black. Why? Because I am NOT as confident with my support hand only so I was much more deliberate in my basics. It makes a difference.

As I have said many times, I begin my range trips with my .22/45 range gun. I like to “warm up”, settle down and focus on the basics. My best dot was Dot one with a nice, raggedy single hole. I’ll take it after a week camping and no trigger time.

Things were not as pretty with the Glock.


Here, if I want myself to feel better about my score, I can count a round that greases the ring as “inside” the ring with a score of 47. If I want to be hardnosed – I got a score of 42. Again, it really doesn’t matter – what does matter is that I obviously need to settle down, focus on the basics and tighten my groups up a bit more.

Notice that Dot 5 – dominant hand only - was better, with a great 3-round group, a grease spot and a miss.

Notice that Dot 8 – support hand only – was much better than my first round. Again, I am less confident with my support hand only . . . so I take more time and focus on the basics.

Shoot this drill once a month – see how your marksmanship is coming. Push yourself. YOU are the only one who can give you confidence in your ability to hit your target, be it a 2-inch “Dot” or that smallish spot just below a threat’s nose. Spend the time, do the work . . .

. . . and shoot the drill.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Training - Rust . . . .


Posting has been very light the past week because of our annual camping trip to a little island off the tip of Door County in Wisconsin – Rock Island.  It was a great time, as usual – but ridiculously hot, the hottest is our 30+ years of going there.  That said, it was a great time and there’s more than one post that’s coming from it.  I’ll have a review of our new Eureka Timberline Outfitters SQ tent for the “preppers” that are visiting my site, my new solar panel to charge the cell phone (yes, for the first time ever there was cell service – good news and bad news combined I suppose) and a Lithium-Ion battery “brick” that I took as well.  Lots to do, lots to do!!

But first, lets chat a bit about “rust”.  A tool left unused, un-exercised and uncared for will rust.  There are excuses that sound something like . . . “damn, should have oiled that wrench”, but the clear fact is that if a tool is used, it seldom rusts.  And a tool left unused is quickly covered with brown flecks that clearly show your neglect.

Your shooting skill set is a finely crafted tool that “rusts” all too quickly.  For me, a week on an island meant no range trips – SIRT pistol range in the office or live fire at our chapter house.  And, after a week away, the range was not going to happen today with a week of alligators all demanding my attention.

That said, there was time for a couple of rounds on the SIRT pistol range in my office.  The Dot Drill, a couple of the first stages of an IDPA qualifier and then some hostage drills clearly demonstrated the beginnings of “brown specks”.  Did I say something about rust???  My first round through these drills saw most first-round hits high and right.  My eyes floated between focusing on the target and then the front sight . . . and then back again.  And the impact point became a broad dash with the SIRT pistol rather than a crisp dot.  Heavy sigh.  After only a week away from any trigger time of any kind – there were specks of rust on by “tool”.

Keep that in mind.  If you carry for personal defense, trigger time is simply a must.  Your “tool” needs to remain sharp, properly “oiled” and free of rust . . . . because a rusty tool will put you at a real disadvantage should a mortal threat show up unexpectedly.

There is simply no short cut . . . .

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Basic Prepping - Sticks and Stones, Magnets, Stars and Satellites . . . . where the heck am I?????


Lost: unable to find the way

Navigate: To plan, record, and control the course and position of yourself or your vehicle

When introducing a person to the wilderness for the first time, one of the first questions typically asked is . . . “What if I get lost??” My usual response is – “Don’t get lost!” I’m sure it sounds a little flip to the new folks, but honestly that is the answer – just don’t get lost. I’ll do a complete post sometime down the road on preparing for a trek – at least the way I prepare – but as far as navigation is concerned, I spend a significant amount of time before I even throw the first item in my pack planning my trek or paddle. Included are entry and exit points, headings, distances, camping spots . . . . I know before I set a single foot on the trail or in the canoe where I am and where I’m going. During the trip my location is verified by specific points along the way – mountain peaks, streams, portages, camp sites – all noted to keep my on my path. For me – it’s simply habit now. I find one of the most enjoyable parts of the trip anymore is the planning, finding navigation points, defining headings throughout the trek or paddle. I spend so much time planning, the trek becomes a process of confirmation of the plan. I know – I’m a geek – live with it!

That said – there is still opportunity for things to go south. Usually through carelessness – say a nighttime trek into the woods to “answer nature’s call” and you just get turned around. You pass through a nasty set of rapids, dump your gear and your navigation equipment is lost. You become ill on a solo trek and in your confusion you simply become lost. Or, you’ve become fully dependent on that little GPS in your phone or pocket – it suddenly goes south on you. Suddenly – you look around and wonder . . .

. . . . where the hell am I????

There’s a whole lot tied up in that question. Along with a tremendous surge of adrenaline and perhaps just a touch of fear . . . . when you realize . . . . you really don’t know. Dealing with the initial “holy crap – I’m LOST” is an entire post in itself. But, there are elements that you can assemble to help you take the edge off during your trip prep and during your trip.

“Lost” is a relative term. For example, when I travel to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA), the trip is typically for a week and we paddle anywhere from 50 to 75 miles. We plan our put-in point and our take-out. We decide which lakes to travel through, which portages to take and which campsites to stay at. Before we put a foot in the canoe – the entire crew has a tremendous amount of information in their head and on their maps to help them stay on course. So, while you may slip away for a moment’s “relief” and get turned around . . . . you’re a long way from “lost”. You will always know what lake you’re in, what lake you’re going to, what your headings are and typically what lakes are around you. When most people say the word “lost” – what they typically mean is that they don’t know which direction to travel in to find their crew or to put themselves in a place where someone will eventually pass by. They need a way to “orient” themselves – to find the prime directions of North, South, East or West. Honestly, the rest should be in their head – at least on a gross scale – let’s say 5 to 10 miles in any direction from their current location.

For example, a favorite entry point is Snowbank Lake typically with an exit at Moose Lake. From Snowbank I know that Moose lake is about 4 miles WNW and I know that Knife Lake is about 4 miles N. I know that Ely, MN is about 20 miles West and a tad south. And I know that there are a number of road that I would cross heading that way.

Given I know these things – I am not “lost” in that I don’t know where the heck I am on the face of the earth. But, I may be a bit turned around on the fine point of just where exactly I am in following the course I have plotted. That’s the starting point for keeping yourself “found”. And, finally, that’s the whole point of this post . . . . a number of methods to keep yourself oriented. Some high tech . . . . and one as simple as a stick and two stones.

Orient: to set or arrange in any determinate position especially in relation to the points of a compass

to ascertain the bearings of

For the purpose of this post, I am going to provide you with four simple methods of finding North. Knowing that, you should be able to orient yourself in such a way that, if need be, you could walk yourself out to safety. We are going to look at “sticks and stones”, stars, a compass and finally a GPS.

“Sticks and Stones”

Well, actually a stick and two stones. Your initial setup looks like this:


Place a stick in the ground in an area what has clear sunshine and no interfering shadows. Find two rocks, place one at the base of the stick and the other at the tip of the shadow cast by the stick. This direction will indicate West. Remember, the sun rises in the east and casts shadows towards the West. Even in late afternoon, the shadow cast by the tip of the stick will journey from West to East.

Wait a fairly lengthy period of time – a minimum of 30 minutes – I waited about an hour while I mowed the lawn. Return to the stick and place your second rock once again at the tip of the shadow cast by the stick. It will look something like this. Note I have placed a compass between the stones indicating Magnetic North.



Place your left foot near the first rock – West – and your right foot near the second rock – East, you are now facing North. This is verified by the compass point towards magnetic north. Note that I live in Iowa . . . . there is no declination here to worry about – magnetic North as indicated by the compass is, indeed, magnetic north.

With this bit of information in your hand, you can now orient yourself to your surroundings, evaluate your immediate situation and then determine if you need to begin walking out. As an aside, it is typically a much better choice to simply remain where you are, especially if you are traveling with a group, and wait for them to find you. Whistles, small signal fires and signaling mirrors – to mention just a few – are easy methods to signal those looking for you.


If you plan to spend any time in the wilderness – please take some time to learn some basic astronomy and the location of the major seasonal constellations. These can offer a great deal of assistance should you find yourself “disoriented” and need a hand finding North again.

That said, perhaps the two most common constellations folks can find are the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. Start by looking up at the sky at about 45-degrees. Do this in as open an area as you can find. Most folks can find the Big Dipper easier than the Little Dipper – it is just a tad brighter. Once you find the dipper end, look about a fist’s worth of distance away along a line made by the two stars that make the end of the cup. The star you will see is the North Pole at the end of the ladle of the Little Dipper. To help you confirm the Little Dipper, look about a fist’s distance away from the ladle and you will see a constellation in the shape of a “W” – this is Cassiopeia. Using this simple method you can once again orient yourself to which direction is North and begin to plan your exit. Also note that the orientation of the Little Dipper, Big Dipper and Cassiopeia changes with the season – hence my encouragement that you spend a bit of time with some star charts to lean the sky during the different seasons. The month is in the lower left corner of each of the following charts.





It’s a simple method to learn and can help take away the initial fearful jolt should you ever become disoriented.


An ancient device a modern day compass is a simple “needle” with one tip carrying a “south pole” and the other a “north pole”. They are marked in such a way that typically the RED half of the needle will point North while the BLUE portion points south. There are any number of variations on this theme, below is a typical compass that is a great beginner’s tool.


In this version the compass ring rotates. You hold the compass facing forward from your body. You then rotate the compass ring until the RED half of the needle is within the RED arrow of the compass ring – typically taught by me as putting “Fred in the Shed”. The little white line under the compass ring now shows your “Heading” – in this case about 318 degrees.

A compass takes all guess work out of which way you are headed and should be a part of your wilderness kit as well as your EDC. I have one in my go bag, this particular one in the console of my Jeep, I have one on my Casio Pathfinder watch that I wear and, of course . . . “there’s an app for that!”

If compasses seem a mystery to you – please, take some time to learn that skill set. I’ll do a post on it later, but the proper use of a compass should be considered a basic building block of your prepping and survival foundation.


A GPS uses a network of 24 satellites that are in a low earth orbit. By detecting the their signals and determining the amount of time it took for the signal for a specific satellite to travel to the GPS unit, it can then calculate the distance between the satellite and the unit. Find the distance between a unit and 3 satellites – you can now pin point your location on the planet. Add a few more and you can detect your position to within 20 feet or so. Add in an earth based correction unit – you can take that down to inches.


This has been a stunning technology to follow. When I worked at Rockwell in the very early 80s – these units were reserved for naval battle groups and were the size of a chest freezer. They are now contained in virtually every cell phone. Amazing.

My current GPS of choice for wilderness travel is the Garmin cx60.


There are a couple of cautions about GPSs. They are easy to become dependent on. The map reading skills of most folks is deteriorating rapidly. On a wilderness trek remember – electronic devices simply delight in dying at the most inconvenient time. Second, since they are dependent on a network of satellites, they are vulnerable to sabotage, solar storms and EMP attacks. While I enjoy mine a great deal, use it on virtually all treks and paddles – it is a confirmation device only to my compass and map reading skills.

So there you have it – 4 skills you should simply know if you are serious about preparing for an unknown future or a trek that will take you far from the benefits of civilization.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Will we keep our gift….?


Lives given freely in battle as well as in life have made this country.  Patriots  whose love for country burned so bright that they willing left their last full measure on battle fields across this world.  Citizens who desired freedom and a full life left wives, husbands and children along trails from East to West – looking for the American Dream. 

This is their day.

This is your day.

This is our day.

To honor them, to remember them and to remember their dream.

Enjoy your day, take this gift to your heart and hold it tight.

You decide if we keep it – not some Marxist in the Whitehouse, no some fool craving adoration sitting in the House or Senate and not some governor ruling his state like a prince. 

You decide.

Our gift of freedom, our rights as citizens come from God:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Few saw the need for the Bill of Rights, because their inherent truth was simply “self-evident”.  They are a gift from God . . . .

Let us enjoy a day of celebration, remember those who have made this day possible – our citizens – and commit ourselves to preserving this God given republic for our generations to come!

God Bless America!