Life Begins Outside the Window
The Ozarks of the 1950’s were different from those same rugged old mountains and valleys today. We lived in an isolated place, before the days of interstates. The highway that wound past our front door was as wide and well traveled as the average unmarked county lane today. We played softball on the pavement, in between cars. It’s not surprising that I grew up with the woods for a playmate — that’s where we lived, in conditions that hadn’t changed much since the end of the Civil War and the departure of the Baldknobber gangs.
Then I had to go to school. I spent every spare minute staring out the window over the fencewire and hog lot and red clay road, to where the trees began. Daily I plotted my escape, making lists of essentials for the grand day when I hit the trail and left it all behind. At home I assembled my gear, testing it on weekend forays. With bits of Army surplus and the war souvenirs of my father and my uncles I explored the old places within my rather short reach. My father was fond of telling me that I could pick a direction and walk and never find a road. I kept looking for that mythical trail that would take me back in time, but it seemed I always missed it. I’d always find that road, and it would pull me home again.
That was a long time ago, but I haven’t changed much since then. I still have a closet full of gear, enough for any outing I might be able to try. Anywhere I choose to go, I bet I can put together a kit for it. I’ve done Arctic survival training in Alaska, jungle survival training in preparation for a tour of duty in Vietnam, hiked the mountains of the Thai/Cambodian border, and been to enough strange places that customs officials used to gasp when they saw my passport, thinking I was going to make their day. I learned quite a lot from those military survival courses but in many ways found them lacking, focused on rescue instead of a sustaining way of life. What taught me the most about survival was repeating the things the pioneers and Native Americans did to get by in the old days. If you want to know why people were so fond of carrying tomahawks in those days, get a tomahawk and start using it. Best survival tool ever for the North American woods. Actually doing things helps separate the useless gear from the gear that works.
I haven’t been every place I want to go. I still think what it might be like to do what Daniel Boone did when he was old, to just hit the trail and wander for a few years. I may get pieces of that adventure yet. Like most of us, I take my wandering a few days at a time. Until my next entry into the old world where the trail will never take you past a road, I look at gear and stay ready. This website began as articles about that gear — what works and what won’t, and the occasional interesting gamble on something that might. I keep an eye out for good things, and my gear closet is full of stuff that’s tried and true. I’m not a salesman, although I have worked as such. I don’t make lots of money as a salesman because a lot of what sells best today is crap, and I feel bad when I sell that garbage to someone who expects professional advice. This blog is an opportunity for me to express honest opinions about the products that catch my attention, and many of my reviews are not favorable ones. Often the best product is a cheap alternative no one takes seriously because there’s no profit involved. Because I’m interested in the simple life in general, the blog now covers a variety of topics including gardening and other aspects of the independent world.
I still spend a lot of time looking out the window across the fields. Someday, I’m going to escape.
Jimmy Two Hats