(This is the story of our Newest Primitive Survival Instructor Josh Hamlin, he has an immense amount of real life survival experience and will be teaching at our wilderness survival classes to pass on his knowledge to SIGMA 3 Survival students)
My name is Josh Hamlin. I lived 2 years in the wilderness living off the land. I was no stranger to the outdoors or to primitive skills by the time I set about the task, but you can only gain so much from practicing the individual skills within the safety net and comfort of civilization. The time had come, and I had a need to place these skills in their context, physically and spiritually. It will not surprise you that my deep reverence for nature had led me to practices of pagan spirituality. I set out with the intention of sharpening my skills as a survivalist and strengthening my spiritual connection to the wild. Both of these things happened, but not in the way I thought they would. Then again, if I had known all that before-hand, I would not have needed to undertake the journey, would I?
I had someone drop me off near a place I used to go to get away as a child. It was a hill near Tulsa, Oklahoma on the Arkansas river. It was a small area about 3 miles long and about a mile wide, but resources were plentiful, so the location was appropriate. I had a few items with me. I brought two dried gourds with me for water bottles. I brought 50 ft. of hand-twisted cordage. I brought some clothing and a blanket, since I would not be allowed to kill and skin large game. Lastly, I brought parts I and II of John and Gerry McPherson’s Naked Into the Wilderness.
As the car drove away, all my romantic notions abandoned me, and the reality of the struggle that lay ahead set in. This was it, and the task seemed insurmountable. For all my training, I began to feel like a fool for even doing this. Still, I had committed myself with my boasts, and I was determined not to return a failure. You can dream all you want about living wild and free, and anyone can call themselves a “survivalist”, but if you’re going to really get at it, there is no way around it. You will have to come face to face with the fear that I felt as I realized how very alone I was.
I immediately sat down near a small pond and did the most discouraging thing for anyone in this situation. I sat in despair and waited to die. Here was the unexpected twist: this was part of the process. I sat there for 3 days straight having already given up on life. On that third day, thirst paid me a visit, and the pond did not look so inviting. There was a creek nearby, and I drank from it until the thirst was quenched. It was then that I realized how hungry I was, so I set about planning to get food. Understand this, though: I was still in despair and still welcomed death. I did not do this with determination to survive, but rather I was lead by primal desire for food and water. It was very basic and very immediate need that took over my mind and directed my actions.
My need for food led me to make a fish trap. I had to cut down some saplings to make the trap, and I had no knife. Cutting saplings with flint is no easy task, and it took me a long time. In fact, it took me 2 days of work to get enough saplings to make the trap. I used some of my cordage to lash the trap together, and I threw the trap into the pond. I checked it the next day and found my trap empty. Truly, nature did not owe me food.
Still hungry, I wove more cordage through the holes on the trap, the better to stop the fish from escaping, and threw the trap back into the pond. I left my spot by the pond and returned to the creek, this time for crawdads to eat. It wasn’t long before I caught several crawdads, but I needed to cook them. There was an old Sycamore that had been overturned with the roots exposed. Sycamore is a good wood for a bow drill fire and it had roots that were pointed upward which will help them dry, so I put it to use and made myself a fire. I put the crawdads on the coals, cooked them, and had a tasty meal of one of my favorites.
I returned to the spot on the pond and checked my fish trap. Several times I had wound more cordage into the trap to prevent the fish escaping, and my labors bore fruit. Inside my trap was a blue-gill fish. I ate it, re-baited the trap with its guts, wound some more cordage into some of the holes in the trap, and threw it back into the pond. I turned a real corner in my situation with the fish trap. It wasn’t long before my trap was reliably catching fish, and food was no longer a problem. That was one need taken care of. That’s when it began to rain.