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Springtime Dandelions: 3 Uses You Have to Know

One of the memories I have of my childhood, (I won’t call them fond so as to avoid deception), was that of my old grandma gathering a spring mix of greens for the family to eat. Now, to those of you who are less cultured, “greens” amongst the mountain people is actually an accumulation of any leafy weed that sprouts up from the recently thawed ground. For some reason, it was thought that fresh and tender equaled edible, and while that might have been true for the most part, it certainly didn’t equal palatable.

However, this isn’t true for dandelion greens. These are not only palatable, they are downright tasty and I’m actually surprised that they aren’t included in most spring mix salads you can get at the grocery store, considering their prevalence across the landscape.

In any event, here are three uses for the common dandelion that every serious outdoorsman or survivalist must know:

  1. They are edible. Both the yellow flowers and the leafy greens associated with the plant are food worthy. My favorite way to eat them is to have the flowers fried in batter like a hushpuppy (called fritters), and to have the greens freshly washed and sprinkled with vinegar and oil. I’ve also had them boiled like spinach with bacon and onion.
  2. They are potable. You can actually make a coffee of sorts out of the dandelion root. You can literally do  this with any root, but dandelion coffee is pretty ok, compatible at least with chicory coffee, (neither is as good as the real thing). To make the dandelion coffee, you must finely chop the root and then parch it in a pan over low heat of a fire. When it is brown and brittle, grind it up as you would coffee beans and brew as you would coffee… it’ll get you through some cold nights.
  3. They have down that is multifunctional. Whenever the flower goes to seed it leaves a head of down that can be used to enhance your tinder bundle, or if gathered in enough quantity, add insulation to clothing or bedding to create dead air space.

 

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Uncle John’s Truck: The, (next to), Final Chapter

That Fall arrived subtly, it was a very smooth transition and arrived more from the acknowledgement of the date on the calendar than it did from an awareness of the change of season. It had been a fairly mild winter, not too sunny and mostly rain for some reason. This had made it pretty insignificant in regards to the various sportsman adventures that I was used to having. Political unrest in the venue my dad worked at kept him pretty busy and he didn’t have much time to run to our fishing hole, even on the days that were nice and sunny.

And so I went about my routine, I was working at McDonald’s still even though I had finished my training. I was volunteering at two different fire departments, and since that was my passion, I focused my energy there. But with the advent of deer season coming into the scene, I suddenly started getting buck fever.

Over the summer my grandpa had died and he had left my mom some acreage in the woods of hilly eastern Ohio. It was a long way from where we live, but it was definitely teeming with wildlife and I decided that I was going to have a deer hunt there to enjoy my first deer camp as a full grown man, (I had just recently turned 18), and would be eligible to finally hunt without adult supervision. I also wanted to test myself as I had never been in any sort of survival or wilderness situation without the supervision of my dad or older brother.

I took advantage of the local Black Friday Sales to purchase a deer stand and a really good sleeping bag. My dad offered up grandpas old military surplus army tent for me to use since work wasn’t going to be able to let him go to the regular deer camp we usually pitched that year…

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Uncle John’s Truck: A Story of Coming to Manhood in Rural America (part 5)

… I can’t really describe the taste of those fresh fish fillets fried over a hot little fire on the river bank. I was by myself which wasn’t really what I preferred, (my dad had other obligations over the weekend), but even so, as I settled into the little bedroll I had pitched in the bed of Uncle John’s truck and I listened to the screech owls scream at each other in the creek bottoms, I couldn’t really imagine that life could get much better.

I was wrong about that.

It was a few weekends later that my church youth group announced that there would be a creek run and that we would be participating. For those of you who are uneducated, a creek run consists of gathering any and everything that will support your weight through buoyancy, and floating it down the river. While you’re doing this you will be laughing, splashing, fishing, and trying your best to drown yourself and all your friends. It was a really great time, and unlike in the past, where I would have had to ask my dad to strap the two kayaks to his Subaru and take me to the drop off, this time I was able to throw both kayaks in the back of Uncle John’s truck and head out by myself. I also invited along the particular object of my affections at the time. Unfortunately for me I hadn’t bothered to tie my swim trunks particularly tight, and while I was showing off at some point they came of and got swept away in the current. I ended up having to borrow the object of my affection’s towel to wrap around my naked waist, and then I had to drive her home with no pants on. And “that” so they say, “was the end of that”.

Summer was a true blast in that truck, regardless of my failed attempts to woo the opposite sex, but the real excitement of having a truck came with the fall and winter…

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Uncle John’s Truck: A Story of Coming to Manhood in Rural America (part 4)

…On that same note that truck was maintained pristinely. Uncle john was a Dodge man. When I first met him he drove a Dodge Rampage and worked at a water bottling company. The fact that he was the type of guy who could keep a Dodge Rampage on the road for at least twenty years after all the rest of them were gone should tell you something.

Somehow, my Aunt Kathi told my dad that Uncle John hadn’t actually sold his old truck yet, and my jaw dropped when Uncle John called me and told me he would let me have his truck for the amount of the insurance settlement on my car. My dad and I wasted no time getting the title transferred,  and just like that; I found myself the proud owner of a well maintained Dodge truck that had been immaculately taken care of.

The acquisition of this truck opened a whole new world to me. Where before I had been somewhat limited in my hunting and fishing forays, ( an older model Ford Focus will not get you very far), the advent of Uncle John’s trucks was like having a passport to a whole new world. The first trip I took was out to the New Miami River to have an overnight camping and kayaking excursion. My dad and I had each bought a kayak a couple of years before and whenever we went kayaking together, we would stow them on a rack on the roof of his Subaru Impreza and we would go. However, we wouldn’t go very far because a Subaru Impreza won’t actually go much farther than a Ford Focus will.

My dad had gotten some fishing pole holders and had installed them in our kayaks by using a doorknob cutter on a cordless drill and some marine rivets. So that first night on the river I spent fishing from my kayak and catching crappie and smallmouth bass in the river inlets…

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Uncle John’s Truck: A Story of Coming to Manhood in Rural America (part 3)

As soon as I was free of the crash and saw the scene, I knew someone had to be hurt, (it never really occurred to me that I was the someone who should have been hurt). I immediately reached back into my car, rummaged around in the debris until I felt the familiar canvas of my medical kit, and rushed to the Expedition that I knew had been occupied by the woman. I picked her first for two reasons. First, I knew she was of “young mother” age, and, though an Expedition is technically an SUV, for many it serves the same purpose as a mini-van, albeit a 4 wheel drive one. So I fully expected there to be a child restraint seat or two in that Expedition. I wasn’t wrong, there was a child restraint seat in the back; however, it was unoccupied.   Second, I was a little pissed at the old man in the huge pickup truck to be honest.

As it turns out, both of the other drivers were fine, and even I was fine, though I turned out to be sore as hell for about a week afterwards. Unfortunately my car was destroyed front and back.  My dad came and got me and together we followed the tow truck to the impound lot, we grabbed the plates off of the front and back, grabbed my personal gear… and left my first car in a dirty old gravel lot, crumpled and destroyed, surrounded by the corpses and skeletons of other peoples dreams and visions that had been decimated in like manner.

I don’t know what made my dad think of it, but he recalled that his sister’s husband, my Uncle John, had mentioned a few weeks earlier that he had bought a new truck and had his old one up for sale.  Uncle John is one of those guys that you want to have as a neighbor and a friend. He stands 6’7″ tall and weighs in at about 450 pounds. He’s not fat though. He’s a big solid chunk of muscle on a steel alloy frame. He used to pick up trailers and pull them to a bumper hitch while the rest of us were trying to back up and align the two. John was also the type of guy who really took good care of his things. A chainsaw, for instance, was taken apart and cleaned after use instead of being thrown haphazardly into the bed of a truck…

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Uncle John’s Truck: A Story of Coming to Manhood in Rural America (part 2)

… The car that stopped in front of me was pretty straightforward. The lady driving the heavy Ford Expedition pulled up to the stoplight and ceased all motion as planned, I followed suit, and the guy in the F350 dually – which was directly behind me – blew it!

The crunch was horrendous as everything moved in slow motion around me. I remember thinking back to every modern action movie I had ever seen, with “The Matrix” taking a predominate spot in my rumination. As the shattered glass, bits of plastic, and personal items that had been sitting in the seat beside me began to dance in strange rhythm around my head, and the ass end of that Expedition loomed menacingly in my windshield preluded by the crumpled metal that had just milliseconds before been the hood of my car, it occurred to me that I could be injured and I experienced a strange calm and quieting.

Suddenly everything sprang into motion and I could hear a horrible cacophony of sound. There were car alarms sounding, the tinkle of glass, loud honking, and the memory of that never ending thud of being battered from both ends by vehicles far larger than mine.

My first thought was for the injured. By this point in my training I had adopted the mindset of a first responder, and grabbing my medical kit from the floorboard where it had landed, I pulled the door handle on my car and threw my body weight into the door. It squeaked open grudgingly, and in a moment I was free. In my periphery, I could discern that the Expedition was driven by a young woman, mid-twenties to early thirties. The truck I had seen was driven by an older man. I had noticed this somehow as I glanced in the rearview mirror after stopping at the light, and saw that he had a dogged, determined look on his face as he barreled into the back of my car; I don’t think he even saw me or the Expedition for that matter…

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Uncle John’s Truck: A Story of Coming to Manhood in Rural America (part 1)

When I first turned 16 my mom cashed in a savings bond that my grandma had left her, when she died, and bought me my first car. It was an old Ford  Focus with balding tires and I had found it while walking home one night from my part time job at McDonalds.

Mom was not thrilled with it, (she said it smelled “pissy”), but I loved it. It was white and the air conditioner didn’t work, and my dad had to buy me an aftermarket radio for Christmas that year so that I could stand to drive in it – in the summer – with the windows rolled down.

I only had it a year.

My dad is a cop and I have an older brother who is in the Marine Corps. Both of them are rough knuckled, aggressive men who spent hours and years sweating and grunting like pigs in a little, local judo dojo. My dad tried to get me started into that mess too, but it never really made sense to me. My soul led me into less hostile endeavors and I decided to pursue a career as a firefighter. I would rather nurture than kill it seems.

I enrolled in a firefighting program, in my sophomore year of high school, and it was while pursuing this training that I lost my car.

It was a typical hot day in the spring and I had just pulled up to a stop light in the middle of a large city that I had to travel through to get home from school. We had recently gone through EMT training and I had happened to bring a small medical kit with me that I planned to keep in my car in case I should come upon an accident or find someone in need; when suddenly, I was involved in an accident and discovered a need…

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Survival News: Reviewing the Tom Brown Jr. Tracker™ Knife

I have been a survivalist for about thirty-five years now. I have also been a student of Tom Brown Jr.; having attended his standard class twice in the late 80’s. Back when I started learning this type of bushcraft, it was standard to head out into the wilderness with at least a bowie knife and a tomahawk. Those days; however, are over it seems. This is because my beloved teacher and mentor, Tom Brown Jr. himself, has created his own brand of knife that he has named the Tracker™. This knife, (made popular by a movie of the same namesake), truly seems to be the “be all-end all” in relation to survival tools, and here’s why:

  1. It has a chopping blade. The front end of the blade is not only useful for the fine skill usage such as skinning or separating bone, it’s also heavy enough to fulfill other needs such as cutting down saplings, breaking apart bone, or even throwing if the need were to arrive.
  2. It has a wood splitter. Another function of the tomahawk was that of splitting or shaping pieces of wood to make axe handles, bow drills, etc… The Tracker knife has a back portion of the blade that is perfect for splitting with an offset portion of the blade set aside for precision striking.
  3. It serves as a notch cutter. Often you find the need to carve notches for survival, making a survival bow or building a bow-drill fire set for instance. The top of the blade is serrated to make cutting notches very easy to do.
  4. There are many other functions too. Tiny notches on the wedge section of the blade work to trim cordage or cut fuzz sticks. The front and rear lanyard holes,  (on the handle and the kydex sheath respectively), serves in a pinch as a makeshift bow for a bow-drill, the offset curve of the wedge serves as a perfect surface for fleshing a hide.
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Combatting Covid 19; 3 things you must do from a warriors perspective

After the tenth or eleventh time some nine year old skateboarding girl killed me in a game of World of Warcraft™, I decided that enough is enough.

I have been in lockdown, you see. I don’t know why I have been in lockdown, it is not me who falls into the susceptible class of individual who is likely to die from a Covid 19 infection. I mean, I am turning fifty this year; however, I keep myself fit by running and lifting weights and to be quite honest I am a bit of a masochist anyway. I am one of those rare individuals who enjoys having a surgery done and who gets a kick out of the recovery process. I recently had a rotator cuff repaired and the challenges I faced in the 10 weeks of recovery were high times.

Along the same lines, though I do not necessarily want to be infected by Covid 19, I certainly don’t fear it. I never expected to live forever anyway and have been in many situations where I expected the sudden thud and tug of a bullet to be the last sensation I would experience as I shed this mortal coil and traversed onto bigger and better things. To be honest, even if the afterlife were to hold nothing more engaging than the act of being transformed from organic matter into a bear turd, (Timothy Treadwell), it would certainly beat getting my ass repeatedly kicked in World of Warcraft™ by some 10 year old girl.

And so, as I said, I decided that enough is enough. I have been social distancing for two reasons. The first and most important is the fact that I hang around some old codgers who are susceptible and I wouldn’t want to get them sick; secondly, I don’t like being around people all that much anyway.  But I have found myself getting lazy and soft, and so I came up with three things we must do during this pandemic to get ourselves prepared for seeing it to the end.

  1. Get back to the basics. I mean this on a deeper level than the simple act of buying more mason jars or extending your garden. Get back to your roots as a hunter gatherer. These are the most basic of skillsets that allow the survivalist to subsist indefinitely with nothing more than good information and a field of adequate rocks. A good guide to follow is the teachings of Tom Brown Jr. (Ol Tracker® hisself). Though possibly not in print anymore, Tom’s books can easily be found in the library and on ebay; and he has a plethora of videos on Youtube, AND a school in Asbury New Jersey. The skills you can learn from Tom are second to none and I can’t recommend him highly enough.
  2. Stay in shape. Though I have developed great finger dexterity by playing World of Warcraft™ so much, the rest of my body has gone a bit to flab over the last couple of months. Get that ass out of that chair and go work out!
  3. Stay close to God. Most of the men and women I know who are survivalists or warriors, (often the two correlate it seems), have a strong faith in God the Father, if that is who you are, make sure that you take the time to spend with him that he is entitled to so that your faith doesn’t wane.

Mr. X, survivalist

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New muzzle loading technology: 3 reasons why the firestick must be a gamechanger

If you are a traditionalist like I am, then you probably have a .54 Hawken™ rifle lying around somewhere. Some of my fondest memories come from shuddering in the cold wind, fingers trembling, as I tried desperately to shake granulated black powder into my nipple hole to get a shot at a deer who is standing in a meadow, contentedly watching me with a bemused look on his face, because my ignition system had failed due to condensation of gunmetal and moist black powder…

Well, those days are over. They actually have been for a while with the development of the Pyrodex™ pellet system. But the need for a possibles bag and multi function process to effectively hunt with  muzzle loader is now even more streamlined and we are coming to a place where we can leave our possibles bags at home.

This new technology is called the Firestick™ and it has been developed by Federal Firearms Corporation. This new development still loads the round through the barrel, effectively keeping it a “primitive” firearm; however, the charge comes in the form of a plastic casing, similar in form to the old 45-70 Springfield Buffalo Gun, (the 1873 Trapdoor). This casing fits neatly into the rear of your supported in-line firearm, right behind your sabot round. There is a hole in the back for your primer to fit into.

This round is the equivalent to a modern rifle round and is nearly infallible while still meeting the criteria for muzzle loading rifles. This means that every animal on the face of the earth is now susceptible to primitive hunting. Here are three reasons this technology will be a game changer:

  1. You can keep all of your rounds together in one place. No more searching and digging in different pockets and pouches for a quick reload.
  2. The rifle won’t foul as quickly. This new technology is cleaner than traditional black powder and therefore won’t dirty your rifle.
  3. It’s more accurate and stable. This new technology offers a payload similar to a modern high powered rifle.
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