Skip to main content

Survival: For Real

In my library, I have several books on foraging and survival skills. One of my favorites is Camping and Woodcraft by Horace Kephart. There are many guides of edible and medicinal plants, water purification, and magazine articles on shelter building skills. But having all of this information at my fingertips doesn't do me any good if I don't get my hands dirty from time to time, practicing these skills. Not only does it make me feel more confident in the woods, but it is a lot of fun, too.

I would like to think that if I had to, I could survive and provide for my family from the woods and waters around here. I could probably kill plenty of squirrels or catch enough fish to feed us for a little while, but it would be a full time job, especially with a wife and kids.

On The Fourth of July, though, I witnessed something that gave me a whole new perspective on survival-- actually watching someone having to forage for food on the streets of Greenville. This is what I like to call A Chamber of Commerce Moment. The side of a city that people don't want to see.

A huge crowd was gathering, as Greenville prepared for their annual Red, White and Boom! celebration. Hundreds of people were standing out in front of the Westin Poinsett, awaiting the big fireworks display, and here was this man, a ragged young man, digging through the garbage can, looking for something to eat or drink.

He pulled a styrofoam cup out of the can and removed the lid to check the contents, then he put the straw to his cracked lips and he drank it all.

People with their bottles of water, people standing there sipping their frappes and lattes, people wearing their red, white and blue outfits and Uncle Sam hats, people with their American flag T-shirts and their God Bless America buttons on their clothing, they just looked at him, and looked at him. Some watched in horror, some just looked away.

He put the empty cup back in the can, and stood there, head bobbing to the music playing on the streets. Kids were dancing and playing, eating their ice creams and funnel cakes, adults with wristbands were chatting and drinking their beer and wine in celebration, and there's this guy right there in front of them with a dirty sweatshirt and worn-out jeans and dreadlocks, foraging in the garbage can, right before their very eyes.

The man walked amongst the crowd for a few minutes and then disappeared.

I'm sure that I was not the only one there in that crowd, giving thanks for everything that I had. I couldn't imagine having to survive that way. I know that I would have to be pretty low to drink something I found in the garbage, but I would have to be absolutely on the verge of death to do it in front of people. I guess when it's a matter of life and death, there's no such a thing as pride.

This may sound strange, but in that moment, my hat was off to this guy for being a real survivor. I don't think I could ever be that tough. When you see someone like that, it's human nature to wonder what the person did to end up like that, but I honestly didn't even give that a thought. I just thought about how tough that has to be to live on the streets, or in some back alley, every day, and have to use whatever you can find to stay alive.

I have seen homeless numerous times before, but I think this guy served as a reality check for a lot of us gathered there on that sidewalk that July evening.

Comments

  1. So true, Josh. Beautifully written.
    I think most American people never stop to think what it may be like to be hungry and thirsty.God bless this man; he is indeed a survivor.A wake up call for sure... I love you sweet nephew and am so proud of you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for reading. Love you too. It's like that everywhere now, even in small town U.S.A.

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Returning to the Woods

I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple.
-Mary Oliver, Upstream

There are times when I desire to get lost. Walk out the back door, climb over the fence and escape the modern world and the humans that inhabit it. I have always been a solitary soul. I spend too much time inside of my head, and without something to observe and attempt to draw conclusions from, I tend to get restless. I can spend hours walking hillsides and valleys looking for nothing in particular. Often I walk along the roadside, jotting down notes if I have pen and paper on me, or try my best to commit something to my faulty memory. My perfect day would involve watching a cliff swallow building a nest under a bridge that crosses the river. Or seeing a young doe hurrying her young across a country road on a late summer evening. What I gather from the earth does not have a market value. It cannot be bought, it cannot be sold. It…

A Letter To My Father

Two years ago, this very night, you were still here among the living. You had no idea of what was to come in the early hours of the morning, but I know you had some inkling. You'd been talking about it for a while, and the Sunday before, I was told that you 'd made things right.Your mind and body were weak from fighting to hold onto your spirit, but your spirit was so much stronger, and it was determined to be set free. Your pain would soon be over, but you liked to fight, always did. You were the most stubborn human being that I have ever known, and I know that at the end, you were no different. I'm sure it wasn't your choice to go, despite all those times you cried, saying you wanted to die and be put out of your misery. When the medics had worked so long on you and decided to give up on you, your heart started back beating, as if out of spite.  I wonder sometimes what those last few hours were like for you. I wish I could've been there for you, like all the time…

Hemlock Cathedral

The morning fog was lifting in the mountains and the sunlight had began to filter through the trees. I turned off the asphalt highway onto the gravel road. The only other vehicle in the parking area was an old International Scout, so I took a few minutes to check it out as I slung my pack over my shoulders and grabbed my hiking staff, and then started walking.I walked for a few minutes, and up ahead, I saw an old man and a dog. The man was sitting on a big rock, and his dog was just standing there beside him. The old man looked to be in his seventies, he had a wild grey beard and a floppy hat and glasses as thick as Coke bottles. His shirt was unbuttoned to his navel, and had white chest hair and a gold rope chain hanging out."Beautiful day, ain't it?" he said."Yessir.""Looks like you're headed to the top," gesturing at my pack."Guess so," I said, "You too?""Nah, this is enough for me. But I can't think of a holier pla…