From the west, dark clouds move across the mountains and valleys bringing with them wind and rain and thunder and lightning. Water, running in rivulets down hillsides, filling ditches and indentations, swelling creeks and gutters. Hard rains pelt tin roofs of old barns and corn cribs and houses. Wind shakes these structures, thunder rattles window panes and lightning illuminates the landscape veiled in darkness by the great grey mass above the valley. The storm grows in both size and intensity, and the wind bends trees in all direction. The wind, though invisible, can be seen in the tops of trees, their leaves showing what the wind looks like. In a strong wind, every branch of a tree moves independently, each is effected differently. They sway and shake, some breaking, some only bending, but all of them effected by the wind. Lightning hits the hillside, runs through the earth tunneling, and splits a great pine to mere splinters as it makes its exit. The smell of fire and pitch along with the scent of warm rain fills the valley where the storm rages, pounding the ground with pellets of ice, tearing leaves and bark from trees, paint and glass from windows, and stalks of corn from the fertile soil. Lightning from cloud to cloud, cloud to ground, ground to cloud. Trees break, fall, split from bolts of electricity. Earth flies up, dirt and rocks fall back to the ground, along with balls of ice the size of large marbles. The bark, the shredded leaves, the splintered trees and ripped-off tin from barn and house litters the ground. The smell of pitch and sap, fire and ice and summer rain is blown around in the valley. Blinding light and great darkness from the sky causes all living things to hide in fear. Waiting out the storm is part of living. Just as sure as the storm overtook the valley, it leaves it, and the sun comes out and the sky is the bluest blue you have ever seen. All that is left of the storm is the evidence, the casualties littering the roads, the hillsides and the fields. In the distance, to the southeast, you hear the thunder, a freight train on the way to its next destination. You know there will be another one soon. There always will be.
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