Episode 56 - To weep is to make less the depth of grief

You can remain alive anywhere in the world when you keep your wits. This is a major lesson in survival. Having knowledge of field skills, including woodcraft, fire-making, food and water sources, shelter devices and navigational techniques is also necessary to remain alive when cut off from civilization. But you will experience emotional problems resulting from fear, despair, loneliness and even boredom. In addition to these mental hazards, injury and pain, fatigue, hunger or thirst, play a huge role as well. If you’re not prepared mentally to overcome all obstacles and accept the worst, the chances of coming out alive are greatly reduced. The key for survival in the wilderness is confidence: “Recalling survival training and expecting it to work!” It should be easy right? After all I’ve been through it before; the only difference is that this time it is the real thing. I’m on my own at the Mulberry Ridge. Having already mastered the art of fire-making using a piece of dry rattan and tinder, I was able to purify water from the river: every night I boiled enough water for me to drink the next day. But it takes little reasoning to recognize that “the second most important thing is food”. This is especially true in my case. I need every ounce of energy and endurance that I can muster to put Dr. Johnson and Dr. Ivanov behind bars. Problem was: my rations inventory was almost gone. I had a can of peaches and some pound cake mix left. I needed food badly. I had eaten lots of Wild Potatoes through out September and October. But after the cold weather arrived, this perennial plant became really hard to find. Fishing was out of the question. The last time I tried, it took me almost a whole day to finally snag a tiny little trout out of the water. Besides, sitting out in the open banks of the river wasn’t something I could afford to do all day. Now hunting animals and birds wasn’t an easy job either, even for the most experienced woodsman. But I had to try. Unfortunately using guns to hunt wasn’t quite possible. Firing my pistol or machine gun would call the attention of the Marines at Pond Patrol’s Base Camp. My first idea was to build a rustic bow and arrow. But my archery skills proved to be a problem hard to correct. My brand new carved arrows keep jumping off the bow upon release. In fact, I almost lost an eye trying to fix the issue. My other option was to build a trap of some sort. But before I could trap with any luck, I had to decide what I wanted to trap; what the animal would do and then catch the animal doing it. I looked for animal tracks, game runs, trampled underbrush and droppings. I had seen a lot of Snow Geese by the river in the past week and found enough geese droppings by the hill side to justify the time and effort required to construct my ingenious trap. It consisted of a snare attached to a tree, triggered by a series of treadles. It was a simple design that I remembered from my USMC Field Manual. After locating a feeding runway used by the geese, I went to work. My first task was to find a good flexible tree branch to use as a spring. Carrying previously cut wood and some rope, I found a perfect limb growing from a strange tree trunk. I made a slip noose using the rope and proceeded to fastened it to the tree branch. After a few unsuccessful tries, I secured the rope at the end of the branch. I crossed my fingers and pulled the rope down, hoping that the branch wouldn’t snap and break. I tied up the other end of the rope to a stick on the ground and moved to the next step: the base for the treadles. Using leftover rope, I attached a long post onto two stakes I had hammered into the ground earlier. After making sure the post was pretty solid, I went to build the trigger mechanism. I grabbed a slightly longer but thinner post and secured the stretched rope by jamming a small twig between the two horizontal poles. It fit perfectly. It was loose enough that a slight push on the thinner post would free the twig and let the tree limb do its job. I then made another noose wide enough to fit over a goose foot or head, but not wide enough for its body to slip through. I then set it in front of the trigger frame. It was time to set the treadles, who would work as the release mechanism. Using the long dried twigs I brought along, I created a series of treadles by laying one end perpendicularly atop the thinner post. The other end of the twigs went on the ground. The angle of the treadles was a little higher than I expected but my trap could still work. So I hoped. I played with the treadle’s distance for a while, trying to imagine a goose walking over my contraption. To avoid having the geese walking away from my trap, I staked a series of poles creating a funnel leading to the trap. Overall it took me about an hour or so to put it all together. I took a sip of water and stood by the tree, admiring my work. But before I could even cover the treadles with grass, I heard the geese honking not far away. I grabbed my knife and ducked behind some bushes downwind. I remained absolutely motionless there for quite sometime, till the honking became louder. I spotted the first one. Walking casually a male goose lead the way followed by a single female. By the honking, I thought I would see at least a dozen geese. I crossed my fingers. They grazed for a while and walked in front of the funnel. The male stopped, looked around and turned left. - Crap! - I thought. But the female surprisingly kept grazing and walking towards the trap. - A little closer….two more steps sweet lady…- I kept whispering with high hopes. The female goose stepped on the first treadle. I bit my lips in expectation but nothing happened. - Oh, no! It must’ve gotten stuck! - I whispered again. I close my eyes frustrated. Slam!!! The trigger came free and the tree branch sprung the female goose up in the air. For a second or so I thought maybe the female goose was just flying away, like its male partner did scared by the noise. But I had succeeded. The snare grabbed the goose by its neck and the jolt caused by the bent tree limb, broke the animal’s neck instantly. I was filled with excitement. I had caught my first bird and dinner was looking pretty good. I went back to retrieve my catch but I couldn’t help to feel a little sad for the dead animal, while I cut the rope down the tree. I cleaned the bird right there and made my way back to the cave. I felt like a new man, in total control of my life. Nevertheless, I was learning how to live off the land. That night by the fire, while cooking the goose I cried.

by Corporal John Harris, November 09, 2006