With the last couple of episodes, I’ve started to notice a trend of each episode only focusing on two groups (compared to the usual three per episode last season). And instead of splitting each episode cleanly down the middle, the segments have been coming out a little uneven – in fact, this segment received only about a third of the time devoted to the Seven Trumpet crowd.
This episode’s second individual is one Snake Blocker, jack-of-many trades currently operating from around Denver, Colorado.
He’s of Apache descent, and seems pretty in touch with that side of himself, which is good to see. Too often modern Native Americans get lured in—and ground down—by the call of White culture. Nice to see Snake’s kept his head.
As our narrator introduces him, we hear how he always tries to emulate his ancestors’ ways of life, and uphold their traditions. Apparently this includes interpreting dreams and prophecies, which leads him to conclude that the US economy is bound for collapse. Wait, he had to interpret his dreams to deduce that? Hell, I know it’s assured, and I’ve never had an economic dream (tons of dreams about air- and spacecraft falling out of the sky, though, for what it’s worth). I’m sure his Apache forebears could’ve told him the same, based purely on observations of our culture’s counter-to-the-laws-of-ecology foundation of infinite expansion in a finite world.
Of course, when it comes to holding onto your ancestors’ lifeways, it’s pretty tough to get by on hunting-and-gathering in the impoverished ecosystem this culture has left in its wake. Then again, when your ancestral lands are stolen by a genocidal culture who believes Their way is the only right way for people to live, what do you expect?
Snake’s biggest motivator—and challenge—is his new wife Melissa. He wants to be able to provide for her in any contingency, but isn’t sure if she’ll be able to ‘rough it’ when the time comes.
And Snake has a novel strategy of survival, one this bunkers-and-guns-heavy show rarely features: when things go south, he plans on grabbing his partner, hopping on his motorcycle, and going nomad.
(While I agree with his reasons for choosing a motorcycle—primarily the ease of navigating congested roads—it’s important to remember that a bicycle has the same advantage, is only like, 1/10th the weight, and requires zero fossil fuels).
So to put themselves to the test, Snake and Melissa head for the hills, where they’ll try out some survival skills to see if they’re up to the challenge.
First up is staying hydrated. They come across some stagnant puddles, which they drink using some of those third-world-water filter straws. I like the idea of having a disposable way to suck water directly out of the source, but they have their disadvantages too. First of these is capacity—each straw is only rated to filter something like, twenty gallons. Second, they’re based off that ‘activated carbon’ stuff, which I’m pretty sure don’t handle the two big guys when it comes to dirty water—giardia and cryptosporidium. To take care of those, you’re better off boiling water, or passing it through a heavy-duty Katadyn filter or the like. Actually, the Lifestraw is probably the optimum for short-term outings (what with its’ 1,000 gallon capacity, ability to filter the important critters, and light weight).
There’s a shot of Snake trying to swish water from the puddle into the narrow neck of what I swear is a Red Stripe bottle. Ideally, you’re better off with a wide-mouth bottle, but if you don’t have one, an empty ziplock-type bag—or a condom, in a pinch—can make a handy water-scooper.
Next challenge is staying fed. Obviously not nearly as important as water (after all, you can survive for three weeks without food but only three days without the wet stuff), but nobody likes to be out in the woods on an empty stomach. Snake finds a monstrous ant mound and digs out some six-legged snacks. He eats some of the ants, but unless you’re in an area with those honey-assed ants, I wouldn’t bother. Instead, focus on something that can’t crawl away or bite you—larvae! Ray Mears demonstrates a great way to collect larvae (get the bugs to work for you!) in his Belarus bushcraft film.
After Melissa passes on the creepy-crawlies, Snake decides to try for something more meaty, and actually shoots a nice big jackrabbit, right through the eye. Better yet, he doesn’t use some big, ugly, black plastic gun, he uses a wooden bow! Finally! Man, I really mean it when I say there’s not nearly enough archery on this show!
Like I said, there was a time when you couldn’t throw a stick west of the Mississippi without hitting a buffalo or elk or something sizeable to eat, but not anymore, so they have to make do with the rabbit. Snake skips his knife and skins the rabbit with the teeth in a coyote skull (somehow), whips up a fire with a bow-drill, and roasts the whole critter, eyes and all. And major thumbs-up on thanking the Great Spirit for the nourishment the rabbit will give them. I was kind of surprised he didn’t do it when he shot it, but he made up for it at suppertime.
With water, food, and fire taken care of, I’m disappointed they didn’t have time to tackle Shelter. Especially since the couple passed a little wikiup framework when they reached their camp, I would’ve liked to see how he made it sleepable, but alas, we run out of time. Like I said at the beginning, Snake really gets the short end of the stick in the episode, which is too bad because I would’ve liked to see more of him, particularly because folks with his kind of survival approach are criminally under-represented on this show. As he says, folks with alternate methods of supporting themselves (in other words, those who don’t have to rely on the locked-up food at the supermarket) are the ones who will really be able to survive.
In their assessment, the ‘experts’ suggest that Snake get familiar with snares and traps (they say hunting is too much work), and I’m inclined to agree. Of course, there’s no reason to keep everything primitive; you can throw a couple of large Victor traps in your pack, and a medium-sized Havahart trap on the back of the bike, and you can catch anything from packrats on up to cats!
However, despite the fact that he seems perfectly competent to handle himself in the wilderness, in the end the ‘experts’ give Snake just 48 points for four months’ initial survival (which is the second-lowest score yet).
This is just further proof that these so-called ‘experts’ are unable to objectively evaluate someone who operates under a paradigm completely different from theirs. I shouldn’t be surprised, though; I first started leaning towards this conclusion when I tried the ‘How Prepped Are You’ feature (what the experts supposedly use to calculate the scores) at the NatGeo site; clearly, the brains behind the show—victims of our culture’s myth of Progress—cannot imagine a world in which one’s odds of survival have nothing to do with how much one has stockpiled (whether of food, water, paramilitary guns, or high-tech gear).
In his update, Snake sounds like they are setting up the makings of a nice homestead at Melissa’s parent’s house.