First and foremost, I would like to sincerely thank Thirdpower for the opportunity to blog here as a guest. I hope ya’ll can Keep and Bear with me.
This is going to be long, detailed, and absolutely true.
This is how I adopted the name kaveman(remember how you insinuated that this showed I was a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal, kelli) and how I was introduced to firearms. The name stems from events early in my childhood and made me who I am today, my own defining moments, my age of ascension. I apologize for not providing any links to prove my story, because it somehow flew under the media’s radar. Believe it or not, this is the short version, I’ll stick to the highlights.
First some back history…
My Grandparents on my Mother’s side lost EVERYTHING in the Great Depression. No I don’t mean they took a financial hit and had to start buying ribeyes instead of T-bones, I mean they were broke.
Grandpa loaded up the station wagon with all their worldly possessions(complete with the chicken coop strapped to the roof) and headed out west. He got a deal that if he started a farm and turned a profit within 5 years, he got the land for free. These programs were quite popular and badly needed after so many lost so much. He managed to turn a profit on a potato farm in Idaho(Grandpa was no fool, he went for a sure thing). At the beginning, both my Grandparents hunted for the food on the table. Gardening came into play as well, but hunting AND gathering wild berries and fruit was how they started. This is how they, and my Mother survived.
Fast forward to their retirement…
After working the fields for many years, they took to the hills and went camping. Not the ordinary- let’s sleep outside tonight in the KOA Campground and drive to Denny’s in the morning for their $2.99 breakfast deal kind of camping- but survival mode camping. They camped out, in the tow-behind type campers for 5 months straight. They returned home and stayed for 1 month to pay bills, do upkeep on the house, buy staple supplies and check in with family and friends. Then, back out for another 5 month stretch. Hunting/fishing was the norm to round out the staples, as was making do with what was at hand. For as long as I can remember, this was their routine, ten out of every twelve months, you’d find them in the hills.
I told you that story so I could tell you this one…
Every year, my family joined my Grandparents for 2 weeks out of every summer to enjoy the camping tradition with them, along with my Mother’s brother and his family. Every morning started out the same way, my Grandfather screaming GOOD MORNING at the top of his lungs at day break. The fire was rekindled and breakfast was prepared. Far beyond “normal” breakfast, this was stick-to-your-ribs country style eats: eggs, bacon, sausage(link and patty), hash-browns, pancakes, french toast, cereal, and the best home-made biscuits and gravy this side of the Missisippi. Everything rounded out with your choice of milk, OJ, or cocoa. My Brother and I, along with our cousins would enjoy eating contests to no end. Who could eat the most pancakes was our favorite. The rest of the day was spent exploring and playing kick-the-can with an entire mountain range as our field. Hotdogs, hamburgers, steak, chicken, fish and the obligatory s’mores
were part and parcel for lunch and dinner.
Then something happened…
My cousin Angie was 12
My cousin Mikah was 10
My brother was 9
I was 6
And my cousin Denise was 5
Everything started out the same, everyone around the breakfast table doing some good ‘ol fashioned face-stuffing. I don’t quite remember who it happened to first, but it eventually happened to all of us, one by one.
A soon as any of us would put our fork down on the table and started rubbing our stomachs in a vain attempt to try and find room for just one more biscuit, Grandma told us to gather all of our things and wait for her around the camp fire. One by one, all of us received the same firm but soft-toned speech. We didn’t think too much of it at the time.
That would change very soon…
Grandma finished the dishes and came out of the camper with a large brown paper bag and sat down between us, setting the bag on the ground. She then explained to all of us, in that same soft yet firm Grandma voice, that this camp was for the grown-ups, and that we must now go and find our own.
She opened up the bag and gave us the following:
A large cast iron skillet.
One large bag of corn-meal.
One large jar of honey.
One medium-sized book titled “How to Identify Edible Wild Foods of the Pacific Northwest”.
Grandpa then gave each of us a strong knife from his collection(to keep forever) and two .22 rifles to the two oldest (Angie and Mikah) and 200 cartridges. (we had all been previously trained in safe gun handling and proper use by our parents).
Grandma began to speak again, as we were trying to figure out if this was a joke or not. She said that we must take all our belongings and set up a separate camp at least 1 mile from the adult camp and we were not allowed to return until the following morning. There, we would be fed as much breakfast as we could possibly eat and as soon as our fork hit the table, we were to once again leave until the following morning. She informed us that providing lunch and dinner was no longer her responsibility, it was ours. Hunt it, fish it, gather it. If we went hungry, then we were doing something wrong. This would be the new procedure for our 2-week “vacation”, now and in the future, until we reached the age of 18 and could then stay in the adult camp, if we chose to do so.
By now we had realized that this was not a joke and started hiking up the mountain, carrying everything on our backs along a deer trail. We walked for what we guessed to be a mile and soon found a bunch of lodge-pole pines formed in the shape of a teepee. No animal skin covering, just the trees shaped into a large cone and tied with strong rope at the top. There was no evidence it was currently being used by any two-legged creatures, so we adopted it as our new home. We kinda suspected that Grandpa had made this for us to find, but we never felt the need to ask. After dumping all our gear inside, we took stock of our situation.
We then promptly wasted the rest of that entire day exploring and playing kick-the-can. We didn’t even start to gather firewood until after the sun had set and soon found that gathering wood in the dark- not the 7-11 parking lot at night kinda dark, but more like standing on the side of a mountain 30 miles from the nearest one-horse town kinda dark, was rather difficult. We were tired and we were hungry.
The following morning, our traditional eating contest started as soon as we hiked back to the adult camp and we had decided that maybe we should plan the day out better.
The first few days were pretty rough, we had no real strategy. But you know what? Hunger-pangs have a wonderful ability to focus the mind and feed the soul. It wasn’t too long that we started setting up our static fishing lines in the river right at sun-rise, before we even ate breakfast. Firewood was gathered in abundance and my magnesium/flint kit made short work of the dry kindling. We all had specific jobs, not unlike a very small group of social insects. The two oldest hunted, and brought us along to receive some pointers about to fine art of shooting small animals without wasting any meat. Word to the wise, if you shoot a red-breasted robin ANYWHERE but in the head, I hope you enjoy the taste of wet feathers because that is all you will recover. My brother was in charge of cooking. My job was to build and tend the fire, never letting it go out completely, even during the night. The youngest had the job of gathering and maintaining an ample supply of firewood.
As you can imagine, this story naturally spawned many others. Like the time Mikah went to Grandma one morning and said that he ran out of ammo 10 days into our 2-week adventure and politely asked for more. She refused him flatly. My Grandfather slipped him an extra box of 50 when she had her back turned and then made some hand gestures for which there was only one interpretation: “This is a one-time only deal boy, start working on your shot placement.” For those of you who have read my past comments for long enough, the Idaho hills is where I had that rather unfriendly encounter with a black bear at the age of 14. A lowly little .22 rifle saved my life that day. I didn’t have to shoot the bear, just make enough noise for him to re-think his position. Re-think it he did.
What effect did this experience have on me?
It built teamwork skills as well as self reliance. It instilled in me a moral and ethical code and level of self-esteem which no amount of “lying on the couch” could hope to offer. It taught me to never waste food. It taught to me that people can achieve great things when they band together for a common cause. It taught me a little about how our species survived. Humans don’t have sharp claws, or sharp teeth, or thick armored skin. We don’t fly, can’t swim very well, can’t climb very well, and can’t compete with many animals in a straight sprint. Our eyesight is decent, certainly not the best, and our hearing and sense of smell is quite laughable within the Animal Kingdom.
What are we left with?
A big ol’ noggin carrying a big ‘ol brain. We’re smart. We’re cunning. We’re problem solvers.
We are also sometimes lucky enough to have the opportunity to learn the wisdom of our elders. My Grandparents lost everything and survived. I will survive as well. My friends and family will survive. All that’s required is a sense of community and a little discipline.
And tradition ain’t bad either.
I have my Grandfather’s rifle, the one that saved my life, as well as one of his pistols. I have my Grandmother’s shotgun. More important than the chunks of wood and steel inherited from past generations, I inherited their attitude, their determination, their willingness to fight for what’s right. I can’t ever thank them enough for what they have given me. I can only pass down the wisdom to the next generation. Some people may say that guns are just tools, I disagree; my firearms are testaments to history and they tell one hell of a story.
Kaveman is not just a moniker, it’s who I am.
When we were cold, we built the fire.
When we were hungry, we hunted the game.
When we were thirsty, we fetched the water from the river.
When we got efficient enough to take a break from the tedious nature of our existence, we played kick-the-can.