September 16, 2013
This is plantain. It grows pretty much everywhere. If you chew it up, the pH of your saliva will react with the plant’s chemistry to form a universal antiseptic. The nickname is “nature’s medicine chest.”
This is mullein. The leaves are pleasantly fuzzy and about palm-width. Its nickname is “nature’s toilet paper.”
These are potassium iodide tablets. You’ll want to take some if you get in the vicinity of an atomic blast to reduce the radiation poisoning. They may have a nickname: I hope I never have to find out.
I learned these things, and many more, in the North Woods of Central Park during a class in basic survival with Shane Hobel, founder and operator of Mountain Scout Survival School.
In the class you’ll learn to make an emergency shelter, and how to negotiate a smoldering Metropolis, and the safest way to break sticks. You’ll learn which is tastiest among raccoon, skunk, opossum and squirrel, how to signal someone with a mirror, and how to make an emergency water filter from Poland Spring bottles and a tampon.
But the real draw for me is Shane Hobel himself. I don’t know anyone like him. He’s one of five on the National Tracker Search and Forensic Investigation Team and has contractor, stuntman, motorcycle instructor, and security consultant on his résumé. He calls himself White Feather. He makes vague references to “The Elders.” His speaking style can be hilariously rough for someone who charges money for classes, and as the righteous browbeating went on, I liked him more and more. The war is coming. (Or the Nanny State, or peak oil, or a weather catastrophe, or zombies). Hobel’s job is to make this vividly clear.
Here are some of his greatest hits. Parts of it you can call paranoia. But paranoia, in hindsight, you can call preparedness.
“When I hear the whiners I say: OK, you’re dead, you’re dead, you’re gonna die. The ones that say: Oh, I got this, I can do this—you’re dead. The ones who say: I don’t know what I’m doing—you’re gonna be fine. You’re here to learn.”
“I’ve caught squirrel, bird, pheasant, snake, turtle, fish—all with bandanas. Super versatile and super cheap.”
“So, you can put on your go bag and walk twenty blocks? Reality check. We’re talking two hundred blocks: that’s how far you have to go to get you to the threshold of where you can finally go somewhere.”
“Think about today: you’re in a beautiful park in a city, there’s no hunger, no hypothermia. You’re not in a survivalist situation, you’re in a survivalist class. You’ve got it easy.”
“Make sure that the micron count on your water filter is .2 or less. If it’s more than that, you might as well use your sock. Which I don’t recommend.”
“The amount of oil in a Frito corn chip is disgusting. That’s why they’re so delicious. But because it has a lot of fats, you can take a Frito chip, and put a lighter to it, and it’ll burn, like the wick of a candle, for a long, long time. Then you can start fires with it. Talk about survival food.”
“Anybody here vegan?”
“Anybody here vegetarian?”
“Good. You will survive.”
“Don’t ever trust any government agency, they’re just criminal, criminal, criminal, criminal, right across the board. It’s the ignorance of the American public not doing anything about it—that’s what’s driving me crazy.”
“I can track deer, and hunt deer, and make a hundred and sixty different extracts—tools and things—that you can get from deer.”
“In my advanced wilderness survival class the only thing you’re allowed at all, is a knife. But you’ll be making your own knife.”