Thursday, September 21, 2017

"Japanning" - How the Mountain Men made their tin ware rust-resistant!

In the 19th century, Mountain Men used tin ware for many purposes. Tinware bowls, plates, and storage boxes were inexpensive and commonly used. However, the brightly finished metal could rust if left untreated. So they adopted a method called Japanning. True Japanning is a process that dates to the 1600's in which lacquer, usually black, was layered on metal objects and each layer heat baked, thus creating a protective rust-proof coating, kind of like today's rust resistant enamels like RUSTOLEUM.

The Mountain Men didn't have access to lacquers, but they could fire darken the tin, giving it a protective patina. The brightly polished tin ware was placed into campfire flames and soon darkened. Sometimes it developed different iridescent hues of blue and gold, making for an attractive finish. The tin ware was wiped down with a grease and was fairly impervious to rust. Mountain Men didn't have a lot of money, so making gear last was crucial.  I would bet Horace Kephart and Nessmuk probably had used this technique or knew of it.

I often fire blue or Japan tin items, usually little storage tins I used for storing fatwood, char cloth, or a flint & steel kit. I especially like empty percussion cap tins and mini-altoids tins. These are great for making primitive/antiqued matchsafe's and for storing cotton impregnated with Vaseline for fire starter.  I'm going to post up some pics below and walk you through the process for creating your own antiqued ["Japanned"] tin goodies for camp and trail.

The first step is to acquire a tin object you wish to Japan. For this practice I will use this empty Saddle soap tin. This would be a great tin for a small fire making kit or to hold tools for a muzzleloading rifle:

The next step is to make a hot fire. I am using an old coffee can as a hobo stove and building up a hot fire:

The pieces of the tin are placed into the fire. This will burn off the paint and fire-color the bare metal:

After the paint has burned off, remove the pieces and cover with the hot coals until cooled:

Remove the pieces from the coals:

Using a coarse piece of cloth, scrub the ashes off of the tin. Use a stick to get into corners or for spots with hard ash caked on:

Finally, use lard, or grease and wipe down the tin. Wipe off the excess. You will now have a nicely antiqued, attractive tin to include in your trail kit or possible's bag:

 Happy Hiking!

[Bushcraft Woods Devil]

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Ozark Trail [Walmart] 12-in-1 multi-tool review

Part I - Nomenclature

Part 2 - Testing

Happy Hiking!

[Bushcraft Woods Devil]

"The School of Hard Knocks"...a hike gone bad.

Some of the best lessons in life are the tough ones...."The School of Hard Knocks" as some folks call it. I had a hike yesterday that became dangerous, and I have been pondering it and thought I would share some learning points. To begin, here is what happened:

I had attended a public hike put on by a local organization. I was familiar with the trail, Reservoir Canyon, and have hiked it before. Last time was I think 2013, so I was 5 years younger. The group was good sized, maybe 18 people of varying ages, and it went well. We hiked, I don't know, maybe 2-2.5 miles to the Hermit's Cabin and the group took a break and some photos.

Lord's Candle - Yucca
I had noted an elderly couple that wasn't taking sufficient water. They had a pack with two 1 Liter bottles, one for each of them, in side pockets, no apparent bladder. They appeared to be struggling. It was a very warm day, and getting hotter. I would guess upper 80's at that time. When we got to the Hermit's Cabin I advised the hike leader of my observation and it seems the whole group was ready to go back down.

I was humping a 17# pack, 4 lbs. of which was water, and had a full hydration bladder in my pack when I started the hike. Halfway through, I still had a good amount in it and a quart USGI canteen reserve, but I was about to learn it wasn't going to be enough.

The hike leader decided it was too hot to do the loop and announced we'd be going back down the way we'd came, but that people were free to go on if they wished. I chatted up another hiker, an athletic younger male, and he seemed interested and had familiarity with the trail from having done some work on it. Three women indicated they wished to go along...a young woman in her 20's and 2 middle-aged women. We were agreed to do the full loop, which I think was 6 miles, not sure.

The hike leader queried us if everyone had or needed extra water. I felt I had enough for my needs but was unaware of the others water on hand.

We splintered off and kept going up the trail. It was going to top out at 1300', was steep inclined, rough, rock strewn, and sun exposed. It made for very hard hiking and I started pulling heavy on my bladder. I was completely surprised when it went dry well before the top.

At that time, the group had spread out. Two younger, fitter persons had gone on ahead. Another woman was between us and I was hiking with a trim, athletic, woman about my age, and she was a medical professional. It was taking forever to get to the top. I don't know, maybe she sensed I was struggling. It was then I realized I felt myself running out of blood sugar. I'd had a banana and a roll before the hike...not enough for the arduous hiking I was doing.

I tried to eat some power bars. I could barely eat them; my mouth was dry and I was mildly nauseous, but forced myself to keep chewing and they gave me a boost and I avoided blacking out, which was definitely coming on. I know this because it has happened to me twice before during hard exertion and I recognize it. Not diabetic...just not taking enough calories to sustain the activity.

The view from the top

We reached the top and enjoyed a small break and some cooler breezes for a little while. We started down and on the downhill, which was equally hot and rough, some of our group began to run out of water. I think the three women hikers only had small half liter bottles.

The water in my steel canteen had been heated by the sun and was like hot tea. One of the women, heavyset and middle-aged, kept asking me to share my water and I was shocked when she passed my canteen back empty...she'd drained it...I was now out of water with at least 2 miles of hard trail to go.

The last 1-2 miles was horrible. I was so dehydrated I had stopped sweating and was getting chills. I realized I was probably heading for heat exhaustion....all I could think of was GET TO THE CREEK! Just kept putting one foot IFO the other.

By this time, the medical woman and other man were up behind me...I caught glimpses of them for awhile and then never saw them again. The younger woman had run on ahead, and the other woman that had drained my canteen was somewhat behind me.

I literally had started to stumble and trip down the trail, Several times I had to negotiate tricky rocks and went slow because I knew I could get hurt if not very careful. Finally I broke into the canyon's Oak cover and could hear the stream in the distance and knew I was all right.

FRONTIER Survival Straw

When I got near the stream I dropped my pack, broke out the FRONTIER survival straw I carry and sat in the stream and began dumping water over my head. I cared not a whit about getting soaked. Then I started drinking through the survival straw until I was sick of water. It wouldn't fit my canteens small mouth, and I didn't have a cup, so I cupped my hand and drank from it.

After about 5-10 minutes I became aware the younger woman was sitting below the falls just watching me. She appeared amused and I have to admit, I probably was a funny sight sitting clothed in the stream dumping water on myself. More's the point, I was so confused my situational awareness had crapped out.

The woman that drained my canteen came in behind me and I think she might've drank from the stream, but not sure. The three of us waited at the falls but the other two of our group never showed. I had last seen them behind me, moving pretty slow. We waited for an hour but they never appeared. I was concerned but had seen both with cell phones and service was good so I was not too worried, knowing they could call for help.

I called a friend on the local Search & Rescue team and he notified the SAR on-call coordinator, who called me direct. I explained the circs and he said check the p-lot, thinking they might've skirted around us. We did and they were not there. I notified him and he suggested I call SLOSO Dispatch and they would do a call-out, and they could request a CHP fly-over. I said I would first call the hike leader whom I knew had a roster with phone numbers and could check on the overdue hikers.

Tough terrain

At that point, the bizarre happened and I dropped my cellphone and broke it when I needed it most. Unable to communicate, I went home and e-mailed the hike leader who responded and made contact with the 2 hikers and advised me they'd made it down the mountain safely, to my great relief.
This was the first time I've ever run completely out of water on a hike and it was a real horrible learning experience. Learning points?

1.) Eat sufficient calories before a hike; take additional calories along the are burning calories whether you feel it or not. You will when you "hit the wall" and by then it is too late.

2.) Don't underestimate heat. It can really sneak up and surprise you.

3.) Don't overestimate your abilities as a hiker. Nature is a bigger badass than you will ever be.

4.) Electrolyte beans would've been very handy to have. Pretty sure my heart was working harder pumping sludgy blood as my body robbed my bloodstream for water.

5.) Accept/realize bad things can happen even on a front country don't have to be in the sticks to become incapacitated

6.) Make sure the people you are hiking with have more than adequate water for their needs. I know the other male was providing water from his bladder and last I knew he was down to half a liter.

7.) Have names/phone numbers for the people you hike with; carry some 3x5 cards and distribute to all in case you get separated.

8.) Stay together as a group. Pretty sure if I was not thinking clearly, at least a couple of the others were struggling too.

9.) Listen to others. For just a moment, I'd pondered going down with the group. The hike leader made a good call and I should've deferred to his judgment.

Anyways, just a few thoughts, which I thought I'd pass on.

Happy Hiking!

[Bushcraft Woods Devil]

Thursday, June 1, 2017

"Pass-Around" - Testing the 5ive Star gear T1 Survival Knife

I had coffee with my friend, Jason [Tactical-Bushcrafter] last night and he showed me a 5ive Star Gear T1 survival knife. Jason said he was considering including it in a line of survival kits he is assembling and  preparing to market online. He said it is priced below $20.00 USD  and seems to be a decent inexpensive knife.

5ive Star Gear T1 Survival Knife

The T1 is a paracord-handled skeletal knife, constructed of 420 stainless steel and having a 3.25" blade and an overall length just under 8". It comes with a nylon sheath and the whole package weighs under 6 oz.  Jason said it has about 5' of paracord wrap on the handle and came with a ferro rod set into a whistle handle. On the downside, he said the plastic whistle handle broke and the ferro rod fell out the first time he used it.

Jason passed the knife to me and asked me to test the knife. "Abuse it", he said, so I took it home.

First examination  revealed  the cutting edge had a typical factory grind. I spent about an hour tuning it up on my stones and it delivered a nice edge. A lot of people don't like 420, but 420 stainless is easy to sharpen and maintain. It won't hold an edge too long, but the rust resistance and easy sharpening aspects make the steel attractive to me. My opinion is 1.) You need to develop knife sharpening skills and, 2.) if it is too hard a steel, you won't be able to sharpen afield which does you no good. It never ceases to amaze me people who purchase knives but won't learn to sharpen them.

Blade profile is a kind of wedge tipped drop point. The blade is 3/16" thick and the tip looks strong. There is traction jimping on the spine. The handle is skeletal and has lashing point for fashioning a spear, something I would never do. I would suggest making a thrusting spear as a walking stick and defensive and/or hunting tool. Can't imagine anything that would be worse than seeing a wild animal run off, wounded, with your knife in it's side...goodbye knife, goodbye meal.

The sheath is soft nylon, and the snap closure is very hard to engage. I added a paracord loop with a cord-loc to trap the knife in the sheath so it would be less likely to fall out and become lost. I think I would only carry this set up in a pack and not on my belt for safety and security. At the price point, it's not worth commissioning a Kydex sheath unless you can make your own.

To test the T1, I tried chopping, batoning and carving various woods including Oak and Eucalyptus. I had some dry, hard nasty pieces on hand and the t1 did a good job of making camp wood of them. I tried prying the tip and it did not snap or bend. I found no chipping or deformation of the cutting edge at the end of the testing. The edge carved satisfactorily, making curls and a tent stake. the knife has a Titanium coated finish which seems to be holding up well to wear and tear.

Overall, I was pleased and would say this is a fine choice for a number of applications: as a trainer for the person new to bushcraft;  a good B.S.A. Scout fixed blade;  a good choice for a trail hiker's day pack;  a good Bugout kit knife; a great knife for the person on a limited budget or seeking a quality knife at an inexpensive knife. Sheath and whistle/ferro rod issues aside, I'd say the knife is a fine blade for the money.

Anyway, enough's my video testing the T-1 to see what it can do:


Also, here is Tactical Bushcrafter's T1 testing video: 

Happy Hiking!

[Bushcraft Woods Devil]

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Kilimanjaro Gear "Ballast" Multi-tool....2 year review!

In 2015 I received this BALLAST multi-tool from Kilimanjaro Gear. Kiligear manufactures and markets a line of innovative outdoors gear including knives, multi-tools, flashlights, and packs, as well as Tactical Gear. In fact, some of their gear is approved by the National Tactical Officer's Association and one of their folding knives, the UTAC, was developed with input from U.S. Navy SEAL Joel Lambert. That's some pretty impressive credentials folks!

Kilimanjaro Gear BALLAST multi-tool

After receiving the BALLAST for evaluation, I took it out on the trail and used it on a couple of outings, which can be found on my YOUTUBE channel, BushcraftWoodsDevil.

Well, it's been 2 years and this knife has been in more or less continuous use throughout that period, so I felt it was time for a review. I can't name my employer as I am not permitted to endorse commercial products, but I can say that I do work as a Park Ranger and this sheath and knife have rode on my belt and been used & abused regularly. It has pruned trees, cut wire, loosened nuts, cut rope, sharpened pruners [file], tightened screws, and yes, has even opened the occasional can of pork `n beans, which anyone who follows my channel knows is an outdoors dietary staple for me, lol.

Lets review the technical specifics of the BALLAST.  There are 2 models, 910053 with a black coated finish, and 910052, which has a satin metal finish. Mine is the black coated model. Both have an overall length of 6.2", a closed length of 4.2", and weigh in at about 9.5 oz.  As to tools, they are outfitted as follows:

  • Pliers
  • Wire Cutter
  • Long Nose Pliers
  • Knife
  • Serrated Knife
  • Can Opener
  • Bottle Opener
  • Saw Blade
  • Double Cut File
  • Single Cut File
  • Phillips Screwdriver
  • Medium Flat Head Screwdriver 
  • Large Flat Head Screwdriver

  • The multi-tool comes equipped with it's own nylon belt pouch:

    BALLAST and belt carry pouch

    After 2 years riding on my belt and sliding in and out of the truck, the sheath continues to serve. I had fully expected the belt loop to fail and am very impressed it has not. the loop has stretched a bit as nylon is want to do, but has not separated from the body of the sheath. A bit of rust has formed on the snap due to weather exposure, and the sheath body has worn and frayed a bit from seat abrasion, but it still works fine. Not a problem even if it did fail because Kilimanjaro Gear offers a LIMITED LIFETIME WARRANTY to the original retail purchaser and are guaranteed be free from defects in materials and workmanship for as long as owned by the original purchaser and is used for the purpose intended, under normal conditions. Not bad!

    Getting back to the knife and it's featured tools. The "Heart" of any multi-tool is it's pliers unction. Indeed, this is what most multi-tools are built around...the "chassis" so to speak. BALLAST pliers are kind of a long-nosed pliers...not needle nosed and not the typical blunt-nosed pliers either. This seems to try to bridge both tasks and does a fair job. Especially impressive to me is the wire cutter beneath the pliers jaws, which for me has cut soft and hard wire and shows no deformation to the teeth to date. When deployed, the handles remain stiff and don't fold or flop in anyway, allowing good use of the pliers.

    BALLAST pliers and wire cutters up close

    The primary blade is a Sheep's Foot style blade, straight edged and measuring at about 1-7/8". This blade accepted a nice sharpening and became razor sharp with just a little work on my stones. It's a bit small but adequate for many cutting and carving tasks. But of course, it would be wise to carry a fixed blade sheath knife on the trail for tasks demanding a larger blade. The beauty here is it is compact and "socially acceptable" and thus can be used on the job, in town, or in many other "non permissible" environments. Nestled next to the knife blade is a can opener, a small slotted tip screwdriver, and a two-sided file having both smooth and cross-cut functions, about 1-1/4" working surfaces. IMHO, the file could be better, and have a bit more distinctive teeth, but for the money are adequate for average tasks a file this size would be tasked to perform, say wood and soft metals.

    BALLAST's Sheep's Foot knife blade

    On the opposite handle is found a small wood saw and a serrated blade, both measuring in again at 1-7/8".  The saw is a decent cross-cut saw and I have used it effectively pruning small branches, for camp projects such as crafting tent stakes, and for making notches in a bow drill hearth-board. I tuned up the Serrated blade with my SMITH'S diamond serration sharpener and it has been useful cutting rope and preserving my straight blade. Between these two blades rest a bottle cap lifter and a Phillips head screwdriver. My only complaint here is that the Phillip's head is one of those funky half-width blades, narrowed to fit into the narrow space remaining. I find it tends to slip out of the screw head. frankly, I'd rather have had a good punch blade.

    Really useful features!

    Overall, I think this knife is a very good bargain. Just scanning the Internet I found them, quite incredibly, ranging in price from $16.20 to $28.12 on a random SHOPPING search inquiry. I believe this knife to be a mid-range price & quality multi-tool...not a high end product which might fetch 50-100 bucks+  and not a sub-20 dollar Chinese knock off either. It fits a niche for the person that wants a higher quality multi-tool but whose budget can't go over the 50 dollar mark. I just don't think you can go wrong on a BALLAST, especially seeing some of the online price opportunities. I made this video which recaps what has been said here, so check it out!

    Finally, if you own a BALLAST I would be very interested to hear what your thoughts and experiences are, so feel free to post up in COMMENTS below.

    Happy Hiking!

    [Bushcraft Woods Devil]

    Saturday, May 6, 2017

    Prayers & Smoke for Our World

    I have been a bushcrafter for about 5 years or so now. As I grew in experience, I evolved. I think when I started it was all about the gear. I would tear down trails just to see how fast I could cover a distance. But as I learned more skills and knowledge from folks, especially here on the forums, I gradually pared away the gear and became a minimalist. I also had my eyes opened and my awareness of the beauty of the natural world increased. Nowadays, I never hurry, and sometimes take a couple of hours to cover a mile, studying plants, taking a knee and watching the wonder or wildlife listening to calls and such. I usually come back with a bag of trash too, as I now can't bear to see litter and not remove it.

    Through bushcraft, I have come to feel a deep spirituality when I am outdoors [I'm not sure you can be a true bushcrafter without an appreciation and reverence for the gift of nature?]. I know many of the indigenous peoples here in the USA had a different view than westerners. They didn't see a creator in the person of a deity, but they saw that there was a life force that birthed and regenerated the natural world, and they felt connected to it and to each other. The Lakota, for instance, called that force Wakan tanka, or "The Great Mystery", and while they didn't understand who or how it worked, they strongly felt it was due respect and prayers of thanks.

    I think that we've lost that reverence for nature and the miracle of life. Everyday people have become disconnected from it. They rush about to work and their hurried lives and fail to see what bushcrafter's know....that there is a beautiful natural world that heals and regenerates our soul I know bushcraft has helped me to find it in myself.

    Anyways, the point is lately I have been worried about the state of affairs here in the world and in my own country. So many angry hateful people. World leaders threatening war and nuclear weapons. People here at home arguing and insulting each other over politics. It is horrible to ponder, but we could lose our home, this Earth, in 30 minutes with just the push of a button.

    This past Thursday was the National Day of Prayer here in the U.S.A., and while I am not a religious person, I felt obliged to go to the woods and offer Prayers & Smoke, and ask for wisdom for our world leaders and healing for our people. To turn people's hearts away from anger and hate. To ask for our world leaders to guide us to better care for our Earth so that we can leave a healthy planet for our children and grandchildren to live in. I made two videos of my prayer outing, which are below. The first is intentions, the second making White Sage smoke.

    I hope you will join me in sending good thoughts and intentions, however you believe. Blessings on you all!

    [Bushcraft Woods Devil]

    Thursday, April 20, 2017

    Let's talk about carrying water!

    Packs with hydration bladders have been the standard for several years now. Hikers, backpackers, bikers, walkers, trail workers, even warfighters wear them on their packs to hydrate while engaged in some activity. Many people still carry bottles of water or a canteen, but by far, I see hydration bladders being used nowadays.

    Hydration bladders are a great and useful hiking tool. They allow you to sip water while moving and not have to remove your pack to access a canteen or water bottle. But, there is a downside. They can be punctured. You could slide off the side of a trail or trip and take a mechanical fall, rupture your hydration bladder, and lose some or all of your drinking water.

    But I am going to argue that I believe that having an old fashioned hard canteen is a good idea to carry a reserve of water in a container; one that is not likely to rupture in a fall, such as a stainless steel bottle or canteen.

    As well, a metal canteen [single walled] can be used to achieve a boil and disinfect water you gather from questionable sources, such as streams. You can chemically treat your water in a canteen and then transfer it to the bladder, and then gather more water and add tablets to treat it as you hike.
    Nalgene [plastic] bottles are fine, but you can't easily do a boil in one, although I have seen people boil water in plastic bottles. A sunlight U.V. disinfectant treatment is a possibility with a clear bottle I suppose.

    Carrying a small bottle that you can add flavored drink mixes too is handy and doesn't contaminate your entire drinking water supply, if you want plain water later, such as for cooking. I like the military Pilot's Flask, a 1-pint plastic kidney shaped bottle. It easily fits into a pants back pocket or cargo leg pocket. HAWAIIAN PUNCH low sugar mixes are handy for making crappy tasting water more palatable.

    It's not a bad idea to carry a GAW [Give Away] bottle, in case you come across someone on the trail who has run out of water and is desperate for water [which I have encountered]. It also gives you yet another backup source of water, just in case you burn through yours faster than anticipated.  We never know on a particular day, how weather may change and our body's need for water may change as well.

    Finally, assuming you have told someone where you are going and have given them a time to expect you back, you will likely be found within 48-72 hours, IF you have stuck to your hiking plan and searchers have a good idea where to start a search.  In that instance, hydration becomes critical, and if you have no means to treat water and are forced to drink raw water from a stream, it's likely you'll be recovered before any illness onset. As it is, most waterborne illness is temporary and uncomfortable, but not likely fatal.

    Just a few thoughts...

    Happy Hiking!

    [Bushcraft Woods Devil]

    Saturday, April 15, 2017

    That hair standing up on the back of your neck is telling you something......OBEY!

    Ever felt the hair stand up on the back of your neck? It's a strange sensation of concern and even being a little bit scared. You may even have found yourself frozen in your steps. It's happened to me on the trail at least once that I recall, and there is a very real reason why this happens. It is extremely important to heed that *warning* when you receive it, so lets talk about it... 

    The *signal* comes from a pair of little almond-sized nodes in our brain that read emotion that are called the Amygdala. When we talk with someone, our amygdala are reading the person's face and assessing their mood and truthfulness. That's why e-mail communication *fails* so often...we can't visually assess what is being said from written communications alone.

    At the same time, the amygdala function to read danger and prepare us to act. When you feel that hair standing up on the back of your neck, that is your amygdala reading something in the environment that is threatening, such as an angry person walking toward you. Several years ago my Niece was walking down a street and a saw a man coming toward her. She felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up, but she brushed it off. As he came alongside her on the sidewalk he suddenly wheeled and punched her in the face. She knew something was wrong, but failed to heed the signal.

    You may even not see the threat...just sense it. A few years ago my wife and I were hiking a trail when she suddenly stopped and focused on a hillside a distance away. I asked her what was wrong and she replied, "There is something up there watching us." I asked her what she saw and she said, "I didn't. I feel it."  Before you laugh, understand the U.S. Marine Corps calls this "Mountain Gaze" and they are taught to recognize it and act on it, because it may be an enemy that has them under observation. Likewise, they are taught to observe enemy troops with their peripheral vision and not to stare lest they alert the enemy they are under observation. 

    As to what was on the hillside, my best guess would be a Mountain Lion. If you spend any time at all hiking back country trails, you have at some point, been observed by a big cat. The bottom line is this: Mother Nature has equipped you with a wonderful self-preservation gift, so recognize and obey that signal when it pops up on your personal radar!

    Awareness & Avoidance are always your first choice in personal safety. The best fight is the one we do not have to fight. If I can maneuver and avoid contact, I am ahead of the game. Along with recognizing warnings, its a very good idea to have a "tool kit" or personal inventory of skill sets for dealing with an assailant. These skill sets could include communication/negotiation/verbal dissuasion, physical combatives, or improvised/environmental weapons, just to name a few.

    Weapons are a sticky wicket. Not only do they require extensive training to use, bear in mind that a powerful and/or determined attacker may be able to overpower and disarm you. Thus, they may turn your weapon against you, so it is always wise to be careful what you bring with you. Below, I have placed a video I made concerning a very simple impact weapon, the Pocket Stick, which can easily be crafted and provide a tool that can be used against an aggressive person.  

    At the beginning I mentioned having personally experienced this strange uneasiness on the trail. I was hiking a back country trail and was traversing a section when a sudden intense sensation of dread filled me. It literally froze me in my tracks. I was afraid to move and began looking all about me. To this day I have no idea what it was. Were I to venture a guess, I would again have to say Mountain Lion. After a few minutes of nervously scanning the area, I found my courage and moved off, all the while scanning and checking my back trail every few seconds. It was a seriously unnerving and eerie feeling.

    Fortunately, most trail outings are peaceful, enjoyable, and uneventful. However, strange things can and do happen and it is wise to be aware of your surroundings, people in your vicinity, and any uneasiness you may feel. When that occurs, it is vitally important to heed the warning and ACT ON IT IMMEDIATELY. Either leave the area, join a nearby group of hikers, but whatever you do, DO SOMETHING.

    Happy Hiking!

    [Bushcraft Woods Devil]

    Thursday, March 23, 2017

    Review: iProtec [NEBO TOOLS] "PRO 100 LIGHT"

    This is an outstanding pocket flashlight for everyday carry or for camp & trail use. I highly recommend it!

    Happy Hiking!

    [Bushcraft Woods Devil]

    Thursday, March 16, 2017


    Seth Kinman, California Mtn. Man

    If you've ever seen the classic movie "Jeremiah Johnson", or the recent hit film The Revenant", you know something of the story of the famous Mountain Men of the 1800's Fur Trade...the Trappers and Explorers who went into the Rocky Mountains to trap Beaver for their pelts. They ventured into the American wilderness and endured unbelievable hardships...frozen temperatures, setting traps in icy rivers and streams, hostile Native Peoples, starvation, and even physical mishaps hundreds of miles from medical care. The Fur Trade played out by the 1840's and the Mountain Men went on to other pursuits, but the question I am asking is; Who are the Mountain Men of today? Do they still walk among us?  I think they do, and here is why...

    To answer the question, we must first look at the skills and qualities that made the Mountain Men who they were.

    Many years ago, I used to participate in "Buckskinning", which is a hobby of reenacting the period of muzzleloading black powder firearms, generally between the late 1600's and mid-1800's fr the U.S. There were gatherings called "Rondy's", named after the Rendezvous' of the Fur Trade era, that brought Longhunters, Colonial's, Rangers, and Mountain Men together for a week or so of comradery. we lived in canvas tents and tarps, cooked with cast iron over campfires, split cards in half with muskets, and threw knives and hawks. It was a great time. During that time, I reenacted a Mountain man, read books and studied to get into persona. There are some key points I found that were present in the Mountain men:

    1.) Rugged individualists - The Mountain Men were self-reliant. They were expected to care for fend for themselves insofar as possible. They could ask for another's assistance, but always strove to be self-reliant.  They worked hard to develop skills and add to their knowledge of how to find or make shelter, hunt and gather food and water, to care for their own injuries, repair and make their own clothing, make a warming fire when necessary, and be proficient with arms and defend themselves from any aggressor.  

    2.) Naturalists - The Mountain men strove to learn about nature. What woods and plants were useful to them, the habits and tracks of animals, understanding weather patterns so as to predict inclement conditions to be prepared for, wilderness navigation or natural way-finding skills, celestial navigation. Time in the wilderness taught them to recognize and develop respect for the gift of nature's bounty and not taking or consuming more than one needed was essential.

    3.) Respect for their fellow humans - The Mountain Men worked as a team, traveled in large units called Brigades, composed of hunters, trappers, cooks, packers, and etc. As such, respect for their campmates was essential to prevent fracture of the unit. This meant dividing and sharing food and resources in a survival situation, not nosing into other's personal business, defending the whole if attacked, not stealing from another, and understanding that, once given, a man's word was not broken or gone back on. Equally, respect and fair treatment of one's neighbors, such as the Native Peoples was key to survival. 

    4.) Curiosity - The Mountain Men were individuals who wanted to know what lie beyond the next ridge. They had a restless desire to explore and an adventure spirit that led them to leave the safety and confines of the cities and see what was in the wilderness.

    So the question would be, are there still these individuals among us? I would answer yes!

    In spite of the seductive pull of modern convenience and our comfortable technology, the modern Bushcraft movement has greatly stirred the ashes and rekindled peoples interest in the outdoors. Bushcraft is the whole of outdoors activity...birdwatching, hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, and etc. But more than that, it is about "thriving" in the outdoor environment, and accepting the ambient conditions and living in harmony with nature, rather than trying to conform nature to our situation. This is exactly the approach the Mountain Men adopted.

    I and people I know regularly go outdoors and camp and practice & strive to better their Primitive Skills, [wickiup shelters, stone and wood tools, friction fire], Modern Outdoor Survival Skills [backpacking, lighter-made fire, nylon tents and aluminum camp gear], and "Classic" Outdoor skills [Reenactors, flint & steel firemaking, canvas shelters].  The Mountain Men certainly had Primitive and Classic skillsets and equipage, and we can too.

    Mountain Man Primitive Skills

    Bushcrafter's seek to add to their understanding of nature though gaining knowledge and making observations of weather, plants and trees, and animal activities. Time spent on the trail gradually opens one's eyes to the minute details often overlooked by others...tiny burrows hidden in the brush, the strangeness when the woods fall suddenly silent and conversely awareness when a bird's alarm call erupts.

    I belong to a few different forums and groups.Visit any of a number of bushcraft forums and you will find people all over the globe who are going outdoors and developing their primitive, classic, and  modern skill sets. You will also note a bond of warmth, respect, and fraternity borne of a common love of nature and skills that transcends nationality or sex. Male and female alike are practitioners of the hobby and none are judged regardless of level of skill or origin, but rather, are encouraged by their fellows, just as did the Mountain Men.

    Many forum members are from countries other than the U.S. that have their own famous adventurers who set foot into the wilderness..people like Canada's Alexander MacKenzie, renown for his overland crossing of Canada to reach the Pacific Ocean in 1793...the first first east to west crossing of North America, it preceded Lewis & Clark's expedition by 12 years. Or Russia's Ivan Moskvitin who trekked across the Yakutsk with 50 men and made it to the Sea of Okhotsk. He was the first Russian to reach the Pacific Ocean and spent his life exploring several rivers and learning about local tribes. These were men who were not afraid to set foot in the wilderness and explore what lie beyond the settlements. I would say the Mountain Man spirit is not just relegated to the American experience, but is common to men and women of strong character and a thirst for knowledge and adventure. 

    Alexander Mackenzie Expedition

    I'll conclude by saying that I believe evidence exists that the "Mountain Man [and WOMEN] Spirit" is alive and can be found today. It resides in anyone who is has a love and appreciation for nature, is self-reliant & actively works to advance their skills, respects their fellow human, and cannot help but go see what is over that distant yonder ridge. 

    Happy Hiking!

    [Bushcraft Woods Devil]

    Saturday, February 18, 2017

    "I AM NO MAN" - Ending

    "I AM NO MAN"

    Part V - Ending

    [WARNING - Offensive language and violence]

    The Marauders awoke before dawn and moved toward the arroyo. They moved in a practiced Diamond formation, a Point Man, Flankers, and a Rear Guard. Once in the arroyo, the formation went to crap, hindered by thick brush and a tangle of dead trees. It didn't matter; within an hour they realized their quarry had given them the slip and moved out sometime during the night. Another half an hour of tracking and the Scout had established where the Crow had exited the arroyo and a direction, which led them to the Highway. He grunted, then spoke, mostly to himself. "South again. Well, he's consistent..." They started out, moving fast to make time.

    About mid-morning, The Crow had stopped to rest. He had made 10 or 15 miles....? He couldn't be sure how far...and was utterly played out. Taking care to not leave a clear track, he had left the road and wandered out into the chaparral. There he found a depression and spread his tarp and blanket and rolled up in them. He was almost immediately asleep. He woke with a start. Judging by the dim glow of the sun, he estimated he had slept a couple of hours, maybe even 3 or 4. He rolled his bedroll, tied it to his pack and then spent another 15 minutes glassing the area and slowly working his way to the road.  Judging it safe, he left cover and re-commenced his march south. Periodically he would move into the brush, take a knee and glass the area thoroughly, but he saw no signs he was being followed. Still, he knew...felt it more than anything...that they were back there, somewhere, coming for him. He made a few miles more and then picked a hide for the evening. With the marauders so close, he decided on a cold camp. He ate the last of his jerked venison and washed it down with a few swallows of water, of which there was precious little left. In spite of it, he was still hungry, dehydrated, and exhausted.

    For the first time, he began to doubt he would succeed making it to the redoubt.

    4 miles away, the marauders were encamped, equally exhausted, starved, and dehydrated...even more so than The Crow. Fatso had recovered from his bout with diarrhea, but he was substantially weakened. Rodriguez and The Nazi had started to whine and begun to hint they wanted to quit and return to the crew. The Scout reminded them this job was ordered by Brock...and no one went against Brock and lived to tell it.  They closed their mouths, remembering some of their comrades that had "crossed the line" and paid with their lives.

    The following morning, The Crow broke camp and had barely traveled 2 miles when he felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up. He'd learned long ago to respect the sensation, and immediately moved into cover. He focused his field glasses and almost immediately picked up the marauders coming up, perhaps a mile behind him, picking their way along the Highway. He watched them closely and evaluated them. The obese man was walking poorly, obviously weak, perhaps even ill. The other three men moved better, but were clearly tired. The Scout had his shotgun, the fat man an AR, and the other 2 men scoped hunting rifles. They would be on him very soon and he didn't like the odds. He needed an advantage. Looking to his left, he studied the craggy ridge to the east of the highway. Maybe 4 miles away, it appeared perhaps 1300'-1500' elevation, and fissured and strewn with boulders. "Just maybe...", he thought. The Crow started moving in a low crouch through the chaparral toward the ridge. He had perhaps covered a mile toward the ridge when he heard a round go past his head, followed by a distant report. They were on him and had the range. The Crow proned out, pulling a large stone over to him to use as an improvised rest. He looked through the scope, but saw nothing. A few minutes later he caught some movement, maybe a quarter mile out. He adjusted for 400 yards and focused on what was nothing more than a hazy shadow in the sagebrush. He exhaled and slowly squeezed the trigger. The shot broke and he didn't even wait to see if there was an effect...he just rolled off to the side and low crawled to another position.

    The NAZI screamed as the bullet tore through his left upper arm. "MOTHERFUCKER, I'M HIT!!!!" he screamed, dropping his rifle and grabbing his shoulder. Blood streamed through his fingers. Rodriguez pulled a dirty bandanna from his pocket and pressed it against The Nazi's shoulder in an attempt to staunch the flow of blood. The Nazi blacked out and fell over backwards. The Scout and Rodriguez dragged him back into a low spot in the brush and examined the wound. It was a flesh wound, the bullet having gone through the fleshy part of the arm. They dressed the Nazi's left shoulder as best they could. It was 20 minutes before he came around, and light was failing fast, so they opted to just make camp and call it a day. The Scout was starting to have his own doubts as to the value of this mission. Simple revenge seemed a stupid reason to expend so much time and effort, especially for a piece of shit such as had been Denver. Brock had never communicated it, but The Scout was pretty sure that Brock harbored no particular love, and certainly no respect, for his shithead brother.

    In the meantime, The Crow was wasting no time implementing his plan. Darkness was his friend, and he took a bearing and continued his movement toward the ridge. Sometime in the early morning hours he arrived and made a cold camp in some rocks to await daylight. After napping for an hour or so, it began to become light, and he studied the ridge. Not seeing what he was looking for he continued southerly along the base of the ridge, until he finally found what he was looking for; a long, narrow vertical channel leading towards the top of the ridge. It was lined with huge boulders and paved with loose scree. Near the top was a group of boulders that formed a natural redoubt. Difficult to approach, it would be the perfect defensive position. One of 3 things could happen: He could put up a good fight and dissuade them and they abandon the pursuit; they would foolishly assault the position and he might be able to kill a couple of them; they could succeed and wound or kill him. It was all up for grabs, but he had no other alternatives with them breathing so closely down his neck. He found a couple of sticks to use as trekking poles and began the horrific task of picking his way up the escarpment. It was steep and several times he slipped and slid, more than anything else due to weakness induced by the lack of calories and hydration. This pursuit had pushed him beyond his reserves, and he knew it. He rested frequently, but it did little good. Fighting headspins, he pushed on up the slope. 

    The marauders had awoke and The Nazi was spoiling for a fight, livid he'd been winged by The Crow. "I want that motherfucker BAD!" he growled, and rattled off all the ways he planned to mutilate and torture The Crow when he caught him. The Scout led off, picked up the track and began tracking The Crow. By a little after noon they arrived at the spot where The Crow had went up the escarpment. The Scout examined it closely, and immediately saw the folly of pursuing, but said nothing. Rodriguez did too, and said as much, but before they could enter into discussion or crafting a plan, The Nazi had splintered off and begun working his way up. The Scout shook his head, but followed. With The Nazi on point, he could take the first round and maybe they could fix The Crow's position and take him out.

    The Crow had reached the redoubt, and it was as he had hoped. Large boulders bunched in a close group that allowed a fighting position with a commanding field of fire. Better still, behind the boulders was a smooth, sheer 30' face that was unassailable; he needn't watch his back. But it was cold...Damned cold. He looked skyward. Dim sunlight filtered through the perpetual swirling ash and dust trapped in the upper atmosphere. The wind shifted and prowled around the rocks like an angry predator searching for prey. High above in the redoubt. he adjusted the shemagh covering his face and peered through the telescopic sight. Four straight days now he'd retreated from this gang of marauders that had been tracking and harassing him. He was tired, cold, and hungry, and absolutely spent, but that would have to wait. The opportunity he'd been waiting for had finally arrived. Some 200 yards below, the group had foolishly entered into the narrow, steep, rocky draw, and were picking their way up, intent on blood. It was the perfect kill zone; barely wide enough in places for one man to negotiate and boulders on either side too large to scramble over. The loose scree was making it especially difficult, and they were slipping and losing their footing as he had.  There was no cover, no concealment...and no chance...somebody was going to die. 

    They drew into range and  a grim Wolfish smile spread across his face. They were entering a section which was especially narrow, blocked at the back by two close boulders. He saw his opportunity and  adjusted the focus on the scope. He would now begin the slaughter of his tormentors. As usual, Fatso was bringing up the rear, and was just attempting to squeeze through the crack when The Crow's .308 reached out to greet him. The Crow had started with the rearmost man, sighting on the septum and sailing a 175 grain hollow-point into his brain stem. His body crumpled, completely wedged and effectively blocking the other men from escaping back down the draw. The Nazi had seen the muzzle in the rocks above and sighted on the position. His round ricocheted off the rocks, splintering The Crow's face with sharp shards of granite, but having no appreciable effect. The Scout was focused up on the rocks as well, and was startled when he heard Rodriguez cry out an alarm behind him. Looking back, he saw Rodriguez desperately trying to drag Fatso's corpse from the crack, but he was stuck good. The Scout went to his aid and together they pulled and lifted to free the fat man, but it was to no avail.

    Next came the men struggling to move the body aside....The Crow sighted on the back of Rodriguez' head and turned it into a sack of pulpy mush as the soft point did it's lethal job. He collapsed at fatso's feet. The wall was building. The Scout cast his shotgun aside and gathered up Rodriguez' scoped rifle. Pressing into a gap between two boulders, he joined The Nazi in returning fire on The Crow's position. A shard of granite lanced The Crows' cheek. Blood flowed, but he ignored it and stayed focused on the task. The Nazi was less fortunate in seeking cover and The Crow popped him in the leg. He fell from his place of concealment and The Crow finished him with a head shot. The final man was in sheer panic mode by now, scrambling up the rocks, desperately trying to seek better  cover, but there was none to be had. The Crow decided to make this one personal and the M700 bucked as he sailed a round into the man's upper chest. The Scout felt the burning, white-hot sensation as the round tunneled through his chest and lungs and exited his back. For a moment, he thought he could keep fighting and worked the bolt, but then he felt himself growing weak and confused as his lungs began to hemorrhage and fill with blood. The rifle grew heavy, too heavy to hold and slipped from his hands. He sank slowly, unable to stand, and slid his back down the rocks to a sitting position. He looked skywards but was unable to focus or see clearly. 

    Satisfied the threat had been removed, The Crow topped off his rifle's magazine and then worked his way down to the kill zone. He paused behind a boulder and evaluated the Scout before advancing further. Wounded people sometimes came back, and it was never wise to approach them too quickly, if at all. He slung his rifle and drew the Smith & Wesson and covered the Scout as he advanced on the lung-shot marauder. Bright blood was gurgling from his mouth as he breathed his precious last few agonal breaths on the gray earth. Without turning his head, his eyes turned in jerky movements to view the man, but it was hard to see, and all he could discern was a black clad figure approaching toward him.  He tried to speak but could not form words. Spitting blood, he gasped, "" Kneeling next to The Scout, The Crow pushed him over onto the ground. He drew the BUCK knife from it's sheath and, without responding in the least, finished his deadly business and thrust it through the marauder's eye socket. It crunched against bone as it broke through the rear of the eye orbit and sank into the brain cavity. The Scout went slack and his lungs emptied their last pitiful breath. Looking at the lifeless form, it had only one dead eye staring fixedly at the sky. The Crow remembered a line from the classic novel, THE ODYSSEY. He bent low and whispered into The Scout's ear. "I am No Man..."

    The Crow sat down on the rocks and looked out across the desert floor. It had been a long journey to get here. He rested for a few moments, then searched the body's for anything useful. He recovered a few cartridges, but no food or water was to be had...they were completely out of any sustenance. He unlooped the shotgun pistol from Rodriguez' next, checked it over, and then placed it over his own. Looking south, he could just make out what he thought to be the skyline of Phoenix very far in the hazy distance, and he wondered what awaited him there. He rested his rifle against the rocks, stood and returned to the redoubt gather his gear. God he was tired. His legs were weak and shook. Utterly exhausted, he placed the pack on his back, groaning as the weight settled into place. he was so thirsty and his mind cloudy. As he turned to go, he placed his weight on a rock which shifted and gave way.  He tumbled over the sheer drop at the rear of the redoubt. It felt like it was a long fall, though it probably was only 1, maybe 2 seconds. His legs landed first, and thus were driven up into the hip sockets. The crunch was audible as his pelvic bone fractured and he collapsed onto the stony ground. The pain was excruciating and he blacked out.

    It was dark when he awoke. He was shivering, and he knew he was hypothermic and in shock. He could only guess that blood was pooling in his abdomen, the result of internal hemorrhage. He tried to raise himself to sit up so he could breath more easily, but could not. Pain like lightning shot through his body with even the slightest movement. He was done, and he knew it. The only question was how would this end? He slid his hand down to his right hip and felt for his revolver. It was there, and he popped the snap and released the retaining strap. He rested the pistol on his chest and thought on it. Maybe if the pain became unbearable, but his preference was to let nature take it's course...

    After about an hour, he felt the pain lift and a numbness filling his body. His vision became blurry and his respiration slower and shallower. He had no feeling in his extremities, and even if he wanted to, he could no move his hands to manipulate the revolver. Random thoughts and images began to fire off in his brain, recent events and events long past passed through his thoughts; memories of his wife and daughter among them. He smiled thinking of them. His eyelids became heavy with sleep. He opened his mouth and gasped, shook his head slightly, and tried to fight it off, but it became overwhelming and he drifted off, and then went still. His eyes remained open, fixed on the blackness devoid of a moon or even stars. Just blackness, stirred by the unceasing wind.

    In the streets of Phoenix, the wind blew tumbleweeds and bits of trash about. It was empty and silent, save for the wind that blew through the streets. Except for an occasional rat scampering in a gutter, it was completely devoid of life.

    T H E   E N D

    Copyright © Manny Silva, 2017. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

    Thursday, February 9, 2017


    "I AM NO MAN"

    Part IV

    [WARNING - Offensive language and violence]

    The Crow awoke with a start in the culvert. He was dreaming and had broken a sweat. The Crow had been having a dream about the dead girl he'd found. He'd dreamt he was sitting before a campfire when the girl appeared before him. She was alive and looked scared. Her mouth was moving frantically, but no words came out. She turned slightly and pointed over her shoulder behind her, motioning toward something. He saw himself stand and take a step toward her, but she retreated, continuing to point behind her, shouting in silent alarm, then fading into darkness. The Crow sat up and rubbed his face and looked around, reassuring himself it was in fact just a dream. He drank a few swallows of water. There was nothing to eat, so he just ignored the hunger pangs, packed up his kit, holstered up his revolver, and headed out.

    The Scout, Fatso, Rodriguez, and The Nazi had picked up The Crow's tracks and were making good time. Earlier in the day, they had stopped to gather water from a spring when they heard a group approaching. With practiced speed, they moved to cover, spreading out and forming a quick L-shaped ambush. A few moments later the group appeared. It was a group of travelers; 3 men, 2 women, and a pre-teen boy. The men had the only weapons, a bolt-action rifle and an old single barrel shotgun. The Scout and The Nazi were the best shots and would begin this dance. As the group came opposite them, they targeted the men and opened fire, killing one man outright and severely wounding the second. The women and the boy broken into a run and ran right into a salvo of lead from Fatso and Rodriguez. In a matter of seconds, the group was wiped out. The marauders left their cover. The surviving wounded man was writhing in pain, laying in a puddle of his own blood. The Nazi stood over him smiling like a Jackal, then raised his foot and viciously stomped the man's throat, finishing him. Rodriguez inspected one of the women and shook his head, "Man, this Mujer was fine! What a waste! I'd have shown her a thing!" 

    The marauders then searched the groups packs, removing some battered cans of outdated food, some old ammunition, and their weapons. Upon closer examination, they discovered the rifle had a broken firing pin and was non-functional, and cast it aside. Rodriguez kept the shotgun, which appeared operable. Later that evening next to the campfire, he would use a file from his pack and cut the shotgun's barrel down to a length of about 6", then cut down the buttstock to fashion a shotgun pistol. Finished with their grim work, they moved off, leaving their victims where they fell.

    The Crow was weak and tired. He'd had precious little to eat, except for a few edible weeds he'd found in a field. He felt his waist and realized he was starving and desperately needed substantial food and especially fat. His prayers were about to be a price. Late in the afternoon dimness he spotted a small herd of Mule Deer on a slope some distance away. They were smallish and, like all other life, clearly underfed, but it was meat. He estimated the range at a little over 300 yards. The Crow piled rocks to form a rest and then proned out. He doped the wind and adjusted the focus ring. Selecting a doe, he let his breath out slowly and, as the crosshairs settled behind her foreleg, gently squeezed the trigger. The shot broke and the round flew true. A second later, the doe convulsed, ran a couple of steps on wobbly legs, and collapsed. The last light left the sky and The Crow began the arduous hike up the slope to retrieve the doe.

    Several miles away, the marauders heard the shot in the distance. The Scout cocked his head and raised a finger for silence. They stood silently, listening for a follow-up shot, but heard nothing. Rodriguez turned and faced southeast and pointed. The Nazi nodded agreement. "Yea, def south. Think that's our boy?" The Scout shrugged. "It's possible. Not that far....couple of miles maybe. We'll get an early start." He grinned, Whoever it is, they'll be making our acquaintance tomorrow. " They made their warming fire in a cleft of rocks. the boulders radiated the heat back at them and it felt good. Rodriguez sat, working on his shotgun pistol by the firelight while the others slept. He tied cordage to the grip and hung it from his neck, adjusting the height so the grip hung even with his navel. He stood and practiced scooping the weapon up with either hand and bringing it to bear on a target. Satisfied, he laid down on a mattress of dried brush and covered himself with a threadbare blanket.

    The Crow sat next to the fire and watched the venison roasting on a stick shoved into the ground. He sliced a chunk off and popped it in his mouth. He ate slowly, allowing his stomach to adjust to the introduction of substantial food after going hungry so long. He had gathered sticks and built a rack well above the fire, then sliced thin strips of venison and hung them on the field-expedient smoker. He held his hand at rack height. It was warm, but not so much that he need remove his hand, and judged it about right. To this he would add small bits of wood whenever he awoke during the night. By morning he should have a decent amount of jerked meat to get him by for a few days. As he ate, he reflected on the dream he'd awoken from that morning. It had haunted him all day. He didn't know why, but he had an uneasy feeling. Several times during the day, he had stopped and taken cover and watched his back trail. Maybe he was just spooky after killing the marauder. Even if they concluded the woman was not responsible, he couldn't imagine they'd bother to hunt him; caolries were to hard to come by to burn carelessly and besides, life was too cheap to care! With a full belly and warm fire, he drifted off to sleep. Sometime later in the morning, the girl again appeared in his dreams,  approaching his campfire, silently shouting unknown words and again pointing over her shoulder at something behind her... He awoke at one point and saw a pack of Coyote's pacing back and forth, just outside the light of his campfire, attracted by the smell of food. He waved his revolver at them and then decided against risking a shot that might warn someone in the area of his presence.

    Morning arrived with it's typical dim light and frigid winds. The marauders had set out before light and stumbled their way across the Arizona desert. Later around mid-morning, they came across The Crow's campfire. Greedily, they gathered up the charred remnants of Venison and devoured them as only starving men can. Fatso sliced off chunks of raw uncooked meat that had been gnawed on by Coyote's after the Crow had broke camp. Satiated, they moved off and began actively tracking The Crow. By noon, they got their first glimpse of him as they crested a ridge. There, in the distance below them on the desert floor, they saw him walking South-Southeast along the old Highway 93. They estimated him at about 3/4 mile from them...too far to make a they kept in pursuit. In the meantime, ever watchful, The Crow had spotted the four figures coming down the ridge, basically following the same track he'd taken. He knew immediately they were tracking him and that they meant to kill him. This was confirmed when he used his riflescope to glass his pursuers and recognized The Scout. "Son of a ....!", he thought to himself, amazed they'd come after him, and turned and ran into a wooded wash below the Highway. At that moment, dust kicked up a few feet away and a second later he heard the dull boom of a high-powered rifle in the distance. He dove for cover, realizing a round had narrowly missed his head, passing just over his right shoulder.

    "SHIT, I MISSED! FUCK!!!", shouted "The Nazi". He stood and worked the bolt on a battered Winchester Model 70 and kicked a spent .30-06 cartridge case onto the ground as they watched The Crow disappear into an arroyo. "You said you could make that shot, cabron!" The Nazi shrugged, "Yeah, well big fucking deal. There's four of us and we'll have him soon enough."  The Scout spat and shook his head,. "Yeah, and now he knows we're on to him." "Fuck it! Lets get a move on", The Nazi retorted. They gathered their weapons and kit and turned to wait on Fatso, who had been hurling his guts up in the brush. All morning he'd been switch-hitting between vomit and diarrhea, as he had become food poisoned from the raw deer meat he'd consumed. He stank and his pants reekd of feces.  "Are you about ready there Ace?", asked The Scout. Fatso stood up on wobbly legs. "Yeah. Yeah I think so." "Well, you fuckin' stink like shit so stay back there, got it?"The group turned and started down the slope, keeping a close eye on the arroyo in case The Crow tried to ambush them, but nothing happened and they grew confident they had him on the run. It wouldn't be long now. The light was beginning to fade so they moved into some rocks to use as cover for the night.

    As darkness fell, a heavy rain started to fall. The Crow knelt and opened his pack. He withdrew a camouflaged poncho, and pulled it over himself, then climbed up out of the arroyo, lest he risk getting swept by a flash flood. He moved into a stand of dead Seep Willow along the rim and found  a depression he could hole up in. There would be no sleep tonight. He couldn't risk it. It was pitch black and you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. Movement was impossible. He felt in his pack and withdrew his Zip-Loc bag and pulled out a piece of jerked venison and chewed on it. Before leaving camp he'd salted the meat as a means of preserving it. He pondered the situation, and knew the odds were not good. He was being pursued by 4 determined predators across a terrain with sketchy cover. This was going to be a test of endurance and cunning. He needed to draw them into a trap from which they would have no avenue of escape. Then he made a decision. Reaching into his pack, he removed a small tactical flashlight. Batteries were impossible to find, and he had been conserving this ultra-valuable asset for just this occasion. From a tin in his pack, removed a small luminous compass. It was a cheapie, but functional. He took a bearing and moved out. Soon he located the Highway and started making time. He would put distance between them tonight.

    It was going to be a long night march....


    Friday, February 3, 2017

    "I AM NO MAN" - Part III

    "I AM NO MAN"

    Part III

    [WARNING - Offensive language and violence]

    The Crow lay frozen in place and watched the Scout as he moved closer
    , again using his peripheral vision to observe the man. His mind raced trying to decide how to deal with this new threat. He glanced quickly at the horizon and did a quick assessment. The last few rays of pitiful twilight were just a minute or two away, and then it would be pitch black darkness. "Now, if he'd just cooperate..." The Scout paused every few yards to check his back trail...he was relaxed, but alert. The Crow picked up a stone and pitched it towards the road when the Scout had his back turned. It made a small sound as it landed in the dry grass and brush, just audible enough to draw the Scout's attention. He froze and scanned the area where the sound came from. The whole area was a tangle of waist high dead brush and dry grasses, but thick. The Scout brought the shotgun up to a high ready and started moving that direction. Finding nothing he relaxed, then started back to camp before it became completely dark and he would be unable to find his way back to camp. So much for a fire, thought the would be a cold camp that night.

    The crow had rolled up in his tarp and blanket, but sleep was impossible. The marauders camp on the other side of the hill was in full party mode; drunken shouts, loud talking and laughter, and an occasional scream from a female hostage. It went on late into the night. Sometime in the early morning hours exhaustion overcame him and the Crow began to doze. It didn't last. He was awoken by movement and voices again nearing his camp. Gaining consciousness, he worked to decipher what he was hearing. A gruff male voice, cries, and pleading from a woman's voice, an occasional appeared one of the marauders had peeled off from their camp and had brought one of the women hostages with him. They stopped a short distance away and, judging from the sounds, the male was sexually assaulting the woman. She cried and begged him to stop, but that wasn't in the cards. Then the woman broke free and that's when the whole thing went to shit. The woman ran blindly in the darkness and with the marauder in pursuit, ran right into the Crow's hide, tripping over his prone body. "YOU FUCKIN' BITCH! "I'LL BEAT YOUR ---." He never got to finish the phrase. The Crow had fixed his position in the darkness by the second word and threw his full weight against him, simultaneously guiding his knife, a worn but razor-sharp BUCK "Special" first into the man's throat, severing his ability to scream then up under the ribs into the heart cavity, and finally thrusting repeatedly into his groin as he went down over and over until he went still.  

    The female hostage didn't bother to thank him. She was long gone. She didn't know how or who, and she did not care. All she knew was she wanted to be as far away as possible by sunrise and was doing her level best to make distance. The Crow sat and got control of his breathing, thought for a few moments, then got moving.  He rolled up his camp and made ready to move off. He searched the man and removed his belt knife, an old kitchen knife, and buried it in the marauder's groin. He was hopeful that the rest of the marauder's would conclude the woman had acquired the man's knife and killed him to escape, but wasn't overly optimistic. By sunup he'd made 5 miles, but never saw hide nor hair of the woman, nor did he wish to. 

    The Marauder camp had just started to come to life when the Scout returned. He made his way to the leader, who was nursing a severe hangover after a night of heavily drinking rot gut swill. "Bad news Brock. Denver's dead."  Brock hacked up some bile and spat it at a child lying nearby. "GIMME SOME WATER YOU LITTLE BITCH!" he roared. The child scampered off to find a canteen. "What happened?" "Well, Denver dragged that blond whore off for some fun, and somebody cut him bad. Throat was slashed, stabbed in the lungs, and groin. Many times by the look of it." Through his headache, Brock raised an eyebrow and cast a sideways glance, "Somebody?" The Scout nodded. "Wasn't no woman. Denver was tore up bad by someone what knew the drill. And I found sign of someone bedding down in the brush under a tree. Just one man. They put Denver's dull old knife in him. Tried to make it look like the woman did it." The child returned with a canteen and gingerly held it out to Brock who jerked it away. Brock rubbed his temples, then drew on the canteen, rinsed his mouth and spat. He didn't really give a fuck about Denver; frankly he was a pain in the ass, always wanting pussy. Hell, he'd been a pain even when they were kids. He never had liked his kid brother, but it vexed him someone had killed a member of his crew and helped the woman escape. That called for payback. Brock glanced around the camp, then looked back at the Scout. "Can you track them?" The Scout looked down and thoughtfully stirred the dirt with his toe for a moment. "Yea, I can track them."  Brock nodded. "Okay. Take Rodriguez, Fatso, and the Nazi and track them down. I want them alive. Hear me?" The Scout raised his head, looked around and avoided eye contact with Brock. "You got it" he replied, then turned and walked over to the group and tagged the trio. They gathered their weapons and headed out.

    Late the following day, the Scout and his team returned and met the marauder crew as they were continuing their march south. The marauder called Fatso was half-dragging a badly beaten woman at the end of a tether. Rodriguez and The Nazi brought up the rear, checking their backtrail from time to time. The woman's hands were once again bound, and her face was swollen and discolored from a severe  pummeling. He shoved her to the ground, where she just collapsed with exhaustion. Brock walked over, looked her over and shook his head, then gave the woman a swift and brutal kick. A loud crunch indicated ribs had shattered. He looked at the Scout and cocked his head. "We caught her hiding in the brush about 10 miles from here. She told us Denver had tried to bang her, and she ran. She said a man surprised Denver and killed him. She couldn't see him in the dark and they never spoke. She just ran off. She caught sight of a man the following day, moving south. Said he wore black clothes and she thinks he was the one. We beat the fuck out of her, but that was all she knew. She ain't lying."  Brock turned to walk away. "Find him...finish it. And get rid of her...she's no good for anything now." "The Scout nodded then motioned The Nazi, who dragged the woman off into the brush, strangled her and left her where she lie. He laughed as he did the job.  

    The Crow had covered about 20 miles and reasoned it was safe to find a place to rest and eat something. He'd managed to harvest a Turkey Vulture with a throwing stick and had been plucking it as he walked. Just off the road he had found a big flood culvert and had decided to hole up there for the night. He gathered squaw wood and set about making a fire, then gutted and cleaned the bird, cutting the head off and discarding it, lest he pick up a parasite. He roasted it very well before eating it, then rolled up in his blanket. Earlier that day he had crossed into Arizona and knew he was now nearing his destination. Rumor had placed the New Republic in Phoenix. He had heard that it was being formed by Patriots who had pledged to restore and follow Constitutional Law as the founders had intended, and he was hopeful he could find some way to contribute and help reestablish a real community...anything would be better than living this lonely hard life, day after day. As he drifted off to sleep, he could not know that he was about to face a life and death struggle.

    The following morning, The Scout, Fatso, Rodriguez, and The Nazi filled their canteens, loaded their shoulder bags with ammunition and some meager rations, took up their weapons and started out. Thunder sounded in the distance and lightning flashed. A freezing rain began to fall.

    Death was in the air.