Starkville, Mississippi

Starkville, Mississippi

Our family went to see a concert in Southaven last week. Because we don't have cable, whenever we stay in a hotel one of our favorite things to do is catch up on the hundreds of reality TV shows the boys love. Alaskan Bush People, River Monsters, Bear Grills, are all on the top of the list. This time we got to the hotel pretty late, and Ben used the channel guide to find one where he knew his shows appear and we were introduced to Naked and Afraid. Have you guys seen this thing?

First of all, they block out all the "naked" parts and we are explicitly open with our kids about biology. Second, they dropped these two naked people with nothing but a knife and a pot in the middle of the Louisiana Swamp, which is pretty close to home for us. We were hooked. 

We watched these two survivors battle water moccasins, nutria rats, floods, mosquitos, alligators, and leeches. They had to make a fire, find food, purify water, build shelter and take care of infected feet with just the resources they could find around them. The challenge was to make it 21 days in that swamp. Mike and I kept saying, "they must pay these people to stay out there!" Why else wouldn't they just turn and run?

We laughed and shook our heads in disbelief from the comfort of our hotel rooms, and yet something is incredibly appealing about watching modern humans try to survive in the wild. It is so appealing that dozens of reality TV shows exist about this very phenomenon. What is it about us that wants to see what people can do in the face of nature?

On one hand there is the Prepper movement. Preppers believe that the world as we know it is under threat and that our modern skills are greatly lacking in what it will take to survive a disaster. Preppers believe economic collapse, natural disaster, or war will leave in their wake room for only those people who have gotten ready with certain skills, materials, and mindsets. Being prepared, for Preppers, isn't paranoid, it is common sense.

On the other hand, there are traditional skills enthusiasts. Something about knowing the life skills our ancestors relied on is extremely appealing. Boiling survival down to food, water, shelter, and primitive health care feels vital. It requires a connection to nature and to our local environments. It requires a set of knowledge that we have largely forfeited in search of modern comforts. 

Perhaps we are all "firekeepers" at heart, preserving the most ancient of our knowledge. Whatever the reason, primitive survival skills are creating a curiosity among our culture, which is our focus this month at the Homestead. We have an author talk with Tony Nester of  Ancient Pathways: Dessert Survival and Bushcraft Skills on October 8th, and our Provide: Primitive Skills Weekend Experience is on tap October 24-26th. Author Sandor Katz will be doing a demonstration and book signing October 21st on the oldest mode of food preservation - fermentation. And we will end our Traditional Skills Month with the ancient form of entertainment, Campfire Stories with renown storyteller Da Storyweaver on October 26th.