Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Preparations for the Trip

     When I was about ten years old my class read a book called “My Side Of The Mountain”. It was about this Canadian kid who just up and lived in the woods for a year. Man, did that novel make an impression on me. I devoured all the information I could find on wild edibles and methods of constructing shelters. My friend Amy Mays and I even wrote the first forty or so pages of our own novel about an unspecified-gendered child who was raised by wolves in the arctic. All my free time was occupied by walks in the woods where I would snack on leaves, berries, nuts, and bark.
     As a child I would lie awake at night and imagine that I would slip off through the silky night and steal away across the cornfields to the creek where I would subside on hickory nuts and groundhogs and maybe even be lucky enough to find a hollow old oak to live in.
     In my adolescent years I turned to the wooded areas to escape the oppression of that age, sneak cigarettes and to talk the neighbor girls out of their virtue. The forest for me has always symbolized freedom and ecstasy, comfort and joy; a place of high adventure and LIFE in capital letters.
     All through the summer and everyday after school I would venture to the creek and fish like a madman. If the Creek was frozen I hiked along it’s limestone cliffs scouting or tracking game. I remember one time bringing home a painted turtle about two feet across and begging my mother to cook it. That was the day she made the rule that any fish or animal I wanted to eat had to be cleaned and eaten in the woods before I came home.
     So I learned how to skin a rabbit, and how to cook a fish on coals. I never did learn how to eat a turtle. I hear they have like eight different kinds of meat and six of them are worth eating. Much to the surprise of the adults in the neighborhood I caught trout, bass, catfish, and bluegill. All in the little creek. It was there that I learned to stuff the gutted trout with the meat from the crawdad’s tails and really eat fancy in the woods.
More recently, I had spent weeks in the Burton-Barr. From the moment they opened the downtown Phoenix library in the morning until the last call to leave at night I researched, studied, and plotted my response to every possible eventuality I could conceive of. I studied shelters, methods of procuring and purifying water, hunting, fishing, and trapping techniques, and I even spent a whole day learning about which insects are edible and which are not…just in case.
     You’re not supposed to eat bugs with red markings, or spiders, yellow jackets, hornets, or wasps. Bees are good (with the stingers removed as well as the legs wings and heads). Grasshoppers are prepared similarly. Ants are edible, as are caterpillars without hair, grubs and earthworms.
     I never had to eat bugs but in the interest of preparedness I tried some during those first couple weeks at Potato Lake. I ate one meal entirely made up of roasted black ants, boiled bees, and fried grasshoppers and earthworms in taco powder. I preferred the grasshoppers. They were tasty and snack-like. Its labor intensive and takes a lot of grasshoppers to make a meal. Once the wings, head, and legs are removed; there isn’t much left.

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