I have been rolling this writeup around in my head ever since I left Byron, Francine, and my fellow survival 101ers on Sunday. There is no short and quick way to describe the experience and do it justice at the same time. I guess what that means is jump into your slippers, grab some coffee, poke the fire, and relax a while as this may take a bit. And the title? Well, it is an appropriate description, with meaning…
Where oh where do I start? As I dwell on the weekend it has grown into such a multi-faceted event in my mind. Before we start though, let me lay some ground rules. I am not going to give away any secrets, methods, principles, acronyms, or instruction here. If you’re looking for that here, save yourself some time, you wont find it. I will give away nothing more than can be found on his site at ByronKernsSurvival.com . If I were to do so I could not proudly look upon my instructor or my fellow 101ers again. I could not return with honor. That means what it does to those that it should.
Going in I’m not too sure what I expected but I believe I went in with great eagerness about what I would find and what I would learn and I was not disappointed. Everything you read about Byron and his skill as an instructor is so spot on, if you have read anything poor or negative, they’re talking about a different Byron. He is a very patient, attentive, protective, humorous, involved, knowledgeable, no b.s. teacher. You cannot leave his school without feeling highly confident about what you know and your abilities to positively affect a situation, he simply wont let you. You are involved at every turn, whether you want to or not, you are hands on and active from the second you shut your car door to the minute you reopen it 36 or so hours later. But it is all done in a great way, utilizing your best asset, your brain and the all important positive mental attitude.
He told us at the onset that he was going to indoctrinate us into a certain mindset. I must say I have never been so happy and proud to have been indoctrinated. Once you leave the school you find yourself looking at things in a completely different way. I saw a picture later on Sunday of someone using bamboo poles in a bi-pod formation in a garden just kind of knotted together and thought, “Oh jeez that’s not the right way”. I saw a tarp this morning thrown over a fence near the turnpike and thought about what a waste it was tossed over a fence, how valuable it was, and how I would go about stringing it up and the uses I could find for it. It was no longer just a discarded tarp, it was an asset in my mind, and a very good one. As for the other benefits of this indoctrination, well, read on…
What I have to say here I want to put in a section by itself because it is why I went and it is the most important thing, in my mind, that I brought home.
Sitting at dinner after I got home later that Sunday night, with my most precious wife and 18 month old daughter near me, I looked over at them and asked myself what would happen to them if we were ever stranded and alone. I looked back on what I had learned and the answers I found left me feeling highly confident, gut confident, that if put in that situation, I could take care of them, they would be okay, they would come home. I could return with honor, with my family at my side. That friends, to me, is the only thing that matters.
I’m not trying to be arrogant, cocky, or a bragger, but after you leave the school you find, at least I have, you have been instilled with what I can best call a peaceful confidence that if you are ever part of a group that gets lost or stranded or in a bad way, YOU can take care of them and help make it to rescue. Just as good, you know that you are not necessarily reliant on someone else to improve YOUR odds should it come to that.
I started running scenarios through my mind and then asking “What would I do?”. The first time I did it I probably scrambled about a second or two for an answer but then the training took over and I immediately harked back to the principles for survival that are instilled in you. These principles, I told myself, are what I would do, and yes, in order
If you had any survival philosophies going in, perhaps gathered from books or tv, many of those are likely to change. My philosophies on shelter have changed, my philosophies on survival kits have changed, my philosophies on food have changed, yet I am glad they did and I understand better why they should have. My shelter philosophy was one that there was no real material preparation beforehand for it, yet if the need arose I felt fairly confident I could construct one of natural materials. Changed. I bought books and watched videos and read websites on identifying plants and edibles just in case I needed to find them and eat them I could. Changed. I constructed survival kits with the sole focus being what was instructed in a book. Changed. While all aspects of these former philosophies haven’t been completely eliminated nor are they necessarily wrong or bad they have been adapted and modified to fit. All of these philosophical changes and adaptations have improved me and my chances of survival. My mindset has been better honed for survival by Byron and his school.
Hopefully you get to the root of what I’m saying here. Go. It was fully and utterly worth it, every bit of it. For the price, it was a bargain. The best bargain you will ever get. If you are considering going, go. Quit wondering, quit thinking about it, stow the fear and wonder, just go. Go, and grow. If you maintain priority number one, a positive mental attitude, from start to finish, you will leave there and realize it was one of the better experiences of your life.
If you are thinking you would never need it, it’s only for outdoor types such as campers and hikers and so forth, think again. If you fly on airplanes, ride on trains, drive in remote areas, hot air balloon, canoe, kayak, picnic, horseback ride, take cruises, enjoy the beach, fish, rely on electricity, gas, water, and a constructed building for shelter, you can use it. Airplanes crash, trains derail, cars break down, hot air balloons deflate, canoes tip over and sink, likewise with kayaks, people get lost on picnics, horses can throw you and run home, cruises sink, you can get stranded on beaches, tide can carry you away, and Forces of God can make quick work of your electricity, gas, water, and home. You can always use it. You just don’t realize it yet.
I would be remiss to leave out Francine, Byron’s wife. Francine was another kind, gentle soul that added to the whole experience. For me, it was conversing with another Florida native, I believe we’re on the endangered species list. She also was a walking testimonial to all things Byron. Being an ER nurse she added to what we learned in that regard, she also helped us with knots while Byron was helping others, and she was equally adept. She included practical solutions to aid us such as repackaging what we buy for our kits and what common and readily available items are good to have on hand. And as one student said as we reached the end of our exit hike, she’s the staff photographer
If you want one word to describe it all, to sum it up, friends I can only refer back to the title, and if you ever go you’ll understand – BODACIOUS!
I thank Byron and Francine and all my other fellow 101ers as I call them, for the instruction, the camaraderie, and the shared experience. I think I share a special bond with all of them and if I ever run into any of them again in this life I’m sure it will be a happy moment and like seeing old friends again.
I have to go now, I have a survival kit to redesign, and a Gerber saw to use.