I was talking to Strings the other day. One thing that came up was “you save who you can”. The stuff afterwards is the difficult part. Strings is part of a group called Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA). Good folks. He explained to me that they do check up on the kids after they do their Guardian Angel routine. That was something I’ve never been able to do. Saving a life is easy. Helping them heal and pick up the pieces isn’t. I’ve met a couple natural healers. I’m not talking about putting broken bodies back together, but rather broken minds. Mental wounds cut infinitely deeper than mere physical wounds. Someone who can heal the mind is a gift. Not ‘gifted’, a gift. To show you that hope still exists for humanity.

Once upon a time, I got a call from a friend of mine. Chick had tried to off herself. Cut the wrists and swallowed some pills. I did what I could physically. She didn’t cut that deeply. Ordinarily I’d have appended “thankfully”, but in this case, I don’t know. To keep her awake (so she could metabolise the sleeping pills and alcohol), I asked her about her life and such.

Parents pimped her out for drug money. Started at 10 or 11, she physically couldn’t remember, until she ran at 15. She managed to find a relative who would let her stay. The relative allegedly never verbally blamed her for her parents’ activities, but a kid picks up on it pretty quick. They can read the world through your eyes. Though hard work, the kid manages to get her GED and get a student loan for college. She did ok in college, but still fought depression, suicidal thoughts, night terrors, etc. The usual a kid would go through when they’re old enough to finally truly understand that they were raped for years upon years so that their parents could make a buck. She decided to go to a school shrink and try to work out her issues. She poured her heart out.

Instead of deciding to help the girl, the shrink decided she was a suicide risk and had her involuntarily committed. Apparently, that’s what you’re supposed to do. Proper procedure and just following the check boxes. If the person offs themselves after they’re deemed a suicide risk, the shrink might get sued. The police picked her up. Took her to a state psychiatric facility. It was apparently a living nightmare. Worse than being 12 and raped by random strangers so your parents could get a couple bucks for their next fix. She lied to a board of shrinks convincingly enough to escape. She denied ever being ‘molested’, claimed that her thoughts of suicide were ‘just calling for attention because she was lonely being away from home for the first time’, etc. The facility was enough of a living nightmare that she was willing to torture herself in any way to just get out. I don’t know for certain, but I had a feeling that she may have managed to buy an exit by letting an administrator or shrink have physical relations with her. It was just a feeling and she never specifically said so… Maybe I’m wrong. But I doubt it.

Once she escaped, she had nowhere to go and nowhere to turn. Everyone in her life that was ever supposed to care for her abused her in horrible ways. Her parents, her guardian, her shrink, the state ‘health care’, everyone. She thought it over. Rationally and logically. She decided she would rather die than ever go back. So she tried to off herself.

I was a young soldier back then. I’d seen some horrors in my time. Couple of them worse, but not many. I got her physical trauma under control. But I had no way of healing her. To this day, I don’t honestly think a person ever would heal from such experiences. Maybe learn how to manage their emotions enough to be ‘functional’, but…

While treating her, she came onto me. Gods know why. Maybe because that’s been the only currency that ever bought her survival. Maybe because I was one of the few people that was ‘nice’ to her. At the time, I just wrote it off as being part of her OD’ing. I gently declined as well as I could. It was the ‘right thing to do’, but I could tell the instant I did that another part of her soul died. I only saw it for an instant, only understood it years later when I lost part of my own. It was a no win situation. There is a greater chance that I will grow wings and fly to Siberia than I’d put the moves on a lady who was still an inch away from dying of an overdose. But in doing so, she saw another door slam closed. That she wasn’t worthy of being loved or cared for. I did my best. There was no ‘trying’, I did the best I could. It was not good enough.

I left her in the care of my buddy. They had known each other for a while. He had a crush on her. He was very emotional that she tried to make a pass at me, but knew I was just trying to help her.

I don’t know what happened to her after that. Never heard from or about the girl again. Couple months after the incident, I came home from a couple weeks in the field to find out my friend was sleeping with my girlfriend at the time. I found out on a Friday. He left practically everything he owned and moved a thousand miles away by Monday. It was for the best.

You can’t save everyone. You do what you can with what you have. You always work to improve what you have and what you can do. But most things in this world are out of your hands. This girl was beautiful, intelligent and had such a spark of life in her. The world crushed her soul, it ate her alive. You couldn’t write off her life as being destroyed by one crazy lunatic or a deranged freak. Everyone in her life who should have cared for her ended up betraying her. For personal gain, for sexual gratification, for following procedure, for whatever.

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Self Suffiency

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
– Robert Heinlein

I’m often amazed by folks. I always grew up believing that everyone should logically know how to do a number of activities, or failing that, know exactly who to go to when you need to know. I really do believe that one should be able do roughly do everything in Heinlein’s quote, and more. You don’t have to master a number of skills, just be good enough to get by. Nothing wrong with mastering a skill, of course.


Apparently, tons of people don’t know how to cook. They can usually follow the instructions printed on a box that the food came in, which is essentially just how to reheat pre-cooked meals.

There’s a simple way to learn how to cook. Buy a handful of recipe books or visit recipe web sites. Find 20 to 30 recipes that look simple, have a relatively short ingredient lists and sound like they might be tasty. Try each and every recipe. If it’s overly difficult or a pain to do, drop it off the list. Feel free to experiment with the recipes as much or as little as you please. You should weed out roughly half the list.

Once you have 10 to 15 recipes, stick to it. Eventually you’ll be able to do them in your sleep. If you get bored, carefully archive your foolproof recipes and start over again. Or just experiment with preparation or side dishes.


Sewing is easy to learn and hard to master. You need very steady hands and good precision to do excellent sewing, but it’s not very difficult to learn the basics. Just buy a complete sewing kit from Walmart, a sewing store or a nearby PX. They should only be a couple bucks. Go to a fabric store and buy whatever cloth is on sale. Practice sewing (by hand) straight lines. Rip out the thread and do it a couple times.

To experiment, go find an old pair of jeans or pants. Cut out the front pockets, leave an inch of material. If you want to go the extra mile, cuff the material that’s left. Bend it back and sew a straight line all the way around. Now go grab some cloth. Cut out two roughly identical squares. Sew a big U through both squares. Put two lines of thread in the U. Once you’re done, cut off all the material around the U. Turn it inside out. Now attach it to the material still attached to the pants.

Also practice attaching buttons to random scraps of cloth.

First aid

You always want to keep a basic first aid kit handy. I don’t mean a handful of band aids. At a minimum, buy a pressure bandage, some gauze (both rolls and squares), an ace bandage, and some medical tape. Practice putting bandages on someone. Have them move around a bit. It shouldn’t be so tight it cuts off blood, but it shouldn’t shake loose either. It’s also worth practicing with tourniquets. You can use belts, rope, etc. I prefer dropping a few dollars and keeping a few real ones around.

I noticed that most first aid kits don’t have anything other than comfort items. Anti-itching gels, band aids, aspirin, etc. It’s nice to have that kind of stuff around, of course. But not much of it is really life saving. With trauma injury, time really does count. The faster you start doing something, the better the overall results. I’ve met tons of wonderful EMT’s, nurses and docs. They’re wonderful people for the most part, and often do an excellent job. But they can’t break the laws of physics. If an ambulance is 30 minutes away, it is 30 minutes away. Nothing can change that factor. The entire point of a good first aid kit is to hopefully keep you or another person alive long enough for that ambulance to arrive.

Making a fire

If you’re a hiker or spend any amount of time out of line of sight of civilization, you need to learn how to make a proper fire. To survive for less than 3 days, you just need heat and water. Food is nice, but not completely essential.

You always need a starter, tinder and kindling. A way to pre-fashion a small fire is to get a cardboard egg carton, fill all of the holes with saw dust, put a wad of laundry lint at the top. Cover the entire thing with a light coat paraffin. Cut out each “egg”. Go buy a Swedish FireSteel and keep it handy. To light, cut the paraffin cover off the laundry lint and land some sparks on it. Partially covering the ‘egg’ with wood shavings and twigs. Add slightly larger sticks.

In a pitch, wood shavings, very dry leaves and twigs will do you fine. If the wood is slightly damp, you can shave off the damp layer and it will dry itself out fairly quickly.

If you need one, go get a fire permit. Practice making fires with the least amount of newspaper, lighter fluid or whatnot possible. Another art is making a fire circle. At a minimum, it’s a safety thing. You obviously don’t want to start a forest fire. Just making a fire won’t necessarily keep you warm. Unless it’s pretty big. You want to make the smallest fire you can manage that does the job. You should arrange rocks to redirect heat towards you and hopefully keeping any smoke away. Some people use a dedicated heat reflector or just put a sheet of tin foil on the opposite side of the fire ring.

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