|Advanced Standard October 11-17, 1982
Every class is different. Some groups stalk
well, others have an easier time at bow drill. The weather plays an integral
part in the outcome of the week. The biggest single factor, however, is the
people's attitudes and spirit. In order to give you a perspective on the
experience, students and instructors have contributed their opinions and
feelings to this description of the Advanced Standard.
The following quote is from Colleen Coles, a
member of the September 20-26, 1982 Standard:
"This class was an excellent opportunity
to use and practice all the skills which were taught in the Standard. Nature was
our teacher, and Tom and the instructors helped us see and feel all the
information. It was very relaxing and inspiring because of the atmosphere. The
schedule was cram-packed with goodies but was presented spontaneously, which
enabled the class to understand and retain easily.
"I find in Tom Brown's classes I learn
more than just Indian skills. By learning to live in harmony with nature, I'm
receiving a harmonious balance within myself. With this sense of equilibrium,
everyone is able to enjoy living and working with others more easily. People are
helping each other more instead of competing against or cheating one
The opinion here at the Tracker Farm is that it
was a good class. Tom enjoyed the smooth flow of the course. I was impressed
with the debris huts, most of which were well-built and small. Of course, some
were a little shy on debris, but the students grasped the concept soundly. Lynn
McDowell appreciated the little "tricks of the trade" that Tom shared
with us; like how to build the shelter's door and to compact debris on the
exterior so as to shed water better. She found the whole course a great
Her husband, Steve, came away with the attitude
that now he’ll "never be lost". He also found that the experience of
survival living was easier than he expected, citing the shelter and eating
utensils as examples. His stalking ability was refined and other skills further
improved. He learned a great deal when he practiced setting traps, realizing,
for example, that he needed a lot more preparation and caution when approaching
the trapping area.
We all learned when Tom showed us how to select
and approach a location, how to set the traps and leave the area. He also
explained several methods of checking on the traps without having to go in and
disturb the surroundings. It was an eye-opening demonstration.
On the subject of trapping, we covered many new
deadfalls and snares. New turtle and fish traps were expounded upon along with
some varied snare triggers and specialized deadfalls. Tom amused us with his
little stories that accompany the trap descriptions. Three students even tried
to set a trap for Tom when he was coming back to camp with his jeep. Needless to
say, he read the tracks and avoided it. I won't embarrass any students by
mentioning names (Tom Smith, Chris, and Jack)!
We constructed and practiced using fish spears,
and fish bows and arrows, as well as many different hooks and lures were gone
over. The assembly of the lures was ingenious, diversity depending on what
materials were available and what type you were after - diver, wriggler, cordage
or feather lure. Eric even made a fishing fly out of bone, wood, and deer hair
that looked very realistic.
Eric is our newest instructor, a positive
addition to the "Tracker family". He had this to say about the week:
"I enjoyed our stay down in the Pine
Barrens, the class being less structured than those here at the farm, with more
knee and elbow room for simply wandering about and enjoying the approach of
fall. The lush green of summer giving way to the first tinges of reds, browns
and golds; no blueberries anymore, alas, but lots of pine cones. A slim year for
acorns, the deer seeming to pay more attention to the newer shoots of blueberry.
Owls carrying on every night, the whippoorwills must have headed for warmer
parts, or maybe just into the quieter, more reflective mood that begins to
manifest itself now. After the busiest summer yet of life, the time there was a
wonderful chance to bask a little longer in the sunshine, dance in the rain, see
my breath in the morning, and hear the geese sing of the changes coming…"
Yes, indeed, it was a pleasant time. The people
were good individuals and fit well together. Pam Galli of the July 19-25, 1982
Standard had a similar compliment:
"The closeness of the people was a good
thing to feel again as we worked together on group projects or just stood around
the fire. It was a rewarding experience to work on the large shelter and to be
warmed by the fire and kept dry that night."
Karen observed something that I hadn't noticed
about the students:
"When the people separated their wants
from their needs is when they had fun," she remarked.
An insight from Pam will back up this
statement: "Many people would find it unusual, but I found that I was more
comfortable in the Pine Barrens during the week than I have been anywhere else
in a long time. I didn't need or want much and I was very happy." A few
people didn't like the food too well. I thought Karen outdid herself with making
a filling meal out of the lean variety of supplies we had down there. When Tom
covered edible plants, my pen couldn't keep up. I've never heard him be so
thorough on each plant. A whole page of my notebook is devoted to just pine. He
also explained a survival scenario: What to do on the first, second, and third
days and how that blends into a "prolonged-stay" attitude, one of
taking only what you need and thinking of conservation. When you take something,
make sure it's an overall improvement of nature. For instance, take a rabbit
because there are so many that, during the winter, some will starve to death.
Tom awed us with his extreme know-how in all
areas. Pam mentioned something similar by saying, "As always, I was amazed
at the amount of material so well presented, how much I was able to learn and
put into practice". I was intrigued by the different additives used in
making survival pottery that would help bind the clay. I made a bowl and
hardened it beneath the fire. When I brought it back to the farm it fell off a
five-foot shelf, hitting a hardwood floor. To my astonishment, only a small chip
came out of the rim, and upon further inspection, I noticed that there was an
impurity in the clay at the point where it chipped off.
Let me explain the section of the course that I
disliked. It was a night stalking exercise, and the instructors were the target.
Boy, I hate the feeling of being snuck up on. We had two campfires about ten
yards apart, with a few mullein stalk torches going. That light just made it
hard to see anything out there in the woods. At first there was some loud
cracking, but eventually the students quieted way down. Overall, the exercise
was outstanding. Some students crept in so close they were able to make a lunge
and count coup on us (how embarrassing!). When Tom ended the stalk and told
everyone to stand up, I was stupefied - we were totally surrounded!
One of the best teachers of the week was the
bow drill section. At first, some people had difficulty. Frank noticed that some
of the problems were caused by the bow drills not being made to the
specifications that were presented in the Standard. Also, some of the woods
weren't collected from the proper areas. Pam felt that "a most important
lesson came from the bow-drill exercise. No matter what we do, we must do it to
the best of our abilities, not just perform a skill, but truly feel for what we
are doing and so, put a part of ourselves into it".
A few of the other things covered were the
making of grass mats, knife sharpening, expanded pitch use, and the drying and
smoking of meats in which Tom headed the construction of a small smokehouse that
By far, the biggest highlight for the hungry
"survivalists" was Judy's homemade spaghetti on Saturday evening. She
can really whip up a sauce. Salad and rolls complemented the meal.
The remainder of this article is a piece of
writing sent to me by Kathy Ray:
"It was the kind of experience that I'd
like to share with more of my friends. The Advanced Standard offered challenges,
chances to go beyond some supposed limits. Don't get me wrong. I won't
romanticize the situation; it was frustrating for me - seriously so, at times.
But we worked together, and learned and laughed a lot, and the rewards of the
week are still treasures to me.
"The first day, we spent long hours
building our debris buts, but not under dead trees that might make our shelters
into human deadfalls; not far from construction materials; not in dips in the
land. Remember not to disturb the balance of the landscape, be sure to be
thankful for gifts offered by the Creator (like old debris huts to scavenge
from). While building, maintain a "scatter-brain" along with
scatter-vision so as not to miss animals' runs, tinder sources, woods for
bow-drill, bow, and rabbit stick, plants for tomorrow morning's tea, grasses for
our warmth-retaining woven blanket. There was a lot to remember all at the same
time. My eyes widened, not in size but in breadth of sight.
“Day 1, as you might imagine, was the
toughest. My ignorance and habitual narrow-mindedness assaulted my idealized
view of K. Ray, the 'outdoor woman'. I couldn't decide on the right shelter
location, couldn't keep a coal burning in my cedar chunk soon-to-be-spoon. The
reality is that the hardest part of my getting along with nature is getting
along with my own expectations and inadequacies. Once I pushed through them, the
going was a lot easier, and I had a great time.
"In a single day, we made and set fish
traps down in the cedar swamp and produced bow-drill sets with only stones as
cutting tools. Splitting off into groups, we searched our saplings and blueberry
bushes for bows and baskets. For our father/son bow, we found a branch that was
suitable; we didn't have to cut the tree itself. I felt blessed to be able to
take from that maple without destroying its ability to give again. Twilight
found each of us on a night sit, watching the day slip away to make room for the
inhabitants of the night's shadows. Darkness came and we were scouts, stalking
up on camp. By Friday, most of us were sleeping blanketless, packed right in
with the leaf stuffing of our huts.
"Tom teaches knowledge close to his heart,
and at times, the insights I had from it felt like magic. He led us down one of
the sandy fire-roads and recreated a deer hunting scene. As he did, hunting no
longer translated into simply stalking or waiting, aiming, shooting and killing.
It became knowing that if I pushed a branch into the edge of the path, that deer
would be distracted by the inhabitual placement. It became the deer responding
suspiciously and veering to the side, offering its flank to my poised arrow, not
two feet from its fur on the opposite side of the trail. The hunted and the
hunter complement each other, seemingly unseparated by mind.
"As the week progressed, a certain spirit
seemed to take hold. The pace was relaxed, yet there was always a fish-lure to
try, single-bow skills to be practiced, specialized traps to be attempted. We
weren't hard-core survivalists, but we were purposeful and we were working
together. I learned from the instructors' work as I did from the other students.
Of course, lest we forget how to respond to nature's spontaneous obstacles, Tom
provided the element of surprise. As he shoveled dirt into our campfire late one
afternoon, we were jolted into the "quest for fire". On another day,
he announced the imminent destruction of our individual debris huts and the
group construction of a large common shelter. Wait and see what he surprises the
next class with!
"During the class, I learned and observed,
failed and continued. I met the curious child in me, the wiser old woman, the
rebellious adolescent. I played with brothers and sisters, some of whose faces I
know from other classes, some of whom I've newly adopted into my family of
friends. I touched that outside world of bark and dirt and feather and fur that
is also of my own blood. Words don't quite do the experience justice. For me,
those six days were special. I lived amidst the cycles that turn the days into
nights and death into life in the Pine Barrens. One of the students found a
fawn's remains one day. Its bones nurture the roadside soil that will nourish a
plant which can feed a hungry doe bearing young. So that the cycle may continue,
may all of us bless her and love her, our earth. I thank Tom, Judy, and the
instructors for my Advanced Standard. I am lucky to have been there."