A survival guide for the New West
January 5, 2007
Aspen, CO ColoradoTime was, if you wanted to make it in this harsh, vast territory known as the West, you needed some very specific skills.The West isn’t quite as vast now, but it still requires certain survival skills. Back then you needed to know how to hunt, fish, trap, stake your claim, put up food for the winter … outdoorsy stuff like that. And though all that’s still a part of life in the West, it’s just not part of MY life in the West.I’ve lived high up in the Rockies for 15 years now, and have developed a pretty handy and specialized set of survival skills as a result. In the Old West I wouldn’t have lasted a weekend, but in the New West I’m pretty much Grizzly Adams.For example: If I’m cold, I have no idea how to build a fire in order to keep warm, but I can sweet-talk the girl behind the Starbucks counter into a quick warm-up shot from the milk foamer. Nothing worse than a tepid latte. I can’t ford a mighty river, but I can jaywalk Main Street during a blizzard – I have those little reflectors on my shoes. I doubt that I could fashion any sort of handmade hunting tool, like a spear or bow and arrow, but I once managed to clear my windshield using a CD jewel case as a makeshift ice-scraper. And let’s face it, if fate ever demands that I kill, butcher, cook and eat an animal in order to survive – forget it. However, my marinating skills are second-to-none, and I’m quite comfortable using my grocery store’s new self-checking machine. I don’t know how to trap animals and trade their pelts for hardtack and jerky, but I’ve learned if you fill out your bank deposit slip WHILE standing in line, you’ll drastically reduce your wait time. I wouldn’t even begin to know how to locate and bring in grazing cattle, but I’m generally pretty good at finding my Honda CR-V in a crowded Target parking lot. Find north using only a twig and the noonday sun? No way. Find a free wireless Internet hot spot? I’m your man. I couldn’t tell you the first thing about claim jumping, but I can snag a parking space someone else has their eye (and blinker) on with complete deniability. I’ve never branded cattle, but I’ve affixed a variety of bumper stickers to my car such that it’s uniquely mine. Some say “No Blood For Oil” is an ironic sticker to place on an SUV, to which I reply: “Never ask a man the size of his spread.” This seems to shut people up. I’ve yet to have an argument with a neighbor over ditch rights, but I did recently have one about dish rights. Seems he found the cable I’ve secretly run to his satellite dish and is less than pleased. If you want to survive in the New West, you gotta cover those cables with something more permanent than dried leaves. Grazing issues? I butt up against them every day at the grocery store. The manager seems to think eating food from the supermarket salad bar before weighing it is “stealing.” I tell him that where I come from calling me a thief is fightin’ words, and I go on to explain that the West can’t be fenced in. He can’t seem to understand such concepts as freedom and open space, probably because I’m talking with a mouthful of croutons. Tracking: Just last week I successfully hunted down my missing cell phone. Sure, I didn’t HAVE to put my ear to the living room floor to locate it, but I think it added a nice dramatic touch. I ended up calling my cell number from my land line. It was in my pants pocket, under a pile of laundry.Sure, you may think I’m leaning more toward an Adam Sandler than a Grizzly Adams, but when I look in the mirror I see a rugged individualist of the New West.I also see a few fingerprint smudges, but I’m sure the maid will clean those off when she comes Thursday.