Hugh Glass – A Man in the Wilderness
Hugh Glass (1780 – 1833) was an American fur trapper and frontiersman noted for his exploits in the American West during the first third of the 19th century. Glass gained fame for his legendary cross country trek, mostly by crawling more than 200 miles, after having been severely mauled by a grizzly bear.
In August of 1823, Glass was working as a scout for an expedition led by Andrew Henry, up the valley of the Grand River in South Dakota. While out alone scouting game for the expedition’s food supplies, Glass surprised a mother grizzly bear with her two cubs. Before Glass could respond with his rifle, the bear attacked, throwing Glass to the ground and raked him numerous times with her claws. Glass fought back and killed the bear after stabbing it repeatedly with his knife. However, Glass suffered a broken leg as well as claw wounds on his back that exposed his ribs.
The expedition later found Glass and tended to him but, Glass lost consciousness. Henry became convinced Glass was surely near death and asked two volunteers to stay with him until he died then bury him. The expedition moved on.
The volunteers expected Glass to die at any moment, but he held on, a day at a time, and the two became concerned about hostile Native Americans and the growing distance between them and the expedition. Convincing themselves Glass would surely die, they covered him with the bear’s skin, as a shroud, took his rifle, knife and other equipment then left to rejoin the expedition. Despite his injuries, Glass regained consciousness only to find he had been abandoned without his weapons, gear and food.
In one of the more remarkable treks known to history, Glass set his broken leg, wrapped himself in the bear skin and began crawling for the nearest settlement some 200 miles away. To prevent gangrene, Glass laid his wounded back on rotted logs and let maggots eat away the dead flesh. He survived on mostly berries and roots and, on one occasion, he drove away a pack of wolves so he could eat the meat of a bison calf the wolves had brought down. After six weeks of crawling, Glass reached the Cheyenne River, where he constructed a raft then floated down river, eventually reaching safety at Fort Kiowa.
Hugh Glass died in the winter of 1833 while working as a hunter for the garrison at Fort Union. He and two fellow hunters were killed during an attack by Arikara Indians.
By all accounts, Hugh Glass should have died soon after, if not during, the bear mauling. Instead, he lay where he was left, himself expecting to be taken by death at any moment. After a time, when he realized that death was not going to come so easily, he made a commitment to himself to refuse to just lay there and merely succumb. Perhaps in his mind, it would be a disgrace to die from hunger since he was not going to die from his injuries.
Shoichi Yokoi – Chose a Life Alone Over Surrender
Shoichi Yokoi (1915 – 1997) was a Japanese Imperial Army Sergeant who had been stationed in the jungles of Guam during World War II. There he remained for 28 years after the war ended, living in a tunnel like cave in a bamboo grove, until he was discovered in 1972. Two of his fellow soldiers had died eight years earlier, most likely from malnutrition / starvation. Yokoi survived on a diet of coconuts, breadfruit, papayas, snails, eels and rats. After being discovered, he was transported to Guam Memorial Hospital where he was found to be in good health, other than anemic, as a result of his salt free diet.
When questioned by authorities, Yokoi said, “We Japanese were told to prefer death to the disgrace of being captured alive. The only thing that gave me the strength and will to survive was my faith in myself and, believing there was no disgrace to continue living.” He also told of how he had woven himself replacement clothing using the fibers of wild Hibiscus plants. Even though he had suspected the war had long been over, he refused to quit his post without orders to do so.
Aron Ralston – Decided Life Over Loss
On April 26, 2003, Aron Ralston, 27, was on a day hike alone in a remote canyon in Utah. As he attempted to crawl over a boulder, estimated at 800 pounds, the boulder shifted and trapped Aron’s right arm against a cliff face. There he stayed for five days while his food and water supply diminished. On the fifth day, Aron made the decision he was not going to die there, so he set to work to free himself through the only means he had available.
Aron thought out all that would be required and assembled everything he needed. In what took little more than an hour, Aron broke his radius bone then his ulna. He applied a tourniquet above the broken bones then used a small utility knife to amputate his arm at the break. He then used a pair of shorts as a bandage. Afterward, Aron crawled through a narrow, winding canyon, rappelled down a 60 foot cliff and walked 6 miles to reach help.
So How Did They Do It?
How does a person summon the strength and the determination to do what Hugh Glass, Shoichi Yokoi, and Aron Ralston have done? The odds were not in their favor. They were locked in a one on one stare-down with the Angel of Death and surely, Death had a much higher point spread to win. But rather than take the easiest way out, each one chose the hardest way through. What is it that makes a person rush into a burning building while everyone else is rushing to get out? Or, will make a person throw themselves on top of a hand grenade, with full understanding of certain death, in order to save the lives of others. It’s more than just bravery. It is a spirit that lives within each one of us and that can provide us with a logical decision process, regardless of any sacrifice, to live or risk life so as to preserve life. What would be more fitting than to call this, “A Warrior’s Spirit?”
Preppers and the Warrior’s Spirit
You have decided to prepare for a highly possible, long term, global catastrophe of which a few so called experts have predicted an initial human die off in the tens of millions. The world as we know it now will no longer exist afterward. Those who survive will be forced to live by their wits and strengths in order to have any chance at a continued life. And in order to accomplish this, they will have to think and act more like warriors than members of the civilized society we had taken from us.
If you cannot accept this realization and are not willing to call upon your own warrior’s spirit when needed, then perhaps your decision to have started prepping has been a waste of time, energy, and money. Very few preppers and their families / groups will have the perfect retreat locations that can assure complete isolation and protection from “undesirables.” Without the will to fight to the death to defend what is yours, your family / group will, at the very least, be left without your retreat and supplies. Just don’t hope or expect for it to go that easily though.
Not only might you be forced to fight off roving bands of looters, you could be forced to initiate a battle yourself. A warrior understands that a winning strategy might be better gained through offensive measures rather than defensive.
You may be forced to decide who within your family or group is beyond help of your limited medical supplies and therefore, triaged to die, so that those supplies are available to those with better chances of living. A warrior must make decisions based on what is best for the group over an individual.
You may come into contact with refugees who are starving and in poor health. Worst yet, they may have children with them. A warrior would have made food and supply donations to a church or food bank in advance of the event, and will direct refugees to those locations. However, a warrior would not take from retreat supplies, at the risk of depleting those supplies to outsiders, nor at the risk of compromising the operational security of the retreat.
There is also the very real possibility that you may become seriously hurt or wounded, and alone. Unless you are killed right off, you must reach deep within yourself and bring your warrior’s spirit to the forefront of your mind. You may need to fight to remain conscious, to maintain logical thinking, prevent yourself from going into shock, access your injuries and attend to those injuries. It is the warrior’s nature to fight, not give in, lie down and die.
What Qualifies Me to Discuss This Subject With You
July / 1979 at about 3:30 AM., I was parked alongside a building writing a report, when I heard glass break in the lot behind my vehicle. I looked in the review mirrors and thought I saw someone walking. Due to the dome light, my night vision was fairly diminished, but it appeared that this person was going to pass on the right side of my vehicle rather than between the vehicle and the building. As for the breaking glass, I assumed the person had dropped or stepped on a bottle. I opted to wait for the person to pass before deciding if some official action was necessary.
I shut off the dome light and turned to look out the right side of the vehicle but, the person didn’t pass in the amount of time I had anticipated. I turned to look out the open left window and saw the person was standing right there, his chest / stomach framed in the window opening. I began to ask this person if I could help him, but before I could finish the sentence, I felt an impact to the left side of my upper face. To say I was incredulous is an understatement. I sat there for a second or two in total disbelief, wondering what kind of nut job would; without rhyme, reason, or conversation, just walk up and punch a cop in the face. And in that second or two, I swear the guy was looking in at me. (My night vision was still impaired)
I started to get out of the vehicle, with some less than professional response in mind, and the puncher took this as his cue to run. I exited the vehicle and as I came around the front of the building and into the illumination of a street light, I became aware of something wet covering the front of my uniform shirt. Feeling the wet stuff, I found it to be warm and sticky. This immediately took my mind off the puncher. I quickly determined, by examining the wet, warm and sticky stuff, that someone was bleeding. Since I was the only one close by, it didn’t take long to deduce that someone was me.
I had the presence of mind to consider the fact that head / face injuries tend to bleed more heavily than most other parts of the body. But I was leaking blood like through a fire hose. I put my hand to my face to access the damage, still trying to understand how a punch could cause all this bleeding. Especially, since I wasn’t in any sort of pain.
Feeling around, I determined the injury was near my left eye and the side of my nose. A little more detailed touching and I could tell that the lump that normally resides under my left eyelids wasn’t, well… lumpy anymore. I closed my right eye but couldn’t see from my left. Nothing was making sense to me and I went into complete panic mode.
In that panic, I felt completely vulnerable. I drew my service pistol and thumbed off the safety, scanning a totally deserted street for any new threat. At that moment in time, had anyone; man, woman or child approached me, I believe I would have opened fire. My breathing was heavy and my heart was pounding. I was suddenly light headed, felt cold and began to shiver uncontrollably. I realized that I was going into shock and that I had to do something fast or, I was going to bleed to death where I stood.
Through a great deal of determination, I forced myself to put down the panic. As my mind settled, I realized my first order of business was to make my pistol safe and re-holster it. Despite my best efforts, trying to control the bleeding with nothing more than my empty hand wasn’t doing the job. I returned to my vehicle and retrieved a handful of fast food restaurant napkins from the glove box and used them as a compress dressing. I then used all the control I could muster to make an intelligible radio call for help.
Two deep wounds to the eye had resulted in a prolapsed retina, exposure of the vitreous gel to outside air and irreparable damage to the lower tear duct. The damage was too severe to save the eye, even for cosmetic purposes. Therefore, it had to be surgically removed. As it turned out, what I had thought to be a fist strike was in fact the jagged end of a broken bottle… no rhyme, no reason, and no conversation.
I estimate the time that elapsed from the injury to my realization of the onset of shock at two, maybe three minutes, tops. In that time I had bled so heavily that there were blood stains under my gun belt and inside the tops of my boots. The front of my shirt and pants were saturated as was my underwear. According to the surgeon who treated me, it was estimated I had lost slightly more than four pints of blood.
I have not revealed this portion of my life in a bid for accolades or sympathies. Over the years, in my role as a police training officer, I have spoken of this countless times in Tactics and Motivation classes. At the end, I usually removed my prosthetic eye to drive home the point. That point is simply; each one of us has a warrior’s spirit that resides within us and can be called upon to help us deal with very tough life and death decisions. Know you have it and put your trust in it.