TEOTWAWKI, and Triple Ought
by James Wesley, Rawles
News & Info
Triple Ought FAQ
About the Author
James Wesley, Rawles
Pulling Through Screenplay:
An Interview with James Wesley, Rawles
(Note: This interview was conducted by ParaScope in 1995, before the novel was expanded, revised, and retitled Triple Ought.)
"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 and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."
ParaScope: What got you interested in survivalism? How did you start to prepare?
Jim Rawles: Oddly enough, the triggering event was seeing a rather corny nuclear war scenario movie called "Panic in the Year Zero" (with Ray Milland), when I was 11 or 12 years old. It really got me thinking about the fragility of our society. I starting preparing -- on a very modest budget mind you -- soon after. Some other early influences were the writings of economists Howard J. Ruff, Dr. Franz Pick, Dr. Gary North, and firearms writer Mel Tappan.
My early preparations were very basic. I started with what is commonly called a "bug-out" kit in survivalist parlance. It consisted of a large backpack filled with a down sleeping bag, a tube tent, basic camping supplies, freeze dried foods, venison jerky, multivitamins, local and state road maps, a Hi-Standard HD .22 automatic target pistol, some pre-1965 mint date silver coins, and 500 rounds of .22 rimfire ammunition. Looking back, I suppose that I was incredibly naive, thinking that I could survive the fall of Western Civilization with just one backpack full of Mountain House foods and a .22 pistol. However, I was certainly better prepared than the average suburban 14 year old.
ParaScope: Please tell us about your background -- where and how did you acquire your basic skills?
Jim: Most of my outdoor skills were learned from my father and grandfather. I'm from a pioneer family -- my great-great grandfather brought his family out west in 1857 by covered wagon -- and a lot of knowledge was passed down through the generations. Things like how to start a fire in the rain, how to shoot, how to hunt, knot tying, how to butcher wild game, how to make jerky, how to cut and split wood safely -- all of the basic back country skills.
Other knowledge and skills were picked up from general reading -- I've always been a voracious reader -- and from my experience in the military. I went through the Army ROTC program in college, and it was there that I acquired most of the tactical skills. I attended the Northern Warfare Training School at Fort Greely, Alaska, where I learned about outdoor and cold weather survival, rock climbing, glacier operations, riverine operations, and so on. I also attended both the ROTC Basic Camp and ROTC Advance Camp. Both of these were about six weeks long and included lots of training on small arms (including the M16, grenades, and the M60 light machinegun), land navigation, first aid, Nuclear, Biological and Chemical warfare protection, patrolling, raids and ambushes, et cetera. After I was a commissioned officer, I spent six months at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. That is where I learned about battlefield intelligence collection and analysis.
ParaScope: From "The Gray Nineties," readers can see the benefit of preparing in a group -- different and necessary skills can be individually attained, but shared with the group. What advice would you give to people on forming such a group?
Jim: My first advice is to be very selective about whom you decide to associate yourself. Avoid talkers, dreamers, and arm chair commandos. The world is full of Walter Mitty types. Only associate with level-headed, trustworthy and dedicated individuals that will take the time to train and have the self-discipline to get squared away logistically. When recruiting, try to assemble a group with a good balance of practical skills. My novel describes this process in detail. I also can't stress strongly enough that you should avoid the lunatic fringe. Dedication is one thing, but fanaticism is another. I would never consider associating with anyone who is racist, anti-Semitic, or otherwise overtly close-minded. For example, I was once approached by an individual who was a former Scout with an Armored Cavalry Regiment. He said that he didn't store much food because he planned to "take" what he needed. I dropped him like a hot rock.
ParaScope: What are the most important basic things people can do to prepare for a crash such as you described in The Gray Nineties?
Jim: It is difficult to summarize a fairly complex process, but here are some basics:
-- Get in good physical shape and stay in shape. Lose weight if necessary. If you drink or smoke, quit. If you are in debt, get out of debt and start saving money to stock up on essentials. Cut out unnecessary expenses. Sell your television. You'll be amazed that without television how much extra time that generates for training and important reading.
-- If you wear glasses, get two spare sturdy pairs. If you regularly take any prescription medications, stock up as long a supply as you can safely rotate.
-- Increase your supply of stored vitamins, food, water, and paper products. Start with the foods you currently use, and start buying as much as you can afford. Mark the date of purchase on each can or box. Rotate what you have stored religiously -- first in, first out.
-- Learn how to use a firearm safely and accurately, and practice regularly.
-- Take the basic and advanced Red Cross first aid courses.
-- Start systematically stockpiling everything you would need in the event that you had NO access to anything in stores, and had no public utilities to rely on. Food, medical supplies, batteries, ammunition, diapers, tampons ... just about everything. Make lists of what you eventually plan to buy and begin to work those lists down systematically.
-- Buy at least one good quality center-fire rifle for each adult in your family for self defense. I normally recommend a .308 Winchester -- it is probably the most common caliber in the U.S., and it is both good for hunting and a man stopper. BTW, it is more important to have just one gun that you are confident with, rather than a closet full of guns that you've never zeroed, don't know how to shoot accurately, and which you can't confidently field strip, and reload in the dark.
-- Lay in a good supply of magazines, ammunition, cleaning supplies, and spare parts for each of your guns. I'm not talking in terms of 10 or 12 boxes of ammunition. I'm talking in terms of multiple cases. It is not inconceivable that you could expend 800 to 1,000 rounds of ammunition in a single bad day. Just look at the collective experience of the Korean store owners during the LA riots. They went through hundreds of rounds in just a few hours just firing warning shots to keep looters away. Most of them had only one or two spare magazines, and they constantly had to depend on someone to refill magazines for them. As I pointed out in The Gray Nineties, in a long term scenario, ammunition will be worth its weight in gold. In a total collapse, common caliber ammunition may very well become the nation's de facto barter currency.
-- Consider relocating to a small town in a lightly populated agricultural region, preferably at least a full tank of gas away from any major city. Because cities will be dangerous places, this alone will more than double your chances of surviving most imaginable scenarios. In the novel, I showed most of the group members attempting to "Get out of Dodge" at the 11th hour. This is absolutely not a practice that I recommend. This was done more for the sake of a dramatic story line. I strongly encourage folks who realize the fragility of our urbanized society to move to a rural area well before any trouble occurs in the cities.
ParaScope: The Gray Nineties is based on one basic scenario. Is it possible and/or advisable to prepare for many different scenarios? Would preparation for a nuclear war scenario be considerably different from an economic crash-and-the-civilized-world-falls-apart scenario?
Jim: A lot of the same preparations apply to most any scenario. Relocating away from major cities in most cases doubles as isolation from most nuclear targets -- unless, of course, there are nearby military targets. Storing food and medical supplies makes sense in virtually all scenarios from earthquake and severe weather on up to a total societal collapse. As I stated in the novel, it doesn't make sense to gear all of your preparations to just one scenario. For nuclear effects, for example, every family should at the minimum put away a supply of potassium iodide tablets to avoid thyroid damage, a couple of sturdy shovels, some rolls of Visqueen and duct tape, a dosimeter, a fallout rate meter, and a dosimeter charger. A copy of "Nuclear War Survival Skills" by Cresson H. Kearny is also a must. All of that costs less than $250. There is no excuse for not taking such simple and low cost steps. 100% mortality in a nuclear war is a myth that has been propagated by the mass media. With a few simple preparations, your chances of survival can be greatly increased.
ParaScope: How much would it cost the average family of four to prepare for a major national catastrophe, such as civil war or economic collapse? (i.e., how much would it cost to store one year of food, water and other necessities)?
Jim: A basic no-frills year's supply, (sans firearms), could be assembled for under $3,000 for a family of four. However, if you buy all commercially packaged storage foods, you could easily spend $3,500 on food supplies alone. If you are willing to do much of the packaging work yourself, the food budget could be as low as $1,400. In addition to food, figure roughly $150 for reference books, $100 on lighting (lanterns, flashlights and ni-cad batteries), $50 for water storage containers, $200 for a decent set of medical supplies, $500 for four good quality sleeping bags, $400 for a four-man four-season tent, and $200 for stored fuel, stabilizer, and fuel containers. That covers just the bare essentials.
Some more expensive items not included in the basic budget described above can include self-defense firearms, body armor, a reliable four wheel drive vehicle, communications equipment, and perhaps some night vision equipment. These purchases are potential budget busters. For instance, just one good quality semi-auto self defense rifle, (such as an M1A, FN/FAL, or HK-91), spare magazines, and 2,000 rounds of ammunition could cost between $1,500 and $3,000.
These expenses may seem overwhelming at first, especially for those with limited resources, but you must consider that stocking up for personal preparedness is a process that can be done gradually over a number of years, or even decades. It takes some self-discipline to stick to a budget and forego some luxuries, but it is definitely an affordable undertaking. I've been systematically stocking up for 20 years and I still don't feel that I have everything I need. In the past four years, since my wife and I have had children, I have started stocking items for the boys -- especially items such as defensive firearms that are readily obtainable now, but that might not be in a few years.
BTW, in terms of storage foods, I recommend buying commercial nitrogen-packed long term storage cans only for the items that don't store well otherwise (e.g. dehydrated peas, powdered milk, peanut butter powder, TVP, and perhaps corn meal. (With the latter, it is generally better to grind your own.) Three reputable firms that I often recommend for nitrogen-packed canned foods are:
Alpine Industries -- (800) 898-6336
Out 'n Back (ONB) -- (800) 533-7415
Nitro-Pak -- (800) 866-4876
Some items (e.g. honey, whole grains, beans, and rice) you are better off buying in bulk locally from a co-op, and canning or otherwise "containering" yourself. Paying for nitrogen packing of these items is ridiculously expensive, and there is little advantage in storage life. Also, by buying most of the bulkier items locally, you can minimize shipping expenses. Keep in mind that if you buy a "one year supply" package from a commercial supplier, 60 to 70 percent of the items will fall into the category I just described. In the case of the wheat, you are paying two to five times as much for the product because of the packaging in #10 cans. (My last wheat purchase was only $16.00 per hundred weight. Of course, it came in sacks and I had to re-pack it all in five gallon buckets...) I've often had people ask me how they can store flour effectively for long periods. The short answer is that you can't. It is far better to buy whole grains and a hand grinder. Whole grains can be stored much, much longer without spoilage. Hand-cranked grain mills are available from Major Surplus, (800) 441-8855.
Some items like honey and wheat have 20+ year storage lives. Beans and rice can be stored for 8 to 10 years. Wet-pack canned fruit, vegetables, and meats only store for 2 to 4 years. Retort packaged meats such as MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) are still palatable after as much as 10 years, depending on storage temperature. Most nitrogen packed foods have 10 to 12 year shelf lives. There are some handy charts on the shelf lives of various foods in Carla Emery's Encyclopedia of Country Living -- a MUST for every survivalist's book shelf. Because stored foods lose nutritive value with time, I strongly recommend that you store as many vitamins as you can rotate without going past their expiration dates. That's roughly three to four years worth, unless you have an ultra cold medical freezer -- I'd love to find one of these for sale somewhere, used (new ones cost more than $3,000).
ParaScope: What basic books would you recommend for a beginner's survival library? Are there Armed Forces manuals that describe emergency medicine, patrolling, intelligence, et cetera that are available to the civilian public?
Jim: Here are 10 titles that I would recommend as initial "must reads" for anyone serious about active preparedness (listed in no particular order):
-- American Red Cross First Aid
-- Where There is No Doctor, by David Werner
-- Where There is No Dentist, by Murray Dickson
-- Emergency War Surgery (NATO handbook)
-- Survival Guns, by Mel Tappan (The Janus Press, Rogue River, Oregon)
-- Tappan on Survival, by Mel Tappan (The Janus Press, Rogue River, Oregon)
-- Encyclopedia of Country Living (Ninth edition), by Carla Emery (Sasquatch Books)
-- Nuclear War Survival Skills, by Cresson H. Kearny
-- The Ultimate Sniper, by Maj. John L. Plaster
-- The Survivor (Four Volumes), by Kurt Saxon
Most of the above listed books and many others (including reprints of military manuals) are available through:
Safe Trek Outfitters 1(800) 424-7870
Delta Press 1(800) 852-4445
The Information Exchange 1(800) 346-6205
Be advised, however, that original printings of military manuals are often available at gun shows for a lot less money than buying reprints via mail order.
ParaScope: What political/economic factors would you look for that might portend a total collapse of society (for instance, a stock market crash)?
Jim: A correction of 20% or more of the value of the D.J.I.A. would certainly be a key indicator! Other financial red flags to watch for would be:
-- Announcements by foreign nations that they are no longer using the U.S. dollar as their reserve currency.
-- Default of any U.S. securities (hinted at recently by Treasury Secretary Rubin, BTW).
-- News that the Federal Reserve is monetizing large portions of the budget deficit.
-- A sustained annual inflation rate of more than 20%.
Other factors to watch for would be large-scale layoffs by major corporations, widespread acts of domestic terrorism, prolonged rioting in four or more metropolitan areas, or a major land war.
To temper this talk of a total collapse, I should remind you that I made the scenario depicted in The Gray Nineties much more severe than I actually anticipate, in order to make a more exciting novel. The goal for myself and my family is to ride out any potential bad times relatively unscathed. I bought my house on 40 acres in Idaho nine years ago, and have worked ever since to make it as self-sufficient as possible. I believe that there is only a small percentage chance of a total societal collapse. We are much more likely to see a depression on the same scale as the one of the 1930s, coupled with L.A. style riots in several cities. Even in the midst of this turmoil, there will still be plenty of commerce, and in all likelihood, law and order will not break down nationwide. I foresee that folks living in remote agricultural areas will witness the chaos in the cities on their televisions, but not much of that chaos will spread to the hinterlands and effect them directly.
ParaScope: What are some viable communication methods in a time of economic collapse?
Jim: I prefer CB radio for short range communications. If you are going to buy CBs, pay a little more to get single-sideband (SSB) models. Once the telephone system in down, all 40 CB channels are going to get jammed with traffic, particularly in urban and suburban areas. A SSB rig gives greater flexibility, longer range, and slightly lower probability of interception.
High frequency (HF) shortwave is the best choice for long range communications. Federal licenses are of course required, and that means some studying, but it very worthwhile. You can study for the new "No Code" Technician Class license in just a couple of weekends. Radio Shack sells the test practice manuals.
I prefer U.S. Army surplus TA-1 and/or TA-312 field telephones for day-to-day communications between buildings at a retreat, or for communications with contiguous neighbors.
ParaScope: Have you made much money from The Gray Nineties? It is a very interesting idea, the shareware novel -- did you come up with the idea yourself?
I hadn't heard of anyone else doing it; I just thought it up and did it. (I wouldn't be surprised to hear that someone did it before me.) The voluntary shareware fee for The Gray Nineties is only $5. I hope that readers get $5 worth of information, motivation, and/or entertainment out of The Gray Nineties. Thus far, less than 3% of readers have made a shareware payment. That is just human nature, I suppose. Nearly everyone wants something for nothing. I appreciate the honest few who do take the time to make a shareware payment.
Making a profit on the novel is not my primary concern. I'm much more interested in getting the "message" of active preparedness out to the Citizenry. I'm pleased to report that I'm succeeding. Every morning my e-mail box has three or four letters with comments from people around the world who have read the novel. A lot of those readers report that they are taking some steps toward increasing their personal preparedness. I get e-mail from all over these United States, England, Switzerland, Finland, Australia, you name it. Since it was first announced on the net in mid-October of 1995, over 35,000 people have read the novel. Even at this late date, an average of 100 people a week are still downloading the entire text. The letters have been overwhelmingly positive. There has been some constructive criticism, but that is to be expected. The novel embodies a lot of my beliefs and opinions, and the opinions of many readers are bound to differ from mine.
To see more of the fascinating ParaScope web pages, see: http://www.parascope.com