How I Survived Alone for 10 Months Living Off the Land

Mary Calder
By Mary Calder June 24, 2019 10:31

How I Survived Alone for 10 Months Living Off the Land

Editor’s note: Mary Calder is one of our most dedicated readers and member of our small community here on This is her 10-month struggle to survive off the land in a life-threatening situation, from which we can all learn something valuable.

My ten-month, off-the-grid adventure started with me being unprepared in the sense I’d not planned a trip. I didn’t really pack to leave. I was in a life-threatening marriage. I was watched most of the time, and there was a serious threat on my life if I ever left.

One March afternoon in 1968, I realized I was alone and that it would be about 20 minutes until someone arrived to watch me. I knew I couldn’t go to friends or family without endangering someone else. In one quick, panicked moment, I decided this wasn’t living, so I grabbed a shirt, a pair of jeans, and a change of socks and underwear and stuffed them in a paper grocery bag.

Related: 8 Items You Need To Bring if You Need To Leave In 10 Minutes

Hitting the Road

I tried to walk calmly to not draw attention as I locked the door and walked away. We lived in a residential neighborhood in a medium-sized town. I didn’t want to be particularly remembered. Wearing jeans, a black western shirt with big pink cabbage roses on it, and my 18″ engineer boots, there was no way to just disappear, but I did it.

I walked through town to reach the more rural of the two roads traversing the length of our county. I tried to stay calm, but I guarantee I wasn’t calm at all. I needed to look like I’d just been grocery shopping and was walking home. I walked through the downtown area where confrontation was only slightly less likely. I kept going till I was out of town.

I listened for cars and motorcycles and hid in ditches and thick brush till they passed around a curve and were out of sight. I had no idea how long it would take to get where I thought I might be safe. I walked till dark then decided dark was better.

With just a bit of moonlight, I could just make out the road and walk on the shoulder. I walked all night. About dawn, I was near another country road. That meant I wasn’t too far from a stream graciously called “River” that flowed the length of the county. I headed for the stream and crawled around obvious poison oak that was climbing old oak trees. I walked around a bend so I couldn’t be seen from the lovely old stone bridge and winding country road.

Related: How To Identify Poison Ivy Growing In Your Backyard

I drank my fill from the flowing water and fell asleep on warm sand beyond the rocks in the main flow area. It was afternoon when I woke up. I could hear a tractor working in a nearby vineyard. I crawled up to the bank and stayed quiet for a while. When the tractor left, I walked back to the bridge and found a trail up to the pavement.

Hiding in Plain Sight

There was a stand of wild oats on the shoulder of the road, so I chewed on the early spring growth. I found an old rose hip on a thorny thicket and chewed on the thin skin. I was hungry enough that every bite was memorable.

I walked back to the road I’d followed the day before. It wasn’t dark yet, so every vehicle was a terror to hide from. I saw wild salsify, but I’d never tried to eat it raw. Munching on dandelions along the shoulder of the road just made me hungrier, but I ate some anyway.

The inventory in my pockets was the sum total of a dull pocketknife and half a book of paper matches. My driver’s license was nestled in a very empty wallet with a couple of pictures of my two little boys. Thankfully they were with my parents.

I started walking again. I passed a tiny country town. One more to get through that night. I had to walk through the town, so I did it as quickly as possible. Once a car drove through town, and I walked up to an empty home and pretended to open the door.

BOR driveway weedI chewed on a few weeds and drank from pools in the riverbed, where I slept during the day. I hid in overhangs when possible. People worked the fields and vineyards all along the “river,” so I worked to stay out of sight.

The third night I was on the far side of the valley from the town where I’d gone to high school. Many people there would know me, so I was being even more careful. A friend did see me. I made the excuse I’d been visiting friends and was out walking to see if the area had changed much. “About dark, so time to hurry back.”

I was too afraid to spend another night by the river or near the road, so I walked on for several more miles to an area I knew very well. I took off up the hills toward the area we had moved to when I was eleven. There was an old, small cattle ranch nearby that hadn’t been used in years. I’d run around the whole area from sunup to after sundown for several years.

I didn’t know any other place where I could stay out of sight in the hills. Privacy solved.

Starvation, My Archnemesis

My hunger was getting urgent. I ate most of a patch of miner’s lettuce and curled up under an evergreen tree with low-hanging branches. At last my stomach wasn’t trying to eat my spine anymore. I didn’t know hunger could feel like that.

How I Survived Alone for 10 Months Living Off the LandAt dawn, I walked down to the small stream that flowed across the fields and through the woods. I saw tiny minnows in the water, but when I tried to catch them with my hands, they mostly escaped through my fingers. I swallowed the three larger ones I’d managed to trap in my hands. No help. I found yarrow in the rocks near the stream. I chewed on that and more miner’s lettuce. Better than nothing but not enough.

It was cooler here under the thick trees than lower in the valley. I put on the second shirt like a jacket. I decided to follow the little stream and see what had changed there since I was thirteen and had last run free in these woods and fields.

Related: The 5 Most Common Edible Weeds In Your State

First, I explored back toward the valley. A dirt road had been built, and a dam was beginning to fill. I’d crossed the road but didn’t recognize it in the dark. The little stream was now corralled into a culvert under the access road to the dam. My favorite spot on the creek was now at the edge of the road: a three-foot waterfall into a bowl worn into the rock where it fell. Maidenhair ferns banked the sides. It was as pretty as any picture. As night approached, I hid in the woods and waited.

Learning to Appreciate the Small Things

When it was dark and a chain across the road was locked, I quickly stripped down, sat in the bowl of cold water, and let the water splash down over me. There was no soap, but I scrubbed with the sand then rinsed off while I laughed out loud. I was picturing Grandma scrubbing her old cast iron pot with a bit of sand from the stream when we went camping. I made up my mind that I was going to survive and come out of this stronger than ever before. Call me cast iron!

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Then I remembered I was cold, wet, and hungry, but I was clean! I dressed, walked back into the woods, and rolled up in a ball under a thicket of bushes with lots of tiny spring leaves. I didn’t even have a comb for my now very tangled, waist-length hair. Still, clean felt good, and it gave me hope.

A tiny breeze stirred with the early dawn. I awoke and knew I needed to find food. I broke off a downed branch with a short fork at the top. It became my walking stick, but it was rough on my hand. Still, I knew from past years there may still be lots of rattlesnakes living in this green, lush area.

The woods were thick with underbrush that hadn’t been cleared by fire in many years. There were quite a few packrat nests. Big knots of dry twigs held the treasures and young rats. There was sometimes a cache of seeds too. I left the family chamber intact while I robbed the stash of seeds gathered last fall. It was an odd mix of wild oats, grasses, and who knows what. I took a double handful at a time and walked to the stream to rinse them off in the flow of cool water. I ate them just as they were. I chewed and chewed, savoring every mouthful. Now my belly felt better, but I still needed other sources.

Doing What I Didn’t Want Just to Survive

I climbed back up through the woods to an open area where the last cows chewed their lazy cud the year I was eleven. Now even the remains of cow pies were almost gone. There were some large boulders in an open half circle. Granite. I pulled out my dull knife. I grew up using a whetstone, so I decided to try sharpening my knife on a boulder. A miracle. It worked!

How I Survived Alone for 10 Months Living Off the LandI saw a salamander by the tiny stream. Catching it went okay, but once its head was off, I couldn’t chew it. I don’t mean I was squeamish. I mean my teeth weren’t accomplishing mastication. Okay. I’d try cooking one someday. Maybe that would help. I found acorns along the edge of the woods, mostly small ones from a live oak but a handful of acorns from a big white oak. They were turning pink inside the shell and getting ready to sprout. I peeled one and took a tiny nibble. It was almost sweet and rather pleasant. I ate the handful I found half buried in the leaves. Tall oak trees were now on my radar. Lots of green leaves were coming up, so I started eating those.

I was grazing, but my belly felt better. Two days later, my head was hurting, but I was getting the hang of hunting the plants Mom had taught me were edible. I headed back across the woods. The peeled walking stick was much better on my hands, and I felt more confident with it in my hand.

Related: 20 Wild Plants That Can Save Your Life

I watched a family clean up their picnic. Everything went in the little-used trash receptacle by the dam that obviously would someday be a small lake. After the chain was again locked, I waited a while then walked over to see what edibles were there. I ate crusts from the kids’ sandwiches and a half sandwich and chips. I took a glass Coke bottle so I could carry water with me.

After another bath in the tiny waterfall, I headed back into the shelter of the trees.

Then I started making real plans for life out there. I set stones for a fire at the edge of the large open pasture. I cleaned around it so I wouldn’t start a wildfire. I hunted for a flat rock to cook on in the fire pit. Then fear about settling into any one spot tried to overtake me.

I was finding a better variety of things to eat, but my size 12 jeans definitely needed the belt to keep them up, and the belt needed more holes. I lit the fire I’d laid and enjoyed the light and warmth. My boots with a folded shirt became a useable pillow.

While I was foraging, my fire went out. I was appalled. One fire, one match was great. But I only had nine more matches, and who knew when I’d live like a civilized person again?

Clinging to Hope

I found a small stand of an odd-looking ghost plant. Memory was kicking in. I could burn ghost plant and use the ashes like salt to season food. That would help.

Then I gathered the smaller acorns and peeled about a quart of them. They were cracked between rocks then buried in the wet dirt along the tiny stream. This time while out foraging, I found a fairly freshly killed rabbit’s remains. Someone had a nice meal.

tlw banner What Happens If You Put Raw Meat Over A Dead FireThen it was my turn. I’m guessing it was a cat’s meal. The rabbit was covered in leaves and twigs. I built another fire and cooked rabbit remains on the flat rock. It was so good l wished I could lick the rock. Too bad there wasn’t a cook pot that could magically appear when a stew would be lovely.

Then a digging stick was finding wild carrots in sunny corners of the pasture and nubby roots under sunflowers. I remembered my dad telling how he and my aunts and uncle lived the first years after their mom took sick and their dad left—hunting and cooking frogs, gathering small wild peaches and plums in summer and persimmons in fall, noodling for catfish in deep pockets along streams flowing into the Arkansas River. There was not so much of that where I was.

Related: Myth or Fact: Can You Really Cook in A Thermos on the Move?

Frogs, yes, and rabbits. His uncle taught him to find rabbits in the clumps of grass hanging over the riverbank and to stab with a sharp stick. If it comes out bloody, you’ll have rabbit for dinner. I didn’t have the Arkansas River, but I did have a tiny unnamed stream that ran down from the higher hills year round. If one rabbit was here, there must be more.

I sharpened a slender branch about five feet long. I tried stabbing into clumps where sneaky rabbits might be hiding. I got a few but not enough for surviving. It did help keep me going. The weak mornings and headaches were fewer now. Frog legs skinned and cooking on the flat rock jumped to strange internal rhythms.

Remembering Skills From Long Ago

I grew up mostly vegetarian. One summer Dad had taken me to a lake. He dug out his fishing gear and showed me how to put a wiggly worm on the hook. I’d caught a nice little bass. Dad’s rule. You catch it, you clean it, and you cook it and eat it. So he talked me through cleaning that fish and cooking it. There were no fish to catch on that tiny stream, but when I finally cleaned and cooked a rabbit, I applied what I’d learned and added skinning to my skillset.

I found a soup can down by the dam. It was okay for a bit of soup and awesome for teas. Suddenly pine needles or yarrow were on my beverage list, along with lots of water. I even drank creek water with tadpoles or minnows in it.

Ground acorns that had soaked in wet mud where water flowed started becoming little cakes cooked on the flat rock or soup cooked in the soup can in the hot coals of my campfire.

I finally was beginning to apply what I’d learned in campcraft classes. Boy, was I dumb to come out here with so little and act like I had never learned a thing. I learned applying is different than earning an honor or studying something. I had to apply it when no one was there to help or remind me. I had to dig deeper. I’d learned as a kid when it was more like a game. Now there was no team to help, just me.

Related: Are you a Community Member or a Lone Wolf Survivalist?

I started talking to myself. I started thinking of more things to do to make life comfortable. I now had six different camps, just to keep on the move, let green leaves regrow some, and to have different kinds of shelters: under tall, thick evergreens; against the boulders at the edge of the pasture; in the thick woods by an ancient apple tree and a cistern by the stream where food stayed cool even in summer; at the thicket where I bathed at twilight; and in a little cleft in the rocks near the base of a rugged rockface where the rattlesnake bit my wrist when I was twelve and I went climbing, reaching blind above me.

Each met a different need for weather situations: deep woods when it was hot, and the tall evergreens with low branches were warm places on foggy, damp nights and mornings. The shallow cleft low on the rockface kept me out of the rain and let water drain away from me. It was dry, but I couldn’t sit up under the low ceiling. Any fire built there was in the open, and if it wasn’t raining, I could see the glow on the rocks if I lit a fire. It was just a dry bed.

I solved the problem of keeping and moving a fire with me. To keep it: bank well with ashes and keep some oak burning. To move it: soak a pair of panties and layer thick with white ashes from the fire. Always lay as many really hot coals as can be wrapped up and covered in the middle. Then encase in damp mud. When you leave camp, always leave dry branches, pinecones and twigs, and enough wood for at least a few hours of hot fire with some oak in the mix. The oak made great coals. When I reached the next camp, dry grass, bits of bark, and twigs would soon have a flame coaxed from the coals already starting the next campfire.

My Mind’s Survival

I’d unraveled the elastic threads from the waistband of my underwear. It was all the cordage I had. It was past being stretchy anymore anyway, but it had surprising strength when braided in three strands. It became a crude noose to snare small critters. Young, springy saplings became the power of the trap on game trails. After gently brushing the noose, the sapling sprang upright, drawing the noose closed and leaving the game hanging. Wow! That was simple.

It did take some practice getting it set so it could work as planned. The same noose but made smaller caught birds at the apple tree. Tie a rock to the end away from the noose. Lay the cord through a Y in the branches. Lay seeds on the branch, or set it by an apple. Lay the rock around back by the noose on the branch.

When a bird lands or starts pecking the seeds or the apple, the rock falls, and the bird’s feet are tied up in the noose. There’s not much food on a tiny bird but meat and bone-seasoned broth to drink or for a bit of soup. Some of that broth made cooked greens taste less bland. It was worth the trouble.

My bed became soft and warm as the piles of washed and dried rabbit skins on crude branch beds grew deeper.

Instead of making each camp invisible as a camp, I made each more homelike. I lived almost invisible to the outside world, but my heart needed home to make life worth living. Survival is more than how to keep a fire or practicing going in circles till you find the track you’re following. It’s more than learning salamanders aren’t edible. It’s more than multiple ways to prepare your many foods.

It’s the head game that stays busy, prays a lot, quotes memorized scriptures, and relives stories. It’s telling family again how much you love them even if it’s just in your head for right now. It’s planning. It’s figuring out how to do things. It’s more than a pack of handy tools and available foods, but God knows those things would have been welcomed. It’s coming out with your head and body intact on the other end of the SHTF situation.

Family is Family

After several months, judging by moon phases, I needed to know my parents and boys were okay. I hit on one compromise to my loner life. Moss or dried, green, slimy stuff from standing water worked okay for feminine needs, but it gave me an excuse to walk the ridges across the hills to my parents’ home. In the wee hours of the morning, I’d sneak in, kiss each boy lightly on a cheek, head for the guest bathroom, and take the monthly supplies Mom kept there.

When they disappeared, she knew it was me. That way she knew I was alive, but no one saw me. That could have cost them their lives if anyone said they’d seen me. Several times I found canned vegetables and condensed soups in the bathroom cabinet. I know she wanted me to take them, but I was still sticking to a small, nearly untraceable footprint. I couldn’t make myself take them. What I did take was burned and left no trace but ashes in a campfire. The camps could have been anyone’s.

Related: How to Tell When Your Canned Foods Become Spoiled?

A couple of times I burned my hand deep enough to blister badly. Once I cooled the burn in running water then chewed old seeds and put the paste on the burns. It helped. It healed quickly with no scarring. At home, I’d always just used vitamin E oil or a nut oil on burns. It was the best I could think up as a replacement.

I knew the area. That was a plus. It didn’t take long to learn the paths I wanted, even at night. I carried a couple of rabbit legs when I knew I needed to go near homes or on roads at night—something to keep dogs quiet once I’d made friends with them. I tried to befriend most dogs that would be out at night. I didn’t watch my fire on the evening I was going out after dark. I would just keep it going but save my night vision.

One night I saw two bright eyes reflecting the light from my fire. I sat very still and tried hard not to stare. In the morning, I could see where I’d been checked out by a cat somewhat larger than the house cats I’d grown up with. He’d walked around but avoided getting too close to me. His pad print was nearly the size of the palm of my hand.

Getting food and keeping the fire going was a nonstop job. I took patches of pine inner bark, cooked it on the flat rock, then pounded it till it looked like flour. Mixed with soaked cracked acorns and cooked like a tortilla, it was edible. The cracked soaked acorns cooked as a soup tasted like unseasoned pinto beans, edible but pretty bland. Oak ashes and burned ghost plant helped just slightly. Oak ashes in acorn meal cakes acted a bit as a leavening.

Related: How to Make Acorn Flour

Nettles cooked in a bit of hot water were pretty flat too. Rabbit roasted over a bed of hot coals was really quite tasty. Berries in season were a wonderful break from my bland cooking. Teas from rose and blackberry leaves and root were good. Yarrow tea was a bit more palatable when cooled. Summer and fall, rose hips made a fine tea. Pine growing tips could be carried in a pocket and chewed, on but they were better as a hot tea. I ate my first rattlesnake. I just threw it whole on my fire and picked it clean later. Skinning would come first when there was a next time.

Late that summer, someone left a one-pound coffee can by the dam. It became my stew pot. A rock dropped in while it was boiling kept it stirred while I gathered more food or wood. I was going out farther, now looking for new sources as one thing would end and as something else was becoming edible. It was wonderful to leave the can near the coals and come back later to something I could eat.

Thankfully, it was a mild climate. Some nights were indeed just at freezing or slightly below. I could hear the roar of fans in the valley below protecting the vineyards. Two western shirts weren’t much protection on those nights. The piled-up dried rabbit skins helped. After ten months, the heels of my socks were wearing paper thin. I was beginning to eye my other underwear as possible shields for my heels. Protecting my feet was a priority.

Related: Why Put Onions in Your Socks Before Sleeping

That November, as I walked down the ridges wearing two shirts and two pairs of jeans with my last two intact socks, I was questioning my ability to survive, but for ten months, I’d been getting better and better at it. Now I was worried about socks. What do you do? Stuff moss in the boots? Take a pair from home? Sure, that was available, but mostly I ignored that. I was leaving the smallest footprint possible to stay invisible or unidentifiable to outsiders.

I walked into the house as quietly as ever. Dad whispered, “Hi, kid.” I almost turned and walked out. I hadn’t heard a human voice for most of ten months.

He’d been waiting up for two nights to tell me my husband was dead, killed by a drunk driver. I was free. I had nothing to go back for, but I’d gained something I’d never had before: confidence. And I was alive!

I knew I could face anything and find a way to survive or overcome. There would be something that could meet any need. I’d just need to identify it.

Today I live simply as that has stuck with me. I still cook outside a lot out of a preference for simple meals cooked on a real wood fire. I’ve faced hard times and survived. I’ve been widowed twice now and married three times. I’d said I’d never remarry, but a patient man who loved my little boys showed me not everyone was a murderous enemy. We spent most of our 33 years together pastoring Native American churches and helping build churches on reservations. For 22 years, we operated a K–12 school aimed at college prep for our students.

Related: 7 Primitive Cooking Methods You Still Need to Know Today

In spite of injuries and surgeries, I’m still growing my garden, but my greenhouses haven’t had the attention they need right now. They will have to wait.

I still can and dry a lot. I plan to can seasoned rabbit, ready to add to stews with chicken and duck. Rabbit is good with other meats. A few birds and rabbits were the bulk of my wild meats.

Four years after this experience, I was the owner of my own restaurant and making a go of it. Sixteen- to 18-hour days six days a week seemed like nothing. I loved working with the public.

I know couldn’t do it alone today. Today I’d have to go with a family or group working together or find a way to quietly stay home in my tiny, unincorporated community. Being where meds, food, and a good bed are seems pretty inviting these days.

There were years of simple foraging with Mom. I’d passed classes in direction finding, tracking and reading signs, blazing or concealing a trail, camp cooking, knot tying, and making and setting up a camp—that all helped. Every summer we spent a few weeks traveling to visit family or see national parks. We heated canned beans on the manifold and ate cold sandwiches. We three slept in the car with army surplus green wool blankets and air mattresses we blew up at bedtime. I climbed Mount Whitney when I was thirteen.

When I was three, Dad and I climbed the inside of the Statue of Liberty all the way to the torch. One year, Dad made a little 4’x 8′ trailer with plywood sides and covered it with a tarp. Camping gear, food, and my bed were in the trailer. It gave me a bit more privacy. I loved it. I called it my ugly house, but it meant I’d see more places, and I loved that. I loved the sense of adventure. We were gypsies for those few short weeks each summer. One year Dad tied on two bicycles, and wherever we stopped, we’d ride for about an hour exploring.

It’s funny how ten months could so completely reshape my life. I still look back on what I learned and accomplished, and it shapes my approach to life today. It felt like I had been preparing all my life for that moment in time, and it changed me forever.

I read prepper sites, and glib survivalists have no concept of how hard it really is. It isn’t like a planned camping trip. No disrespect to the military guys who work hard learning and practicing survival for a few days or weeks, but they have a foreseeable end date. A store of guns, ammo, food, tents, and sleeping bags would be wonderful, but it’s keeping your sanity and ability to think things through that will help the most.

A snare that keeps hunting while you’re sleeping or gathering food or wood is worth its weight in gold. You can’t hunt or fish 24/7. A snare or fish trap can. A really simple bow and sharpened stick arrow was my apple picker for the ones up high. Who wants to wait for mushy, over-ripe apples to fall? The heated rabbit tendons could be glued into a longer bow string. I learned that by accident while I was cooking. Another gem gleaned from experience.

Anything in a teepee shape will shed water naturally. Most flowers are edible or make okay tea. Learn the poisonous plants of your area, and consider the rest of the flowers as yours. Mostly, I pick light-colored, single, non-daisy flowers for tea. Just personal preference.

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Mary Calder
By Mary Calder June 24, 2019 10:31
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  1. Lady Ike June 24, 15:01

    What a heart warming inspiring story! You can NEVER be too prepared, not knowing what is in store for you. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    Reply to this comment
    • Anney July 13, 22:28

      What an inspiration you are. Surviving that marriage alone was a feat… many don’t survive.
      I am so glad that you found happiness. I believe God watches over us and helps too.
      Thank you for sharing your story. Hugs.

      Reply to this comment
  2. JT June 24, 15:25

    Wow! Impressive story! I have nothing to add but am glad to hear it worked out for you. Thanks for the share.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Roy D June 24, 15:27

    That took incredible courage! And it’s one of the most useful survival stories I have ever read. I’m retired military, but you’re right. The extent of my survival training was 2 weeks in Panama jungle school remaining undetected by the “enemy” and moving several miles a day, but at least having one C-Ration meal as food. A key phrase I remember from that time was: “Don’t eat what the monkeys eat – eat the monkeys!” Bravo Zulu!

    Reply to this comment
  4. Florence Phillips June 24, 15:43

    What an amazing story! You’re such a brave and resourceful lady and I’m so glad life took a turn for the better after your adventure. I’m also glad your real-life is in line with the fictional one I wrote in one of my books, Clan of the Skyriders. I researched a lot to get the character of a lone woman surviving in the wild, and I used Ask a Prepper so much, I gave it a special mention in the acknowledgements! Thank you so much for sharing your story. God Bless, Florence

    Reply to this comment
    • Mary June 25, 05:06

      Thanks Florence. I bet that’s an interesting book. I haven’t read many with that kind of subject matter.

      Reply to this comment
  5. Hgus June 24, 15:49

    What an amazing story! Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Stu June 24, 16:36

    Thank you for this inspiring story of survival. It was a fantastic read.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Dollie June 24, 17:30

    Wow! What a brave, daring, wonderful woman you are. It saddens me that you had to live this way,but makes my heart happy that you did and did it so well. I am sure your family is proud of you, and you must be an awesome friend also! God bless!

    Reply to this comment
  8. Lisa June 24, 17:48

    Very heart felt. Thank you for sharing. So pleased you made it.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Woodtick51 June 24, 18:25

    Thanks for sharing your survival experience
    My question is why you didn’t get I’ll drinking the stream water without boiling or filtration?

    Reply to this comment
    • Claude Davis June 28, 20:06

      You’re not always going to get sick drinking water from a stream or even a pool. Boiling and filtering are insurance against there being anything nasty in it. If it’s a choice between drinking straight from a stream or not drinking at all, most times it’s better to take a chance on drinking it.

      Reply to this comment
  10. Fireskin June 24, 19:04

    Thank you! When I teach emergency preparedness, one of the things I speak about is mental health during an emergency. You are an inspiration in that and ‘m grateful.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Phi, June 24, 20:11

    Thank you for your knowledge

    Reply to this comment
    • Sweet Peat June 25, 02:13

      God bless you for your courage and selflessness to keep your loved ones safe. My only self doubt in a shtf senario is the mental fortitude it must take. Not sure there are many of us that could make it. Thanks for reminding us that we simply must.

      Reply to this comment
  12. Diane June 24, 20:34

    Thank you for sharing your story & your experience. I can only imagine how scary it was to leave, but know it was even scarier to stay. I am glad for the happy ending.

    Reply to this comment
  13. Dan June 24, 21:14

    Thank you for sharing your story Mary, it was inspiring though a little sad. I grew up in a five story apartment building in L.A. and as a child I witnessed many women who didn’t have the courage to leave an abusive relationship. I’ve had some military survival training, but I learned several things from your story. Have you considered writing a book?

    Reply to this comment
  14. Wannabe June 24, 22:28

    Thankyou for sharing with us. It can be done. I guess 1968 was a really different era than today. In my mind this man must have been a very dangerously influential person. Maybe involved in organized crime and had authorities corrupt on his side. I don’t mean to speculate it just angers me to think you were treated like this. If you are able to please share a little more insight into your situation. It will help us understand and maybe help others to avoid this type of person. Thankyou again and God bless. You are as tough as nails.

    Reply to this comment
  15. bjs June 25, 03:29

    Thanks for sharing. What an incredibly smart and resourceful woman you were and are. The weak-minded predator you married could not beat it out of you. Good for you and God Bless. Bev

    Reply to this comment
  16. la0508 June 25, 03:31

    Wow! Fascinating and extremely useful. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

    Reply to this comment
  17. Grammyprepper June 25, 05:26

    What an enthralling story! I am glad it all worked out for you in the end.Having left an abusive relationship, I totally get the difficulties in leaving. I agree with the previous poster, that you should write a book about your experiences. This short article was very educational.

    Reply to this comment
  18. Mary June 25, 06:38

    Thanks for the kind words. I guess I survived mostly because I had to.
    Yes Wannabe, 1968 was a very different time. Wives were still too often treated as possessions… Even by the law.
    There were no women’s shelters. I had two choices. Witness protection that was only an iffy protection or disappear. Well a third choice I guess… Stay and probably disappear with no choice in how I disappeared.
    Husband #1 was a somewhat spoiled but pretty nice guy I knew from church. Three years after we married he’d joined a notorious motorcycle gang and quickly became the well known chapter sargent at arms. Most of the time he took me along so I’d soon seen gang fights, murders, gang rapes and knew too much about a long list of guys. Eventually he started getting paranoid and I became a prisioner under threat of gang rape and death. I guess he knew I’d want out. I sure didn’t say it.
    I focused on getting my son’s out of there. I just went through the of motions of being alive. I’d given up until the day that set this story in motion. It wasn’t a choice. It was pure terror.
    As for fear of the water woodtick. It wasn’t a big deal in 1968. Maybe things were a little less polluted and we trusted sunshine and sandy bottomed flowing water a lot more.

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  19. Mary June 25, 07:11

    Grammy my kids would all agree.

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    • Raven tactical June 25, 09:38

      Interesting you mentioned climbing the torch of the statute of liberty. Werid Mandela effect event called the black tom explosion which pulled us into ww1. Also severally damaged the statue of liberty.

      Why not just kill the hell’s angel?

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  20. Miss Kitty June 25, 14:54

    What can I add? God had his hand on you, so you would get out of that nightmare and be able to survive alone with no material resources. You were lucky to have family who taught you survival skills and who were hip enough to get necessary supplies to you in a low key, non traceable way.
    I second the motion that you write a book about your experience. If I had read your account when I was younger, I would have maybe seen the danger signs and kept out of an abusive relationship myself. At any rate, there are a lot of people who can draw inspiration from your story.
    Thanks again for sharing.

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  21. tony June 25, 15:01

    Impressive. Well done. And I can understand the compulsion to leave a bad situation and “go commando” to avoid the constant threats to life and limb, courtesy of a spouse who didn’t understand Karma. I enjoy watching the tv show “Naked And Afraid” and it’s interesting to see how people who have experience manage to make it 3 weeks without resources. Some make it, some don’t and they quit the challenge. You went months, not weeks. As I said before, I’m impressed. BTW… military training showed how small springs and brooks from mountainsides (if available) are usually safe to drink as long as they aren’t stampeded by wildlife since the water they contain is fresh from an aquifer and hasn’t had time to pick up any pathogens, particularly if it’s a continuous running tumbling stream which will tend to oxygenate itself and make it harder for any little nasties to propagate. Once again, kudos for your experiences and accomplishments along the way. Cheers…

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  22. Mary June 25, 17:06

    Raven and others…
    The statue of liberty. I don’t know how dad got us in. Open to public or pulling strings? He’d worked for the government since the 1930s. He was 40 when I was born. Somehow he opened unusual doors. I was three. It was just before we moved to California in September of 1950.
    It was a good solid stairway then areas with scaffolding but we stayed on steps and ladders even in one area. The steps into the torch were very narrow and it seems like they were wooden steps. I remember some but not a lot about the inside. Descending where it was narrow steps I had to walk. Lower it was wider steps and Dad carried me the rest of the way down. I do remember asking about the odd shaped walls and Dad explaining the inside followed the shape of the outside so I was seeing the inside of her gown.
    As for the “Hells Angel”, they had connections in court houses, some were exmilitary, they were ruthless. Many but not all ran prostitution or sold drugs. One even worked as a merchant marine on a ship delivering war supplies to Vietnam. It was an odd collection of men that joined by choice and became as close as any family.
    Marijuana by the kilo was common, resold to dealers on the street. A few sold guns on the streets. They made people disappear.
    I wanted him dead! But mostly I wanted to keep my boys away from it all. After my parents took custody of them I eventually gave up hope. I seriously planned to kill myself. He always had several gang members living with us.
    Leaving was so unplanned it’s a wonder I grabbed a change of clothing.
    When I heard he was dead I was still afraid but I met with friends later that day. It had been years since I’d been free to do that. Dad had just handed me the keys to a car and told me to “go visit whoever you’d like to see”. I went to a friends house in the town where I’d gone to high School. They took me bar hopping; celebrating that I was alive and free. There had been speculation that I might be dead. At every stop someone always bought a round for the bar in celebration. I didn’t know so many had any care. Lol. It was my first and last time to ever get drunk. I drove home the next day.
    My parents and the boys went to the funeral. I refused to go. Later I was glad I’d stayed home. Well over 200 HAs on motorcycles were there. The picture on the front page of the news paper was unforgettable.
    I was still afraid but not long after the funeral there were arrests and leaders were accused of murder and more… They were so busy defending themselves I was forgotten.
    Later I got mad… I wanted him to hurt. To suffer. I guess it was part of digging out all the feelings and letting it go. The anger, the desire for revenge, the hatred…. It all had to heal before I could really live. I eventually had to consciously forgive a dead man. Not for his sake, for mine. I had to let it go.
    Retelling digs up memories but not the deep feelings. That part has healed. That took God, the love of a good man and some time.
    A few have wondered what I did with all that free time on “your little camping trip”? Lol. Every moment was consumed with survival. Gathering, cooking and eating, hiding till people left the dam area and it was locked up so I could get washed up again. I washed my clothes on a rock and hung them on bushes to dry. I searched for food all day, every day. As the seasons changed what was available changed and I had to roam around looking for new places and new plants to eat. I moved around so some things could regrow, then come back to them. When the old gnarled apple tree was full of ripe fruit I ate my fill then drank bird “soup” each evening. If I sat awhile near the fire I was scraping a rabbit skin so it could be washed and dried to add to the bed, or I worked out a new trap, made several bows till one worked. I thought about new projects or how to meet a need. There were few really quiet enjoyed moments. Sometimes when I remembered a scripture that fit the circumstance I’d sit and relax a few minutes. Then it was back to work gathering, hunting, planning or figuring out how to accomplish something.
    Today I live next to a reservation. Hundreds of people in the area still know me and most still greet me with a warm hug. (Hugs are one advantage of being a grayhaired great grandma) I pastor 100 miles away so every Sunday I drive the 200 mile round trip. I aim to get there early and usually do. I always tease that if I can drive 100 miles and get there an hour early to run through the music with the little band, no one has an excuse for being late.
    I’m still a planner and working on being patient. Accomplishing things takes more effort. Many plans have to wait for injuries to heal, bad weather to pass, or money to be saved up. But I keep at it till things get done. I love Craigslist free things or materials. If I buy myself something it’s most often a tool or art supplies.

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    • Andrea June 26, 16:55

      Mary, what an amazing adventure of a life. I wonder what would have become of you if he hadn’t had his ‘accident’ …when he did. If you’d had to survive like that for years, would you have been the same? Would you have lost touch with the rest of the world and become a hermit like me? You’ve inspired me to really focus in on raising my boy to be a survivor. Thank you for sharing your amazing life with me. I’m humbled.

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  23. Ben June 26, 17:36

    What an incredibly valuable and touching story! I wish everyone’s parents taught them about the world around us and the importance of God in such detail as yours did.

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  24. Mary June 28, 21:09

    The first days along the “river” I was too thirsty to have worried about it. But some pollution from the agriculture.. Mostly hay fields or grape vineyards.. Was possible.
    The little stream where I stayed close starts higher on the mountain but passed near 0 agriculture or homes. The only place I knew of it ever being used was a big, deep place in solid rock where a few daring high schoolers or college guys went swimming. That was miles above where I was and no other spots were really accessable. I still had no choice in drinking that cool clear flowing water. I didn’t drink where it was slow and ponded. That was where I gathered and dried the green pond scrum in big sheets. Near the ancient apple tree. My little waterfall “shower” was downstream a few miles from the pond.
    Mountain streams here in NM have become infected with Guardia. I haven’t heard of that to this day in the area where I was.
    We were taught to watch for dead animals, muddy watering holes, or fords where horses or vehicles may cross. Other than that, fast flowing streams with sandy bottoms or rocky downhill areas and plenty of sunshine were considered safe.
    Yes today we have much more pollution and ameobia creatures have spread more. But as Claude pointed out.. You do have to drink.
    I have a water bottle today that filters even the little ameobia out. I had no container at all when I started out.

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    • Deerhunter July 8, 07:07

      Mary, Thank you for telling this experience. You are an amazing woman! I wish I would of had the guts to this when I was in my early teens. If I had read this all those years ago or knew someone with your knowledge and determination, my early life could of been so different. I am so glad that you were able to return to your family.

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  25. Mary June 28, 21:17

    Lol. Claude. That is what my kids have been saying for years. I may see if I can print what’s here, both the article and answers, and go from there. See if I have a book in me.

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  26. Long Ben July 2, 21:02

    It chagrins me that a Sister had to undergo that, but it’s inspiring just the same, Blessings to you.

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  27. Marsha July 4, 17:09

    I was so inspired by your story thanks for sharing it did you teach your your Sons Survivor skills

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  28. British Andrew July 4, 17:32

    I am a British suburban prepper in very different circumstances to yourself and most US preppers. However your story illustrates what is most important to the prepper philosophy – not stored food, kit or guns – but pure grit and determination. You are an inspiration to us all thank you – you are an inspiration!

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  29. Brie July 4, 19:07

    Mary, Thank you for telling the real story of survival in the wild.Although its been more than fifty years you probably should not tell all the details in a book.

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  30. Chris July 19, 13:58

    You wonder if God placed you in that situation to let you learn about yourself? You were able to act decisively at every turn, and succeeded brilliantly. You were able to reach back through the years to possess every bit of information and instruction you learned long ago. I’m sure you’d make different choices now that you’ve been down this road, so that you will continue to learn to make you whole. Your story was utterly compelling!

    PLEASE send your story in as a movie pitch; I can’t imagine it being refused. This gut-felt survival experience is one that the rest of us feel urged to reach out and be with you! THANK YOU!

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  31. the AR 15 August 3, 15:05

    just one thing that you didn’t really touch on, or i didn’t see, but you didn’t really say why you did this, you just said that your husband died, could you explain please

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    • Clergylady October 9, 03:25

      It’s been a year since you asked. .. I went into this little adventure to escape a husband who threatened to kill me if I ever left.
      I escaped and 10 months later he was dead in a car accident.

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  32. red October 9, 05:43

    That was awesome. No other word for it. I am not the mushy type. I read it twice! You make me feel like a woosie. No, I don’t feel bad, but you did a lot more than me. I walked when I was ten. Not for a good reason, but because I was sick of parents fighting, too many older brothers and sister and too many younger ones. I knew what to do from doing it. How-to. Two good knives, fishing line (black cord, it made good snares), dried stew, and a small dog. I hitchhiked up towards Kills Deer, PA, to look for Grampa’s family clan, only to wind up at Woodstock. Now that was screwed up. It’s probably the turning point in life, when I began to get conservative. When in a town buying some hooks and stuff, I got busted. It was in the Catskills, working my way west. At age 14, I said atheism is crap. Because of that, I lived on my own from late spring into fall. Shelters were brush, but tight and hidden; when it grew cold, layering them with teaberry sod and dirt. Sleet and some snow, but that kept the hut warmer. Plenty of fish and rabbits, and friends and family to visit with. Plenty of plants, as well. I had a bow, and still have it. Learned to tolerate breaking the ice in the river to take a bath. Made soap, smoked meat, cleaned deer along the road hit by cars and dried the meat in smoke. Someone was always watching out for me because that’s how we are. You were on your own and I wasn’t, not completely.

    Acorns should be buried till spring. Even from black oaks, the tannin leaches and when they start to sprout, they get almost like candy. They make a good nutbutter and you don’t need sugar. I lost a few fish traps to neighbors who stole the fish and broke the traps. Them, I hid from because the older brother was a pedo, like his father. The area has a lot of that. If you want to write me send an email to I check this every day, tho it was the kids’. They stopped using it. niio!

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  33. Harriet Morgan February 25, 07:52

    What an amazing story. I’m am truly inspired. Incredible woman. Strong woman. Gives me the strength to strive for more and push for better!!

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  34. john-atlanta March 28, 22:49

    > all the way to the torch. One year, Dad

    Sorry, the Mandela Effect called the Black Tom explosion closed the torch for the Statue of Liberty in 1916. I am assuming you are not over 104 years old …

    Another reason not to take this reality too seriously 😳

    Nice story though, just amazing how these ME crop up in the weirdest places. You probably remember the Panama Canal running easy to west too.

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