Monday, May 20, 2024

In-Processing: Indian Country (Cumberland Saga)

Breakfast was a splendid affair. Coffee with real cream and big pans of fresh cornbread.

Sarah encouraged the diners to eat as much fried fish as they wanted. Without refrigeration, the only way to keep the fish was to add it to the Eternal Pot of Soup and Sarah didn’t relish the idea of picking fish-bones out of her soup for the next week.

As the crowd started to relax and slow down, Sig stood up and cleared his throat to get everybody's attention, and he announced “My name is Sig and I am the spiritual advisor for our group."

At that cue, Samson Davis also stood up.

Sig continued “I want to introduce you to Samson Davis. Samson volunteered to direct our introductory training. Samson was in the military and served two tours out in the boonies in areas with active combat. His training is modeled after the training he found most useful. He will tell you what it takes to stay alive and there will be VERY LITTLE filler.”

“Samson uses the train-the-trainer model. Each family is to send one responsible adult to Samson's training. They are strongly encouraged to take notes because they will be responsible for teaching their families.”

“Each segment will be twenty or thirty minutes and there will be a 10 minute potty break on-the-hour regardless of where we are in the training. If the responsible adult needs to swap out (Sig gave a nod to one of the mothers who was breast-feeding) that will be the time to do it.”

“The training will last about three hours. So those of you who are not in the training, treat it like a family reunion. Those who will be in the training, we will assemble at the three newly erected cabins 300 yards north of here in thirty minutes….9:00 AM. Bring your hat. Water will be available at the training site."

Samson had prepared hand-written, 3”-by-5” note cards that he handed to each to each of the the new families. It contained the agenda:

-Water conservation
-Snakes and spiders and biting insects and nettles and poison oak



The training kicked off five minutes early, as soon as the last new trainer joined the group. Sig stood up and said “I am going to talk about housing first because I know that is what is burning in you-all’s minds.

“We got the shells of three cabins built. They are weather and bug tight. One of them will be used for storage. One of the first jobs will be to paint lines on the floors. There will be a path up the middle and four “rooms” outlined on each side. You will be assigned a “room” to store your family's cargo. When you have it secured, Samson will take pictures of your belongings. Theft will not be tolerated.” Sig said, grimly.

“The remaining two cabins will be occupied, in rotation, while we continue to erect more shells. Each family will rotate through, four days in, six days in tents or other accommodations.”

“All men over the age of 16 will be expected to engage in supporting construction. We will cross-train as we go so if you get stuck in a job that you don’t like, don’t fret because you will rotate into another job soon enough.”

Then Sig gave a very quick over-view of the major tasks involved in building the shells, from cutting and skidding logs to milling lumber to staking the foundation, laying sills and setting posts…. 

"Any questions?" Sig asked.

"Why not draw lots for the three cabins?" one of the trainers asked. "Rotating through the cabins will be a pain because we won't be able to unpack, or build furniture or nothing."

"We discussed that but that creates winners and losers. The winners will not be as motivated to help complete the new cabins because they won't have any skin-in-the-game. After all, their family is already out of the weather" Sig said. "We recognize the problem about unpacking, that is why one cabin reserved for cargo."

Sig shot Samson a glance. Samson had raised the same question the previous night. He had been out there and suspected that the number of newcomers would exceed Sig's estimates.

"We are chewing on that question" Sig admitted "and we don't have an great ideas.


“My name is Samson Davis and I am here to train you on our sanitation system.”

Samson walked the group over to the new, elevated privy.

“The key to making this system work is to avoid excess moisture. The system is entirely under-roof so rain won't get into the system and above-ground to keep surface  run-off from entering it. The other thing we do to avoid anaerobic feces is to separare the urine and feces. This is not high-tech. We do it by asking you to slow down and to keep the streams separate right from the beginning."

"For men, that is pretty easy and you don’t even need to enter the privy if all you need to do is urinate. Just go behind the privacy screen…” and here he beckoned each adult, in turn. Even the two mothers who were in attendance “You have to train your men, right? So you need to know what is in here.”

The "Men's Tinkle Facility” had an inverted bell stenciled on one of the privacy screens and involved two funnels made from the tops of laundry detergent jugs tacked to the outside wall of the privy, one high and the other at a height that would work for most 2-year-olds. Hoses led from the bottoms of the jugs and disappeared into the ground.

“Where does it go?” Fred Jaeger asked.

Samson pointed to five small trees twenty yards down-slope from the privy. “Amira got some pear seedlings from one of our neighbors. Each tree has a basin dug just uphill of it and the basin is filled with broken sticks and sawdust. The plan is to move the end of the hose about once a month so each of the five trees gets a dose of fertilizer through the growing season.”

Then Samson took the trainers into the privy two-at-a-time.

“As you can see, this is a two-holer. This side is for gentlemen and the other for the ladies.” Samson said pointing to each.

“The lady’s side has a funnel underneath them that rotates in from the side when they have to do #1” Samson demonstrated by depressing a pedal on the floor “and rotates back after they are done” and Samson demonstrated by lifting his foot off the funnel.

“Where does #2 go?” AnnMarie Weber, one of the mothers asked.

“Each hole has its own barrel that is partially filled with sawdust and there is a schedule for adding more sawdust and for tumbling the barrel to mix it” Samson said. “It isn’t odor free but it doesn’t smell anywhere near as bad as anaerobic fermentation of feces and it breaks down pretty quickly when the air can get to it.”

"Can we go look at it?" AnnMarie asked. She had active, curious boys and maybe if she explained it to them they could resist taking it apart to see how it worked.

Samson shrugged, "Sure, why not."

The group went behind the privy and Samson unhooked the access door.

"It is the simplest system I could find on-line" he said, apologizing. The guts of the privy consisted of two large plastic barrels that were tilted at 45 degrees. Upward facing openings had been cut in the barrel with part of the cut through the side and part through what would normally be the top of the barrel. The barrels were resting on casters that clearly had once belonged to push mowers. 

Cleats had been bolted to the outside of the barrels for hand-holds. "This is how the barrels are rotated" Samson said after moving next to one barrel and  grabbing the hand-holds and pulling them. He demonstrated one full rotation so the opening was once again directly under the chute.

"How often does it have to be rotated?" one of the men asked.

"Depends on how many people are using it" Samson replied. "For now, the schedule is for sawdust to be added to each barrel a half-hour after breakfast and for the contents to be rotated two-full-turns."

Samson had rotated the barrel a quarter-turn so the opening was exposed to demonstrate the mechanics of adding sawdust.

It was clear to everybody present that the barrels would get the majority of their new load in the morning, so Samson's timing seemed appropriate.

“Now, it is time for a break if anybody needs to get rid of some of the coffee they drank at breakfast” Samson concluded.

As the new trainers came out of the privy, Samson continued the lesson by showing them the protocol for washing hands. "Wet your hands. Stop the water flow. Soap your hands. Rub your hands together for the length of time it takes to say The Lord’s Prayer (about 20 seconds) paying particular attention to finger nails and knuckles. Rinse off your hands. Shake them dry."

“The same goes for showers. Wet your body, starting at the top. Slightly rub to ensure the wetness sticks. The first bag of hot-water only holds one-and-a-half gallons of water. Lather up with a the bar of soap and a bit of water on your hands. Rub the lather over your body from the top and work down paying particular attention to your face, pits, groin and feet. Rinse off from the top and work your way down. The second bag of water only has three gallons.”

“And don’t plan on cheating. The bags are on a slow-refill trickler. You are going to have to wait five minutes for them to refill and it won't be worth it” Samson cautioned them. "Somebody is going to be hammering on the door wanting their turn."

"What about the women?" AnnMarie asked. "Some of us have long hair and it takes more than a few gallons to rinse it out."

Sig fielded that question. "You can ask any of the women here how they handle it. But I think that for the most part they wash their hair once a week and they don't do it in the shower."


“Hi, my name is Gregor and I am going to start the segment on security.”

“I happen to know one of the local Deputies and the latest information is that there are a lot of Executive Orders that have not widely published. The one that most directly impacts us is that all state and local law enforcement has been Federalized and most of them are being shipped out to guard critical infrastructure.”

“From as safety standpoint, that means we are on our own. The Sheriff will be pinned down in Dayton and will not be able to respond to any calls in outlying areas.”

“I thought you said all of the local cops were being shipped out. What about your buddy?” one of the men asked with a puzzled expression on his face.

“Its complicated” Gregor admitted. “The deputy officially resigned but once the Sheriff realized that he was losing all of his people and being left high-and-dry, he contacted her…” seeing the surprised expressions on the faces of the listeners “...yes, she is a woman. So seeing that he was left high-and-dry he asked if she would be willing to function as a de facto, volunteer deputy off-books and be his representative in the south end of the county.”

“Anyway, the key to not becoming a target is to be invisible and to be as quiet as a shadow on a foggy morning. That is why we are collecting the phones. In a week things won’t seem as new and there will be less impulse to share details.” Gregor said. “And even then, we are only returning them to the adults.”

Then Samson stepped up. “Has anybody ever heard of the six degrees of separation?”

AnnMarie raised her hand.

“What is it?” Samson asked “Can you share it with the group?”

AnnMarie looked around, not sure that she wanted the lime-light. “Well, the way I understand it is that you know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody and so on. And that there is never more than six links in the chain between you and any random person in the United States.”

“Close enough” Samson agreed. “So when your kid texts Nana or their best friend Susy, it is never more than five more links to the crack-head down the street or the crazy person up the road who hates Godly people.”

“And it is just a matter of time before one of you leaves your phone unattended and your kid grabs it and texts Nana or Susy” Samson said.

“The way we are going to deal with that is that when you are talking around your kids that you describe what you are doing as “Camping in Tennessee” with no other details” Samson said. “When one of us must leave the property, all we say to our kids is “We are going to town” but we NEVER say which town. When we talk about these building” Samson said, indicating by pointing behind him with his thumb "we will always refer to them as 'cabins'."

"That way, when they are updating Nana or their friends, they are most likely to say "We are camping in Tennessee. Sometimes we sleep in tents and sometimes we sleep in cabins." 

"All of that is true. None of it has enough information in it to make us a target" Samson said.

“In fact, one of the things we are discussing is being proactive about that.” Sig admitted. “Nana is likely to stop worrying after she gets a text that which tells her you are camping in Tennessee. Everybody is safe and healthy and there is enough to eat.”

“But we aren’t quite there yet” Sig admitted with a sigh. "Everything is a work-in-progress." be continued...


  1. Very realistic and nice to see almost Human Manure level sanitation. When folks see how well Amira's trees are doing with the urine fertilization things will catch on. I've found 1 part urine to 10 parts irrigation water very nice for my gardens and fruit trees.

    The limits of human habitation are hard ones. Water needs, food needs and sanitation requirements to prevent the #1 killer of mankind Disease. Lack of safe water is still #1 in many places.

    Shelter is important but historically before "Nuclear Family" Mc Mansions multi-generational shelter was the accepted norm. Grands helped with house cleaning-laundry and most importantly child rearing.

    Keeping troublemakers out and keeping home brewed troublemakers under control (looking at Evan as a prime example) keeps peace in the extended homestead.

  2. I need to digest this more, ERJ - but very well put together and a very plausible (and interesting) training technique.

  3. DOD has an assessment method to determine if a community has a sufficient and viable infrastructure. The acronym used is SWEAT-MSO. Sewage, Water, Electricity, Academics, Trash - Medical, Safety, Other (Transportation, Fuel, Housing, Hazards, Communications, Places of Worship, Attitude). You have covered most of the bases already.
    We found in Iraq and Afghanistan that if “Safety” i.e. security was not insured, then no gains in other areas could be maintained. Attitude is also critical, do people want and are willing to work to make things better or do they just want a hand-out.

  4. My grandmother would collect rainwater for washing her hair. Using rainwater instead of well water to rinse the hair made her hair much softer and shinier. Folks would ask what hair conditioner she used, and would get mad when she told them that she didn't use any.

  5. Best urinals("piss tubes") I saw were in Iraq; tops of 2 liter pop bottles nested inside each other until desired height was reached, using about the top third of each bottle. Necks were big enough for flow and multiple layers meant flies were trapped if they got in. Much better than the artillery propellant tanks of my youth.
    Boat Guy


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