The number one survival tool is not a multi-purpose tool or pocket knife. It is not a map or compass. It is not a fire kit or first aid kit. It is not a water bottle or food rations. All of these are of great importance, but all are of little value without the most important one of all: PMA. Positive Mental Attitude.
I did not coin that phrase. I borrow it with honor and respect from the great outdoorsman who uses this term regularly and continually stresses the importance of PMA for success and survival in any back woods situation. That outdoorsman is Ernie Wilkinson.
For any of you who have not had the pleasure of meeting this special man, Ernie is a Colorado native from the San Luis Valley, spent years working as a government trapper starting in the 1940’s, taking him on extended adventures alone with his dog and horses deep into the wilds of the Wilderness. An avid outdoorsman, trapper, hunter, fisherman, and taxidermist, Ernie also had (or rather, still has!) a remarkable way with and understanding of animals, evident in his relationship with his pet cougar, Tabby, and his entire petting zoo and family menagerie. Later, Ernie and his wife, Margaret, along with their friend Chief Jim Fire Eagle, hosted Primitive Skills Camps, often here at Bob’s ranch (unfortunately, before my time here), generously and thoughtfully sharing with others their wealth of knowledge of skills and lost arts – from brain tanning hides, to identifying edible wild plants, to primitive fire building, and much more.
Today, in his 80’s, Ernie is still active as an outdoorsman and taxidermist. And writer. In addition to his weekly article, “Outdoor Tips and Tales,” which has been continuing for 40 years, Ernie just published an autobiography entitled, “Colorado Outdoor Living, Eighty Plus Years,” published by Adobe Village Press in Monte Vista, CO. (Adobe Village Press has an on-line store with E-Bay. They also carry Ernie’s book on Snow Caving which I referred to in a previous post.)
So with due respect to Ernie for the term PMA, I hope you will consider this when pulling your outdoor gear together and stuffing your survival kits. Pack a generous dose of PMA. Pull it out and use it when you need it. And we all need it. Put something in your survival kits or packs to remind you, if need be, of this essential source deep within all of us. We can forget we have it. We can lose site, and drop our ability to see clearly and think with common sense. So, with a small reminder, hopefully we can pull out the PMA, get back on track, and take care of ourselves in the back country.
I once read a list of what to pack in your survival kit which included a photo of someone you love. That’s one way to trigger the reminder of PMA if you’re in a pinch, and loosing site of where you are and what you need to do. Pack a photo, and inspirational phrase jotted on a note card, a good luck charm, or a favorite trinket. Something to remind you to draw on your powers of PMA when you need it most. Thanks to Ernie for reminding us to keep it handy, to use it, and rely on it, even in the hardest of times.