Many thanks to Leon Pantenburg at for sharing this excerpt and article from THE  CAVE AND THE SEA, A NOVEL!                                                                                                                                                                                       

This is the first published fiction on Generally  speaking, there is way too much preparedness fiction on TV and in print that gets passed off as fact!                   

But the following piece considers the creation of improvised light sources for survival. The emergency lighting techniques mentioned at the end of the story could easily be adapted to the aftermath of a natural disaster. And if it takes a good tale to get people’s interest, then so be it!

First is an excerpt from THE CAVE AND THE SEA, A NOVEL, by John A. Heatherly, followed by a photo explanation of some of the ideas.  John is an experienced outdoorsman and  has appeared on this website with his previous non-fiction book “The Survival Template.”

"Don’t miss the reference material at the end!" – Leon

                                        CHAPTER 20: BUFFALO HORN AND TALLOW

When the trio arrived at the Cave entrance, Mycha requested immediate access to her wood-and-leather rucksack. From the sack she produced a small wooden cup that was sealed with a piece of rawhide and a leather string. She washed the wound on her forearm with water then extracted a dark paste from the cup.

“Herbs mixed with tallow,” she commented to Coe, without pausing to look at him. “Will help prevent infection.”

The wolf-bite wound looked smaller and less horrific with the blood removed. She took a handful of leaves from another tiny bundle in her rucksack and applied a poultice, securing it in place on her lower arm with leather and string.

Coe had been attentive to her as she cared for her wound. He began to feel uncomfortable now that the process was nearing completion and didn’t know what to say.

“I … thank you … maybe I can …” His broken statement trailed into silence as he stared at the ground in front of him.

“You appear to have seen much killing recently,” Mycha said. “It prevents you from knowing a friend when you see one?”

“We should keep those wolf hides,” Coe replied, clearly anxious and attempting to change the subject. “And we need more water. Stay here near the Cave. I will be right back. Oh, and people call me by my nickname, Coe.”

He felt foolish mentioning wolf hides and water and hoped that she would see his logic.

Coe quickly returned to the spring, filled his canteen, and field dressed the wolf carcasses. Normally he would have worked more slowly to prevent waste but in this case, was afraid the other wolves might be in the area. Maybe his decision to retrieve the hides was foolish anyway?

He carried the wolf hides back to the Cave with plans to tan them soon. He approached the Cave to find Mycha happily organizing her gear while talking to Soldier. The puppy wagged his tail as he lay on the ground next to her. Coe felt a mix of emotions, guilt being the most supreme.

“Thank you,” he said. “You saved me while I had your dagger … I just … something is wrong and …”

Mycha interrupted him.  “You are welcome, and don’t feel the need to explain everything to me,” she said. ” I have been traveling away from my people for a while now, too, and know what it is like to be afraid. Help me with these.”

She handed him a buffalo horn that was filled with tallow and kept one for herself.

“We need a wick for each of these lamps,” she said while surveying the area around her. “I have been using cattail down and need a better solution now that I have found the Cave.”

“One advantage of cedar slash is the abundance of bark,” Coe commented, stepping into the Cave’s entrance. He returned with two strands of reverse-wrapped cedar bark cordage and handed one to her.

“I have a fire-pit we can use to complete your lamps,” he said. “Why don’t we move inside?”

Coe sensed that Mycha would be patient with his awkwardness. He had many questions for her but felt uncomfortable when talking about anything other than the necessities of their situation. He had been injured and alone for so long that her presence affected him immensely, in good and bad ways.

His loneliness was gone but had been replaced with questions, anxiety, and shock at the entry of this new person in his life. Mycha’s exotic appearance, foreign accent, and mysterious demeanor confused him while increasing his stress.

Hopefully he could relax soon. He tried to organize his thoughts and questions while helping Mycha move her pack inside the Cave. They ate small portions of jerky from her store and spoke little while they worked.

                                                                   Modern Adaptions

From John A. Heatherly: "While the characters in THE CAVE AND THE SEA used a buffalo horn with tallow (rendered animal fat) and cedar bark as a light source, I like to recreate their idea using these modern, low-cost items."

A lamp for emergency lighting can be quickly improvised from a soda can. (photo below)
This simple lamp uses kitchen drippings from a meatloaf pan along with a cotton wick. Simply pour the drippings into the can, reverse the pop-top, and insert the wick!

This lighted collection of lamps made from cans and bottles can provide quick emergency lighting. (photo below)
The “Oil-Lamp Candelabra” is constructed of soda cans of different varieties, a metallic soda bottle, and a wine bottle. Some use tallow from kitchen drippings as fuel, while others use oil from the frying pan or even conventional lamp oil from the hardware store.


                                    Excerpt Four from THE CAVE AND THE SEA, A NOVEL                                  
This portion of the story describes a time when "barefoot" or "minimalist" running (also known as "foxrunning") was a necessity rather than a hobby.  Please enjoy the story, and do not miss the reference material at the end!
                                                                  CHAPTER 93: SAND                                                                                                   

Rugged, boulder-strewn territory slowly transformed to rolling hills and sand.  Dry washes, whose courses ran down to the river, reflected the evening heat up into their faces.  Kele had been correct: the temperatures were warmer in this sandy section of desert.

     The three of them did not push the pace until the sun dropped in the west.  The path above the river was much smoother and allowed for efficient walking, so they veered westward while the river flowed south.  When sundown arrived, they were almost running.  The rhythm of their strides lulled them into a form of meditation, effortless gliding in the night air that felt infinitely maintainable.

     After several hours, they reached a long, east-west running depression in the sand that was similar to a dry wash but narrower and more defined.  “Does this look familiar, Hawk?” Aayoni asked him.

     “The desert looks familiar, though in the dark I cannot say with certainty that I have been here before.”

     “So this is the Ancient Trail!” Coe said, pointing to the west.  “It would be fun to follow it, to find the hidden water sources ... if things were different.”

     Kele nodded.  “This is it.  My Songs become less detailed as we continue to follow the river south.  Hopefully Hawk will start to recognize things soon.”

     They pressed into the night, stopping at dawn to examine a rare, green oasis of river valley beneath them.

     Hawk gazed for a moment then excitedly demanded their attention.  “I have seen this before.  Much of my journey during captivity is a blur to me, so I cannot say exactly when I saw it or how far we have to go.  We are definitely moving in the correct direction, though.”

     “We will need to avoid people and their settlements at places like this along the river,” Coe said.

     “I agree.  At night we will continue to travel above the river in the desert, and we should do fine,” added Kele.


     For many sunrises and sunsets they continued on, stopping mostly for water, as sleep felt almost unnecessary; mostly sleep was just something to do to avoid the oppressive afternoon sun.  Nighttime temperatures continued to be comfortable, though it seemed that hot summer days here were as permanent as the desert sand.

     Kele and Coe each looked forward to the daytime respites that allowed them to talk and discover one another.  Often during the nighttime travel they would think of questions for each other to be asked the next day.  Hawk kept to himself, though he silently enjoyed watching the growing relationship between his two friends.  His thoughts were of Aayoni, wondering about her pregnancy but feeling confident that Coe’s mother and the others could care for her.  He had regained much of his muscle tone, though the serious demeanor that he now maintained felt foreign to him. 

     Suns came and went quickly; the desert and the river ran into infinity.  At times, the journey felt dreamlike, as if they were simply observing it as it unfolded for someone else.  Their sense of purpose was strong - purpose that delivered subtle happiness even in this desolate land.


Run Like a Child - Dr. John Douillard's outstanding video explanation of foxrunning

Merrell Barefoot Training - Awesome starter and how-to information
                Thanks to Neil Strauss and his team for posting this excerpt and article from:                     
                                                   THE CAVE AND THE SEA, A NOVEL        
                                                                 by John A. Heatherly                                                 

                                                  HANDCUFF KEYS AS SURVIVAL GEAR??

The following excerpt from THE CAVE AND THE SEA, A NOVEL by John A. Heatherly, considers the use of Escape Tools as part of a survival kit.  Enjoy the story and please do not miss the reference material at the end!

                                                  CHAPTER 6: OBSIDIAN AND CEDAR SLASH

… His face was smarting from the strike when the young guard knelt down to tighten Coe’s binds.  Coe was confused as the ropes cut into his wrists, and more confused when the spear handle bounced against his head another time.  The guard spoke harshly to him in a foreign tongue, then left the fire circle.  Perhaps he was warning Coe not to attempt an escape in his absence?  Coe’s ears were ringing from the blows when he felt the scratch on his wrist.

His wrist!  When the guard tightened the binds that held Coe’s wrists behind his back, he felt the rock.  Of course it was there!  Since childhood he had carried the round sliver of obsidian.  His father had taught him to use the obsidian razor to skin animals, and he had even used it to carve a notch in a fireboard one winter after his cousin had fallen in the icy creek.   After becoming a warrior, Coe had sewn a hidden pocket in the back of his waistband to carry the obsidian, and his captors had not found it in their search, even as they took his obsidian dagger.  For years he had carried it because of its sentimental value.  Now perhaps it could free him!

He would have to be careful.  Was now the right time to make a move?  He decided that he would inconspicuously gain control of the obsidian so that the guard would not be suspicious should he return.  Coe would feign submission until the moment of escape was upon him.

Slowly Coe flexed his wrists until he could feel the rock with his right forefinger.  Fortunately his right hand was closer to the hidden pocket and the obsidian, as his left arm was tight, partially immobilized, and in pain.  The razor felt familiar to his thumb and forefinger, immediately starting to sever the binds as Coe rolled his wrists.

Coe stopped cutting for a few seconds to focus on his hearing.  In the distance he could hear the nighttime stirring of horses, but they were clearly corralled somewhere nearby.  He heard no sounds of humans and assumed that their camp was a short walk away.

The ropes around his wrists loosened and slid underneath him on the litter.  He chose to rest for a few moments to ensure that his arms regained circulation, for his next actions would require efficient speed.  One misstep and he could be killed or at least bound tighter.  His heart-rate increased and felt like a drum in his chest and ears.  Coe considered that he may not have another chance to escape.

With minimal effort, Coe was able to cut the line that bound him at his midsection.  As quickly as he could, he sat up and sawed at the bundle of line around his ankles.  He sweated in his injured state, nervous that he would be too slow.

He shifted his legs and wiggled at the ankles as he cut.  One, then two layers of line were severed before the entire bundle loosened, allowing Coe to free his legs and bend at the knees.  The speed of adrenalin helped him to cross the fire circle, retrieve his sword and small bundle, and retreat into the darkness.  He knew that distance was his ally as his captors would surely discover his escape at any moment.

The riders had definitely dragged Coe to the North Woods.  The grandfather pines were old and tall, and the spacious forest allowed for easy walking but difficult evasion.

The moon was large and full as it dropped into the western sky, almost allowing Coe to navigate as if it were daytime.  He hobbled through the pines with as much speed as he could muster, hoping he would not collapse from exhaustion before finding concealment.  He kept the moon to his left as he struggled north.

Five-hundred staggering paces separated Coe from the fire circle when he heard the commotion.  Men were shouting as horses bellowed their protests.  He looked back down the gentle hill he had been climbing to see flickering firelight through the trees.  They were moving and would start to circle in a search at any moment.  His only choice was to press on and pray for a place to hide.

After a few hundred more paces, Coe encountered the cedar slash.  As a child he had gotten caught up in this kind of thicket, where the medium-sized trees grew close together, intertwining their branches.  Normally he would rather walk five miles out of his way than traverse one mile of torturous cedar slash, but on this night the dense thicket was a gift.  He started his belly-crawl into the maw as his captors widened their circles behind him.

So back to the question: Handcuff Keys as Survival Gear?

In the modern world, Law Enforcement Officers are not the only ones carrying handcuffs – bad guys carry them too.  Is a tiny piece of gear like a handcuff key worth having?  We know that traditional handcuffs have been used in home-invasions and abductions, so the issue is worthy of thought.

Here are a few interesting  and practical keys:

Do you carry escape tools as part of your survival toolset?

Thanks to Aaron and Jonathan for having me back on the show to discuss THE CAVE AND THE SEA!


                                      Thanks to The Survival Mom for sharing Excerpt #2 of:                                     
                                                    THE CAVE AND THE SEA, A NOVEL
                                     INSTANT SURVIVAL TIP: Beach Well | The Survival Mom

The following two-part article considers the use of a “Beach Well” to procure water. First is an excerpt from THE CAVE AND THE SEA, A NOVEL, by John A. Heatherly, followed by the most outstanding resource information we could find. Enjoy the story and please do not miss the reference material at the end!

                                                          CHAPTER 96: SALTWATER

A flat layer of fluffy clouds floated just above the southern horizon, contrasting blue sky and stone mountains with the darker shades of the sea. Hawk looked stoic and calculating, while Kele and Coe were awestruck.

“This is indescribable,” she said softly, slowly scanning the horizon from east to west.

“Look, away from the river,” Coe agreed, “the desert and the sea meet … it is like a vast pool in the sand.”

Hawk finally spoke. “In many ways it may as well be one big desert.” He pointed to the water. “That saltwater is not drinkable though the weather is still warm down here. It brings back bad memories … though I did learn to survive it.”

Kele put her arm around him. “We are with you this time, Hawk, and we have a home to return to. Things will be better.”

They found the walking near the coastline to be easy, much easier, in fact, than any other part of the journey.

“The sea provides food, does it not, Hawk?” Kele asked.

“Yes, I suppose it does, though I rarely took advantage of it on my trip to the north.”

“I have some ideas when we stop,” she said, cheerfully looking over her left shoulder to the water.

“There is one trick I learned, though. Watch this.” Hawk led them behind a wall of dune and rock, surveying the ground beneath his feet as he went. He smiled when he discovered a low point in the sand, and dropped to vigorously dig into the depression with his hands.

In only a few minutes he had created a large hole; soon after the sand he was removing began to look dark and moist. He sat back to rest, then leaned against a tall rock while keeping his eyes on the hole he had dug.

“Water is seeping into it!” Coe exclaimed. “Is it fresh?”

“Yes, it is drinkable right out of the hole. It takes time though, because the sand needs to settle to the bottom.”

Kele looked into the water hole. “How did you learn of this, Hawk?”

He stared into the water as he answered. These were truly bad memories for him. “After I escaped, I moved through the dunes in an attempt to hide. One morning I just happened upon a hole like this, though it had been improved with wood and the top was covered. I was thirsty … I drank my fill then kept going.”

“I suppose the dunes and the sandy ground make the sea water drinkable,” Coe said.

“Yes – once I dug a hole in the sand on the other side of the dunes and the water was terrible. What a waste of time!”

Kele laughed at him. “Hawk, you are funny even when you are trying to be serious!”

Coe prodded him. “Yes, isn’t Aayoni lucky?”

Their friendly jokes broke his momentary funk. The rest of the day was spent hiding from the sun and replenishing their canteens from the unexpected water source.

Please see AFR 64-4, Page 279 AF Manual 64-4 Survival USAF July 1985 for more outstanding information on the use of Beach Wells like the one described above, as well as many other sources of fresh water.

                  Thanks to Neil Strauss and his team for posting this excerpt and article from:
                                                    THE CAVE AND THE SEA, A NOVEL                                                       

                                                 SNAKES: REPTILES ARE FOOD, TOO!

The following two-part article considers the procurement of reptiles, in this case snakes, for sustenance. First is an excerpt from THE CAVE AND THE SEA, A NOVEL, by John A. Heatherly, followed by the most outstanding resource information we could find. Enjoy the story and please do not miss the reference material at the end!”

                                                  CHAPTER 75: HEAT AND RATTLESNAKE

The afternoon heat found them, even as they reclined in the shade of their temporary camp. They continued to doze but rose often to fill their wooden cups from the water hole. Occasionally a slight breeze would flow around the embankment and into the shade, and by the afternoon they were having trouble sleeping.

“It is time to finish your moccasins,” Aayoni said, while examining her supply of buckskin.

“This evening I am going to hunt for rattlesnakes,” Hawk commented, “maybe a couple of hours before dark.”

“The Song predicts a vast mesa just beyond and above the stony outcropping in the south, with water to the southeast. We should be fine, thanks to Hawk’s water hole, but will be thirsty by the time we cross the mesa.” Aayoni cut into the buckskin pants to make a gaiter while speaking. “Make sure you wear your moccasins when hunting the rattlesnakes!”

Hawk laughed. “Thank you. I will.”

A few hours passed before Hawk ventured into the evening sun with his spear. Coe and Aayoni laughed as he slapped at the sage bushes and stopped laughing when they saw him leap into the air. Coe jogged over to Hawk’s location just as he trapped a large rattlesnake’s head to the ground with the speartip. Hawk placed his foot on the snake’s neck, allowing Coe to kneel down and carefully cut off the head. They buried the snake head in the sand as it reflexively continued to bite, then carried the long carcass back to Aayoni.

“Good hunting, Hawk,” Coe told him. “I will gather sage and grass to lump into bundles for firewood. I have not eaten rattlesnake in a long time!”

Coe tied the slender pieces of grass into bundled logs then did the same with the dead sage sticks he had been able to gather.

“These will not burn for a long time but will last longer than just unbundled, individual pieces.”

They dined on rattlesnake and continued to drink water as dusk arrived; just before dark they started walking. The desert travel was tough; but they were healthy, and they trusted Aayoni’s plan. Occasionally during the night each of them would look back to see the Truth Star above and behind them. They moved with speed, faster than they would have predicted, soon to enter territory that was completely new to all of them.

A Little How-To and Lessons Learned:

Reptiles can make for fast and easy survival sustenance, and are often easy to procure. I recommend the use of a “snake stick.” A golfer’s putter, or a stick shaped like one, works the best. Here is one technique that I have used on Western Rattlesnakes:

1 Trap the snake’s head with the putter
2 Immobilize the snake by stepping on its neck
3 Cut off the head with a knife
4 Dispose of the head immediately, as it will continue to “bite” out of reflex. Also, someone could inadvertently step on it. I recommend burying the head.
5 Especially when dealing with poisonous snakes, be aware that the dead adult snake may be carrying live babies; with caution and awareness they can be avoided while skinning the adult

Here is a great Instructable on how to skin a snake.

Anyone have experience with hunting, killing, and eating snakes?

BONUS MATERIAL: If in an area that does not provide large firewood, bundle blades of dead grass and small twigs into larger “logs” – they will burn much longer and allow you to cook. It worked for the characters in the story, and it has worked for me!

THE CAVE AND THE SEA, A NOVEL is now available in Paperback - here or at Amazon.   Also available for Kindle and in all ebook formats at Smashwords!
Inexplicable abductions ... A mystifying Cave ... Legendary Symbols ... A haunted Priestess ... An ancient Trail ... 
A youthful native Warrior and Scout confronts these and other mysteries as his journey to leadership and self-knowledge unfolds. Songs of wild landscapes guide him while he, and his friends, struggle to restore their Tribe's broken home. Their story of survival has merely begun. 
This once-in-a-generation work of wilderness fiction redefines the "coming of age" novel. Survival, love, spiritual growth, and the acceptance of responsibility are cultivated in the wild, North American landscapes of the 1600's.

    Order THE CAVE AND THE SEA in Paperback or for Kindle.


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