In Byron Kerns Survival School, Granddaughter Zoe (age 11) and I (age creaky) learned a thing or two about surviving: collecting water, making fire, constructing shelter and, of course, learning the meaning of STOP.
STOP: Sit, Think, Observe, and Plan. It’s what you do when you’ve lost your mind in the wilderness or . . . Walmart.
We collected. We made. We constructed. We learned. That was the first day. Then we collapsed in our tent to sleep, surrounded by a cloud of fireflies, the rustling of Mother Nature, and the soft cloak of night. Zoe needed both pillows. I flip-flopped on my brand new self-inflating air mattress. We said a little pray that should rain fall, it fall straight and gentle.
Click. We turned off our headlamps.
Instantly, I felt the scurry of tiny legs up my arm. Panic threatened to suck the oxygen out of my lungs, and I felt an overwhelming urge to run screaming into the underbrush—in my scanties. But I’m a trained junior survivalist. I knew what to do. I needed to STOP.
I needed to SIT, but I was already lying down, so I had to adapt. I bolted to an upright position.
“Zoe, Zoe, get a flashlight. I THINK there’s a tick on my arm.”
I was way ahead of my training; I was already THINKing.
Zoe flipped on the flashlight. It was time to OBSERVE.
“Shoot! I can’t see a thing. Help me find my glasses.” The black blot on my arm appeared to jiggle in the wavering light of the flashlight. My heart trip hammered.
Zoe, as steady a trail buddy as anyone can ask for, handed me the glasses, steadied the flashlight, and joined me in OBSERVING.
“Yep. That’s a tick,” she said.
“Okay, here’s the PLAN,” I sputtered. “I’m going to kill this sucker with a knife.”
She handed me her pocketknife.
It wasn’t the best plan, but it was sincere.
I continued to feel creepy-crawly for the rest of our survival course, on the ride home, and later at my in-law’s sixtieth anniversary party. I had lobster ravioli. At the end of dinner I whispered to my husband that I really needed to get home; I was pretty tired and still a little creepy-crawly.
Sherwood, ever the engineer, cut straight to the heart of the matter and announced, “Well, we need to get going. I need to check Linda for ticks.”
Smiling, I added, “He’ll probably need to use a headlamp.”
And that’s why we’ll be married for sixty years. Who else would have us?
Linda (Ticked Off) Zern