Life in Space
Link to Tom Brown's
Tracker School in
southern New Jersey
During the winter, I had built a debris shelter
in the woods behind our house. It was built well and I had intended
to sleep in it during the upcoming weekend. As the weekend approached,
the weather predictions spoke of the movement of an Arctic air mass making
its way deep into the South. The forecast was being revised to warn
of morning lows of close to zero.
I knew this would be an
unusual chance to really test out the effectiveness of the ancient debris
hut structure. I also knew that the shelter, as it stood, was not
going to be sufficient for this type of weather. So, I spent another
hour before dark on Saturday piling more leaves on the outside and stuffing
more leaves into the inside.
After supper, I watched
the evening weather report and began to feel nervous about trying to spend
the night out in such cold. I kept delaying going out to the shelter.
Finally, reminding myself that I could just walk on back to the house
at any point during the night, I decided to go ahead with it. Such cold
conditions would be more safely encountered wearing wool clothing but, as
a controlled test, I changed into a very insufficient combination of tee
shirt, sweat shirt, blue jeans, cotton socks, and tennis shoes. I
made sure I had a house key in my pocket and, as an afterthought, I put
on a stocking cap and gloves. I checked the thermometer. It
was 27 degrees.
I walked out into the woods,
found my shelter, laid on my stomach and inched back into it. I had
prepared two big piles of leaves on either side of the doorway. I
pulled and stuffed these leaves into the doorway after I got inside. Twice
during the next 2 hours I woke up shivering and decided to go out and stuff
some more leaves into the shelter to act as a blanket. This worked well
enough so that I could sleep without shivering for the rest of the night.
The next morning I awoke
and crawled out into the dawn. It was very cold outside. I could
feel the inside of my nose trying to freeze with each breath I took.
My legs, without thermal underwear, quickly felt a burning cold sensation.
I knew that I would soon have to go either to the house or back into
the shelter. Since the house was so near, I was able to think up enough
excuses for that choice. On the way in, I stopped by the deck thermometer
to see that the temperature was now 2 degrees below zero. I knew that
I had kept the option of returning to my house. But, as I glanced
back at that shelter, I knew also that its protection had kept me alive
to see the dawn.
(Will Franck - Greensboro, NC - 1994)