SHTF Story Time

Everybody has a story about when the SHTF for them and I thought it would be interesting to share.  Maybe we can learn something from other people’s adventures.  On Monday I posted about my mini-adventure in the woods of Canada.  No real danger there, but still a pretty stupid thing to do.

Now let me tell you a story about a time when Darwin almost caught up with me…

Imagine if you will a young Marine on deployment down to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, back in the early ’80’s.  Or GITMO as we used to call it in the Corps.  We always set up on a place called Cable Beach  and it was actually a pretty cool place for a young Jarhead to be.  We’d get up at 0600 in the morning and PT (exercise), then off to some kind of adventure training such as shooting M2’s, M-60’s, LAAW Rockets, running fun combat courses, or whatever.  There was plenty of stuff to do.  Then at 1630 the beer wagon would roll in, we’d have final formation, and it was party time the rest of the night.  Oh, there were a few night missions, but for the most part it was a pretty good gig.  Two weeks to a month of that then back to the states.

Well, a friend and I decided to make our way around the point leading off cable beach by following the base of the cliff.  We wanted to get to the next bay, which meant either climbing a mountain or walking around the point.  Having made our decision we grabbed enough beers to sustain us and headed off.  (Check out this video I found of some military guys hanging out at Cable Beach.  The area I’m talking about is near where they are in the first few minutes of the vid.  Right at 1:50 is sort of what we ran into, but rougher.  Side note:  around this time they spot a helicopter and when you see the bird look down and to the right and you’ll see more cliffs there.  We used to jump off those for fun!)

It was pretty rough going and as we got around the point (maybe 3/4 of a mile or so from camp and well out of sight of it) we noticed the tide was coming in.  Fast.  We talked for a minute and decided to keep going as fast as we could.  We rounded the point and soon came to a spot where the “trail” ran out.  We’d been following a kind of hollowed-out path at the base of the cliff that was probably created by the tide and suddenly we came to a spot where the bottom rock that made up the trail just disappeared for at least 30 feet.

We looked at each other for a second and I was just getting ready to ask if he could swim when a large wave came in and swept us off the rocks and pulled us out into the bay.  We came up gasping and sputtering, totally devoid of beer, and I looked at him and yelled, “Swim for it!”  The shore was probably 200 yards away and the water was as rough as anything I’ve ever swam in.

Luckily we could both swim.  I finally managed to get close enough to a big rock for the waves to push me up onto it. The first time I got dragged off, but the second I managed to hold on.  I picked up some cuts on my arm and the scars stayed with me for years, but at least I was alive and out of the water.  My friend came aboard on the next wave and I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was exhausted.  He started to get pulled back out to sea, so I reached down and grabbed him by the hair (that’s all that was available.)  He reached up and grabbed my arm and we both managed to hold on until the wave receded and I could pull him the rest of the way up on to the rock.

We stood there for a minute getting our breath back.  At that point we were pretty close to shore and it was the matter of a fifteen second swim before we were both safe and on shore.  Exhausted, but alive.  We still had to climb the damned mountain to get back to camp, but we were young and – for some reason – still alive.

We were fortunate in that we survived, but as you can read here that’s not always the case.

I’ll let you draw the obvious conclusions about what we could have done different, but basically we got lucky.

To be honest I’ve got about fifty stories like this and I’m not exactly sure why I’m still here, but I am!

So how about it?  Any of you have some SHTF stories you’d like to share?

Questions?  Comments?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead (the lucky) Survivor

28 comments… add one
  • Expat June 28, 2013, 11:53 am

    When I was a boy I was out in Yellowstone Park with a friend and we decided to explore the river canyon just above the falls. While walking along perhaps a couple of hundred feet above the river, all of a sudden the whole hill side started to slide. We sort of just tried to stay upright as we got closer and closer to the river when a tree trunk came sliding by. My friend jumped on that and started running along it as did I. He jumped and caught a rooted shrub and as the tree went past I jumped and caught his leg. We just sort of hung on as the tree and the rest of the hillside went over the falls.
    We didn’t mention a thing to our parents but every time I see a picture of that damn falls it all comes back.

  • Michael June 28, 2013, 12:03 pm

    Jarhead, people get stuck, and occasionally killed, doing exactly what you did out here on Olympic National Park’s coastline.

    The SHTF for me a couple years back when my sister, who’s a single mom, was diagnosed with cancer. Thanks to not having any debt, few monthly bills, and a bunch of food laid up, I could quit my job and take care of my sister and niece while my sister went through chemotherapy.

    • Jarhead Survivor June 28, 2013, 12:16 pm

      That’s an awesome thing you did sticking by your sister like that. Good for you, Michael.

  • ThatguyinCA June 28, 2013, 12:09 pm

    On the northeast end of the San Fernando Valley in Southern Cal is the Santa Susanna mountains (formations really). Essentianlly, sandstone formations.

    We used to climb in the hills, get drunk, smoke some weed and generally just hang. There was a place called “The Manson Caves” and local legend had it that the Manson “Family” used to hole up there. You have to trespass to get to it. It’s a real labyrinth of tunnels. Mostly it’s alot of crawling and you spend plenty of time on your belly squeezing through and around. There are pits and holes everywhere and tunnel offshoots every 20 feet. Some end in dead ends but getting to the dead end could take an hour and the only way back is to go backwards because you’ve been on your belly the whole way and there is no place to turn around. There are arrows painted on the rock to follow the correct path. However “pranksters” painted arrows point in other directions, however they are all different from the REAL arrows in some way (mostly by color). I went with someone who had been before. Anyways, getting to the “main room” was fine (still plenty of belly crawling required). But once we decided to leave (you could not go back as the entrance was an entrance only, unless you had a rope you secured before entering, which of course we didn’t), the guys leading the group thought it would be funny to pretend to be lost and in the process they got confused and got lost. So for about 3 hours (as flashlights were getting dimmer and the day was ending meaning natural light from the exit fading) we sat there, in tunnels no bigger than a refridgerator box on it’s side, while one of them scouted ahead down several tunnels searching for the correct way. It was the longest 3 hours of my life. We had no water, no food, no extra batteries just a couple of lighters and 3 flashlights amoung 11 people, and to top it off, I’m pretty sure no one outside the group knew where we were going. By the time the guy came back to say he found a way out we were all at the edge of sanity (after only 3 hours). We were down to two flashlights (one very weak indeed) and several lighters for illumination. Didn’t make me claustrophobic but I NEVER went back there again. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the stupidity of it all.

    • Jarhead Survivor June 28, 2013, 12:18 pm

      Once we were out of the maze I’d have kicked somebody’s ass!

      • Jason June 30, 2013, 1:33 pm

        I would have joined with Jarhead & given the guy a beat down.

        • ThatguyinCA July 1, 2013, 11:17 am

          No kidding. There were a few guys who wanted to but we were all friends. He didn’t mean any harm and we all probably would have pulled the same crap (hopefully without actually getting lost). To this day though he has never lived it down and to his credit, he always springs for the first round. If you were in that group that day and you are out with him, your first drink is always free. Over 20 years, that’s been a lot of free drinks.

  • Cork June 28, 2013, 2:58 pm

    This is a survival story from my late father.

    In early spring off the coast of Newfoundland my father and his friend decided to borrow a neighbors rowboat for a float. They rowed out for 300 yards before they realized the boat had a hole in it and was sinking. Neither of them knew how to swim and the frigid North Atlantic waters is no place for any person in early spring. The boat sank! My father was sure these were his last moments on earth.

    Meanwhile a man on shore seen two seals out in the water, so he grabbed his gun and hopped in his boat to put some food on the table. As he drew near he raised his gun to shoot one of the seals. his finger was on the trigger when the seal yelled help!. He then saved my father and friend.

    Two years ago I poured my fathers ashes on the very spot that boat sank.

  • Cork June 28, 2013, 3:03 pm

    I should note my father and friend were both under 10 at the time

  • eieio June 29, 2013, 5:48 am

    One Bark.

    Then I suddenly woke up.
    I had had a dream that I was in a holding area guarding a very dangerous and very angry man. He spoke enough English to tell me what was on his mind. While in his cell he was not restrained.

    He was intillegent and committed to his cause and if he were not killed while in custody, and ever got free, he would plot and execute much more harm to as many people as possible. He was not about threats, he was just cold and calculating. Full of hate for me and a lot of people. And he would do it. You could tell, it is the look of the eyes that reveal their danger.

    Everything that he did and said in the cell was recorded with digital devices. But today he brought it to a very personal level for me and said that he would enjoy killing my family.

    I went out and wrote a letter to my family and left it at my bunk. I collected a few items and went back to the cell. On the table I placed a loaded gun with 15 rounds, the keys to the cell, the gate, and vehicle. I also had with me a revolver and loose rounds. I took three steps back and looked at the man then looked at the revolver and started loading the gun.

    He checked his initial impulse to reach for the weapon, the keys, and freedom. There was understanding in his eyes. He needed to make a decision for the rest of his life. He stood there smirking, daring me. I finished loading. I looked up to meet his gaze and his eyes revealed understanding and surprise. He reached. I pointed. He fell backwards into a dark deep hole, falling, and falling, and falling…

    I heard a dog bark. Then I suddenly woke up.


  • irishdutchuncle June 29, 2013, 2:15 pm

    … and then it was quiet again.
    like eieio (see above) I had a SHTF moment that happened in a “dream”. (in case my mom ever reads this, I’m pretty sure it was a dream)
    I grew up in the corner house, at the crest of a really great sledding hill. this happened on a summer night sometime around 1970. the windows were all open. I was lying awake in bed. I often had trouble sleeping at night.
    I heard a car, or two, speeding, laboring up our hill. as they were passing by, I heard a string of loud pops, as though one of the cars was “backfiring”. and then it was quiet again.

    a short time later, I heard my dad get out of bed. he went to his closet, and retrieved his six-volt lantern. I heard him open the two latches on the window screen. then I heard a mans voice from outside say: “put that light out, or I’ll shoot it out”.

    to my knowlege, the only fire arms we ever had in that house, were my toy cap guns. (I was an extremely odd child. if my parents had been inclined to have guns, they wouldn’t have anyway, out of worry that I might have found them)
    the telephone line ran down the side of the house, right by that window my father had been looking out. we didn’t have an extention phone upstairs, because back then, the phone company owned all the telephones, and charged you extra for an extention.

    whoever it was hiding out in our bushes downstairs, was right by the two basement windows. (large enough for a fit adult to crawl through, if the screens were cut)

    • irishdutchuncle June 29, 2013, 2:42 pm

      I passed out eventually, and when I woke up, none of us had been murdered in his or her bed. days afterward, I think I heard people talking about a burgulary that had happened in town. a gang of men had attempted to steal a safe. In my mind these events became related; the man hiding in the bushes outside my basement was one of them.

      in my imagination, they could have cut the phone line, and gotten into the house, before anyone could get downstairs to call the police. there was no 9-1-1 back then either, outside of New Yawk. I suddenly realized we were vulnerable.

    • irishdutchuncle June 30, 2013, 10:09 am

      I never said a word to Dad about that night. were those “backfires” shots? did the local police fire at the fleeing suspects? (or was it the other way around) ?
      only now does it occur to me that the man outside could have been the cop instead of a robber… I”m sure I detected an element of fear in that mans voice. was he in terror of being an illuminated target, or in terror of being caught?

    • irishdutchuncle June 30, 2013, 10:29 am

      so then, what did we do about it? I notice that Dad added a chain to the cellar door. once the phone monopoly had been broken, he and I added extention phones to the bedrooms upstairs.
      now I have no “toy” guns.

  • Ray June 29, 2013, 7:41 pm

    A long Long time ago I woke up on the side of a mountain. I had no idea how I got there or where I was. It was near dark . I still had my pack water -in fact everything but the money in my wallet. It was lying on the ground beside me. I was in the middle of nowhere- Desert. My hair was caked in dry blood and I had the head ache from hell My chest was hurting every time I took a breath .But I could stand so I found the trail and started down hill. After two days I found A stock tank , I spent the next day boiling every drop of water I could carry and washing the blood off me (I was scared to death that the Coyot’s would find me and kill me) Under the blood I found a large gash full of wood splinters , bark and crap and figgerd out that I had at least one broken or badly bent rib ( it made the Ruck sack FAR less than fun) I knew if I ditched my ruck I was a dead man. So I started Walking down hill (south) Till I hit a “road”. The next morning two guys in a pickup found me and took me to the “Doc’s” . Turns out that whoever tried to kill me had dumped me out on an abandoned WW-2 bombing range in Az. I never knew how I got there or Who did it. The locals who found me went out with the Local cops and followed my trail . They said I walked over 40 miles. They also said I was Damn lucky it was winter. But I already knew that

    • irishdutchuncle June 30, 2013, 8:21 am

      I’m sure glad I don’t have any stories like that one.

    • Jason June 30, 2013, 6:12 pm

      Holy cow Ray, 40 MILES?? Wow

    • Jarhead Survivor June 30, 2013, 7:02 pm

      That’s quite a story, Ray! Wow!

      • Ray June 30, 2013, 8:15 pm

        I really don’t know how far I walked. It didn’t seem far at the time. I only remember five days , but the cops told me I had been out in the desert for at least ten. Thank GOD the only thing I have to show is one hell of a scar. The other thing that all ways bugged me was having no memory of the 10 days before I woke up on the mountain. I still have no Idea how I got there, But whoever dumped me had no intent that I ever be found.

  • Pineslayer June 30, 2013, 12:31 am

    How did we make it out of our twenties?

    • Ray June 30, 2013, 3:29 am

      Pineslayer,- The love of GOD and blind luck.

  • Jason June 30, 2013, 2:23 pm

    23 years ago I was in Brisbane, Australia at my wife’ best friend house. Her husband was a former sheep rancher from the outback & every bit Crocodile Dundee – complete with his sheep dog with one pale blue eye. He & his wife both lived in the true outback & my wife who grew in Australia stayed with them for many months on that “ranch”. A small house with God knows how many acres that you could buy for $10 & a liter can of Fosters per acre. My wife said nobody wants to live in the outback.

    We arrived at their Brisbane house on a hill above the water which was about 300 yards away. It was late afternoon & we sat, had a beer & he pointed out in the bay where the sharks fed every afternoon & you could see the dorsal fins swimming around & was a pretty cool sight.

    The next day he asks me if I wanted to go set some crab pots (cages) in the water with him & me, always in for an adventure said sure before asking what it meant. He had a 12′ boat with a 15 hp motor on it – both older than hell – literally, & 6-8 of these cages stacked how ever it could fit. No worries mate ….. yea, right.

    We were an easy 300 yards off shore & he asked me to stand up in a straddle stance & toss each over the side as we kept motoring towards Hawaii. Being a long time surfer, balance on water was second nature for me …. so I thought. I tossed the first one which had a rope of X length with an empty bleach bottle used as a buoyant marker – pretty nifty I thought.

    About the 3rd or 4th one I had tossed over, I caused that little boat to rock severely from side to side. Then within .ooooooo6 of a second I was overboard. As I was going over my only thought was rows of sharp teeth sinking into my torso so I tried to keep my legs hooked on the side rail in a fit of panic. Had I thought things through, fear would have enabled me to walk on water.

    Dundee yelled “NO!! NO!! Don’t do that!!” By the time those words registered in my panicked brain, the boat flooded with water where my legs desperately hooked the side in .5 of a second. He jumped in, swam, hooked a bleach bottle & rope to the bow & the boat disappeared below in the murky water. If there is a state of mind beyond fear, I was there.

    Now, I was an excellent swimmer & of course Dundee could swim like a fish & he says “come on mate, let’s get in”. WHAT?????? I will never make it in without being eaten alive by that school of sharks we saw the afternoon before. Shear & utter terror was my only operating condition BUT I new enough to be calm & casually swim. The shore was about 10,000 miles away so it seemed & my heart was beating so hard I was sure it would signal the sharks like a dinner bell.

    After about a good 10 minutes he looked at me & my pure white face said “you good mate?” I mumbled something that had shark in the sentence & he just laughed out loud. You sadistic, sadistic Aussie bastard …..

    We were about 75 yards off shore & I took another swim stroke & my hand hit the bottom. I stood in thigh deep water & walked in. As it turned out, the max depth of the water where we rather, I sank the boat was 15′ and those sharks we saw off in the distance was some sort of breed that grew to a max of 3′ & were petrified of people. He had the time of his life laughing at a Yank’s expense. At least that experience gave me clean bowels.

    • Jarhead Survivor June 30, 2013, 7:05 pm

      Haha! Oh man, I haven’t stopped laughing! I hate it when somebody does something like that to me, but you gotta admit it was well played!!

      • Jason July 1, 2013, 12:20 am

        Hook, line & sinker.

        My wife at the time saw us sink & she was in full terror because she saw the sharks in the bay as well. What was pretty funny (now) is half of the swim I didn’t need to do because it was a very gradual drop off & at probably 150 yards I could have walked to shore. However, it was impossible for me to think because Steven Spielberg has ruined open ocean swimming for most everybody on this planet.

        • Jarhead Survivor July 1, 2013, 8:04 am

          I’ve done a lot of diving here in Maine and have yet to see a shark. Although I did dive with a Beluga whale once, which was very cool. You don’t get an appreciation of how big those animals are until you’re in the water with one.

  • Semper Paratus July 2, 2013, 8:15 pm

    In 1983 I was regular Army, a 96R, Ground Surveillance Systems Operator attached to the 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade out of Ft. Bragg. The 525th, along with elements of the 82nd Airborne and a mix of other special ops guys, was working out of a series of small camps in southern Honduras, about 5 klicks from the Nicaraguan border. US forces there were supporting Nica contras who would cross into safe havens in Hondo to equip, train, and just generally take a break from fighting. My job was to position and monitor REMBASS stations we had set up on both sides of the border. One of my more mundane duties was to monitor radio traffic. One night a couple buddies of mine who were Delta got a wild hair and decided to tag along with a contra team going to cause some mischief on the Nica side. Problem was that (1) they were strictly forbidden to do such a thing and, (2) they didn’t tell anyone in advance they were going in. So I’m monitoring the net, it’s zero dark thirty and a call comes over from these guys and they are in deep sh*t. They are essentially lost and are hot footing it away from some Nica unit that they can’t shake and they want me to get them some help. So I wake up the watch officer, a captain who is also buddies with these Deltas, and he scares up a Hondo helo pilot and we get a fix on their position from their transmission. I can tell they are in trouble because I can hear shots being fired in the background. I get thrown on the helo because the captain wants to keep the circle tight on this or everybody involved will end up in the stockade. So we fly in to pick these idiots up and I’m a door gunner on the flight. The Deltas manage to get loose enough from the Nicas chasing them to give us time to exfil them. Only thing is, while we’re on the ground a few of the contras with them want a ride out too except we don’t have the room and they didn’t take kindly to being left behind and open up on us. One of the Deltas took one in the face and me and the other Delta along with the crew chief put the contras down and we bugged out. Before we took off though the Delta, who was out of his mind pissed off because of his buddy getting killed, pulled one of the contras onto the bird then shoved him out at 1000 feet. It was hairy and an experience I will never forget every moment of. That’s my story.

  • ewan July 7, 2013, 3:49 am

    I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I don’t know who you are but certainly you are going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already ;) Cheers!


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