What is a “real man”? Ask men, you get one answer. Ask single women, another. With married women, there are expletives. What I think is based on more than two decades and endless hours around the likes of Editor Cappa, the other guys in the office, and you Four Wheeler readers, whom I’ve met over the years at events, on the trail, and prior to obtaining restraining orders.
Therefore, if I had to describe a “real man,” it would probably include:
• Always dirty somewhere
• Aroma of carb and Carl’s Jr.
• Obsessed with Craigslist, eBay, Truck Trader, and whatever is parked at the side of the road in the high or low desert
• Incapable of wearing anything other than T-shirts
• Closet void of anything other than T-shirts
• Free time or day off spent in the garage or shop
• A Stephen Hawking mind when it comes to trail repairs, modifying, fabricating, Jeeps, Chevys, Fords, Rams, Toyotas, Nissans, Unimogs, engines, portal axles, four-links, and types of beer, but no clue who Stephen Hawking is.
And with that, a new series was born in Four Wheeler, “Are You a Real Man?” What are man things? What traits make a man a man? How do you become a man, let alone a “real man”? While thinking about that, Cappa called. He had a doomsday theme for this issue and wondered whether a “Real Man” story could be done with that in mind.
While thinking about that, Andrew called. He’d just broken up with a woman, and when his mouth wasn’t full of Ben & Jerry’s She’s-Devil Food, there was mention of both yoga and “Real Housewives.” But he was really calling to ask whether I could give him a ride home after he dropped his Prius off at the dealership.
So, meet the subject for this series of stories, Andrew. The plan is to encourage him to step away from the Downward Dog and reintroduce him to his manhood (which you males know can sometimes get lost while trying to keep your womenfolk happy). Each month, he will relearn how to be a “real man” from “real men.” That’s the plan, as long as the Mayans aren’t right about this whole end-of-the-world thing on December 21. Even if they are, a “real man” lives to see another day, right?
The second order of business was to learn how a “real man” would survive doomsday. The first order of business was to see how Andrew planned to.
I asked whether he had an emergency kit and extra food stashed away. “I don’t have any supplies. And I don’t have any food, because I don’t know what I’ll be in the mood to eat then.” Let’s take a different approach. Had he ever been in a disaster? “You mean like a first date?” How about outdoor skills? “When I go on hikes, I make it back to my car.” He does have a good sense of direction, is physically and mentally astute, is a problem solver, and is very competitive, “which means I don’t like to lose, so I want to be the last man standing. In survival, people give up. If you have the will to live, you find a way to make it.” He was right. He might already have the best skills of all.
Since we were sort of building his new survival kit, I asked what he wanted to include. His first request was a swimsuit model. Then: “My friend, Art.” You see, Art’s a MacGyver, who can build or make anything in any situation. When we asked Art what his number one survival item would be, it was not Andrew. It was a knife.
Next, it was time to get Andrew professional survival training from a “real man.” Taking Art’s advice, he armed himself with his SOG fixed-blade Ops M40 and folding Aegis AE-01 knives (www.sogknives.com). “I would say I’ve used them for hunting and tracking wild boar, but I’d just be trying to impress the readers. I open boxes from UPS.” We hopped into a vehicle of “real men,” a ’12 Ram 1500 Express Crew, to spend the day surviving the natural way with Christopher Nyerges (www.christophernyerges.com). He’s been on the National Geographic TV show, “Doomsday Preppers,” and is also an author of survival books and guides to edible plants. He teaches courses on survival, but it was interesting to learn he doesn’t have a crazy bunker setup like many preppers/survivalists. “I don’t have a massive survival kit,” Christopher told us. “I got interested in survival in my early teens, wanting to learn how Native Americans lived on the land, and I wanted to backpack lightly.” In school, his focus was botany and ethnobotany.
Along with about 20 other would-be survivalists, we journeyed down a trail in the forest as Christopher pointed out key vegetation. Shredding yucca leaves into thin strips and braiding them makes twine such as for tying shelter—or possibly even a survival weapon, Andrew noted. Downside: “Can you wait 30 minutes while I twist something to strangle you with?” Rub strips of yucca leaves together forcefully between your hands with a little water gets you soap. Put mugwort on skin exposed to poison oak. Toilet paper plant: Mullein leaves.
In terms of food, top choices are watercress and lambsquarter; the greens are very nutritious. Return of yucca: the shoots, flowers, and leaves are edible. Elderberries are another, but eat a lot of them and you might vomit. Cactus can be eaten raw and you can also get water from it. Find a log, and you’ll probably find termites inside. They don’t carry parasites, so they can be eaten alive. While I took notes, Andrew was deep in a drinking game he’d created for every time anyone picked some leaf and said “salad.” At this rate, he’d be drunk on bottled water by noon.
Then came time to make fire. The knife is a good tool here, because using it to scrape a magnesium block causes a spark. Or you can do it the caveman way through a process called drilling, using a stick and block of wood. The manliest is hand drilling, or bare hands rubbing up and down the stick quickly and with pressure. Few ever succeed, lacking the upper-body strength. Andrew did it, and the gloating thankfully made him stop asking how much he could pay me so we could go back to the Ram and stop hunting and tracking wild leaves.
As we sat around watching the others, we couldn’t help wondering who we’d want to survive doomsday with. The guy who is seemingly balanced for his life on two rocks in 1 inch of stream water? The dude whose knife was always in hand, blade exposed, even during casual conversation? Probably not the girl who kept snacking on elderberries—we didn’t need barfing during doomsday. But that did lead to our next survival question: Who would repopulate the world? We ventured online to sites dedicated to survivalists seeking survivalists. Andrew got curious about the “survivalist babe” who enjoyed Dutch oven cookery, but leaned more toward the one who could make jerky. The gal good with sticks and rope, or the chick listing her thighs as an asset? Decisions.
Or was Elderberry Girl The One after all? That’s another thing I’ve learned: a “real man” will hold a woman’s hair while she’s hugging the porcelain Mullein. Andrew agreed. “As long as she’s wearing a swimsuit. And heels.”
That’s another thing I’ve learned: “real man” will hold a woman’s hair while she’s hugging the porcelain Mullein. Andrew agreed. “As long as she’s wearing a swimsuit. And heels.”
Build Your Truck for Doomsday
How would the aftermarket build our Ram for doomsday, with an unlimited budget? (Might as well blow your wad—it’s Teotwawki. Google that.) Mark Mathews from Pro Comp (www.procompusa.com) would start with engine performance: Magnuson supercharger with JBA headers and exhaust. He’d also bolt on a Pro Comp 6-inch Stage II suspension to fit Xtreme MT 35-inch tires coupled with flat-black 5029 Series wheels, and G2 axles. He’d add a Smittybilt X20 waterproof winch and M1 bumpers, and front and rear Pro Comp LED lighting with 4-inch LEDs in the wheelwells and undercarriage. For protection, the list includes bulletproof glass and armor plating. There would also be a water filtration system, onboard/tailgate BBQ, and “a functioning bar/beverage station with an icemaker. After conquering my attackers, I’d like to celebrate with a tasty beverage.” A Kicker sound system also made the list, with several terabytes of hard drive “to stockpile every heavy metal/rock album ever, even the glam stuff from the ’80s. It’s going to be a long time before anyone makes a new album.”
Mark Hayes from National Tire & Wheel (www.ntwonline.com) would run a Fabtech 6-inch lift with Dirt Logic coilovers and shocks, as well as 37-inch Swamper IROCs with Weld Racing T50 rims. He’d also add an in-bed fuel tank, “because like in “Mad Max,” fuel is going to be a highly cherished commodity.” An exocage, stout bumpers, Smittybilt winches, lots of Pro Comp LED lightbars, and an over-the-cab-style rack for spare rubber would be other add-ons. Also, “expanded metal will replace the glass.” In the power department, there’d be a cold-air intake, a chip, and free-flowing exhaust. “Now that my mighty Dodge is equipped the way that I need, I can navigate my way through the rubble, debris, and bodies that lie ahead as I travel the world in search of some remaining form of civilization.”