Wisdom in One Breath

By Scott Longman

Jack London once observed that the most elegant form of learning is vicarious. He was right.  

So here we go:

Re-zero the rifle after travel. Wear sunscreen and seatbelts. No drinking absinthe. That thing about first impressions is right. Most weapons failures are related to maintenance. Take more water than you think you need and a way to purify more. Don’t date two people at once even if you’ve made no representation of exclusivity. This is especially important if they know each other. And even more important if they are best friends. Back up your hard drive and store the backup off site. Deeply hide a spare key on your truck. Keep off Lake Superior after Halloween. Meticulously control access to your key personal information. Check your tire pressure. Invest in good waterproof boots: in a real sense, they are your most important gear. Read every word of a contract before signing, and don’t be hesitant to seek counsel first. I meant it about absinthe.  Follow the essential rules of weapons safety with unrelenting dedication. Put nothing on the dash of a car with airbags. Check your vaccinations before going overseas. Bring Cipro. Make copies of your documents and store them separately. There is no such thing as a day hike, always be prepared to spend a night in local ambient temperatures. Have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Don’t build camp in a dry arroyo. Cotton clothing actually accelerates heat loss: have good synthetics and wool. Never stay in a semi’s blind spot. Bears can smell toothpaste. Know where the exits are. Take a few moments every day to pay kind attention to the horses and the dogs: they are smarter than you think. P.J. O’Rourke was epic.  Turn off two-way radios and set airplane-mode on cell phones when in the vicinity of blasting caps. Never pull over on the highway: run it out to the next exit even if it costs you the tire or the engine and it mostly won’t. Hydraulic leaks don’t go away. No food in the tent, ever. Always have good tools available. Bridges freeze first. Oswald did it, acting alone.  Don’t believe anything else. Never open a hot radiator cap. Step on, not over, logs.  Litigation and violence should be saved for the absolute last resort. Keep the key things you need to survive on a belt, harness or vest rather than in your ruck: if you need to run or swim and lose the ruck, the key gear remains on you. Be assiduously polite and fully compliant if pulled over:  if it’s wrong, you can solve it in court. Swim at right angles to a riptide. Check the batteries. Never make camp within falling range of a dead tree. Use extreme care in knowing and complying with game laws.  Dryer lint makes an excellent firestarter, as do the top part of your socks. Have a system for where you keep your gear, especially daily-use gear:  across a lifetime, people who don’t will have spent enough time to have hiked across Kazakhstan -looking for their keys. If you ever need an attorney in connection with a gun charge in North America, call Guy Relford. The security of any operation is directly proportional to the inverse of the square of the people who know about it. Always be polite to secretaries. Seek out qualified mentors, and then invest the time to build relationships with them. Make a point of remembering the parking place; if no section number, then triangulate off terrain features.  Have a good dentist. Gore-Tex needs maintenance. Carry enough dedicated, hidden cash in the truck that you can buy enough fuel to get home if your credit card gets shut down. Keep the map and compass on you. Buy two extra gallons of windshield washer fluid when you shop for Thanksgiving. Watch your credit rating. In hotels, physically hold the key in your hand as you exit the room, every time. Don’t use mount-in-a-doorway pullup bars. Learn to push-start a manual transmission vehicle.  Never miss voting. If you ever vote for a Democrat, we will know. Never thaw meat on the counter. Charge your cell phone every night and keep it on the nightstand, not downstairs. Humans are provably omnivores and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Use curbside check-in, and don’t mind the fee:  it gets you out of the most dangerous part of the airport the fastest. John Moses Browning was inspired by God, so go read his biography. Read everything by Peter Hathaway Capstick.  And everything by Roger Pinckney.   

All of this is no guarantee that you will remain alive and happy — but it’s a pretty damn good start.

Editor’s Note: Scott crafted this advice specifically for someone graduating high school but we think it’s solid no matter your stage in life.




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