As I sit here pondering how my good friend Pat’s minivan full of prepper crap has somehow managed to regurgitate all of its contents into this jumbled wet pile inside of my front door, I think back upon our latest out of town trip that somehow got all this prepper stuff loaded into the crammed back of the van in the first place with a bit of whimsy and regret. It had taken us all of the better part of three days to carefully sort and agonize over what to bring and what to leave behind. Mostly this delay was my fault because I thought something “might, could, would or should” be needed by me or other preppers for this sojourn of ours to the great PrepperStock gathering. This type of labor and mental exertion though was not regretted a bit, as all I can do for the moment is to now sit back and look at my girlfriend and smile with tired but contented excitement.
The weather had generally been good during much of the days spent at a picturesque lake shore park but I did have one qualm about the weather. Oh yea, I sure do dread now that I will have to pack and repack all of this survival and preparedness gear much earlier than I wanted to or planned on originally. My main concern at this particular moment is that a lot of it is sopping wet and still sitting in black plastic garbage bags after getting drenched in a late night torrential rainstorm on our latest camping trip when the tent decided to get flooded. Everyone else’s tent in the many campsites did also to some extent and I am a bit worried that was regardless of make or model in my experience. The RV campers had it made safe and snug while the rest of us poor splish splashing tent dwellers either escaped to vehicles to sleep in for the remainder of the night or stayed where they were and toughed it out in soggy tents until morning.
Did I also mention that Pat and I unloaded the van when we got home in a light but steady rain the next morning because it was raining so hard after our late afternoon arrival? However, I must say I am not feeling remorseful about any part of the performance of the tasks it took to get to this point. You see, I am still elated that I just got done sharing a truly wonderful, memorable and life changing social event with fellow preppers and now I am sitting here imagining a lifetime of reminiscing about the experience. I learned many things for myself regarding what pieces of camping gear works and what doesn’t, as well as reaffirming that I will be constantly amazed at the generosity and all around good-naturedness of the prepper community and how pleasant it is to be part of it. The special event I am gushing over in my writing and just got done attending was a unique prepper convention of sorts, the kind of an event that requires an explanation and this article will attempt to tell its story from a prepper fiction author’s perspective.
PrepperStock 2014 kicked off at Deer Lick Creek, Alabama on March 14 as a passel of Preppers from across the country converged on this beautiful Army Corps of Engineers campground. This was the fourth annual event to be organized by its creator YouTube celebrity and personality LowBuck Prepper (http://lowbuckprepper.com/) as a chance for the likeminded preparedness community to meet and greet while sharing good times and knowledge in an easygoing, woodsy, campout like affair. A light hearted come as you are and do as you like theme was upheld quite nicely, as this event was not about organized classes teaching survival skills or canning techniques etc, it was about prepper YouTube Channels meeting their internet subscribers and others producers in a vacation like camping trip where everyone was equal and everyone was there to mostly just socialize.
The internet is a wonderful place to find new friends and gain prepper preparedness tips and tricks but modern media is not a panacea for you to be able to actually shake the hand of a friend you have never seen while sharing a drink with one of your internet buddies you talk to all the time but have never met. Beaming smiles and hearty handshakes all around was the order of the day as people connected and reconnected in this three day camping event. Well for some it was a three-day event, but for others like me they arrived a couple days earlier to help setup or just lengthen their joy and experiences of attending the event.
It was common to hear cheers go up as the celebrities from the more subscribed YouTube Prepper channels arrived, but there was just as much enthusiasm and shouts of welcome shared as preppers from every tier of the Prepper community trickled in to join the festive fray and went to and fro between the loosely assembled groups and campsites to see who was there to share in the fun.
Fellow campers arrived for days and shared the magical trail connecting the websites. This articles author calls the road between the 42 or so lake front campsites as magical because once walked you never met a stranger again. A new arrival to what was loosely called “our group” to differentiate “us preppers” from the regular campers and RV`ers just walked up to a campsite and announced who they were or told the camps host that they recognized them from the internet and that it was a pleasure to meet them finally and then instantly fell into the fold. Someone at the camp or in the crowd chatting excitedly would instantly take them in tow and insure they were warmly received and introduced to a dizzying array of names and new faces all smiling as the “how do you dos` took place and the video cameras whirred.
The facilities gracious management was soon known by all on a first name basis as they occasionally passed our bug out camps to offer friendly tips and advice to insure our stay was safe and memorable. What was known by this camp reveler but not by many was that an enigmatic retired Marine was the volunteer for this and many other Federal parks that insured the guests had extra amenities not provided by the facilities to truly enjoy their stay. The author had read in his internet research on the park many warm and grateful comments about how out of the goodness of his heart this old veteran cut and stacked firewood for each campsite in this picturesque park. Not to be out done in welcoming any and all groups visiting his piece of this nations recreational preserve he was ever present coming and going carrying truckloads of mixed firewood and the stories of him and his art to his new charges. Piles of wood magically appeared in front of your campsite carried in the bed of his personal pickup truck as he asked would it be better to stack more in any designated assembly areas we might wish to promote.
The kindness and generosity of this man is beyond exception and must be noted. How does one say “Thank You” to someone that’s spirit that has gone from being broken in hell serving his country and through introspection and hard work found their own heaven in helping others? That the Prepper community as a whole exceeds others in its generosity and sharing nature is one thing, but I must say that I was humbled and a bit ashamed that many of the fellow campers and peppers just assumed somehow they could buy or would somehow without effort be provided with firewood for their needs for this event. We are preppers right? We worry daily about how to provide the basics for ourselves and our families while arming ourselves to the teeth to protect these resources from the zombie apocalypse we see coming from our neighbors wanting these supplies. How many of us actually prep or try to insure that our community has warmth and comfort? Rickey J. Jenkins does and he does it with a passion. Not for a disaster, not for promotional efforts or gain, no it’s because he wants you to enjoy and live life in the present. Now, right now! Now at this moment in your time of need when you need a helping hand and a friendly stranger willing to show you the best parts of humanity by giving of themselves and caring about someone else’s comfort and happiness. Kudos’ to you Mr. Jenkins. Kudos’ to you Thanks for all you do and have done.
The list of appreciation for small and large acts of cooperation, networking, finances, generosity, sharing and all around friendliness could fill volumes and should not be discounted, however this article is not about recounting everyone. It’s about giving credit where credit is due by thanking the notable individuals that this event would not have been possible without and acknowledging that each and every single prepper participant attending had through their own enduring efforts and interactions were the reason for this gatherings success. All the attendees were likeminded, caring and sharing individuals gathered for the sole reason of wanting to befriend others of similar passions and beliefs gathered under a banner of being a survivor and promoting preparedness.
You know you meet a lot of people in this world, but sometimes the compassionate deeds, generosity and the friendly support of some individuals goes so far beyond anything you ever experienced that it never ceases to amaze and touch you in some way that it sticks. PrepperStock would not have even been possible without the kind efforts and expenditures of Eric Smith who selected this fine campground, donated great prizes for the drawing, had extra preps and gear on hand for those needing it, reserved several camping sites out of his own pocket, brought in a trailer load of good oak firewood for the camp grounds and did a hundred other caring and sharing things I quietly observed to insure and enable the success of this gathering of the preppers. To a true Southern gentleman and one hell of a prepper I want to take this time to give heartfelt thanks from all of us and our gratitude.
Neil Couey of YouTube channel ndcouey70 is someone else I hold in high admiration. The man was everywhere with a helping hand, a quick joke, some advice whatever. He also made many nice contributions to the giveaway. His wife was also a joy to meet and sort of acted as official referee that I actually could “put back” in all the stuff I had in a small get home 72 hour bag in a reasonable amount of time once I made the mistake of demoing it!
A well-worn theme that always concerns those of the prepper ilk garnered questions which were often overheard either in hushed tones or group think speculation as to what those gathered thought about OPSEC or operational security regarding this event and personal preparedness issues in general.
Preppers are often obsessed with the need for secrecy regarding their desires or capabilities of preparing for disasters. The merits of keeping your food stash or your identity as a so called prepper undercover or under wraps has been well debated. The collective need or evolving personal realization that it takes a community to survive was examined in great depth as those of us who came out of the shadows to attend Prepper Stock shared differing philosophy’s and what it meant for us to assemble as we had. The prepper movement has now gone mainstream and varying published media articles lists our numbers as exceeding 3 or 4 million self described or practicing lifestyle members, although I think everyone realizes that figure only represents a number that the self-professed preppers who were willing to answer a questionnaire and not the refusal of the conspiracy theorists or OPSEC minded Prepper individuals. Needless to say the black helicopters didn’t come, DHS didn’t make us sign a roster and this year’s event participants were not herded into FEMA camps somewhere, or we were unduly targeted by Law enforcement officials this time.
When the PrepperStock black and yellow flag went up at the groups campground perimeter many speculated what the possible “sheeple campers” would think of our little doomsday get together affair. I mean seriously, if you’re an uninitiated outsider and your only perceived notions of preppers comes off NatGeo or the media hyped whacked out survivalist murder headlines that exasperate and sensationalize the populations perceptions of those that appear to choose to prepare to excess for a calamity; well in some peoples opinion anyway. All these campers wearing 2nd amendment rights, patriotic or zombie etc. t shirts, various tactical or otherwise belt knives, boonie hats, big pickup trucks with bumper stickers professing Molon Labe or other catch phrase might make you paranoid nervous or a bit skittish to be our neighbors but this was not to be the case. Unbeknownst to the majority of the prepper speculators, the founder of the event, one Mr. Bubba aka Lowbuck Prepper had already approached those big snazzy Rv`s that should have had a country bands names or Duck Dynasty emblazoned on them and laid the groundwork for mutual peace and harmony. He simply went over and told them who we were and why we were there and if we got too loud to just come tell him for us to quieten down and we would. The diverse families with small children approached assured him that we wouldn’t be a problem and if we had any issues with them, the same neighborly approach would be well received to promote camp harmony. New arrivals to the camp grounds were advised of our presence on the plateau by the Parks sweetheart of a manager Barbara and told that we were a “nice group of folks camping down there and she had received instructions that if they wished to attend our event, prepper or not, they were welcome according to everything she knew.”
I am glad she didn’t know everything about the gathering, because many marvelous events had been planned that would have drawn in even the most scaredy cat, prepper fearing surrounding cities residents if it had been known generally that a giveaway and world class BBq was on the agenda. The biggest thing that all readers should know and take into account regarding this assembly of preppers is that it is an unscripted event except for the opening date. There is no charge to the participants except for their own campsite fees to be paid to the park service and on that note let me say something else about that gentile women Barbara who I mentioned earlier was acting manager. There is an honor box to collect fees when an attendant is not on duty and I found it a bit confusing as to what price I should pay to be a several overnight guest on a camp site reservation holders place. LowBuck had rented a RV pad that I planned on pitching a tent in back of and the rate sheet at the gate appeared to say my fee would be $3.00 per night, per person. Since me and the mate could be considered a party of two I dutifully filled in the deposit envelop with the camp sites number we would be staying at and eighteen bucks for a three night stay because we would be leaving early Sunday evening instead of staying until the events official close Monday morning. We got there Thursday afternoon because anticipation, the need to see my Bubba and welcome arriving vehicles was offset by my desire not to suffer the cold snap 28 degree Wednesday weather prediction. Ok, I like my comfort zone and am not subject to my reader’s glorified expectations of me being a hardcore prepper if there is not some common sense reasoning behind me not wanting to expose my old bones to unnecessary misery if it can be avoided. Anyway, the price was $3.00 per car, not per person and Barbara immediately sought us ought and rectified the accounting with a refund as soon as the discrepancy was noted.
Back to why this event and certain highlights were so amazing. Just as I said there was no cost of admission to this event to those wanting to attend, neither is there any requirement to contribute anything to festivities other than yourself. Fact is that any group offering or anyone giving any kind of donations to the common good is strictly a personally funded individual initiative donated in support of PrepperStock and its participants. YouTuber PopPrepper put the icing on the cake for our affair by generously cooking up and smoking a whole hog on site that had our taste buds tingling for days as its delicious aroma wafted through the woods getting ready for a feast for all. More on him later.
Let me elaborate here for a moment on this events community participation and allow me to use the ticket drawing to win prepper prizes that the annual participants relish and anticipate as an additional example. The gifts are assembled piecemeal by those individuals who for no other reasons than personal satisfaction in giving of themselves or resources to others or in support and allegiance for LowBuck’s efforts and the concept of PrepperStock to promote the event. The goods from many good hearted preppers are gathered up, tickets given out and the drooling over prizes and jokes about a gag gift or two begin.
I say drooling because there is some really neat stuff given away both handmade and commercial every year. The table was groaning from the weight of Fillet knife sets , fishing rods, Para cord articles, camp stoves, wood stoves, T shirts, a set of military surplus stretchers donated, you name it, all held up by a bunch of green ammo cans that were also part of the giveaway. YouTuber BCTruck hand crafted a bunch of rocket stoves and emblazoned a signature piece with the collectable Prepper Stock 2014 logo. The most coveted prize of the day was won by Prepper audio book producer Pat Lambert from PopPrepper who built it in his enormous cabinet shop. This prize was a magnificent polished maple and cherry butcher block that had everyone’s fingers crossed that they might could win such a fine piece of skilled wood working craftsmanship. This prize was awesome both in looks and in strong functionality; I bet it weighed almost 40 lbs! You can see the entire giveaway and other highlights on YouTube; Do yourself and the channel producers a favor by doing a search for PrepperStock or Prepper Stock in YouTube and watching the fun. Don’t forget to rate and subscribe to all the channels representing their own insights and outtakes on this self-reliance event.
The author of the Prepper Trilogy Ron Foster got his corporate supporters to once again contribute products for the event and brought in Schrade knives and axes by Taylor Brand knives. A Stovetec double door rocket stove (http://stovetecstore.net/ )was demoed by Ron cooking up some Seafood Chowder by Mountain House in a SuperPot that was wowed over by all. Stovetec also provided a water pasteurizer, fire starters and a single door stove for the giveaway.
A new innovative and technologically advanced lightweight backpackers style rocket stove called the SilverFire Scout (http://www.silverfire.us/) was ever present in Ron`s and LowBuck’s camp cooking the morning coffee. Ron donated his demo models to YouTube channel ImRamro and blogger Pat for “In The Groove”, http://plambert001.wordpress.com/2014/02/22/prepping/ for review after the giveaway so be sure to watch for upcoming news. Ron also gave out over a $1,000 worth of free promotional book coupons to listen to any of his books on Audible.com. Many people were aware of his printed books but were unaware he had branched out into this new format. The excitement grew amongst his readers as it became known that the author was seeking everyone’s input for a book he was considering writing that would be set in this exact location and include a lot of the events participants as fictional characters in a novel.
What if a disaster cut off the two roads leading into camp stranding the attendees of this prepper campout together as the rest of the United States began to collapse? It would be a simple affair to envision this type of calamity because a terrorist attack could take out the two dams upstream and a further cyber attack on the countries grid or any other manmade or natural disaster might occur. How would the campground residents handle it? What did the preppers present at the assembly think might occur amongst our group? What is fun to consider is that Ron often basis his fictional stories on real life known and unknown preppers so this tale should resonate personally for many and make it that much more interesting and enriching to read.
I myself can not wait until next years Prepper Stock rolls around and the packing and repacking begins as I am already getting ready to gather with new faces and old. I won’t ever need to again personally learn that most folks have more good in them than society will ever recognize or think about regarding the labors of love preppers do daily spreading the words of preparedness and doing kind acts for others, I already know this. However, it’s great when we all come together as one to affirm their efforts, shake their hands and partake of a few adult beverages making lifelong bonds and memories. See you at the next Prepper Stock!