By Mikey Taylor
“If you believe you can accomplish everything by “cramming” at the eleventh hour, by all means, don’t lift a finger now. But you may think twice about beginning to build your ark once it has already started raining”
― Max Brooks, The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead
Be prepared. The Boy Scouts have used that simple phrase as a motto since 1907. On the weekend of May 17th, 2013, members of the Omaha Chapter of The Zombie Research Society took this advice to heart when they gathered for the 3rd annual Omaha ZRS Survival Retreat.
The event was kicked off by playful posts on social media pages, such as Facebook and Twitter, about strange events and odd behaviors being witnessed in the Omaha area. One faux news report told of a band of survivors gathering near the small town of South Bend, seemingly setting up some sort of encampment and training newcomers in the ways of survival.
In actuality, folks were “roughing it” on property owned by my father, ZRS member and instructor for this event Wally Taylor. While they had clean running water and indoor plumbing to use, not many other modern convinces were available.
The participants quickly overcame and adapted, scavenging a nearby junk pile and building an impressive “hobo camp” from discarded air conditioning units and a swing set. The group quickly built a fire and set about getting to know each other over a few beverages. The first evening was capped off with a movie screening featuring selections from my locally famous collection of really crappy movies.
Early on Saturday morning, some campers started preparing breakfast while others set about learning how to butcher chickens for the evening meal. The group quickly completed this task and thanks to an improvised rotisserie over the camp fire, the birds were left to slowly cook.
The group met back up at the range for some firearms training. A double barrel shotgun and .357 pistol were the weapons of choice that day. The group did fairly well on average, seeing as how most of the shooters had limited or no previous experience.
After a lunch break, the attendees headed into the dojo for some hand to hand training. My father and myself are both registered instructors in the Japanese martial art of Aikido, so we shared some simple techniques for self defense.
We did the obligatory “zombie attack” defenses, but also made clear the point that in an apocalyptic setting other survivors who have grown greedy or desperate are a bigger threat. With this in mind, we trained on how to escape and subdue an attacker from various grabs, attacks, and strikes.
After a very spirited session, the members were ready to retire to the camp site for chicken dinner and a few refreshing beers. After the meal, there was a hands on demonstration on how to sharpen a blade. Attendees had requested this be addressed as it would be a valid concern in a survival situation. Another craptastic double feature, along with a severe storm, rounded out night number two.
The campers who opted to stay dry and sleep inside ventured out in the morning to see how the folks who slept outside had fared.
Fresh eggs from the chicken coop were on the menu for breakfast as everyone prepared for the weapons class in the dojo. We focused on the short stick, staff, and knife this year. In years past we also included the katana, but opted to keep things more realistic this go around.
The members not only learned how to properly use these weapons, but how to defend against them should someone try to attack them. After a brutal session, the participants were ready to relax around the fire and discuss improvised weapons, including members presenting weapons that they had either scavenged or made during the weekend.
Then tents were packed up, fires were extinguished, and the survivors said their good byes and parted ways. They left with some new found knowledge, were reminded of skills that may have been forgotten, and began to reflect on what was successful and what was not. A wise man once said “You never know what you can do until you try.”
There is a group in Omaha, Nebraska that did try, and now they don’t have to wonder if they on the right path for survival. Now they know, and if we’ve learned anything from television, “Knowing is half the battle.”