The Survivalist

Personal Reflection: Gerald believed in introducing new ideas through stories. In this piece he writes as George Prell who meets Karl for the first time. Karl is the kind of survivalist Gerald idealized–someone who lived an extremely minimalist life and had an interest in Bible prophecy.


“Never pick up hitchhikers” has been my motto for years, but I had a different feeling about this one. He had a carton at his feet as he stood on a busy street in Fort Collins, Colorado, that lead out of town. He leaned in the window when I came to a stop. “I just need a lift to my home about five miles up the road,” he said. It was fine with me and I had him put his carton in the rear seat and join me up front.

“Haven’t I just seen you somewhere before,” I asked?

“You could have, if you were at the gun and knife show. I have a table there. You might have seen me selling books, that’s what’s in the carton.”

“That’s it,” I said. “Sorry I didn’t get around to your table, but I wanted to get back on the road. I just stopped to check out the guns, see what is available. So what kind of books do you have?”

“My own”, he smiled. “Been working on it for years. I keep adding to it as I get new information, people send me ideas all the time.”

“You’ve got me curious”, I said. “I don’t meet many authors. What is your book about?”

“ Well, I hope I don’t freak you out, but I’m a survivalist, my book is about shelter, that’s my specialty.” He looked at me, gauging my reaction.

“No problem,” I assured him. “I’m a survivalist too, it’s at the heart of my philosophy. But I want to hear about you and your book.”

“Like I said, it’s a shelter book. My specialty is converting automobiles into survival shelters, old cars, junkers to be exact. I’m living in one now, that’s where I’m heading.”

I had to admit I had not heard about cars as shelters, not on a planned basis. I was fascinated, and told him so. He was glad to have someone to talk to who was as interested as I was and he opened up to me. But just as he was starting to tell me his story his road came into view.

“That’s it,” he said, “just a dirt trail, you could drive right by if you didn’t know it as there.”

As I slowed to a stop, he looked at me closely, making a decision. “Want to see my place? It’s not far off the road.”

Although I had a journey to complete, I couldn’t turn down his invitation. “Love to.” I turned into the dirt lane and after we pulled in, the road disappeared behind the foliage of the trees and shrubs.

“You can park here,” he said, “it gets a little hard to drive the rest of the way.”

As we walked along the rutted road he explained that this was not his property, he had made a deal with the owner, who had an a frame farther off the road. He watched the property in exchange for free parking rights. “It’s nice,” he said, “everything doesn’t have to be for money. I guard his place, he let’s me live here and it’s an exchange that benefits both of us.”

We were approaching his shelter, a Chevy Citation, if I remember the model right. He held a door open so I could look inside. The seats had been removed. The interior was painted in bright colors, and gear was stowed in plywood boxes and foot lockers. He pulled two folding camp chairs from the trunk and we sat down to talk. I asked how this had all started.

“Oh, about ten years ago I figured the world was going to hell, things were coming apart in the economy and so forth. I kept thinking about what I would do, where I would live if I lost my job and couldn’t get another one. I read that a local family had been rousted from living in their car while the father was out of work. I wondered how they could live like that, a whole family! Could I do it? I found out at least one book had been written about how to live in a car, and there is a section in Life After Doomsday about using a car for a fallout shelter.

“But I was thinking about taking it farther. What if you didn’t even own a car? What if you were down and out, but could get an abandoned car. You know you can be paid to haul one away! So that’s where I went. I used to lie in bed at night thinking up ways to convert an abandoned car into living quarters. Since it didn’t run anyway, take out the engine and the drive train. Take off the exhaust system, and so forth. And disconnect the drive shaft from the differential. Save more weight and decrease the rolling resistance.”

“But why be concerned about rolling resistance if there’s no engine?”, I interrupted.

“Because you may want to move it, push it around into position, take it on the road as a trailer.” He got to his feet, walked to the front of his car home and pointed out the hitch in the front. “This baby tows like a dream,” he said. “Did you notice it has trailer plates?

“Why not just use a camping trailer?” I asked without thinking.

“Cost, availability”, he said. “Plus, they stand out. A car converted into a trailer home still looks like a car. And think how many cars are junked every year. People want to get rid of them.”

“So you’ve been doing this for ten years?” I asked.

“Oh, no”, he said. “I just gathered information and wrote about it. I made up my book and started offering it at gun shows. A friend of mine sold magazines and I used his table for awhile. Then Helga came along.” He pointed behind me to a clearing where a blond woman was hanging up wash on a line. She was wearing camo cargo pants and a khaki tank top. Her only concession to color was the blue ribbon on her braid.

He continued, “She stopped at my table and looked at the book, read a lot of it, really took her time. She asked if I lived in a converted car. I thought it was a putdown, maybe. But when I told her, ‘No, I had an apartment’, she said, ‘Oh, you just write about it, but you don’t do it.’ That,” he said, “was the put down. I took her up on the challenge. We drove to some barbeque place and talked about our beliefs, started to get to know one another. We really saw eye to eye on a lot of things and that’s how we ended up together out here.”

I was curious about why such a lovely woman would be willing to live under such rugged conditions and asked him about it.

“Oh, Helga believes like I do, that weird times are coming. She is as avid a survivalist as I am, maybe more so. Women sometimes pick up on stuff we men miss out on. We read about it, but they feel it. Maybe it is about protecting the young, preserving civilization, you know”.

Helga was washing clothes with a sink plunger in a plastic pail. She rinsed them in another pail and ran them through a hand cranked wringer mounted on a tree stump. She saw us looking at her and gave a little three fingered wave, a clothespin in her hand.

“She’s quite a lady,” he said, “feminine as all get out, but hard core about survival. We both think this one world government that is coming will micro chip us and try to make slaves out of everybody. They are setting us up for the Anti Christ. The technology is here now to make it possible.”

How many times I had heard about micro chipping, and one world government in connection with the coming Anti-Christ. And how I wished this man had researched prophecy as well as he had his improvised shelters.

By this time I had learned his name was Karl and I think he was starting to trust me. I had listened carefully to all he told and showed me and I was genuinely interested.

“Karl, I’m impressed with the car shelter idea and I’d like to know more. In fact, I’d like to buy one of your books and I could even have an outlet for you in Cincinnati. But I’m a survivalist too and I want to tell you about my area of concern. First of all, I agree times look like they could go critical soon, at least we should be prepared in case they do. But you know the old saying about how dangerous the world is. It’s so bad that nobody has ever made it out alive. Except two, that is, Enoch and Elijah.”

“You mean the rapture,” he said. “I believe in it, and when I read The Late Great Planet Earth, it really helped me to decide to get serious about preparing for trouble because I know it’s coming.

“Helga is a Lutheran, or was a Lutheran .She said they are great people, but a little conservative for her. She tried to tell them about the same kind of things I worry about but they said she was getting fanatical. She’s tough minded, but I think she’s scared. She’s not too sure about what the Bible says will happen to Christians in the time ahead. I can’t tell her for certain myself. A lot of people say the church will be raptured during the great tribulation and I think that’s what she’s preparing for.”

“Karl, you probably know there are three main views on the rapture that people believe today. Quite a few, like the old time Lutherans, for example, don’t think about it much at all. Some of them still talk about the Millerites who sold all their property, dressed up in white robes and stood on hills and roof tops waiting for the Lord’s return. These people just make fun of the rapture, or dismiss it entirely. It’s always easier to make fun of people or ideas then it is to study the Bible and see what’s true.

“But among those who believe in our being caught up to be with the Lord, there are three main positions. They are known as pre, mid and post tribulation rapture. And there is a further subdivision which is the partial rapture position. These people believe that when Jesus returns he will take only those worthy to go to heaven at that time and leave the rest here to suffer through the tribulation.”

“Like that song,” Karl said “’I Wish We’d All Been Ready’.”

“That’s it Karl. This doctrine is sometimes called ‘the dismembered bride’, a horrible name for, what to me, is a horrible doctrine. They have Jesus taking part of his bride to heaven and leaving the rest behind.

“As far as the post tribulationists, who believe Jesus returns after the tribulation, what can you say? They take a passage like Matthew 24:29 31 about Jesus gathering his elect after the tribulation and apply it to the church. Matthew 24 is one of the great prophecies in the Bible, but the church is not in it except that when Jesus returns, the church will be with him. But at this point in scripture the church is still a mystery. It was revealed to Paul after Jesus had ascended. He tells about it in Ephesians 3:5 and 6. This gathering is a rapture, but it is not the rapture of the church.”

“You mean there is more than one rapture?“ Karl said a little skeptically.

“There are a number of them, some have already occurred. Enoch, who was a gentile, was taken before the flood. Many see him as a type of the church, which is mostly gentiles, being taken up before the great tribulation. Elijah was a Jew and he is a type too, in the eyes of many.

“I believe the church will be taken before any part of the tribulation. There are a number of reasons to believe this is true. Jesus says in Revelation 3:10 that he will deliver believers from the time of temptation that will come upon all who dwell upon the earth. In King James ‘temptation’ means trial or testing. It is another word here for tribulation. And there can be no confusion as to who is meant, it is in the letters to the seven churches. There is much more evidence in favor of the pre tribulation rapture, I believe it is overwhelming. I could go on forever, and from the looks of that sun beginning to go down, I may.”

“But you didn’t say anything about the mid position,” said Karl.

“No, and neither does the Bible. But they deserve to be heard, it is very popular to teach and believe the mid tribulation today. It puts the church into the tribulation period, which is the period of Israel’s testing. Jeremiah calls it the time of Jacob’s trouble. Jeremiah 30:7.

“It also places the church exactly in the middle of Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks, Daniel 9:21 24, which deals with the nation Israel and 69 weeks of which have already been literally fulfilled, all concerning Israel and not the church. So much wrong teaching and believing comes from applying prophecies for Israel to the church. We need to study before we speak.

“I really need to leave now. Thanks so much for hearing me out, and I really do want a copy of your book. I can see where such shelters could be very useful without any tribulation period. Maybe just a reversal of fortune, like losing a job.”

As we walked towards his shelter to get the book, Karl asked where I was headed.

“I’m looking for a little pulloff in the mountains, Karl. There is a fast running stream. My wife and I went there on our last trip out west. She picked up a sparkling rock from the stream. She used to keep it on her desk. I want to see that place one more time, although I know I’ll cry just thinking about her not being with me any more. The last thing I said to her as she was in her casket was, ‘I’ll see you in the rapture, Honey.’”

“Before the tribulation”, said Karl, as he handed me one of his books.

Author: Gerald Franz

Gerald Franz (1935-2014) was like a second father to me in the 27 years I knew him. Brilliant and eccentric, with a wide array of interests, he fit the definition of being gifted. He strove to shake people loose from their conventional thinking. As a Bible believing Christian, his favorite and most studied Bible subject was prophecy. Writing became a means of teaching in his later years. See more about Gerald here.