A Letter from Karl, The Survivalist

Personal Reflection: In the following piece Gerald wrote as George Prell, introducing us to more ideas on living a minimalist lifestyle to survive.


There are four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceedingly wise; The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their food in the summer; The conies are but a feeble folk, yet they make their houses in the rocks; The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands; The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings’ palaces. (Proverbs 30:24-28)

When I opened my mail box yesterday, among the usual advertisements, I found a letter from Karl, the survivalist. It was a fat envelope with hand written pages and a number of photographs.

I looked at the pictures first. They showed men and women with gear which I could not identify in many cases, a variety of people in a rustic setting very much like a flea market and a campground combined. There were standard camping tents and improvised shelters made from tarps, boards, old signs, and in one case, a kind of lean to teepee with overlapping pieces of bark over tree branches. People had goods of all kinds spread out on army blankets, and newspapers and some just spread out on the ground, which was covered with pine needles.

There was a picture of Helga, dressed in a soft leather skirt (deerskin?) and matching top which had been decorated, Indian style with handsewn beads. She wore a necklace of turquoise and silver which didn’t exactly match her outfit, neither did her blue tennis shoes, but in her case it didn’t matter. She was just beautiful and so serene in her countenance that you could picture her at ease in any surroundings.

Karl’s letter began:


Dear George,

Pay no attention to the postmark. It is from my mail drop at Boulder where all my mail is sent. I either have them box it up and send it in care of “general delivery” to wherever I am, or even drop in and pick it up in person. It is a neat service and very confidential.

Heard about how a guy with a post office box who thought he was safe from detection, anonymous, you know. But a detective mailed him a big red envelope. The detective waited in his car for someone to come out with this red envelope and nailed him. Not that most of us need to be so secretive, but it is good to practice just in case we ever do, don’t you agree?

Who is “us”? Well you can see from the pictures Helga and I have been to a survivalist get together in a mountain meadow. It was great, man. There were people of every type, latter day hippies, Latter Day Saints, Buddists and all kinds of Christians, real Bible people. I guess the way to describe it was it was a modern mountain man pow wow. People with all kinds of skills and interests get together and buy and sell stuff. Some are geniuses at adapting, some are pathetic amateurs and some are just nuts I guess. But when you spend time together, camping out and eating together you can kind of sort them out, like I suppose they do me.

You could divide survivalists into various categories, I suppose. Like me, I am a kind of tecno scrounger. There are primitives, who learn the old ways, like the Indians and the pioneers who lived off of animals mostly, like deer. I always wanted a deerskin, buckskin jacket.

By the way, I found out why the old timers’ jackets had those long fringes on the sleeves. Ever wonder about that? Seems like they would get tangled in branches and stuff. But they had a very important purpose. They broke up your profile, so your silhouette didn’t look like a human. When you froze in position the fringes would blow in the wind just like foliage.

And those old Kentucky rifles! Made in Pennsylvania, used in Kentucky, you can still get them and some of these guys love them. I asked one of them, “Why does the stock dip down so low? Seems like when you put it up to your shoulder you couldn’t see the sights?? He said, “They didn’t put them to their shoulders, they braced them against their upper arms while they were taking cover behind trees or rocks. The low butt allowed for this. They could really fire from concealment that way. Hardly any part of their bodies were revealed, just part of their face and arm, braced on the ground, which could blend with the outline of a tree.”

“Why the long barrels?” I asked him. “To give a longer sighting radius. The greater the distance between the front and rear sights, the greater the accuracy. With the old iron sights they could get about two minutes of angle or a two inch circle at a hundred yards, not bad.” “But didn’t the long barrels whip when the guns were fired?” “They compensated for that by using a soft metal that didn’t spring under the pressure of firing. The touch holes where the sparks from the flint ignited the powder were made of platinum which has an extremely high melting point. This made them last a lifetime of shooting. Modern muzzle loaders have steel touch holes that need to be replaced.”

I asked him about powder horns, he used one. “Well, it was an available resource, it was waterproof and the curve of the horn fit your body. They shaved off the inside of the horn to make it lighter and increase the powder capacity. When it’s thin enough you can see through it and check your powder supply without opening the spout and exposing the powder to moisture. And last of all, the horns were beautiful. The old time guys loved beauty, their rifles and accoutrements are beautiful.”

I was not surprised to see men there who had powder horns for sale, handcrafted, in different sizes and degrees of craftsmanship. What I didn’t expect to see was a guy living out of a pup tent under a low hanging tree branch loaded with aluminum wind chimes!

“If you don’t mind me asking, What have aluminum wind chimes to do with survival,” I said. “Well, I’m glad you did ask. Most people pass me by like I was a nut case. You see, when you are in the city, you need money for stuff like food, of course. I was thinking of what could I make that I could sell? You ever notice that among all the stuff people leave at the curb for the trash man there is all these old lawn furniture pieces with broken webbing. I thought, ‘what could I make with all that aluminum tubing?’ I glommed onto some to experiment with. You have to kind of pick it up on the run, just grab it as you walk by because it is illegal in most places to scrounge. But I had some tools,” (he held up a hand cranked drill), “and I drilled out the rivets and took one apart. I cut up the frame into useable lengths,” (he held up a mini tubing cutter), “and as I handled them I noticed the sound the pieces made when they banged together. Anyway I drilled little holes in them and suspended them from monofilament line. You can make a lot of wind chimes with a big spool of fishing line.”

I bought one from him. He carefully folded the pieces together and put a rubber band around them and handed it to me in a Wal Mart bag. “Just another way to survive.” He said he sometimes just ate canned black beans and Spam but he made it OK.

Well I could go on forever, like the transport guys, they call themselves, “land and sea”. A guy bundled up some styrofoam slabs with duct tape and used it for a boogie board to splash across an arm of the lake. He didn’t stay in long, the water was cold up there. “Anything that floats” he said. “The world is mostly water, learn to get around on it.”

Another guy makes a kind of all terrain walkers. He got the idea from seeing how much relief he got for his sore knees when he leaned on a grocery cart. He says you get around with them and can take your gear with you too.

The gun guys, my heart is with them maybe most of all. I asked one fellow who had reloading supplies, all portable. One outfit could be carried in a lunch box. “Are you worried about trouble coming?” I asked him. “Hopin’ for trouble”, he told me.

Like I said, I could go on forever about these amazing people. I am concerned that some of them believe Christians are going through the Tribulation. I know you don’t. I believe like you do, but some of these people are hard to convince. They quote a lot of passages that seem to prove we will go through at least part of the tribulation.

Well, whatever comes, I know some people who are preparing, each in their own way and you got to love them.

Did you ever get to that turn off in the mountains you and your wife once visited?

Your friend,


P.S. Be careful carrying red envelopes.

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.