Prepping and risk

Dad was a Canadian soldier who had planned to stay in The Netherlands after the war ended. He knew the Dutch would rebuild and he was going to start a taxi service with old army vehicles. 

Dad had spent seven years slogging his way through Europe in the war. He liked Europe and imagined he would like it much more in peacetime.

He didn’t want to take Mom away from her family. He was willing to give up his country so she would be happy. While Dad was dreaming of the life he was going to build for them in The Netherlands, Mom had other ideas.

My Mother wanted out of The Netherlands, and it couldn’t be fast enough for her. She recognized how vulnerable they actually were in a disaster. Canada represented safety and abundance to her.

The war had been the final straw. Her young life had been pretty tough before the war started. She had been removed from school in Grade 4 so she could help care for her rapidly growing brood of siblings. 

Her father was an alcoholic, unpredictable and violent when drunk. Her mother had neither wanted nor expected the life that unfolded with him.

Mom decided that she was never going to end up like her mother. She would be the Captain of her ship and she was sailing it straight out of Europe.

Mom and Dad had some language issues to contend with early in their relationship, which could have accounted for some of the confusion about their future plans. However, they sorted it out and Mom made it to Canada.

My Mom said when she got off the ship as a war bride, she expected Gene Autry to come riding along any minute. She wondered where all the cowboys and Indians were. Movies were her escape and had influenced her expectations as a child.

To the Dutch of that era, Canada was “cowboys and Indians.” Apart from that, most Dutch people didn’t have a clue as to what was in store for them here.

The long ship ride across the Atlantic was a chaotic journey full of vomiting pregnant war brides, vomiting sea sick war brides and screaming infants in need of a diaper change.

The Red Cross nurses ran from one room to the next caring for the women and their infants. Mom who had given birth to my brother in The Netherlands, was sea sick and caring for her roommate, who also had an infant.

She refused to ever set foot on another ship or boat again. Forty years later, we still couldn’t get her off dry land for a paddlewheel dinner cruise on a river.

After the ship docked, she had to get on a train and travel from Atlantic Canada to Winnipeg, Manitoba. This was another challenge for the exhausted and still nauseous war brides. 

The expanse of the Canadian landscape was highlighted on the long train journey west. The infamous Canadian winter weather was also emphasized after the train landed in Winnipeg. My Mom, who was holding my brother in her arms, descended the train and was greeted by the icy blast of a Winnipeg winter. 

It was a quick, awkward hug because Dad’s arms were full of winter gear. He was trying to get parkas, hats, mittens and footwear on both of them. Mom recalled that she had no idea that anywhere on Earth could be that cold. 

Yet, here she was, after her recent war experience and Atlantic crossing, wondering what fresh Hell this was as they travelled across the frozen Manitoba prairie to their temporary home with my Aunt Grace on the farm.

She accepted the cold and embraced Canada as her new home. The cold was a small price to pay for the safety she felt in this immense new land.

My Dad had tried to explain how large Canada is by telling her you could put The Netherlands into Lake Manitoba and still have plenty of room left over. 

She didn’t really understand the vastness of Canada until they began to travel across it later in their lives.

This brings us to another young couple who decided to embark upon a self-sufficient lifestyle in the Canadian wilderness.

In the early 1970’s a young couple decided to join the “back to the land” movement. We’ll call them “Charlie” and “Susie” (not their real names).

Charlie and Susie had emigrated to Canada from The Netherlands. Like many of their countrymen, the young couple had wildly unrealistic ideas of what Canada is really like to live in.

They decided to purchase a cabin unseen in a place and a country they had never visited.

Charlie and Susie arrived in Prince Rupert, British Columbia with a suitcase full of dreams and some clothing geared for Dutch weather.

They prepared for their GREAT CANADIAN HOMESTEADING ADVENTURE by purchasing canned goods, a couple of axes and some hand tools. They were so excited! Guess what? That was all they bought! Whoo Hoo! Let the homesteading begin!

Not to put the cart before the horse (they didn’t have either one), you can begin to see where this is going.

The young and exuberant couple hired a truck and travelled as far as they could go Inland from the North Coast of British Columbia. 

When they arrived at the cabin, they discovered it was indeed, remote. They also discovered they were the proud new owners of a very old and ramshackle cabin.

Charlie and Susie had a great time until their canned food ran out and winter set in. They decided to walk out.

Five months later a man found the young couple, lost, starving and stark raving mad. They were approximately two hundred and fifty miles from where they had been attempting to homestead.

They spent many months in hospital recovering physically and mentally from their adventure. Susie returned to The Netherlands after she recovered.

Charlie decided to stay in Canada and returned to live near where they had attempted to homestead. This time, he chose a less risky path to wilderness living. He became a logger and learned how to live in the wild without killing himself. 

He built a beautiful chalet style home and remarried. Indigenous land claims forced Charlie and his wife out of their home and off their land. The stress ended his marriage with his second wife.

Charlie had spent thirty years as a logger in The Queen Charlotte Islands (now Haida Gwaii). He had survived an incredible lesson in unpreparedness with his first wife, Susie. He had gone on to find a way to have the lifestyle he dreamed of, only to lose it all again thirty years later.

This time, Charlie returned to The Netherlands. He had reached his limit and refused to start over again. 

Frankly, with this much time invested in Canada and a lifestyle he loved, I don’t understand why he quit when he did. There are so many other beautiful places in British Columbia (and in Canada) that he could have lived.

Risk aversion and risk tolerance are two sides of a very important coin. It can take time and experience to understand the risk of each choice and decision we make. Impulse can lead us to a good result as easily as the best laid plans can go awry.

A wise prepper understands that this coin can test one’s mettle and resourcefulness, regardless of which side it lands upon.

We can turn our prepping dreams into a realistic, practical lifestyle if we know our limits, skills and abilities.


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