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Thread: A long but very good article about Tappan and his survival community

  1. #1
    Senior Member Mtnman Mike's Avatar
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    Default A long but very good article about Tappan and his survival community

    The following was one of several books and articles that greatly influenced me about 30 years ago.
    I really like the first part and towards the end is the story of Hawk, a guy who lives alone in the wild near Rogue River, Oregon.
    The middle part is about Mel Tappan and some of his followers.

    If anyone has ever read this before on paper or on the net, please post or message me.
    I cannot remember where I first saw it and have it now only on xerox copies.

    I really like all of the following and hope you all will also.

    ************************************************** **********************************

    Somewhere, far down the narrow dirt road leading from the highway to the house, a vehicle tripped the battery powered sensor. A buzzer sounded in the living room, conversation ceased and we were outside, running low to the ground. Turk, in the lead, his woman tight in behind him like a halfback on a pulling guard. I in the rear, slipping in my street shoes on the wet rocks.
    Turk had the H&K, a nasty looking, flat black .308 caliber battle rifle that could put a bullet through a fair sized tree and kill whoever was behind it.
    The woman had an AR-15, somewhat lighter but deadly enough. I had a shotgun thrust on me as we went out the door, though with its pistol grip, folded stock and short slug barrel, it didn't look like any pheasant gun I'd ever seen.

    We covered a hundred yards or so through the woods, veered sharply off the trail, climbing steeply, when suddenly Turk was gone, vanishing like smoke through the dense brush and I was scrambling after the woman down a ladder into an underground bunker, where we peered through narrow openings at the road below.
    I was scared, sweating heavily, my adrenalin pumping, my stomach clenched like an angry fist, nearly nuts from lack of sleep (hoping maybe I was asleep), while the woman next to me, taking long, controlled, audible breaths, drew a rock-steady bead on the road with her AR and the sound of an engine laboring up the long hill came to us like the cry of an animal in pain.
    It was a pickup truck and when the spot came on it, surely blinding the driver for an instant, I could see Turk leap from the bushes and feel the woman tense.
    "God help me if I have to fire this gun," I thought, but it was only a couple of friends coming out from town to say hello and Turk, bouncing and feinting in the weird, foggy light, was his jovial self again.

    Back at the house, the woman - call her Rita - cooked spaghetti. She was short and dark, a trifle overweight, with an animated, intelligent face. Her husband had been killed several years before in an automobile accident, leaving her with a small daughter, now six, who slept peacefully in the attic through the entire defense operation.
    Rita had been with Turk for just over a year. She was 32, originally from the Midwest, where she taught art in high school until the fine-arts program was cut. Then she moved to San Diego, lived with a sister, and tended bar.
    "I never fired a gun before I met Turk," she told me. "I was a pacifist. I marched against the war. But times have changed, man. Fat city's over and if you don't take some serious action to protect your ***, its gonna get skinned."
    While she cooked, Turk and the two men from the truck checked out a sinister looking crossbow one of them had brought along. "Nice," said Turk. "Lets you put meat on the table and nobody'll know you're out in the woods."
    I sat sipping a beer, listening to my heart wind down. This siege mentality would take some getting used to and besides, I was working on a transcontinental flight and a day and a half of picking my way from San Francisco to the backwoods of Oregon.

    "How you like survival country?" Turk asked me now. "You greet all your friends that way?" I asked him. "Uh uh," answered Turk. "Got to practice various alternatives. Sometimes we kill the lights and wait in the tree platforms. Sometimes one of us makes the bunker and the other stays.
    Sometimes we both just sit here sippin wine till whoever it is comes in the yard.
    But I tell you one damn thing, I don't ever go out on that front porch to greet anybody with less than that shotgun you were carrying. You never know when the crunch is gonna hit but when it does, brother, we're gonna be ready."

    The crunch. The giant ****storm. The big shutdown. It might come next week, or it might come in a few years, but it was coming, just as sure as sunrise. That was what it was all about for a whole lot of recent arrivals up here in Oregon, and in pockets of North Carolina, Montana (up around Kalispell), Idaho and Washington State; and for others, spread around the country, who weren't yet about to move.
    They were survivalists, people who saw the end of a world where systems worked, services were provided, utilities functioned, neighbors smiled on the street and said have a nice day.
    Survivalists were aiming to go through this crunch and come out the other side intact; so they bought gold and silver, plenty of storable food, water purifiers and generators, medicines and spare auto parts.

    They learned to fix things, grow crops, tend livestock; they acquired trades that would be indispensable when the crunch came--mechanic, plumber, electrician, stone mason, logger, woodworker, carpenter, cook, emergency medical technician--and items they could barter.
    And they were armed, extensively so, because come the day of reckoning, the pickup truck in the driveway might be filled with looters, marauders, raiders or just plain desperate, hungry people willing to kill for the supplies someone else had socked away.

    The least-committed to the survival movement bought some goods, stayed home, and went about their business with a little hedge; those further along bought a place in the country to run to at the first sign of trouble; but the true believers uprooted themselves, abandoned or altered their careers, left comfortable, accustomed life-styles, picked locations they felt were safe, and retreated.

    In another time they would have seemed absurd, hopelessly paranoid, bomb-shelter bonkers, but they were singing the words to a tune that was being hummed with an increasing frequency throughout the land, first in checkout lines, gas stations, mortgage departments, and now nearly everywhere I traveled: a kind of collective uneasiness that had blossomed into national trembling. "What the hell's going to happen?" everyone was asking.
    "We know, and it won't be pretty," said the survivalists. In a way their answer drew on things that have always been with us--the guns, the love affair with the rough-and-tumble, do-it-yourself frontier, the circle of wagons. But there was a difference, a new twist. The romance was gone. This was the flip side of the American Dream, contraction instead of expansion, mistrust in the future instead of faith, a turning inward like the closing petals of a flower.
    I decided to check them out.

    As with all movements, survivalism had its leaders, and after considerable research, wading through popularizers, commune organizers, hard-sell pitchmen, ex-nazis, obvious maniacs, I found one, a survival consultant and author of a book on firearms, named Mel Tappan, who seemed to approach the subject with intuitive clarity and a degree of irony. The majority of his clients were doctors, lawyers, military men, and cops, all of whom, it seemed, would be drawn to thoroughness and a clear articulation of vulnerability, real or imagined.
    "Almost every important movement, either to the wisdom or survival of the human race looks peculiar to the masses," he told me on the phone, "because anything effective in the long run is not what's happening at the moment. Sure survivalism is different; it's gotta be different, and that's what attracts some loonies. But remember, if a guy is looking on the darker side of you, he's either gotten carried away and sees things that aren't there, or he knows a good deal more about the subject than you."

    More of this story in the next couple posts for only 10,000 characters allowed

  2. #2
    Senior Member Mtnman Mike's Avatar
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    By coincidence, an old friend of mine, a professional guide, had become a survivalist and moved to Rogue River, Oregon, the site of Tappan's retreat. "Come on out," he told me. "I'll introduce you to Mel and show you around. Town ain't much, but, you know, that's what you want. Low profile, low profile." But when I arrived, I found my friend had gone off to track a wounded bear in the mountains of northern California and had placed another of Tappan's followers, the man call Turk, at my disposal.

    Carl, the driver of the pickup, and Steve, his companion, finished their spaghetti and began examining the truncated shotgun, which, in addition to the special stock, had a magazine extension that increased its capacity from five shells to eight. A short, owlish man of 30 in a lumber jacket, Carl had been a tax lawyer in the East until a year ago; now he did electrical work, repaired small gas engines, and was learning to farm. He'd gotten nervous during the 1973 gas crisis, become alarmed when two of his accounts, a trucking company and a large steam fitting outfit, both of which had been in business more than 30 years, went under in the space of a month.
    He decided to move when five teenagers methodically robbed a dozen people in his apartment building at gunpoint. He told Turk he'd like to modify his own Remington 870 pump the same way.

    Steve, who was a tall, thin, business man from Chicago dressed in jeans and a cowboy shirt and was about to move to Rogue River, mentioned that Remington wouldn't sell the magazine extensions to civilians, but Turk gave them the address of man named Choate who lived in Bald Knob, Ark., and manufactured everything they'd need.
    I fell asleep on the couch while the three of them discussed Turk's 20 millimeter semiautomatic cannon that had blown holes through the two-inch thick steel disc he used as a doorstop. The following day I listened as Mel Tappan talked and a cold winter rain beat relentlessly against the windows of his library.

    His voice was soothing, reassuring, a basso profundo tipped just slightly with a Texas drawl, a late-night FM voice, a voice you could believe in. It wrapped itself around me like a down comforter, buffering the raw edges left over from the night before; but what Tappan had to say laid a quick chill on my bones. He was talking about the aftermath of the devastating economic breakdown that would bring about the Big Crunch, strip away civilization's thin layer of protective insulation, and set people against one another in ways previously unimagined in our society.
    "Directly after the collapse," Tappan said, "you better be prepared to keep your head down for at least a month. Things could get so hot you wouldn't even want to go out in the yard for a load of firewood without someone covering your back with an assault rifle. I mean, there was gunplay in this country over a two-hour wait in a gas line. Imagine what you'll see when there's no food to be had on the supermarket shelves at all-none!"

    He sat across from me in a wheelchair, his great bulk wrapped in a wine-colored robe. He was 46, had thick, muscular forearms, powerful hands, and, with his round, pinkish face, light, close-cropped hair, and clipped blond mustache, resembled an avuncular, convalescing RAF pilot. There was a holstered .45 automatic strapped to the right side of the chair, and though a picture of convivial tranquility, Tappan was capable of drawing the gun and firing six shots into a ten-inch circle 25 yards away in two and a half seconds.
    "It doesn't take a whole lot of sophistication to see the kind of economic trouble we're in," he went on, "but the problem is, most people are unwilling to carry it to its logical conclusion. I can't tell you exactly when it will occur, but there is going to be a catastrophic monetary collapse in this country.
    Of that I'm absolutely certain. The banks are in big trouble, credit is overextended, companies need loans to keep production lines running and they can't get 'em, farmers can't afford to plant crops or raise livestock; so they're cutting back. Everything is in place; all it'll take is a trigger event, say, the Arabs deciding not to accept dollars for oil anymore, coupled with a panic run on the banks--a national 'aha' experience where a few million people all at once realize their money isn't worth a thing and decide they want gold or silver--and that will ring the bell.
    Payrolls won't be met, trucks won't roll, millions of people who depend on food stamps and welfare checks will be instantly destitute, and in next to no time there'll be chaos and turmoil like you wouldn't believe. And there is nothing that can be done to stop it. The next president will be the captain of the Titanic, and his only option will be how to arrange the deck chairs. The only thing you can do is take action to protect yourself, and that means getting as far away from a major city as possible.

    It also means blending into the landscape, keeping your name off major purchase orders of survival goods. Just say, 'My name's Mr. Cash, and that's how I pay,' because when the balloon goes up, the government's going to try to control the population, and that means confiscation of large supplies of storable food,
    medicines and especially firearms. It's not that I'm paranoid about guns. I'm paranoid about the whole government. You show me a bureaucrat, and I'll show you a man who wants to know your business."

    The story went on, replete with riots, untreated water supplies, epidemics, fire storms, beleaguered suburbs, and plundered armories. It would have been a whole lot easier to laugh it off as irrational gobbledygook if Tappan were a bankrupt car dealer, an unemployed steelworker, a misanthrope in a tattered robe, or a sparkle-suited hustler peddling retreat properties as if they were condominiums; but he was none of these.

    The son of a diamond importer from a small town north of Dallas, he was left partially paralyzed from a childhood operation to remove a tumor from his spine. Still, he became an avid outdoorsman, a marksman of exceptional skill, a communications expert, and an accomplished violinist who soloed with the Texas Symphony at 12.
    At 14 he was given a grubstake and introduced to a stockbroker. "You can piss the money away or invest it," his father told him. "It's your decision." Within a short time Tappan tripled his money.

    After college in Austin, he accepted a fellowship in the honors graduate program in humanities at Stanford, where he specialized in Elizabethan poetry and met and married an undergraduate named Nancy Mack, a pretty Los Angeles debutante whose family owned the Mack Truck Company.
    While working on his dissertation, Tappan began dabbling again in the market, had several remarkable successes, and before long you saw that he could earn far more as a professional trader than as an assistant professor of English. "It was then," he said, "that I set out, with the typically brazen self-assurance of youth, to see if I could start a bank, a mutual fund, and a life-insurance company.
    See, I always like to organize things." With the help of several influential friends he'd made as a broker, Tappan proceeded to found the Stanford Bank, the First Participating Fund, and the Commonwealth Assurance Company, which sold more than $100 million in premiums its first year.
    When all three were bought out, Tappan discovered a new love: mergers and acquisitions. He took a job as West Coast head of corporate finance for Goodbody and Company, traveled continuously with Nancy, and generally had the time of his life.

    "Then, in the early seventies, I was involved in some major deals entailing international currency exchanges and international closings for companies like Kentucky Fried Chicken," he said. "I suddenly realized that we were in one helluva lot of trouble and that sooner or later the monetary bubble had to burst, and, my friend, I don't scare easy, believe me."

    When Tappan quit Goodbody, sold his 8,500-square-foot home on an acre of land in Los Angeles, and moved to Rogue River, Oreg., he was a very wealthy man who had learned about everything there was to know about survival and had equipped himself accordingly. He had chosen a small farm town--a de facto survival community, he believed--that in time of disaster would close protectively around its inhabitants like a giant clam.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Mtnman Mike's Avatar
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    He had prepared for every conceivable eventuality to the point of choosing, after careful study of fallout maps, that small portion of the Pacific Northwest least vulnerable to nuclear debris. His 80-acre valley ranch, ringed by thickly wooded mountains, was perhaps the safest piece of real estate in the United States. Financially, he needed nothing; yet, always the organizer, the catalyst who loved company on any adventure, he published a monthly survival newsletter, wrote a survival column for a national gun magazine, and, for $100 an hour, shared most of what he knew with his clients.

    Certain defensive contingencies were kept secret--certain structural, electronic, and explosive measures necessitated by his notoriety and his paralysis handicap--even from the 25 or 30 families who had thus far moved to Rogue River and knew him well. "I had to deal once with that 'just-how-good-is-he' syndrome, and I'd just as soon not again," he said. "I moved up here to escape violence, not to kill anybody."

    A little over twelve grand. That's what the client with Mel Tappan the next day had spent to arm himself in the past 14 months. For ten years after he returned from Vietnam he hadn't so much as looked at a weapon, but he was scared and making up for lost time in a hurry.
    "A lot of survivalists think it's just blacks on welfare that'll riot and loot after the crunch, but they're wrong," the man said.
    "You take the average middle-class American with a wife and two kids and a mortgage, and you pull his dream out from under him; you take his job, you get his family crying for food, and he's gonna go berserk, man. Any time in history you had real chaos, it was because the masses went nuts, not some minority."

    He had enough rifles, shotguns, and pistols to equip a company of infantrymen and ammunition to do battle for a week. The cost wasn't hurting him any either, not from the looks of his gold Rolex or his $400 Lucchese boots.
    He was a top-of-the-line survivalist, a wealthy corporation executive anonymously setting up his retreat, and with backup generators, vehicles, and tools, storable food for three years, and much more he'd be spending upward of $200,000. He was moving to Rogue River within a year.

    "You can do it for considerably less," Tappan said. "You can eat less meat and spend only nine hundred dollars per person for storable food instead of eighteen hundred dollars. You can get by with fewer guns, less machinery, a smaller spread, but the notion of getting through the crunch with a rucksack and a Swiss army knife is ludicrous. You better be prepared to spend several thousand or be clever enough to hook up with a well-heeled older person who needs a hand running his retreat."

    The consultation, concerning several defense installations at the client's farm, was concluded, and the man brought out a customized .45 sold to him at a handsome price by a gunsmith in his hometown. "My friend, this gun has been ruined," Tappan told him. "The temper's all gone out of the steel. It isn't worth fifty dollars." The client was a man unused to being hornswoggled, and though his face remained impassive, his long, slender hands were clenched with rage.
    Soon, however, talk turned to the commodities market in which he'd made a fortune, and his good humor returned.

    "Sure, Mel's worth one hundred dollars an hour to me," he said in answer to my question. "Some engineer invents a new way to freeze-dry biscuits; a lumber mill shuts down in Maine; or a general in the Pentagon has a fight with his wife, and ten minutes later Tappan's factoring it into his survival equation. I can tell you I sleep a good deal better ‘cause of him.”
    He may have been sleeping better, but judging from his eyes, he wasn’t sleeping much.

    A short time later we both got up to leave, and he admitted that he wouldn’t mind some company. So I followed his car back into town. After we’d been drinking for a while in a saloon, he told me how his wife had left him and about his court fight for their kids. His girl friend wasn’t all that crazy about moving, he admitted, but she’d get used to it. “Night life in Rogue River might be limited,” he said, “but there were lots of decent people around, and anyway, once the crunch came, there’d be little enough time on anybody’s hands.”
    Turk picked me up in the morning and talked nonstop through my hangover about how the Russians wouldn’t bomb our cities; they’d aim a counterforce strike at military installations first; so you damn well didn’t want to be near any of those.

    But once we got to the doctor’s house, he hung back silently in a corner, mouth agape, eyes shifting from the doctor to her son like those of a man at a tennis match.
    She was a woman of 48 named Susan, a divorced psychiatrist who’d left a thriving practice in the South to work for a state institution in Oregon. Originally from Brooklyn, she had been a fashion model in New York after graduating from Wellesley. Though gaunt, she was still remarkably good-looking, but her face was haunted, her eyes fearful as those of a cornered animal, and anxiety hovered about her in waves that were nearly palpable. She would break off in the midst of sentences, losing her train of thought, while her son Andy, a tall, gawky kid of 19 or 20, leaped through the house like a wounded crane, interjecting random facts culled from their 4,000-volume suvival-related library.

    "I'm sorry," Susan said, "It's this central-nervous-system allergy I have to even the most minute quantity of beef that affects my memory--'depersonalization' I call it.
    I must have eaten something with a beef by-product hidden in it. Even the casing of a vitamin capsule can do it, but now that I've isolated my problem, things are much better than they were."

    She became a survivalist in 1972 and moved to Rogue River because of Tappan. "I grew up naively thinking the economy was in capable hands; the government would look out for my interests.
    Eventually I saw that things were out of control, and unless I took direct action, I'd be chopped up into little pieces in the crunch." She was studying emergency medicine, which she would practice after the collapse.
    "It's a hardship to retreat," she told me. "Maybe that's why so many of Mel's clients are doctors; they are used to sacrifice and postponed gratification."
    She paused for a moment to stare in mute astonishment at Andy, who had finally come to rest standing on the coffee table, half a sandwich in his mouth, a volume on dry-wall construction in one hand, a cylinderless revolver twirling around the index finger of the other.

    "Maybe it's something else," Susan went on. "In medicine you deal with death so much; maybe survivalism is a shield against the shadow of one's own mortality." Neurotic as she was and saddled with her son, she still convinced me that she'd preserver. She had the set, aggressive jaw of a fighter.
    Turk disagreed. "She knows plenty, but all of it's from those books," he told me after. "Come the crunch, she may just have to eat them, 'cause she ain't gonna grow nothing' and she ain't gonna shoot nothing', and all the **** she's got stored is gonna get ripped off 'fore she has a chance to scratch her *** and figure out how to cook it."

    Half Jew, half cracker, trained as an engineer, Turk was a man of remarkable gifts. He made a bundle with some surveillance equipment he invented, lost it all in a nasty divorce, and then made it back selling real estate in southern California. He moved to Oregon after a drunken function with several high-ranking military officials. "Those dudes want to push the button," he said. "Never mind what anyone tells you; they got all those neat toys around, and they intend to use 'em." He knew more about military tactics than the average colonel, brewed outstanding moonshine, and could fix a truck transmission with a corkscrew and some tape.

    Sometimes in his army truck, sometimes in his battered Cadillac, Turk led me through the valley. I met a cardiologist who now tied fishing flies and sold them to outfitters in the East; a peaceful farmer and his wife, veterans of Berkeley, sit-ins, campus protests, now living in the home they built alone.
    "Neither of us has ever raised a hand to anyone," the woman told me as she rocked their baby, "but we have guns. My husband knows guys who'll blow up the mountain passes coming in and out of here when the trouble starts. Folks up here are serious."

    I met a man named Taylor, small, thin, and powerful: a ringer for Bob Dylan but much harder. He was a kid from Detroit who'd grown up in the jungles of Vietnam, a martial artist in a body shirt and double knits up there in logging country--the fingernails of one hand an inch in length and sharpened for slashing. "Yes, sir," he said, "Uncle Sam trained me real good, and I'm going to use all the knowledge I've got. I know explosives, counterinsurgency, guerrilla warfare; I was a psy-op-specialist and a sniper.
    I was in Laos, Cambodia, North Vietnam, anywhere the **** was.
    Come the crunch, I could walk from L.A. to Alaska if I had to, but I got a family to think of, and I guess I listened to Mel too much; so here I am. I ain't no farmer, but I'm gonna start the Rogue River Regulating Company. We'll push ambushes for people in the valley for a cow or a pig." Now he ran a boiler room mail-order business selling mechanics' tools and tried to talk his friends into joining him in Oregon. "Some of 'em listened, and they're on their way. 'Don't come knocking on my door when the collapse comes,' I told the rest. 'I don't want to have to shoot a friend.'"

  4. #4
    Senior Member Mtnman Mike's Avatar
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    They were Tappan's community, linked to him like spokes of a wheel to a hub. He needed them, and they needed him, all of them, even Taylor, who talked of starting a survival school with Mel.

    Late last year ( 1980 ) Mel Tappan died suddenly of renal failure at his ranch. After the shock wore off, a few of Tappan's followers made plans to leave Rogue River, but most of them carried on as they would have had Tappan lived. "Sure we'll stay," one woman who was living there told me. "Mel's death doesn't really change what's going down in this country. But I'd be lying if I said Rogue River will be the same. The magic is gone."

    It seemed to me, though, that there was a piece of the survival puzzle missing, someone who had bought the ticket but was riding on the train alone. "I think I know the guy you're looking for," Turk's woman, Rita, told me as we whipped along a rain-slicked highway in the Cadillac one night. "Let me see if I can get in touch with him."

    "I found him; he'll talk to you and show you his place," she said to me the next night. "It'll take you most of a day to get there from here, but I think it'd be worth your while. Just one thing: you gotta promise to keep his tracks covered. You don't, and we're both in a lot of trouble, and that's no bull****."
    I'll call him Hawk, since he had one, about two inches high, tattooed on his right calf, its wings outstretched, talons extended above a single drop of blood.
    He was tall, six-two or three, lean and loose-jointed, with oversize, busted-up hands, and straight, dark hair combed back off his forehead, hanging almost to his shoulder. His face was seamed and darkened by the weather, but it was his mouth, set in a feral half-snarl, and his savage cat's eyes gleaming in the dark, revealing nothing, that put a vise grip on my guts. He was one of the most dangerous-looking men I'd ever seen, and he'd come out of the shadows of the deserted rest stop to meet me without a sound. Against the freezing rain he wore a thin flannel shirt, patched jeans, and an old fedora with the brim turned down. "Let's go," he said, turned, and walked through the trees to where his old Dodge Power-Wagon was parked on a path leading to the highway.

    In half an hour we turned from the highway onto a secondary dirt road and then a few miles later onto a steep, rutted Jeep trail through the woods. It was only then,
    once we were on his mountain, that Hawk began to talk.
    "Sure they know about me in town," he said. "I buy food, supplies, drink a beer or two in the bar now and then. Someone always knows about you, no matter where you are.
    The question is not whether they know about you but what they do about it. Once some bikers tried to do something about it up here, but there were only four of 'em."

    He was born and raised in a fishing village on the Eastern seaboard, worked on the family boat until his father died, then enlisted in the marines. In 1965 he was swimming behind enemy lines in Vietnam when his recon unit was ambushed. Hawk swam out with a bullet in his side, the only man in his team to return alive. "Now that was lonely, mister," he told me. "Up here in these mountains I don't ever feel anything but free."

    After Vietnam, Hawk went back to fishing, but foreign trawlers cut his catch, and for years he was just one step ahead of the bank. One day a man offered him a deal ferrying marijuana from a mother ship to shore at $40,000 a run.
    Hawk thought about the words of a nurse he dated while he was recovering in Hawaii from his war wound. "The Chinese characters for danger and opportunity are the same," she'd said, and he believed his opportunity had arrived.

    Twelve trips later he retired, unscathed. A man prone to superstition, he was unable to make the thirteenth, but he had almost a half million in cash in his pocket. On vacation in the Southwest, as far from the sea as he could get, he met a police chief from New England, a survivalist. After they'd shared a bottle of scotch, he told him about the contingency plans for dealing with food riots he'd been reading.

    It was Hawk's nature to trust his instincts; they had saved his life in Vietnam and two or three times while he was running dope; so, drunk as he was, he decided then and there to retreat. He traded his boat for a Piper Super Cub, struck out for Oregon, and searched by plane for a year until he found his mountain.

    He bought equipment: two identical old Power-Wagons, an ancient bulldozer, a tractor, and a small sawmill; and with an old fishing buddy built, at the edge of a wide, flat, mountain meadow, a log house and a rough-board hangar for his plane. He buried fuel, 2,000 gallons for the Super Cub, 2,000 for his trucks, and built a shelter into a hillside for his other survival supplies.

    Now he farmed a little, fished and hunted, and had begun to read, flying down to San Francisco on occasion to buy more books, eat Japanese food, and do a little business (just what, he wouldn't say). Regularly, he practiced fasting; at night he walked through the woods, sometimes sleeping on the ground. He ran several miles daily, worked with weights and on gymnastic apparatus he had built in his hangar, and practiced shooting with a sniper rifle and a long-bar reeled .44.

    "I know about Rogue River," he told me. "Sure there are some heavyweight survivalists there, but did anyone tell you about the drug trade? You got any idea what sort of fellas they got guarding the pot fields in that neck of the woods?
    And what about the local lumberjacks? What the hell are they gonna do when the crunch comes and the mills shut down? Nah, baby, don't tell me about small towns. I was raised in one.
    People get on your case there just like anywhere else. At least up here if they want me, they got to go to some extraordinary lengths to get me, and, hell, if push comes to shove, I'll dynamite my road. How many hungry people you think could walk in here?"

    He was showing me his cabin when I saw the photograph in a corner of the kitchen, and it nearly jumped off the wall at me. The woman in it was that beautiful. She was leaning against the wing of Hawk's plane, wearing a flowering white aviator's scarf and a denim jacket, and her red hair hung to the pockets of her jeans. She was thin and very tall, and her eyes were dark and deep as Hawk's were flat. "She sings the blues" was all he'd say about her. "She's working with a band down in Texas." "You miss her?" I asked him. "Wouldn't you?" he replied."

    I woke to the sound of wind chimes sometime before dawn, got out of my sleeping bag, and climbed down from the loft in Hawk's cabin. The front door was open wide, and I went out on the porch. The rain had stopped and the low-flying mist was phosphorescent in the moonlight. A cold wind had come up out of the north, and the air smelled like freely turned earth. Then I saw Hawk, sitting in a full lotus, shirtless and barefoot in the wet grass, absolutely still.
    He sat that way for at least ten minutes until a buck and two doe crossed the meadow a hundred yards upwind of him and disappeared into the woods. When the deer had passed, Hawk jumped up and began leaping around, mouthing a soundless cry. He did front flips, back flips, and finally hurled himself to the ground, rolling over and over. When he rose, it was impossible to tell whether his face was wet from rainwater or from tears.

    I returned east and in the weeks to come felt nothing but despair. There I was, living in the middle of ground zero, in the northeast corridor, which at best would turn into an urban battlefield, at worst would vaporize like a giant piece of exploding fruit.

    Every day the news seemed to confirm the survivalists' scenario: auto plants closed, hostile middle-class people in New Orleans on food stamps, credit card companies cracking the whip. And, piped into the survival underground, my telephone pulsed with expectations of disaster. A man named Pier, who owned a large survival food and equipment company in L.A., told me his sales would hit the $8 million mark, more than double the sales in 1979; a hipster from Florida tried to sell me a piece of the Everglades for a retreat.
    A late-night caller from North Carolina told me to watch out for armed motorcycle gangs and hung up.

    I met a neurosurgeon who kept a helicopter on a pad behind his house to fly him to safety when the crunch came. He took me to lunch at his hospital and showed me the .380-caliber pistol under his lab coat, the twin of which was in his wife's handbag. "I'm too busy to be paranoid," he said. But he'd recently sold his Porsche and bought a VW Rabbit, and he'd gotten rid of his M.D. plates.
    Even a friendly local plumber I know, a man with a smile for a vicious dog, nodded knowingly when I told him about survival and brought out the .12 gauge double he kept under a piece of carpeting in his van.

    Finally, a prominent psychiatrist in Manhattan, a friend of Tappan's, gave me a bit of hope, "Listen," he said, "survivalists have strong belief systems and, like a lot of people, tend to create the events surrounding their own reality. They have founded a new religion called survival, with a Mecca that is Rogue River, and a set of scriptures that you've been dealing with. Don't get upset. It'll pass. I think Mel's a brilliant man, and I love him dearly, but he hasn't been out of his house for six months. And look at Rogue River. It's a cultural wasteland. Me, I want to live where life is, not where I'm constantly preparing for catastrophe. Call me sometime. We'll have dinner."

    He sounded like an interesting guy, and he made me feel much better; so two weeks later I called him. "No, I don't know where to reach him," the woman on duty at the answering service told me. "He's gone out west somewhere. No, he won't be back."

  5. #5
    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Jan 2008
    North Florida


    Are you reposting the contents of the book? I ask because I'm concerned about copyright infringement and trouble for the forum owner.
    Can't Means Won't

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  6. #6
    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    Nov 2007
    Central Indiana


    I've never put a lot of stock in Tappan to be honest. It's pretty easy to say this is what you should do when you marry into the Mack Truck empire and you have unlimited income. As a survivalist, he survived pretty well by marrying right.

    Think about this...he died from a cut he got in his swimming pool that developed into leg failure from obesity that led to heart failure. Nothing in his life supported what he professed.

  7. #7
    Senior Member BENESSE's Avatar
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    Jul 2009


    . . . . +1 Rick.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Mtnman Mike's Avatar
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    Dec 2009
    Colorado & Wyoming


    Quote Originally Posted by crashdive123 View Post
    Are you reposting the contents of the book? I ask because I'm concerned about copyright infringement and trouble for the forum owner.
    This long article is definitely Not from a book. I think it is from an old magazine which may not exist anymore.

    I remember a magazine called Survive which was published for less than 2 years around 30 years ago.

    And I searched for this article as much as possible on google etc. and found nothing.

    If the forum owner or whomever wishes to delete this it is Ok with me.

    I just thought it was very interesting. I never truly liked Mel Tappan or even his book Survival Guns which I tried reading long ago.

    If the article is true then it says that Mel Tappan did make a lot of money in banking and finance. I always wondered exactly how he died and thought it strange he died at only 46 when he was so very very rich.
    And I am sure he did do better after he married Nancy Mack.

    I did like the story of Hawk and the last page or two best. Although I don't agree with the way Hawk made his money from pot...

    I and one other person spend a Lot of time typing all of this out from paper copies and I just wanted to share this, probably never seen before article. Unless someone might remember it from 1981.

  9. #9
    Administrator Rick's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Central Indiana


    Mike, I think we are okay on the article. There was just a copyright infringement concern but I've also checked as has Crash and we can't find any source for it. So it's probably in the public domain. Generally, posting a reference or quote with credits is okay but this one was especially long so we just wanted to cover our bases.

  10. #10
    Senior Member
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    Jan 2011
    S.W. Idaho, USA


    MTNMAN MIKE - "I remember a magazine called Survive which was published for less than 2 years around 30 years ago."
    I've read it before, but not sure where or when, other than it was many years ago.

    Yes, it might have been published in "Survive" magazine. I had all copies of that magazine until they folded. I can't recall if it were in there or not. I sold those in total to a guy who lived in Canada, a few years ago.

    Or... the article might have been published in the old "American Survival Guide" magazine. I subscribed to it from it's original inception in 1980 or so, until it folded a few years ago. Still have all copies except three. (That's what happens when you loan a magazine or book to a "friend" and they are never returned. )

    If it were published in "A.S.G," I'd bet it was serialized. Mine are all boxed up and stored away, so I don't feel like going back through them to try and find the article.

    Copyright goes on for a loooong time and the legalities of same can be complicated. If the author of that aritcle is still alive, and if he did not sell his copyright to a magazine, etc., then that copyright is probably still valid in his name. Also, if it were in "A.S.G.," the people who ended up with that might also still have a claim to the copyright.

    Best to be careful what is posted in "Fair Use" articles.

    Just a suggestion.


  11. #11
    Senior Member Mtnman Mike's Avatar
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    Dec 2009
    Colorado & Wyoming


    Thanks for okaying the article Rick.

    And Seniorman, I think it Might have been Survive magazine which is loong gone. I wish I would have kept all of those copies although I think I have a couple somewhere.

    And I read a Lot of ASG as well as some other magazines.
    I would also be surprised if the author of this article is still alive.

    I have posted this long article in a couple other forums and no one has questioned the thread.
    If I were to make this into a pdf file and post it then that one large group might delete it as I have seen them do although that was with books that they know exist.

    This is the only article I have ever made a thread typing out All of it. Mainly because I think it is very interesting, with some good info and a couple good stories.
    And because I don't think this article exists anywhere except now on the threads I have put on the net.

    Here is some interesting info about Nancy Mack Tappan although not sure if it is 100% accurate since it is Wiki >


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