Preppin’ With Mr. Huff

This piece was written in late 2010 by my friend Crest Wilson, and it’s a piece certainly worth sharing again. How many of us were lucky enough to have this sort of childhood? More importantly, what are we doing to ensure that the next generation does?

I am a prepper, have been for over 30 years. I was a prepper, even before I had ever even heard the word prepper. Before it was even cool to be a prepper.  My Aunt Debbie gave me a copy of the Foxfire books when I was about 20 years old and I realized then, that I had some knowledge others didn’t have. Heck, they had written books about it and were selling them, for real money.

Even then, though, I didn’t value my knowledge.

For the most part, I was in my 40’s before I even realized how much I had learned, as a child, sitting on the front porch with my next door neighbor, Mr. Ed Huff. I started sitting on his front porch with him when I was right at 3 years old. He was a whittler and would sit for hours and hours on his front porch and whittle wooden things out of cedar. When I was 3 years old, he must have been in his 70’s. For about 8 years, I sat there with him and learned while not knowing I was learning. But he knew he was teaching me,I realize that now, he knew exactly what he was doing. He had grown up in what is now Tuscumbia River Bottom. He was a farmkid,on the farm, in the backwoods at the turn of the century.

His family lived as if it were still 1800.

For a long time, I wasn’t sure if the stories he had told me were true. But as I grew older,I realized the things he taught me were true and real and very useful. From Mr. Huff, I learned to whittle, which is probably the most important thing he taught me. To whittle, you have to have perfect control, of a perfectly sharpened knife. He taught me to sharpen that knife, so I could whittle with him. When whittling, it is very important to take very small, controlled slivers from the cedar, which requires just exactly
the right angle while cutting.

He taught me to trap, any type of animal, with nothing but the simplest of tools. Like,how to make a bird trap from nothing but twigs and vines. He taught me how to catch a raccoon with nothing but a sharp horseshoe nail.

He taught me to grow tobacco in your tomatoes. He taught me the old ways of growing a garden, right from my bedroom window, which overlooked his vegetable garden. Each morning, I would wake up and look out to see what he was doing that morning in the garden. He taught me how to find fish bait, without going to the store. He told me of much folk lore, of men battling bobcats, on the road home, with their bare hands in the dark of the night. He also taught me how to catch a catbird with a salt shaker, but that might have been the one thing he was pulling my leg on.

For 8 years of my life, an old man, with nobody to talk to, shared his entire life with me, and everything he knew about livin’ it, the best he could. He never drove a car, he walked everywhere he went. He use to ask me if I wanted to walk downtown with him and whittle on court square. I never did. Lookin’ back, I think I probably missed the most important part of the learnin’.

Sitting here, 40 years later, if I tried to recall all he taught me, I could not write it down. But there is hardly a day goes by, that I don’t remember something he taught me. I will hear his old voice in my mind and for that second in time, I remember the lesson. Sometimes, I get out the old Foxfire books and look through them, and realize, he taught me everything in them and then some,,,,,,,,,,, and I never even knew it.

Sometimes, the greatest gifts in life, are the things we don’t even know we have.

Crest Wilson

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