The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Enid Features

April 23, 2013

Real survivors made do with what they had

Are you a survivor? Think about it.

Sometimes we watch the show on television called “Survivor.” It makes me stop and think if I could really be one. They exist for days on rice and water or just what they can catch or find. They live off the “fat of the land.” They have conspiracies going between them all the time. They plot against each other. They get little sleep and little shelter. They actually learn how to survive, or not survive, in the wilds.

I would not wish to go on one of those shows, even for $1 million. But I think I am a survivor. You are one, too! We who lived through the Great Depression and World War II are survivors, whether we realize it or not. We made do with what little we had and were happy.

We had enough to eat, but it was not always just what we wanted to eat. We had clothes to wear, but they were not always stylish or what we would have chosen if we had lots of money. We got good educations during those years, even though we had very few books to use.

We walked everywhere we wanted to go and made our own entertainment. We found something to do to keep us occupied. We ran races and skipped rope and played hop-scotch. We made stilts and tents out of sticks and old sheets or blankets. We were survivors! We made work fun.

We depended on meat that we grew and butchered. We had our own eggs and milk and vegetables from the garden. We wasted nothing. We canned everything we did not eat right then. We relied on wild greens in the spring and berries in the fall for a little extra something. Everyone worked — little kids and old people. We each had a job to do to make a home run smoothly.

Those hard times made us all survivors. We learned to appreciate hard work and the basic things we needed for existence. We developed a philosophy of survivorship to help us through any hardships.

I know our wonderful country is going through some rough times now. We often wonder if our young people will survive the hardships of debt, taxes, illness, insurance availability, food, shelter, gas prices, transportation, etc. Well, I think they will. If push comes to shove, they will develop the same ways of survivorship that we developed.

I think they will endure and grow strong in their decisions and actions. Theirs will not be the same skills we developed and adopted, but they will have their own system dependent on their abilities to cope and survive. Every generation has developed their own survival mechanism.

This article would not be complete without a word about Jim's survival in World War II and his buddies on Guadalcanal, Tarawa and Iwo Jima. He saw many of his buddies killed in action, yet he knew he would live. Even when he was shot and had a stomach/chest/ abdominal wound, he never thought he would die from it. When the medics picked him up on a stretcher, they gave him an injection of morphine, which was the usual treatment. But in their haste, they failed to mark his forehead with “M.” A little later, an attendant started to give him another shot and Jim refused. Had he passed out, he would have been given an additional injection and died. Every one of Jim’s close buddies on Iwo Jima was either killed or wounded. How fortunate he was. This same survival instinct carried over throughout Jim’s life and has helped him survive heart surgeries, severe illness and infections and numerous hospitalizations,with determination and courage.

Often I think of the survival of those who made this country great. It took a lot of courage to come to this country, even though many times conditions in the homeland were not that great, either. They were certainly survivors. They had a deep pioneer spirit that got them through so many emergencies and gave them great character and fortitude. They taught us so much about living and making a living and how to appreciate both.

Anyone who had ancestors who made the run into Oklahoma Territory or Indian Territory knows at least one family story about depending on turnips for survival. Our family was no exception. They ate turnips every way they knew how — kraut, boiled, raw, etc. In one of Grandma’s notes, she mentioned turnip slaw. It is not bad, if you like turnips. I call it survival slaw. It reads: “Take raw turnips, peel and chop or grate as you would cabbage. Sprinkle with sugar and let stand awhile. Then cover with your favorite cabbage slaw dressing.”

Her dressing was made with cream, salt, pepper and vinegar. Frankly, I like slaw much better made of cabbage. They probably did, too, but they did not have that choice. Their very existence depended on those turnips.

Few of us would be happy with turnip slaw for a meal, but I think you would enjoy this recipe. We do. Serve it with creamy mashed potatoes or rice, or macaroni and cheese. These peppers are good with anything.

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