Back in 1999, among other things I was doing, I was operating an online forum of my own. It was long before Facebook, but it created a nice, little social media microcosm.
Among the people who populated the different levels of the forum were old friends, knife makers, adventure travel trainers and other nice people and trouble makers.
Newt Livesay, who made great knives, was becoming a writer. We often talked about adventure and plots and storylines. In fact, he beat me to the punch by creating a character I thought I was about to create — Steele Six.
Another friend was Jeff Randall, a rail-thin survival trainer who, with his partner, Mike Perrin, not only trained people to survive in the wilderness but spent a lot of time proving his training worked by leading trips to the Amazon River in Peru.
He originally called his knife company RAT Cutlery, but there was some confusion with another company. He came up with a new name during a trip to the Amazon I didn’t go on.
Jeff, and Newt, who had been recruited, were actively trying to convince me to join the ’99 trip to Peru. They both insisted this wouldn’t be severe survival, that it would be basically a leisurely walk through the jungle.
Oh, how I did consider this. It would be a great adventure. Everyone agreed on that. An epic adventure.
Slowly, it started to erode. I was told some production company from the Discovery network might accompany us to shoot an episode for cable TV.
I started doing some serious consideration. I remembered reading that participants on previous trips spent the first day being eaten alive by insects.
Well, there was no getting past that. I imagined — quite clearly — having my body covered by bites from mosquitos and chiggers and who knows what kind of exotic Amazonian insects. I know how much I whine when I have one mosquito bite. I could clearly picture the scene: This fat journalist whining about his insect bites, captured in glorious living color by a cable network’s video cameras so millions of TV watchers in America could enjoy his misfortune.
Well, that was enough to sway my decision not to take part in the trip.
This “leisurely walk in the jungle” was anything but. When Jeff and Newt and company got to Peru, they wound up somehow connecting with the Peruvian military’s Escuella de Supervivencia EE, the school of survival, escape and evasion. They did some cross training. They wound up swimming a mile down the Amazon. (Did I mention I don’t really swim?)
Thank goodness I didn’t take that trip.
So Jeff and Mike used ESEE as the new name for their knife company.
When Jeff and Mike wrote a survival book, I did the first edit for them, which was great fun. Since then, they send me knives now and then. I just got a couple small blades meant for use in camping. I hope to get around to trying them out when I’m feeling better.
So, while I missed swimming in the Amazon, I do enjoy sitting by the Delaware River. That’s more my speed, anyway.