I started out practising traditional living skills because, very simply, I grew up in a tiny town in Wyoming where playing outdoors was truly all there was to do!! When I was 12, I ran into the very first written information on traditional living skills I’d ever seen: ‘The Best of Woodsmoke’ by Richard Jamison. Prior to this, it had all been trial and error, and grabbing bits here and there from historical accounts or fiction novels! It was the first time I realised there might be other people out there who enjoyed doing the same crazy things I enjoyed doing: practising traditional crafts and testing them out in low tech living situations. At this point, the internet was just finding its feet, and over the next five years I was able to find more and more information about Primitive Skills, Survival Living, Experimental Archaeology and the myriad other terms by which this skill set is labelled. This eventually led me to Wintercount in 1998, where I met Dave Wescott and was introduced to a crazy wonderful crew of likeminded people! It’s hard to narrow down who I’d call my Mentors, as everyone who attends Rabbistick and Wintercount really kicks in and contributes so much energy and information. This is what makes these events such amazing learning venues and what has brought me back over and over for twenty years. If I had to narrow it down, it would be those who have written books which have consolidated and disseminated so much of the information that has shaped my life…… Larry Dean Olsen, (finally got a bow drill fire to work after reading Larry’s book…… prior to this I’d been using the boy scout manual and it does NOT make the grade….) , Richard Jamison, Dave Wescott, Jim Riggs, Mors Kochanski, and later Matt Richards and Cody Lundin.
I later took this practical skill set into the academic realm of archaeology where I earned a PhD in Prehistoric Leather Tanning Technologies. Major influences within the archaeological realm included: George Frison, an American archaeologist from Wyoming who has very much based his interpretation of archaeology on his own life experiences as a hunter and rancher; Professor Linda Hurcombe, the professor who designed and established the first experimental archaeology Master’s program and who shares a firm belief that archaeology is understood better with a firm grasp of the skills that produced the archaeology in the first place; and Professor Bruce Bradley, a well-known flintknapper who highly values craft skills as a means to further academic understanding, an archaeologist who is willing to look at things which are outside the box, and who will voice a well-supported theory even if it’s controversial.