søndag den 27. december 2015

Max at Second Nature Wilderness

A few of my friends have. I have been through Second Nature and ASR Base Camp (shut down now I believe) and from what I've heard RedCliff might be somewhere in between those two. This is an extremely emotionally charged topic for me. I am currently researching and investigating these kind of places as well as RTCs and "therapeutic" boarding schools for an on-road expose tour this summer, invovling demonstrations in the towns hosting the programs. If you've ever read 1984 you have a toned down version of it already.

Where I was, Through humiliation(One girl had to crawl every where she went and cry out loud-a councelor continued to throw a water bottle into the woods and make her crawl and cry to retrieve it while saying things like "If your gonna cry and compain like f***in baby I'm gonna treat you like a baby. this is how you f*** up everyones lives around you Im here to unf*** your life do you f***in understand me?" another kid had to sit in a circle of peers and have human feces be wiped on his face) , forced labor ("You don't have to do this but if you don't your going to RTC lockdown) disorientation, and poor physical conditions(inadequate shelter, frostbite, malnutrition, jardia[did I spell that right?] Reality is completely controled by staff. If they tell you 2and2 is 4 you better not just say it is but you need to believe it, they'll know. When inspectors came they whould tell us we would never get out basically if we told them anything and everything would be changed. At the top of this pyramid of evil the directors sit on they're plush thrones rolling in hundreds of thousands (programs often can cost up to ten thousand a MONTH.

I cam out of those and the 14month program competely delusional, affraid of everying and very heart. It took a lot of wonderful people and majical experiences to come out of that, experiences of freedom and love, not hate and oppresion. Now my life is PERFECT and incredulous as that may sound. I work in carpentry and microbiology and live on an intentional community in GA. Above all what helped me is my deep love for nature backpacking and all and the strength I draw from that, and many mystical experience. I found God Or the Universal cosmic mind and he she is with us. Plus my beautiful and wonderful girlfriend who I was seperated from through the experience and now live with. This all happened about 5 years ago. The "therapeutic program" community has hid behind deciet and legal loopholes for many years but they can't hide from God and we will bring them down with love! We the human race are one divine family and we need to come togather to overwhelm this evil. with love sincere -Max

PS post any questions about my history or intent or whatever if you wish.

The original testimony (Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora)

mandag den 30. november 2015

Redcliff Ascent experience

I have also been through Redcliff, graduated in december '03 was there 90 days. They were filming some brits or whatever and I remember that one kid from Brooklyn that was in our group (aah shit it wasnt bullfrogs it was lions something like) left and joined the filmed group. It did help me considerably, I was a whinely little bitch and needed a good slap of reality. It helped me with depression but say 4 months afterwards i feel into a more anti-social 'conduct disorder' routine, and 6 months after I was arrested and am still on probation for my crimes.

I respect RCA more than juvies/psych hospitals/residentials blah blah and any other institution I have been to since they didnt just try to shove fucking pills down my throat and attempt to diagnose me with ODD or this and that. It was an emotional experience to say the least.

I was taken from Horsham Clinic (behavioral health hospital in PA) and escorted by a pig and my mother to the airport and flew into vegas. From there I meet the intake people, a chick and a man both huge and tall, mouthed off to them a bit and was driven to Utah. I got to base round 1:30 Am and then preceded with intake. After I was stripped and given those 'battle tested' fatigues, I was blindfolded and was off to the wilderness. 3 hours latter I arrived at my camp Bullfrogs and became acutely aware how damn heavy those packs are and that I was seriously in the middle of nowhere--contrary to what I was told and assumed, that it was some haughty taughty cliche "lets go camping and learn about nature!" Bullshit.

After pissing and moaning about hiking in my first letter i wrote home, I got depressed. Even to my dismay I couldnt make fire. I continued this little ruitine of mine for nearly two months till I got my first fire, rushed through all my phases, got named "White Falcon" and graduated. We had to take a shower, but at grad camp they just built it and it had no heat--i remember it was colder than just using a pot and soap, but I really didnt care. Cold meant shit to me then, after 'gut-bomb', 3 peak, fires, my hair freezing (always wash your body first then your hair kiddies), blisters etc. I was just happy i was going home. They make you run like a mile down to your parents, and that first month home is really the most thankful. I remember i had trouble trying to explain my experience to kids in my school and they all backed away from me cause I was 'bad'. So eventually I gave in started to chill with punk/skin crews more and eventually got myself into some run-ins with the law.

I meet some interesting people that I did seriously like to meet again Mike "Red Badger" or that hobo chick Ericka.

Abuse was there if you cared to notice (staff dismissing the group to another area to piss off on some kid, degrading remarks, instigating etc) but most of the time 'consequences' involved carrying rocks if you swear, having a looooong day of hiking, camp drills/pack drills, no peanut butter, cheese or meat rations (replaced by the nastiest greenish brown shit ever) and the 'cart'. My group got the cart just "to see if we can handle it". All in all though it did just depend on the staff and thier mood.

Getting sick is just horrible. They dont give you conventional medicine but make you drink sage tea which id imagine tastes exactly like shit laced with pesticide i remember I could hardly get it down and vomited but they insisted to drink up because of how sick I was (and for two weeks after I was discharged I still was taking medicine for it). It was the worse I have ever been I was freezing cold couldnt eat coughing up green phlegm, couldnt walk 100 yards without huffing and puffing and all I would do was stare off drooling by the campfire haha I spilt my honey and when someone finally noticed it was all gone and I didnt even care which to an RCA kid is fucking extreme. When we hiked (only 6 miles or so) I barely made it and got about a dozen or so faint spells where honestly I had no clue what the hell was going on. Fortunatly I graduated that weekend right befor the 15 miler we were going to pull off (dont know how I wouldve fared with being sick and all)

RCA doesnt change shit let alone profoundly, it just grows you some hair on your chest and leaves your suburbanite mommies and daddies 30 grand poorer (and for a poor family like mine, well lets just say your going to be eating lots of canned patatoes and ramen)

RCA dont work. Nuff said.

The original testimony (Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora)

søndag den 11. oktober 2015

A mother about Redcliff Ascent

This testimony was found on a message board. All rights goes to the original author.

I'm sure ABC family is going to portray the staff at Redcliff Ascent as good and caring and the kids as manipulative brats, hence the name Brat Camp.

I've read the message board for brat camp and some people are shocked that RCA would sell out this way. I am not at all surprised. Our daughter attended RCA in 2001. The therapist at RCA led us and our insurance co. to believe she was making progress all along when in fact she made no progress. They kept her there for 5 months leading us to believe she was getting better.

Our daughter was 13 and suffering from severe depression. She took an overdose one night, was taken to the hospital, had her stomach pumped and transferred to another hospital that night. A psychologist from Ohio State University came and evaluated her and said RCA was exactly what she needed. We were pressured and rushed to make a decision about issues we had never dealt with before.

Having your child so distraught she tried to kill herself and being told by all these so called professionals was so overwhelming.

We live in Ohio and left early one morning from the hospital and drove our only daughter nearly 2000 miles away and left her with complete strangers because it's what the doctors said was best for her.

I had weekly phone sessions with her therapist who assured me she was making slow but steady progress. i kept notes of each phone session throughout her stay. We were not allowed to talk to our daughter, we could only write letters. The therapist told me she had lost some weight but said that it was common with the kids due to all the hiking.

About three weeks before we went to pick her up, RCA sent some pictures of our daughter to our e-mail. The first two were disturbing but she looked ok. In the third picture she looked bad. Emaciated, scraped up and unhealthy. We left the next morning to pick her up.

Nothing could have prepared us for how she looked when we arrived in the wilderness of Utah. We couldn't wait to get her out of there.
Our daughter had gained weight due to her depression and weighed in at 178 when we left her at RCA. When we picked her up 5 months later she weighed 106. Her face reminded me of the pictures you see of children who had been in concentration camps. She had lived on lentils, rice and rolled oats for the past 5 months. They got peanut-butter or cheese once a week. At times they had to drink water from troughs for cattle in the fields or from ponds.

Since she had no salt in her diet, she retained huge amounts of water after she began eating regular food again. She threw up all the way home. She was starving but her system couldn't handle food. We took her to the doctor when we returned to Ohio. She was anemic, malnourished, iron deficient, albumen levels were low, blood sugar levels were high, liver enzymes elevated. Her hair was falling out due to malnutrition. She said the staff at RCA had started calling her baldy.

Our insurance co. did an investigation of RCA after hearing of our daughter’s condition. We were not informed of the outcome.

Children’s services in our home town gathered information for their own. That was sent to Columbus, our capital. Columbus sent all the information to Provo, Utah who sent it to the local sheriff’s office in Beryl, Utah who, as far as we know, had done nothing.
That was 4 years ago and this place is still operating at an average cost of 10,000 dollars a month.

If we had gotten our daughter in this physical condition while in our care, she would have been taken away from us. Many kids have been seriously injured or have died in these wilderness programs and not only are they still in business, now they are also entertainment.

One concerned and upset mom in Ohio.

NOT SUPRISED!!!!!! (Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora)

søndag den 13. september 2015

Simple curable illnesses can be fatal in the wilderness

In November year 2000 a boy felt ill during a hike with Redcliff Ascent. His complains were ignored and no doctor was called into the field because the employees believed that some teenagers might invent such pain to get some days off from their wilderness program.

For days he was forced to hike and participate in various activities while his pain worsened. At a point he even collapsed.

He became dehydrated and finally he was sent to an emergency room where the medical staff concluded that treatment was needed. He ended up in Las Vegas being treated for a ruptured appendix which is a condition which was described as life threatening.

The case was settled out of court and the boy was lucky that he didn’t become among those around 130 known deaths which had been close tied with the treatment industry for teenagers.

Fact is that it is practical not possible to find positive lasting outcome of wilderness program participation compared with a similar group of teenagers where nothing was done. And still families are advised by educational consultants paid by the wilderness programs to choose to put their child in a dangerous situation far away from medical treatment where even ordinary illnesses which can be cured in any hospital can be the factor which claims the life of their child.

It is time that parents become aware of this danger. Please inform families you know are struggling with their child what the cost could be if they choose in-patient treatment in a wilderness program.

Ex-Counselor Speaks Out- Red Cliff Ascent (Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora)

søndag den 16. august 2015

An uncles testimony about his nieces stay at Redcliff Ascent

This testimony was found on Reddit. All rights goes to the original author

During a nightmare divorce, my former brother and sister-in-law, signed off on having their basically well behaved, good student 13 and 15 year old daughters 'escorted' to Redcliff Ascent, a Wilderness Boot Camp in Utah. They had their virginity tested, were given 35 pound backpacks and set to walk in the Utah desert with a bunch of other kids, shoes taken away at night so they couldn't run away, peeing or pooping behind a bush and yelling out a number during the process, so they wouldn't run away, only unsweetened oatmeal for a week with a spoon of sugar as a treat on Sunday. Left alone in the desert to start a fire etc by themselves as part of achieving points.

It was because my fundie brother couldn't handle his daughters wearing short dresses, smoking cigarettes, being overweight and talking back to him on occasion (after he abandoned them for years with their drug addicted mother).

There were kids there who were anorexic, bulimic, overweight, depressed, bi-polar, mixed with some who were serious drug addicts, drug dealers, young sociopaths/rapists, kids dealing with a destructive personality disorders.

72 days they walked in the desert, my 13 year old niece losing 70 pounds.

On that 72nd day, a man turned up in the desert and told the kids that if they wanted a lovely hot shower, 3 meals a day, all they had to do was to agree to go to Hyde School. So the kids agreed.

Hyde was basically a mental institution and the kids were self-committing, giving permission to be committed without their knowing this. The law is that a person has to self commit to go to one of these mental institution 'schools', unless proven to be a danger to the community, when the committing can be done by the police. In the boot camp, if the kid did not say yes, they were left in the boot camp in the desert.

The fees were $3000 for Friendly Hands Escort Service to take them in handcuffs to the plane, $30, 000 per child, per month. Hyde School cost $25, 000 a year.

I visited my niece, both were put in two separate Hyde Schools, one in Maine and one in Connecticut. There were all kinds of abuses going on in the schools, teachers sleeping with students, teachers smoking pot with the students. Mostly it was the parents who were the mess and the kids trying to survive dysfunctional parents, as my nieces were.

Anyway, it basically ruined both their lives in terrible ways. I don't think they have recovered from that experience yet.

Redcliff Ascent was also the center of the first version of the reality show Brat Camp. In year 1999 there was a riot.


søndag den 12. juli 2015

Book: Dead, Insane or in Jail: A CEDU Memoir

This book by Zack Bonnie tells the story about how to be forced to attend a CEDU bording school.

All the CEDU schools closed around 2005 after a number of lawsuits were issued by parents and former students.

Also several students disappeared never to be found again. Some of the children were most likely murdered by a serial killer James Lee Crummel who had unrestricted accesss to one of the campuses. To this day there are families out there looking for their relatives.

CEDU was founded in 1967 by an owner of a furniture business, who after a brief stint at Synanon created the first school in California where the main tool for transforming the children into the products their parents ordered were attack therapy.

The founder died in 2002. The school were sold but closed only some few years later due to the lawsuits.

The book provides a good insight into how it was to be a student in these special schools. After the original schools closed the concept were transferred into other schools where some are open even today.


fredag den 5. juni 2015

patchespal at SUWS

Our google alert setup prompted us to find this testimony on another blog. All rights goes to the original author known as Patchespal

I was there in 84. It was hell. I was determined to survive and keep my sense of self intact. I was called a freak and was treated with disrespect and disdain. And here’s a funny thing I have yet to read about SUWS Idaho anywhere: My counselors were all Mormons, and from what little I can remember about them I remember having their religion and politics pushed on me. Luckily for me I decided early on that they were of limited intelligence and insignificant, which benefited me as they had no influence on me personally. After arguing and rebelling initially, I was told they could keep me there as long as they wanted and what do you know- by morning I was a whole new girl. Angelic, loved Jesus, feminine, etc. So fortunate I happened to be blessed with natural acting ability.

They wrote gushing letters home to my parents about my big turnaround. I was a whole new child! I would no longer be the embarrassment. All my cool clothes were thrown out. All my old punk rock flyers (collector’s items now, I’m sure) were tossed. They couldn’t wait to meet their new daughter. Unfortunately for them I came back with a stronger sense of self, yet even more determination to stand my ground, and angry resentment that they were willing to trade me in for a less eccentric model.

In the meantime, we were given no water, hiked up to 17 miles in a single day due lack of suitable water which we weren’t’ allowed to carry – I threw up blood from my throat drying out, we drank water green and chunky with cow feces (with an iodine tablet mixed in,) had to strain water through filthy bandanas to avoid tiny poisonous leeches, etc. I remember sitting in a stream for hours after witnessing one of my co-hikers innocently napping while clusters of horse-flies congregated in her buttcrack. I remember our last stretch- a 3 day solo – being so weak I could only lay by a stream wrapped in a blanket, hearing one of my co-hikers screaming “We’re all gonna die!!!” in the far distance. Poor kid, he was the only one gung-ho in the beginning, but was a little meek and nerdly, and was scapegoated and ridiculed by everyone – even more so than myself. I still worry about that guy – he really cracked. His name was Greg and I didn’t realize that was the kid’s name that passed. I truly hope his parents didn’t send him back. :(


lørdag den 9. maj 2015

Parents about Passages To Recovery

We sent my son here a few years ago for alcohol abuse treatment.

They called one week later said it would take longer than their estimate of 6 weeks and would need be needing more money. He stayed for about 3 weeks total w/o ever going out for even 1 over night camp out. I didn't find out until he got home that he had altitude sickness the whole time. Loa Utah is 7000 feet above sea level. The city we live in has an altitude of 300 ft. Even though he told them what was wrong, they never gave him any medicine to help.

After 3 weeks of no progress, I talked with them and told them I was arranging for him to fly home, they suggested that they just drive him to Salt Lake City and let him fend for himself w/o any money. This is 1400 mi from home. I asked if they thought they should at least give him a supply of his anti-depressant meds before they made him homeless since he had been talking of suicide and there was a long ...

The original statement on Google

søndag den 12. april 2015

April month focus: Escaping a wilderness program

Here are some advises based on an article in the magazine Cracked for teenagers who face a difficult time at home which could land them in a wilderness program:

Rule 1: Plan ahead

If you are at danger of being banished to a wilderness program, read this months version of Cracked. You need to do the first part of the job yourself. You have to make it to a populated area. Then you have to relate on friends to send you money so you can go home.

Rule 2: Keep cool

When you arrive home, keep cool. Remain calm in all situations. Avoid discussions which can make the authorities spot you. Millions of immigrants live in your country avoiding the authorities every day. They do this by remaining calm. If the boss at your work is unfair bend your head down and continue to work. If someone tries to provoke you, walk away.

Rule 3: Be safe in your bed

The people who sells the wilderness programs know that a shock will break you down faster. That is why they recommend a transport firm to collect you in your bed. So in order to avoid being trown in handcuffs and shackles with a bag over your head you need to think if your bedroom is safe enough for you. You could hide a weapon in your room but if has to be under your pillow because the transporters will problerly force you to remain in your bed while you dress the clothes your parents and the transport firm has selected for you so you cannot go to a drawer and get a knife. Please notice that a violent defense could sent you to a juvenile detention but a juvenile detention will not starve you and put you close to death. Secondly it will secure you access to the social services and a lawyer.

Another method could be to smuggle a piece of wood in which you could use to block the door allowing you time to get out of the window and phone friends asking them to call the social services and the police telling them that there are armed men trying to force their way into your house, secondly that you are afraid of being victim of sexual assault. Being placed in foster care or in a group home to protect you from invented accusations is better than a wilderness program and a later boarding school.

Rule 4: Rebel planned!

If you are so unlucky that you land in a wilderness program, then watch and observe before you make your escape. Learn just enough to survive. Do not escape within the first week because then the escape attempt could be shortlived. You need to recognise landmarks. You need to know how to find water. You need to know if there are something you can live off in the wilderness if the escape has to last several days before you come to a populated area, but it is important that you try to escape once you are in the wilderness program if you want to avoid losing your entire childhood to a boarding school where you will learn nothing but being a robot graduating with a piece of paper no college or university will give you credits for.


søndag den 1. marts 2015

March month focus: Escapes - law enforcement worries

Over the time there have been a number of escapes from wilderness program. Some were successful for the teenager, who managed to get home. Some were unsuccessful resulting in severe penalty. Some were even tragic ending in the death of the teenager. This month we will focus on some of the articles found in the media and comment on them. Here is an article from the Emery County News:


Missing boy from wilderness program found on desert
Emery County News, October 28, 2014

The Emery County Sheriff's Office and search and rescue located a runaway male juvenile missing from the Cedar Mountain Area. He is 17 years old, approximately 135 pounds with brown hair and eyes. He was last seen on Friday night. He was not fully clothed wearing socks, leggings, and a green wool sweater. Emery County Sheriff Greg Funk said, "The Sheriff's Office was contacted on Saturday morning and we began the search. We combed the Cedar Mountain area. We finally located the boy, he was hiding. His intent he said was to go to California. We had the UHP helicopter and Eagle Air med flying the area searching for the boy. We also did a ground search and tracked the boy for a mile when we lost him in the rocks. The boy was on the move when he ran into the Elements staff. He was enrolled in the Elements Wilderness program. One of the things they do is take the shoes and pants from the participants. They are out here for two months in the program. This boy was from back east and didn't want to be here. He was combative when he was located. The deputies got the boy under control and he was returned to the program.

"This situation is alarming. We go on two to three searches a year for these kids. The frequency of the searches has me worried. I worry for the safety of these teenagers. I also worry they might get into our communities and steal a vehicle from one of our residents. I am talking to them about using more advanced forms of technology for keeping their participants in place.

"My biggest concern is that we might lose the life of one of these children. If they die from exposure to the harsh desert environment, that really concerns me. We are investigating better ways to handle these situations. The boy was in good condition and he spent two nights in hiding. He was stiff and sore but otherwise unharmed," said Sheriff Funk.


The sheriff was right with his concern as we will show in a later post. Please consider what kind of technology which is useful. Even a GPS tracking device will not be of use because it would be the first thing the student will lose. The core of the program is the involuntary placement of the teenagers. The wilderness functions very badly as a prison. It has no boundaries; it can be dangerous regarding wildlife and terrain.

If you were in this program at the time of the escape, we would like to hear from you. What took place and what made this young man run away?


søndag den 15. februar 2015

A Manual for Fire and Stories by Hannah Straton (HIPPOCAMPUS MAGAZINE)

This testimony was found in the HIPPOCAMPUS MAGAZINE. All rights belongs to the author Hannah Straton and the HIPPOCAMPUS MAGAZINE


Flames rejoice around the kindling, their elegantly dangerous silhouettes leaping from stick to log and back to stick again, bright against the dark of the night.

On the first day, they give me the wilderness therapy packet. The packet says “Fire Phase.” It holds the secrets of the program–it is the way out. To build fire is to succeed.

Bow drilling: traditional Native American technique to begin a fire

First, find the tools to make the bow drilling set. You may find them only in nature. In the Appalachian Mountains there are trees and rocks and streams, all at your fingertips. You may use all of them. You have to use all of them.

Second, practice. Hours every day. The callouses on your hands should ache for the feel of the bow, your fingernails dirty with black punk- the stage before embers appear, your mind dull from the monotony.

Third, make fire.

Gather tools, follow directions, practice diligently, and achieve the goals they set for you.

Fire is light. Fire is warmth. Fire is the way home.

The top rock is typically found in a stream. It is a smooth, round, black rock that fits nicely in a palm. But the rock is hard, it is stubborn; it is not ready for use.

Quartz is a hard crystal, used to carve a depression on the underside of the top rock, so the spindle can be held in place, so that the bow can twist it and create friction on the fireboard to make an ember.

The top rock still fits in a palm, it looks the same on the outside, but the underside has been changed. Now the top rock is useful.

The spindle is initiator of movement- it twists in the string to rub against the fireboard, making the black punk. These small, angry circles of the spindle can be the beginnings of huge fires.

The whorl of Bipolar descended on me, leaving me twisting in place against the friction. The auditory hallucination named Gordie lives inside my head, always commanding self-harm and always demanding to be heard.

By now Gordie is a familiar voice. I started to hear him months ago. He is a man who wears a white suit with a white top hat; he lives in my head and tells me what to do.

Run into the road, Hannah.

Jump out the window, Hannah.

Take those pills, Hannah.

Sometimes I can ignore him. Sometimes I can’t.

In the end of August, just weeks before school was supposed to start, it became apparent that I couldn’t go back—I had episodes daily. As the days before school trickled slowly by, my parents realized I was even too sick to live at home. It wasn’t safe. They didn’t know what to do, so they turned to the advice of the people who were supposed to know better: the “experts.”

PLACE: Wilderness Program
Wilderness Programs, like the one I went to, claim to help parents take their troubled teen from “bad kid” to “productive member of society.”

But I got there by mistake.

My psychiatrist didn’t believe the negative drug tests. He hadn’t ruled out “attention-seeking behavior.” I saw dancing spiders with bowties on my desk in English class. I hurtled through manic jumping jacks and sobs shook my body as I rocked back and forth on the floor of the guidance office.

My symptoms did not have boxes to check on the bipolar differential diagnosis sheet. He told my parents this wilderness program would help me. They believed him.

Here, there are no papers to diagnosis me based on the boxes I checked. There are only packets about the program– packets that tell me what I did wrong, what I did to get myself here. And packets that tell me how to make fire.

A bow consists a piece of wood and a string. You must make both the string and the bow from products found in nature. The wood for the bow is usually taken from a branch of pine. It must be carved carefully into a curve and stripped of its bark. You must then tie a string to either end and pull it taut in order to trap the spindle. The spindle will resist, the spinning will test the string. Your string must be strong and tight. Make it from the nearby vines, but they are thin so you must combine them with slowly, and with precision. You may begin on the fourth day.

The first three days are an observation period. I am to be separated from the other girls, to watch and learn, but most importantly; I am to stay within eyesight at all times.

The fourth day, I walk into the forest to search for wood to make a bow. Distanced from the camp, I call my name every three to five seconds to prove I have not run away. I take my bow from a branch of a drooping tree. Near the fire, the staffers oversee as I whittle down the bow to its naked arc.

Upon admission, we are given silver and brown tarps. When we arrive at a campsite, we put it up. When we leave, we take it down. We carry it on our backs when we walk. For six weeks, this tarp is our home. However, once we no longer need our home– after we have moved to “transition”– the tarp is reused; the next girl to enter the program gets that tarp.

I found my string in the tarp, expertly twined string attached to the metal holes on the ends of the tarp. The girl before me had left her string for the next person to use. She knew the difficulty of creating and the frustration of failing. This act of kindness is strictly against the rules. I smile up at the sky and tie the string to my bow.

At sunset, for the last moments of light, we line up for medication and mouth checks (to ensure we have not cheeked our pills) so that by the time darkness sets in, we lie in sedated sleep under our tarps. My bow drilling set is not finished, not yet ready for use. I will start again tomorrow: a new day, the same task.

Bow drilling is a monotonous chore. The bow must go back and forth hundreds of times before anything happens. A talented bow-driller can “bust” (create an ember) in the time it takes to sing the alphabet twice; no one here is a talented bow-driller. We move the bow back and forth for hours, never creating an ember. Sometimes the spindle falls out of place, sometimes a foot slips and the bow falls, sometimes it just doesn’t go fast enough or hard enough to make enough black punk to make an ember. The push and pull is exhausting. We’re too tired to fight.

The friction between the spindle and the fireboard make black punk and enough black punk makes an ember. But in order for this to happen, the fireboard has to be soft enough for the spindle to dig deep, to make that black punk. It is best to make the fireboard out of a popular tree. Popular trees are the most yielding of the woods and the most abundant in the southeastern mountains. Take the little knowledge they give you, it won’t happen often. Accept it when it does. Use the popular board.

My fireboard has many black holes in it. When one hole gets too deep, the spindle can no longer spin; I move over, start a new hole, and start accumulating new black punk. My black holes are impressive. They give me status– I’ve been here a long time.

The nest is an essential part of the bow-drilling process. Once you have a small ember, you must tilt the fireboard downward so that the ember falls out and lands gently in the nest of entangled twigs and grass. Carefully, hold the nest above your head and blow gently until it catches. You have to wait until the fire has engulfed enough of the nest so it can survive in the wood pile, but must drop it before it burns you.

By my eighth week, I know the fastest way to build shelters and the best locations for latrines. I had completed all the therapy assignments; I wrote about my faults, how my parents treated me, what I wanted out of life. I finally gathered the courage to ask the therapist when I would go to my emotional-growth boarding school.

“Hannah, we both know you want attention. You won’t leave until you admit you’re making it up.”

Gordie screams. I cry. She nods.

Tears drip down my face as I realize all that is being taken from me. This program was supposed to be a temporary situation on my way to a boarding school. The brochure said six weeks. On the glossy front page, there were smiling kids around campfires. But really, nothing has been taken away from me because it was never going to be a six-week program on my way to an emotional-growth boarding school. I find out later that the emotional-growth boarding school doesn’t take kids on medication.

Nothing has been taken away, just been illuminated. Now I know what they really think, what they really want. No more worksheets or therapy sessions. I know– I can deny who I am and they will let me leave. Or I can be who I am and they will keep me here indefinitely. Gordie tells me he knew this would happen, that I deserve it. For once, I don’t believe him. I know what I did to get here and I know I am not the one who needs to take accountability for this placement.

The therapist smiles down at me as she stands up. She tells me that today’s session is over. She tells me that she’ll see where I am next week and re-evaluate then. I watch her walk away, leaving me sitting under the looming trees. Her car sputters and starts, driving on the nearby dirt road, leaving a cloud of dust in its place.

I run away that night after the fire dies down. The dying embers and charred sticks wait for morning, when someone else will blacken their hands picking up the remains of my decision.

In the darkness, I make my escape.

If your child suffers from illness please consult hospitals and doctors. Make a real evaluation instead of paying an educational consultant which lives of money paid by parents AND referral fees from wilderness programs and boarding schools.

A Manual for Fire and Stories by Hannah Straton

søndag den 18. januar 2015

A parent's view of a runaway story

This testimony was found on Fornits. It was originally posted on another website which is not up anymore:


At 7:45 p.m. on August 1996, I received a call that began a parent's nightmare. My 15 year old son had run away from camp. In the dead of night, he had slipped away from his camp in the Idaho desert and was apparently wandering lost in an inhospitable wilderness.

For the next few hours, I paced the family room, my heart in my throat, willing the phone to ring. Finally, I got the call from Idaho. He had been spotted at a truck stop at a nearby town. Blessed with determination and an uncanny sense of direction, he had managed to navigate ten miles out of the desert in the darkness, then had taken a staff member's bike to make the fifteen mile trek to the nearest town. Unfortunately, he had ditched the bike at the truck stop, and had probably hitched a ride with one of the truckers. Although some remembered seeing him, no one had seen him leave. The trail was cold.

Half an hour later the phone rang again. At the sound of my son's voice, I felt such a rush of emotions I could barely speak. The thought that the phone call could literally have life-or-death consequences for my son, that if I said the wrong thing I might never hear from him again, overwhelmed me. As we spoke, I groped my way, relying on my maternal instinct to say the right thing. He told me about his "escape". From the truck stop, he had hitched a ride with a trucker. No, he wouldn't tell me where he was, but wanted to let me know he was safe, that he loved me, and that he would keep in touch. He sounded both exhilarated by the adventure and his newfound freedom, and scared to death of the uncertainty and potential dangers of his situation. I listened to everything he said, tried to convey my unconditional love, and, as calmly as possible, tried to convince him to go back to Idaho or to come home. After fifteen minutes, he said he had to hang up because the truck driver was ready to go, but that he would call me again soon.

I immediately rang the staff in Idaho to let them know I had heard from my son. Then, realizing that he was using the calling card I had given him, I contacted the customer service representative. Calling up the last few calls made on my account on her screen, she was able to pinpoint his location to a commercial phone in a small town about three hours from the camp in Idaho. I quickly passed the information on to the staff in Idaho, and two of the men raced off to try to find him. Hours later, they called back to let me know they had scoured the town, but had come up empty.

During the next few days, my son called me several times to let me know he was still okay. With the help of the calling card system representative, I was able to follow his route west to Portland, Oregon. At home in Pennsylvania, I wanted to jump in my car and drive the width of the country to find my son and bring him home, but knew chances of finding him and then convincing him to come home with me were slim.

Once in Portland, he found a group of runaways who showed him the ropes of living on the street. Portland had a relatively large runaway population with established social services and crisis centers. Again the calling card people were able to let me know what areas he called from. Unfortunately, the numbers were never private phone numbers, but always pay phones located in different parts of the city. My son kept moving, and although I was so grateful for his calls which let me know he was still alive, I realized that I was probably not going to be able to pin him down to any location.

Although he always talked as though his life was an exciting adventure, sometimes the emotion in his voice betrayed him, and I wanted so much to be able to reach out and give him a hug. Always I controlled what I said, trying to say just the right words that might bring him back home, or at the very least would encourage him to keep in touch with me.

Through my library's Portland phone directory, I found the number of the Portland Police Department runaway officer, contacted her, and sent photos of my son. I also located agencies in Portland that help runaways and are willing to post messages, and sent them messages in the hope that someone who knew him might call and help me locate him, or convince him to come home.

Time went by, with the phone lines my lifeline to my son. In the stores, in my neighborhood, I saw other mothers with their sons, and felt pangs of grief mixed with feelings of guilt and shame. I had failed as a parent and had lost my only child. Depression hung like a dark heavy curtain over my life. Parents of a runaway grieve, but often with little support and sympathy from those around them, especially if the child has been in trouble in school or the community. Like me, they may feel isolated, not knowing any other parents who have lived through the experience.

In September, when we should have been shopping for school supplies, a local newspaper in a section of Portland ran a story on runaways. The reporter and photographer spent time with some of the runaways, including my son. Excited by his fame, my son told me about the article and I sent for a copy of the issue. The photos used in the story showed me his new life, his "family" of runaways, and the squat under the bridge he and his young friends called home. The story confirmed the dangers of life on the street, painting in all too vivid details what until then had only been my imagined fears.

Through the email address listed in the newspaper, I contacted the reporter, who was kind enough to reply. He had spent a day with my son, and was able to fill me in on his life on the street and how he was coping. One thing in the reporter's message struck me. He said that too often parents opt for the "let 'em run wild" approach, thinking that the streets will knock some sense into them. Unfortunately, for a while the dangers of the street life can seem adventurous and romantic to the runaways. By the time they return home, many have serious problems: alcohol and drug addiction, other physical and mental problems, and legal troubles. Most dropped out of school long before graduation, and face problems picking up where they left off in school.

Not long after I heard from the reporter, I got another call in the middle of the night. This time it was from the Portland Police Runaway Office. The police had picked up my son for littering. Did I want them to hold him? For me, happiness was hearing that my son had been arrested. For the first time in months, he was safe.

Two days after my son was picked up, one of his street friends passed through detention and told him the bad news. The night my son was taken off the streets by the police, his friends had been attacked while they slept under the bridge by two men with heavy metal pipes. Some of the runaways had been hospitalized, others had fought back and had been arrested on assault charges.

That was five years ago. These days my son lives the typical life of a college student not far from his home. He limits his travelling adventures to his computer and his Internet connection. Although he undoubtedly has many stories to tell of his time as a runaway, when I ask if he wants to add his story, he declines saying only that he would rather forget that time in his life. And I certainly won't argue with that.


If your child escapes from the wilderness program, take the child home once the child is found so you can understand what made your child take this decision.

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