"My mother fed 22 people at our dinner table for a week," Ozarks Sustainable Living University founder Deb Slack of rural Thayer said at a survival preparedness class.
Slack, who spoke before the free classes in Thayer and West Plains, Jan. 7-8, said her mother always stored large glass jars of beans and other staples in case of disaster. Her foresight saved her family -- and helped her neighbors -- on more than one occasion, Slack said.
Having grown up during the Depression and being the oldest of nine children, Slack's mother stored bulk foods for emergencies, while many others did not, leaving them without provisions.
Slack also lived through two three-week episodes without electrical power during ice storms in Missouri in 2007 and 2009. She now is on a mission to empower as many others about preparedness as possible.
"I would love for this to go viral," Slack said. "Everyone needs this kind of information."
More than 40 people attended the Jan. 7 class at Thayer Assembly of God Church, many of whom attended for the first time. The monthly classes, ongoing since May 2011, have covered numerous self-reliance skills such as how to make soap, bread, cheese and dehydrated foods and how to grow and preserve produce.
"Do not depend on the government to take care of you when times are tough," Dave Dougherty, owner of SurviveUSA of Calico Rock, Ark., said. "You are responsible for you and your family."
Dougherty, of Pineville, Ark., was one of two presenters at the classes, focusing on self-reliance.
Dougherty spoke extensively about disaster preparedness and supplies, while Darren Holliday of Couch explained how a personal water crisis in 2009 prompted him to develop a way to get water from a drilled well without electricity.
After being asked by several community members, Slack said she asked Dougherty and Holliday to speak on preparedness because it is an issue that should concern everyone.
"The more prepared we all are, the better off everyone will be," Slack said.
Holliday, owner of Well WaterBoy Products, began the two-hour class by relating how he relied on a neighbor for water during a hot, dry summer, because his own water well was clogged with rocks, limiting his well to just 7 feet of water.
"I was told by well-drilling companies that no simple tool existed to remove the rocks, that I would have to spend thousands of dollars and hire a drill rig," Holliday said. "But, I thought if they could build pyramids thousands of years ago without modern technology, surely, I could get those rocks out of my well."
Holliday said that before the well issue, he thought he was prepared for any calamity with a disaster-resistant home, solar- and wind-energy, a greenhouse and enough garden space to enable him to sell vegetables to a local health food store.
"If it weren't for the generosity of my neighbor with a garden hose, I wouldn't have had water," Holliday said.
Holliday created a tool to suck the rocks, wedged 175 feet below the surface, out of the well. He described the rock extractor device he built as a metal syringe.
The extraction time took about three weeks. Once it was over, Holliday said he began thinking of ways to get water from a well if a pump fails or power is off for an extended period.
"Life can be complicated without power," Holliday said.
Holliday said he began searching the Internet and calling suppliers for tin well buckets, but could not find any in stock.
Again, he built what he needed, a modern version of old-time well buckets with a thumb-lever release to prevent water contamination.
Holliday held up the bucket, made of PVC pipe, and said he will never be without his own fresh water again. He began selling the buckets online and at local festivals in June 2011.
For information, visit www.wellwaterboy.com.
"History has proven over and over again that societies survive best when they are vigorous, cohesive and self-sufficient," Dougherty said.
Dougherty and partners Shirley Wunderlich and Tom Norveld opened SurviveUSA, a 6,500-square-foot store on Highway 56 in May 2011 when they could not find the supplies they needed locally after an ice storm.
They now sell bulk foods, water treatment supplies, dehydrated foods, guns, ammunition, fishing gear, camping equipment, stoves, cast-iron cookware, canning supplies, lanterns, alternative power supplies, heirloom seeds and more.
The store promotes "localization," rather than "globalization" and recommends building self-sufficient communities that produce and consume locally-made products, Dougherty said.
SurviveUSA also teaches classes to promote self-reliance, with topics such as food dehydration, first aid and seed-saving.
"Economic collapse in the United States is no longer an 'if,' but a 'when,'" Dougherty said. "Be scared, and be prepared."
Dougherty and Wunderlich brought along a table full of supplies to show and explain their usefulness during emergencies. Dougherty advised people to store bulk food and other supplies, either in their homes or at another safe location -- and then keep quiet about it.
"We learned during Hurricane Katrina how badly people behave in crisis," Dougherty said, relating the story of one family that had prepared a shelter away from New Orleans. "When they tried to get there, they had a caravan of people follow them and expect to be taken care of."
Dougherty recommended that everyone write down for the next 30 days what their family eats and how much. Then, store that food.
Relating stories of chaos following economic collapse in Argentina in 2001, Dougherty said people may also want to invest in security systems and learn to defend themselves.
"When things get bad, people always say they are going to 'head for the hills,'" Dougherty said. "Well, guess what. We are the hills."
For store information, visit www.surviveUSA.biz.
In February, the free class will teach beekeeping for beginners.
In March, Jack and Nancy Cole of Hickory Ridge Heirloom Seeds of Viola, Ark., will speak on starting garden plants and saving seeds.
Also this spring, a local female licensed contractor will teach basic carpentry to women.
Slack said the community's response to the classes has been overwhelmingly positive.
"The reward comes when I get a call from someone who says, 'I canned beans for the first time, or I made my own jelly for the first time.'"
The preparedness class with Holliday and Dougherty will be repeated in Mammoth Spring from 1-3 p.m. Jan. 21 at the George D. Hay Music Theater just off of Highway 63 South.
For information on Ozarks Sustainable Living University, call 417-264-2435.