The Dutch Liferaft

Allow me to relate a story to you. Many years ago in the Dutch village of Zomspeet lived a 13 year old boy named Bram De Jong. Bram’s father, Luuk De Jong, was a hardworking carpenter and Bram hoped to be as skilled as his father some day. 

On his twelfth birthday, Bram began to apprentice with his father. Bram looked up to his father, but thought perhaps that his father worked a bit too hard and too long. Bram’s friends who were his age were also apprenticing with their fathers. However, from the window of his father’s workshop, Bram would see his friends Lucas and Ruben running around and playing in the sunshine of a warm summer afternoon. Meanwhile, Bram would still be helping his father until the sun had almost set. 

The De Jong family did not have a lot of money. Nonetheless, Bram’s mother and father were always sure to put aside a bit of extra food in preparation for long winters. Bram noticed that while other men in the village were often found sitting at tables outside of the town tavern, his father would be working on yet another project. “I will have time for beer and leisure later.” Luuk told his son.

One day the village elders called a meeting and Luuk along with all of Bram’s friends’ fathers were in attendance. When Luuk returned he told his family that Milan, the oldest farmer in the province had issued a dire warning, this year they could see terrible flooding. Milan was 81 years old and, as a farmer, he had kept track of the seasons and the weather since he was a young man. According to Milan, the weather patterns of the current year were the same as those from forty-five years before when the entire village was flooded and water reached the roof tops.

According to Milan, the Waal River had broken the dikes and the flooding had lasted for days. He advised all of the villagers to build wooden lifeboats for their families and to fill them with food and water. Luuk related to his wife and son that, after Milan had left, most of the village elders and men in attendance had mocked him as crazy.  Everyone at the village hall was either not yet born or had been so young at the time that they had no recollection of the flood of which the old man spoke. 

The opinion of the elders was that while there might have been a flood forty-five years previous, it was certainly not as bad as the old man remembered. It was true that the old people of the village used to talk about a great flood, but that was a long time ago. No one spoke of that anymore. Others felt that most everyone would be safe on the second floor of their houses if a flood did come. They advised those with a single story house to go to a neighbor’s home if flood waters ever came.

Bram asked his father what he planned to do? “I am a carpenter, am I not? I will build a boat big enough for our whole family.” In addition to his father and mother, Bram had a five year old brother, Levi. Luuk’s younger brother, Finn, and his recent bride, Mila, would join the family if a crisis occurred. Bram liked his Uncle Finn. Finn always seemed to have a new joke to tell when he came for a visit.  

Over the next few weeks, Luuk and Bram worked on the family’s lifeboat when they were not working on other carpentry projects. Bram’s mother filled a wooden box with dried meats and fruit. She filled ceramic jugs with fresh, clean water and set them aside. Luuk taught Bram how to make oars from hardwood and to put a finish on them so they repelled water.

By the end of summer, Bram and his father had completed the lifeboat. A sturdy rope for a bow line was placed inside as were the hardwood oars and Luuk covered it all with a large canvas tarp. The food box and water jugs were staged in the family’s kitchen and life went on. 

Bram would work on his schooling until his noon meal and then apprentice with his father in the afternoon. A few of Bram’s friends’ fathers had come by during the summer seeking advice from Luuk about how to build their own lifeboats. Nonetheless, by the time of the fall harvest festival, most of the village seemed to have forgotten about the warning of the old man.

Bram loved the harvest festival, the air was filled with wonderful smells as the women of the village prepared a variety of food. There were games in day time for the children and music and dancing for the adults at night. The De Jong family, even Luuk, all took a break from their labors and enjoyed the festivities.

On the morning of the last day of the weeklong festival, Bram was excited to meet his friends at the square. As he hurried to the heart of the village, the Dutch boy was surprised to feel a chill on the wind. The previous days had all been pleasant. Today the wind was coming from the north and Bram paused to consider going back for his coat.

By afternoon the street vendors were doing all they could to keep their canopies from blowing away. All day long the wind strength grew and the midday skies grew dark. By supper time the dark clouds opened and rain began to fall. The mayor announced the day’s activities cancelled. It had been a good festival up to that point so everyone should just return home.

As Bram lay in his bed that night he could hear the rain beating against the roof of their home. The sound of steady rain helped him drift off into a deep sleep. When he awoke the next morning, Bram was surprised that he could still hear the sound of rain. “Had it rained all night long?” he wondered to himself. After breakfast, Bram ran from the house to his father’s workshop trying to dodge the downpour from the sky. He could see the low lying areas around the house had filled with water. When he entered the workshop, Bram found his father at the bench planing a piece of wood. “Good, you are up.” Luuk said to his son, “I have a job for you. Go to your Uncle Finn’s house and tell him to bring Aunt Mila with him here, as soon as he can.”

By the time Bram made his way home with Finn and Mila, they had to wade through small streams that had formed in every low lying part of their village. The standing water was building up everywhere. In his thirteen years, Bram had never known the rain to fall so hard for so long. The youth saw men with a horse cart filled with sand bags heading north toward the dike that held back the Waal River.

When Bram, Finn and Mila entered the house they were soaked to the bone. Luuk and his wife were in the kitchen with Levi. “It looks as though the old man might have been correct.” Luuk said. “Yes, that seems to be the case.” Finn replied. Luuk continued, “If the Waal dike breaks, we will have little time. Sophie, will you and Mila put the food and water in the boat?” Bram’s father fed the fire in the stove and the wet trio gathered around it to get warm and dry. “We’ll all sleep under one roof tonight and see what tomorrow might bring.” Mr. De Jong stated to the extended family.

When he woke the next morning, Bram could hear the rain. He found his father sitting by the black iron stove in his rocking chair. The young man realised his father had been up all night long. Soon thereafter, Finn emerged. It had now been raining for nearly two days straight. 

Luuk had Finn and Bram follow him to the workshop. Once inside and out the hearing of the women, Luuk spoke gravely. “There are not enough boats to save the village.” “How can that be?” Finn asked. Luuk frowned, “Most of the men in the village thought the old man had lost his mind and they ignored him. Very few of them have lifeboats for their families.” Mr. De Jong paused and looked his brother and son in the eyes individually, “I pray it is not as bad as old Milan said, but if it is, many in the village will not survive.”

Just then the sound of the church bell began to ring. This was not a call to worship, this was the alarm. The continued ringing of the bell meant one thing, the dike had broken, the waters of the Waal River were rushing toward the village. 

Bram’s father said not one word as he ran to the house. Everyone knew what to do. They lifted the edge of the canvas tarp high enough for everyone to climb in. Luuk and Finn being the heaviest sat at opposite ends. The women, Bram and his little brother sat in the middle. Luuk had made the tarp large enough to act as a shelter from the rain. The family huddled in the wooden boat and waited. 

Bram could not say how long they sat in the boat before they heard the roar of the approaching water. When it reached them and their lifeboat, the force shook the craft. Mila let out a brief scream. “Hold on everyone, we will be fine.” Luuk assured his family. Bram felt the boat shift as the rising flood waters carried it. When they lifted the tarp to look outside, Bram was shocked to see that the boat was higher than the kitchen window of their home, by his estimation they were more than a hundred yards from the house and moving away. The house seemed to be moving farther away and sinking at the same time. Bram was amazed that the flood waters were rising so rapidly.

Bram’s family held the tarp over their heads and surveyed the scene. They saw the Jansen family in their boat not too far away, perhaps a hundred yards or more. Karl Jansen had been one of the men who sought Luuk’s advice to make a lifeboat. Karl Jansen had a wife and three children. There were people in the water. They were yelling and screaming for help. Many were swimming toward the Jansen family boat.

The De Jong family watched in horror as the Jansen family boat was overwhelmed by the people in the water. Unable to hold the weight, the Jansen lifeboat tipped and then sank below the flood waters. Karl Jansen and his wife desperately tried to save their children but the panicked villagers flailed and screamed and pushed the Jansens down, drowning the entire family. 

A dozen or so remaining villagers spotted the De Jong lifeboat and began to swim for it. Luuk yelled to Finn and Bram, “Grab the oars, don’t let them get to the boat they will drown us all!” As the panicked swimmers approached the lifeboat, Luuk yelled a warning. “Stay back, leave us be.” The villagers in the water ignored the command and kept coming. They screamed for Luuk to save them.

“Stop!” Bram’s father yelled as a man reached out to grab the family’s boat. A fraction of a moment later, Luuk smashed the head of that man with the heavy, hardwood oar. At the bow, Finn defended the lifeboat as another man in the water lunged for the front. Finn stuck that man with all his might, splitting his head open.

Sophie and Mila huddled in the center of the boat, little Levi between them. Mila screamed once more as a woman put her hands on the edge of the boat and started to pull herself up. Bram recognized her, she was Mrs. Bakker, the mayor’s wife. 

Finn and Luuk were busy defending the fore and aft. “No, stop, get out!” Bram yelled. But Mrs. Bakker, a crazed look in her eyes, ignored him. At that moment the yelling and screaming became muffled in Bram’s ears. The sight of the Jansen family being drowned by the panicked mob flashed in his mind. It seemed that the world was moving in slow motion. Bram De Jong was now operating on survival instinct. If he did not act, his family would suffer the same fate as the others. The youth was a bit surprised when the oar he was holding crashed down onto the mayor’s wife who was pulling herself into their boat. Bram saw her eyes roll back into her head and he watched her slip below the flood waters. 

Epilogue

Like one of Aesop’s fables, not all stories have a happy ending but they do have a moral and many have lessons. I would expect the moral of this story would be self-evident, but we will dissect the tale regardless.

First, we have the warning from the old man. The villagers think that the old man is paranoid or prone to exaggeration. They are assured that things could never get that bad. It is a common form of arrogance in man to behave as if history began on the day that they were born. Far too often, humans, whether by default or design, will act as though nothing that happened before they arrived on this planet matters. In this story we see that the villagers had no direct memory of the previous catastrophic flood, so they acted as though the historical relevance made no difference to them.

Luuk, Bram’s father, is a skilled carpenter with the talent and ability to build a sturdy liferaft for his family. Despite the fact that Luuk was available to give advice in such matters, only a few of the villagers decided to take him up on the subject. The villagers had all summer and into the fall to prepare, but most chose not to do so. When the flood came they were not prepared. It was not that they hadn’t been given warning, they had. They also had ample time to prepare, but they chose not to. 

When the unprepared and panicked villagers swam for the Jansen boat, Mr. Jansen was ill prepared to stop them from sinking it. He had done the right thing by making a lifeboat, but he and his family perished anyway. On the other hand, Luuk had arranged for his adult brother to join his family in the event of an emergency. He had built the boat so that it was big enough for the extended family. The De Jong family did not drown because there were two adult men and a teenage boy on the boat to defend it. That does not make Luuk De Jong cruel or a selfish monster. He did what was right while other men lounged at the tavern.

At the end of the story, the De Jong men had to use the oars to bash the heads of those whose panicked behavior would have sunk and killed them all. The people in the water were not foreign invaders, they were their neighbors. Bram recognized Mrs. Bakker, the mayor’s wife, but none of that mattered. The people in the water were going to drown, the only difference would be whether or not they took the De Jong family with them.

When the societal collapse comes, whether it lasts a few weeks, a few months, or 299 days as one author suggested, there will be people who completely failed to prepare. In a panic, they will cry out for those who did prepare to save them. They will attempt to overwhelm the prepared people and, if they are successful, both the prepared and unprepared will all die because there will not be enough for all. 

You cannot make your neighbors and family build their own lifeboat. However, unless you want to be in a position where you are smashing heads with an oar, you need to encourage them to become self-reliant, now. 

The Dutch Liferaft is Chapter 7 of Pipe Hitter’s Guide to Crushing the Coming Societal Breakdown.

All a person has to do is pay attention to what is happening in the world around them. The United States of America, and possibly the entire world, is heading for a disaster of epic proportions. Few intellectually honest people do not believe we are headed for a societal breakdown of some sort.

The big question is; What are you going to do about it? You can sit back and allow circumstances to roll over you OR you can prepare yourself, your family, and your community to CRUSH the coming breakdown.

We enlist the advice of a seasoned Pipe Hitter, a person willing to go to great lengths to get the job done. Will you take the time to listen? Will you be prepared to crush whatever crisis comes your way? Topics Include: Crushing Food Prep, Fighting Guns, Tribes, Fortifications and Fire Bases, Team Tactics and more.Topics Include: Crushing Food Prep, Team Tactics, Choosing the Right Firearm, Traumatic Medicine and Blow Out Kits, Tribes, Fortifications and Fire Bases, and more.

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