What ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ Can Teach Us About Survival

I grew up during a time when many television programs were still black and white. I remember coming home from school and watching Andy Griffith, McHale’s Navy and The Beverly Hillbillies, along with a slew of other programs which have been relegated to the “vintage” cabinet today.

I always enjoyed those programs and actually learned from them. Andy Griffith had a lot of wisdom that applies to everyday life and dealing with others. But the program which probably had the least wisdom is the one that can teach us the most about a survival mentality. That’s The Beverly Hillbillies.

In case you’ve never seen that series, it was about a poor hillbilly family (the Clampetts) who suddenly became millionaires because the old man of the family happened to find oil. Their friends thought that he should use his wealth to move to Beverly Hills, Calif., and live among the Hollywood rich. So, he did, loading up his old truck with everything from the butter churn to granny’s rocking chair and buying himself a mansion to enjoy his new life.

What made the show so funny is that he didn’t change his lifestyle just because he changed his address. Rather, he and the others tried to live much as they had before, with granny still churning her own butter and making her own homebrew medicines, just as they had, when they lived back in the hills.

This is actually akin to the kind of situation that many of us could find ourselves in, after a disaster, such as the loss of the electrical grid. Here are a few things we could learn from the Clampetts:

1. They were frugal

Even with his millions in the bank, old Jed kept wearing the same disreputable-looking hat and jacket. He apparently couldn’t see any real reason to use some of his wealth to upgrade. While that may seem like an utter lack of style to some, he was satisfied with what he had and wasn’t just looking to buy new things, just to have them.

Being frugal goes totally contrary to the consumerism we have here in America. We are a consumer society which is used to throwing things away, rather than fixing them. We’re ready to spend money to buy something new, just because the perfectly serviceable one we have doesn’t look so nice anymore. Some of us even replace our cars every year, even though the old one is still working just fine.

But being a spendthrift actually goes contrary to being a prepper. Not only does it take money that we could use for more important things, but when things go south, we’re going to need to be frugal with everything we have. Conservation of resources must be our byword. It already was for them.

2. They looked for available resources

I remember one of the earlier shows, when Jethro cut down a “tree” for firewood. It turns out that tree was an electric pole. While I’m sure that the power company wasn’t real happy with his selection of their “tree,” I applaud him for his resourcefulness.

Jed and his family were used to doing for themselves, living off the land as much as possible. They brought that understanding with them to Beverly Hills and continued looking around, to see what resources were available. While they had the money to buy all the firewood they could ever want and have it delivered and stacked, they preferred to meet their own needs, looking at what was available and thinking outside the box.

We, too, need that ability to look at what’s around us and see the potential uses for each item, rather than being stuck on the “intended” use. Those power poles really will make great firewood if the grid goes down for a long, long time.

3. They didn’t try to keep up with the Joneses

Even though they had the money to do so, the Clampetts didn’t try to live like everyone else. Part of that may have been that they just weren’t used to those things. But the bigger part was that they just didn’t see a need to impress anyone. If people weren’t impressed with them as they were, they just didn’t care.

While you and I might not be keeping up with the Joneses that live next door, we have our own version of that to watch out for. That is, trying to outdo each other in the variety and quality of our survival equipment. Buy something that works for you, and stick with it. You don’t need to buy the latest and greatest survival gadget, even if your buddies do.

4. They stuck to their guns

I seriously doubt The Beverly Hillbillies would air in Hollywood today, simply because the way that Jed found his oil was shooting a gun, of all things. Not only that, but they brought their guns to California with them. Try that today and you might just find yourself living in a government mansion that’s a bit overcrowded and has bars on the windows.

There were a number of scenes where Granny pulled out her shotgun and looked like she was ready to use it. You didn’t mess with that old gal. She knew how to shoot and she wasn’t afraid to do so. Like many others living in the hills, they loved their guns and believed in their Second Amendment rights.

5. They saw things from a practical viewpoint

Part of what made the show so amusing was the contrast between the down-home hillbilly lifestyle and the luxury surroundings. Even though they had a mansion, with all the trimmings, it was as if they were living back home, in the hills. The luxury of the mansion was a backdrop, nothing more.

One of my favorite ways this showed up was in their “cement pond.” To the hillbillies, the idea of a swimming pool was a foreign idea. If you wanted to cool off on a hot day, you could jump in the local pond. They were fortunate enough to have a pond right behind their house. I’m just surprised that it wasn’t stocked with fish and didn’t have lily pads growing in it.

6. They did things for themselves

Not once did you see a servant on the show. For that matter, I’m not even sure they would know what to do with one. They did everything for themselves, even to the point of Granny making her own medicines.

This would not have been an uncommon attitude for people living in the hills. But it’s a very uncommon attitude today. One that you and I need. If we’re going to be self-sufficient, we must learn how to be self-sufficient in all things. Part of that involves making the things that we will need.

While I am sure that cottage industries will start to sprout up after a major disaster, I’m equally sure that it will take some time for that to happen. Waiting for someone else to do things will be too risky. We’re going to have to do them ourselves. Through that, we could be the ones that jump start those cottage industries starting in our area.

7. They believed in simplicity

Modern society is extremely complicated. As I look around my home, I’m amazed with the amount of stuff that we own. While there is very little that is just there taking up space, we still have a house full, and to be honest, little of it is truly useful in a survival situation.

I’m a firm believer in the KISS Principle. If you’re not familiar with that, it means “Keep it Simple Stupid.” Past generations of Americans understood that much better than we do so today. They lived a much simpler life, with much fewer possessions. Yet their lives were full nevertheless. Turning back to that simpler lifestyle would actually make it easier for us to survive.

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