Finding Water in the Wilderness By Anthony R. Kolb

Perhaps the single most important thing for us daily is hydration, even though most folks never realize it or think about it. If you are away from your tap, or an emergency happens it becomes obvious very quickly. So how do you find and purify the necessary life sustaining water?

The easiest way is to take what you need with you. This means knowing how much you need daily and accurately planning the trip. An average person needs to consume about 13 cups (3 liters) of water (or other liquids) per day and women need about 9 cups (2.2 liters) when in a temperate climate. These requirements go up with exertion and climate. The more we sweat the more water we need. Our bodies tell us when we need to hydrate, we get thirsty and our urine is clear when we are properly hydrated and gets darker as our need for hydration increases. It is unlikely when traveling on foot that one will carry enough water for more than a few days.

Water is readily available in most environments. Creeks, lakes, oceans, ponds, rain, rivers and streams are all good sources of water. Water also settles under the ground. Three quarters of the earth’s surface is covered by water, clearly an abundance exists, but in certain areas and during times of drought it can be more difficult to find. Water sources are annotated on most maps in blue. Intermittent streams are annotated in dashed and dotted blue lines. These are streams that tend to dry up during certain times of year and can be overflowing at others.

Finding water isn’t the only problem, once you have found the life sustaining water, you have to purify it. Several common methods are available. Boiling is perhaps the most common. Boil your water from 3-12 minutes depending upon altitude. Most elevations will require only 3-5 minutes of boiling, the higher the altitude, the longer you have to boil it to get rid of any bad bacteria and other organisms that may be lurking in your water source. Boiling isn’t always the most efficient, since it can cost both time and fuel to boil the water. You also must have something to boil it in. In the day and age of plastics this can be an issue sometimes. Generally a large pot can be packed inside a backpack and aluminum is light weight enough to not adversely affect the weight of the pack; carry a lid for the pot to enhance boiling time and conserve fuel.

Chlorine bleach is also another easy way to purify water. Simply add 1/4 teaspoon per gallon of water (about 16 drops). Bleach kills just about everything, however if you store bleach in your kit, change it out about every six months as it begins to degrade. The little Tobasco bottles found in most Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MRE) pouches make a great container to hold enough bleach to purify several gallons of water. This is perhaps my most favorite method of purifying. Simply put about 4 drops of bleach into a quart water bottle or canteen and shake well. Chlorine dioxide tablets are a modern solution and do not have an expiration, the downside is it takes time, typically four hours to purify the water. Calcium hypochlorite is another bleaching method. It is inexpensive and easy to use. For $5.00 you can purchase enough to purify 10,000 gallons of water. Add 1/2 a teaspoon of granules to 1 gallon of water, label this as poison; add 1/8 cup of solution to a gallon of water to purify it. This works great for purifying large quantities of water. If you collect rain water off your roof through the gutter system, this is also a good method of purification.

Iodine tablets are another method for purifying water. Iodine has a tendency to change both the color and taste of the water, it isn’t my most favorite method, but it is effective and most camping supply stores still sell small bottles of iodine tablets. These are good to keep inside your vehicles, they tend to not spoil or degrade like bleach will. One advantage to this method is the iodine can be used to clean wounds.

Ultraviolet light is a newly developed method of purifying water, but is the least effective method as it doesn’t kill viruses. There are many of these systems available on the internet. I know this is a fairly new technology, so in time it might be a viable option for all uses.

My other method is filtration, there are a number of systems on the market, just make sure you read the labels as some simply take out impurities while others actually purify. There are many good pump systems, and water bottle systems that use charcoal filters. Usually you get a 98% accuracy with these and they do not affect the taste of the water. They are light and compact to carry and even work with camel pack type water storage systems.

Let’s look at water storage systems. Over the centuries they really have changed little. Water flasks, water skins, canteens, cups, jugs, jars, and bottles. Everyone has their preferences. Today’s technology gives us Nalgene water bottles (BPA free) that have wide mouths and are labeled for measuring. BPA is bad, a chemical reaction from the standard plastic water bottles that are mass marketed to grocers and convenience stores, add sun and/or heat and it causes a reaction with the thin plastic. Camel Pack style water bladders are also a favorite and come in many styles and fit in most bug out bags. These can have inline filtration systems installed. I still like canteens and water skins, especially at historical reenactments. My philosophy is you have to have the right water storage system for what it is you’re doing. Just as you have to have the right pack. My favorite for short trips and day the hikes is a camel pack with large pouches to carry my basic survival needs. I have a smaller one for runs and cycling treks. For longer trips I carry one inside my pack and carry a few extra water bottles. Longer hikes you can simply add more water with canteens and Molle style systems. If you are going to be out for weeks, simply set up caches along your route. Remember to replenish your water supplies whenever possible. Never pass up a viable supply without refilling everything, your next stop might be dry.


Survival Shelters By Anthony R. Kolb

One of the most important things one can do if lost in the wilderness is find shelter. The elements can very quickly turn a bad situation worse, and can have deadly results. There are many ways of obtaining shelter in the wilds. Finding natural shelter is perhaps one of the easiest, if you know how. Caves, overhangs, hollowed trees, fallen trees, snow banks and sand dunes are just a few examples.  Many forms of shelter can be carried into the wilds, it really boils down to personal preference.

Shelter is one of the first things I look for if I am lost, or hurt. I usually have at least some food and water with me, so I typically will take care of the shelter part next. Shelter can also continually be upgraded. Each day you can make steady improvements to the living conditions. Shelters are sort of a work in progress. You need to first get yourself protected from the wind, rain, sun and other elements. This doesn’t have to be a palace, only large enough for you and anyone else with you. In fact, the smaller the better at times.

Once you’ve chosen your site clear out any debris and insects that might be inside. Then begin gathering as much insulating material as possible. Leaves work very well, just gather them up and pack them inside, the more the better. If you need frontal protections begin stacking limbs and weaving them across the front of the cave opening. Remember the more leaves you can pack inside, the more insulation you’ll have. It is also way more comfortable to sleep on a pile of leaves than on the cold stone floor of the cave. Even wet leaves will provide insulation value so you don’t have to be too picky, just pack them inside.

Here are some things you can use as a shelter:




branches and limbs
Specific examples and diagrams can be found in the Field Manual (FM) 21-76 U. S. Army Survival Manual. The manual is available for download in PDF at:

Shelters can vary a great deal and you can find a way to protect yourself in any environment, you are limited only by your imagination and time. The important thing is to get yourself insulated and protected from the elements as quickly as possible. Once the initial shelter is made, you should continue to improve your shelter as time and materials provide.

Once you have your shelter structure built it is time to work on those improvements. Remember, temperatures can tend to drop even in the peak summer seasons. Altitude, wind speed, cloud cover, precipitation can all contribute to loss of heat and loss of heat can lead to hyperthermia. On the opposite side of the scale, is hypothermia. Neither of these are good.
To combat loss of heat, insulate, insulate, insulate. Even wet leaves can provide insulation. In the next few articles we will look at some camp improvements and pioneering projects to make life in the backwoods more comfortable. Remember I bad day outdoors beats a good day inside.

Overcoming the Fear of Performing By Anthony R. Kolb

After performing as a professional magician for years as a young boy and adolescent, why now do I hesitate to practice and to perform for people? That could take years of psychoanalysis to figure out. Perhaps it is just the fact that my mother sold all my magic apparatus when I joined the Army and went away to college back in 1985. What ever the reason, I need to over come that fear. The question is how do I do that?

So far in my life I have found the best way to overcome fear, is to just jump right in and “rip off the band-aid”. Ignore the pain and realize the pain will quickly go away. Then each time it will get easier since you know what to expect. The pain level is the same, but my tolerance will increase each time. Sort of like repelling, the first step is always the worst, once the rope holds the fear level drops.

Special thanks go to the International Brotherhood of Magicians, Earl Edwards Ring 103, Hampton Roads, Virginia. After being stationed in Norfolk, Virginia for three months and missing several meeting, I went to their July meeting. Meetings are held at classroom 18, Blocker Hall, Virginia Wesleyan College, at 0715 pm, on the first Tuesday of every month. Fortunately I had the forethought to stuff a few things into my pockets and got there early enough to beat the crowd. This gave me about half an hour to look through my few effects and pick and practice a few of them.

I brought a small checkbook style wallet which contained eight to ten small card tricks, including a couple of variations of a three card monte, a dollar bill to card, 10 or 12 gaffed cards, two color placards which change sizes and a couple of paddle effects. I practiced two of the three card monte effects (one of my own design and one more an adult version), the size changing placards and a paddle effect. I decided I would wait and size up the audience before actually decided what to do if called upon to perform.

Once one of the fella’s arrived, an older very kind looking gentlemen who goes by the nickname of, “Musty”, all practice ceased. Then more people arrived, about 10 people showed up including a guest form upstate New York. James Johnke their President Pro temp ore, just wrote everyone’s name, including mine on the board and asked each of us to perform either a magic trick or tell a joke. Some did both or several of each. It was awesome. My name was third on the list and I had a couple of acts in front of me. Seeing a bit of nervousness in them actually quelled my jitters just a bit.

I decided on a three card monte trick where two of the cards, I suggest using summer cards, where “summer red and summer black,“ two are of one color and the center one is of the other. I also use two decks with “summer” backs, the two red cards (5D and 5H) have dark backs (typically blue) and the center card, the black card is (red backed). You ask your spectator to keep their eye on the odd card and to remember its’ face value (3 of clubs in this case). You then deal the cards face down in order, blue back, red back and blue back. Remind the spectator that, “The hands can be quicker than the eye!” Move the cards around very slowly at first and as you speed up remind the spectator to keep their eye on the 3 of clubs and not get it confused. Remember it is the only red backed card. When you stop, ask the spectator to place their finger on the 3 of clubs, ask them if they are sure. When they assure you they have it, simply snap your fingers and have them turn the card over, which has now changed before their eyes to 5 of clubs. When I looked into my spectators eyes, I saw the magic. All the fear of the performance in me was gone, and the amazed look was all the motivation I needed.

I adapted the original three card monte with the differing backs twelve years ago, and after this meeting have added the “Summer Cards,” bit; which was used by several of the performers at the meeting. Being around like minded people helps. I saw a few shaking hands, and heard a few cracked voices. It just helps to realize sometimes that everyone stresses over something, stress and anxiety are just part of life. Doesn’t matter what the cause is, it truly can be overcome. Thanks to the members and guests of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, Ring 103, I was on to my next performance within days of the meeting, which was my first performance in years.

Friday afternoon, I was in my office at Naval Station Norfolk and as I was preparing to leave I noticed a deck of cards setting innocently on someone else’s desk. I picked them up shuffled them and fanned them out and asked a young Sailor to select a card, look at it, remember it and return it somewhere into the center of the deck, which rested squared face down in my hand. I pulled a card out and said, “That isn’t your card is it?” “No,” he said. I then placed the squared deck on the table, snapped my fingers and fanned the cards out, all face down, except for one, the Ace of Diamonds, his chosen card! Who knows, Monday quarters just might be the time for my third performance in a week.

From the Survivalist By Anthony R. Kolb

Last week I got up for my morning jog, and the outside temperature was 56 degrees. Summer is right around the corner. It is going to be time for some serious backpacking, camping, canoeing, fishing, hiking, hunting, kayaking or whatever your favorite outdoor activity. This requires a bit of preparation and training on your part to be safe. As the Boy Scouts of America’s Motto says, “Be Prepared”! I am not suggesting that you start squirreling away years worth of provisions, dig a fall out shelter on your property or start stock piling weapons and ammo. You should practice a few simple survival skills before venturing out into the wilderness for any length of time. Better to have something and not need it, than need it and not have it. The goal is to become familiar with various wilderness survival techniques and familiarize or review the basics necessary to sustain one’s self indefinitely. I will go over basic skills, attitude, shelter, clothing, water, food, orienteering, equipment, first aid and other general skills.

These skills have been developed since age ten when I began camping with Cub Scout Pack 7, Webelos Den in 1974. Harry LaVoice and Dave Keeney, my Den Leaders and later Scoutmasters instilled in me the great love of the wilderness and the desire to become one with mother nature. It was also in 1974 when our group camped at the second Ft. Massac Encampment, and I was introduced to the Kaintuck Muzzleloaders, a group of 18’th Century Re-enactors based in western Kentucky. They spring-boarded my skills to the next levels. From there I progressed through the ranks of both organizations; joined a primitive Explorer Post, and continued to learn and practice my skills. In 1985 I joined the Army. My Army training included Basic Training; 4 Combat Arms Military Occupational Specialties; Drill Sergeant School; and lots of being outdoors. Then in 1996 I converted to the Navy as a Gunner’s Mate and later a Master-at-Arms. Two Seabee Battalions; four tours in Southwest Asia with Navy Expeditionary Combat Commands and NCIS (yes it exists and not like all the T. V. series); two years at sea and lots of SAR training. This gives me some degree of expertise on the matter of survival in the wilds.

First, I recommend that everyone begin their preparations by reading up on wilderness survival techniques. There are a number of good resources available, both electronically and in traditional print format. I absolutely love the Field Book, published by the Boy Scouts of America. Tom Brown Jr., has published many great books on the subject. Many of the ideas and techniques in this article come from those sources. There are a variety of survival manuals available from military surplus stores, libraries and outfitters. Some outfitters I particularly like are Brigade Quartermaster, Campmor, Cavalry Store, Gander Mountain and Sportsman’s Guide. All of them have websites and catalogs. Tom Brown Jr., runs a wilderness survival school in New Jersey and has a great website.

One of the best things you can have is a positive mental attitude. I will examine this first. In many survival situations, wether you’re lost, had an accident, injured, fear can be your biggest enemy. Simply being confident in your skills and abilities will help immensely. The best way to gain the confidence, is to learn and practice the necessary survival skills before you actually find yourself in a survival situation. Knowledge replaces fear. By knowing and understanding your environment, you will come to realize, that environment can and will provide you everything that you need to survive. But, that isn’t enough, once you acquire the knowledge, you must practice it. This builds your skills, and boosts your confidence. Humans have the intelligence and will to be able to adapt to every environment known on earth at least for some period of time. Even the word SURVIVAL itself can be useful, if you can remember this acronym:

S- Size Up the Situation
U- Use all Your Senses
R- Remember Where You Are
V- Vanquish Fear and Panic
I- Improvise
V-Value Living
A-Act Like the Natives
L- Live by Your Wits


Size up the situation. If you find yourself in a hostile situation, find a place where you can conceal yourself. Security has to take priority. What are the hostiles doing?
Why? How will it affect your situation? Make a plan that encompasses what you know and adjust it as needed. Even civilians can find themselves in hostile survival circumstances given today’s political landscape. Active shooters, crazy people, even in a disaster situation, the criminal elements can run wild until control is restored.

Size up your surroundings, wether forest, jungle, desert, mountainous, or aquatic. Each type of provides you with certain dangers and resources. It is important to take notice of the sounds and patterns in your area. Research prior to journeying into a particular type of environment is paramount.

Size up you physical and mental condition. Administer self aid as needed for any injuries you may have incurred. Take note of your mental condition as well. The effects of hunger, fatigue, hypothermia/hyperthermia and dehydration can all effect you mental faculties. Take care to prevent any further injury and treat any existing injuries as soon as possible.

Size up your equipment, and the general resources a available to you. Check all your equipment and it’s condition. Growing up in the mid-west, I find myself more at home is forest than a desert’ though after spending five years in the deserts of Southwest Asia, more time in the arid lands of Western Texas and Eastern New Mexico; a few years in the jungles of Asia; and two years at sea I have learned one can easily adapt to various surroundings, if they have done their homework. Where ever you find yourself when in a survival situation, figure out what you have available, then begin your survival plan. Prioritize your basic needs, water, shelter, food and concealment (if needed).


Use all your senses. Listen to your surroundings, even on the move. Watch the wildlife, and how they react. There is also your sense of smell, note any changes. Touch is also a valuable asset. But, don’t forget that sixth sense, sometimes you have to listen to that instinct or feeling you have.


Remember where you are. Attempt to pin point your location on your map. Note locations of water sources, areas of good cover and concealment, and open areas where rescuers may find you. Note friendly and hostile locations. If there are others with you make sure they know too.


Vanquish fear and panic. By properly practicing and developing the skills you need before you have to use them in an actual survival situation will help eliminate a great deal of the fear and panic. Knowledge replaces fear. Fear and panic can send an injured person into shock. One can make irrational decisions when they are scared. Avoid this at all cost. You have to tell yourself you will be ok, you will survive.


Improvise, no matter how complete your survival gear is, it will eventually wear out. Use your resources around you. Your imagination must take over. Use a rock for a hammer, build your shelter out of natural materials, build comfort items as you meet your basic needs.


Value living. You have to put this at the forefront of your mind. Humans from birth fight for life, however our society has softened us considerably. Fast food, stores with everything imaginable, we can even shop while traveling now with smart phones, and tablets. We have become a very lazy nation, far too dependent on our technology. Our basic instincts are hidden deep down inside of us.


Act like the natives. This is a simple concept, if there are local people who are acclimated to the climate and environment then mirror what they do, if they avoid a local pond, stream or river, there perhaps is a good reason. If they avoid a certain plant, or fruit they might have a good reason. Watch the local animals as well. Squirrels tend to gather all sorts of stuff, everyone know the expression, “Squirrel away nuts for the winter.” But, do you know that they also squirrel away leaves, sticks and grass that they take back to their nests where they use it for insulation on those cold winter days and nights? This is a basic lesson you can learn from the local animals, but only if you are observant.


Live by your wits. Learn basic skills. Make sure you learn and practice the techniques and procedures for survival in the various environments in which you will be venturing. This will increase the chances that you know what to do, and how to do it. The more you know, and the better you are at it, the greater your chances of surviving. Remember, practice makes perfect.

You can practice in your own back yard. Put together a few simple items into a survival kit. This kit doesn’t have to be expensive or large. I am a huge fan of multi-purposing items. A knife or “Leatherman” style tool, 550 cord, 2-3 ways of starting a fire, a compass, small fishing kit, perhaps an emergency blanket (I prefer the mummy style), water and a way to purify water. This will give you the basics. Over the course of time, you will add and subtract from your basics you carry. These can be carried inside a camel-bak, fanny pack, cargo pocket, or even a small pouch tied to the top of a walking staff. Set up a shelter in your back yard, practice starting a fire, and spend a few nights outside lost to home, or in a campground before setting off into the back country. Practice in all four season

Bottom line up front, is to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors! Have fun and go as often as you can. Keep your attitude positive no matter what happens.

Over the course of the next articles, I will discuss shelter, clothing, water, food, orienteering, equipment, first aid and other general skills. I hope these will help you become confident and safe in your outdoor endeavors and who knows they just might come in handy when least expected.

Magic, My Great Escape by Anthony Kolb

For the last 13 years I have often wondered why I was into Magic as a profession.  Though I did do escape magic, mostly handcuffs, chains and ropes; I didn’t aspire to be the next Houdini. Magic itself. For me, was an escape.

My mother started me out with piano lessons almost as soon as I was able to sit up on a piano bench.  Hours of endless practice, weekly lessons and more practice. I remember playing classical piano at concerts and in competitions well before starting first grade.  I really didn’t hate music, or the piano, but I was only allowed to play classical music. Add in the hair cut that looked like a barber put a bowl on my head, a bow tie and some tight shoes, you can see how a kid at 4, 5, 6 and 7 years old wouldn’t like it. Hours of practice, especially when it isn’t something you even like is torture.

The summer after my 8th birthday, I was old enough to help my Dad for the summer. Dad was a house painter by trade, I learned how to use a sash tool and roller.  After finishing our first apartment together, I went with him to get our payment.  The owners of the apartment also owned Party Mart, which was the largest liquor and novelty store in Paducah, Kentucky. There I found my first few magic tricks.  Party Mart had several boxed magic tricks. Plastic cup and balls with little white cotton balls, plastic egg vase, nails thru coin, a Svengali deck, a thumb tip with silk and a three card monte trick. Within a week or two I managed to master all of them.

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Later that summer, my Dad painted the exterior of a real professional magician’s house.  I remember him coming home and hooking a small flat-bed trailer to the truck and off to Barlow, Kentucky we went.  That’s when I met Richard Price.  Richard was gracious enough to let me go through all his out buildings packed with tons of magic and pick out a wealth of magic stuff.  Tables, a huge square circle, a paddle trick, magic wands, an appearing cane, a temple screen, a milk pitcher, a fish bowl that could produce numerous dry items and many more things.  Richard became my first mentor in magic.  He showed me how to fan cards and do lifts.  How to do forces and use a key card.  He also propelled me onto the stage as a young professional magician.  Richard encouraged me to read everything I could get my hands on that pertained to magic.

The thing Richard and perhaps even I didn’t know is, he not only allowed me to escape from my mother’s clutches as a young pianist, but he also allowed me to escape from the reality of my young life.  A life surrounded by alcoholism, poverty and an overbearing hypercondriac mother.  In real life I was the poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks. On stage or where ever I was performing I could escape into my imagination. I could be just like Doug Henning. The really amazing thing was, people actually paid me to do this. The audiences loved it. I actually made money, vice the piano where I simply got some silly blue ribbon or a certificate at some silly concert. I still remember my very first show, it was for a cub scout pack. I think they paid me $25.00 for a half hour show. Tony’s Magic Show was not only born it was on the road to success.

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From that first show the business and my skill level began to grow. I travelled all around Western Kentucky, Southern Illinois and Southeast Missouri. Some shows were donated, but most paid between $25.00-$150.00. I purchased a few more effects each and every month and performed at malls, libraries, schools, civic organizations, fairs and festivals. Funny thing was I would spend hours in our garage practicing and imagining that I actually was this great wizard. We drove to Carmi, Illinois and bought 6 doves which were added to the show. Rabbits and even a ferret were later added. The animals were great assistants since they never asked about a raise or a day off.

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By 1976 the show began to have repeat customers. I was a regular at the Paducah Public Library, Paducah Summer Festival, Noble Park, and at an amusement park called Kaintuck Territory. I had met many other wonderful professional Magicians. Bill Coomer, Bill Boley and the Amazing Conklins just to name a few. By High School, I was winning awards and talent shows, and I had even started thinking about a real assistant. I had money in the bank and was able to purchase all my own clothes including suits and tuxedos. Being on stage or in front of an audience for me still meant I wasn’t at home.

Once I graduated high school, and went to college, I slowed performances down. After a couple of years at a community college I joined the Army Reserve, moved away to SIU in Carbondale, Illinois and after meeting my wife I got married. At some point in those first 4 years after high school all my magic apparatus was gone. Taken away to an auction barn and sold for pennies on the dollar because, “I hadn’t used any of it in years and we didn’t have anywhere to store it.” Needless to say, I was furious. So furious I never did another magic trick after that.

Fast forward to 2002, my oldest son was getting married, and re-enter Bill Coomer into my life. I had been deployed in the middle east immediately following the events of September 11, 2001 and was home on leave for Mike’s wedding. Bill was the minister. The evening of the rehearsal dinner, there’s Bill over by the buffet line doing some really amazing things with a silver dollar. He looks over to me and says, “Hey Tony show them one of your card tricks.” I had nothing really, but I did remember how to find a selected card by, well by magic of course. Amazing after all those years I had one or two left in me. But, I did pull Bill aside and sort of explained that I didn’t do magic any more. Bill looked so disappointed. He invited me over to his house a few times and we had several discussions about magic and why I wasn’t doing it any longer. The last day of my leave Bill showed up at my house to say good bye. On the plane back to the middle east, I found a mysterious CD in my laptop case, it contained 52 different books on magic. Bill had slipped it into my bag with a short note that simply said, “Tony, here is some reading material for you. I remember how boring duty days were in the Marine Corps. Take care of yourself and never leave the magic behind. Bill.” Well, his ploy worked.

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Magic was providing me an escape, again. An escape from the loneliness of being so very far from home and from my wife An escape from worrying about what I was going to do after that deployment; I was a reservist who had to shut down a successful HVAC business which grossed over 1/4 of a million dollars a year. An escape from worrying about protecting the fleet from more terrorist attacks. An escape, again from where I was. When practicing I was again, just like Doug Henning. I began to remember not only the joy magic had brought to me, but the joy it had brought to others. I really wanted to share some of that with my kids. Julie had me making a few videos for our youngest son, which I was mailing home every month with my latest attempts at new effects. I had a tailor in Bahrain make me some tuxedos, and I was able to replace a few of the long ago “lost effects”. It was certainly a year of changes, the tragedies of 9-11-01 changed a lot of lives and was much farther reaching than any of us realized on that day.

I ended up staying on active duty with the Navy and in 2004 performed an actual show. It was for a bunch of neglected and abused children on the Naval Base where I was working as a military police investigator. To my amazement, the show was a great hit with the kids. Shortly afterwards in 2005 I was off to Iraq for a year, then right back to the middle east for a third tour in 2006 and 2007. I haven’t performed since, at least with an actual act, but with retirement looming right around the corner, I am looking forward to getting back into it professionally. This time there will be no escapes, at least not from my life, escapes will strictly be from handcuffs, chains, ropes, and perhaps even a straight jacket or a trunk. My life is wonderful and I want to share that joy with others especially my beloved.

Another Outing or Two.

Earlier last week, Julie and I set off with a loaded pack a couple of water bottles and our hiking staves.  This time our destination was a bit closer, Ferne Clyffe State Park, near Tunnel Hill, Illinois.  It is by far one of my favorite places.  Perhaps because of it’s IMG_0748close proximity to our home.  It is thousands of acres of woodland right in the middle of the Shawnee National Forest.  It also has some beautiful terrain and a lot of local wildlife to see.

The morning was a beautiful sunny day and as always as I was packing, I put some foul weather gear into our packs.  We headed about 12 miles NW of our home and arrived at the park about 1230.  Our plan was going to be a quick hike around the lake, and perhaps another short trail, then home for a late lunch.  IMG_0750

After a few days of rain, the trailhead near the lake was a bit muddy. but I figured since we had a 5K trail run coming up the following weekend, it would be good training.  We walked the mile or so around the lake, encountered two of our fine feathered friends who were swimming year the levy as we neared the end of the lake trail.  This trail is a very short and easy trail.  There are a few places to stop and a few park benches around the lake.  While Julie and I were having a snack at one of the benches, we encountered a couple of anglers who enquired about the possibility of fishing the lake.  DNR certainly encourages it and the lake is meant to be a walk around lake for anglers (it is too small for boats).  This make them both happy, since they had planned on being on one of the larger lakes nearby at Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge.  With wind in excess of 25 knots and the thought better of putting their boat in the water.


After following and photographing the ducks, we set off on the next nearest trail head from the lake and walked the Blackjack Oak Trail.  This trail goes up a steep ridge and basically follows the top of the ridge line for about three miles.  As you near the end of the trail there are a number of beautiful caves and cliff overhangs.  From the end of the Blackjack Oak Trail we then followed the road back around to the parking area by the lake.  Total of about 4.6 miles.  No rain but the wind was brutal, good thing we packed a sweat shirt and jacket.  As is usual on these outings I also turned my ankle a bit going back down the ridge and took slight spill.  At least this one wasn’t in a creek.  No real harm done, and fortunately my boots protected the ankle.  Without the staff to assist there would certainly be many more mishaps on the trails, so I recommend if you aren’t in the habit of taking a walking staff of some type, you look into it.  If you don’t like the traditional hiking staff there are a number of modern expandable ones on the market.  Julie and I have several of each.

The following Saturday, Julie and I headed over to Cape Girardeau to participate in the annual Unforgettable 5K Run.  This is a 5K trail run, and is a beautiful run, just off Cape Rock Road.  It is sponsored by one of the local Churches and one of the local Christian Camps there in Cape.  Many of the local venders also went all out by donating to the run.  The run is dedicated to those who are imprisoned for their Christian faith around the world.  It was a very good time, and Julie and I haven’t run a 5K together since I left Naval Station Great Lakes back in 2004 or 2005.  I think we’ll be doing more of them in the future.  Worst that can happen is our times might get better.

Ah What a Wonderful Place to Live!

Last weekend Julie and I hiked about the Garden of the Gods State Park, it is about 50 miles north east of Vienna.  We saw some beautiful landscape in what once use to be an ocean bottom, many thousands of years ago.  The now non existent ocean and the movement of the glaciers all contributed to the unique landscape here in Southern Illinois.  We hiked around the small trail that overlooks many of the bluffs near the parking area.  Took some awesome photographs and then we hiked along one of the many trails in the park.  The terrain is moderate in difficulty and does have a lot of mossy covered rock that is covered by intermittent streams.


Success vs. Failure

What determines if something is a success or a failure?  What is the difference between people who are successful and those who are not?  How does someone measure success?

Often in the business world things are measured by the bottom line.  If the bank account is overflowing month to month after all the bills are paid, that can be counted as successful.  If you have to file bankruptcy, perhaps that goes into the failure column.  However, life is never quite that simple.

How many of you are familiar with Hershey Chocolate Bars?  Hopefully everyone recognizes that name; it is America’s #1 Chocolate Company and they are sold in over 60 countries.  They spawned Hershey Entertainment and Resorts and several other companies.  The town was even renamed, in honor of it’s most wealthy and successful citizen Milton Hershey.  I am sure everyone would agree that is one hell of a success story but, Hershey failed twice in the business world before getting it right.  Two bankruptcies never slowed Milton down.

I have now owned four businesses.  None of which ever went bankrupt.  I count each of those businesses as a success.  Though each had it’s own and very different degrees of success.  I have also served over 30 years in two branches of the military, led sailors and soldiers in both war time and peace time.  I have also been married to the same wonderful lady for nearly 28 years.  None of those things have been easy, but all have been very successful.

My first business, was started at 8 years of age, and from 1972 until 1984 it netted anywhere from a few hundred dollars it’s first years to several thousands in the last years.  I travelled around the tri-state area performing magic shows.  It paid for a still on the lot new Audi 100 LS in 1981.  To this day it is the only brand new car I have ever purchased.  It was certainly a step up from my three old beaters I had owned to that point.  That first business also afforded me very nice clothes, not many preteens and teenagers have a selection of tuxedos and suits.Scan

The Magic Show ended a few years later when I joined the Army in 1985.  I stored all my props at my parents house.  Sometime between 1985-1989 my mother sold all the props.  I never saw a penny and for years I refused to have anything to do with magic at all.  At the time I think I looked at it as a failure.  Fortunately I ran into an old friend and magician I knew from my teenage years in 2002.  Bill Coomer slipped a CD containing 52 magic books into my sea bag as I was heading back to the middle east from leave with the Navy.  This made me understand, I never lost a love for Magic and even performed a show back in 2004 for many underprivileged children at the Great Lakes Police Department.  One of my co-workers wouldn’t take no for an answer; she just set up the show.  It was a success, though no money ever changed hands.

My second business, Vanguard Refrigeration, was founded in 1991. Vanguard launched me into a completely different direction.  It afforded me the opportunity to hone my skills as a service technician and I was able to learn many valuable lessons while running Vanguard.  I never went out entirely on my own with the business, but I developed a solid customer base, and discovered that I  enjoy working on a variety of things.  I also learned a great deal about marketing, advertising, and how to price yourself within your market.  I was able to explore the differences between charging by the hour and flat rate billing.  Vanguard Refrigeration was a success, and I worked the business for 4-5 years until I went to work as a counter salesman on the wholesale side of the industry.

My third business, A & J Service, started out of necessity.  In 1998, I was asked to take a reduction in pay to $10.00/hr and loose all my benefits until the company I worked for could get back on its feet.  Within 2 weeks A & J Service was born.  I took a job in waiting tables, had business cards printed up and was running service calls.  Borrowing $10,000.00 from my best friend, putting it into a savings account.  That was in September of 1988 and by November, I was able to quit my part time job as a waiter and was running A & J Service full time.  A & J made a few hundred dollars profit each month and by the time it was forced to close down in September of 2001 it had already grossed over $267,000.00 for the year.  If I had not been recalled to active duty after 9-11-2001 who knows where it would have been today.  I count that as a success, especially since I never used a penny of the borrowed $10,000.00 which was paid back with interest early!

Last year Julie and I started Kolb Web Inc. a publishing and entertainment company.  We lost a few thousand dollars, so time will tell how financially successful we will be.  I can tell you this, Julie has already published her first book, “Snowball “.  My blog has lots of followers and we’ve both published many articles on many different subjects.  I have a renewed interest in preforming and perhaps even building some magic props.  We have a solid business plan and by the time I retire from the active service,  Kolb Web Inc. should be an easy transition.  I am already counting this one as a success.

Some folks would say, I have had four businesses and because they didn’t last they were not successes.  I argue they were all successful businesses.  Each did what it was intended, showed a profit, and all were fun to run.  I learned so much with each and every one it isn’t even funny.  For instance, with Vanguard I started out charging $25.00/hour when everyone else was around $35-$45.00/hour.  I got all the customers the other companies didn’t want.  I was leaving $10.00-20.00 on the table for every hour I worked.  Was I a worse technician than my competitors?  No.  Was my time worth less than theirs?  No.  Were my suppliers charging me less for parts and equipment than they were my competitors?  No.  So why should I make it harder on myself to turn a profit?  That was a huge Ah-Ha moment!  That was a mistake I didn’t make when I opened A & J Service.

So this brings me to my next point.  Listen carefully.  Successful people count their successes.  Those who fail count their failures.  Just look at Milton Hershey, and I am sure he is only one example.  Successful people don’t give up, they may change course, life does throw everyone for a few loops.  Successful people aren’t afraid of starting over.  They aren’t afraid of failure, they just accept it as part of life, then if it happens, they move on to something else.  Successful people count their successes from very different perspectives.  Success isn’t always about the bottom line, longevity or status.  Sometimes success is just about doing something you love doing.

Enjoy all your successes for what they are!


Anthony R. Kolb

Heading into the Wilderness

Spring is almost here, all the snow is gone and Julie and I haven’t been able to take advantage of any real outdoors time together in quite a while.  We have decided to take a day trip up past Harrisburg, Illinois and venture into the Garden of the Gods.  Anyone who hasn’t been there, I highly recommend taking a detour if you are passing anywhere near Southern Illinois.  I am thinking maybe a 5 mile hike will do us both some good.  I know it will surely help my demeanor.  I think I should have been a Druid.  Being outside and particularly in the forrest really puts me at peace.

Before we head out, I need to go to the garage and check on a few things.  Make sure we have the basics.  A survival kit, water, and perhaps a bit of lunch.  I know many people would simply take off and venture into the woods without a second thought.  That isn’t me.  I learned a long time ago, stuff happens.  Once while out for a day hike we managed some how to get lost, I know that is a shocker.  Especially for anyone who has driven anywhere with me, but it happened.  As we realized it, darkness was fast approaching.  Rather than try to wander about in the woods at night, we opted to stay put.  Julie and I huddled together with emergency blankets and stayed some what warm.  Temperatures in Southeast Missouri that February plummeted down into the low twenties.  It certainly wasn’t the most pleasant night we ever spent in the woods, but we survived.  After a quick breakfast, we were able to find the trail in the morning light and safely made it back to the trail head.

Thankfully we had a few things with us on that trip.  Each of us had a small survival kit  with just a few essentials.  Doesn’t matter where I am headed or what I am doing, if I venture into the woods I take the basics.  I will from time to time add or take away an item or two, or try out a new product.  I am even an advocate of putting a small survival kit into each or your vehicles.  You never know what might happen.

So what should be in there?  A trip to a local book store or library will render numerous books that address this.  Here are some of the things I carry:

Kit:  Small pouch or camel pack with pocket, fresh water, bleach (a few drops in water will help  kill the bad stuff) or water filter system, compass, map of area, whistle, knife or multi-tool, flashlight, parachute cord, emergency blanket (mummy style), fire starters, rain gear, spool of wire, candles, small trowel, toilet paper/diaper wipes.

These are the bare minimum that I take.  Additional things can always be added, a tarp, a pot or skillet, an axe or machete and a poncho are always good additions.

So how do you decide what you need?  Basically experience; the more you have, the less you actually need.  The pot or skillet aren’t at all necessary, however, they would be very convenient.  Same for the emergency blanket, you do not need it, but if you do not know how to stay warm when the temperatures drop and they will, then you need one.  Insulation is always available in the woods.  By the time we realized we were lost, it was already getting dark.  Had we not had the blankets, we would have had to find the proper materials in the dark to stay warm.  Same goes for the poncho and tarp.  They both can become a quick shelter in a pop up storm.  Bottom line, up front – Be prepared!  It is time to head to the garage and get my gear.  Tomorrow hopefully I will have some awesome pictures of our trip.


5 Hours/Day On Your Cell Phone or Tablet, Really? By Anthony R. Kolb

    Earlier this week I was watching one of the many news channels and caught a story on how much time the average person spends on their cell phones and tablets per day, the average is over five hours.  How does this effect productivity?  I have to believe it isn’t good.  I admit I have never been a huge fan of Facebook, at least not of posting vacation photos, and such.  Perhaps 30+ years in and around law enforcement makes that translate to, “We are away and the house is empty so you can come rob us of all our worldly possessions!”  But, I didn’t realize just how much time is spent on smart devices.
    I am not saying they aren’t great, they are.  I have been half way around the world for the last year and a half and been able to FaceTime on average twice/day with Julie.  It really reminds me of all the Star Trek episodes I use to watch as a child.  I also text, and frequently look things up online, so perhaps all “cell time” isn’t unproductive.  I can certainly say, things aren’t the same as when I was growing up in the sixties and seventies, but they are perhaps better, technology wise at least.
     I know whenever I am at the gym, I have my work out routine at my fingertips, you guessed it, on my cell phone.  I go to lots of meetings as a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy, and when I take notes, they are often on my cell phone or I-Pad.  The downside of this is that in secured spaces the devices aren’t allowed.  Whenever I run, I track my run with an application, Map My Fitness tells my how far I have run, my average pace, calories burnt and even will post on Facebook and Twitter to let others see what I’ve done.    
     I can remember all the dumb things I did as a teenager, most of which, my parents had absolutely no idea where I was or what I was doing.  Technology affords parents an ability to at least track their children’s where-a-bouts.  I am also sure, just as I was able to circumvent my parents best efforts, so are our children able to get around today’s techno-tracking techniques.
    I also know there is the flip side of it too.  I am even guilty myself at times of fiddling with my cell phone while out to dinner or looking at something at 2 am just because I woke up thinking about it.  It really boils down to just what we’re actually doing when we are on our “devices”.  I am quite sure this week many folks will be tracking their “NCAA Brackets” to see how they are doing with their picks, bets and office pools.  Bottom line is all this technology isn’t a bad thing, like everything else it is how you choose to use it.