Remember that old saying, "where there's smoke, there's fire?"

Well, try to convince those contestants on the television show "Survivor" of that assumption. They got plenty of smoke, but nothing to roast a squirrel over.

And so once again it has been proved that even though modern man is adept at computers, space flight, advanced medical technology, etc., etc., very few can emulate primitive man in the art of building a fire without matches or cigarette lighters.

I find it somewhat amusing that after several of these shows have aired -- and now that some of the veterans have been brought back for an "all-star" "Survivor" competition -- none of them have identified fire making as a crucial skill they should develop before signing on for the $1 million contest.

I think if I knew had I a chance to be on this show, then I would have hired a boy scout or one of those "deep woods" naturalists to teach me a skill that Native Americans and civilizations long before them had mastered even though they didn't know bumpkus about penicillin or magnetic forces.

Now I must admit that I have never built a fire rubbing sticks together -- except that time when I rubbed two kitchen matches together. But that doesn't count. I have built a fire with flint and steel. However, steel is not something you find just lying around in the wilderness. And even that task is not so easy. Also I have used a magnifying glass to build fire. But again, unless you are wearing really thick glasses, the issue is severe. And at night or on a cloudy day, that approach is a moot point.

Fire is basic to survival in primitive circumstances. Not only do you need it to cook and to keep warm, on a dark night in the deep forest it's very comforting to watch the flames lick lighter knots and subsequently illuminate the camp and scare off the boogers. Conversation around a camp fire has a totally different connotation than if you are sitting out there in the dark. A camp fire can take your mind off all those unidentified sounds that would be predominant if you didn't have that warm glow about you. From my experience, conversations in total darkness are dominated more by questions than statements.

There is some irony in fire's simplicity, but yet it's so difficult to produce in a primitive setting. Most of us probably take fire for granted. We live in the world of central heat and Zippos.

I've always been fascinated by true survival stories. I say "true" survival stories because this "Survivor" series on television is not really about that. In fact, it would better be titled "Conniver." In real survivor situations you don't get to compete for chocolate bars, a case of soda pop and a night on the town.

In true survivor situations, it's just you and God and the mosquitoes. To win is to live. To lose is to die.

I have noticed that some of these people on this show have very poor survivor skills right off the bat. They don't know how to build proper shelter. They don't slant their roofs enough nor do they layer the foliage (usually palm fronds) to properly turn water. A sow could build a better hut for her pigs. But then, we still are prone in our civilization to build structures with flat roofs, so go figure.

I drew the analogy that we have great difficulty in emulating primitive man by conjuring up fire with existing materials. However, at least one of the cast on "Survivor" has been able to repeat what early man did. He can take off his britches and run around naked.

An observation: We've come so far in human and social development, but yet we are only a couple of urges from being primeval.

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