The Godfather of Preppers

Q&A With James Talmage Stevens On Preparedness

James Talmage Stevens knows more about the preparedness movement than probably anyone alive. He’s been a leader in it since 1974, when he wrote the book, Making The Best of Basics. The handbook has sold over 800,000 copies since hitting the shelves at Kmart during the gas crisis. Over 500 pages long, it’s considered an encyclopedia on preparedness, everything you need to know. It is even made out of rice paper, in case you need to eat it.
Talmage tells me we’re undergoing a “doom boom” currently, due to the
lingering poor economy. There are all kinds of things popping up related to preparedness – even prepper dating sites. Talmage has been putting food away since he wrote the book – and it’s still good. I asked him what are the most important things people need to know about preppers.

RACHEL ALEXANDER What is the prepared movement?

JAMES TALMAGE STEVENS It’s being ready for inevitable catastrophic situations. You can’t go back to kindergarten, you know too much now, you’ve got the knowledge that things are going to happen. You’ve been there, you’ve done it. Your life has changed forever as you knew it, and it will change again. Most TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) is positive. If you possess additional knowledge, you’re now more responsible, if you care to use this knowledge.
TEOTWAWKI doesn’t really mean the end of the world. It means things change for you positively or negatively, mostly positive, such as
getting married, having kids, etc. It’s not about just being prepared for a catastrophic world event, but life catastrophes, e.g. your car gets hit in the parking lot. It allows you to continue as if nothing happened. Of course, no one is truly self-sufficient except God. Look at it as triages that need to be sustained. For example, a garden is composed of the three Ps: produce, prepare and produce food. Unfortunately, people aren’t focusing on the right words. Not everyone
can plant a garden on the third floor of an apartment building. But you
can have indoor plants on your countertop. It also provides healthier,
raw food with more nutrition; and as long as you can flush your toilet,
you don’t have to leave your home other than to get water.

RA How should gun owners keep their guns prepared?

JTS I was raised shooting squirrels and rabbits, and I served in the military. People should have guns if they want to. I hate people like Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) who drive around with their armed guards – but I can’t. There is no legislation that will ever stop people from using guns. We have a right and should take advantage of it. I have a .22 long rifle, an AR-15, a 12-gauge shotgun, a .45 pistol and a .32 Franz Stock pistol.

RA What do you think about the recent hype over a zombie apocalypse?

JTS Do you know what zombie means? Hollywood has created this image that a zombie is an undead person. It ain’t gonna happen, God’s in charge of this earth, and nobody’s rising from the grave. Now here’s what zombie means: If you were addicted to something, you’d do anything for a fix. You would lose control of your ability to be rational. Similarly, in the case of a massive disaster, if you needed water or food, you’d do
anything to get it. If you know anything about the psychology of predators, they almost always go for the weakest and easiest target.

RA While researching preppers, I came across comparisons of the chaos and crime in the aftermath of a hurricane to what could happen on a
worldwide scale should there be a huge disaster. What do you think of
all the prepper shows out now? There’s Doomsday Preppers, Doomsday
Bunkers, Armageddon Arsenals, and Meet the Preppers.

JTS They’re taking everything to extreme. Someone learns something
and thinks they’re as knowledgeable as someone else, yet they have no experience. They are living the Walter Mitty life [someone living in a fantasy world].

RA What do you think are the biggest threats that could result in doomsday? A biological attack? Financial collapse? A natural disaster like a massive earthquake or volcano? Nuclear weapons?

JTS The biggest threat is you; it’s other humans. Because they believe the system is going to take care of us. I believe this is the greatest country on earth, set up with religious overtones to provide for all this freedom. The greatest threat is the devil. Everyone gets a blue ribbon just because they played? I don’t think so. There is competition for limited resources. Obama can write all the executive orders he wants taking my stuff, but he cannot take my food, savings and life earnings within the system. I pay property taxes, taxes on my employment, and I choose to be frugal and thoughtful and considerate, and you want to come and take it just because you wasted your resources on playing golf? I’m coming to get your golf bag.

RA How do you respond when people accuse preppers of being fringe?

JTS Mormons and Baptists are fringe. Republicans are fringe. It depends on what the conditions are. Everyone has some fringe in them. What about the people who buy a Prius? It’s like former vice-president Al Gore flying around in his private jet urging people to save gas – get a life! He sold a major asset to Al Jazeera.

RA What are your thoughts on preserving game meat?

JTS I made a lot of deer and turkey jerky. There are many ways to preserve. You can even freeze dry at home. Pickle it, salt it. Refrigeration and freezing are the most expensive and risky ways to store food. Our house doesn’t need air conditioning.

RA How has the prepper movement changed over the years?

JTS It’s shifted from tactical to practical. There are more people “living ready” now. Although there are now more guns and camo, you don’t need to include that aspect.

RA What are the “WAGs” you refer to?

JTS WAG stands for “Wrong Agenda Group.” These people have all the answers, but they just don’t under the question. They take (borrow) information and get into ruts. You’ll see things like “101 things you need to have when SHTF” – yet that particular article doesn’t even apply. It came from Argentina, which has vastly different needs than we do here. The WAGs simply repeat what others do. The top prepper blogs are merely aggregators of feeds.

RA Tell us about your radio show, which I enjoyed being a guest on.

JTS on Blogtalkradio is all preparedness; there’s no politics or religion, except spirituality. There are no conspiracy
theories, or things that may offend ladies, who are 85 percent of our listeners. It is teaching and instructional. I used to do 40 hours a week. I am also a regular guest on the radio show Freedomizer [patriot topics].

RA Where did the term “prepper” come from?

JTS Shawn Dutton, who runs the Phoenix Militia, came up with it. Note that the Phoenix Militia is not the same as the types of militias that were prevalent in the 1990s, that were more anti-government. The Phoenix Militia is all about preparedness.

RA What is the difference between a prepper and a survivalist?

JTS Survivalists are a bit more radical than preppers. Preparedness is practical, it’s a way of living. You can live anywhere. It’s an attitude for dealing with the unknown. Additionally, there are bushmen and homesteaders, which include urban, suburban and exurban homesteaders.

RA Any final thoughts?

JTS Final thoughts: It’s our responsibility as parents and citizens to take care of our families, to teach and feed them. It’s not a governmental responsibility. The government was doing it for awhile, and back then they did a good job. Fairly good lifestyle 50 years ago, easy society to live in. My childhood was idyllic. Now it’s very difficult,
they keep whittling away with what made it great. We’ve let other people run our lives for so long that we don’t recognize the fact that we’ve given up rights. Today there’s much legislation you can’t buy a chainsaw without a permit. It’s Satanic, it’s evil, it’s not just opportunism, or free enterprise gone mad.
Do not rely upon first responders. You are your first responder, your first line of defense. You can’t always depend on your neighbor, or your partner, professor, school. We now live in a changed world. AmSJ

Editor’s note: Visit Stevens’ websites at
Article by Rachel Alexander