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The students he takes out into the wilderness learn, in various sessions, to make their own gourd canteens, fiber sleeping mats and stone knives. They learn to recognize edible plants and create fire. Beyond the practical skills involved, though, Lundin wants them to learn a couple of other things in their short time away from the comforts of home--that they shouldn't take those comforts for granted, and that the world around them can be a generous but fragile thing.
Lundin is 28, an Air Force brat who grew up in houses from Oklahoma to Germany. His family finally settled down in Laramie, Wyoming, as he headed into his junior high and high school years, but by then he was already on a rocky road to trouble.
Rough times followed. Unfortunately, he was forced to scrounge. Fortunately, he mastered the craft. Now, other than having the strong-bellied gut of a reformed keg partyer, he is fit and healthy, with the toned, thin legs of a Roman consul. Most important, he is at peace with himself and his life, a man of stark economy who courted his girlfriend of four years with a slightly tattered bouquet harvested from a Dumpster.
He is broad-chested, a soft-eyed Generation Xer, spunky and mischievous, a guy who counts Wayne's World among his favorite films. He wears a baby-blue cap set backward, a tiny nose ring in his left nostril. Long braids dangle to his waist on either side.
Lundin's parents divorced and he doesn't keep much in touch with his father, who's in northern California. "I've really screwed up with my dad," he says. His mom, a Yavapai County Sheriff's Department search-and-rescue team member in Prescott, is just happy to see him doing something he enjoys. "She says if more people knew these skills, they wouldn't be calling her team out for help," Lundin says.
"Having lived out of my car and on the streets, I have a completely honed personality for survival skills," he says. "I lived in a wickiup for two years of college. I did all this stuff. I've eaten out of Dumpsters. I know I have an edge over some people. You can see that edge in some homeless people. They can't phone Dad."
He has gone from certified Dumpster Diver to funky Primitive Guy. He lives simply, on a diet of mostly bagels and water, with an occasional can of tuna thrown in for low-fat protein.
"I think Cody is pretty much no-nonsense," says Dave Ganci, who has written a book on desert survival and now teaches those skills at Yavapai College. Lundin was his student three years ago and considers Ganci his mentor. They think of each other as father and son.
"He's not into all this Indian, back-to-nature BS," Ganci says. "We all have that ability to adapt to the environment because all our ancestors did."
And talk about irony: The Yavapai Tribe in Prescott is among Lundin's clients. The tribe pays him to take Yavapai kids out into the wild and teach them where they came from.
Lundin catches a lot of flak, mostly indirectly, from people who consider his classes to be way out in orbit, from others who think he's out there plundering natural habitats.
"They haven't been exposed to my class," he says. The ridicule is funny to him, but also a little sad. "They don't understand. We're so divorced from the little things in life that keep us alive that we take them for granted. People should at least be trained in these skills."
His style is raw, outrageous, up close and personal. In his $10 classroom lectures on survival kits, he is, naturally, shoeless, and he makes no secret of his fascination with fire. He preaches the virtues of utility and will not hesitate to demonstrate the usefulness of his knife, which hangs in a sheath around his neck, by shaving his leg in front of the class.
Quips drop from his lips in a steady rain:
"On the eighth day, God created Baggies."
"If you do not think about the situation you're in, see ya."
"Survival situations are like a box of chocolates."
"Now that I have a girlfriend, I no longer live in the woods."
Which is true. He and Katherine Minott, an English instructor at both Yavapai and Prescott colleges, now live in a house in tiny Granite Dells, a Prescott offshoot. She's gotten used to finding road kill in the freezer.
"I was intrigued and disgusted," Minott says of her first impressions of Lundin, who had been conducting fire-starting workshops in the Prescott College gymnasium. "I thought, 'Who is this weird guy, going barefoot in the gym?' But he seemed real grounded, earthbound. He had this grace about him."
What they shared was an environmental philosophy common to many of the school's students.
But moving from a wickiup to a house in Granite Dells wasn't easy for a guy who'd learned to go without for so long.
Minott had to badger him into using a pillow, something he believed would put his body on the road to wimpdom. "I didn't want to miss it if I didn't have it later," Lundin says. It is the way he lives. It is why, for example, he wears no shoes.