Happiest man alive to fold tent

 The greatest feeling - Wood claims that he was dead for three minutes before doctors revived him. "Death is not something to fear," he asserts. "It is the greatest feeling that you can imagine."

 

April 7, 2011  hattiesburgamerican.com  Then everything became white and "I was able to look down and see myself on the gurney and the nurses pushing me onto the elevator. Then I went to the edge of the universe where I opened a hatch and there were other universes and lights of all different colors."

Wood's back-to-nature adventure began with a heart attack and a near death experience. He was in North Carolina, an off-duty Greyhound bus operator, with an apartment in Nashville, Tenn. He felt the heart attack coming on and went to the hospital. He collapsed, clutching his chest, as he walked into the hospital.

He remembers the medical staff members talking as he was loaded on a gurney and rushed upstairs to the emergency room. Then everything became white and "I was able to look down and see myself on the gurney and the nurses pushing me onto the elevator. Then I went to the edge of the universe where I opened a hatch and there were other universes and lights of all different colors."

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Full story here - Jack Benny Wood, 69, seats in a canvas chair beside his pit bull puppy, Buck, at his camp near the Pascagoula River. Wood is folding his tent and moving on after 75 months of getting back to nature by living in the woods. During that time, Wood said he has weathered storms, survived freezing temperatures and encountered bears and snakes.

A thin shroud of white smoke lifts from the pile of burning logs, twisting first this way and that on the face of the slight breezes filtering through the trees along the Pascagoula River in south Mississippi. "That is how you keep the mosquitoes away," said Jack Benny Wood, 69, seated comfortably in a canvas camp chair beside his pit bull puppy, Buck. "You have to have a fire. It is how you keep the bears away. A bear will go the opposite direction of a fire."  Wood is folding his tent and moving on after 75 months of living in the woods.

During that time he has weathered storms, survived near zero temperatures, encountered bears, wolves, cougars and poisonous snakes.  But for Wood, the adventure is slated to end this week.  "I have a son who lives in Slidell," he said. "He needs someone to share expenses on his house, so I am going to go over there.  "I am not sure that I can sleep in a house, so I may pitch my tent in the back corner of his property and still sleep in it some. Especially when it rains. There is no way to stay awake with rain falling on a tent. You just can't do it. It lulls you to sleep." 

  Wood's back-to-nature adventure began with a heart attack and a near death experience. He was in North Carolina, an off-duty Greyhound bus operator, with an apartment in Nashville, Tenn. He felt the heart attack coming on and went to the hospital. He collapsed, clutching his chest, as he walked into the hospital.

He remembers the medical staff members talking as he was loaded on a gurney and rushed upstairs to the emergency room. Then everything became white and "I was able to look down and see myself on the gurney and the nurses pushing me onto the elevator. Then I went to the edge of the universe where I opened a hatch and there were other universes and lights of all different colors."

The greatest feeling

Wood claims that he was dead for three minutes before doctors revived him. His doctor told him that he was living with too much stress and he had to find a way to relieve it. He told one of his five sons that he would go and live in the woods. "I wake up to the birds singing. It is quiet and peaceful all day. I don't have any bills except for my cell phone and that is only $50 a month."

Wood spends his days reading books, making notes for a book he plans to write about his experiences and reciting his grandfather Fred N. Scott's poetry. Scott was a writer and poet that Wood said was billed as the "Mississippi Nightingale." Coffee bubbles out of the spout of a fire-blackened pot and Wood hurriedly slides the pot away from the flames flickering through the charred grate. An assortment of blackened pots and pans sit on another fire grate and a bag of potatoes lies on a nearby picnic table.

Wood does some cooking in his camp, but says that it is actually cheaper to go to nearby convenience stores and restaurants for food. "I eat about a pound of rice a week," he said. "You can live on rice. But, cooking just for me I usually go to a restaurant. I make really good red beans and rice." He has an older model Ford car for transportation and to migrate from summer campsites and winter camps. "I spend a lot of time in the (Tennessee) mountains," he said. "It is too hot down here in the summer, so I go to the mountains. I come back here for the winter."

Stories to tell

The experience of living in the woods has given him a number of stories to tell. His first night camping back in 2004 was in Tennessee. The temperature dropped down to a frigid 9 degrees and he woke up with his eyelashes frozen together. After that he learned to choose campsites with electricity available so he could plug in a heater, if necessary. He has had a bear poke its head into his tent and chased copperheads out of his tent.

"The most dangerous animal that I have encountered is man," he said. At one point he was camped under a bridge and another man was camped nearby. Wood's dog woke him up and the man was standing just outside of his tent with a knife. The man was apparently hearing voices that told him to kill Wood. He talked the guy out of it and packed up and moved the next day. Wood said that one of the dangers of his livelihood is there are other people living in the woods, under bridges, etc. These are otherwise homeless people with no place to go who subsist on "crazy checks" from the government.

Wood said that the things he will probably miss most about his nomadic lifestyle are the solitude and the time to read. "When I was a boy I used to dream of getting away and living in the woods," he said. "I have done that. I am the happiest man alive." His doctor told him that he was living with too much stress and he had to find a way to relieve it. He told one of his five sons that he would go and live in the woods.

"I wake up to the birds singing. It is quiet and peaceful all day. I don't have any bills except for my cell phone and that is only $50 a month." Wood spends his days reading books, making notes for a book he plans to write about his experiences and reciting his grandfather Fred N. Scott's poetry. Scott was a writer and poet that Wood said was billed as the "Mississippi Nightingale."

Wood said that the things he will probably miss most about his nomadic lifestyle are the solitude and the time to read. "When I was a boy I used to dream of getting away and living in the woods," he said. "I have done that. I am the happiest man alive."

 

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