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Somebody's Gotta Do It: The Real Survivor

Aired November 1, 2014 - 21:00   ET


MIKE ROWE, SOMEBODY'S GOTTA DO IT HOST: Me and the crew are on the road again, destination middle of nowhere. So how far in the middle of nowhere are we going?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're about seven more miles in.

ROWE: Why? Because we're going to meet a man who lives out here. And why would any one live out here? Well to teach survival training, real survival training. You see years ago I did a show about surviving a worse case scenario.

Welcome to worse case scenario. You never know when you'll be in life threatening situation. Your odds are much better with one or two well placed kits right on the locking mechanism. Well that's about right.

It didn't really turn out to be what I thought it would be. So I'm off to make amends in the middle of the Mohave Desert to shoot how to survive in the wild. Alex (ph) has forgotten the sun block and we have no water (inaudible).

Or perhaps to star in my own worse case scenario.

We are in nowhere right now. Technically we're just not quite to the middle of it. So around this bend just up the road of this just beyond the rise over the hill and right where the mountain begins, we'll meet Tom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What his last name?

ROWE: Coyne and he actually goes by Thomas. And I think he's particular about it. Thomas Coyne. Men, it's not my first day at the rodeo. I'll tell you right now out here it's important to be a team. And by a team I mean its every man for himself. You don't have to be faster than the bear. You have to be faster than Jones (ph).



ROWE: Mike Rowe.

COYNE: Nice to meet you Mr. Rowe.

ROWE: Likewise. It's Mr. Mike Rowe.

COYNE: Mr. Mike Rowe.

ROWE: Please. We're not animals. So they told me to wear shorts

COYNE: They told you to wear shorts?

ROWE: I totally -- yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to bang your knees up pretty good.

COYNE: Well this is good. There's certain things we don't tell students to bring.

ROWE: Yeah.

COYNE: Because it's not actually absolutely necessary. And if you suffer a little bit without it, next thing you're going to feel, you always make sure you have it.

ROWE: Sure. It builds character.

COYNE: I had a military instructor here for a while and he said there's two ways to learn, pain and humiliation.

ROWE: He should be in television.

So really I mean you're starting from a pretty fundamental place with survival training. And building from there and immersing your students?

COYNE: Oh yes, there's full immersion. Survival is about that MacGyver principle, right? You have to be able to improvise in the field. You're never going to have all the gear, all the equipment that you want, unless there's sort of an emergency happening on a day hike.

ROWE: Right.

COYNE: So in order to be able to improvise effectively you have to have a complete understanding of the fundamentals. You have to know what all these techniques are based on. We have traps and weapons range, map and compass area, the whole deal.

ROWE: You have weapons?

COYNE: Yes, plenty. Primitive weapons.

ROWE: Weapons. So what's your background?

COYNE: I first formally taught these skills when I was about 16 as a state parks interpretative guide.

ROWE: Yeah.

COYNE: There's some Native American land, it's the last living site of the natives here. And the last full bloodied member of the tribe was instrumental in training the volunteers and getting all the information out there. I started working kind of with some of the local elders after that, native elders. Then I got into fire and rescue. I worked with Kern County Fire Department and U.S. Forest Service. My whole flight crew from Kern County is going to drop in for some signal training today.

ROWE: All of this training served him well, so much so that some of his most grateful clients include the U.S. Military.

COYNE: That letter was the nicest -- some of the nicest things anybody has ever said about the school and that's from the Marines. That letter...

ROWE: So you get a complement from a marine. You did something.

COYNE: Yeah, yeah.

ROWE: Can I just you something real quick before we start?

COYNE: Sure.

ROWE: I don't know where your head is around T.V. and survival shows. But what's going on in the Survival business? This (inaudible).

COYNE: I'm going to give you this survival experts are self certified. There's no certifying body. Everybody's trained on their own standard. You have a lot of guys without so much and their background is wilderness first aide car.


COYNE: So we have guys holding bags of urine, say into magnifying glass and made a fire with it. Yeah. It is because of T.V., because of T.V.

ROWE: Right.

COYNE: You can find that in a bunch of website here.

ROWE: Yeah.

COYNE: I saw an issue of backpacker magazine, the survival issue and it was named after a big star where it said dig below a cactus for water.

ROWE: Right.

COYNE: If you ever planted a cactus, you know, they don't really have roots. So when some guy takes your word for that and his last bit of life saving effort that he has left like this is my last chance.

ROWE: Right.

COYNE: This is my -- I'm going to die of heat stroke in the next hour. And I'm going to use it, dig in below a damn cactus for dirt because of this superstar, unacceptable.

ROWE: So what's your mission then?

COYNE: My mission is to educate the public and to save lives.

ROWE: This is an opportunity I think for you to be as candid as you want around any topic you want.

COYNE: Right.

ROWE: And I'm going to be really direct too because look I've got some atoning to do. I mean you might back in 2000, you know, I hosted a show. I was on a set, you know, in an Armani suit, you know, talking like this, reading off a prompter. So from what I can see there's a lot of miss information out there.


ROWE: So whatever you can show us today let's just dispense with the drama. No ones getting naked.


ROWE: No, one being afraid.

COYNE: Excellent.

ROWE: I think you can see by now that Thomas is a pretty intense guy. And boy, is ever full of critical information.

COYNE: People ask, "Who needs for survival training." Well that's absolutely ridiculous. It is completely irresponsible to go out in the outdoors without basic survival or medical training. The primary killers real quickly are exposure in catastrophic falls.

So when you start to see the signs -- symptoms of severe heat stress, you need to sit down, shade up, sip water, shed your clothing. Scorpions are great desert food for, one there's not a lot of meat in the desert, right? The most common survival situation is the lost A Hiker. A guy with a half of ham sandwich and an eight ounce water bottle.

ROWE: The briefing was very thorough to say the least. But we finally got to the place where we might get some useful information and some actual T.V. content.

COYNE: Want to light some stuff on fire?

ROWE: I do.

COYNE: Thank you.

ROWE: The ability to stay warm, cook food and purify your water can all be yours if you know where to look.

COYNE: This is the Juniper Tree. This can get a lot bigger in other areas. However you'll see this foliage and whenever you see tree barks they're just hanging like this, whenever you see this coming off a tree you want to walk up and -- see how it just peels off. And now that's test one. And test two is they go like this. Now if it shreds like this instead of crumbling like potato chips then its fire tinder. Or you ask the survival expert and I ask the tree. The tree cannot lie. The tree says this is fire tinder.

ROWE: So it's not like you got to be looking for a Juniper tree.

COYNE: No, not great. It can only make fire where California Juniper grows. No, it's not like that.

ROWE: What's the moral of the story if you're going to get hopelessly lost and life saving situation make sure you're in Southern California.

COYNE: Yeah, yeah, you have like 10 helicopters looking for you, all of that stuff.

ROWE: Sure. And then you can look forward to the heart tugging interview after you have been found. I was lost for three days and I had no water and I peed a little. Oh yes, the inevitable drink your pee question. I wonder where Thomas stands on this.

COYNE: Tell you what, people ask about drinking your pee.

ROWE: Yeah.

COYNE: I will tell you this, thirst is a very, very powerful motivator.


ROWE: So where were we? Yes, in the high desert, learning to survive and discussing the merits of drinking your pee.

COYNE: I tell you what people asking about drinking your pee?

ROWE: Yeah.

COYNE: I will tell you this. Thirst is a very, very powerful motivator. You will be happy you have pee left. When you're getting really dehydrated, your body starts to give up a little adrenaline. You get panic. It's a natural response.

ROWE: Yeah.

COYNE: And that's happening to me plenty of time.

ROWE: Yeah.

COYNE: Where my body starts feeling like, OK, dude, you got to do something.

ROWE: Right.

We'll rub this hard enough. Have you ever had flame just burst out in your hands. COYNE: All the time.

So what you're going to have to do first is called a burn out. What you're going to do is left foot on the board, almost touching the whole.

ROWE: Yeah.

COYNE: The board is here. Your toes should be about right there.


Now we'll spin -- twist this around the stick. What I will do is I just clamp -- this is the clamp, hook, turn.

ROWE: Yeah.


ROWE: Clamp, hook, turn.

Clamp, hook and I'll turn that son of a bitch, you'll see, hold on a second.

COYNE: Flat side on the bottom.

ROWE: Oh really?

COYNE: And where we're going to want this...

ROWE: Like that. OK. Tell me about the device itself. You made that obviously.

COYNE: Yeah, this is called the bow and drill.

COYNE: Calling Scott Rowe.

ROWE: What the hell was that?

COYNE: Siri always comes on when bow and drill.

ROWE: Is that crazy.

COYNE: Yeah.

ROWE: Siri just turn in yelling at me.

COYNE: When you get in that position it starts to do that.

ROWE: Oh crap. Now, you know what? My face time is going off too. I just called my brother. Hey, Scott, how are you doing then? Can you see me? Can you see what I'm, doing?


ROWE: I can hear you fine. Don't say anything, crazy. You're on national television.

COYNE: You're going to get in now. This is it.

ROWE: (inaudible), is it -- hey Scott, I want to hang up man. This is too weird.

SCOTT ROWE: Yeah, I'm just trying to figure out what you might be doing there.

ROWE: Yeah, I'm kind to start to fire in the middle of nowhere with a guy and we're making a show. It's just so weird.

COYNE: It lies to everything.

ROWE: Unforgivable. All right, so this was here.

Yeah, so I cross like that. And I've done everything wrong today. Yeah.

COYNE: See that angle, remember that angle. Yeah. Here, let me tie your string up a little bit. It's a little loss. This is like the most fake shot in any survival shows, the Friction Fire.

ROWE: Nine out of 10 times, just total.

COYNE: You might say and I heard 99 out of a thousand. But not nine out of 10.

ROWE: See this show would be so much more exciting right if we actually had fire but we don't. Is this things still on.

COYNE: Yeah, that's the phone.

ROWE: How do you turn off this freaking thing?

S ROWE: Just take out the battery. I got to see this approach.

COYNE: I hope that you that with mic on.

ROWE: I swear to god I can't turn it off. Hold a second.

S ROWE: Actually you can use that battery to start a fire.

ROWE: It seems my brother is pretty smart. My brother is pretty smart. Oh, there you are. All right look, I'm...

S ROWE: Smart ass.

ROWE. I'm really going to try and turn you off, all right.

COYNE: I think...

ROWE: No, I still see his name. He can probably still hear me.

S ROWE: I can still hear you.

ROWE: Shut up. Damn it. So this is the stuff that would happen in most survival shows.

COYNE: Yeah.

ROWE: They'd have to cut it out.

COYNE: Oh yeah.

ROWE: But I'm determined. We have to leave this in. I'm always attracted to ironic Juxtaposition. On the one hand I've got an access to cutting edge technology completely beyond my grasp. On the hand, I've got access to primitive technology, completely beyond my grasp. It's perfect.

COYNE: Press a little harder. Perfect man, you got it now.

ROWE: All right, where is my bird nest?

COYNE: Not yet, keep going.

ROWE: I'll angle it that way.

COYNE: Just a little bit. Good.


COYNE: Go longer, short now. OK, good, just keep doing that. Little more speed now for 10 seconds like your life depends on it, 10, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, stop. Let's go.

OK. Hold on. Man you're a natural. (inaudible). Now this blow apart, we are not done. Good, good, good. Don't let it go apart, don't let it -- there you go. That is hot, (inaudible).

ROWE: (inaudible)/


ROWE: So what? I pick it up?

COYNE: It's OK. You go like this and take it over to the fire pit. Just throw it right on the teepee.

ROWE: Right on top?

COYNE: Yeah, don't worry.

ROWE: Very (inaudible).

COYNE: You got it, hey look you got...

ROWE: We like to go to the door but it wasn't necessary. Man, that's hot.

COYNE: Yeah, it's on fire.

ROWE: Well, yeah, you know, there we go. More wise, more words of wisdom from your fake host. But that was great and that was fun, OK. Fire making done done.

COYNE: Like your growing up right in front of me. Proud of you.

ROWE: Let's move on to the next deal.

All right, so we made some fire. What is the next deal?

COYNE: So what we have showing out today is the current county hell attack. They are responsible for getting off the ground fast as possible and hitting fires as quickly and hard as they can. Generally consider some of the most elite fire fighters in the world, especially in Southern California. So this one is rescue capable. This is my old flight crew here in county 408 and also a navy search and rescue unit will be arriving as well via helicopter.

ROWE: Right.

COYNE: And this will be the first sign they got to train together.

ROWE: Cool. And we're going to signal them.

COYNE: We're going to signal the heck out of them, so audio signal. Audio signal come in three. One, two, three pause, OK? So now an acknowledgment if you're a rescuer has heard you signal they want to acknowledge you.

ROWE: Right.

COYNE: He'll give you a two. The search and rescue guy we'll give you two whistle blows.

ROWE: Jones, you hear that, OK? (inaudible) ears out.

COYNE: This is trail tape. This is the ultimate signal right here.

ROWE: Yeah.

COYNE: This little signal arrows will says I make big barrel on the ground, I can make flag out of it, blowing it on the wind. Now these you're just going to go ahead and remove the striker here. And you're going to strike real hard. Once it light you just set it down. OK and that's what your going to do because this -- you got a (inaudible) coming in anytime.

ROWE: All right.

COYNE: I what to teach you aim with it. Signal him here. So always start facing toward the sun because it's the easiest angle. The hats are no go you have to just throw down the hill because the hat can shade out the mirror, OK?

ROWE: Oh really.

COYNE: Yeah, they go opposite the sun. Get the light on both side of the V. See that?

ROWE: So if I'm looking at a helicopter is that the helicopter I wanted to V or the light that on the V?

COYNE: You want the V -- you want to light on both side of V and the helicopter in the middle.

ROWE: Got it.


ROWE: so I mean again for Joe Blow (ph) taken a day hike. If you're just putting mandatory stuff in your bag, that's part of it?

COYNE: Yeah, these with the whistle attached, you got all the on visual. So hear a bird we'll look up when his on optimal visual range. Don't wait for me pop smoke.

ROWE: Pop smoke is -- the thing in my pocket is a smoke.

COYNE: Yeah, so that's kind of a term for when people now this smoke signal, they call it topping smoke. And it sounds real cool so once you're introduce here you started using it.

Here smoke out. Here smoke out. You hear the. Chop-chop.

ROWE: Yeah.

COYNE: You see him, his coming right us. Pop it.

ROWE: Awkward.

COYNE: His coming right out us right here. Pop this one.

ROWE: Pop this one here.

COYNE: There you go set it down. Walk over here. Signal him here. Here comes the rescue. OK, his going to acknowledge your signal. U.S. Navy trying channel A, signal training exercise.


COYNE: So he's going to let you know right now that he sees you. There we go.

ROWE: So that's the signal.

COYNE: There's our acknowledgment right there.

ROWE: So meanwhile this is like the happiest day in my life. I've been here four days.

COYNE: Yeah.

ROWE: I'm, you know, what better -- what's a better sound.

COYNE: You're baking cupcakes for the navy when you get home.

ROWE: (inaudible) mess up your shot just to show the viewer exactly what we've been seeing because I think it's important and I -- so make your V, it's basically a target. Then you get your reflection just below the V, then you angle yourself to find the chopper. See, you still keep that light on your V and then you just lifted up and out like that and start moving it around.

That wasn't bad.

COYNE: Not bad all man. So where's the top of your thing?

ROWE: I put back there with the other thing.

COYNE: Holy (inaudible). We better get there quick.

ROWE: So the last one was burning.

COYNE: Yeah, come on we better get over there. There's -- You're (inaudible) for a way right now. That's (inaudible)


COYNE: There -- you're (inaudible) for a way right now.

ROWE: (inaudible).

COYNE: Yeah, and we better get over there. Get over there, smoke him.

ROWE: Where the heck is it?

COYNE: Right here, right here, right here bright orange. You're in a optimal visual range, smoke him. (inaudible). You're OK?

ROWE: I'm good.

COYNE: Focus on the goal. Smoke him.

ROWE: Light you bastard. Come on lets lit.

COYNE: This is my first helicopter crew right here, a lot of fun on Kern County. The squad leader on the local hand crew, they said, "Thomas we got a few spots on the helicopter. You awfully want it?" Yeah.

ROWE: Yes, please.

COYNE: They say now you think like hot stuff blind coming into fire on the fire engine, (inaudible) flying on one on the helicopter.

ROWE: They must get your blood?

COYNE: Yeah, definitely.

ROWE: Why? I mean why (inaudible) with respect you're not doing for the money?

COYNE: Yeah, yeah. ROWE: Right? I mean this is the struggle.

COYNE: Yes it is. It is -- I was a bit struggle. Now it's getting more fun. Got it.

ROWE: So is it fun or you're doing this because your just committed to giving you something.

COYNE: Anything like this is going to be equal combination fun and absolute hell. And it's about making a difference. I'm not saying I'm awesome or best in the world, no one is telling me like that. No one took a guts to just cross on dessert with pocket knife, not care if they live of die.

ROWE: You cared.

COYNE: I cared but, I just lost my sister when I did that one. So...

ROWE: So you have a sister died and you walk across what?

COYNE: Death Valley.

ROWE: With a pocket knife?

COYNE: And a water filter.

ROWE: No water? A water filter?

COYNE: 37 miles between longest water hole. I have no idea I could do it. I don't think I could. I can't afford to go to the funeral.

ROWE: Really?

COYNE: But I had to do something, some have to give. Then it gave.

JAMES BOWDEN: Hey nice to meet you.

ROWE: Mike.

BOWDEN: Jim Bowden

ROWE: Jim, pleasured.

COYNE: This is kind of part of the origination of civilization where we start to get specialized tools. Where not just hitting stuff with rocks or a stick anymore.

ROWE: Right.

COYNE: Where we're actually forming our own high quality tools.

ROWE: How you get into this?

BOWDEN: I guess it was something that I though was this impossible thing that nobody knew how do anymore. And an old archeologist student walked in after class one day and he said "Oh yeah I've made some before" and I was like "God, you're kidding me." I've doing it for about 30 years now.

ROWE: Really?


Were going to start of doing what called precaution flaking. So just by striking on the top edge you're going to have flake that comes out right there. And in a survival situation it has pretty good sharp edge to it. You could use that for cutting.

ROWE: That's like razor sharp.

BOWDEN: Let's try to the side of the rabbit skin here. Try cutting straight down through there. See you got to touch it there...

ROWE: Oh my gosh...

BOWDEN: ... on the sharp edge.

ROWE: ... barely touch it. Look at that.


ROWE: Unbelievable. Who's got the macro on?

So this was a big day in the (inaudible) of human history.


COYNE: Always say this is the closest to human being can do to making something from nothing. I mean on a walk out with their two hands and come back with beautiful stone tools and weapons.

BOWDEN: And just really need to think about, there's a lot of people think or pointing out thinks that's a Native-American think. But it's actually in everybody history worldwide. (inaudible) good.

BOWE: Yeah. Now what so fine you can really start to (inaudible).

BOWDEN: I like that one, that's should go one.

BOWE: Yeah, that was amazing.

BOWDEN: (inaudible) a lot of dark point.

BOWE: Plus it looks a little bit like a penguin.

BOWDEN: All right so we're going to go to move to pressure flanking. So instead of precaution where we hitting the flakes off, this is where we're going to use a copper tip tool. This is a piece oak down one the copper wire in the end. And we're going to use pressure to put at long the edge here and just along, work along, push along the top. And a little tiny chips are going to come off underneath, and up a little bit. Let's get some short flakes running in.

BOWE: And this is how they made arrow back in the day. BOWDEN: Yeah, yeah.

BOWE: You think that would work?

BOWDEN: That excellent.

ROWE: Gosh (inaudible) again.

BOWDEN: And now looks like a lot ones you'll find in archeology sites too.

ROWE: Go to museum to look more like that than Jim's stuff. So with training I could have been a caveman.

COYNE: Yeah, like very little training apparently.

BOWDEN: Where you there already.

COYNE: May not have to thin the base out anymore than that, that's look pretty good. So he wants to see if going to slide into the notch there.

ROWE: After we saw how sharp this obsidian arrowhead can be. Jim showed me how to put them on the end of the stick creating a, well let's call it a spear.

COYNE: Looks freaking beautiful. Let make you launcher now.

ROWE: Then Thomas showed us how to make atlatl. That's the weapon that will launch the spear.

COYNE: All I do is we take our knife pull that saw out, saw half way through, split down to it, make a hole. Now I have a launcher. Good let toss your atlatl.

The atlatl is a very difficult skill. It's very had to get accurate with. So what you're going to do is you'll start like this like you're throwing a spear. And you follow through is like dart on at dart board, OK?


COYNE: Look at that.

ROWE: There we go.

COYNE: And it's really weird but you have to just jog 10 feet with you atlatl like this and you get this really weird like primer energy running into you body, it's weird.

ROWE: All right.

COYNE: Elbow up, aim high.

ROWE: I will just (inaudible)...

COYNE: Right there.

ROWE: Remember swing, OK. All right there you go.

COYNE: Go high. There you go.

COYNE: Bullseye. That literally hit the bullseye.

ROWE: I was aiming for it.

Hey, want can I tell you, I'm on touch with my inner caveman.

COYNE: Excellent, excellent throw. Look at that.

ROWE: That has some heat on it.

COYNE: Yeah, that went straight. You see it rifled on it's own?

ROWE: Yeah.

COYNE: That was a perfect throw.

ROWE: Holy crap I'm getting endorphins running through me.

COYNE: Now jog within like that. Doesn't that feel good?

ROWE: I had to admit it, I was feeling something. Probably the slight adrenaline rush that comes with serious dehydration that Thomas warned us about earlier.

Keep elbow up and you grip and you finish like a dart straight down.


ROWE: Honestly I feel better, I helped pass on some genuinely useful information, that might actually help somebody, not from a Hollywood sound stage, not with a bunch of fake props, just a few real tips from a real expert in a place you really don't want to get stuck in.

COYNE: People think it's, you know, you come out here you got to be like the animals. You come out here you try and be like the animals, they're going to out compete you, you're not going to be able to do it. You got to come out here you got to be the most human you can. OK, because it's your cleverness, it's your thought, your creativity that big human brain that gets us by out here.

ROWE: It's a funny way to think about it and you can look out there and you can go, man what a beautiful view, or you can go that's quite a graveyard.

COYNE: Yeah.

ROWE: And maybe, maybe both are right?

COYNE: Yeah.

ROWE: Appreciate it, thank you. COYNE: I do too, thanks a lot for coming.

ROWE: This is the part where I -- where is the sunset? In this direction?

COYNE: That way, every four fingers from the top of the ridge line is an hour.

ROWE: You're a constant endless source of information that I hope I never need.

COYNE: I hope you never need it either. Hope you want it and never need it.

ROWE: I'm walking through the sunset.

COYNE: Excellent.

ROWE: I'm going to circumnavigate the globe but if I'm not back here in four years send help.

COYNE: I'll come looking for you.

ROWE: I don't want to eat my dog.

COYNE: You take care brother.

ROWE: All right man. And see, that's how a survival show would end, I'd go into the sunset, but here on CNN I walk back to the crew and start asking for some freaking water.


ROWE: I don't even know the O man. You want to fire this thing out?


ROWE: Who do you like better and why? Elton John or Billy Joel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir Elton John isn't it?

ROWE: He's been knighted yes, yes, he got knighted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible) but we are going the wrong way.

ROWE: Are we on the wrong way? Well that's awkward. I like to get back to you on the Elton John, Billy Joel thing. The important thing now is we're headed in the right direction to a Texas town that strongly identifies with one particular fruit.

Look at that gigantic watermelon.

I'm no expert but I think we're here. Standing under that vast melon is a man called Jamie Nichols (ph). He's a somebody who's doing all he can to keep this town's fruity traditions alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's an elevator right up in the middle, right in the (inaudible).

ROWE: That would be awesome. There's also a guy named James Mace (ph) from the local water department, because somebody's got to help me get to the top of this thing.

We're outside of town right now, we're going to climb the tower and get a look at the town and then we'll come back down the tower go into the town and then I think we're going to spit some watermelon seeds in this watermelon (meters).


ROWE: Why thump? Why the word thump?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, well thumping is because you thump a melon for ripeness.

ROWE: OK, of course. James is going to accompany me up the tower and so is Troy (ph), might as well let everybody know what's happening. You got your backpack on behind your backpack, well Go Pro will be getting that shot, you don't need to do that just yet.

How high is the tower?


ROWE: And it's full of water?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's full of water. 500,000.

ROWE: It's shaped like a watermelon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shape like a watermelon.

ROWE: How many have you climbed this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was built in 98, so three or four.

ROWE: Three or four times a day?


ROWE: Three to four a year. Let's climb the tower. Study show the first step is always the most difficult, the studies are correct. And I'm off and running, fortunately I'm not bothered by heights. Come on. Until of course something goes wrong.


ROWE: It's just high up. My brand new mechanism is snagged on a pipe, doesn't seem it will go up or down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's getting interesting in there. Is he unbuckled? That's not good.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ROWE: Welcome back to Luling, Texas. I'm halfway up a watermelon tower covered in irony. Yeah, my safety gear is threatening to kill me. This does make it exciting Troy (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible) I put him in there and he can stop so then something's wrong.

ROWE: Decoupling, that feels better.

MACE: OK, if it won't go up I'll work on it a little bit.


MACE: You're going to have to take it easy, ease along. Until you get up a little above me.

ROWE: Yes, I need to get out of your way. So, you get the idea what's happening but here's what I'm seeing. And he's trying to get that slider off right there. Realizing my importance to the program, James (ph) from the water department has given me his safety rig, he'll free climb the rest of the way. This better be some freaking watermelon.

MACE: It's better if you look at it from up top of counter (ph), a little higher up here.

ROWE: How do we get up there?

MACE: You put that thing on there, just don't drop it.

ROWE: Well we made it to the mid melon railing it's a nice view, but there's apparently a better one. Yes, climbing a melon.

MACE: Don't get too far past that, because it really get sloped out there and this will be the last shot you take. The best shot but it will be the last shot.

ROWE: He'll roll all the way down.

MACE: All the way.

ROWE: When was the town formed?

MACE: God, 18 something I believe.

ROWE: When did it become famous for watermelons?

MACE: The farmers and everything, they set like a farmers market and bring all their good in there and sell them there. And I guess we'll just have the best of it. That's what they decided to do.

ROWE: I mean was there any competition or did you guys just decide, you know, let's screw it, we're the watermelon capital, it's going to be us.

MACE: You ask anybody, a lot of them they talk about the -- I just loose the best part, I mean they're good but Luling is the best, it's the best.

ROWE: James may not be an expert on the watermelon but he does know water. So this is -- you are the, really you're the water guy, we're perched at top of the very thing that brings life to this town. You're the bringer of -- the giver of life.

MACE: I get the water to the houses. That's why, yes.

ROWE: What's your last name again? James More?

MACE: Mace.

ROWE: James Mace, M-A-S-E?


ROWE: M-A-C-E oh, or the ancient medieval weapon.

MACE: The weapon, yeah.

ROWE: See I think that's far more manly.


ROWE: I mean if you're going to compare yourself to something.

MACE: They both mess you up so you know. It will ruin your day either way.

ROWE: So James Mace has to do it, what's he have to do? He has to take care of water, why? Because citizens of Luling depend upon him and that's what he does, he's been doing it for 34 years, thanks James.

You better take that call man. When you're in charge of the water for a small town and your phone rings you got to take the call, it's pretty simple. See the thing is he's on leave (ph) 24/7.

Call City Hall and ask them, I love it. He's climbing towers, he's taking calls, he's keeping the water running. He's James Mace, he's got a lot going on. I think we're probably ready to go, we got people waiting to spit some watermelon seeds.

MACE: Oh yes, you're going down, you're going to spit them?

ROWE: Hell yeah.


ROWE: The watermelon thump, 61 years of thumping. The town has given me some accouterments, I guess that's the thing you carry your seeds in, well the actual seeds in question, you know, of course the watermelons here, here's a fellow spitting really leaning into it. I don't want to overstate it but you can feel the excitement in the air. You can hear the train approaching, in the town of Luling, as the sun dips behind the cloud lending a new air, drama to an otherwise determinable stand off.

Sometimes you just got to say, what the thump. Back on terra forma it's all about getting into town and locating the legendary Luling spit way. Downtown Luling has its share of interesting attractions, like what it appears to be a museum for baseball caps.

Oh look at that, I finally found something with more caps than me. And some creepy mannequins. But nothing compares to the place where seed spitting legends are made. Fresh from the water tower, Jamie Nichols (ph) is there to prep me for the coming competition. What is your official title with respect to this annual event?

NICHOLS: Well I'm actually the executive secretary of the thump but I'm chairman of the seed spitting.

ROWE: You're the chairman?

NICHOLS: Of seed spitting.

ROWE: Seed spitting?

NICHOLS: Of championship seed spitting I should say.

ROWE: The CCSS. Now we got that straight it's time to spit or split.

NICHOLS: These are some of the folks you're going to be spitting against, that's the Camacho (ph) family.

ROWE: Jamie (ph) has lined up some seasoned spitters to go head to pucker with yours truly.

The whole family?

NICHOLS: They're all champion spitters, all of them.

ROWE: Did you win all this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That one is actually my dads.

ROWE: Does he get competitive, does he get nasty?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes, yes, I guess.

ROWE: At a glance it looks like an Olympic diver, it's not. It's a Luling spitter. Show me the big mambo jambo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the champion (inaudible).

NICHOLS: We have three different contests in Luling, we have a children's contest. Three of these compete in that.

ROWE: Right.

NICHOLS: OK, the adult category which is our championship category and then they've all spit in the team seed spitting which is a lot of fun. ROWE: You have like team?

NICHOLS: There's team seed spitting that's correct.

ROWE: Is it like a relay?

NICHOLS: Oh well...

ROWE: Like you spit into somebody's mouth and they get it and they spit it. Well that would indicate the level of commitment you really have for the sport. Explain this to me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is measuring stick, you use this after you spit. They'll take this, you got lay it on the line, they'll take it out and measure off all your seedling.

NICHOLS: Well we've got one more person you're going to spit against.

ROWE: Oh great.

NICHOLS: We have our world record holder Lee Willis (ph). From 1989 Lee (ph) is right over here.

ROWE: Is this where you set the record?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No in 89 we did that in the street.

ROWE: Right in the middle of the street.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just right down at (inaudible) street. (inaudible) my wife and I just gotten back from a Caribbean cruise and we were just looking for something to do. She said, go give it a shot, so I stepped up and did it and fate would have it there it went.

ROWE: There it went. Did you feel good going in?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, I've had some beers, I was feeling pretty good.

ROWE: So how far did you spit your seed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 68 feet 9 and a quarter inches.

ROWE: Man, you're really using your diaphragm or is it more just?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a good set of lungs.

ROWE: So it's a deep breath.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A deep breath and quick, got to hit it hard, fast.

ROWE: Like a, just like a blow dart. Long ways. I've met the competition and got coached by them. Time now to load up on the ammo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little technique and taking your seeds, as round as possible, heavy. ROWE: You set it on your tongue, middle, front, back?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just roll it up in your tongue.

ROWE: Rolled up in the tongue, like that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just try to get a little height on it. This is not on the air, you understand, this is where the seed stops.

ROWE: Like golf?


ROWE: Just like golf, I mean not exactly like golf.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well not exactly.

ROWE: But I would like to see Tiger Woods spitting a golf ball out of his mouth.


NICHOLS: If we're really, we're having a contest we sing a couple of songs to pump everybody up.

ROWE: What kind of song would you sing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well there's one called pump you up song. Oh when I step up to that starting line, I'm going to blow with all my might this time. For I am eager and determined to show this grand old crowd just how much I can do. I'm going to blow, blow, blow, blow with all my might, I'm going to send that seed on a record flight. I'm going to put my name in the Guinness book, the Guinness book just wait and see.

ROWE: Now that I'm whipped into a frenzy, let the competition begin. First up various members of the Camacho (ph) family.

Oh that's a nice roll. That's...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 33 feet 9 and a half inches.

ROWE: Solid.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 28 feet 7 inches. 38 feet four and a half inches.

NICHOLS: Well our best spit so far, (inaudible), right?

ROWE: Then it's Lee's turn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to laugh at me when I don't spit as far as you kids did?

ROWE: I might, but it would be a good natured chuckle.


NICHOLS: There's a little bit of that championship coming out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 36 feet 5 inches.

NICHOLS: Way to go good job.

ROWE: And finally yours truly.

NICHOLS: Take that seed and blow Mike, take that seed and blow.

ROWE: It's a family show Jamie.

NICHOLS: Come on lets get it going, now show it I want to see a good spit, come on Mike let's go. Come on Mike give me your finest. Come on Mike we got to get it. Come on Mike, get it.

Oh, 34 what a good spit, let's go Mike.

ROWE: My personal record right now, 34 feet two and a half inches. Nobody gets out of here without spitting.

Where's my trophy?

Technically I came in third, I prefer to look at it as the top three.


ROWE: Yes, you're very kind, thank you.

NICHOLS: For you being a quick learner, a wonderful student, for you competing with dignity and honor.

ROWE: Thank you.

NICHOLS: You're going to be the champion in our hearts forever.

ROWE: Oh I have to go now.

Today's watermelons were (inaudible), they're heavy. Today's watermelons were provided by Allan Watts (ph), a local farmer right here in Luling Texas and world champion watermelon grower. Thump on.

You know somebody out there marching to the beats of their own drum or devoted to keeping some whacky tradition alive? Please send us a note to if they've got to do it, we got to know about it.