I finally did it. I learned to make fire by rubbing two sticks together. And although that particular skill is not marketable in a conventional sense and likely not necessary unless you are lost in the wilderness, I feel a sense of accomplishment.
Now my friends at the breakfast club all pooh-poohed my accomplishment and suggested that I just buy a Bic lighter or a box of matches. But I had a desire to master this skill that early man had mastered as a matter of survival, but a skill that most people today, even with college degrees, could not accomplish.
My return question to a couple of them was, “why do you go out and hit a little white ball with an expensive stick when you could just walk up to the hole and drop the ball in it with your hand? You would save a lot of time and lots of cussing.” Again, it’s about mastering skills, neither of which in today’s world is crucial to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But if I am ever lost in the wilderness, my skill is more practical than being a golfer, I would think.
As I have said in earlier columns, I grew up on the Leather Stocking Tales and I like to watch the “Man vs Wild” TV shows. I guess it has to do with what would you do if you were reduced to the lowest common denominator in the venue of survival.
And let me clarify: When I say rubbing two sticks together, I’m talking about a bow and drill approach to friction fire. More specifically, I used the Egyptian bow and drill process. The Egyptians were darn good engineers.
Now I wasn’t a Boy Scout. But I did grow up in the woods, swamps and fields where I’m self-taught on many survival skills. I love nature. I hunt. I fish. I boat. And sometimes I just go for a walk in the woods.
I’m not sure why I waited so many years to take on the fire challenge, but it took about three months of research, study and practice to learn specific techniques that prove successful most of the time.
Fire was man’s first big discovery. From that, homes were warmed, foods were cooked and metals were shaped. And when I was able to get that first glowing coal from a mechanical arrangecoal from a mechanical arrangement with two pieces of river willow, I shouted, “Yes!”
Now I’m not going to say that I was as giddy as when first man did this. I had the assurance that if I failed, I could flick my Bic or Zippo. But first man would have gone to bed cold and in the dark, having eaten raw meat for supper.
I learned all I needed to know about this skill from the Internet. I was surprised that there were so many people out there trying to learn how to do this. We talked back and forth in forums on which woods work the best, how much pressure to put on the drill and how to convert the glowing coal into a “bird’s nest” to grow into flame.
There was no one around who knew how to teach me this when I was a kid. And like I said, I wasn’t a Boy Scout. As well, I’ve known several people who were Boy Scouts who never learned to do this.
Warming by a fire that I built by rubbing two sticks together was indeed a sense of accomplishment. It made me appreciate the toils of early man. And in the process of getting to those feelings, it burned a hole in the linoleum on the floor of my utility barn. I actually grilled a steak over a fire that I built with this primitive method. It added much perspective to my accomplishment.
And so if anyone ever doubts that I have acquired this skill, I will offer to let them watch me do it. Or I can just show them the hole in the floor.
Walden is editor/publisher of The Moultrie Observer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.