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Embracing man's first big discovery

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POSTED: July 31, 2012 2:00 p.m.

Since I learned a couple of years ago to make fire by rubbing sticks together and then wrote about it, I’ve taken a lot of ribbing. But that’s okay, I admit I opened myself up on that one — but that’s sort of a byproduct of what I do for a living anyway.

I even anticipated most of the remarks like, “I’ve got a Bic I’ll sell you for half price.” And, “I can rub two matches together and get fire.” Etc., etc.

But you might be surprised at how many adults have asked me to teach them to do this.

So the question that was spoken or implied was, why would a senior citizen want to know how to build a fire by rubbing sticks together?

Actually, I’ve always wanted to know how to do this since I was a young boy. I just finally put it on my bucket list. I diligently studied the physics involved. Mostly I was ticked off that a cave man, who did not know the earth was round (a sphere actually) and had yet to perceive the wheel, could do this. And here I was, a college graduate who had taken chemistry and physics courses, and I couldn’t. What irony!

I’m not saying that building a fire with sticks should have been a college course, but I think it would have been just as viable as “dramatic interpretation” (a drama course) that I did take. Let me put that another way. If I was lost in the wilderness, the ability to build a fire from natural resources would have much more practical application than being able to deliver a line from Hamlet that would make the chipmunks applaud.

When I was a kid, I spent a night in the creek swamp in the dark because I dropped my flashlight in the water, and I had failed to bring matches. That was a long night. When you turn out the lights in the swamp at night, your world changes. Every horror movie you’ve ever seen comes to mind, particularly “Creature from the Dark Lagoon.” That event put all of this into perspective.

It took me about three months from start to finish in a concerted effort to learn this skill. Now I can do it very quickly and routinely. The quickest I’ve ever done it was in less than two minutes. And I have witnesses, one of whom has also learned to do this. So now I have someone to share the ribbing.

One fellow asked me, “What’s the point?” I asked if he played golf. He said he did. I asked him, “What’s the point?” Here I am trying to get a piece of willow wood to 800 degrees to form an ember, and there he is trying to hit a ball into a hole. By the way, I also took a couple of philosophy courses. I build fire, therefore I am. He plays golf, therefore he is.

I pointed out one day during the ribbing at the breakfast club that my accomplishment actually had some socially redeeming value. I further explained that our discussion of this subject was non-political and non-religious. Thus, tempers nor blood pressures got out of hand. And besides, they say laughter is therapeutic.

Fire, regardless of how it is made, is common to both Republicans and Democrats. I guess I could have drawn some political analogy that Republicans need fire to light those big cigars and fire would be required to burn us Democrats in Hell.

There was some sense of accomplishment when I mastered this skill, very similar to when I learned to play “Amazing Grace” on the piano. I could have just turned on the radio and listened to someone else play it.

I doubt seriously I’ll ever need to apply this skill in a survival situation. But then, the way the economy has been going lately, who knows what the price of a Bic lighter will be in a few years?

Just for the record, I have never charged anyone to teach them this skill. I think they do charge for golf lessons.

Side note: Fire was man’s first big discovery. I was told by a golfer that this game was invented in Hell.

Walden is the editor/publisher of the Moultrie Observer.

 

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