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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Lets Talk Sparks

I have had the opportunity to work with many people and it concerns me how very, very few can build a fire. An order of younger kids but for the greatest part neither can the majority of the adults. Take away everything but a knife and some matches, and the number that CAN start a fire drops even more dramatically.

Many cannot strike a match; others cannot operate a simple butane lighter, and the vast majority who can have no concept of "wind", distance from standing up to fire lay vs burn time of match, etc etc.

Backtracking a little: This is Mid-Western forestland. some pine-cedar forest.Forget using those types; they are not common. We have Oaks, ashes, maples, elms, walnut, hickory (this is hardwood land), and so on. Oaks dominate the uplands and the usual suspects dominate the bottom lands.

I can and do teach these folks the ignition end of fire building without much difficulty - ferrocerrium + prepared spark-catchers, matches, butane lighters - all are fairly simple to teach a skill on except matches elude some folks (practice, practice, practice).

I conclude we've scared the bejabbers out of enough generations now (don't play with matches) that many people "instinctively" fear that they will spontaneously explode into flame and die if they so much as strike a match... this is not extreme hyperbole on my part; you have to observe as many folks as I have, but it's there - something is there... very frustrating, but persistence, patience, practice and a few tricks I use seem to work.

So I've had great success with the spark/flame end of things. But when it comes to materials gathering, prep, fire lay... arrrrgh!!! Either not enough repetitions (that's all the time consuming part) or no matter HOW well they demonstrate they understand & can do it, the next time that kid/adult needs to build a fire, they doofus it up as if they never knew anything. ( A FEW do OK except that they plod along at an agonizing pace, taking an hour or more to get everything set up and ready before striking the first spark/flicking a Bic) Darned few seem to retain any skill.

I think part of the difficulty is lack of practice - I can have a learner strike and move dozens of matches under my supervision in a fairly brief time span, but in that same time span, only one full gather/prep/lay is possible. It DOES NOT help to have them work in groups - the dominant person takes over and no one else learns anything (...and I know how to manipulate the group dynamics, but that's MORE time). Gotta happen one person - one fire lay. SO any one else have noticed this as well.

May your blades stay sharp, your guns shoot straight,your fires burn warm, and your wits stay about you......Scout Out!


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