This past Wednesday, my wife and I had some friends over for a cookout/bonfire. We were planning on starting at six pm. So of course it began raining promptly at 4:30 pm. My friend Isaac stood outside under an umbrella with me as I cooked hot dogs on a gas grill (he’s loyal like that).
Several of our friends couldn’t come until about 8:30 or so because their church’s annual business meeting was that night. At around 8 pm the rain stopped, so Michael and I went out to see if we could get the fire started. The wood was all soaked, as it was in a heap rather than neatly stacked (had it been stacked, only the top couple of layers would have been wet. But it was free, so I’m not complaining). Long story short, even with wet wood, I was able to get the fire started using a few pieces of dry pine for kindling, around three pieces of newspaper, and a single match.
I was pretty proud of that.
One of our friends called before he came, and thought I was telling stories about having a fire going. It was nice to see his face when he looked at my respectable blaze. 🙂
The point of this is that had I not been a huge fan of Louis L’Amour’s western novels, I probably never would’ve gotten that fire going without a chemical agent. It was from his works that I learned that if the wood still has bark, you can peel the bark off and the underlying wood will still be dry. He also taught me how to make a reflector out of earth (or in this case, sand) so you can dry out other pieces of wood with the heat from what you’ve already got burning.
After some thought, I decided to make a list of some of the best things I’ve learned from his books. Here we go!
1. How to find water in the desert (look for bees, and follow them).
2. Always cross a stream or river that is in your path before you camp for the night. It could be running bank-full in the morning.
3. You can’t bargain with evil (see also the unfortunate early policies of the US and Great Britain toward Hitler).
4. Women are to be protected (also learned from my Dad).
5. Working with your hands is a good way to accomplish something productive yet still give you time to think about problems.
6. Always check your backtrail.
7. Good men (and women) must stand against evil. Many of the world’s problems would be lessened if good people didn’t stay silent.
8. If you are lost in the snow, make sure not to over-exert yourself. If you begin to sweat, it can freeze inside your clothes and suck away all of your body heat.
9. Snow is an excellent insulator for the outside of a cabin, tent, or shelter.
10. A man isn’t really a man until he is building something. It doesn’t matter if its a business, a town, a farm, or whatever, as long as he’s building something for the future.
11. Manhood has nothing to do with age, and everything to do with accepting responsibility.
Just a short list, but if I listed everything it would take days. If you’re a fan of L’Amour, I’d love to hear some of the favorite things you’ve learned. If you’re not a fan, or haven’t read any of his books, I’d highly recommend them (apparently, so does Billy Graham. I read that he’s a big fan too).