Saturday, June 16, 2012

Woman Conquers Fire

During spring of 2011 our family decided to go camping at Disney World.  We stayed at Fort Wilderness campground.  Before this trip our family had only gone camping one other time.  We stayed at a state park for a weekend, and only brought the bare minimum of necessary gear.  For our Disney trip we would be staying a week, and therefore need a lot more gear.

I took several trips to our closest Bass Pro Shop and our local walmart trying to amass the necessary items for "roughing it" at this resort.  For someone as interested in survival as I am, it was difficult to maintain a balance between the minimal equipment I wanted to pack, and the luxury items I knew would be important to my fellow campers who aren't as buzzed about survival living.  I made my list, checked it twice and then tried as much as possible to stick to it.  

For some women, shoes are difficult to shop for.  They hoard them in their closets and under their beds.  For some women it's gourmet kitchen equipment.  They drool over catalogs filled with images of cast iron pots and combination mushroom/egg slicers.  For some women it's organizational supplies.  They have their paper clips and rubber bands color coordinated.  Their desks are neatly arranged with little cups and boxes for writing implements and post-it notes.  

For me it's camping gear.  Not just your usual run-of-the-mill gear, but survival gear.  I purposely avoid the outdoor equipment section when I head to Walmart for groceries.  I'm glad it's off in the corner of the store, because if I were to accidentally wander down the wrong aisle with a little extra change in my pocket, you can bet I'd end up with an emergency survival kit thrown in with my frozen foods.  

The looming camping trip gave me all the excuse needed to finally venture down those paths.  I made every purchase with cash to keep me within my budget.  The only thing I bought that wasn't on my list was a little metal rectangle with a tiny serrated blade tethered to it.  Flint and Steel.  In retrospect I probably looked a little like Wallace when I found it.  As much as I laughed at my son's desire to learn to light fires with a magnifying glass I felt the same way about my new toy.  

It was much colder in the mornings than I had anticipated.  I didn't want to waste time on practicing with my flint while my little girls teeth were chattering, so most mornings I left the fire building to my son, and allowed him the privilege of using a lighter.  

Finally about halfway through the week my opportunity came.  I worked steadily for about an hour.  The serrated blade scraped most of the epidermis off my left index finger.  Before long I could empathize with my son over his first attempts with a magnifying glass.  My problem was that my fuel was damp.  I had plenty of Spanish moss, and even had scraps of a cardboard box to use for kindling, but I couldn't get anything to light because it had been left out overnight and the dew had gotten to it.  

I tried again that afternoon, and again the next day, and finally the blisters on my fingers made me give up in despair.  I let my son have a go, and he didn't do any better.  When we got home all the camping gear was packed away in the garage.  After a few months our fire pit rusted out (it was the cheapest one available) and it went to it's final resting place on nearby trash mountain.  

Fast forward a year and a half.  

Last week my son told me he wanted to buy a fire pit.  He did some pricing online and found a portable charcoal grill for $15.  I knew he missed playing with fire.  I was planning to buy a new pit eventually, and his determination helped me prioritize things a bit differently.  

With the new one fresh out of the box he started collecting kindling once again.  He tried to get his magnifying glass to work, but the last few days were too cloudy.  I still had the rule against matches and lighters, but now we had a flint buried somewhere in our camping gear.  I suggested he get it out and try it.  Within a few minutes he was putting it back in frustration.  

Later that afternoon I got out the flint, determined to try my hand once more.  I scraped off a pile of magnesium, grabbed a wad of dryer lint and began to strike the flint.  It took seconds, and the lint was in flames.  I had finally done it!!!  Not only had I lit a fire with a flint and steel, but I had impressed my son.  Any mom of a teenage boy knows that those moments are few and far between.  

To be Continued.   

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