It was over 95 degrees in the shade today. Again. For like the 14th damned day in a row. Temperatures like that have a serious impact on your day. You've got a two, maybe three hour window in the morning to get outside stuff done, then you go into hibernation in the coolest locale you can find. Your habits change. Dogs get walked in the early morning instead of the late afternoon. There's no sense in going fishing - the fish long ago abandoned the shallows and are hiding in the deep, dark pools of the lakes and streams, struggling to just survive by sucking every available oxygen molecule out of the warm, fetid water. The last thing on their minds is eating. Hiking or just walking local trails is no longer a pleasure even in the early morning hours. The nights never really cool off so even at 0600 it's like walking in a sauna.
We dropped about fourty three hundred bucks last week on a new air conditioner system. In light of the temps we've been having it was money well spent. I can sit in cool, air conditioned splendor, surrounded by blades and write to my heart's content.
I have not done much with this or my other blog over the past few months out of a mixture of distraction and sloth. Work has been busy as we struggle to set up a new server infrastructure and get set for new software releases. This would normally be a one or two week job, but because I work in a large local government organization that enjoys the world's worst IT department a two week job has turned into a multi-month ordeal.
The other distraction has been a first grandbaby. All the things people say about how great grandkids are is absolutely true. I got to rock her to sleep the other night while her mommy and daddy cleaned up the post-4th of July kitchen mess, and it was wonderful. She nestled into my shoulder, gave me a contented burp and passed out. What more can you ask for!
So instead of focusing on one topic I'll just hop around on some short outdoors-related issues that have piqued my interest in the past month or so.
Bowie. The man and the knife continue to fascinate me. I'm working my way through several biographies of the Bowie and his times. It is clear to me that of the three famous characters at the Alamo in 1836 - Bowie, Travis and Crockett - Bowie was by far the most complex and fascinating personality. Ruthless, violent, opportunistic and driven, yet possessed of a deep sense of honor and duty and tied to the San Antonio region by blood and marriage. Crockett and Travis could have ridden past the Alamo and not given it a second look, but for Bowie it was home. Of the three, Bowie had the most to lose in the fight with Santa Anna and his presence at the Alamo was was all but inevitable.
Chinese knives. In the past few years I've bought a good number of name-brand knives that were made in mainland (i.e., communist) China. These range from the CRKT line of traditional pocket knives to a series of Buck folders to a large sowbelly trapper produced for A.G. Russell out of Arkansas. I have to say that these knives are good. Damned good. The fit and finish on the CRKT knives and the A.G. Russell knife rivals the best work coming out of the shops of some of America's top makers like Case. The fit and finish of the Buck knives rivals or surpasses the work being done in Buck's own factory in Idaho. This proves that stringent quality control and a skilled workforce can turn out high quality at a reasonable price, regardless of their political leanings. Now, not everything coming out of China is top-notch. China can turn out some real crap. But then so can Germany. And England. And Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan, Japan, Spain and any other cutlery producing nation, including America. It all comes down to quality control. I've gotten over my deeply ingrained dislike of Chinese cutlery. As long as an American company is calling the shots and the quality is high, and I can't find the same thing from an American manufacturer at a similar price, then I no longer have any qualms about laying down my money for a Chinese made knife.
Bushcrafting. The current bushcrafting craze is fascinating to watch. Bushcrafting is a back-to-basics fieldcraft movement that emphasizes traditional skills and eschews the uber-lightweight backpacking craze that seized the US in the 1960s. It's not that bushcrafters reject 50 years of technology advances and product improvements in hiking and camping gear, it's more of a rediscovery of traditional ways that still have value. Sort of like Boy Scouts on steroids. For me the bushcraft movement is a reaffirmation of all the stuff I learned as a kid by reading the works of Townsend Whelen, Brad Angier and Calvin Rutstrum. The current dean of buscrafting is a soft spoken Englishman named Ray Mears. He counsels and teaches without all the theatrics or dramatics of a Bear Grylls. For a Brit he's surprisingly realistic about the need to hunt and trap as part of a successful survival strategy. None of this "Don't hurt the little bunnies, you can survive just fine without meat" crap. Ray is more like "Survival depends on protein intake and one of the best sources of protein is the little creatures of the forest. Let's go kill one." I love it. You can catch a lot of Ray's videos on YouTube but it's a moving target because folks are posting copyrighted videos that often get pulled down as quickly as they get put up. His series about the Hudson's Bay company and the fur trapping Voyageurs should be considered a classic for those of you who have any interest in canoeing and the early fur trade.
Zombies. It was old 10 years ago and it's still old today. There hasn't been a good zombie movie since 'Shaun of the Dead'. Nobody needs a big knife or gun to kill zombies cuz' there ain't any. Let's move on.
Vampires. See Zombies (above).
Knife Sharpening. There are three things I'm absolutely convinced I'll never master before I die. The first is Olympic dressage. The second is differential calculus. The third is knife sharpening. Of the three it is knife sharpening that keeps me awake nights. I've got dozens of knives and almost as many sharpening gizmos. Steels, stones, wedges, clamps, sticks. If there's a knife sharpening fads the odds are I've bought into it. Yet I still can't get a decent, consistent edge on any of my blades. YouTube is stuffed with videos of guys putting shaving sharp edges on the leaf springs off of Mac trucks with just a few swipes on the newest, most revolutionary sharpening gizmo yet all I'm able to do is get an edge good enough to pry open a stuck drawer. I'm a failure.
Canoes. I have a pile of aluminum sitting in my back yard that when untangled become two very capable but very unused Grumman canoes. I desperately want to get back on the water. Not necessarily to fish, but to just paddle. Oh, September can't come soon enough!
That's all. Stay cool
Awww geeze, not another blog!
Welcome to A Fine Blade!
This blog will focus one of my lifelong passions and one of man's most basic tools - the knife!
As time and events permit we'll tiptoe into other territory where we can use the knife as a metaphor in discussions about current events and have a little politically incorrect fun.
Because you see, knives rank just below guns as the most politically incorrect subject on the web today.
Guns & Knives = Bad. Gay Marriage & Recreational Drug Use = Good
We'll see if we can't have some fun with that.
So stay tuned, and welcome aboard!