The Hunt

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The soft, blue sky and sounds of chipping birds didn’t soften the concerned look on the man’s face as he peered out the window.

“They’re out there, son.”  He warned.  “They came during the night.  Pods hidden amongst the landscape.  They’re  hidden, but I know they’re  there.  I can smell them.”

His words were confirmed with tightening eyelids and a terse nod.

“It’s not like last time.”  He continued.  “Last time easy to spot.  They were bigger and ugly.  Everyone knew they were dangerous.  This time, though; this time they were smart.  The pods are small, so they’re easy to hide.  They’re brightly colored, too.  It makes them easier to find, but also lulls its victims into a sense of false security.  There’s got to be hundreds of them out there.”

The soldier steps back and racks his rifle.  “Clack-clack!”

“Don’t worry, Dad.  I got this” He says with confidence.

A brightly colored basket is lowered in between them.

“Why don’t you collect them instead of shooting them.”  The mother says to her son.”

“Aw, Mom!”  The boy protests as she disarms the young soldier.

“No, no.  She’s right!”  The father chimes.  “Gunfire will alert them to your presence.  You need to stalk them, special ops style, and bring them back to the home base for study and interrogation.  They’ll crack under the pressure!”

Mom rolls her eyes as the child bolts out the door.

A Perfect Fit

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It was a long time in coming.  Possibly it should have happened sooner, but at that moment everything was in sync so I went for it.  The tan color went with everything, the brim was crisp, the size was right.  A perfect fit. I turned to my wife to show off the quintessential British driving hat.

“Is that to go with the Miata you bright home” She asked in reply.

I stopped dead in shock.  “You remember the Miata?”

“I remember everything about it.”  She answered.  “It was white, with a black interior and top.  It had a manual transmission and pop-up headlights.”

I couldn’t believe that she remembered that car so well. It was over eighteen years ago and I had the car for a total of twenty-five minutes.  Five of those were spent in the driveway.

“I remember the look of fear when you saw me behind the wheel.” I chuckled at the memory.

“It fit you too well.  A perfect fit.”

This wasn’t the only time a sporty, little, two seat, siren sang out.  Years later, two co-workers rushed to me, rapidly talking about some sports car.

“You gotta see it, Gene!  It’s so you!” They cried with such enthusiasm, they were almost shouting.

“Ok! Ok! I’ll check it out.”  I said, curious as to what was causing such a commotion.

When I reached my destination, an Austin “bug-eye” Sprite greeted me in all its crimson splendor.

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Another time, a friend, Jason, told me about two cars some guy had for sale.  One was a late 60’s Camaro while the other was, “Some British car”.

“You should buy it.” Jason said to me.  “He’s only asking $2,500 and it fits you.”

I didn’t have the funds for a second car and the insurance that goes with it, but I figured I’d check it out.  The “British Car” turned out to be a restored MGB decked out in Cobra Blue with white racing stripes.

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I would be lying if I said I was never tempted.  Who wouldn’t want the romance of a private dance with one of these cars as your partner?  Their power isn’t high, so you can flirt at speed without being (too) illegal.  Their skinny tires and manual transmissions bring an intimacy that most have forgotten.  A decreasing radius curve up ahead? Heel, toe shift.  Heel, toe, shift.  Car and driver together in sounds and motion.  Untied in an intimate road dance.

A car like that would be fun, but I’d miss out on so many other moments that I’ve had with my trucks.

Such as all the animals I’ve brought to the wildlife rescue, or the camping I have done.  Fountains, flower beds, and furniture would not have found their way if not for the trucks I’ve owned.  I would’ve never made it to work during the Tropical Storms and aftermaths of Hurricanes without the clearance a pickup provides. Twenty three hours on the road would not have been as comfortable in either a Miata or MG as they were in the Silverado.  Thirty bags of mulch won’t fit into their trunks as they do in the bed of a Ranger.

Sports cars offer the love of machine and person; pickup trucks offer the ability to share the love with fried and family.

For me, that’s a perfect fit.

A year in my shoes.

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This was supposed to be easy.  Throw a picture up, toss out some words and poof!  Instant post.  Instead it’s over four days past my plan of posting and I’m still struggling.

I fell into the trap of overthinking. I needed new work boots and wanted to explain why I picked those originally and why I switched to something else.  The idea was good, but the words that came were so sterile and analytical.  Completely uninspiring and off-putting for me. I wanted something else, something better.

Kinda like my boots.

The boots I had were so disappointing this time.  They were Wolverines.  I’ve owned four pair of Wolverines in my life and three of them were this style. This pair just did not work.

You see the toes?  It took just one day for the leather covering the steel safety caps to wear off.  I was weeding and the shuffling of my feet against the asphalt wore the leather off by the time I was done.  The boots were one week old at that time.  I’ve had that happen with $30 boots, but never Wolverines.  There was no way I could explain this as normal wear and tear either, so I didn’t bother to call or write about warranty work.

The rest of the boot was fine.  They still were comfortable and supportive.  Together, we dug, moved, pushed, hiked, crawled, and even kicked through our work time.  I had noticed that this set of boots wasn’t as flexible as the earlier ones.  It took more effort to flex on the balls of my feet.  Still they did their work, but the stress was showing.

Then the rains hit.

Florida is known for its torrential rains, but this one was impressive.  It wasn’t tropical in nature, but the results were the same.  Roads closed, traffic diverted, trees fallen, electrics under water, and hundreds of fire-ants huddled together in a ball, just waiting for some poor soul to latch on to.   The last time I saw flooding like this was after tropical storm Gabriel.  The water was so high that the utility vehicles stalled from the strain.  I pushed mine off to the side.  It took three days for my boots to dry completely.  The leather never fully recovered.

The final straw came when the left sole split completely through.  I hadn’t noticed it until the day I had to clean brush out of a drained canal.  The area was drained, but not dry.  Its mud was slick and water seeped up with every step.  My soaked sock alerted me to the crack the boot’s sole.

It was time for a change.

But to what?  I sifted the search engines, read articles, and waded through the horribly arranged Amazon filters.  (It was easier pushing the utility vehicle through the flood than it was trying to find decent work boots with specific requirements on Amazon.)  Given the events of the year, I came up with an unusual result.  Jungle boots.  What other style would handle the abundance of water, humidity, and mud?

Jungle boots are not the easiest things to find.  Rack Room Shoes, Sears, and all the other usual stores were out and while I will buy some things online, boots aren’t one of them.  You have to go to an army surplus store.

Army surplus stores are very interesting to visit.  Tucked in the corner of a strip mall, they can be as bright and organized as Dick’s Sporting goods, or as dark and cluttered as a Hollister’s run by teenage boys.  The store I found was a mix of both.  The lights were low, but everything was organized.  Unfortunately they didn’t have any Jungle boots.  They did have other choices.  Desert boots, training boots, combat boots, parade boots, boots for almost anything.  I had no idea what to look for at this point.

So I asked for help.

The lady listened to what I wanted as well as the price I was willing to pay.  She offered a pair that is light, flexible, durable, and well-constructed.  They aren’t water proof, but they are good against high humidity and dry quickly.  They also are bought by police and fire fighters who are used to standing in their boots for long hours at a time.

I’ve had them for a week and they have handled having the toes scraped against the concrete, heavy mud, miles of walking and flexing of the soles.  So far I’m impressed.  Only time will tell if they last they year.  A future review will be coming.

In the end, this article is similar to my journey into new boots.  I struggled with it at the beginning and took many unexpected turns along the way before ending in an upnote.

With the creative damn broke, I look forward to the journey ahead.

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Rebuilt

Useless, unwanted, thrown out.

Discarded by those that once cared for them.

Broken

Left out to rot under the elements without protection.

Wasting or waiting, not sure which

Collected up one by one

Brought to a field

Sorted and stacked

Altered, shaped, changed

Put to a different use.

Crafted, Made

Rebuilt and rebirthed.

The start of something new

Oasis

Waves of distortion hung low in the air as heat radiated up from the parched earth. A silhouette floated across as the soft crunching of footfalls broke the dead calm.  The man squinted his eyes beneath his wide brimmed hat in defense his late afternoon sun. His gaze finds the skeleton of a tree that draws him to it.

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Tucked in a bow, he finds a nest, poor and sloppily built. Inside of the nest sat three chicks, freshly molten from their baby fuzz.  Nude and hot, they look to the sky with open beaks.

The man reached into his bag and pulled out a bottle and straw. The man grimaces as he feels the weight of it.  Shaking the bottle, he heard the splash of remnants. Not much, but some. Dipping the straw into the bottle, he proceeded to quench their thirst, one by one.  Each chick was allowed three pulls all the water was gone.  The man looked up to see their mother sitting on a perch, staring down at him.  He noticed an insect caught in her beak.

Backing away, he nodded to the lady before putting away the bottle and straw. The bird flew to the nest as the man moved on.

Unintended Consequences

This wasn’t supposed to happen. I had no plans to start another project. I just saw some misinformation and just wanted to correct it.

Like many out there I was multi-tasking over the weekend. (ie: keeping myself entertained while doing chores) This time I had chosen to listen to some YouTube videos while cleaning up the dog run.  I have found that many of the videos I watch have enough narrative that I don’t need to watch them to understand what’s going on.

I saw that a guy who calls himself “NutnFancy” had released a video comparing emergency fire starting fuel tablets. I’ve enjoyed some of his camping/adventure videos and thought this would be interesting. The guy comes from a military background, Air Force, so he naturally gravitates to that spectrum of equipment where I prefer the items you find in nature.

Nutn, as I call him for short, loves something called Tri-Ox. It looks kinda like a harder version of Sterno (Camping fuel for cooking) and burns very hot.  In his test he compares this against other survival/camping fuel tablets that are readily found in the camping aisle of your favorite store.

As I’m raking I hear him complaining how hard these other items are to light using a ferro rod. (A rod of metal about three inches long and a quarter inch in diameter that throws off lots of sparks when scraped with a hard metal edge; Like the back of a knife.) I stop and rewind the vid.  Looking at it, I noticed that he didn’t prep any of the survival fuel tablets and that he’s using the rod wrong.  He’s actually pushing some of the fuel tablets away as he swipes down the ferro rod with the back of his knife.  Later in the video he laughs as he realizes that he was not using the fuel tablets correctly and that he should’ve read the instructions.  He then justifies his choice in using Tri-Ox since it didn’t need any prepping and caught fire rather easily.

I thought he was doing a disservice to the other fire starting fuels since they weren’t used correctly. I had one of the brands in my day pack and had used it once for an online camping class.  (Make five fires using man made materials)  I knew it worked and wanted to give an honest review of that product.

So I made a video in reply.

By most standards it is a bad video. It was dark; you just see my arms for the most part; The sounds wavers as I move around; and the angle is off so you don’t see everything I wanted to show.  It also didn’t help that I was using my phone as the camera and propping it up with a selfie-stick and wedging that between the rails of a beach chair.

It’s also unscripted. Very much so.  I found myself saying phrases I’ve never used before, and in parts, I find myself sounding grumpy.  I know that because I was grumpy.  Nutn had made a big deal about being in the wilderness when he did his review.  He voiced his opinion that being “in the wild” made the test more accurate than if it was made in his back yard.  I’ve always had a problem with that line of thought.  I feel that you should practice in the comfort of your own back yard because not only does it give you more time to practice your skills, but the familiarity of your surroundings helps you focus on what you are doing and not what is going on around you.  This gives you the familiarity of the task when you do go out into the field.

I was also a little frustrated by my weather conditions. Nutn had done his testing in the snow-capped mountains of Utah.  I live in Florida.  It doesn’t snow here.  In fact, it was in the 50s that night.  But it had rained heavily for two days, two days prior.  Everything w3as still wet.  How would I show that?  I went to the swale and showed how much water was in it after those days of drying out.  There was a light breeze blowing as well.  I wore a T-shirt with no jacket to feel some coolness as I went about starting the project.

There were some funny moments where I had kneeled down on the lanyard of my multi-tool and had to shift to free it; or when I put the dried Spanish Moss over the lit fuel tablet and had it almost combust into flames in my hand.

The fire went off without a hitch and about the only real regret I had was in not clarifying that I had used the back of the saw in my multi-tool to scrape the ferro rod and not the teeth.   It’s easily shown in the video, but I still wish I had explained this part better.

Oh well, no matter.

After enjoying the fire, I came inside and started processing the film for transfer to YouTube. It took over two and a half hours of editing, saving, converting, and uploading to get the five minute long vide up on YouTube.

I didn’t mind though, once I had posted the reply on Nutn’s video. I had made my point.

I got a few people to look at it and two responses to it on his page. Just as I expected.  What I didn’t expect was to get a subscriber of my own.  I had made this video just to point out a different point of view and result.  I had not planned on anything bigger.

Now I’m wondering if this is something I should pursue? I like being outdoors and teaching new skills. It would easily fit into my blog as well.  But would you like it?  Is it something you would like to see as a semi-standard on this blog?  Will you find the subject interesting?  Bushcrafting/camping is big on TV right now, but is it over done.  I’m no master.  I’m just a student learning as I go.  I would be showing you what I learned and how I learned it.

Are you interested?

Here is the video I made and beneath it will be NutnFancy’s video so you can see how mine fits in relation.

Just let me know what you thing in the responses   I’m curious to what you think.

My video

NutnFancy’s review of fire starters