Tuesday, November 20, 2012

On Writing and Making Knives

Standing within a granjeno-mesquite mott

Admittedly there are those who love crowds but every time I go into the city I get tense.  Congestion and crazy drivers: I saw a girl driving and texting and at first I thought she was drunk because she was weaving all over the road.  I’ve seen women applying their makeup while driving and some years back two of my sons saw a fellow playing an accordion and driving at the same time!  Running red lights has become the norm in some places.  So smart drivers wait at least a second or two before venturing out when the light turns green.

After a day in town I yearn to get back to my place in the woods.  I go to the city about once every ten days for supplies.  I could pare that down to once a month and save even more on gasoline.  But then gas really isn’t the issue.  I’d be sparing myself the aggravation of enduring the crowds.  I should work on that.  It would just mean a bit more planning.

My mornings are reserved for writing and the afternoons are spent goofing around in the shop or wandering in the woods.  I’m working on a book right now about life on the South Texas Sand Sheet.  It encompasses both the natural history and human history of the region—a land without surface water stretching from the southern Gulf Coast inland for over a hundred miles.  To the south and north of The Sand Sheet lie urban centers but this place is still remote.  When the Spanish first traveled through the region they saw little evidence of human habitation.  A scattering of archeological digs, however, have shown that at the end of the Pleistocene and beginning of the Holocene there were human settlements abutting the few arroyos that once traversed the land.  As the sands swept inland from the sea shelf that eleven thousand years ago extended about 100 miles farther east than it does today the arroyos were covered and the flora changed dramatically.  Without water prehistoric people found it impossible to traverse the Sand Sheet.  As such it was both a barrier restricting trade and idea diffusion from both the north and south.  Trade routes had to wind around the Sand Sheet’s western edges.  But the horse changed all of that.  My paternal grandfather drove horses across the Sand Sheet north to East Texas to sell them to the US Army in the late 1800s.  People eked out their lives on the Sand Sheet drilling wells that were frequently brackish.  Sometimes settlers relied on rainwater collection.  It was a place of both peace and violence to both people and the land.

The South Texas Sand Sheet

When I’m in my shop I work on making knives or bows or carving bowls, spoons or sometimes experimenting on various projects.  I’ve got four Woods Roamer knives ready for hafting.  I’ve got a mega chopper made from a leaf spring that’s ready as well.  That makes five cutting tools waiting their handles.  During the summer it was too hot to work in the shop except at night and even then it was often too warm.  But now things are cooling down somewhat and I’m spending more time at my little shed.  A couple of nights ago I fired up the charcoal burning forge and pounded out six Woods Roamer knives.  I annealed then afterwards and will look at them this afternoon to see if the annealing was adequate.  I’ll shape them in the next week or so and so I should have five additional knives ready for sale.

I think I’ll make the handles on this new batch of Woods Roamer knives a tad larger because that aids in chopping.  If the handles are too narrow then it’s harder to get good control when whacking away at a branch.  I want to do more videos and hopefully I’ll get the chance soon.  In the Brushlands and Southwestern deserts the two main cutting tools are a machete of some sort and a pocket knife.  The traditional bushcraft knife is not as important in this region as it seems to be in others.  I’ll go into that in detail in a future post and video.

Sunset Photo of Sand Sheet Mott