Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Woodsman's Life....

I’m back at el ranchito after a week on the road.  Here at the cabin things run at a decidedly slower pace.  Visitors sometimes complain that it’s just too quiet.  Others say they couldn’t live so isolated.  It has its downside and we always try to keep that in mind.  A trip to the doctor or emergency room takes over an hour and so we’re extra careful to watch for things that could be life threatening.  The other day my son was walking out to one of the bird feeders and you know we just can’t live in a constant state of being on guard.  Still, he noticed something moving close to him and he glanced down and saw a large rattlesnake within striking distance.  Now if you’ve ever been advised to freeze when you’re next to a rattlesnake then rest assured who ever told you that was giving you bad counsel.  I’ve encountered tens of thousands of rattlers over the years and the only sane reaction is to jump out of the way as fast as you can.  Put distance between you and the snake!  And if you happen to get bit then more than likely it was going to occur anyway.  Freezing or jumping out of the way was no longer an option; you had crossed that line and the snake was going to strike!  Anyway, I was in the cabin and my son walked in with the usual nonchalance attitude experienced woodsmen possess and he grabbed a pistol and said, “There’s a big snake next to the house.”  Now mind you that we always leave rattlers alone when they are away from the cabin.  But when they are in the “yard” we have no choice but to shoot them.  Please don’t preach to me about transferring them off the property.  We get that sort of naiveté from well-intentioned folks who invariably are not as experienced as they might believe.  The “transferred” snake will be right back in your yard within a couple of days at the most.  That scenario by-the-way has occurred too many times to other folks who subsequently lost dogs or were forced to take care of things when the snake returned.  So my son did what had to be done if we are to protect our dogs and avoid hectic trips to the emergency room and that’s the end of that story.

I took a long walk through the brush a couple of days ago and reflected on the fact that I’ve probably spent what would total several decades roaming the woods.  I never tire of hiking the back trails.  Most people drive from place to place but I’d rather walk.  I don’t care for ATVs or horses or motor scooters or anything else.  I prefer walking.  I carried a Mora 511 because I had no particular reason to carry a larger knife—though that was a mistake and I should’ve known better.  As always I hefted a 2-quart canteen, flashlight, leather gloves, some parachute cord, a small bottle of antibacterial lotion, and a customized pruning saw.  Small knives like the Mora 511 might be ideal for the boreal forest when coupled with an ax but they are too lightweight and short for the Brushlands and desert regions.  When you encounter prickly pear cactus you need a blade that’s long enough to reach in and slice away pads to facilitate easy passage.  The four-inch blade on the Mora is insufficient and invites a bath of cactus needles.  I’ve got half a dozen Woods Roamer knives and why I didn’t take one along I have no idea.  I carry a walking cane to push aside thorn-ridden brush but nopal cactus needs to be sliced away.  The little Mora was just not up to the job.

Three Woods Roamer Knives with a Mora 511. I removed the finger guard on the Mora.

Around here landmarks typically come in two forms: Man-made and those bestowed by nature.  Gates make good landmarks as in, “I’m going to walk to Tololo’s gate” or “I’m going as far as those two tanks at the split away.”  Then there are the natural signposts like the green pond or the big anacahuita or the coyote trail.  Live long enough in the woods and you get to know just about every tree and shrub within four or five miles of your casa and you’ll know when things are the way they should be or are out of place.  You’ll recognize the smell of a particular locale and know when something moved through by the faint odors left behind.  You’ll sense when javelina are close by or when a deer walked the path in front of you or maybe a badger is close.

Each gate has a name. The more the merrier if you're a hermit.

I’ve got some knife projects that are about ready to be photographed and that will come in a few days.  I also want to talk about the genesis of medicinal plant usage.  That article is in the making.  But mainly it’s good to be back in the woods.  I figure most of the people who read this blog will understand that unique kinship with nature.  Perhaps for me it goes a bit further.  I think of something Cary Grant said in the old movie Father Goose.  He said, “Several years ago, I made peace with the world.  Now if the world isn’t bright enough to make peace with itself, it’ll have to settle things without me.”

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