Forest Safety

Not to save money, not because they were scarce, and not just as a fun activity; but for preparation. If you have never made anything that you either used right away or saved for later, you’re truly missing out. On what, you ask? You’ll know once the “thing” is made – but it includes patience and determination of the most rewarding kind.

In this case, I’m talking about matches. No, I didn’t make the matches; those were purchased. I, along with my dad and mom, enhanced them; took moisture-beckoning, undependable matches and turned them into water resistant lifesavers. The special ingredient? Wax.

Although my parents had this knowledge tucked away already, waiting to release it onto me, I first learned this trick in my Hunter’s Safety Course. I also learned that the matches would fit in an old shell casing (cool!) or an empty square Altoids tin (this was how I stored mine). In that Altoids tin I added my tinfoil – saving space was key. This was one of my favorite parts: strategically packing the necessities into something smaller than the smallest purse I use now, and still being able to zip it shut without a struggle. Ah, the satisfaction.

I used to wish that we would get lost in the woods. I know, I know, that sounds dark but it truly isn’t – and if Donn Fendler happens to be reading this, I mean no disrespect. Let me start again…

My imaginative, exploratory childhood brain use to wish that we would get lost in the woods. I would finally be able to use what was in my pack, and of course I would know what to do right away – thanks imagination. I could build a shelter (I already had done this out of sticks and spruce tree bows at home for the past couple of winters), and clear a spot in the snow and build a fire with my matches, and I think I had flint too. Oh, don’t worry dad, my 10 year old self can handle this, you just write a journal entry in the back of my Safety Guide and ration out our chocolate, water, and granola. If we were out there for more than a couple of days, I would start looking for squirrels – yes, to eat – to keep up our stamina. Eventually, when we ran out of fun, I would use the compass my grandfather gave me along with my dad’s knowledge of the land and we would walk back to camp.

I’ve known since I have known things that it would be difficult for me to get lost in the woods [at camp]. I’ve been in them so much, and my grandfather and dad and uncles and cousins longer; and as you can imagine from my carefully thought out scenario above this was a little disappointing to me. Although I also know that if we had gotten lost in the woods I would have been terrified. I would be the one writing an end-of-the-world journal entry in the back of my Safety Guide while my dad did everything necessary.

I still have everything that I put into that pack, and most if it may even still be inside; my dad’s childhood handwriting on the side of the fluorescent orange exterior, stating his name and address. I haven’t strapped it to my side over my camo and orange fleece vest in quite some time, but the imagination I carried is still with me, although it’s a little more work to summon these days.


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