What is there to say? I'm not very interesting. I'm not a good writer. I don't even dress well. If you insist on knowing something about me just wander through the archives. It's all there.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

On tying knots

I read somewhere that although we always imagine the ancient hunter-gatherers using spears or bows to hunt for their food, it is more likely that the majority of their animal protein was the result of using traps and snares. The ability to make and use rope and twine is what allowed them to survive.

One hundred years ago, I would guess that most of the people in the US would have been able to tie at least a half dozen different knots. You weren’t asked about “paper or plastic” in the grocery store, but your purchases were wrapped in papers and fasten with a combination of string knots and hitches until you got them home. On the farm, you would hitch animals. At work, you would lift objects with block and tackle. Knots were a part of life. Tying them was a life skill.

Those skills have gone the way of buggy whips and American made shoes. Few people now can even tie their Asian made shoes correctly. The Boy Scouts, which for many years have been the lone repository of knot tying skills, seem to be getting away from the rope craft tradition in favor of more relevant subjects.

It’s really too bad. There is something kind of fun about a Zeppelin bend that was used to tether the US Navy Zeppelin fleet to their moorings. Using a Constrictor knot that can be formed in seconds, but applies enough pressure that it can be used as an emergency hose clamp, is rather empowering. Knowing how to tie a Jury Mast Knot, probably the origin of the term jury rig, lets you recreate a moment in history from the era of great ocean going sailing ships.

Yes, I know. You’re thinking, “how very odd you are”. Or as my son sarcastically said to me when I showed him how to tie a Zeppelin bend, “Gee dad, that’s great. Now if we’re driving down the street and see a Zeppelin that’s broken loose – we’ll be set!”


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