Manly Things, Northern Michigan Edition

This post is one that has been restored after the hacking. All original comments were lost.

My number one son sent me the video above (linked here). Can you imagine being that happy over catching a fish?

Never mind that. Can you even put yourself in a small booth set over floating ice the whole day long, considering that lake ice might be unsafe! You could slip and end up with a concussion, or develop frost burn, or even hypothermia!

Remember when I told you of the time I brought a knife to school? Not a penknife or something goofy like a Swiss Army knife (that knife may be why that army often chooses neutrality). No, sir. A real knife. A knife capable of wounding, killing, eviscerating man and beast. Yes, and I wasn’t the only one. A score of us weapons platforms charged through school halls terrorizing…precisely no one.

No one thought anything of it. Boys with knifes? In northern Michigan this was unusual as an EPA bureaucrat inventing a new regulation. Now this was in 1980 and…wait. Boys? What about girls!?

Well, we surely had girls—I remember them fine—but I don’t recall any carrying knives. Besides, the reason we were armed was that we had just returned from a winter survival course. We had to trudge into the woods in groups of three boys—no girls—and stay alive by building our own shelters, making our own fires, and so forth.

Not one of us died, and my memory tells me none were maimed, either. Maybe we came back scuffed up a bit. We certainly stank. But the point is this. Can you imagine any high school allowing such a thing today? There must be one somewhere. But if so, it’s only because it hasn’t been caught yet.

We also had shop class. Welding was my favorite, though there were subtle pleasures to be had chopping things up with a blowtorch. You probably have no idea of the range of items such a tool can melt. But we did. We experimented freely. We braized. We used machines to fold thick metals. Drill presses were pressed into service. Enormous band saws sang as the deadly clawed blade zipped by at enormous speeds! These machines of destruction were even used to cut wood and, rumor had it, the last teacher’s thumb clean off. Blood, we heard, was everywhere.

One teacher, not too bright, decided to show us gasoline was not as dangerous as claimed. So he had a bucket of it brought over. He lit a match and quickly plunged his hand (yes, holding the lit match) into the liquid. I’m still here so you know how the experiment ended. I don’t recall any being brave enough to repeat the stunt.

The reason I wasn’t keen on this was because we regularly burned our trash, especially the wood from the deconstruction we were doing on our house. One fall afternoon my dad, dad’s dad, and I had the pit by the railroad tracks loaded, an especially big pile. My dad thought an entire can of gas would do the trick to get the blaze going properly.

The wood was soaked. We stood at the pit’s edge. My dad lit the match and tossed it in. Now what happened was the oddest thing. It was as if all sound stopped, like we were in a vacuum. The light from the flames which engulfed us was pleasant and warm. I only felt a wind as the flames subsided.

Our eyebrows and exposed hair was burnt. Awful smell. My dad’s first words were, “Don’t tell your mother.” My grandpa was more phlegmatic. “You used too much gas.” I’m not sure trash burning is still “allowed.”

We heated with wood in those days. Which meant going out and chopping it up. And that meant chain saws. Big ones. Don’t let the chain get too loose. The wood, dear reader, came home in the form of logs which had to be split. That meant sledges and wedges. Metal on metal. Flying shrapnel. The danger of crushed toes. My dad wore glasses to see, but I never did and, no, never goggles either.

You already know about the ever-present guns. We were allowed to trudge off into the woods, unsupervised—no cell phones! No way of finding us! We’d be gone for hours and hours!—and to kill animals with guns! No one ever got shot. Well, not really. We did used to play war with pellet and BB guns. That doesn’t count because the danger of real death was pretty small.

Categories: Fun

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