Return to Travels in Texas

Running Afoul Of Baden-Powell


An Undisclosed Location in the West

Someone needs to understand.

I can make a fire, almost anywhere, out of the merest twigs and scraps of paper. Really. In ancient times, in the boy scouts, I even made fire with a friction bow. I remember how hard it was to keep the sweat rolling down my arms and off my forehead from putting it out before it got started. And ordinarily I do not make extravagant fires, being content with enough to cook on, with a little left over for contemplation.

In honor of simplicity and parsimony in this regard, I even once invented the World's Lightest Woodburning Backpack Stove. Guaranteed to boil water in 5 minutes and leave no trace bigger than the heel of your boot.

Don't believe me?

All it consisted of was 3 wire tent stakes and a foot and a half of aluminum foil. You stuck the stakes in the ground, making a triangle maybe 6 inches or so on a side. Angle the tops inward so as to support your pot. Make sure it's stable and can hold the weight. Then you make a ball of tinder, either paper or leaves or softened dead bark, and place it in the center. Collect a double hand full of twigs, none bigger than your finger, and pile them on top. Then wrap the stakes with the aluminum foil, leaving one side slightly open to vent. You won't need much of a crack for draw. What you end up with looks like a tiny shiny teepee, maybe 6 inches high, stuffed with twigfall.

Or, more appropriately, a small volcano.

Open the foil enough to light the paper, then close it up. This thing burns hot and fast, so have a supply of twigs to feed it. Where there's trees, there's always twigfall. Every day. You shouldn't have any problem.

All the heat is funneled up to the pan. When you are through, you eat. By the time you're through, the twigs have burned to feathery ash and the stakes have cooled. Remove them, fold up the foil, and grind the ashes under your heel. Scatter them in a short arc, and from 10 feet away you won't be able to see where you've been cooking. Move on.

As a parting gesture, you can pee on it, but it's not necessary, and may be way too fussy. No, let's not go there.

The whole thing is made of things you are using elsewhere, and adds no weight to your pack at all. Try it, you'll be surprised.

Now why am I telling you this? Just to show I had some experience in building fires before I went to the grocery store in Benbrook and bought a sack of what appear to be mesquite chunks from Big John's Wood Products of Ft. Worth.

I can't get this stuff to burn for nothin'.

Usually the stuff in campgrounds is easy to start with 4 or 5 sheets of newspaper and a few twigs. There's no profit for the parks if you don't consume it all each night and come back for more. Big John has found some sort of wonder wood, but before I go home I am determined to reduce it to ash.

I've tried three times, not counting dozens of relights and rebuildings. All you get is a smoky sort of roseate glow that punks it's way through the night. Hardly any flame. The first two times I used up the Saturday edition of the Dallas Morning News and a couple of paper plates to little satisfactory effect. I think Big John is missing a bet by not offering these wooden heat shields to NASA.

Last night I lost it. I rolled up a section of newpaper, stuck it down in the generator tank, and let is soak for 20 seconds or so. Then I built the fire on top of that. There was a satisfying !Whumph!, and actual flames jumped into the air. Content with the world, I went inside to bring out dinner. Half an hour later, I was back to that hellish creeping glow.

You might be able to see it burning if you stood right over it.

Well, tonight is going to be different. Doc Martin, my sainted old scoutmaster, has passed on now, and I am beyond shame anyway. I've nothing to lose. This afternoon I pulled my cap down over my eyes, turned up the collar of my shirt, and went to town. I bought a quart of charcoal lighter. There's 4 logs left. There will be fire tonight.

Look for the glow, low on the horizon.

Surely even Baden-Powell could not be wholly displeased. I'm only using one match.

The Fireman

Return to Around the Campfire
Comments are welcome in the rec.outdoors.rv-travel newsgroup,
or to
© Copyright 2003-2008 Bob Giddings, All Rights Reserved
Webspace provided by Arcata Pet Supplies