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Adventure 4: The Tomahawk Part II

February 14, 2012

I can buy a hatchet for $16.99 at the Ace Hardware store located less than 5 miles from my apartment. Driving into town, entering the store, finding the tool, checking out…it could all be done in fifteen minutes or less. Plus, the quality of the hatchet would be far superior to anything I could make from the backyard with my crummy little pocket knife.

But it just isn’t any fun. It’s not an adventure. It’s an errand.

What does qualify as an adventure? Danger? Excitement? Pirates? This seems like an important question to answer if I’m going to write a blog about adventures. 

To answer this question, I started in the same place most people start when looking for answers: Wikipedia. The Wiki article opened with a dictionary definition, “An adventure is defined as an exciting or unusual experience; it may also be a bold, usually risky undertaking, with an uncertain outcome.” Okay…exciting, unusual, bold, sometimes risky, uncertain. Five rather vague adjectives thrown together in a pot but still missing a little flavor.

I continued through the article and found, at the bottom, a list of historical, modern, and fictional adventurers. Most of the names were of people or characters who had risked their lives for extraordinary and dangerous achievements. People who were not on the list: Albert Einstein, Sherlock Holmes, Thomas Edison. What about the pursuit of knowledge as a source of adventure?

One thing I did like about the article was a quote from Helen Keller, “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” Imagine being deaf and blind and spending a day in the world. Crossing the street becomes an adventure. Go buy yourself soda. There’s an adventure. So many things in Keller’s life fit the Wikipedia Adventure definition list, but in my life, these things would be boring, run-of-the-mill activities. It wasn’t what she did that was an adventure. It was her force of will to accomplish tasks.

Whether walking across the country, learning a new language, climbing a mountain, or painting a picture, it is the force of will that changes each of these activities into an adventure. The determination to learn or experience something new. The force of will to break the monotony of a typical person’s life.

I made a tomahawk because I was determined to use my brain for something new, to develop a skill I never would have developed sitting behind a desk in my office. Was it a risky undertaking? Not in the least. But it was something I’ve never done before. It feels like an achievement.

It took me a long time to sharpen that stupid rock with a hunk of granite, but the edge came out sharper than I thought it would. I’m not very good at working with rock. Definitely prefer the wood work.

The ideal handle for this tomahawk would’ve been cut from oak, maybe maple. Unfortunately, a very unexpected snowstorm made dry wood a scarce commodity. I really didn’t want to wait two to three weeks for a seasoned piece of oak, so I settled for fifteen inches of pine that I had lying around from the slingshot experiment. On the bright, this choice meant I could finish the tomahawk right away. On the not-so-bright side, I won’t be able to use the tomahawk for any hard chopping. 

I thought sharpening the rock was going to be the hardest part of the project. Turns out, cutting a vertical two-inch notch is extremely tricky business when you don’t have a saw or, more importantly, a vise. My pocket knife barely got the job done, but done the job did get.

Last step: The wrapping. This required a little more creative thinking. Raw hide was the ideal way to attach the head, but I’m not great at killing and skinning animals (at least, I don’t think I am)…so I bought some raw hide dog bones at the store, soaked them in water, cut them into strips and sewed the strips together. By the time it dried, the hide was rock hard again. Perfect.

I’m sure the Powhatans would have a great time making fun of my tomahawk. If I ever tried throwing the thing, I’d likely end up breaking it. But hey…now I can make a tomahawk.

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