Friday, May 24, 2013

A New Walking Stick

It’s been several years since I’ve had a dedicated walking stick for my increasingly rare rambles in the woods. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I used to have one, but gave it away. After too many years of working a job where I sat all the time, I’m many pounds too heavy and, even worse, in frighteningly poor wind. Just looking at a flight of stairs these days makes me pant for air. So recently, when weather permits, I’ve been taking a daily constitutional to get my blood flowing to parts it may have forgotten. Considering that I live in the country, I’ve been wishing that I still had my old walking stick.

A couple years ago, I spotted a small maple that had succumbed to crowded conditions and thought that it would make a good walking stick. So, I grubbed it out, root-ball and all, and whacked it off about six feet long. I later cut off the individual roots leaving the knob where they joined, then cut the stick so I had to raise my chin just a tad to rest it on the end of the staff. For me, that turned out to be 63 inches. That’s a good height to rest my hands on when I want to lean on the pole a bit, plus it’s a good level for steadying a camera or a pair of binoculars. Apparently, the little maple had spent at least one season standing dead, for the bark at what could be called the root collar (ground level) was a little loose and the sapwood beneath it was a tiny bit punky on the surface. After taking off the loose bark and punky wood with my penknife, I stuck the piece in the basement and forgot about it.

Yesterday, having decided to write about my old walking stick, I also decided that it was time that I had a new one. Remembering and searching out the stick I’d put in the basement, I took some sandpaper to the knob to smooth up the edges where I’d cut the roots off with a bow-saw. I also smoothed the rest of the staff a bit, but not too much, so it wouldn’t be slick in my aging hands. Like me, it’s still a bit rough around the edges. I figured leaving the bark on would not only be quicker, but would be more in keeping with my “crusty” character. When I worked at a muzzle-loader shop years ago, they used a 50/50 mix of rubbing alcohol and boiled linseed oil to put some moisture in wood they didn’t want a shine on. I did the same with my stick. I also hoped it might kill any powder-post beetles that made the half-dozen little holes in the root collar area if they were still alive. Afterwards, I put a one inch, black cane tip on the bottom of the stick, since I’m more likely to run into pavement on my walks than I used to be be.

The finished product should last my remaining years and is shown in the photo below. (The linseed hadn’t all soaked in yet when I snapped the picture.) © 2013


Chickenmom said...

Beautiful! 'Hope you enjoy many happy strolls together.

kristine barr said...

I need one of those too! They are really expensive in stores.

Sixbears said...

I've an old walking stick with a natural hook in the end. That's been surprisingly handy over the years.

Good to have that third leg when rambling around the woods.

Mamma Bear said...

That looks great GS...It has a lot of character already.

I have always wanted a Shepherds hook. I could use it to grab baby goats who don't want to cooperate with me. I don't have much choice for wood around here as it is mostly pine and scrub oaks. Guess if I get one it will have to be store bought!

Bob Mc said...

It’s been some months since I’ve spent much time at the computer, since I hurt my back last winter. Not only have I not been able to walk much, but sitting at the PC has been not only uncomfortable but down right painful. A walking stick, or staff as I prefer to call it, has become a necessary item for what walking I’ve been able to do. After not reading any blogs for a long time, this happened to be the first one that popped up today. Last year while I was out and about in the hills, I passed through an area where the loggers had thinned a stand of Doulas fir. There were several limbs scattered about on the ground; nice and straight, and about the right diameter to make good staffs. Those laying on the ground were already rotting, but those not touching the ground were solid and already seasoned. I picked up a few, took them home, and scrapped the bark off. I now have a good staff that fits my hand well, plus a few more to choose from if I need another.

Brian said...

Nice stick gorges
I hope you can head out and get to use it :)

kymber said...

Mr. Smythe - that walking stick is gorgeous! and yes, it has much character just like you. i love it!

your friend,

Warren said...

I've made one walking stick to completion, and gave it to an aged and ill friend of mine only months before he died. Another guy actually put the coating on it, so we gave it to him together. He made walking sticks for everyone else, including me. So, I made this stick for him. Got the wood from the Colorado Rockies. He was thrilled. The last picture I got of him was of him holding that stick and sitting next to our other friend. I showed that pic on pp at church. It was pretty moving. Didn't realize something like this could mean so much to someone, but he had made them for years for others, and this was the first one made for him. Choked him up. And now its one of the favorites of his family. Some of the best time I've spent.

Dessa Wolf said...

It is a beauty. Keep this one...

Mamahen said...

Love the stick Gorges, I think it is perfect for you....I'm sorry about your original. I know how it feels to put part of yourselve into something, and then have someone you entrust with it, not value it as much as you did.

Gorges Smythe said...

Thanks, Cm!

Kristine, if I had a way of getting it to you, I'd make you one.

I've thought about using the section above a fork, Sixbears. It could come in handy for hooking a tree uphill to help get up a bank.

MB, I saw a shepherd's crook at a Tractor Supply store the other day. You might be able to order from them online, but I don't know.

Bob, I'm very sorry to hear about your back, but I'm glad you've got a stash of staff material and are feeling up to going online today.

I actually used it a bit today, Brian!

Well, kymber, it HAS character, but I AM a character, but thanks. ;-)

Little do we know what will make a difference in someone's life, Warren.

I WILL, Dessa, thanks!

Thanks, Mh, I guess we live and learn. (That's why us old folks are are so darned SMART!) ;-)

Ralph Goff said...

Interesting story Gorges. I still have one here that my Dad made from a Saskatoon branch and root. Also a "store bought" one of my grandfather's, complete with his initials carved in it. No shortage of material here to make them. I've used siberian elm with good results. I need to carry one in case I meet up with a moose in the bush.

Gorges Smythe said...

Ralph, if I bumped into a moose, I'd rather have a 45/70 than a stick!