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Stories from the Verse
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Chapter 56: Takano 31
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Previous chapter: Hastings 204
Tommy quickly abandoned any notion of getting a tent; what was available was generally large, bulky, and made of heavy canvas. A backpack was easier, and Clark recommended what was called a frame, aluminum tubing and cloth padding that strapped to your back to which the backpack was attached. This, he said, would keep objects in the pack from stabbing into your back, generally make the whole thing easier to carry, and give you something to which to attach objects that did not fit in the pack--such as, he recommended, the sleeping bag, which if tied to the bottom would save a lot of space inside the pack. The pack itself was a large green canvas model which had inverted pockets at the top to hold onto the top of the rack, plus pockets on the sides and front (or was that the back?) and one large inner chamber for the bulk of her stuff.
They took some time with the sleeping bag, as Clark explained that the warmer ones were heavier. He owned a medium weight one for normal camping and a heavy one for winter wilderness stuff. He could have made due with just one, but he had the luxury of choosing which one to take, and the warmer one was sometimes too hot particularly in the summer, while he had sometimes shivered in the lighter one. After some thought, Tommy chose a medium weight bag, figuring she could supplement it with her blankets if needed.
Clark also insisted that she get what was called a “ground cloth”, which was actually a sheet of green plastic which looked like it would tear fairly easily. This went under the sleeping bag and kept the ground moisture from coming up into it, which mattered even in dry weather. He told her that most modern tents had plastic fringes on the ground on the inside edge called sod cloths, and if she ever slept in one she should put the ground cloth on top of the fringe at the uphill or level sides, below it downhill, so that if it rained water would run under the ground cloth and out the other side.
At this point she was running out of money, “But”, she said, “while I have you, what else should I be thinking about?”
Clark rose to the occasion.
“Mostly smaller stuff. You’ll probably want a decent knife; most scouts carry both a sheath knife and a pocket knife, but you can probably do with one or the other. The sheath knife cuts more, but the pocket knife usually has an assortment of other useful blades like a can opener, especially if you get one of those fancy Swiss Army knives. You’ll also want a hatchet to chop firewood. You can buy waterproof matches, or you can buy strike anywhere matches and paraffin and make your own, but either way you probably also want a waterproof match container to keep them dry.” He showed her these; they came in metal or plastic, cylinders with screw-on ends that would hold maybe a score of matches. “You might also want plastic bags for some of your things, like trash bags, which might help protect your extra matches and keep some of your clothes dry.”
Tommy nodded. “What about a lighter?” she asked.
“What, like a Zippo or something?” She nodded, not sure if that was right but it sounded familiar. “Well, then you have to deal with lighter fluid and flints, and if it leaks you’ve got a problem. Eventually you have to change the wicks, too.”
She began to understand why disposable lighters had become popular.
“Let’s see, what else?” he mused. “Rope,” he said. “Even without tarps or tents, you’re going to want rope. And a mess kit--the standard one isn’t much bigger than a canteen, but it’s got a frypan deep enough to use for a can of soup, a small single-serving pot for a side dish like a can of beans, a cup that doubles as a one-cup measure, and a sort of plate/bowl, which all clamps together. A canteen, too. I think a two-quart is what you want. The smaller one doesn’t hold enough water, and you can get a four-quart but it weighs eight pounds when full. For long-haul hiking you don’t want to carry more than a quarter of your body weight, not counting coat and boots, and you’re a slight thing so we don’t want to overburden you. Oh, and grab one of those silverware kits, fork, knife, and spoon that snap together and go into a plastic case. You can get a really fancy pocket knife with fork and spoon blades, but they’re a mess to clean and rather a large chunk of metal for a pocket. I know guys who only bring a spoon, because they say they can use their sheath knife to cut their food and a fork is only a spoon with holes in it, but there are a lot of foods I’d rather eat with a fork, and it’s not easy holding meat in place with a spoon when you’re trying to cut it.
“Other than that, all I can think of is having good clothing. In the cold you want to dress in layers, light clothes underneath, gradually thicker as you work out. That’s partly because what keeps you warm is trapping layers of air, and partly because if it starts to get warm you can remove the outer layers first without exposing yourself to the cold. You also want to change your clothes completely when you go to sleep, because the sweat in your day clothes will chill you in the night.”
He scanned the store, apparently looking for things he might have forgotten.
“I would suggest a saw, easier for a lot of woodcutting than a hatchet, and an axe, which gives you more leverage for the bigger stuff, but you probably don’t need them. Can’t think of anything else.”
“Thank you,” she said. “I’m afraid we’ve bored Peg to tears by now.”
“Me?” she responded. “No, I’m fine. Are you ready?”
“I think so. I’m going to have to come back maybe next week or the week after for all these little things, which are probably going to add up to another week’s pay, but at least I’ve got the big ones.”
“We’ll work out something. Let’s go.”
With her new camping gear in hand, Tommy returned with Peg to the drive-in. Dot was there, and asked where they’d been, which Peg explained while Tommy worked on putting together pack, frame, and sleeping bag into something she could carry on her back on the hike home.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #373: Nervous Characters. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: