My education in Lao ways continues.

March 28, 2006

The education of James A. Harris continues. I haven’t had breakfast yet and I’ve already learned how to sharpen a stick! Before today I would have cut the timber to proper length with my machete and then hacked or whittled the end to a sharpened point, all the while pressing the end of the stick onto the ground or balancing it on my knee. Our watchman, who does double duty as the camp handyman, has been working all morning on a mystery construction that apparently requires four sharpened poles. (He’s a purposeful self-starter so I haven’t interrupted him to ask what he’s doing. Inquiries would only slow him down and might imply criticism).

He sharpened each pole by chopping off the last six inches of wood, forming the point six inches above the end of the pole. (He had obviously planned for the required extra length.) My method would have had the machete repeatedly hitting the dirt and dulling its blade. By making the cut six inches from the end of the pole, the watchman’s blade always struck solid wood and its edge was preserved. I suppose his technique is also safer because his blade always strikes a thickness of wood and is not likely to glance off and wound a shin or foot.

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