Over Christmas break I went backpacking in the Hill Country of central Texas. As the title of my blog would suggest, I went by myself. School starts up again next week and my brother has another round of CT scans to check the status of his cancer. I went into the woods full well thinking that I would ruminate over those upcoming events. To my surprise I did not.
I did, however, find myself thinking of my other brother with whom I have a strange and somewhat strained relationship which I never quite understood. In retrospect, it was quite natural that I should think of him went I went into the hills. He taught me much of what I know about the wilds. At the time of my youth, he was an Army Ranger. You can't get a much better survival teacher than that. I remember he gave me his Ranger Handbook and I devoured it. By the end of it, I remember showing my friends how I could make a still to get water. Later when I was older, though not necesarily any wiser, while backpacking in the rainforest of East Africa, I recalled the lesson from the book on how to drink potentially tainted water. You essentially take a 1/4 of a cup, wait a few hours. If you're still ok, drink 1/2 a cup. Repeat, cross your fingers, and hope your guts don't explode in amoebic dysentery. It worked for me. I don't know what happened to that handbook nor the army flashlight he gave me and the camoflauge face paint was long since used for Halloween costumes as a kid. But one object still remains.
He probably doesn't know it but on every hiking trip I still carry with me his swiss army knife from his Ranger days. Into the side of it, he had carved his nickname "SLICK" which was derived from our last name. When I gave my son his own swiss army knife, I had him carve his name into his with my brother's knife. I honestly don't recall him giving it to me. But it's been with me on numerous journeys from the mountains of the Pacific northwest to the deserts of west Texas and the savannahs of East Africa. With each trip, it becomes imbued with more sentimental importance. When holding it, I can easily relate to the animist mentality as this knife absolutely has its own soul by now. It's weathered and beaten and while the blades aren't quite as sharp anymore, I dearly love this knife.