How to make fire:
First, get yourself to Provincetown. Wade through the swarms of tourists on Commercial Street, past countless gay couples with their new babies (the accessory of the summer!) and brave the harsh noise of the toy store. Buy Youngest some new "magic" card decks. Go across the street and have a clam roll at Johns. Listen closely when the old lady behind the counter (she's been there 48 years) tells you it's $44.95 for lunch. Have an anxiety attack. Feel your stomach drop to your feet when she hands you back a twenty and says: I said $24.95. Lose your appetite. Eat your still expensive clam roll up on the roof. Sweat. Go back down to Commercial Street and walk two blocks to Marine Supply (the wildest, bestest Army Navy store in the world). Wander through the dark and crowded aisles marveling at the fact that they have such a myriad of items for sale. Do we need linen dishcloths for $4? Come upon the camping section and spy not ONE but TWO kinds of flint sets. Buy them both. Later that evening, hear K tell you that magnesium burns at 5000 degrees and will burn through Youngest's leg in a heartbeat. Put both sets in luggage.

Middle was very excited that I had gotten flint and magnesium.
He let me relax on Saturday after my long drive home but started bugging me Sunday as soon as he was up (11-ish) to make fire.
I relented at 3-ish.


5400 hundred degrees could certainly burn through anything.
This was only intimidating for a little while.


I'm one of those people who reads the directions.
Everyone was impatient.


The tools required.
Magnesium block on the left - and you know the other thing.
(Now, listen, it WAS my original intent to have us learn to make fire WITHOUT procuring materials from an Army/Navy store. I thought it would be a fabulous skill to achieve. I think we all know how THAT went. And, after talking to my brother, I realized that experienced and PREPARED outdoorsmen have provisions. So, we just have to pretend that we would have provisions too - and not that we had survived a plane crash and had injuries and little at our disposal and our arms were broken and Middle had a big cut on his head and K would try to make fire from things in the wreckage but eventually we would all perish from lack of clean water and eating the foam cushions from the plane, OKAY? We will imagine ourselves hiking and needing a fire. Hiking with little fire kits in our bags. FINE.)



We are instructed to "shave" slivers of magnesium off the block with a pocket knife.
This is no walk in the park. This is not like peeling a banana. This is hard work.
I need fresh water just SHAVING THE MAGNESIUM.
One is to make a small pile of these shavings.


How much magnesium?
Hard to say. And you will only find out when you do not have enough and have to start the process over again, damn it.

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Then, you must strike down on the flint side of the small rectangle with your knife to make a spark. This takes some figuring - the angle, the force, the trajectory.
And everyone must be gathered in closely to block the wind, to film the action, to watch expectantly. And you must sit in the sun, in the heat, struggling with this until you feel like your children are on you like ants on a hill.
It says this in the instructions.

Middle shoots it

The spark ignites the magnesium, you see, and though you expect a FREAKING INFERNO from the warnings earlier issued by K, it is teeny tiny hotnesses in the magnesium, which, sure, if you touched them, would burn you. But they don't necessarily burn THE LEAVES YOU HAVE GATHERED.


It all becomes an exercise in keeping the burning spot burning. If you follow.

magnesium burning1

K resorted to using a file for his magnesium, whilst I opened the SECOND PACK OF "PROVISIONS."


This kit has a magnesium block and a flint match/striker thing, BUT it also includes "tinder." This tinder is in the form of white blobby things which are soaked in something. Paraffin? Gasoline? Who knows!


They look like wax earplugs. Sort of.
Anyway, you smoosh them and stretch them until the fibers of them show and use them near your spark.

You make a spark - you get the spark to touch the tinder...


For 5 to 7 minutes.
Move quickly.
Don't drop the camera or wipe your now flammable fingers (you've handled the "tinder" quite a bit) onto your glasses or the camera lens...


Everyone SHIFT POSITION. Say something to irritate the 14 year old who then stomps off.


Start rearranging the sticks!

white stuff burns


(I had a nice little film here, of our fire, but it kept crashing my site. Click through to flickr on one of the photos and watch it if you like.)

Yes, it felt like cheating. But what with the injuries from the plane crash and the lack of proper medical facilities here on the island, we were happy to cheat.
It only took three weeks and a trip to Ptown.



Anonymous said…
We have FIRE! Safely, I am happy to read. All I could think of was the fire on the USS Oriskany in 1966, which started when a [dumber than dumb] seaman threw an ignited magnesium parachute flare back into the flare locker instead of over the side; 44 men died. I am relieved you had no such incident.

You were a Twin Peaks fan?
Wendy said…
I was enthralled with the fire (again, something you are not to tell my children about) and then out of the corner of my eye I spotted something familiar...

My basement is in your flickr bar(or whatever that's called). Threw me off completely. Reminds me that I need to get it cleaned up and post pics of the new "studio".
Badger said…
I have half a mind to post some Jimi Hendrix lyrics in celebration. But the other half of my mind can't be arsed.
Anonymous said…
Fire it is.
Um, do I see a blondie there?
Anonymous said…
Your hair looks pretty.

Anonymous said…
A memorable flame! I think you and your clan will enjoy the "Fire Adventure Chronicles" for decades to come.
Anonymous said…
BB...I know this is an "after-the-vacation" question, but, would you please give us an update on Caleb. He is back in Wellfleet, Right?

Mary said…
This is one of the funniest posts ever! That stream of consciousness about the plane and eating the foam cushions was hilarious.

Clearly you need to be a scriptwriter. Or join your brother as an outdoors guide!
You went to all my favorite places in PTown!

Now I have that song in my head by Arthur Brown-1968-
FIRE, I'll teach you to BURN!
Anonymous said…
You made fire! Hooray!!!! Mark that one off your list of things to do this summer.
blackbird said…
For information/updates on Caleb Potter, I would direct you to
Mrs. G. said…
And then there was light! Very cool.
Anonymous said…
in Alaska, we just used a lighter.

Anonymous said…
I would be buying matches, when you next shop ;)

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