What is a "tiehacker"?

"Tiehacker" is a term originating in the Ozark hills of southern Missouri. It referred to a class of people from WAY back in the hills that made a living cutting trees into ties for the railroad. I first heard the term from my wife shortly after we married. I had been working outside all day and was dirty and stinky. She had learned it from her father, and thought it just meant "a bum". Never having heard it before, I looked it up. Although I am not really a bum, I thought it was interesting, and I do have a life-long love affair going with the Ozark hills, so ... there you have it!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

"OTO" (One Tool Option) as a life philosophy

"The more you know, the less you need." -- Mors Kochanski, legendary Canadian bushcraft instructor.

There is a debate that crops up regularly in the bushcrafting community. It is the "One Tool Option". The premise is that you are forced into a survival situation in the wilderness, and only have one cutting tool available to you. You are going to be needing to process tinder, kindling, and firewood, skin and clean fish and game, build a shelter, and do all manner of things that require a cutting tool. So, what one tool would you prefer to have in that situation? 

The debate then rages over various knives, axes, hatchets, multitools, and saws. Since most if not all outdoorsmen carry several tools, such as a belt knife, a pocketknife, and a folding saw, the premise is in a sense rather silly. For example, my current health and fitness level prevents me from doing any backpacking, and relegates me to car camping. Since I don't have to worry overmuch about weight, I usually have a multitool, a pocketknife, a belt knife, a hand ax, and a bow saw. I'll be adding a full-size ax to that list soon. So, I have a tool for almost any cutting task that may arise.

However, the "OTO" mindset leads me to not only become proficient in using each of these tools for the task they were designed to do, but to also "cross-train". Could I clean a bluegill with my hatchet? Could I split logs with my pocket knife? 

Sounds silly, I grant you. But things can and do happen. Murphy's Law is alive and well. Tools can break or get lost. So being prepared and trained to improvise by using tools in ways that are "outside the box" is a good idea.

My personal approach goes like this: At age 55, almost 56, I am just now trying to get back into an outdoors lifestyle. I did a lot of this stuff when I was younger, and was fairly proficient. But that was decades ago. Any skills that I might still possess are very rusty. So, for the time being, I am going to concentrate most of my efforts on learning the strengths and limitations of my various tools, and practice using them for the tasks they were designed to do. (Just for giggles, I'll change up and try various other things. For example, I might use my pocket knife to carve hardwood wedges that I could use to split logs.) 

Once I am satisfied with my level of proficiency with each tool, I'll spend more time using each of them in unorthodox ways, until I have reached a point where I can be confident that if push came to shove, any one of my tools would allow me to survive if I had to.

Now, let's apply this concept to other areas of life. What about cooking? What if, instead of a whole collection of skillets, pots, pans, baking tins, and so forth, you had to prepare meals using just one utensil? Which one would you choose? Personally, I think I'd choose a cast-iron Dutch oven; it could be used for baking, boiling, and frying with little trouble. But what if I only had my tin coffee pot? Or an eight inch skillet?  Or a loaf pan? Could I adapt my cooking to make do with one of those?

How about gardening? Shovels, spades, hoes, tillers, rakes, clippers, pruners, trowels. Pick one?

Let's get a little esoteric. I have done a little preaching in my time, and have a fairly decent library of Biblical reference books. If I could only have one, which would it be? A Greek dictionary? Strong's Concordance? Robertson's Word Studies In The New Testament? (Concordance for me.)

You get the idea. Become proficient in the proper use of the tools you have. Learn and practice until you can do those things blindfolded. But don't stop there. Exercise your brain and your hands. Figure out how to use those tools in other ways. Practice those things too.

You never know when the skill of improvisation may become necessary, in any part of your life.

God bless!
Ron and the Debster

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