I’ve always loved wood. And I think I love a good piece of wood the most when I can use it to smack some predator upside the skull.
I take a 5 mile walk every single day. It’s probably better described as a “hike” because I take my walks out in the California desert along the southwestern base of the Little San Bernardino mountains. I walk up hills and I walk down washes. I stick to trails, but it’s fairly rough country.
I hike with my dog. My last couple of dogs were Rottweilers, and they were the kings of the food chain pretty much wherever they went. Now I’ve got a medium-sized Dachschund-Labrador mix – but apparently all hound inside – who chases everything that runs from her (rabbits, squirrels, lizards, butterflies) and runs from everything that chases her. Thank God she runs like this:
She is high speed, low drag.
Last year we had very few problems. This year she has repeatedly been on the menu for coyotes and we’ve also had to deal with several rattlesnakes.
The second picture documents the fact that while coyotes are relatively small, they’ve got fangs that are a good two times the size of an average dog’s. Add to that the fact that they are basically small killers and they can be quite a threat to your dog. In the Palm Springs area, two women in their 60s were recently attacked by coyotes. They might be kind of cute; but they aren’t funny.
I was out on the golf course and looked up to see a bighorn sheep not far away from where I was playing. And after thinking, “How beautiful!” I found myself thinking, “Bighorn sheep equals mountain lion range.”
“Mountain lion range” equals bad.
It was time to beef up on the defenses.
I’ve got bad knees. To put it more clearly, if I were a horse they would shoot me. So I’ve always liked to have hiking aids. I started with hiking poles, but if you’ve got bad knees you tend to use them like canes, and using hiking poles as canes puts an unnatural strain on your wrists.
So I started using a pair of canes on my hikes. They’ve been nice. If you’re walking at night, for example, you’ve got four legs rather than two, making tripping over a rock a lot safer. You’ve also got an advance warning system as well as more stability for the numerous burrows that are all too likely to cave in as you’re walking if you’re off the trail. They also help me go up hills and come down them. When you’ve got bad knees, you don’t like to descend sideways the way normal people do; you tend to just go down with your shoulders square to the slope to avoid the chance of a lateral shearing injury (bye-bye, ligament!). The person with healthy knees going down sideways can lean his torso back to counterbalance himself; but if you’re going down a slope head first there’s just no way to do that. Having two canes to stabilize you often means the difference between ending up on your ass and not ending up on your ass. And I would imagine that even healthy-kneed people could benefit from using canes in this kind of terrain.
I’ll get to the canes I just purchased in a moment. But first allow me to make a point about canes as a general self-defense weapon.
There are a few people who are allowed to carry a gun. Obviously, as they say, a Smith & Wesson beats four Aces. But let’s say you aren’t one of those people. What kind of weapons can the average person carry around on them that won’t get them in trouble?
Canes are allowed EVERYWHERE. And what you’ve got is a three foot-long club. Which is why a martial art fighting style has been developed around them.
For the record, I will not be releasing a YouTube video of me trying to emulate Bruce Lee with my canes. I’m sorry about that, as it would have been every bit as hilarious as it would have been pathetic. But I have very little dignity left, and I wouldn’t want to squander the last shreds of what I have by showing you my “kane kung-fu” moves.
If somebody pulls a gun on you, you can’t outrun a bullet, but you might be able to dodge one. Throw your “combat cane” down and run for your life. If someone pulls a knife on you, well, if you’ve got a cane, they’ve got to get close enough to you to stab you without getting their noggin bashed. Which is to say that a cane can beat four Aces, too, if you really want it to.
That said, I set about looking for a pair of hard-core canes for my usually quite heavenly hikes out in the desert.
The two that I had were steel tubes that were essentially in three pieces – two for the shaft and one more for the handle. I was afraid that if I really had to start swinging something would break that I didn’t want to get broke right when I needed it. What I wanted was something that was one solid piece, and I wanted it good and strong and solid and hard.
This is what I found:
They’re called “Stockmens canes,” and I guess they’re used primarily for dealing with cattle. As in I said MOVE, you big stupid beast. Actually, I’m not sure how the heck they’re used, but I got them from an outfit that sells equipment to farmers and ranchers.
The ones I’m showing are called the “Elephant 1-1/8″ Dia. Octagon Cane,” product number C07434N available here at Enasco.com. The “octagon” refers to the eight-sided shape of the cane, versus a completely rounded shaft. If anything, the octagon shape might be more comfortable on the hand and provide a surer grip.
For the record, 1-1/8″ diameter is THICK. If you’re tall like me, and don’t have to cut the 36″ predator whumper down to size, the tip is tapered for a 1″ cane or crutch tip (otherwise you’d need a 1-1/8″ tip). Here is one of my new canes surrounded by a pair of typical walking canes so you can see the difference:
The canes are made out of AA-grade white oak or hickory, which are both extremely hard, dense, heavy and durable hardwoods. Very good wood for smoting pinheads.
I found a wood hardness chart available as a PDF file. Hickory (harder at 1820 on the scale) and white oak (1320) are both on the highest range of hardness in the commonly available woods. It’s not easy to find a pair of 1-1/8″ thick curupy or Brazilian tiger mahogany or ironwood walking canes (and I’m guessing they would have been pretty spendy for canes I was going to haul out into the desert every day); so what I’ve got will have to do.
The shipping weight is listed as 1.5lbs. But I weighed them in at 1.25 lbs. Which is a fair amount heavier than the half pound of an ordinary walking cane that takes a 3/4″ cane tip. To put the weight of these canes into a different perspective, 1.25 lbs is 20 ounces; an average major league baseball bat weighs between 31 and 33 ounces and average. And few major league bats exceed 36″ in length. So these solid oak or hickory canes are basically two-thirds of a baseball bat combined with a convenient carrying handle.
That should give you an idea of what one of these canes could do to the head of whatever predator – human animal or just garden variety animal – wants to fool with you.
Good luck beating the price: $$12.35 per cane plus shipping (which was just over $11 for the two I purchased). I bought the tips on eBay for the deal of 8 of them for $8.99 out the door. And they look quite a bit more durable than the 3/4″ tips that I spend more money on at Wal-Mart.
The two canes I purchased were unfinished, but sanded and smooth. I purchased two products for less than $13 with my 10% veterans discount at Home Depot:
To varnish the canes (Tung oil beats Linseed oil because Tung oil has UV protectant and provides a barrier against insects and mildew), I lightly scuffed them with the fine steel wool and then rubbed a coat of Tung oil on with a lint-free cloth and then hung them to dry. Twelve hours later I did it again. And then twelve hours after that I added a third coat, each time lightly scuffing with the steel wool to give the new coat of varnish a better surface to adhere to. And the next day after that I was a walking fool.
Oh, I would recommend you use a pair of disposable rubber gloves each time you apply the varnish (I also wore them during sanding to avoid getting fingerprint oils on the wood). Unless you like having sticky fingers for two days.
And walking in style, I might add. With the Tung oil varnish, the wood is gorgeous. For fifty bucks I have a lovely set of walking weaponry.
I’m not lamenting, “Oh, for a head to pound!”, but if anything comes around me that wants its head pounded, I will provide the service free of charge. Especially if its trying to eat my dog.
P.S. I also purchased an air horn from Wal-Mart (a 1.5 oz container made by Attwood) for $8.16. It fits easily into a pocket. I also now wear my old teacher’s playground whistle around my neck.