Boy vs Backyard
by Shawna Black

Jake is eleven years old and has more persistence than most people I know. And I don’t mean persistence in the way that a kid will bug his mother to death for something that will kill him if he doesn’t have. I’m referring to the type of persistence that drives one to complete a task that’s been started, no matter what, at any cost.

Like, for example, trying to start a fire with sticks.

Jake has been watching Man vs Wild on the Discovery Channel. He loves Bear Grylls, the man behind the show. He watches intently, soaking up all the nature lessons like a dry sponge.

Like, for example, learning how to start a fire with sticks.

On several occasions over the past few weeks, I have happened upon Jake in our backyard, on the patio, or in the driveway, with sticks and dry grass, persistently trying to make fire. His first attempt was a solid 30 minutes. No fire. He’s made several other attempts, including last night when he asked me if we had a larger magnifying glass because, obviously, the sticks just weren’t working, nor was the small magnifying glass he found in the kitchen.

I don’t think he’s a pyromaniac. At least I hope not. One thing that I do know for sure is that he is still trying to make fire with his bare hands. What he has accomplished: a tree house, which he “designed” on his own (and will be a work in progress all summer, I’m sure); he’s made a bow and arrows from wood he’s cut from trees in the back yard (and he learned that bamboo is not good material for a bow); he wants a new Swiss army knife, one with a sharper blade so he can cut stuff easier. He’s a busy boy.

Here’s Jake trying to start his fire. I’ll let you know if he’s ever successful. Hopefully, he won’t burn down the tree house.




Shawna will be receiving an mp3 of Talking Head's "Burning Down the House" - just in case.



Once again Shawna, your pics are wonderful.


just get him a zippo and get it over with


I remember trying to start a fire with a couple sticks when I was young. I definitely didn't have the same persistence, though. I probably tried about 30 seconds rather than 30 minutes, and then I'm pretty sure I never bothered again.

Love the last picture of the hands. It looks as thought they're attached to the stick. With the close up angle, it looks like some kind of bizarre monument.


Thank you, Jenn!

Now Turtle, where's the fun in that??

Yeah, Joel. I'm all about instant gratification. I'd have given up after a minute.


Beautiful pics! My 5 year old blows my mind with how intent he sometimes gets in either starting a "project" or completing something that is really way beyond him. I wish my husband was as persistent!


Bonnie - husbands will never outdo the boys, as much as they try.


Get hime a pair of leather gloves so he can twirl longer w/out blisters and remind him to use just slightly softer wood on the bottom piece than the top. It took me about 3 weeks to get the hang of it when I was a kid.


good advice, Pirate. softer meaning a differnt type?? like...? Pine and oak around here...


neat! One of these days you'll go outside and he'll be fire hardening yew arrows with a row of flaked obsidian heads sitting nearby


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