Bear introduced me to a video game back in the early 90s which sparked my imagination. This is Ultima 7, a classic role-playing game that features an expansive map and the ability to wander it where ever you please, doing whatever you please. I found it difficult to stay focused on any storyline when it was just as fun to get lost in the game’s forests until finding the occasional random encounter. Of course, as a 12 year old, I felt compelled to bring that fantasy world to life by grabbing a walking staff and a medieval light source, such as a taper, donning a cloak and losing myself at night in the woods near my home.
A friend of mine, Joseph Galetti, and I frequently drive through wooded areas, often up in Delaware while helping Doc Grogan with herp research and sometimes to see friends who live near the Pocomoke forest. For lack of the memory of how exactly it came up, I’ll just say that I mentioned to Joseph how I used to walk the woods and how these woods would work really well for that, being so far away from any civilization. The laughter about the absurdity of the idea slowly became, “Dude…..we should do that some night.”
So we started planning. Maps consulted, inventory lists drawn up. Joseph was charged with the task of finding the best place to do this. Pocomoke forest it would be, being so far from anywhere but Furnace Town and we picked a weekend (about a month ago now), both Friday and Saturday nights of which would be perfect: clear, no wind, with temperature lows of 32, just cold enough to be sure tick season is over and just cold enough for us to need cloaks. I planned much of the little ends. I made parchment for a crude map that we could carry, furnished the rations and researched torch-making.
The online resources for making parchment all suggest dousing paper in tea or coffee. My house has neither of these so I clumpled up some printer paper into a ball and then dipped that into a cup of my dad’s Diet Dr. Thunder, then transfering it to a cup of Worcestershire Sauce (appropriate considering Pocomoke forest is in Worcester County, Maryland). The result was a very nummy-smelling bit of map. Joseph then penciled in approximate details.
Making a torch took more time. I first bought some lamp oil, then I tied a small rag to a short stick, dumping some lamp oil on the rag end. When lit, it flared up very nicely. So nice that it flared up too big for the short stick so I had to drop the torch, behind my parent’s house, on a yard full of dry leaves. After a panic to find some water and a container, I tried again, making sure I wouldn’t leave the fireproof stairwell. It seemed to work OK. I found a much longer stick and then cut up a large rectangle of fabric out of a cotton t-shirt. Laying that out in the back yard, I layed it out flat and drenched it with the lamp oil. I thought letting it soak in but dry out would prevent problems. The next day, I took the fabric, picking off a dead house fly who seems to have gotten high on the fumes, folded it longways and wrapped it around the top of the stick, hammering 3 nails in to secure it.
Part 2 comming up next.