Sunday, July 23, 2017

Back When Kids Went Outside and Did Stuff

It was as hot as the devil's oven yesterday
, and so to we visited Occoquan (population 759) for lunch. They have put in a new park at the end of the main street, and after walking it, I noticed a small sign across from the old mill house, next to a small hole cut into the side of what looked like  a concrete bunker,

Apparently the bunker was to house carbide rock during that small window of time between the death of coal oil (kersosene), and the arrival of piped natural gas and electricity.

In my day, we strapped carbide bunkers to our heads. We were tough and fearless, and used carbide lamps for caving. This was the era before electric lights and battery packs, when most of the gear was repurposed from mining and rock climbing. We were that transitional generation that started with Goldline ropes and ended with the new synthetics. The carabiners of my generation did not have locking gates. Yvon Chouinard had invented the aluminum chock and bong only a few years before, and I was a cutting edge hiker with a Kelty BB5 pack, an Optimus 111b stove, and Vasque boots.

The woods and mountains are still the same, but the stuff they make now is much better, though the big caves in West Virginia that we used to explore -- School House, Hell Hole, etc. -- are now closed to young rabble willing to risk life and limb to explore. We were the last of the Mohicans.

1 comment:

Rick said...

I had one of those lamps, too. Several, in fact, but only one that we could get to work. Never did any caving, though.

I was surprised to learn that bulk carbide was still available: