A Dull Knife Can Kill You

At Maine Crime Writers today I discuss the awkward tendency of some journalists to confuse being a Maine game warden (which I am not, although I write about one) with being a Registered Maine Guide (which I am). I also share a few survival tips which I've picked up outdoors, usually from Master Maine Guides like my friend Greg Drummond of Claybrook Mountain Lodge. Here's one:

A Sharp Knife Is a Safe Knife: At first glance, a scalpel-sharp knife seems more dangerous to use than a blunt blade, but that's usually not the case. A sharp knife will catch easily on the item it's meant to cut while a dull knife will slide off the surface, causing you to lose control as it slips (and then it's a question of how good your reflexes are). This principle is even more important when it comes to axes and hatchets. A dull axe can bounce off a log when swung. That's how many inexperienced woodsmen end up chopping into their feet.

Makes sense when you think about it. Chefs know this too, by the way.

Test Your First Aid IQ

Sorry for the slow blogging. With the May 11 publication day of The Poacher's Son approaching fast, life has been a mad scramble to the finish line.

Thanks to Matt Yglesias, I came across this short but challenging first aid quiz today. It's worth taking the test as a basic refresher. Registered Maine Guides are required to be certified in first aid, but I've learned that it never hurts to brush up on this information regularly since you never know when you'll need it. For instance, the recommended guidelines for administering CPR — the ratio of compressons to rescue breaths, specifically — changed a while back.

How well did you score?

Maine Guide Tip

I got out of the habit of posting my Registered Maine Guide tips, but here's a fun one you can try in your own kitchen.

Say you're on a camping trip and you forget your toothpaste. As counterintuitive as it seems, you can use strawberries to clean stains from your teeth and keep them white. 

You can also use ashes from a wood fire to brush your teeth, but that's a considerably less tasty alternative. Hardwood yields more potassium hydroxide than softwood, so toss a piece of oak on the fire pit.

Monofilament fishing line can also work as dental floss, by the way.

So What Is a Registered Maine Guide?

The State of Maine is one of the only states in the nation to require that wilderness guides meet certain standards of competency. Any person who is paid to guide clients in the outdoors (whether to canoe, kayak, hunt, fish, or whitewater raft) must pass a rigorous series of examinations, both oral and written, and be registered with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife. It's in imperfect process, but it does enforce a certain degree of quality control since, for example, all Registered Maine Guides must complete first aid training before they can be certified. Nothing takes the place of years of experience in the field, but I shudder at the thought of a family embarking on a dangerous trip into the wild with a "guide" who's just been hired off the street and who has never heard the word "declination." This article from Wikipedia provides some more details on the testing process, as does the State of Maine's own Web site.

"Fly Rod" CrosbyFun fact: Maine's first Registered Maine Guide was a woman, Cornelia "Fly Rod" Crosby (1854-1946), who also has the dubious distinction of being the last person in the state to legally shoot a woodland caribou. While there are scattered populations of caribou on the Gaspe peninsula in Quebec, just north of the Maine border, the animal has been extirpated in the state for about a century now.