Monday, April 7, 2014

How to Tie a Knot (Around Your Husband’s Neck)

Gerald is not easy to buy for.  He loves to read, but he’s pretty particular.  He’d rather re-read a book he likes for the fifth time rather than take a chance on a new author.  He’s an avid hunter, but he has everything he could possibly need to bag the big one.  Believe me.  I’ve seen it.  All of it.  Spread out on the floor of our bedroom the night before hunting season begins.  He likes to spend time outside, but I’ll leave it to him to pick out his own hiking boots.  Or all-weather hat.  Or four-wheeler.
He’s hard to buy for, so after thirteen years together, I’d pretty much used up all my good ideas.  But one day as I dug through the basket of reading material in the bathroom (come on, admit it – you have one too!), I found it!  I knew exactly what I would get him.  I came across a folded mess of torn-out pages from a magazine.  It appears that Field and Stream has set out to educate our men about everything from gutting a deer to choosing the best fishing hole to tying the perfect knot.  That’s right.  He had torn out pages about how to tie knots.  Clove hitch, bowline, trucker’s hitch.  Then I remembered how excited he got when his brother gave him a kit containing a little blue plastic thing-y and a short length of rope you could use to perfect your rope tying skills.  (You see, his brother, Lonnie, is a rappeller, so it is very important that his knots stay tied.  Even though Gerald has never come backward off the side of a bank building in downtown Huntsville, held only by a rope around his waist, I guess I can understand that he, too, wants good, strong knots.)

Anyway – I had my idea.  I would find him a nice little how-to book on tying knots.  You know - something for the hunter or fisherman.  I began to look online.  My simple Google search of “knot tying book” led me to several websites and magazine articles, but one book kept popping up – The Ashley Book of Knots by Clifford W. Ashley.  It seems Mr. Ashley literally wrote the book on tying knots.  It was a great idea.  Brilliant!  I would buy him the definitive book on knots and then he could tie to his heart’s content.
Amazon had reprints, but they were nearly $100.  You could get an e-book copy for just a few bucks, but how much fun was that?  You couldn’t hold it in your lap as you tried your knots, or take it with you to the woods to work with while you waited for a big deer to cross in front of the tree stand.  No – I was going to get the real thing.  But you know me – I was going to get a good deal on it at the same time.  So I turned to my old friend, eBay.
I found several listings, but one stood out.  It was a first edition.  1944.  Apparently, the first owner (a Mr. Edward E. Martin, according to the name on the inside cover) had mastered every knot possible (or died trying) and was ready to part with his beloved copy.  Or more likely, Ole’ Ed’s granddaughter was cleaning out the attic after Ed passed on and figured that there was a sucker out there somewhere that would pay good money for an old, dusty tome.  Enter me.
I ended up paying about $75 for it.  Close to what they wanted for a newer edition, but can you really put a price on a good idea?  I mean it was about tying knots, for Pete’s sake.  And it was a first edition.  Enough said.  I PayPal-ed it and it was mine.  It arrived and it was a little dusty.  A tad bit musty, but not to worry.  Just last week I had seen Martha Stewart showing how to restore mildewed books.  All it takes it a wood box, some sand, charcoal and…  Well, surely my trash bag and dryer sheet would do the trick.
It was nice and clean come Christmas when I wrapped it up and stuck it under the tree.  He’d never guess what it was.  Best idea ever!  What would I do next year to top it?  Christmas morning came and the kids were finished opening their gifts and Gerald had opened the requisite shirts, wallet and cologne.  Ah – the piece de resistance.  He opened it and studied it.  “Oh!  A book about tying knots,” he said.  He flipped through the pages and smiled and then put it down.  “Open your gifts,” he said.  “Don’t you like it?”  I asked.  He assured me he did, but with much prodding, he finally admitted it was primarily about nautical knots.  But knots are knots, I told him.  I thought you just liked to learn to tie them, I said.  (Kinda like me and the Food Network.  I mean does he really think that I ever intend to make my own pâté?)  But apparently, if you can’t use it to tie on a fishing hook, secure a deer to the back of a rack or somehow save yourself from plunging off a mountain to your certain and painful death, it isn’t interesting to him.  Well, who knew?  Obviously, I didn’t.
Did you know a noose is a knot, too?  Just sayin'...
The book is now sitting on the bookshelf.  I think often about listing it to see how much I can get for it on eBay, but I just can’t.  It was such a good idea.  Or so it seemed.  Maybe one day, he’ll take up sailing.  Or maybe he won’t.  (Right now a simple square knot is sufficient to tie the boat to the dock at the lake.)  Maybe it’ll sit there until I’ve made all the homemade pâté we can stomach and I decide that I’ll take up knot tying.  Who knows.  But it’s there.  Just in case any of your husbands want to borrow it.


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