The Troop marched to the top of the canyon and stopped, exhausted and panting behind their leader.
“We’ll camp here for tonight men. First one to get a fire going will get a bonus added to their pay. Courtesy of The Bana Territorial Company.”
The half starved, half sleeping troop of men began to shuffle about finding wood and pulling out their fire starting kits, desperate for a raise. Three men gathered together at a collection of rocks. They quickly gathered tall grass and strewn about twigs for their fire.
The first man was the company’s quarter master. A tall man, but nothing not easily rivaled. The second was a veteran marksman of the company, know for his aim and perception in the field, though far less so for his brain and wits outside of it. He was a slow man, for lack of a better description. The third and final was a member of the company’s newest recruits. The others knew little about him. They didn’t care much either. All they knew is that he was picked up from a county prison a few states over after he was locked up for stowing away on a freight car on one of the nearby railroads. He had no where else to go in the world, so he joined the company.
The three men set down their muskets next to each other, within arms reach, on a boulder. The second man began digging a pit for the fire, to guard against the wind. He knew that much about building a fire, though never bothered to notice there was no wind. The third man was busy gathering larger sticks and quarreling with other company members over the few logs that they found. The first man pulled out his fire starting kit. Every member of the company had the same kit. A few matches, a stick for either a fire plow or fire drill, and a bit of tinder. The troop had been on their path for over a month now, and every night they had the same task: Build a fire and get a bonus. But now they were out of matches and tinder, and all they had was the stick. The first man was educated, at least more than the others, and he knew the sticks purpose. Many other members of the troop had burned theirs not knowing it’s purpose. When the third man returned he laid out what sticks and logs he found and waited for the first man’s instructions.
“Jim, would you stop digging that damn hole! Even if there was wind, you’ve dug the damn thing too deep.” The first man grunted to the second. “If you had half a brain in there you would have helped Bell with the wood.”
“This is all you’ve taught me about making a fire!” Jim returned.
“That’s because it was windy and we needed a hole for it!”
“Ollie, leave him alone, what else do you expect from him? He’s an oaf.” Bell joined in.
Ollie grunted and continued on with instructions, “Whatever, moving on. Bell split that wood half way and dig a little hole through it. And Jim, take one of the bandages and fray it so it’s like the tinder.”
“Yes sir.” the two replied.
The two got to work as instructed. The others of the troop were doing the same, having some idea within the groups as to how they would make a fire with what they had. The first man, Ollie, took the trough that Bell had made. He place a small bit of the frayed cotton at the hole of the trough and began pushing the stick up and down the trench. Slowly but surely he generated heat, but didn’t move with much urgency. Around them the other groups had seen what he was doing and frantically tried to catch up. They would build half dug out troughs and begin scraping the wood together quickly and vigorously, putting all their strength into it.
“Christ Ollie, could you move a little faster?” Jim blurted out, frustrated with his superiors pacing. “You’re never gonna start a fire at that pace!”
Bell looked at Ollie with the same level of concern, yet saw complete assurance on Ollie’s face. He knew what he was doing. As Jim continued to push him and complain there was a sudden cascade of snaps from the various groups around them.
“Son of a bitch, John, your hand!” Shouted a man in another group.
“There’s a damn stick through my hand Rick!”
Similar distressed shouts popped up around the camp as Ollie smirked and continued to speed up. A small puff of smoke came from the tip of the trio’s stick as Jim and Bell exhaled in relief, then hastily place the cotton near the smoke. The cotton lit up and they tossed the sticks, then logs onto the flame. Ollie sat back and pulled out his knife. A fine blade, stainless steel and well taken care of, with an inch or two of serration at the the base. He grabbed the stick they had started the fire with and placed the serration to the center and looked up at Bell.
“I did.” answered Ollie. “Patience will get you far in life Bell. Everyone knows that. Others seem to think working with a certain level of haste will get you further. I agree with that, a little bit. Other people even say that patience and working quickly will give you all the time you need to get stuff done.” Ollie sat back and laughed to himself, “But in my experience, you don’t need patience or haste. That’s because sabotage will give you all the time in the world.”