Monday, October 24, 2011

Badge of Honor

For fencers (of the sword fighting type) the traditional badge of honor is the “dueling scar”. For gardeners (of the do-it-by hand type) our mark of merit is the “raking blister”.
I know a little bit about dueling scars because our son Bram is a fencer. He began taking lessons from a series of local college students in his early teens. Knowing nothing about the sport he and I went to a match in which his very first tutor, Dom, was competing. He was fencing sabre. (There are three types of fencing “swords” – the other two being foil and epee). In sabre fencing the target area (the part of your opponents body that you can touch in order to score a point) is everything from the waist up – including the head. During Dom’s first bout, his opponent lunged and stuck his weapon through Dom’s mesh facemask. It did not cause a dueling scar, but I got the concept.

Unlike dueling scars which (a) were actually sought after by upper-class Austrians and Germans involved in academic fencing at the start of the 20th century and (b) are permanent – raking blisters are both unwanted and temporary. No matter how much gardening work I do during the spring and summer, I never (in all of those activities) press enough tools against the base of my thumb to develop a callus.

As a result, even with thick leather gloves, after about forty-five minutes of drawing and dragging leaves across my front yard the wooden handle of my large plastic rake has generated a small but painful bubble on my right hand. I take a break and put on a bandage which will stay there until I complete the remaining thirty minutes of yard-cleaning later that day.

In the interim I will proudly and publicly display my gauze-covered wound and look for the knowing smiles of other similarly tourniquet clad brothers of the rake.

Meanwhile, in Santa Fe New Mexico, our son the fencer will blow the leaves off of his crushed stone front lawn – raking not being an option on that surface.

It’s too bad that he doesn’t have that choice. Everyone deserves their own badge of honor, and I would much rather see him with a bump on his hand than a scar on his cheek.

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