I was recently asked why I had these things, and I replied, "That's my fire kit, duh."
The person who asked the question looked at me like I was speaking Hindi. They had no idea what I was talking about.
In shock, I asked some other people -- and none of them had a clue, either.
All right class, gather around the BBQ pit.
Observe that inside the BBQ pit we have five feathersticks making a nice little tipi -- what?
You have no idea what a featherstick is?
Oh, gods, just shoot me now.
Okay. Get yourself some dry sticks bigger than your thumb, but not as big around as your forearm.
Now, place one end of the stick on something safe -- not your knee! On something solid that we won't mind nicking a bit with our knives.
Take a firm grip on the other end. The end your are holding is the tip. The end on the table is the base.
Using your knife -- you all do have knives, right? Take your knife and about three inches from the base, shave a thin curl of wood towards the base and leave it attached.
Rotate the stick a bit, and shave another curl -- leaving it attached. Rotate again, move a bit up the stick and shave another curl. Keep doing this until the entire stick is all fluffy and curly.
This is a featherstick. Now, make four more and bear in mind that Professor LawDog is the only person around here authorized to produce blood at this time. Thank you.
Now that you have five feathersticks, place them in the BBQ base up and tip down in the form of a tipi. Leave enough room inside -- what?
You don't know what a tipi is. How about a wigwam? Ah.
Stack your five feathersticks tip down in a shape reminiscent of the conical dwellings constructed of skins used by the indigenous peoples of the North American Great Plains.
Someone in the Registrars Office is getting shot for this one, I'm here to tell you.
Anyhoo, leave enough space inside your construction for the steel wool.
Take your steel wool and expand it a bit. Fluff it up until it's somewhere between the size of a tennis ball and a softball. You may wish to stick some wood chips or small sticks inside the fluffy mass, but that's up to you.
Place the steel wool inside of the cavity you have left in your featherstick construction.
Now, take a common nine-volt battery and rub it gently on the exposed parts of the steel wool. Yes, sparks. Those are expected. Rub a bit more and then blow gently on your flaming steel wool.
Steel -- even steel wool -- burns with a lot of heat. The steel wool burns hot enough to easily -- there you go -- ignite the wood curls on the feathersticks and with a bit of tending ... We Have Made Fire!
And that is the reason there is vacuum-packed steel wool and 9-volt batteries in my vehicle. Any battery of three volts or more can be used to ignite the steel wool -- I have done so with a 6-volt battery out of my SureFire flashlight -- but the top-mounted contacts of the 9-volt make it easier to use.
Now that we have fire here -- and over there a small encampment of peacenik socialist pacifists who probably have small things of value and are no doubt in need of some excitement to liven up their day -- what?
Yes, I know that's the Faculty Lounge, so?
You're not serious!
Who the hell put a 'No Pillaging' clause in my contract!?