Update: I did this fun little entry last year and I think it is time to dust it off for an update. It was originally published here at the Pondering Tree on 15 March, 2012.
Inspired by James May’s Man Lab, a list of skills I possess.
You’ve got to admire the Brits, well, when they aren’t burning down the White House as our current President reminded the current Prime Minister this week. They gave us Dr. Who, double decker buses, invented the tank, refined the aircraft carrier and there is that bit about Shakespeare.
The days of Empire are gone and perhaps that is best but they still make excellent programming for what they refer to as, “the tellie.”
The above is the first episode of James May’s Man Lab. First, you could never have such a show here in the U.S. because folks would be incensed that it was called, “Man Lab.” Instead we’d call it, “DIY . . . ” something or other. Yes, I am aware there is a Man Cave show out there but try finding it on cable. I can find Top Gear UK which in turn lead to wondering what else three dysfunctional middle aged men did when they were not at the Top Gear Track.
The premise is simple enough. James May is distressed that the British male seems to be incapable of doing many of the things which were once required masculine knowledge. If you want to know more, watch the videos on YouTube.
I’ve been watching them and I’ve quite surprised myself in that I came to realize I have a number of skills. Granted, some of them are in varying degrees of disuse and decay, but some are very much akin to riding the bicycle.
Hmm, I’ve not had the best of luck with bicycles so lets move onto my list.
Here is my list of skills which, because this is America I must make concessions to political correctness, were once considered masculine but are now open to all comers.
1. Boot polishing. I learned this in the U.S. Army, where we use one brush, not two. We achieve the same results, or rather we used to. These days the Army does not use polishable shoes and boots anymore.
2. Muzzle loading weapons. While I was never a duelist, I do know how to operate and maintain a wide variety of muzzleloading weapons to include the first revolvers and rifled muskets. Four years of Civil War reenacting will teach you that.
3. Bait a hook on a fishing line. A required skill of the grandson of a Catholic Grandfather. I also know how to clean a fish once I catch. Sadly, I do not care over much for catfish or bass.
4. How to throw a hand grenade. The Man Lab doesn’t need to send me a badge, the Army already gave me an Expert rating.
5. How to fire an M-16 A1 or A2 rifle. Expert rating again, also includes maintenance and the proper swear words for when it fails to fire in spite of your best efforts.
6. How to fire an M-203 40 mm grenade launcher, for when the rifle fails. And rather than running down a long list of weapons, there are many more.
7. I know how to use a radio and operate a radio network. I just don’t like doing it.
8. I know how to operate and maintain a generator.
9 I know how to put a generator fire out. I can also tell you what you should probably NOT do when trying to put a generator fire out.
10. I know how to properly care for my feet while on a long march with a heavy rucksack. The key is dry, clean socks. A bit of moleskin and some well worn, well fitted boots help.
11. I know how to patch a sucking chest wound.
12. I know how to provide general first aid, CPR, operate an AED and I vaguely remember how to apply a tourniquet.
13. Lifeguarding. I know how to extract someone from the water.
14. I know the art of foil fencing, though I am not very good at it.
15. I know old school film photography with a 35 mm camera, though I am out of practice with it.
16. I can change the oil in my car if I have to.
17. I can change the battery too.
18. I can paint, sand boards and I know how to build a proper bookshelf. I also know how to build a desk. Chuck in on top of that a knowledge of how to use 2 by 4s to build an interior wall.
19. I know how to clear a room. I also know how to secure a room.
20. I know how to use handcuffs and pepper spray. I also know when I am NOT supposed to use them.
21. I know how to build a foxhole, a perimeter trench and a proper fighting position. I also know how to care and maintain camouflage netting.
22. I know how to apply camo face paint.
23. I know how to row a canoe.
24. Ride a horse, better than I ride bicycles.
25. I know how to make french press coffee, standing spoon only chili, and hamburger sliders.
26. I do know how to work a VCR.
27. I know how to set up a field telephone using two TA-312 phones. I even know how to wire them into a switchboard.
28. I fixed a former friend’s motorcycle once by correctly deducing that he needed a new fuse.
29. I know how to tie a tie, with great reluctance and much swearing.
30. I can change a tire.
31. I know how to perform CPR, use an AED and prevent you from choking on your fish and chips while you are in London.
32. Depending upon which lifeguard certification method we are talking about, I know how to teach you how to save people in the water yourself.
33. I can edit your novel.
34. I can give a lecture on historical topics to a class of students.
35. I can coach a team of lifeguards who are participating in Lifeguard Olympics and get them to place in the competition.
36. I know how to draw a picture.
37. I know how to paint a wall.
38. I know how to build an interior wall in a house with two by fours.
39. I know how to read a printed map.
40. I know how to cook.
However, there is a series of skills that I feel are lacking.
1. I can’t start a fire. I seem to be very adept at putting them out.
2. I have never been hunting.
3. I don’t know how to sharpen a knife.
4. Fly a plane or a helicopter.
5. Execute a proper ballroom style dance, lessons notwithstanding.
6. Mix a cocktail.
7. Lasso a steer.
8. Read, write and speak Latin.
9. Wire up an electrical outlet.
10. Shoot a pistol proficiently. I appear to be more adept with long arms than with pistols.
And there you have it. What say the rest of you?
Steven Francis Murphy
Author of The Limb Knitter and Tearing Down Tuesday
Kansas City, Missouri