Flint and Steel

By striking the sharp edge of a piece of flint or any other equally hard rock against a piece of high carbon steel, sparks can be made. The sparks must hit a "spark catcher", something that lights on fire easily when struck with sparks. Dry grass, the roots of dry grass, 000 steel wool, lint, charred cloth, or cotton balls are all good spark catchers. Often the spark catcher will start to glow and must be blown on before it bursts into flames. You do not need to use real flint to do this, nearly any rock that is as hard as flint will work. Many types of quartz, which is very common, can do an excellent job.

Metal Match

A little rod of mirth metal often confused with flint and steel. The mirth metal rod can be scraped with any piece of hard metal to produce extremely hot sparks. Little bits of the mirth metal can also be shaved off into a pile on the surface of whatever will be lit on fire. Some mirth metal rods are accompanied by a rod of magnesium that can be scraped to form a even better pile of highly flammable flakes. This method is much easier to use than the flint and steel.

Fire by Friction

There are many methods for making fire by "rubbing two sticks together". The most popular way is by making a bow and wrapping the bowstring around a stick. By making a sawing motion with the bow, the stick will spin back and forth, this can be used in a drilling motion on a baseplate of soft wood that will get really hot and throw off glowing embers if you move the drill fast enough. It is pretty hard to do.

Battery and Steel Wool or Thin Wire

If you simply touch the ends of a nine volt battery to a piece of 000 steel wool it will start to glow red hot almost immediately. You can put some tinder on top of this and blow on it to make a fire. Many variations of this are possible, perhaps even with a cell phone battery. This method is very easy.

Magnifying Glass

By focusing the rays of the sun on a pile of dry leaves, grass, or grass roots, a fire can be started. Much like flint and steel, it may start to glow first and blowing on it will be necessary to get it to burst into flames. While it is easy to char things with a magnifying glass, and even make them smoke, it can be quite difficult to get them to actually light on fire.

It began with a friend of a friend. He was Mexican, I think; I never cared enough to ask or find out. Stereotypes didn't exist at that age.

His name was Carlos. His full last name escapes me now. He was nine years old, where I was eight. He'd moved here somewhat recently, and somehow knew one of my other friends (Joshua?). He was rambunctious, to say the least. His voice was loud and powerful when he wanted. His accent wasn't necessarily thick, but you could feel the sharpness of his words. If he snapped his fingers at one end of the gymnasium, you'd somehow hear it at the other end. But he was friendly enough. He was the sort of person that I imagine would grow up to be heavily opinionated, but would know very well when to keep them to himself, and just be a normal guy. Not jolly, but amicable. He had chronic migraines, to the point where he'd miss days of school or be unable to fulfill his part in group projects. I was tentative to believe him, but it sounded plausible. I can most vividly remember him in an orange zip-up sweater, one that looks suspiciously like one I later owned, myself.

Carlos often brought in interesting things to school, to flaunt during recess. They weren't really big or amazing, but in the third (fourth?) grade, if it's something you didn't own, or a newer, flashier version of something you did, then you'd want to get a look at it. I can't remember anything specific besides one or two items, but he was that kind of guy.

One day, he brought in a magnifying glass. Well-worn, yes, but pretty snazzy. Yellow rim, blue handle, metal bar for a neck, and one of those mini-lenses near the bottom of the big lens which were small but a lot more powerful. And, with the usual Carlos proud-yet-humble presentation of the item, we'd admire it momentarily, before going to find something interesting to inspect. A leaf, a rock, a blade of grass. There's only so much to magnify.

Before long, we got the idea to focus sunlight onto things, like you see sadistic children do in the movies. It was harmless fun, because we were smart enough not to attempt to burn stuff down or pin down and torture people. We just punched holes through various organic matter, leaving little brown rims around fresh perforations in leaves and other organics. We quickly learned to precisely control the light, down to being able to intuitively sense exactly how high to place the lens to pinpoint the beam—I would much later learn this was called focusing. I got into the business of burning people's names into leaves. I was damn good at it too.

I soon procured my own magnifying glass. It was plain, black; basic, but functional. Most of all, though, it was mine, and should Carlos decide to leave his implement at home that day, I would not be left to vie for position in the rat race of getting to the jump-ropes or basketballs first.

What follows is a fourth (third?) grade blur. This was about the time that I started to not do my homework, and suffer the repercussions thereof—to this day, I am afflicted with extreme procrastination, to waxing and waning degrees. But because of that haze, I can no longer remember if what I think happened actually happened, or was instead a particularly haunting dream. I am inclined to believe the latter, since I don't have any evidence, but at the same time, I don't really have evidence that my desk used to be one of the least organized schooldesks known to man, either, though the hours spent cleaning out the damn thing at the end of the year were very real.

When Prometheus brought the power of fire to humankind, Zeus inflicted upon him a terrible punishment. And in much the same way, someone got word of our new way of having fun, and crafted a rumour that we were planning to burn the school down. Suspend your disbelief for just a moment, and pretend that not only could you burn a school down with a magnifying glass, but also that my timid, socially awkward ass could conceive of such a thing. Because someone at this school apparently certainly did. I was confronted by a teacher, I can't remember which, and presented with a form of some sort: one I'd never seen before; the kind of form that only exists to the handful of people it affects; the kind that most kids don't ever have to learn about.

Carlos had this encounter, too. Likely more severely than I did, as I was but an accomplice. We convened outside during recess to discuss. I knew it was total BS, though I don't think I knew the word bullshit then. We were on edge, because the school was clearly wrong, but we were still being blamed for something. Carlos said he would have to talk with the principal. The form never comes up again. Maybe I lost it. I don't lose things.

My memories trail off here, lending all the more credence to it becoming a dream. Carlos moves away next year, or is put in a different class, or something, I don't know. I didn't know that the last time I saw him would be the last time I saw him. My disregard for the education system swells, remaining just short of outright truancy for the next fifteen years, at which point I am too old for that word to apply. The black magnifying glass sees little use, eventually breaking out of its cheap plastic and rolling about as a handle-less lens before falling into that nook between forgotten and lost. The sun continues to rise and burn and set.

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