This is a guest post from Bill Marple one of the best trackers in our United States. He teaches all over the country including the Tracker School in New Jersey.
Hey There Magda,
Well, I know what you’re probably thinking.
It’s been quite some time now since you’ve heard from me. At this point, you’ve probably
wondered many times if I might actually have fallen off the face of
the Earth. Close, but not quite. Yes, as usual, its been much busier than
expected lately. Let me tell you what happened. Get ready! It’s a long
one, but the pay off is worth it!
You see, just recently, about 6 weeks ago, I bought a new (used) truck
thinking it would be a good investment for getting myself and my gear
to workshops and classes. It’s a diesel truck and some friends and I
converted it to run on Waste Vegetable Oil.
The conversion is fun to do and very simple(to see how, check out my upcoming blog on Grease Cars!).
After I took a look at the conversion process and budgeted out how
much I would save on fuel costs, I decided a converted truck would
really help in cutting down on travel costs. As you know, fuel prices
these days are not likely to go down anytime soon. There was only one
small problem: I’m not much of a mechanic. I’ve never truly spent a whole
lot of time working on an engine, let alone understood how they work.
Honestly, prior to beginning this process, if I opened up the hood of your
vehicle and there was no engine in there, I could tell you there was a
problem. Other than that, I would suggest calling a mechanic.
However, after researching things, the conversion process seemed simple
enough and made sense in terms of saving me a lot of money I would
otherwise spend on travel.
As well, converting my truck to run on grease appealed to my vanity.
I have to say I’ve always wanted to be one of those guys who could stand
in front of a truck with the hood up, leaning back on his heels, feet much
wider apart than necessary, with dirty, oil covered arms folded across his
chest, a wrench in each hand, who, when the engine refused to start, could
sniff, and say something like, “sounds like there’s not enough pressure in
the fuel injector.
That fuel pump has a problem,” before drenching the
ground beside me with a huge stringy wad of tobacco juice. As if to say,
“I don’t have a problem. This engine has a problem with itself.” But, as
I found out, these things are often not as simple as they seem.
My friend, however, assured me he knew what he was doing, and he and
I could work on the conversion together, stating that I would happily be
on my way and running on grease within four days of work. We started
the conversion at his apartment with high spirits, but, as you can imagine,
it took a little longer than four days.
Needless to say, from the time I took possession of the vehicle to the time
I got back here to Nevada was about 6 weeks of constant work. The drive
itself across the country took 7 days, and involved what amounted to daily
bathing in oil and coolant, several trips to both local auto parts stores and
Home Depot, occasional huge clouds of electrical smoke, at least 5 different
tow trucks, 2 dozen oil filters, and one instance of the possibility of police
involvement(its better not to ask questions at this point).
So, how does this relate to tracking?
The truck is now running great, but to be honest, that’s not what I really wanted to talk to you about today. What I really wanted to tell you about was a great tracking experience I had while working on the truck.
After about 3 weeks of working on it with myself and friends, and having
made no headway, we decided to enlist the help of a professional diesel
mechanic. His name is Brian, and he’s been working on these engines
his entire life. When he arrived, I knew it was the right choice.
Brian is about fifty, but could probably pass for much older due to the
chiseled lines on his face from years of working outside. He weighs
about 135 pounds, is a retired lobster fisherman(pronounced “lawbstah”
in New England), is as weathered as driftwood, has a voice that sounds
like a wood rasp being dragged over hardwood but still manages to
come off as friendly and good natured.
He’s trying to quit smoking,but still takes an unlit cigarette and puts it in his mouth every 30 mins or so just so he can think straight about what he’s working on. He’s
methodical, professional, and oozes competence when he speaks about
almost anything mechanical.
Not only this, but Brian is full of cool mechanic stories, such as the time
he was actually in an engine compartment that blew up in his face while
working on a boat, or the time he arcwelded a screwdriver to the bumper
of a military vehicle when high voltage passed through his body due to
his partner overlooking a loose wire.
How many volts? “I dunno. About a million, I guess,” he rasped.
“Took me about 2 weeks before I could remember anything real good
again.” What I mean to say is that for yours truly, this man was the perfect
choice for everything we wanted to learn-a veritable Elder of Auto.
However, what really impressed us was his philosophical views on
mechanics. We knew we only had a short time with Brian, and we peppered
him with questions as we worked, desperately wanting to learn as much
as we could. At one point he looked annoyed by our questions, and I
apologized to him.
He looked back at me and said, “Hey, that’s not a problem, curiosity and
askin’ questions is good. That’s what makes ya smart. Actually, ya don’t
even need to figure somethin’ out. Just askin’ the question will help ya
ta learn most anything.”
Sound familiar? My friend and I were silent for awhile, thinking about whether this was coincidence or perhaps Grandfather had momentarily possessed the man in our presence and talked to us about the Sacred Question.
After a bit, the conversation picked up again, and we talked about Brian’s
time as a lobsterman. He spoke about it wistfully, telling us about how
the currents affect the lobster populations, and how the lobsters migrate
through the area.
Finally, he stopped working on the engine, and looked at us saying, “I
spent 3/4’s of my life tryin’ ta figure out how a lobstah thinks.” He had a
grin on his face and one eyebrow raised at this point as his eyes bore into
us. “See, it ain’t enough to only study somethin’. You have to become
the critter you’re tryin’ ta find. You become it. Actually, it ain’t no different
then workin’ on this truckYou become it. Actually, it ain’t no different
then workin’ on this truck. You have to become this thing if you ever
really wanna figure out what’s wrong with it.”
It was then, that I had to excuse myself, as once again I wondered if
Brian had ever attended Tracker School. After all, how often have I
heard Tom say that you have to become the animal you’re trying to
track. And, I knew that while working with Brian on the engine, I’d not
only learned something about my truck, but I’d been reminded how the
process of tracking applies to so many things in our lives.
Quite frankly, if we’re problem-solving something, then we’re using
the part of our brain that was designed to track. We’re constantly looking
for patterns, processes, features of something we’re thinking about
and asking questions about it in order to learn. These answers and our
experiences with them then guide us to greater and greater understanding
of what we’re studying, until we can feel in ourselves what the problem
is or whatever it is we’re looking for.
In other words, we become that which we’re working on. As a matter of fact, we have to engage in this process if we really want to gain any significant understanding of anything.
Awhile ago now, I wrote to you and let you know to give yourself a break
if you didn’t “set aside time” for tracking every day. The truth is that life
often gets in the way of us putting aside a whole hour or two every day
for tracking practice.
Now, I’m telling you that if you’re thinking about
anything in this way, with a sense of wonder and curiosity about what
you’re studying, then you’re strengthening that part of you that is a Tracker.
Brian never attended Tracker School and has no idea who Tom Brown
or Grandfather is. But, his intense study of only a few different disciplines
in life(fishing and mechanics) brought him to many of the same truths
that Tom passes on to us in tracking.
With that in mind, I urge you to get curious about something as you go
through the day today. Remember, just being curious and harboring a
desire to learn something can take you an awfully long way.
Talk to you again soon!
Earth Voices, LLC
5114 Mandalay Springs Drive
Las Vegas, NV