Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Cooking Stones"

This poem is spillover from the May 5, 2020 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] mama_kestrel. It also fills the "Weapons" square in my 5-1-20 card for the Sumerian Me Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Beneath the Family Tree.


"Cooking Stones"


It was Chip who had the job of
handling the flint nodules before
they were knapped, because
the boy was meant to learn
from the old knapper, Flinteyes.

That included lugging the rejects into
the firepit where the women propped
platters on them for cooking things.

So it was Chip who noticed that
one of the nodules had broken
and was all shiny inside, like
only the best of stone was.

Curious, Chip struck the nodule
with a cobblestone and it
flaked just beautifully.

Grinning, the boy began
gathering other children
who were old enough
to work near the fire, and
set them to cleaning the pit.

When he had all the nodules out
and clean, he began to work them, and
discovered that with this stone, he could
make the awls that had always defeated him.

He thought he could make weapons, too,
fine points for bird arrows and barbed ones
for fish spears, if he worked at it enough.

"You Hand People," Deer Legs said with
a laugh, "always making things!" She was
a Tall Person herself, so had different gifts.

"I wanted to see what could be done
with cooking stones," said Chip.

"What could be done is putting
them in the firepit to make supper!"
said Deer Legs. "Come and help."

So Chip examined new nodules from
the reject pile to put in the firepit.

He thought about which ones
might change like the last batch,
and how to make that happen again.

Carefully he gathered the nodules
and told the other children how
to arrange them in the firepit.

Soon the women were
following along, too --
even Deer Legs -- as he
talked about how to stack
the wood around the rocks.

Chip looked up to see Gray Wolf
standing quietly beside the pit.

"What can I do for you?" said Chip,
who knew to respect his elders.

"I've been watching your work
with great interest," said Gray Wolf.
"I'm simply waiting for you to point me
at something, as you have the others."

"I can't give you orders -- you're
the same age as my grandparents!"
Chip exclaimed. "How did I end up
in charge of all these people?"

"You noticed a new thing
and you found ways for it
to be useful, even though
the cooking stones broke,"
said Gray Wolf. "Come now,
don't be shy -- give me a task."

"Well, I do want to try burning
bone for this," Chip said thoughtfully.
"In the last fire, one of the old platters
got covered in so much fat that it caught
on fire. But I don't want to burn up
the good shoulderblades. Can you
find some old ones I could use?"

"Yes, of course," Gray Wolf said,
75 and went to the rack where the women
kept the tools used for cooking things.

Soon the new fire was made and
supper was put on to cook.

Chip sat down to look at
his cooking stones again,
choosing one that he thought
might make good flakes for
making finer weapons.

Then he went to work.

* * *

Notes:

Flint and similar cryptocrystalline stones can be knapped into tools and weapons. See a gallery of flint knapping. Learn the basics or read some free e-books for more detail.

There are basic and detailed descriptions about heat-treating rocks. Heating flint changes the cryptocrystalline structure of the stone, making it easier to work but more fragile. Why make that tradeoff? It allows you to make very small, narrow, complicated, or otherwise technically challenging tools such as bird points for arrows or awls for punching holes in leather. For extreme notching, you need either a very fine material such as obsidian, or heat-treated stone such as flint. The fragility doesn't matter much, because arrowheads usually break when used anyway, and some tools like awls are not subjected to much force in use.

Prehistoric people may have made bone fires in areas with insufficient firewood. Although difficult to light, bone makes a very hot bright fire. This may have been discovered by accident in a cooking fire, as meat was often cooked with the bone inside and bones were also used as utensils such as platters.
Tags: crafts, cyberfunded creativity, fishbowl, history, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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