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Mervyn Mitton

Walking Sticks - and as Weapons

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Brian - walking stick shotguns (.410) and .22 rifles used to be quite common in Victorian days. Took back the advantage of surprise.

Nowdays they are banned under Firearm Acts in most Countries - although I think they can be in a collection if properly disarmed -

however, I wouldn't want to be the one trying to convince a British Constable why you were carrying it in the street...........

Although I am in the chair now, I still carry a sword stick - in SA it is not illegal to own it - only to use it. I think you have to make your own

choices on that one. Mine was carried by a Captain in the Gordon Highlanders during the Zulu War of 1879 - couldn't find any

notches !

Ed - yours is a nice example - Indian in origin. More usually called a dagger stick as it is shorter then for a sword. Mervyn

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Hi Mervyn,

Just to be clear on my point. The fighting method currently taught in France uses one the walking stick and no additional weaponry. This keeps the user within the bounds of the law. In my opinion the techniques taught require much more agility than many of us of my age and older have.

On a lighter note:

As you know, we here at the Home Office always try to accomodate the needs of the membership. In that vein we are working on a new design for a walking stick that we hope to be presenting to MI-6 for use by Mr. Bond in the near future.

Regards

Brian Wolfe

Director of the Home Office (Ontario)

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I think you should apply for a patent - the style of defence you talk about with a stick, would that be copied from one of the Japanese martial arts ? Mervyn

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From the demonstrations I've seen I think you are correct that this form of self-defence is indeed based (copied?) from the weapons systems of the East. Stick and staff fighting is nothing new to most of us of course but the idea of using a cane may be new to many of the elderly who could find themselves in need of a "legal" weapon at times. I regret that I don't recall the French name for this style otherwise one could probably find videos on the internet.

Regards

Brian

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Another present for my 70th birthday last week from my awesome son. I have NO idea where he finds these but really enjoy getting them.

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Ed - CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR 70th. I wish we had known earlier.

The additions to your collection are splendid - the one with the head carved on the back of the handle,

what do you think are it's origins ? Perhaps native American ?

Over the years since you joined , your support for our various Forums has been whole hearted - and we do

appreciate your doing this. Reaching your 7th Decade is a great achievement and I feel that I speak for the

Forum when I wish you Many Happy Returns. Mervyn

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Thanks Mervyn. I truly enjoy "surfing" the site to see the varied interests and postings.

Don't know anything about the sword stick. I was hoping someone might be able to give some insight about it.

Not sure if I mentioned it or not, but we also celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary on June 6th!

BTW: When is our next photo competition? My family and I are waiting with baited breath! :anmatcat:

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As an anthropologist I agree with Mervyn's introduction to this thread about the importance of sticks in human technology. In my work with traditional peoples, sticks of many "simple" forms are some of the most creative and often-used implements in their total tool repertoire. On 29 February, 2012 Chris mentioned the use of ~1m long sticks by Ethiopian men in this thread, and Mervyn requested a photo of such a walking stick/weapon. I do not have one from Ethiopia, but was given an example from Botswana by anthropology colleagues who worked there. In the spirit of Mervyn's emphasis on some African (and especially South African) useful designs, especially against snakes, I offer an image & description of this modest stick.large.5a74dee2efc79_Hambukushumambastick.jpg.055319b0b2895fa4e67f06f4b7d7d321.jpg

This is a man's walking stick and expedient protective weapon used by Hambukushu people (sometimes known by the more pejorative terms: "River Bushmen" or "Swamp Bushmen", although they are Bantu-speaking folks and not Xanekwe or Khoi people) living in the Okavango River Delta region of Botswana. It's primary defensive use is against aggressive mambas, and it was better known as a "mamba-stick" than as a walking stick. This example is 96.5 cm long and was made in 1992. 

Edited by Rusty Greaves
correcting auto-correct

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Looks like an excellent snake-stick.   I rarely went out at night during my 2 years in West Africa, but if I had one of these would have been useful.  A lot of the snakebite victims coming to see the local missionaries, who ran a 'dispensary', had trodden on snakes while walking paths at night.  The snakes lie up on the earthen paths which have been warmed all day by the sun.  :(

Is there anything 'special' about the stick, Rusty?  A certain type of wood?  The finish, other than having been de-barked?  We tend to assume that people 'make' such tools as opposed to simply picking them up as needed and I assume this is an example of a 'purpose-built' utensil/weaopon.

Peter

Edited by peter monahan

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Peter, Thanks for your point about snake dangers. Several Pumé folks I've worked with in Venezuela have suffered bites from coral snakes & rattlesnakes as they are always barefoot. There are a few local "cures" I've collected but have not yet found a lab interested in running analyses to see if they have any efficacy (I always had 2-3 courses of antivenin I left at a nearby ranch that had refrigeration from a few hours of generator use each evening-these days there is so little medicine in Venezuela I'm sure I couldn't find any or would it pilfered from my bags by the military). In my archaeological work in the American southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, & Utah) I've certainly been stopped in my tracks at night watching the stars or getting back to my tent trying to locate the direction of a rattlesnake warning. The wood this stick is made from is not as hard as that used to make an animal cudgel (moramo) that the same researcher gave to me (for coup de grace on larger ungulates-I'll try to illustrate that when I can), but this stick is not made from a softwood. I've paid a lot of attention to raw material selection in my work with Venezuelan foragers and with the Maya folks I work with, but my colleague did not make comparable observations about wood choice. This example has been carefully smoothed after debarking and the dark staining below the knob (visible to the left of the end of the measuring tape in the photo) is from heating the wood and straightening it. This piece was selected to have the natural proximal knob for holding. The distal end (for the ground) has been carefully trimmed. This is intended as a piece of personal gear, useful for many years, and is not an expedient implement. That proximal knob has some polish from use. It is a relatively new piece when my friend obtained it, but is a used example. I was told it is thrown at mambas (don't want to get too close!), but these do not break too often (it is still supple and exhibits no cracking, unlike the maramo cudgel I have) and are intended to be retrieved and reused. I'm checking a source on Hambukushu foraging and tool manufacture to see what else I can dig up on this implement. 

Edited by Rusty Greaves

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Very cool!  So, clearly some effort went into producing an efficient implement.  Not surprising, I suppose, given how dangerous snakes can be. 

My neighbour in Nigeria was out 'admiring the stars' [read 'smoking where his wife couldn't see him] and had a 6 foot spitting cobra curl up on the path between he and the house.  Much excitement ensued, but what Mal remembered most and was highly indignant about was that the night watchman - barefoot, of course - absolutely refused to leave his post inside Mal's garage once he's figured out it was a snake!  Mal was a NWF Pathan by birth, so he knew about snakes and eventually killed it, but only after it got into his chicken coop.  Two chickens died, but I was always convinced one if not both were killed by Mal swingin a chair leg and not by snake venom!

I was out yesterday at a gun show and saw a lovely cane with a small [6" x 3"] steel 'hammer' as a head, which the seller suggested was intedned as a defensive weapon.  It looked as if it would seriously dent a cranium if swung or thrown!  he thought it might be Hunarian, though he didn't say why.  I think we tend to underestimate the deadliness of a well handled stick/staff/club because they are not part of our modern landscape.

BTW, enjoying your posts immensely.

P

Edited by peter monahan

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Although I began part of my archaeological journey interested in stone tools, some of my laboratory work in botanical remains from past sites, library research on technology around the world, and more especially my work with living hunter-gatherers has given me a profound recognition of the importance of human strategy over design. We tend to think of human ingenuity across the globe as a consequence of invention of new tools, and that is certainly part of the story. However, the ability to use a "simple" stick, or to modify one so that it can perform a variety of tasks and not burden a man hunting or a woman collecting plant foods with more junk to carry, illuminates other parts of the human success story. How we plan the variety of ways to extract a living from the diversity of environments in which humans live using knowledge and empirical science, and still take some time for music & dancing even when there is no food, is a wonder. I am currently designing a display of some of the variety of "sticks" in my ethnographic collection that celebrate the elegant strategies witnessed in these humble technologies. 

Peter, Many thanks for your kind words and encouragement. I have really enjoyed finding GMIC and the interactions that have helped me in my research on Egyptian medals & orders, and the many interesting other topics explored here. 

large.LucreciaDiacriaroots1.jpg.a210dd24849a0c78048d0bb36c4d67cf.jpg

Two older Pumé women in the Venezuelan llanos collecting wild tubers during the wet season. Their digging sticks can be used for a variety of tasks, from collecting plant raw materials to clubbing small game they encounter, plus an endless set of uses in camp. 

large.HUNT2.JPG.cb859e95fbc72f0aa6680097c49a5cd0.JPG

Pumé man on a bow & arrow fishing trip in the dry season (bows & arrows in his right hand). On his left shoulder he carries sticks that have great egret wings attached to them that he places around a lagoon as decoys to attract egrets while he fishes at this location. 

large.5a79e2166f891_Pume1bcopy.JPG.c6c5df8fd2e7100d4c49f7e87be7a8b5.JPG

Pumé couple hunting & gathering in the late wet season. He carries his bow, arrows, & a hat that mimics the form of a jabiru stork (the dark cloth below the carved wooden beak represents the dark coloration of the upper body of these tall storks, and he has a white shirt in it that he will put on to look like the white feathers of the lower body) to try and get closer to deer should he encounter any. On this trip, he used his bow as a probe & digging stick to check lizard & armadillo burrows, even though his wife is carrying a digging stick, and as a long club to kill poisonous snakes. His wife has a digging stick with a worn steel tip for excvating deep-growing tubers. On this trip, her stick also was used to kill armadillos they encountered. 

Edited by Rusty Greaves

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Here is my illustration of the Hambukushu cudgel (moramo) used to dispatch large game that a colleague gave me. This is not a walking stick, but I promised to illustrate this tool here. This is primarily employed for delivering the coup de grâce to smaller game such as duiker, springbok, impala, or reedbuck, as well as larger ungulates such as kudu, gemsbok, eland hartebeest, zebra, and even buffalo. It also may be used for the final kill of carnivores and scavengers that are killed to protect their cattle herds. This implement also may be used to dispatch cattle (although most pastoralists rarely kill animals in their herds, relying on milk & blood as the primary products from their cattle resource wealth). The Hambukushu infrequently hunt hippopotamus using a larger harpoon implement similar to the one I illustrated in the 4th photo in my post on 10 January under the "South American bows and arrows" thread in this section. They also infrequently hunt elephants (primarily because of the long standing ivory trade that goes back ~ 1000 years in parts of the Congo Basin where colleagues of mine have been able to research documents), but use very different technology (many pits & deadfalls to avoid direct confrontation with such dangers quarry) and strategies than for other large game. This moramo was made a Hambukushu man named Tiro in 1992, living in the Okavango River Delta region of Botswana. It is a relatively new example, but has been used. The wood is identified as "mahogany", which is probably Baikigea plunjuga. This wood goes by various common names such as Rhodesian teak, Rhodesian mahogany, and Zambezi redwood. The mamba stick I illustrated on February 2 is probably made from a softer but supple wood that is variously called moshosho (mosheshe), or ohehe that is probably Burkia africana, commonly used to make a range of tool & weapon handles as well as arrow mainshafts. large.5a871877b6032_Hambukushumoramo2copy2.jpg.4fc45d09e94ceeefe6087ca72c22a7ef.jpg

Moramo, a Hambukushu animal cudgel from the Okavango River Delta region of Botswana. This example is 59.5 mm long.

large.5a87189856166_Hambukushumoramo2close-upcopy.jpg.9bcd7725907f546acb92a0d76304fff6.jpg

Close-up of the distal end ("head) of the moramo cudgel showing good detail on the manufacturing marks. 

Edited by Rusty Greaves

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