Rigging The Shoulder Stick


Iron Man poses with the newly improved shoulder staff.

Every year I think that when I start running outdoors again I’ll try leaving my short staff behind. After all, the dogs in the neighborhood all know me and have learned their lessons. I shouldn’t have any more trouble from them, and I don’t really like having to carry a staff in my hand.

The first runs of the year demonstrated that A} the old dogs are just waiting for me to leave the stick at home and B} there are new dogs. But I do have many miles of open road in between dogs and I like to have my hands free to tinker with the electronic toys like the GPS or the cardio monitor, or have a drink of water without doing a juggling act. I decided to rig a shoulder sling for the staff, even though I usually only learn why these great ideas don’t work very well. This time I was surprised — it works well.

Some years ago I was browsing at Miller’s Hardware in Harrison, Arkansas, and in their tack section (tack as in harness and farrier’s tools, not tacks) I found bundles of scrap leather in odd shapes and lengths, marked down for quick sale. I didn’t have any particular use for them then, but I thought it was a good deal and I bought one for about $2. It’s been at least eight years but I’ve used 75 percent of what was in the bundle and still had enough left to rig a good shoulder strap for my short staff.

Leather lashings above the strap ends keep it from creeping.

The main strap came from a band of black cowhide cut with a scalloped edge and just long enough for the strap — one of those things that seems designed to be just right. I used one of my several hunting knives to cut a slit in each end of the strap, just long enough to slip over one end of the staff. The fit was tight enough that I thought that would be the end of the project, but on the first run it was clear that the staff was going to eventually drop out of the shoulder sling unless I worked on it a bit.

With a couple of pieces of leather cordage from the same scrap bundle I tied on a couple of stops, using a simple whipping knot that always makes me wonder who the heck thought of this when I have a reason to use it. The inventor ought to be given a posthumous Nobel prize. That and the “logging hitch” are two of the most useful things I’ve ever learned. Well, I have to add the bowline to that. I guess I know at least three useful things, that’s not bad.

A half hitch, then a loop formed from the right strand, overwrapped with several tight turns of the left end, which passes through the loop. Pull the loop tight.

I now wear my short staff across my back like an extra from a Mel Gibson movie, and it’s both comfortable and easy to deploy. I had use for it the second time I carried it this way, when a German shepherd accompanying a local construction crew took an interest in me. The dog’s owner seemed concerned, and I took that as a signal the dog meant business. Unslinging the staff stopped the new dog at about a hundred feet. Always neat to have good psychological advantage, and that’s usually all you need.

In researching the Tarahumara running style this past winter I came across several videos of these amazing people coming in at the end of a brutal run, carrying walking sticks. I enjoy seeing some occasional evidence I’m right about something, even if it’s just running with a self defense cane in easy reach.

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About JTHats

Avid backpacker and outdoorsman with old skills and interests in old ways of doing things; equally fascinated by electronics, from the days of Sputnik, to the Zilog Z80A, to the present day of black box circuitry. Sixty years of experience with growing my own food and living simply. Certified electronics technician, professional woodturner, woodcarver, and graduate of two military survival courses -- Arctic and Jungle.

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