I enjoy teaching kids how to
tie a bowline. I enjoy teaching anyone how to tie a bowline.
I grew up confused about tying bowlines.
I used to attend Brownie Scout meetings because Mom was the
Head Brownie. That's where I learned the bowline story.
"A rabbit comes up out of the hole,
runs around the tree, sees a hunter, and dives back into the
Got it? I didn't. The rabbit had a way of
falling sideways out of the hole.
Later on, at Boy Scout camp, I had a teacher
who was a Navy veteran. He would tie bowlines instantly and
laugh at our amazement. This lead me to ask, "How did
he do that?"
Make a loop slightly larger than the finished
loop you want. Put the whipped end on top.
The tree crew that taught me climbing whipped
rope ends with black plastic electrical tape.
Pinch the cross with your thumb going through
the top of the loop. This is the hard part. You do this and
you can tie bowlines with the best.
Bend your wrist down.
Rotate your wrist upward.
Straighten the short end.
The hard part is done in a second.
Kids get the same attitude about knots that
they get about mathematics. "That's hard, I can't do
that." I try to convince them that making the loop is
the hardest part. It is the hardest part. Why? Because anyone
can put the rope around the back...
...and down through the hole.
Normally my other hand would be on the far
side of the knot pulling the whole thing tight.
Want to see it again?
A little theater helps. I tell someone they
have fallen into a deep hole. They aren't hurt but I can't
pull them out until they tie the knot under their arms. The
idea of rescuing yourself makes learning to tie a bowline
seem as important as it is.
I was a camp counselor one summer for disabled
kids. My tree climbing ropes and saddle were a big hit. If
you are stuck in a wheel chair, being hauled twenty feet up
a tree is a big change.
The other counselors called my class "sitting
under a tree with a rope." A kid I'll call Lee, loved
it. He would have spent all day every day going up and down
the tree. He very much wanted a piece of rope. It made sense
to me. Rope is great stuff. I cut 5 feet off the end of a
retired climbing rope for him. He didn't have much dexterity
but he was fascinated.
The last day of camp, I was loading foot
lockers into parents' cars when I heard shrieks coming from
a cabin. I wasn't sure it was an emergency, but I didn't waste
any time getting there.
Inside the cabin, Lee was holding up an
end of his rope in triumph. The other end was tied with a
bowline around the arm of his wheelchair.