Retributive Strike

(Save vs. magic for half damage?)

This hiking staff was handmade for me as a gift more than ten years ago by my friend Michael Purpura. It was sturdy, springy and surprisingly lightweight. There was a half-inch bolt screwed onto the business end to prevent it from splitting, which over time and heavy use buried itself deeper and deeper into the wood. Near the head was an etching of dragon taken from the frontispiece of one of the books in Weis and Hickman’s Death Gate Cycle. (Can’t remember which—Dragon Wing? Hand of Chaos? And yes, I was indeed a big ole serial fantasy junkie once upon a time. You were surprised?).

This staff has traveled with me over countless country miles. It has gotten me many weird looks from passersby. As related in the Nov/Dec 2007 issue of Weird Tales, it once helped me scare the scare the living bejeezus out of a little old lady. Yesterday, it saved my life.

Or at least it saved me some broken bones.

I was hiking part of the Robert Frost trail south through Mt. Toby Reservation just before sunset. I wanted to get back to the road before dark, so with my usual disregard for rationality, I detoured west down the face of a steep cliff. I made it about halfway before an earthy ledge I was standing on gave out underneath me. I fell fifteen feet and landed in a thorn bush. If it weren’t for the staff, which I shoved into the fork of a tree as I fell past it in an attempt to break my fall, I would probably have plowed right through the thorn bush and kept on going. As it was, I survived with only a bunch of stinging red cuts and scratches all over my knees, back and forearms.

Thank you, stick. You served me well. Now go on to a better place.

Once I saw off the splintered parts, I’ll turn the rest into stakes for the garden.


  1. Sorry to read about your stick’s untimely end, although happy to read how it was able to go out in a heroic way and spare you harm. It sounds like it had a long and useful career and would be impossible to replace. But I’m kind of interested in what stick you will choose now, is there an old one which will now have an elevated status, or are you on the hunt for a new one?

    1. Hmm…no, there is no old one to step up. I just made a quite nice cane out of a branch that got lopped off my parents’ big sugar maple, but a cane isn’t as good as a staff for off-trail hiking on varied terrain or for really steep trails. So I need a new staff. Perhaps slightly heavier than the last one, perhaps not. It will take some thinking.

  2. I was looking at your dancing crow pumpkin, but I really loved (and identified with) your meditation on being a new englander.

    And I think I know where you were when your stick broke – my husband has been leading Tuesday Night Hikes for UMOC for decades, and they go all up and down Rbt. Frost, and hit all the peaks (such as they are) around the Happy Valley.

    1. Lee,

      I’m glad you enjoyed that post. I liked it too.

      I have never been on a Tuesday Night Hike, but it sounds like a great idea. I’ll have to look into it.

      Thanks for commenting!

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