A misguided lesson on tying knots

I never dreamed there were so many ways to tie a knot. There are literally hundreds of ways to tie a knot for nearly as many different uses, mostly nautical.

I hate boats. I hate water. And now I hate knots.

The Little Professor’s Boy Scout Troop is neck-deep in knots. Apparently, in addition to helping little old ladies cross the street and saluting the flag, the Boy Scouts are all about knots. The Little Professor still makes a jumble of his shoelaces – most of the time, he doesn’t even bother and they trail in the dirt – but he knows the difference between a box knot and a half-hitch knot and how to tie them. It’s mystifying, truly.

They’ve been working on them for some time now, because being able to tie half a dozen different knots is part of the requirements of gaining Tenderfoot rank, which sounds like something out of a spaghetti western. That’s my understanding, but I can’t even manage a box knot, so my knowledge is shaky at best.

It also is important in rescue attempts and making your own tent out of a length of rope, tarp and tent pegs. Since I don’t like the idea of sleeping in a regular tent, I’ve no desire whatsoever in sleeping under a crude shelter that doesn’t even keep the critters out. Or the wind, cold and possibly rain. I get shudders just thinking about it. You will never, ever, ever see me on a Boy Scout camp out, no matter how many times the Little Professor begs, and it’s not just because their camp coffee doesn’t meet my exacting standards.

Anyway, back to knots: We were recommended a website with illustrated, step-by-step instructions for tying a host of knots. Since I am a mean mother and force my kids to work on projects outside of the designated activities, we tried it.

We failed. Miserably.

The Professor told me that he needed two ropes. And maybe some poles for the more complicated knots. I thought it would be a good idea to use pipe cleaners. Now, hear me out, OK? First of all, I thought pipe cleaners would be easier for him to manipulate – I saw the suggestion on an autism spectrum website, and it made sense. Ropes and laces just hang there, but pipe cleaners stay where you put them. In addition, I have many different colors, and the tutorial also used ropes of different colors for clarity. We could match the pipe cleaner colors to the tutorial colors.

But we failed. Despite holding the pipe cleaners up in front of the screen, and following the directions, we ended up with a mess of mangled up, jangled up knots.

“We’re taking it to the meeting with us,” I declared. “That way, you can show your scoutmaster that you tried it.” I poked the tangle of pipe cleaners. “Maybe he can figure out what went wrong.”

“We used pipe cleaners,” the Professor said. “That’s what went wrong. I told you it wouldn’t work.”


At the meeting, I presented the assistant scoutmaster with the fruit of our labors. He was bewildered.

“Why did you use pipe cleaners?” he asked.

“I told you,” the Professor piped up. “I told you that we shouldn’t use pipe cleaners!”

From now on, the Long Suffering Husband can help him with the knots.

(Wallace-Minger, The Weirton Daily Times community editor, is a Weirton resident and can be contacted at swallace@pafocus.com)