Sunday, April 04, 2010

How Shipbuilding Got Started

One morning Ogg, the caveman, came out of his cave, stretched and felt his knee.
"Good!" said Ogg. "No rain tomorrow!" (See - How Religion got started - November 6, 2008)

He looked around then wandered down to the stream close by to sit on his favorite big rock and soak up the sun. As he was sitting there looking down at the stream, a large leaf that was curled up on all sides went floating by. In the middle was an ant getting a free ride down the stream to the river. This set off a light bulb in Ogg' s very creative brain. He thought that if an ant can ride a leaf then perhaps a man could ride a large stick or tree across the river.

He remembered the last time he struggled to get across the river and a large dead tree came by. He had grabbed hold of one of the branches on the tree and by dragging his feet one way or the other finally managed to maneuver the tree to the opposite side. He didn't like getting wet when it was cold so it had been a while since he had tried that.

Now he thought he could figure out a way to ride the river without getting wet. His people were starting to use carts with stone wheels so he decided that he would build a water cart. It was a very ambitious project but old Ogg had a way about him of convincing people that he knew what he was doing. After all, wasn't he now the village shaman who predicted the rain (most of the time)? So Ogg managed to get several hefty men interested in helping him simply by reminding them of the difficulties of getting to the other side of the river where the game was far more plentiful.

He started by cutting down four trees that were pretty good size, about six feet long and about a foot in diameter. He had his helpers drag them all down to a spot by the stream and laid them out beside each other. He then started to think about how he would keep them together. He remembered that his previous experience in floating down the river was very difficult because the tree kept rotating. How was he going to keep that from happening?

It occurred to Ogg that they had vines leading from one cave to another above or below it. The vines lasted a pretty long time and they would support a man's weight until they broke. If you were lucky, you spotted the vine rotting before it broke. If not, well, quite a few were crippled or dead because of it. He decided to go gather some strong vines and see if he could hold the logs together. Once they had a bunch of the vines they dragged them back to the cut up logs and Ogg tried to figure out how to attach them. He went back to the caves with vines in them to get down to the next level and found that someone had figured out how to tie a knot. He went back to the logs and started experimenting with tying them together.

By now his helpers are pretty tired out so he decided to come back the next morning and work it out. That night in his cave, Ogg picked up a stick that was burned and tried to draw a picture of what he was trying to do but he just couldn't get it right. One of his sons got wide eyed at what he was doing and after a while begged for a chance to do some drawing. Ogg was tired of fooling with it so he let the boy use the burnt stick while he went to get something to eat. The little kid immediately started drawing pictures of all of the animals that they saw regularly on hunting trips and he had a real talent for it.

When Ogg came back he was astounded to see the pictures his son had drawn on the walls of their cave. There was a bear, an elephant, a lion and of course the saber tooth tiger and they were all very recognizable. He told the boy that the pictures were really good and that maybe Ogg would take him to the river in the morning and Junior could help him out. The youngster was ecstatic. His father actually thought he was old enough to help out! Little did the boy know that his father was looking for someone to make pictures of the project out so that they could talk about it at night.

Early the next morning Ogg rolled out of his sleeping mat to find Junior up and ready to go. He thought to himself that it was a shame that all of that energy was wasted on a little kid. The boy was really excited. They grabbed some dinosaur meat for breakfast and started down towards the river. Along the way Ogg told his boy about seeing the ant floating down the stream in the middle of a leaf and asked him if he could draw a picture of something like that. Junior said he could do it. When they arrived at the stream, Ogg picked up a pointed stick and told Junior to draw a picture in the sand on the bank. The boy worked at it for a little while and Ogg saw that it really was a good representation of what he had told the kid. So he proceeded to tell Junior about his idea of tying logs together with vines and maybe he would be able to float across the river to the other side where the game was much more plentiful.

Junior started sketching in the sand and soon had the whole plan laid out exactly like Ogg had described. Just as the boy was finishing up the sketches, the men in the village that had agreed to help Ogg arrived and he showed them the pictures that Junior had drawn. A couple of them were petrified by the drawings and ran away but the others stuck around and began discussing the project. Soon a fairly reasonable raft was resting in a little inlet off the stream and Ogg decided to try it out. When he stepped on the raft it immediately sank under the water and Ogg was furious. He was about to rip it apart when his son asked if he could try it. Ogg relented and when the boy got on the raft it sank a little bit but kept most of Junior out of the water. The light dawned on Ogg that the if the raft was too small for him it certainly was too small for a party of hunters and any game they might kill on the other side of the river, much less bring it back. He would have to build one much bigger just to carry one person.

And that, my friends, is probably how the shipbuilding business got started.