Alan Liere: You can always rely on good ol’ granny

By its nature, knot-tying is a skill that should be reinforced on a daily basis, but outside of weekend camping forays or the pursuit of fish and game, modern man does not often find the need to practice. As a result, even when once learned, we quickly forget them.

At age 12, I was blackballed from Cub Scout Pack No. 290 for wearing a self-carved neckerchief slide that depicted an exaggerated version of the bare upper anatomy of my adolescent heartthrob, Bridget Bardot. Because of this, the only knot I ever learned was the granny, a very basic effort fashioned just prior to the first loop in shoe tying.

Were the granny not the first knot learned, it would be more popular today, but there is something about growing up that causes us to abandon simple but effective things in the pursuit of sophistication, and there is nothing less sophisticated than a granny. Despite its provinciality, however, I still find it useful, and its offspring, the double granny, will secure anything. Using a granny to tether a pack mule or tie on a salmon lure will probably subject one to callous ridicule from friends, but if it’s all you know, it’s what you go with.

During a brief attempt to rise above the level of incompetence in my knot-tying endeavors, I once checked out a set of Cub Scout handbooks from the public library. After eight hours, I had mastered nothing and had almost hung myself trying to tie a bowline. Equally frustrating were the overhand and the square bow knot. I could not differentiate between the drawing of the piece of twine and the drawings of the arrows that showed what to do with the twine. Every time I doubled the length, looped the middle, ran one end through the loop and the other around it, then pulled … Presto! … the knot disappeared.

In frustration, I hooked up my boat and went fishing, whereupon I was almost immediately forced to secure a bucking 16-foot Lund to a heaving dock in a nasty squall. When the primary consideration became “Get the job done and get out of the rain,” it was granny to the rescue. Two of them.

Last summer, I discovered an inexpensive device called a bungee cord that promised to make weekend camping a pleasure. After a single dry run in the back yard, I found I could bungee down the tent in half the time it usually took using the traditional stakes and ropes. Imagine my disappointment when, on my first camping trip of the summer, my bungees came up missing.

For the umpteenth year in a row, my six-man wall tent went up, tied to pine trees and underbrush with a tangle of ropes secured with a few dozen granny knots.

“What the heck is this?” a fellow camper asked a short time later. He had ambled over to visit and had lingered to finger the knots I had just tied. I expected to hear some criticism.

I know not the sudden source of my inspiration, but without thinking, I answered, “It’s called a triple Ferguson with a sliding glitch. I used it in ’Nam to tie down Hueys.”

Patting a double granny appreciatively with the back of his hand, the man smiled. “Now that’s a knot,” he said. “All I ever learned was the half hitch.”

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