Australian Handmade Wooden Walking Sticks Built to Last
On Lake Mungo, part of the fossil Willandra Lakes district of NSW, there are a collection of footprints dated at around 20,000 years old, the largest collection of Pleistocene footprints in the world. There are tracks of women and children and overlaying them, the tracks of three men, running very fast, probably in pursuit of prey. One set of tracks shows a right foot only and beside some of those right foot prints are the marks of what looks like a stick, used to help the one legged runner make long powerful strides and possibly the earliest evidence of a walking stick ever.
It is not hard to imagine even earlier humans using a stick to help in crossing rough or steep ground and even lowland gorillas have been seen using long sticks to help themselves across streams, so the walking stick in its basic form has been around a long time.
Ancient Greek and Egyptian artefacts show sticks of varying types being used for different purposes - long staffs for ceremonial purposes or as aids for the aged, short sticks with cross pieces on top for use as crutches which evolved into the modern T bar walking stick. Throughout the history of both western and eastern Christianity as well as Islam, the staff has been an ecclesiastical symbol which is still current today.
A good stout walking stick is an extremely useful thing and can be used for bush bashing, clearing cobwebs, testing the depth of streams and puddles, fending off assailants, attacking miscreants, it can be slung across the shoulders to carry buckets of water or other belongings, it can be used to poke down holes, to stir the grass for snakes, to hit something to attract attention - the list is endless - and the term ' a good stick' applied to an honest, decent, straightforward person needs no explanation.
At some stage walking sticks became a fashion accessory for men which is when a great variety of styles and decoration became available with handles being made from silver, bronze, bone, ivory, precious wood and those handles carved, embossed, inlaid with gems and pearl and generally embellished in myriad ways. The main styles of walking stick or cane are the T bar , the Knob handle , the tall hiking staff and the hooked American style cane, used to great effect by the tap dancing Fred Astaire and on other less entertaining showmen to haul them off the stage before the audience started throwing things.
A walking stick, and particularly a wooden one, is one of those elemental objects whose evolution from literally a stick to its modern, sophisticated form can be so clearly seen as to be a no brainer. Out for a walk, who has not picked up a stick, whooshed it around, leant on it when walking up a steep hill and, in essence, indulged a very old instinct. I think we all have.