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 Jerry '9-Fingers' Calvert

 Rest in Everlasting Peace


"Fairwell to a Good Friend, Jerry Nine-Fingers Calvert

Our names are Joan, retired Research Assistant, and Apartment Management, and Richard Urata, retired Aerospace Mechanical/Software Engineer.

The first time we met ‘Nine-Fingers’ and his brother Ken ‘Two-Chicken’ Calvert in 1997 at a Knap-In at the Richardson’s Ranch in Oregon. I remember other knappers talking about two the brothers with a gutted out bus so we had to see it. The gutted bus and the stories he told about flintknapping are the things we remembered about the first meeting. I was a beginner in knapping and really enjoyed the stories.

Nine-Fingers said that he planned to host a knap-in in Quartzsite, Arizona and invited us to come to it. That started a long friendship with good memories that will last forever.

I remember going to Glass Buttes, Oregon with Nine-fingers and we camped there for about two weeks. We travelled through the back roads looking for new locations of obsidian. We dug and collected huge boulders enough obsidian to fill the bus up. Then before leaving he had a problem with the bus engine and I wondered how we were going to get out being in the middle of nowhere. He checked and told me to go to town (80 miles away) and get a part from a NAPA dealer. I couldn’t believe that a car dealer would have parts for this old bus! Sure enough, they had one and I brought it back. In the mean time, he tore the engine apart and waiting for me. He then replaced the part. I then realized how excellent a mechanic he was.

We started going to the Quartzsite Knap-in a year after we met Nine-Fingers. The knap-ins started from the first of January through the end of February. We were at almost all of the knap-ins that lasted for about 12 years. Nine-Fingers showed willingness to teach others in the skills of flintknapping with super patience. He had a knack of teaching. There are many master knappers but not many knappers that are both master knappers and excellent teachers. He had unlimited amount of patience. For example a beginner would come to the knap-in and Nine-Fingers would teach him for several days. The beginner would leave then return the next year without practicing at home so Nine-fingers would start teaching the guy all over again. Sometimes this is repeated for 4 to 5 years with the same person.

During the knap-in Nine-fingers would go the ‘hit and miss’ engine event. These engines were built early in the 1900’s. He would buy some that were laying in the fields for 30 to 50 years, all rusted with frozen pistons. I wondered what the hell he wanted them for. Well he worked on them, breaking the piston loose and got them running. Then he would run the engine just to listen to the engine run with it’s distinct hit-and-miss sound.

After the ‘official’ knap-in era came to a close, we continued with ‘unofficial’ knap-ins where about ten of us would get together in the Quartzsite area through January and at the Havasu Lake area through February.

At these events Nine-fingers would take his Kawasaki Mule (off-road 4 seater) almost every day into the desert – just to be in the desert. He would take anyone who were willing to go or he would go by himself. He never asked for gas money on all of the trips. That’s how generous he was. We had to volunteer to pay for the gas. He always had a stash of spam, vienna sausage or smoked oysters with him and many trips we ate spam—his favorite.

On these trips we would collect brass for his re-loading, rocks for flintknapping and pipe making, shafts for arrow, river cane for Native American flute, yucca for rain sticks, apache fiddles and didgeridoos.

He was out there so much that he and Dick Kosan named places like ‘agate beach’. He was so familiar with the terrain that he could find a location a without any problems. I was lost half the time we were in the desert.

Occasionally, Nine-Fingers would take the women dor a day trip in the desert. He would take them to where the, cactus flowers and wild flowers were blooming.

Every year the group would plan on a project to do while in the desert. We made native American flutes out of river cane, Rattlers out of gourds from the desert, Fish traps from the local arrow weeds, arrows from the rocks and shafts from the desert, Apache fiddles from the yucca plant, and the most impressive project was to build a kiln out of mud and rocks to forge knives out of used files.

We all had a good time out there that lasted about twenty years. Super good friendly relationships were formed and good memories that will last forever.

Keep on Knapping Nine-fingers!!!

Richard and Joan

Many Thanks to Mary 'Black Mountain Mary' K Dyrland Webster for the following memories!

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