Humdog on Native pencils.

For a long time I lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains, in Central California. It’s damp up there, cold, and gray most of the year. My house was heated by a environmentally-correct woodstove. In the mountains, because of the weather, after a while, you get a little book-ish. Down the highway about 10 miles or so, in the city of Santa Cruz, well, there was an art supply store called Palace Arts. This store carried Blackfeet Indian Pencils. Now I grant you that I have always been a pencil freak. It’s just now, with your wonderful site, I can come out of the closet about it. I have always loved pencils. Some of my favorites have been, over time, the Venus Goddess, the old yellow Mongol #1, Black Warrior #1, and the Tombow Mono B. The Blackwing, of course, cannot be mentioned in the same sentence with any other pencil. It is the high chieftain of all pencils. Somewhere, however, between the Blackwing and the Tombow Mono B, there is a place for the Blackfeet Indian #2. A person who understood me really well once gave me a gross of Mongol #1 pencils for Christmas one year. I was happy for months.

The Blackfeet Indian is almost impossible to buy now, but I remember a time when I could go to Palace Arts in Santa Cruz and buy them by the dozen. They are beautiful: simple hardwood, lots of grain, very simply varnished. The eraser worked like a Pink Pearl, and although you could get them with a gold ferrule, my favorite version is the one with the black ferrule. It looked so minimally beautiful, matching the simple black print on the pencil body. The gold ferrule, to my eye, was a little too flashy, a little too Hollywood. I loved the black. The lead was magnificent. It was never gritty. The line was an impressive black. It did not smear. It held a point pretty well, and what’s even more impressive, I never had a Blackfeet Indian pencil turn into one of those nightmare pencils that break when you sharpen them, and the lead never fell out of the wood after sharpening, either. The lead in these pencils also would last. I bear down when I write and I can use up a Faber Castell Grip 2001 in a couple days. Not so with the Blackfeet Indian pencil. The weight of this pencil was also wonderful, not too heavy, not too light. Some newer pencils, well it feels like the wood is really dried out to the point of where the pencil lends no weight to the writing job. You have to bear down to get a line, some. The Blackfeet, well, it is equal to the task of writing.

I am an internet ranter. When it became clear to me that it was going to be hard to get more Blackfeet pencils through stores, I began to beg them from my pals on the net. A dear friend in Minnesota found that she had a whole box of them, and she sent them to me. She doesn’t use pencils. I have given single pencils from my stash as special gifts to dear friends. Some of them upon receiving these pencils, look at me a little strangely. But I always smile at them and say: there is a poem, or a story, or a drawing, in that pencil, waiting to come out for you. Then the odd look melts into a grin, usually. I only have about a half dozen of these pencils left. I have been looking for suitable substitutes. Consequently I have an embarrassing number of pencils in my house, of which only the General Cedar #2 and the Pacific Music Papers “Magic Writer” come anywhere near the Blackfeet Indian Pencil. The General #2 is a little gritty for my taste, although the aesthetics of the pencil itself are magnificent. The “Magic Writer” has a good lead, except it wears down too fast. Ideally, my pencil would LOOK like the General Cedar, and behave like the Tombow Mono B or 2B. Right now I am writing with a Staedtler 4B lead in a red Koh-i-Noor Lead holder. It’s a little thick for me, but at least the line is black. I bought some TriConderoga pencils, and while I like those, I am not in love.

Based on what I read on your site, I bought some Palominos and some Forest Choice. I am hoping that one of these will be my new Blackfeet Indian Pencil.

What I want to know is this: why is it that when people make something that actually works, like the Blackwing and the Blackfeet pencil, that automatically it just goes away? For example: for a while, I could get the Noris ErgoSoft HB at Office Depot. Now this pencil is both elegant and functional. It doesn’t sharpen away into a nub in two days. The pencil is also beautiful to behold – it has a real Art Deco paint job. Everything works on this pencil, and it’s 3 bucks a half dozen — Okay, so a little expensive. But Office Depot won’t carry this pencil anymore. Nope. You want to buy a pencil at Office Depot you have to settle for a school pencil. Now I’m not in love with the Dixon Ticonderoga #2, but I love the #1. I’m willing to deal with the yellow paint for the sake of the lead. Can you find a #1 at Office Depot or Staples? No. At Office Depot or Staples, I can buy all the cheap Pentech atrocities I want. But no Noris, No Ticonderoga #1. For Dixon #1, I have to go to a store across town. For Noris Ergosoft, I have to buy online – General Cedar and Black Warrior #1 I can only get on line, too. To get Mitsubishi or Tombow pencils (and Japanese woodcase pencils are EXCELLENT) I have to drive downtown to Kinokuniya bookstore in Los Angeles. I can get the Faber-Castell GRIP 2001 in stores, but not the excellent Faber-Castell 9000 (and it is, to my way of thinking, a much better pencil).

Sometimes all of this drives me to use a Pentel .9 mechanical pencil, but that does not make my soul happy. I write for a living. I want REAL pencils.

Thank you, I feel better now.

(Many thanks to Humdog for a great contribution!)

[Text, Humdog, used with very kind permission. Image, J.G.]

32 Replies to “Humdog on Native pencils.”

  1. Humdog –

    Unfortunately you are correct that there is declining availability of quality woodcased pencils for general writing purposes except through catalog & internet sales or a smaller and smaller number of independent office or school supply stores. Typical product selection decisions are controlled by ever more powerful retailers whose merchandise managers are generally inexperienced with respect to product performance features. Their own job performance is measured simply by the return on investment generated per square inch of shelf space. This leads to ever more limited product selection and increasingly low price, low quality private label pencils. The more limited space allocation to the upper end performance products goes to products like the Ticonderoga with sufficient brand recognition and high volume production economies to compete at prices below those of other high end pencils.

    In the case of the Blackfeet Indian Pencil it’s distribution was always through smaller stores and novelty type channels. Eventually, they had financial difficulty and were unable to pay for raw materials and continue operations. While the equipment is still in place and we have occassional inquiries from former managers about wood supply to restarting operations, this seems unlikely as they lack necessary funding.

    After the New Year I intend to add a series of “vintage pencil” auctions to the Pencil World Site so perhpas you’ll see some Blackfeet there sometime.

    FYI – Blackfeet pencil was also a Cedar pencil as opposed to hardwood as you indicate.

    Thanks for your recent Palomino purchase and we hope you’ll like them as your new favorite.

  2. I like dark-writing pencils too, but unfortunately the darkness of a pencil seems distressingly proportional to the ease with which it wears out, both in my experience and in the reservations expressed here about otherwise fine dark pencils. A pencil that seems to have navigated this conundrum reasonably well is the Papermate EarthWrite. It seems to be a lineal descendent of the Eberhard Faber EcoWriter — the marks of the two feel the same.

    The names of these pencils obviously tout their ecofriendliness (and the Earthwrites that I have are colored green to hammer that hint in — although their current web picture has them yellow-bellied like the rest). Whatever its ecological virtues, the EarthWrite writes very well. It has a dark line, catches the paper satisfyingly, and keeps its point longer. Its girth seems a smidgeon smaller than that of other hexagonal pencils, even from Papermate, but I like holding it well enough. Its eraser, also colored a self-congratulatory green, is unfortunately a smudging excrescence. You can’t have everything, I guess.

    The EarthWrite is readily available online and at your local Staples. Costs about 10c each.

  3. This was a terrifc read! Thank you for posting it.
    Speaking of Black Warrior #1s, how do they compare to the Ticonderoga #1s? Also, I noticed the Dixon Enviro Stiks at the Ticonderoga website–has anyone used these? Ditto the Ticonderoga Woodgrains.

  4. The points wear down in proportion to the darkness of the line because it is the point that is wearing away in making the line at all. More line=less point:)

  5. Humdog,

    I also enjoyed giving these as gifts. I recall that a dozen were available in either a plain cardboard box, or a wooden box – a nice touch for a pencil that so emphasized the woodgrain. I got them via a niche channel just as Woodchuck mentioned – a catalogue that specialized in midwest crafts. Strangely enough, I did think that these might be very hard to find again, and ordered quite a few.

    I just found a photo of the Blackfeet Writing Instruments factory.

  6. A pencil (dark or not) can’t write forever of course. But there does seem to be a difference across pencils. Most of the graphite in a 2mm or bigger core is “wasted” anyway — it is only the graphite that’s close to central axis of the core cylinder that is used for actual writing in a pencil whose point is being diligently preserved.

    A dark yet somewhat longer lasting pencil seems to be more efficient in paying out this central bit of graphite, instead of flattening out too quickly at the first application of point to paper. Perhaps it has to do with the material around the core being engineered to erode less easily, so the material in the center has enough opportunity to strut its stuff before the inevitable next sharpening.

  7. I too m iss the blackfeet #2 pencils. I used them almost exclusively during my 5 years as an undergrad student at the Univ of Michigan. i was first introduced to them at the local People’s Food Co-op, where the uber politically correct hippie types carried them becasue the pencils were made by native Americans in the Blackfoot Nation’s territory. I was sad to find out that the company had gone out of business. Then I changed over to mechanical pencils.

  8. thanks for your kind comments.

    i just made a huge score of blackfeet indian pencils on ebay, bought 2 boxes. i also bought some palominos, and forest choice and golden bear pencils also. the closest thing to the blackfeet pencil, in my opinion, is the Palomino B. i really think that the Blackfeet was somewhere between the palomino B and the palomino HB. the forest choice is a nice pencil, not as buttery as the palomino. the golden bear pencil is great, too. speaking as a native californian, i just have to love the golden bear on general principle. don’t get me wrong, by the way, the Palomino, Forest Choice, and Golden Bear are all great pencils in the same league with the Staedtler Ergosoft HB. i suspect that if the Palomino had a 3B or a 4B, it would be as good as the blackwing. i know that they say the turquoise 3b or 4b (i forget which) is supposed to be the same as the blackwing, but it ain’t. i bought both of them, and they’re both a lot grittier than the blackwing. oh yeah, and the forest choice colored pencils are great.

  9. This blog is fantastic. Had I not wanted to sew all day, I would have been purchasing pencils, as it is I have it in my head that I need the Translation Pencils

  10. I needed a pencil, pronto, like for yesterday. Ran to Office Depot and grabbed the first doz within reach, “USA Office Depot #2” a whopping .68 cents on sale, wow, a bargain, until…
    I began to sharpen it…continued to sharpen it…couldn’t stop shaprpening it…couldn’t get a point… then, a nub, practically. (The lead kept breaking as soon as it was out of the ultra-modern, electric pencil-sharpener and letter-opener, gads, maybe even a coffe-maker).
    Gave up on them after the first pencil. But I did do something with them: Went back to Office Depot, handed them back to the clerk, “thanks, but no thanks, keep the change”. Then bought a Pantel Quicker Clicker automatic pencil… (sighs with down-cast eyes).
    hehe

  11. we used to get blackfeet indian #2 Pencils at the Boeing Company, back in the 1980s – they were just standard office supplies that the company bought.
    I wish we had them now.
    Regarding the Faber Castell 9000, Fahrneys Pens in Washington DC (they have a webstore) carries them – a bit pricey – they sell the commemorative tin with a big eraser and a Faber Castell pencil topper, for $27 bucks.
    the pencil topper (with its concealed sharpener) is worth it.
    And yes, the Palomino is the new BEST THING EVER!

  12. The mention of “plastic” erasers gives me pause. Is the eraser on a woodcased pencil the only part of it that is nonbiodegradable then? Or should I worry about that only when the eraser is white?

  13. This is a cool discussion. I’ve been looking for the perfect mechanical pencil. This may be way off since you all are talking wooden pencils, but I’m wondering if you all have any thoughts. S

  14. the university of minnesota sells black feet pencils. i took the ACT with one and did very well. i credited it to the pencil, which now i realize is very good.

  15. We were going through a pile of my dad’s high school things, and we found a full box of Blackfeet Indian pencils, and I’m absolutely in love with them. I looked in the box and found that they were all gone! Tragedy… So, I’m looking for a source to buy some…

  16. Anyone know the psychological thing behind using pencils, rather than pens. Some psycho I work with said that it was because I wanted to be able to fix mistakes. It was funny because I was actually offended that she related using a pencil to the eraser, not the feel of the led scratching over the paper as you write. I just like the feel of it and the way it looks on paper and wood. Something about the wood and led is so basic and uncomplicated, old fashioned. The presentation a pencil gives is unlike any other writing instrument.

  17. hi all,
    i was wondering if someone could tell me about the lead darkness and smoothness of american pencils. how do the palomino and forest choice pencils compare with the earthwrite?

    i too find it difficult to get pencils that write dark and smooth and dont smudge easily. i found one pencil several months ago from a unknown cheap brand but are now unavailable. I like a pencil that writes dark and smooth. Does anyone have personal recommendations?

    thanks!

  18. Forest Choice and Earthwrite pencils are both made with the planet in mind, but the similarities end there:) Forest Choice has a better eraser, is fragrant cedar and has a much smoother and somewhat darker core. I find that nearly any dark pencil will smear a little, but Palominos and FC pencils are extremely smear-resistant for their darkness. The Palomino is made in Japan, the FC in Thailand.

    For American pencils, if you want dark and smooth, you can’t go wrong with any #2/HB Dixon Ticonderoga. The Tri-Write and “Black” are lovely, and they have a nice clear-finished version, too, though it’s hard to find in stores.

    Also of note are #1/B Mirados, which are smooth and dark and neat, but also hard to find in retail stores (though I believe our friend Don has them at Pencil Things). They run along the lines of a #2 Dixon, but the yellow is not as…loud:)

    Let us know how you make out!

  19. I adore my Blackfeet Indian pencils, which I received as a gift as a child. They came in the wooden box someone mentioned earlier. Even when I was younger, I thought they were superior pencils. It’s nice to see others feel the same way.

  20. I appreciated your thoughts on pencils. I’m looking at some blackfeet 2 2/4 pencils that are painted yellow. I’m a carpenter and appreciate a good pencil for what I do and I like the slightly harder lead.
    Do you know if I can expect the leads in the yellow-painted blackfeet pencils to have the same loveable qualities as the natural finished ones you mention?

    Thanks,
    John

  21. Me again…since I posted that last post, I realized that the Blackfeet pencils I’m considering are several styles. There are TrueArrow, Exacta and Sundance. Is there a way to find out the differences in these?

    Thanks again,
    John

  22. I can’t believe this – I did not know that other people love pencils as much as I do. I have been hoarding my Blackfeet Indian Pencils for over ten years – using them only for special writing occasions so they would last. I have six left, in the original paper box marked “certified organic”, which is tucked nicely into the wooden collectors box. Glory days!

  23. The Blackfeet Indian Pencils have become quite sacred to me, I hope the guy who said he uses them as kindling was joking. I have been an Artist for 35 years, Commercial Art then switching to Fine Art. I purchsed every box of Blackfeet Indian Pencils from my nephew’s Boy Scout fund raiser back in the 1980’s. They are the best drawing pencils ever made.

    There is something special about the lead and the feel of the pencil. I’ve done maybe five special pencil pieces of art, all with the Blackfeet Indian Pencil. The last piece i did was last year and the piece was acepted into the Midwest Museum of American Art Art Competition.

    I have two pencils left and no one gets to use them. I came on line to see where I could purchase more pencils and came across this site. I primarily use the pencils to sign my art prints. Finding out that they are not being manufactured any more is a travesty to Blackfeet Indians, American history and Artists worldwide.

    These pencils have a magic quality to them, especially when used on high quality paper. I use D’Arches 140 bright white hot press paper. It has a very smooth surface, but takes the Blackfeet Indian Pencil lead as the perfect marriage.

    I know in life things don’t last, however, The Blackfeet Indian pencil should be brought back just like the White Buffalo. Some things are sacred in your heart, The Blackfeet Indian Pencil is sacred in your hand.

    Scott L. Hendrie
    scottlhendrie.com

  24. I want to thank you so much for your information on Blackfeet pencils. I am selling a set of #2 pencils on Ebay and really didn’tknow what I was selling??

    Thanks again
    Molly

  25. Interesting post. I belong to another conference and we have a very talented writer there, Kent Ballard, who wove what I thought was just a great story. In fact, much, if not all, of his story appears to be accurate. You may be interested in it. Here ’tis:

    If that Kent Ballard ain’t jest the dad-gummest bestest story teller I ever did hear . . . just follow this here dialogue . . . . and see for your own self!

    —– Original Message —–
    From: Kent Ballard
    To: keyboard_and_stylus@yahoogroups.com
    Sent: Thursday, March 13, 2008 9:43 PM
    Subject: [K&S] Diana’s pencil

    > Lyle Davis wrote:
    >> >From the world’s most beautiful chiropractor, Lisa White, who got 21.

    >> I, Lyle Davis, got a measly 15.

    Diana writes:

    > 17, and I missed the number of sides on a pencil AS I HELD ONE IN MY
    HAND AND COUNTED.
    > grumble (it was my only cheat on the test too)

    > – D

    Good Lord, girl! Hang on to that pencil! No, wait–take it and put it in a
    bank lock box and keep it under lock and key until you can make the
    necessary arrangements.

    That pencil may be worth many thousands of dollars and could well be a
    figure of historical importance.

    I shall explain.

    Although most folks don’t know it, the majority of pencils used in the
    United States are manufactured by the Blackfoot Indians. This here is a
    fact. To fight off the poverty that hounds almost all Native Americans on
    their various reservations, the Blackfoot tribal council decided to open a
    small pencil factory just after WW II. They made a simple, good quality
    pencil. For years they were all yellow and stamped “Blackfoot” on the
    side. We went through scores of them when we were kids doing our homework.
    You have surely seen the Blackfoot logo. Some were yellow and made
    completely round (and of a larger diameter) to fit a small child’s hand.
    The rest were yellow and trimmed with multiple “facets” to hold well and
    firmly in an adult’s hand. These were either labeled simply “Blackfoot” or
    “Blackfoot No. 2”.

    In the early Fifties the Blackfoot tribal council began to get requests
    for “advertising pencils”, pencils which had the names and logos of
    various businesses. It was a great way to spread your business name around
    and once the Blackfoot made a few batches of them, their business took off
    like a skyrocket. The Blackfoot Indians were the first to make custom-logo
    pencils and they had to enlarge their factories several times through the
    Sixties and early Seventies. They’re still the major producer of logo
    pencils.

    All this is fine and good, a happy story of a poor tribe using good
    judgment and business sense to get along in a white man’s world. Except
    for one little flaw…

    Back in the early 1800’s, when the Native Americans still owned most of
    the central, northern, and western United States, the Blackfoot were
    hellacious warriors and all-around troublemakers in the Plains Indian
    world.

    They were renowned for their tracking capabilities, their skill at
    hunting, and their apparently genetic hatred for anyone who was not
    another Blackfoot. This included other Indians and all white people.
    Abraham Lincoln’s short tour of duty in the Army was spent fighting
    Blackfoot war parties.

    The Blackfoot were so deranged and violent, in fact, they were among the
    first of the western Native American tribes brought completely to heel by
    the Army, and only then after nearly thirty years of hard fighting.

    There were two tribes, the Blackfoot and the Crow, who–once they realized
    they were unquestionably whipped by the white man’s Army–immediately saw
    the handwriting on the wall and swapped sides. Both the Blackfoot and Crow
    offered braves to ride with U.S. Cavalry units. They could literally track
    a single man miles over bare rock. When these scouts led the troopers to
    whatever the Indian victims du jour were going to be, they’d lay back,
    stay out of the fighting, and let the whites go about their business of
    killing and rounding up all the other tribes too. It was assumed, both
    then and now, that the Blackfoot did not do this to assist the Army. They
    did it because they still hated the other tribes.

    The Army eventually learned not to mix Blackfoot and Crow scouts in the
    same units, as the Crows would wind up mysteriously dead. When questioned
    about it, the Blackfoot scouts were all wide-eyed innocents, even if the
    knives in their belts were still dripping blood. To the paleface’s way of
    looking at things, they were both Indians. But from a Blackfoot’s
    perspective, a Crow was not a Blackfoot.

    Crow and Blackfoot scouts rode with General Custer, who was wise to their
    ways and assigned extra troops to watch the Blackfoot scouts around the
    clock. They eventually led him exactly where he wanted to go, to the great
    rendezvous of the Sioux and Cheyenne nations on the Little Bighorn River.
    Crow scouts sneaked forward far enough to get a good look at the titanic
    encampment and came back, telling Custer to forget it. If he rode into
    that valley he would never ride out. The Blackfoot, when consulted by
    Custer and his officers, told him the Crow were cowards, always were and
    always had been. Go on. Yellow Hair was a mighty warrior and he could take
    the encampment, no sweat. After the battle was over, two Blackfoot scouts
    were the only living witnesses, along with several thousand surviving
    Sioux and Cheyenne.

    Sitting Bull, years later upon learning that Blackfoot scouts had been
    involved in the matter, blamed them more than he blamed the whites. He had
    learned since childhood of the treachery and meanness of the accursed
    Blackfoot. The Sioux and Blackfoot had tangled several times before the
    coming of the white man. From Sitting Bull’s undying accusations and
    hatred for the Blackfoot, the word was spread to all Lakota people–the
    Blackfoot were enemies and would remain so until there were no more
    Blackfoot left to pollute the world.

    The white man, as usual, remained ignorant of all this.

    Okay. Now fast-forward to 1952.

    The Blackfoot were prospering and the Sioux were living like dirt in their
    reservations. Hopelessness, lack of educational opportunities, alcoholism,
    and actual hunger stalked the once-mighty Sioux nation. The Sioux took
    note of this and were considerably angered by it. Many young men in the
    Sioux nation began to talk of making some kind of trouble with the
    Blackfoot. Tribal elders tried to stop the talk, but it spread. Matters
    came to a head in January, 1952, when the Blackfoot announced yet another
    large pencil contract that would bring more wealth into their nation.

    Young renegade Sioux decided to count coup on the Blackfoot and take them
    down a notch by burning their pencil factories. If this sounds ridiculous,
    think about all the history of the Indians and the white man from the time
    they first laid eyes on each other. If you dwell on that for a moment, it
    isn’t actually all that surprising or unusual-sounding.

    The young hot-heads contacted relatives and fellow tribesmen who lived off
    the reservation for assistance. Many responded. On the bitterly cold night
    of January 9th, 1951, during a near-blizzard, forty-one cars and trucks
    pulled up to the gates of the Sioux reservation. The renegades, full of
    whiskey and years of hatred, were assembled there and quickly loaded into
    the vehicles. They sat off for the Blackfoot reservation just after sunset
    and arrived much later that night. The cars and pickups doused their
    lights and cut their engines, coasting to the unmanned gate of the
    Blackfoot reservation. From there they broke into a silent, single-file
    trot for the massive pencil factory.

    There had not been a Sioux war party in living memory, and the lack of
    practice soon made itself evident. Things went awry immediately. Having
    broken into the darkened pencil factory the drunken Sioux first realized
    no one had brought a flashlight. Then a member of their war party tripped
    over a five gallon bucket of yellow pencil paint, startling the rest, and
    a fist fight broke out. This was only brought under control when someone
    turned the factory lights on. This alerted the lone 81 year old night
    watchman at the far end of the plant. He did not know who was fighting
    whom at the far end of the factory, but his eyes were sharp enough to see
    that they were Native Americans, some in war paint, and that he didn’t
    recognize any of them. The ancient Blackfoot gene kicked in, and he
    sounded the factory whistle. Lights came on in homes all across the
    reservation.

    By the time the furious and liquored-up Sioux came to their senses and
    discovered they’d been fighting each other in the dark, hordes of
    Blackfoot workers and tribal policemen were rushing towards the building
    carrying everything from fire extinguishers to truncheons to antique
    cap-and-ball pistols which had been hidden from the damned white men for
    over a century.

    There was no time to commit the sabotage and set the elaborate fires
    they’d talked about. Outnumbered over a hundred to one, the Sioux ran
    through the factory, throwing railroad flares and knocking over anything
    that looked important. The only real damage done was when one dazed
    “warrior” ran headlong into a control panel and dented the entire fixture
    with his face. As he slid down to the floor his hand hit a switch. He was
    quickly scooped up by fellow Sioux who dared not leave him to the mercies
    of the Blackfoot who were trying to crowd in the back door and screaming
    death threats in two languages at the intruders.

    One quick-thinking Sioux noticed the main fuse box just inside the front
    door, where the group was making its escape, and threw the plant back into
    darkness. (He also punched the elderly Blackfoot guard out cold.)

    The raiding party made its way to the reservation gate and threw
    themselves into the backs of pickup trucks and jumped onto the running
    boards of cars, all screaming for the drivers to take off as quickly as
    possible. This they did at twenty miles an hour, which was as quickly as
    possible under the weather circumstances.

    For reasons that were never made clear, the Blackfoot blamed the raid on
    the Arapaho nation and for more than a decade later beat every Arapaho
    they could find within an inch of his life.

    They collected the few flares that had been tossed in the factory, put out
    the two small fires they had started, cursed and fumed, and went back to
    bed that night. The next morning pencil production went on unhindered.
    Save for one detail…

    The switch thrown by the collapsing Sioux warrior controlled the planing
    mechanism that put the faces (or “facets”) on the pencils in their final
    shaping phase. Instead of the industry-wide standard hexagon, a six-sided
    pencil, they were turning out *septagonal*, or seven-sided pencils. They
    made and shipped approximately fifteen thousand of these before the
    mistake was discovered and corrected that afternoon.

    Among pencil collectors (yes, there are such people), the seven-sided
    Blackfoot “war pencil” is the cat’s pajamas in the hobby. The last one
    sold at public auction in St. Louis brought a record $25,500. And it was
    merely a two-inch stub with the eraser entirely used up and gone. It had
    been found underneath an old train station that was being torn down in
    Augusta, Georgia by a man who’d recently read about–and laughed at–the
    obscure hobby of pencil collecting.

    I read about him, and that’s where all this information came from. This
    also brings up a stunning possibility found in one of Tess’ old photograph
    albums. There is a picture of a man who looks quite a bit like her father,
    leaning against the driver’s door of a bullet-riddled 1949 Ford pickup
    truck and five grinning men around him. All have the familiar features of
    the Native American Indian. One of the men has a large bandage plastered
    across his nose.

    Could it really be? Could these be the men who…?

    Well, we’ll never know. But your seven-sided pencil, whatever condition it
    is in, is a genuine historical artifact, one of the very few to survive to
    this day, a solid remnant of the Last Indian War known to take place in
    North America.

    You’re not just rich, kid. You’re filthy rich. Steenking rich. When you
    find the right buyer for your pencil, do me a favor. Go into the nearest
    bar, buy yourself a scotch on the rocks, and set up everyone in the
    tavern. Tell them “This here drink is for Kent and the Lakota peoples and
    don’t you bastards forget it!”

    Kent, whose wife’s other relatives were in the Luftwaffe

  26. The Blackfeet Indian Writing Company started in 1972. In 1991 the Tribal Council made management resign and reapply for their jobs. No one was hired back! They gave the company to the employees who had no experience. They changed the name to Blackfeet Writing Instruments and it closed the doors shortly after. In its best year the sales were 5.8 milion dollars.

  27. Excellent website.

    What’s the DARKEST, BLACKEST, THICKEST, HEAVIEST-WRITING pencil that you can advise?

    Immensely thankye

  28. Hi Humdog,

    I really enjoyed your story, since I love pencils myself. So I absolutely understand all the “minor details” about pencils :-) It was just great to read with how much passion you wrote about them. If you want I can send you a few European pencils as a little present (such as Faber Castell 9000) and you can send me back a few American pencils which I adore but can’t get here in Europe (such as “U.S.A. Gold”, “Palomino Bear Orange” or the “Dixon Oriole” that I can’t even order via Amazon). I can make the start :-) Just pop me your mailing address into the e-mail and I’ll send you a few :-) Best regards from Europe!

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