I grew up in a lake town. Lake Shelbyville is a man-made lake, built in the 1960s to protect some farm land from flooding from the Kaskaskia River. The Army Corps of Engineers bought land from Shelbyville north to Sullivan along the river and bridges were built, a lake was excavated, and a dam was put up. My father, like many young men from the area, worked on those crews when he could, in the summers between school years.
When you grow up in a lake town, you either don't care about it much (because it's just always been there) or you're obsessed with it and spend as much time on it as you can, boating, fishing, hanging out on the beach, etc. I was in the "don't care" camp growing up. I've always liked to see my feet when I swim. I'm a pool person all the way. I don't have a fear, it's just what I prefer. The land around the lake is owned by the government, so luckily, there are no houses on it. The lake belongs to the people, not a few rich that can afford the property. I remember having a conversation with an Illinois gubernatorial candidate at a restaurant I worked at, and when he asked where I was from, he knew it because of the lake. "It'd be great if we could get that opened up" he said. I argued against it, and when he asked why, I said "So people like YOU can't say 'get off my lake' to people born and raised there."
The water of Lake Shelbyville is nowhere near as clean and clear as Lake Tahoe. It's not surrounded by mountains or any other pristine land features, just corn fields. But I'm willing to guess that the people of Lake Tahoe love their lake as much as the people of Shelbyville love theirs.
Lake Tahoe is one of the most popular lakes in the United States, and most likely the cleanest. It's the largest alpine lake in the North America and is the largest lake after all the Great Lakes. If it's not popular enough for the clear water and water sports on the lake, the surrounding mountains are very popular for skiing and hiking, not to mention the casinos on the Nevada side.
The Blackwing 73 is a tribute to Lake Tahoe and its beauty. The 73 stands for the Secchi depth reading, which is a clarity reading. It was one of the clearest lakes, but it started to decline, hitting its low point in 1997. Through the efforts of The League to Save Lake Tahoe and other groups, they have gotten their most recent reading to 73. I can't see my feet when I'm waist-deep in Lake Shelbyville. The lacquer is blue (named "Lake Tahoe Blue" by Palomino) and the pencil is printed with a white imprint and a white topographical map wrapped around the pencil. The map is raised, and provides a little grip in the hand. The ferrule is silver this time, and the eraser is white. It's a welcome departure from the gold ferrule, black eraser doldrums we've been in for the last two releases. I like when they play with the colors of these. More colored erasers, please!
The wood is, of course, cedar. I always forget how fragrant a box of Blackwings is until I open a new one. Every pencil should smell like this. But the real draw is the core: MMX! Soft! The softest core they make, from the standard Blackwing. The Volumes series hasn't had a soft core since the 1138. I know some people who will be happy. It doesn't erase the best, and it smudges, but that's to be expected of a core this soft, dark, and smooth.
The extra in the box is a Keep Tahoe Blue sticker, and even more importantly, every sale comes with a $2 donation to the cause. I'm willing to give up something extra to give to a cause like this.
Overall, I like this pencil. They tried some stuff with the printing, which works well, and they gave us a core we haven't seen since the second in the series (unless you wanna buy the boring plain one!). I personally don't like a pencil this super soft for the writing I do, but it is a good sketching pencil and fills a need. Now, for the real need: a year-around Extra Firm pencil...get on it!
Available from Blackwing, $24.95 for 12.