I have spoken only of brass or copper wire for snells, and for pickerel or mascalonge of large size nothing else is to be depended on. But for trout and bass; strong gut or gimp is safe enough. The possibilities as to size of the mascalonge and Northern pickerel no man knows. Frank Forester thinks it probable that the former attains to the weight of sixty to eighty pounds, while he only accords the pickerel a weight of seventeen to eighteen pounds. I have seen several pickerel of over forty pounds and one that turned the scale at fifty-three. And I saw a mascalonge on Georgian Bay that was longer than the Canuck guide who was toting the fish over his shoulder by a stick thrust in the mouth and gills. The snout reached to the top of the guide's head, while the caudal fin dragged on the ground. There was no chance for weighing the fish, but I hefted him several times, carefully, and am certain he weighed more than a bushel of wheat. Just what tackle would be proper for such a powerful fellow I am not prepared to say, having lost the largest specimens I ever hooked. My best mascalonge weighed less than twenty pounds. My largest pickerel still less.
I will close this discursive chapter by offering a bit of advice.
Do not go into the woods on a fishing tour without a stock of well cleansed angle-worms. Keep them in a tin can partly filled with damp moss and in a cool moist place. There is no one variety of bait that the angler finds so constantly useful as the worm. Izaak Walton by no means despised worm or bait-fishing.
CHAPTER VI Camp Cookery—How It Is Usually Done, With A Few Simple Hints On Plain Cooking—Cooking Fire And Outdoor Range
THE way in which an average party of summer outers will contrive to manage—or mismanage—the camp and campfire so as to get the greatest amount of smoke and discontent at the least outlay of time and force, is something past all understanding and somewhat aggravating to an old woodsman who knows some better. But it is just as good fun as the cynical O.W. can ask, to see a party of three or four enthusiastic youngsters organize the camp on the first day in, and proceed to cook the first meal. Of course, every man is boss, and every one is bound to build the fire, which every one proceeds to do. There are no back logs, no fore sticks, and no arrangement for level solid bases on which to place frying pans, coffee pots, etc. But, there is a sufficiency of knots, dry sticks, bark and chunks, with some kindling at the bottom, and a heavy volume of smoke working its way through the awkward-looking pile. Presently thin tongues of blue flame begin to shoot up through the interstices, and four brand new coffee pots are wriggled into level positions at as many different points on the bonfire. Four hungry youngsters commence slicing ham and pork, four frying pans are brought out from as many hinged and lidded soap boxes—when one man yells out hurriedly, "Look out, Joe, there's your coffee pot handle coming off." And he drops his frying pan to save his coffee pot, which he does, minus the spout and handle. Then it is seen that the flames have increased rapidly, and all the pots are in danger. A short, sharp skirmish rescues them, at the expense of some burned fingers, and culinary operations are the order of the hour.
Coffee and tea are brewed with the loss of a handle or two, and the frying pans succeed in scorching the pork and ham to an unwholesome black mess. The potato kettle does better. It is not easy to spoil potatoes by cooking them in plenty of boiling water; and, as there is plenty of bread with fresh butter, not to mention canned goods, the hungry party feed sufficiently, but not satisfactorily. Everything seems pervaded with smoke. The meat is scorched bitter, and the tea is of the sort described by Charles Dudley Warner, in his humorous description of "camping out": "The sort of tea that takes hold, lifts the hair, and disposes the drinker to hilariousness. There is no deception about it, it tastes of tannin, and spruce, and creosote." Of the cooking he says: "Everything has been cooked in a tin pail and a skillet—potatoes, tea, pork, mutton, slapjacks. You wonder how everything would have been prepared in so few utensils. When you eat, the wonder ceases, everything might have been cooked in one pail. It is a noble meal...The slapjacks are a solid job of work, made to last, and not go to pieces in a person's stomach like a trivial bun."
I have before me a copy of Forest and Stream, in which the canoe editor, under the heading of "The Galley Fire," has some remarks well worth quoting. He says: "The question of camp cookery is one of the greatest importance to all readers of Forest and Stream, but most of all to the canoeists. From ignorance of what to carry the canoeist falls back on canned goods, never healthy as a steady diet, Brunswick soup and eggs...The misery of that first campfire, who has forgotten it? Tired, hungry, perhaps cold and wet, the smoke everywhere, the coffee pot melted down, the can of soup upset in the fire, the fiendish conduct of frying pan and kettle, the final surrender of the exhausted victim, sliding off to sleep with a piece of hardtack in one hand and a slice of canned beef in the other, only to dream of mother's hot biscuits, juicy steaks, etc., etc." It is very well put, and so true to the life. And again: "Frying, baking, making coffee, stews, plain biscuits, the neat and speedy preparation of a healthy 'square meal' can be easily learned." Aye, and should be learned by every man who goes to the woods with or without a canoe.
But I was describing a first day's camping out, the party being four young men and one old woodsman, the latter going along in a double character of invited guest and amateur guide. When the boys are through with their late dinner, they hustle the greasy frying pans and demoralized tinware into a corner of the shanty, and get out their rods for an evening's fishing. They do it hurriedly, almost feverishly, as youngsters are apt to do at the start. The O.W. has taken no part in the dinner, and has said nothing save in response to direct questions, nor has he done anything to keep up his reputation as a woodsman, except to see that the shelter roof is properly put up and fastened. Having seen to this, he reverts to his favorite pastime, sitting on a log and smoking navy plug. Long experience has taught him that it is best to let the boys effervesce a little. They will slop over a trifle at first, but twenty-four hours will settle them. When they are fairly out of hearing, he takes the old knapsack from the clipped limb where it has been hung, cuts a slice of ham, butters a slice of bread, spreads the live coals and embers, makes a pot of strong green tea, broils the ham on a three-pronged birch fork, and has a clean, well cooked plain dinner. Then he takes the sharp three-pound camp axe, and fells a dozen small birch and ash trees, cutting them into proper lengths and leaving them for the boys to tote into camp. Next, a bushy, heavy-topped hemlock is felled, and the O.W. proceeds leisurely to pick a heap of fine hemlock browse. A few handfuls suffice to stuff the muslin pillow bag, and the rest is carefully spread on the port side of the shanty for a bed. The pillow is placed at the head, and the old Mackinac blanket-bag is spread neatly over all, as a token of ownership and possession. If the youngsters want beds of fine, elastic browse, let 'em make their own beds.
No campfire should be without poker and tongs. The poker is a beech stick four feet long by two inches thick, flattened at one end, with a notch cut in it for lifting kettles, etc. To make the tongs, take a tough beech or hickory stick, one inch thick by two feet in length, shave it down nearly one-half for a foot in the center, thrust this part into hot embers until it bends freely, bring the ends together and whittle them smoothly to a fit on the inside, cross checking them also to give them a grip; finish off by chamfering the ends neatly from the outside. They will be found exceedingly handy in rescuing a bit of tinware, a slice of steak or ham, or any small article that happens to get dropped in a hot fire.
And don't neglect the camp broom. It is made by laying bushy hemlock twigs around a light handle, winding them firmly with strong twine or moose wood bark, and chopping off the ends of the twigs evenly. It can be made in ten minutes. Use it to brush any leaves, sticks, and any litter from about the camp or fire. Neatness is quite as pleasant and wholesome around the forest camp as in the home kitchen. These little details may seem trivial to the reader. But remember, if there is a spot on earth where trifles make up the sum of human enjoyment, it is to be found in a woodland camp. All of which the O.W. fully appreciates, as he finishes the above little jobs; after which he proceeds to spread the fire to a broad level bed of glowing embers, nearly covering the same with small pieces of hemlock bark, that the boys may have a decent cooking fire on their return.
About sundown they come straggling in, not jubilant and hilarious, footsore rather and a little cross. The effervescence is subsiding, and the noise is pretty well knocked out of them. They have caught and dressed some three score of small brook trout, which they deposit beside the shanty, and proceed at once to move on the fire, with evident intent of raising a conflagration, but are checked by the O.W., who calls their attention to the fact that for all culinary purposes, the fire is about as near the right thing as they are likely to get it. Better defer the bonfire until after supper. Listening to the voice of enlightened woodcraft, they manage to fry trout and make tea without scorch or creosote, and the supper is a decided improvement on the dinner. But the dishes are piled away as before, without washing.
Then follows an hour of busy work, bringing wood to camp and packing browse. The wood is sufficient; but the browse is picked, or cut, all too coarse, and there is only enough of it to make the camp look green and pleasant—not enough to rest weary shoulders and backs. But, they are sound on the bonfire. They pile on the wood in the usual way, criss-cross and haphazard. It makes a grand fire, and lights up the forest for fifty yards around, and the tired youngsters turn in. Having the advantage of driving a team to the camping ground, they are well supplied with blankets and robes. They ought to sleep soundly, but they don't. The usual drawbacks of a first night in camp are soon manifested in uneasy twistings and turnings, grumbling at stubs, nots, and sticks, that utterly ignore conformity with the angles of the human frame. But at last, tired nature asserts her supremacy, and they sleep. Sleep soundly, for a couple of hours; when the bonfire, having reached the point of disintegration, suddenly collapses with a sputtering and crackling that brings them to their head's antipodes, and four dazed, sleepy faces look out with a bewildered air, to see what has caused the rumpus. All take a hand in putting the brands together and rearranging the fire, which burns better than at first; some sleepy talk, one or two feeble attempts at a smoke, and they turn in again. But, there is not an hour during the remainder of the night in which some one is not pottering about the fire.
The O.W., who has abided by his blanket-bag all night quietly taking in the fun—rouses out the party at 4 A.M. For two of them are to fish Asaph Run with bait, and the other two are to try the riffles of Marsh Creek with the fly. As the wood is all burned to cinders and glowing coals, there is no chance for a smoky fire; and, substituting coffee for tea, the breakfast is a repetition of the supper.
By sunrise the boys are off, and the O.W. has the camp to himself. He takes it leisurely, gets up a neat breakfast of trout, bread, butter, and coffee, cleans and puts away his dishes, has a smoke, and picks up the camp axe. Selecting a bushy hemlock fifteen inches across, he lets it down in as many minutes, trims it to the very tip, piles the limbs in a heap, and cuts three lengths of six feet each from the butt. This insures browse and back logs for some time ahead. Two strong stakes are cut and sharpened.
Four small logs, two of eight and two of nine feet in length, are prepared, plenty of night wood is made ready, a supply of bright, dry hemlock bark is carried to camp, and the O.W. rests from his labors, resuming his favorite pastime of sitting on a log and smoking navy plug.
Finally it occurs to him that he is there partly as guide and mentor to the younger men, and that they need a lesson on cleanliness. He brings out the frying pans and finds a filthy looking mess of grease in each one, wherein ants, flies, and other insects have contrived to get mixed. Does he heat some water, and clean and scour the pans? Not if he knows himself. If he did it once he might keep on doing it. He is cautious about establishing precedents, and he has a taste for entomology. He places the pans in the sun where the grease will soften and goes skirmishing for ants and doodle bugs. They are not far to seek, and he soon has a score of large black ants, with a few bugs and spiders, pretty equally distributed among the frying pans. To give the thing a plausible look a few flies are added, and the two largest pans are finished off, one with a large earwig, the other with a thousand-legged worm. The pans are replaced in the shanty, the embers are leveled and nearly covered with bits of dry hemlock bark, and the O.W. resumes his pipe and log.
With such a face of Christian satisfaction, as good men wear, who have done a virtuous action.
Before noon the boys are all in, and as the catch is twice as numerous and twice as large as on the previous evening, and as the weather is all that could be asked of the longest days in June, they are in excellent spirits. The boxes are brought out, pork is sliced, a can of Indian meal comes to the front, and they go for the frying pans.
"Holy Moses! Look here. Just see the ants and bugs."
Second Man.—"Well, I should say! I can see your ants and bugs, and go you an earwig better."
Third Man (inverting his pan spitefully over the fire).—"Damn 'em. I'll roast the beggars."
Bush D. (who is something of a cook and woodsman) "Boys, I'll take the pot. I've got a thousand-legged worm at the head of a pismire flush, and it serves us right, for a lot of slovens. Dishes should be cleaned as often as they are used. Now let's scour our pans and commence right."
Hot water, ashes, and soap soon restore the pans to pristine brightness; three frying pans are filled with trout well rolled in meal; a fourth is used for cooking a can of tomatoes; the coffee is strong, and everything comes out without being smoked or scorched. The trout are browned to a turn, and even the O.W. admits that the dinner is a success. When it is over and the dishes are cleaned and put away, and the camp slicked up, there comes the usual two hours of lounging, smoking, and story telling, so dear to the hearts of those who love to go a-fishing and camping. At length there is a lull in the conversation, and Bush D. turns to the old woodsman with, "I thought, Uncle Mart, you were going to show us fellows such a lot of kinks about camping out, campfires, cooking, and all that sort of thing, isn't it about time to begin? Strikes me you have spent most of the last twenty-four hours holding down that log." "Except cutting some night wood and tending the fire," adds number two.
The old woodsman, who has been rather silent up to this time, knocks the ashes leisurely from his pipe, and gets on his feet for a few remarks. He says, "Boys, a bumblebee is biggest when it's first born. You've learned more than you think in the last twenty-four hours."
"Well, as how? Explain yourself," says Bush D.
O.W.—"In the first place, you have learned better than to stick your cooking-kit into a tumbled down heap of knots, mulch and wet bark, only to upset and melt down the pots, and scorch or smoke everything in the pans, until a starving hound wouldn't eat the mess. And you have found that it doesn't take a log heap to boil a pot of coffee or fry a pan of trout. Also, that a level bed of live coals makes an excellent cooking fire, though I will show you a better. Yesterday you cooked the worst meal I ever saw in the woods. Today you get up a really good, plain dinner; you have learned that much in one day. Oh, you improve some. And I think you have taken a lesson in cleanliness today."
"Yes; but we learned that of the ant—and bug," says number two.
O.W.—"Just so. And did you think all the ants and doodle-bugs blundered into that grease in one morning? I put 'em in myself—to give you a 'kink.'"
Bush D. (disgusted).—"You blasted, dirty old sinner."
Second Man.—"Oh, you miserable old swamp savage; I shan't get over that earwig in a month."
Third Man (plaintively).—"This life in the woods isn't what it's cracked up to be; I don't relish bugs and spiders. I wish I were home. I'm all bitten up with punkies, and—"
Fourth Man (savagely).—"Dashed old woods-loafer; let's tie his hands and fire him in the creek."
O.W. (placidly).—"Exactly, boys. Your remarks are terse, and to the point. Only, as I am going to show you a trick or two on woodcraft this afternoon, you can afford to wait a little. Now, quit smoking, and get out your hatchets; we'll go to work."
Three hatchets are brought to light; one of them a two-pound clumsy hand-axe, the others of an old time, Mt. Vernon, G.W. pattern. "And now," says good-natured Bush, "you give directions and we'll do the work."
Under directions, the coarse browse of the previous night is placed outside the shanty; three active youngsters, on hands and knees, feel out and cut off every offending stub and root inside the shanty, until it is smooth as a floor. The four small logs are brought to camp; the two longest are laid at the sides and staked in place; the others are placed, one at the head, the other at the foot, also staked; and the camp has acquired definite outlines, and a measurable size of eight by nine feet. Three hemlock logs and two sharpened stakes are toted to camp; the stakes driven firmly, and the logs laid against them, one above the other. Fire-dogs, forestick, etc., complete the arrangement, and the campfire is in shape for the coming night, precisely as shown in the engraving.
"And now," says the O.W., "if three of you will go down to the flat and pick the browse clean from the two hemlock tops, Bush and I will fix a cooking-range."
"A—what?" asks one.
"Going to start a boarding-house?" says another.
"Notion of going into the hardware business?" suggests a third.
"Never mind, sonny; just 'tend to that browse, and when you see a smoke raising on the flat by the spring, come over and see the range." And the boys, taking a couple of blankets in which to carry the browse, saunter away to the flat below.
A very leisurely aesthetic, fragrant occupation is this picking browse. It should never be cut, but pulled, stripped or broken. I have seen a Senator, ex-Governor, and a wealthy banker enjoying themselves hugely at it, varying the occupation by hacking small timber with their G.W. hatchets, like so many boys let loose from school. It may have looked a trifle undignified, but I dare say they found their account in it. Newport or Long Branch would have been more expensive, and much less healthful.
For an hour and a half tongues and fingers are busy around the hemlock tops; then a thin, long volume of blue smoke rises near the spring, and the boys walk over to inspect the range. They find it made as follows: Two logs six feet long and eight inches thick are laid parallel, but seven inches apart at one end and only four at the other. They are bedded firmly and flattened a little on the inside. On the upper sides the logs are carefully hewed and leveled until pots, pans and kettles will sit firmly and evenly on them. A strong forked stake is driven at each end of the space, and a cross-pole, two or three inches thick, laid on, for hanging kettles. This completes the range; simple, but effective. (See illustration.) The broad end of the space is for frying pans, and the potato kettle. The narrow end, for coffee pots and utensils of lesser diameter. From six to eight dishes can be cooked at the same time. Soups, stews, and beans are to be cooked in closely covered kettles hung from the cross-pole, the bottoms of the kettles reaching within some two inches of the logs. With a moderate fire they may be left to simmer for hours without care or attention.
The fire is of the first importance. Start it with fine kindling and clean, dry, hemlock bark. When you have a bright, even fire from end to end of the space, keep it up with small fagots of the sweetest and most wholesome woods in the forest. These are, in the order named, black birch, hickory, sugar maple, yellow birch, and red beech. The sticks should be short, and not over two inches across. Split wood is better than round. The outdoor range can be made by one man in little more than an hour, and the camper-out, who once tries it, will never wish to see a "portable camp-stove" again.
When the sun leaves the valley in the shade of Asaph Mountain, the boys have a fragrant bed of elastic browse a foot deep in the shanty, with pillows improvised from stuffed boot legs, cotton handkerchiefs, etc. They cook their suppers on the range, and vote it perfect, no melting or heating handles too hot for use, and no smoking of dishes, or faces.
Just at dark—which means 9 P.M. in the last week of June—the fire is carefully made and chinked. An hour later it is throwing its grateful warmth and light directly into camp, and nowhere else. The camp turns in. Not to wriggle and quarrel with obdurate stubs, but to sleep. And sleep they do. The sound, deep, restful sleep of healthy young manhood, inhaling pure mountain air on the healthiest bed yet known to man.
When it is past midnight, and the fire burns low, and the chill night breeze drifts into camp, they still do not rouse up, but only spoon closer, and sleep right on. Only the O.W. turns out sleepily, at two bells in the middle watch, after the manner of hunters, trappers, and sailors, the world over. He quietly rebuilds the fire, reduces a bit of navy plug to its lowest denomination, and takes a solitary smoke—still holding down his favorite log. Quizzically and quietly he regards the sleeping youngsters, and wonders if among them all there is one who will do as he has done, i.e., relinquish all of what the world reckons as success, for the love of nature and a free forest life. He hopes not. And yet, as he glances at the calm yellow moon overhead, and listens to the low murmur of the little waterfall below the spring, he has a faint notion that it is not all loss and dross.
Knocking the ashes from his pipe he prepares to turn in, murmuring to himself, half sadly, half humorously, "I have been young, and now I am old; yet have I never seen the true woodsman forsaken, or his seed begging bread—or anything else, so to speak—unless it might be a little tobacco or a nip of whisky." And he creeps into his blanket-bag, backs softly out to the outside man, and joins the snorers.
It is broad daylight when he again turns out, leaving the rest still sleeping soundly. He starts a lively fire in the range, treats two coffee pots to a double handful of coffee and three pints of water each, sets on the potato kettle, washes the potatoes, then sticks his head into the camp, and rouses the party with a regular second mate's hail. "Star-a-ar-bo'lin's aho-o-o-y. Turn out, you beggars. Come on deck and see it rain." And the boys do turn out. Not with wakeful alacrity, but in a dazed, dreamy, sleepy way. They open wide eyes, when they see that the sun is turning the sombre tops of pines and hemlocks to a soft orange yellow.
"I'd have sworn," says one, "that I hadn't slept over fifteen minutes by the watch."
"And I," says another, "was just watching the fire, when I dropped off in a doze. In about five minutes I opened my eyes, and I'll be shot if it wasn't sunrise."
"As for me," says a third, "I don't know as I've slept at all. I remember seeing somebody poking the fire last night. Next thing I knew, some lunatic was yelling around camp about 'starbolin's,' and 'turning out.' Guess I'll lay down and have my nap out."
"Yes," says the O.W., "I would. If I was a healthy youngster, and couldn't get along with seven hours and a half of solid sleep, I'd take the next forenoon for it. Just at present, I want to remark that I've got the coffee and potato business underway, and I'll attend to them. If you want anything else for breakfast, you'll have to cook it."
And the boys, rising to the occasion, go about the breakfast with willing hands. It is noticeable, however, that only one pan of trout is cooked, two of the youngsters preferring to fall back on broiled ham, remarking that brook trout is too rich and cloying for a steady diet. Which is true. The appetite for trout has very sensibly subsided, and the boyish eagerness for trout fishing has fallen off immensely. Only two of the party show any interest in the riffles. They stroll down stream leisurely, to try their flies for an hour or two. The others elect to amuse themselves about the camp, cutting small timber with their little hatchets, picking fresh browse, or skirmishing the mountain side for wintergreen berries and sassafras. The fishermen return in a couple of hours, with a score of fair-sized trout. They remark apologetically that it is blazing hot—and there are plenty of trout ahead. Then they lean their rods against the shanty, and lounge on the blankets, and smoke and doze.
It is less than forty-eight hours since the cross-pole was laid; and, using a little common sense woodcraft, the camp has already attained to a systematic no-system of rest, freedom and idleness. Every man is free to "loaf, and invite his soul." There is good trouting within an hour's walk for those who choose, and there is some interest, with a little exercise, in cooking and cutting night wood, slicking up, etc. But the whole party is stricken with "camp-fever," "Indian laziness," the dolce far niente. It is over and around every man, enveloping him as with a roseate blanket from the Castle of Indolence. It is the perfect summer camp.
And it is no myth; but a literal resume of a five days' outing at Poplar Spring, on Marsh Creek, in Pennsylvania. Alas, for the beautiful valley, that once afforded the finest camping grounds I have ever known.
Never any more Can it be Unto me (or anybody else) As before.
A huge tannery, six miles above Poplar Spring, poisons and blackens the stream with chemicals, bark and ooze. The land has been brought into market, and every acre eagerly bought up by actual settlers. The once fine covers and thickets are converted into fields thickly dotted with blackened stumps. And, to crown the desolation, heavy laden trains of "The Pine Creek and Jersey Shore R.R." go thundering almost hourly over the very spot where stood our camp by Poplar Spring.
Of course, this is progress; but, whether backward or forward, had better be decided sixty years hence. And, just what has happened to the obscure valley of Marsh Creek, is happening today, on a larger scale, all over the land. It is the same old story of grab and greed. Let us go on the "make" today, and "whack up" tomorrow; cheating each other as villainously as we may, and posterity be damned. "What's all the w-u-u-rld to a man when his wife is a widdy?"
This is the moral: From Maine to Montana; from the Adirondacks to Alaska; from the Yosemite to the Yellowstone, the trout-hog, the deer-wolf, the netter, the skin-hunter, each and all have it their own way; and the law is a farce—only to be enforced where the game has vanished forever. Perhaps the man-child is born who will live to write the moral of all this—when it is too late.
CHAPTER VII More Hints On Cooking, With Some Simple Receipts—Bread, Potatoes, Soups, Stews, Beans, Fish, Meat, Venison
We may live without friends, we may live without books, But civilized man cannot live without cooks.
IT is probably true that nothing connected with outdoor life in camp is so badly botched as the cooking. It is not through any lack of the raw material, which may be had of excellent quality in any country village. It is not from lack of intelligence or education, for the men you meet in the woods, as outers or sportsmen, are rather over than under the average in these respects. Perhaps it is because it has been dinned into our ears from early childhood, that an appetite, a healthy longing for something good to eat, a tickling of the palate with wholesome, appetizing food, is beneath the attention of an aesthetic, intellectual man. Forgetting that the entire man, mental and physical, depends on proper aliment and the healthy assimilation thereof; and that a thin, dyspeptic man can no more keep up in the struggle of life, than the lightning express can make connections, drawn by a worn out locomotive.
I have never been able to get much help from cook-books, or the scores of recipes published in various works on outdoor span. Take, for example, Frank Forester's Fish and Fishing. He has more than seventy recipes for cooking fish, over forty of which contain terms or names in French. I dare say they are good—for a first-class hotel. I neither cook nor converse in French and I have come to know that the plainest cooking is the best, so that it be well done and wholesome. In making up the rations for camping out, the first thing usually attended to is bread. And if this be light, well-made bread, enough may be taken along to last four or five days and this may be eked out with Boston crackers, or the best hardtack, for a couple or three days more, without the least hardship. Also, there are few camps in which some one is not going out to the clearings every few days for mail, small stores, etc. and a supply of bread can be arranged for, with less trouble than it can be made. There are times however, when this is not feasible, and there are men who prefer warm bread all the time. In this case the usual resort, from Maine to Alaska, is the universal flapjack. I do not like it; I seldom make it; it is not good. But it may be eaten, with maple syrup or sugar and butter. I prefer a plain water Johnnycake, made as follows (supposing your tins are something like those described in Chapter II): Put a little more than a pint of water in your kettle and bring it to a sharp boil, adding a small teaspoon full of salt and two of sugar. Stir in slowly enough good corn meal to make a rather stiff mush, let it cook a few minutes and set it off the fire; then grease your largest tin dish and put the mush in it, smoothing it on top. Set the dish on the outdoor range described in the previous chapter, with a lively bed of coal beneath—but no blaze. Invert the second sized tin over the cake and cover the dish with bright live coals, that bottom and top may bake evenly and give it from thirty-five to forty minutes for baking. It makes wholesome, palatable bread, which gains on the taste with use.
Those who prefer wheat bread can make a passable article by using the best wheat flour with baking powders, mixing three tablespoonfuls of the powders to a quart of flour. Mix and knead thoroughly with warm water to a rather thin dough and bake as above. Use the same proportions for pancake batter. When stopping in a permanent camp with plenty of time to cook, excellent light bread may be made by using dry yeast cakes, though it is not necessary to "set" the sponge as directed on the papers. Scrape and dissolve half a cake of the yeast in a gill of warm water and mix it with the flour. Add warm water enough to make it pliable and not too stiff: set in a warm place until it rises sufficiently and bake as directed above. It takes several hours to rise.
I am afraid I shall discount my credit on camp cooking when I admit that—if I must use fine flour—I prefer unleavened bread; what my friends irreverently call "club bread." Not that it was ever made or endorsed by any club of men that I know of, but because it is baked on a veritable club; sassafras or black birch. This is how to make it: Cut a club two feet long and three inches thick at the broadest end; peel or shave off the bark smoothly and sharpen the smaller end neatly. Then stick the sharpened end in the ground near the fire, leaning the broad end toward a bed of live coals, where it will get screeching hot. While it is heating, mix rather more than a half pint of best Minnesota flour with enough warm water to make a dough. Add a half teaspoon full of salt and a teaspoon full of sugar and mould and pull the dough until it becomes lively. Now, work it into a ribbon two inches wide and half an inch thick, wind the ribbon spirally around the broad end of the club, stick the latter in front of the fire so that the bread will bake evenly and quickly to a light brown and turn frequently until done, which will be in about thirty minutes. When done take it from the fire, stand the club firmly upright and pick the bread off in pieces as you want it to eat. It will keep hot a long time and one soon becomes fond of it.
To make perfect coffee, just two ingredients are necessary, and only two. These are water and coffee. It is owing to the bad management of the latter that we drink poor coffee.
Mocha is generally considered to be the best type of coffee, with Java a close second. It is the fashion at present to mix the two in proportions to suit, some taking two pans Java to one of Mocha, others reversing these proportions. Either way is good, or the Mocha is quite as good alone. But there is a better berry than either for the genuine coffee toper. This is the small, dark green berry that comes to market under the generic name of Rio, that name covering half a dozen grades of coffee raised in different provinces of Brazil, throughout a country extending north and south for more than 1,200 miles. The berry alluded to is produced along the range of high hills to the westward of Bahia and extending north toward the Parnahiba. It has never arrested attention as a distinct grade of the article, but it contains more coffee or caffein to the pound than any berry known to commerce. It is the smallest, heaviest and darkest green of any coffee that comes to our market from Brazil and may be known by these traits. I have tested it in the land where it is grown and also at home, for the past sixteen years and I place it at the head of the list, with Mocha next. Either will make perfect coffee, if treated as follows: of the berry, browned and ground, take six heaping tablespoonfuls and add three pints of cold water; place the kettle over the fire and bring to a sharp boil; set it a little aside where it will bubble and simmer until wanted, and just before pouring, drip in a half gill of cold water to settle it. That is all there is to it. The quantity of berry is about twice as much as usually given in recipes: but if you want coffee, you had better add two spoonfuls than cut off one.
In 1867 and again in 1870, I bad occasion to visit the West India Islands and Brazil. In common with most coffee topers, I had heard much of the super-excellence ascribed to "West India coffee" and "Brazilian coffee." I concluded to investigate, I had rooms at the Hotel d'Europe, Para, North Brazil. There were six of us, English and American boarders. Every morning, before we were out of our hammocks, a barefooted, half naked Mina negress came around and served each of us with a small cup of strong, black coffee and sugar ad libitum. There was not enough of it for a drink; it was rather in the nature of a medicine, and so intended—"To kill the biscos," they said. The coffee was above criticism.
I went, in the dark of a tropical morning with Senor Joao, to the coffee factory where they browned the berry and saw him buy a pound, smoking hot, for which he paid twenty-five cents, or quite as much as it would cost in New York. In ten minutes the coffee was at the hotel and ground. This is the way they brewed it: A round-bottomed kettle was sitting on the brick range, with a half gallon of boiling water in it. Over the kettle a square piece of white flannel was suspended, caught up at the corners like a dip net. In this the coffee was placed and a small darky put in his time steadily with a soup ladle, dipping the boiling water from the kettle and pouring it on the coffee. There was a constant stream percolating through coffee and cloth, which, in the course of half an hour, became almost black, and clear as brandy. This was "Brazilian coffee." As the cups used were very small, and as none but the Northerners drank more than one cup, I found that the hotel did not use over two quarts of coffee each morning. It struck me that a pound of fresh Rio coffee berry ought to make a half gallon of rather powerful coffee.
On my arrival home—not having any small darky or any convenient arrangement for the dip net—I had a sack made of light, white flannel, holding about one pint. In this I put one quarter pound of freshly ground berry, with water enough for five large cups. It was boiled thoroughly and proved just as good as the Brazilian article, but too strong for any of the family except the writer. Those who have a fancy for clear, strong "Brazilian coffee," will see how easily and simply it can be made.
But, on a heavy knapsack-and-rifle tramp among the mountains, or a lone canoe cruise in a strange wilderness, I do not carry coffee. I prefer tea. Often, when too utterly tired and beaten for further travel, I have tried coffee, whisky or brandy, and a long experience convinces me that there is nothing so restful and refreshing to an exhausted man as a dish of strong, green tea. To make it as it should be made, bring the water to a high boil and let it continue to boil for a full minute. Set it off the fire and it will cease boiling; put in a handful of tea and it will instantly boil up again; then set it near the fire, where it will simmer for a few minutes, when it will be ready for use. Buy the best green tea you can find and use it freely on a hard tramp. Black, or Oolong tea, is excellent in camp. It should be put in the pot with cold water and brought to the boiling point.
Almost any man can cook potatoes, but few cook them well. Most people think them best boiled in their jackets, and to cook them perfectly in this manner is so simple and easy, that the wonder is how anyone can fail. A kettle of screeching hot water with a small handful of salt in it, good potatoes of nearly equal size, washed clean and clipped at the ends, these are the requisites. Put the potatoes in the boiling water, cover closely and keep the water at high boiling pitch until you can thrust a sharp sliver through the largest potato. Then drain off the water and set the kettle in a hot place with the lid partly off. Take them out only as they are wanted; lukewarm potatoes are not good, They will be found about as good as potatoes can be, when cooked in their jackets. But there is a better way, as thus: Select enough for a mess of smooth, sound tubers; pare them carefully, taking off as little as possible, because the best of the potato lies nearest the skin, and cook as above. When done, pour the water off to the last drop; sprinkle a spoonful of salt and fine cracker crumbs over them; then shake, roll and rattle them in the kettle until the outsides are white and floury. Keep them piping hot until wanted, It is the way to have perfect boiled potatoes.
Many outers are fond of roast potatoes in camp; and they mostly spoil them in the roasting, although there is no better place than the campfire in which to do it. To cook them aright, scoop out a basin-like depression under the fore-stick, three or four inches deep and large enough to hold the tubers when laid side by side; fill it with bright, hardwood coals and keep up a strong heat for half an hour or more. Next, clean out the hollow, place the potatoes in it and cover them with hot sand or ashes, topped with a heap of glowing coals, and keep up all the heat you like. In about twenty minutes commence to try them with a sharpened hardwood sliver; when this will pass through them they are done and should be raked out at once. Run the sliver through them from end to end, to let the steam escape and use immediately, as a roast potato quickly becomes soggy and bitter. I will add that, in selecting a supply of potatoes for camp, only the finest and smoothest should be taken.
A man may be a trout-crank, he may have been looking forward for ten weary months to the time when he is to strike the much dreamed of mountain stream, where trout may be taken and eaten without stint. Occasionally—not often—his dream is realized, For two or three days he revels in fly-fishing and eating brook trout. Then his enthusiasm begins to subside. He talks less of his favorite flies and hints that wading hour after hour in ice-water gives him cramps in the calves of his legs. Also, he finds that brook trout, eaten for days in succession, pall on the appetite. He hankers for the flesh-pots of the restaurant and his soul yearns for the bean-pot of home.
Luckily, some one has brought a sack of white beans, and the expert— there is always an expert in camp—is deputed to cook them. He accepts the trust and proceeds to do it. He puts a quart of dry beans and a liberal chunk of pork in a two-quart kettle, covers the mess with water and brings it to a rapid boil. Presently the beans begin to swell and lift the lid of the kettle: their conduct is simply demoniacal. They lift up the lid of the kettle, they tumble out over the rim in a way to provoke a saint, and they have scarcely begun to cook. The expert is not to be beaten. As they rise, he spoons them out and throws them away, until half of the best beans being wasted, the rest settle to business. He fills the kettle with water and watches it for an hour. When bean-skins and scum arise he uses the spoon; and when a ring of greasy salt forms around the rim of the kettle, he carefully scrapes it off, but most of it drops back into the pot, When the beans seem cooked to the point of disintegration, he lifts off the kettle and announces dinner. It is not a success. The largest beans are granulated rather than cooked, while the mealy portion of them has fallen to the bottom of the kettle and become scorched thereon, and the smaller beans are too hard to be eatable. The liquid, that should be palatable bean soup, is greasy salt water, and the pork is half raw. The party falls back, hungry and disgusted. Even if the mess were well cooked, it is too salty for eating. And why should this be so? Why should any sensible man spend years in acquiring an education that shall fit him for the struggle of life, yet refuse to spend a single day in learning how to cook the food that must sustain the life? It is one of the conundrums no one will ever find out.
There is no article of food more easily carried, and none that contains more nourishment to the pound, than the bean. Limas are usually preferred, but the large white marrow is just as good. It will pay to select them carefully. Keep an eye on grocery stocks and when you strike a lot of extra large, clean beans, buy twice as many as you need for camp use. Spread them on a table, a quart at a time and separate the largest and best from the others. Fully one-half will go to the side of the largest and finest, and these may be put in a muslin bag and kept till wanted. Select the expeditionary pork with equal care, buying nothing but thick, solid, "clear," with a pink tinge. Reject that which is white and lardy. With such material, if you cannot lay over Boston baked beans, you had better sweep the cook out of camp.
This is how to cook them: Put a pound or a little more of clean pork in the kettle, with water enough to cover it. Let it boil slowly half an hour. In the meantime, wash and parboil one pint of beans. Drain the water from the pork and place the beans around it; add two quarts of water and hang the kettle where it will boil steadily, but not rapidly, for two hours. Pare neatly and thinly five or six medium sized potatoes and allow them from thirty to forty minutes (according to size and variety), in which to cook. They must be pressed down among the beans so as to be entirely covered. If the beans be fresh and fine they will probably fall to pieces before time is up. This, if they are not allowed to scorch, makes them all the better. If a portion of pork be left over, it is excellent sliced very thin when cold and eaten with bread. The above is a dinner for three or four hungry men.
It is usually the case that some of the party prefer baked beans. To have these in perfection, add one gill of raw beans and a piece of pork three inches square to the foregoing proportions. Boil as above, until the beans begin to crack open; then fork out the smaller piece of pork, place it in the center of your largest cooking tin, take beans enough from the kettle to nearly fill the tin, set it over a bright fire on the range, invert the second sized tin for a cover, place live, hardwood coals on top and bake precisely as directed for bread—only, when the coals on top become dull and black, brush them off, raise the cover and take a look. If the beans are getting too dry, add three or four spoonfuls of liquor from the kettle, replace cover and coals, and let them bake until they are of a rich light brown on top. Then serve. It is a good dish. If Boston can beat it, I don't want to lay up anything for old age.
Brown bread and baked beans have a natural connection in the average American mind, and rightly. They supplement each other, even as spring lamb and green peas with our transatlantic cousins. But there is a better recipe for brown bread than is known to the dwellers of the Hub— one that has captured first prizes at country fairs and won the approval of epicures from Maine to Minnesota; the one that brought honest old Greeley down, on his strictures anent "country bread." And here is the recipe; take it for what it is worth and try it fairly before condemning it. It is for home use: One quart of sweet milk, one quart of sour, two quarts of Indian meal and one quart of flour and a cupful of dark, thin Porto Rico molasses. Use one teaspoon full of soda only. Bake in a steady, moderate oven, for four hours. Knead thoroughly before baking.
Soup is, or should be, a leading food element in every woodland camp. I am sorry to say that nothing is, as a rule, more badly botched, while nothing is more easily or simply cooked as it should be. Soup requires time and a solid basis of the right material. Venison is the basis, and the best material is the bloody part of the deer, where the bullet went through. We used to throw this away; we have learned better. Cut about four pounds of the bloody meat into convenient pieces and wipe them as clean as possible with leaves or a damp cloth, but don't wash them. Put the meat into a five-quart kettle nearly filled with water and raise it to a lively boiling pitch. Let it boil for two hours. Have ready a three-tined fork made from a branch of birch or beech and with this, test the meat from time to time; when it parts readily from the bones, slice in a large onion. Pare six large, smooth potatoes, cut five of them into quarters and drop them into the kettle; scrape the sixth one into the soup for thickening. Season with salt and white pepper to taste.
When, by skirmishing with the wooden fork, you can fish up bones with no meat on them, the soup is cooked and the kettle may be set aside to cool. Any hungry sportsman can order the next motion. Squirrels—red, black, gray or fox—make nearly as good a soup as venison, and better stew. Hares, rabbits, grouse, quail, or any of the smaller game birds, may be used in making soup; but all small game is better in a stew.
To make a stew, proceed for the first two hours precisely as directed for soup; then slice in a couple of good-sized onions and six medium potatoes. When the meat begins to fall from the bones, make a thickening by rubbing three tablespoonfuls of flour and two spoonfuls of melted butter together; thin to the consistency of cream with liquor from the kettle and drip slowly into the stew, stirring briskly meanwhile. Allow all soups and stews to boil two hours before seasoning and use only the best table salt and white (or black) pepper. Season sparingly; it is easier to put salt in than to get it out. Cayenne pepper adds zest to a soup or stew, but, as some dislike it, let each man season his plate to his own cheek.
Fried squirrels are excellent for a change, but are mostly spoiled by poor cooks, who put tough old he's and tender young squirrels together, treating all alike. To dress and cook them properly, chop off heads, tails and feet with the hatchet; cut the skin on the back crosswise; and, inserting the two middle fingers, pull the skin off in two parts, (head and tail). Clean and cut them in halves, leaving two ribs on the hindquarters. Put hind and fore quarters into the kettle and parboil until tender. This will take about twenty minutes for young ones and twice as long for the old.
When a sharpened sliver will pass easily through the flesh, take the hindquarters from the kettle, drain and place them in the frying pan with pork fat hissing hot. Fry to a light, rich brown. It is the only proper way to cook squirrels. The forequarters are to be left in the kettle for a stew.
It sometimes happens that pigeons are very plentiful and the camp is tempted into over-shooting and over-cooking, until every one is thoroughly sick of pigeons. This is all wrong. No party is, or can be, justified in wanton slaughter, just because birds happen to be plentiful; they will soon be scarce enough. Pigeons are hardly game, and they are not a first-class bird; but a good deal may be got out of them by the following method: Dress them, at the rate of two birds to one man; save the giblets; place in the kettle and boil until the sliver will easily pierce the breast; fork them out, cut the thick meat from each side of the breast bone, roll slightly in flour and put the pieces in the pan, frying them in the same way as directed for squirrels. Put the remainder of the birds in the kettle for a stew.
Quail are good cooked in the same manner, but are better roasted or broiled. To roast them, parboil for fifteen minutes, and in the meantime cut a thin hardwood stick, eighteen inches long for each bird. Sharpen the sticks neatly at both ends; impale the birds on one end and thrust the sticks into the ground near the fire, leaning them so that the heat will strike strongly and evenly. Hang a strip of pork between the legs of each bird and turn frequently until they are a rich brown. When the sharpened sliver will pass easily through the breast they are done.
Woodcock are to be plucked, but not drawn. Suspend the bird in a bright, clear heat, hang a ribbon of fat pork between the legs and roast until well done; do not parboil him.
Ruffed grouse are excellent roasted in the same manner, but should first be parboiled. Mallards, teal, butterballs, all edible ducks, are to be treated the same as grouse. If you are ever lucky enough to feast on a canvas-back roasted as above, you will be apt to borrow a leaf from Oliver Twist.
Venison steak should be pounded to tenderness, pressed and worked into shape with the hunting-knife and broiled over a bed of clean hardwood coals. A three-pronged birch fork makes the best broiler. For roast venison, the best portion is the forward part of the saddle. Trim off the flanky parts and ends of the ribs; split the backbone lengthwise, that the inner surface may be well exposed; hang it by a strong cord or bark string in a powerful, even heat; lay thin strips of pork along the upper edge and turn from time to time until done. It had better be left a little rare than overdone. Next to the saddle for roasting, comes the shoulder. Peel this smoothly from the side, using the hunting knife; trim neatly and cut off the leg at the knee; gash the thickest part of the flesh and press shreds of pork into the gashes, with two or three thin slices skewered to the upper part. Treat it in the roasting as described above. It is not equal to the saddle when warm, but sliced and eaten cold, is quite as good.
And do not despise the fretful porcupine; he is better than he looks. If you happen on a healthy young specimen when you are needing meat, give him a show before condemning him. Shoot him humanely in the head and dress him. It is easily done; there are no quills on the belly and the skin peels as freely as a rabbit's. Take him to camp, parboil him for thirty minutes and roast or broil him to a rich brown over a bed of glowing coals. He will need no pork to make him juicy, and you will find him very like spring lamb, only better.
I do not accept the decision that ranks the little gray rabbit as a hare, simply because he has a slit in his lip; at all events I shall call him a rabbit for convenience, to distinguish him from his longlegged cousin, who turns white in winter, never takes to a hole and can keep ahead of hounds nearly all day, affording a game, musical chase that is seldom out of hearing. He never by any chance has an ounce of fat on him and is not very good eating. He can, however, be worked into a good stew or a passable soup—provided he has not been feeding on laurel. The rabbit is an animal of different habits and different attributes. When jumped from his form, he is apt to "dig out" for a hole or the nearest stone heap. Sometimes an old one will potter around a thicket, ahead of a slow dog, but his tendency is always to hole. But he affords some sport, and as an article of food, beats the long-legged hare out of sight. He is excellent in stews or soups, while the after half of him, flattened down with the hatchet, parboiled and fried brown in butter or pork fat, is equal to spring chicken.
In the cooking of fish, as of flesh and fowl, the plainest and simplest methods are best; and for anything under two pounds, it is not necessary to go beyond the frying pan. Trout of over a pound should be split down the back, that they may lie well in the pan and cook evenly. Roll well in meal, or a mixture of meal and flour, and fry to a rich brown in pork fat, piping hot. Larger fish may just as well be fried, but are also adapted to other methods, and there are people who like fish broiled and buttered, or boiled. To broil a fish, split him on the back and broil him four minutes, flesh side down, turn and broil the other side an equal time. Butter and season to taste. To broil, the fish should weigh three pounds or more. Clean and crimp him by gashing the sides deeply with a sharp knife. Put him in a kettle of boiling water, strongly salted and boil twenty-five minutes. For each additional pound above three, add five minutes. For gravy, rub together two tablespoonfuls of flour and one of melted butter, add one heaping teaspoon full of evaporated milk and thin with liquor from the kettle. When done, it should have the consistency of cream. Take the fish from the kettle, drain, pour the gravy over it and eat only with wheat bread or hardtack, with butter. The simplest is best, healthiest and most appetizing.
As a rule, on a mountain in tramp or a canoe cruise, I do not tote canned goods. I carry my duffle in a light, pliable knapsack, and there is an aggravating antagonism between the uncompromising rims of a fruit-can and the knobs of my vertebrae, that twenty years of practice have utterly failed to reconcile. And yet, I have found my account in a can of condensed milk, not for tea or coffee, but on bread as a substitute for butter. And I have found a small can of Boston baked beans a most helpful lunch, with a nine-mile carry ahead. It was not epicurean, but had staying qualities.
I often have a call to pilot some muscular young friend into the deep forest and he usually carries a large pack-basket, with a full supply of quart cans of salmon, tomatoes, peaches, etc. As in duty bound, I admonish him kindly, but firmly, on the folly of loading his young shoulders with such effeminate luxuries; often, I fear, hurting his young feelings by brusque advice. But at night, when the campfire burns brightly and he begins to fish out his tins, the heart of the Old Woodsman relents, and I make amends by allowing him to divide the groceries.
There is a method at cooking usually called "mudding up," which I have found to preserve the flavor and juiciness of ducks, grouse, etc., better than any other method. I described the method in Forest and Stream more than a year ago, but a brief repetition may not be out of place here. Suppose the bird to be cooked is a mallard, or better still, a canvas-back. Cut off the head and most part of the neck; cut off the pinions and pull out the tail feathers, make a plastic cake of clay or tenacious earth an inch thick and large enough to envelop the bird and cover him with it snugly. Dig an oval pit under the fore-stick, large enough to hold him, and fill it with hot coals, keeping up a strong heat. Just before turning in for the night, clean out the pit, put in the bird, cover with hot embers and coals, keeping up a brisk fire over it all night. When taken out in the morning you will have an oval, oblong mass of baked clay, with a well roasted bird inside. Let the mass cool until it can be handled, break off the clay, and feathers and skin will come with it, leaving the bird clean and skinless. Season it as you eat, with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon if you like, nothing else.
In selecting salt, choose that which has a gritty feel when rubbed between the thumb and finger, and use white pepper rather than black, grinding the berry yourself. Procure a common tin pepper-box and fill it with a mixture of fine salt and Cayenne pepper—ten spoonsfuls of the former and one of the latter. Have it always where you can lay your hand on it; you will come to use it daily in camp, and if you ever get lost, you will find it of value. Fish and game leave a flat, flashy taste eaten without salt, and are also unwholesome.
Do not carry any of the one hundred and one condiments, sauces, garnishes, etc., laid down in the books. Salt, pepper and lemons fill the bill in that line. Lobster-sauce, shrimp-sauce, marjoram, celery, parsley, thyme, anchovies, etc., may be left at the hotels.
It may be expected that a pocket volume on woodcraft should contain a liberal chapter of instruction on hunting. It would be quite useless. Hunters, like poets, are born, not made. The art cannot be taught on paper. A few simple hints, however, may not be misplaced. To start aright, have your clothes fitted for hunting. Select good cassimere of a sort of dull, no colored, neutral tint, like a decayed stump; and have coat, pants and cap made of it. For foot-gear, two pairs of heavy yarn socks, with rubber shoes or buckskin moccasins. In hunting, "silence is gold." Go quietly, slowly and silently. Remember that the bright-eyed, sharp-eared woodfolk can see, hear and smell, with a keenness that throws our dull faculties quite in the shade. As you go lumbering and stick-breaking through the woods, you will never know how many of these quietly leave your path to right and left, allowing you to pass, while they glide away, unseen, unknown. It is easily seen that a sharp-sensed, light bodied denizen of the woods can detect the approach of a heavy, bifurcated, booted animal, a long way ahead and avoid him accordingly.
But there is an art, little known and practiced, that invariably succeeds in out-thinking most wild animals; an art, simple in conception and execution, but requiring patience: a species, so to speak, of high art in forestry—the art of "sitting on a log." I could enlarge on this. I might say that the only writer of any note who has mentioned this phase of woodcraft is Mr. Charles D. Warner; and he only speaks of it in painting the character of that lazy old guide, "Old Phelps."
Sitting on a log includes a deal of patience, with oftentimes cold feet and chattering teeth; but, attended to faithfully and patiently, is quite as successful as chasing a deer all day on tracking snow, while it can be practiced when the leaves are dry and no other mode of still hunting offers the ghost of a chance. When a man is moving through the woods, wary, watchful animals are pretty certain to catch sight of him. But let him keep perfectly quiet and the conditions are reversed. I have had my best luck and killed my best deer, by practically waiting hour after hour on runways. But the time when a hunter could get four or five fair shots in a day by watching a runway has passed away forever. Never any more will buffalo be seen in solid masses covering square miles in one pack. The immense bands of elk and droves of deer are things of the past, and "The game must go."
CHAPTER VIII A Ten Days' Trip In The Wilderness—Going It Alone
ABOUT the only inducements I can think of for making a ten days' journey through a strong wilderness, solitary and alone, were a liking for adventure, intense love of nature in her wildest dress, and a strange fondness for being in deep forests by myself. The choice of route was determined by the fact that two old friends and school-mates had chosen to cast their lots in Michigan, one near Saginaw Bay, the other among the pines of the Muskegon. And both were a little homesick, and both wrote frequent letters, in which, knowing my weak point, they exhausted their adjectives and adverbs in describing the abundance of game and the marvelous fishing. Now, the Muskegon friend—Davis—was pretty well out of reach. But Pete Williams, only a few miles out of Saginaw, was easily accessible. And so it happened, on a bright October morning, when there came a frost that cut from Maine to Missouri, that a sudden fancy took me to use my new Billinghurst on something larger than squirrels. It took about one minute to decide and an hour to pack such duffle as I needed for a few weeks in the woods.
Remembering Pete's two brown-eyed "kids," and knowing that they were ague-stricken and homesick, I made place for a few apples and peaches, with a ripe melon. For Pete and I had been chums in Rochester and I had bunked in his attic on Galusha Street, for two years. Also, his babies thought as much of me as of their father. The trip to Saginaw was easy and pleasant. A "Redbird" packet to Buffalo, the old propeller Globe to Lower Saginaw and a ride of half a day on a buckboard, brought me to Pete Williams' clearing. Were they glad to see me? Well, I think so. Pete and his wife cried like children, while the two little homesick "kids" laid their silken heads on my knees and sobbed for very joy. When I brought out the apples and peaches, assuring them that these came from the little garden of their old home—liar that I was—their delight was boundless. And the fact that their favorite tree was a "sour bough," while these were sweet, did not shake their faith in the least.
I stayed ten days or more with the Williams family and the fishing and hunting were all that he had said—all that could be asked. The woods swarmed with pigeons and squirrels; grouse, quail, ducks and wild turkeys were too plentiful, while a good hunter could scarcely fail of getting a standing shot at a deer in a morning's hunt. But, what use could be made of fish or game in such a place? They were all half sick and had little appetite. Mrs. Williams could not endure the smell of fish; they had been cloyed on small game and were surfeited on venison.
My sporting ardor sank to zero. I had the decency not to slaughter game for the love of killing, and leave it to rot, or hook large fish that could not be used. I soon grew restless and began to think often about the lumber camp on the Muskegon. By surveyors' lines it was hardly more than sixty miles from Pete Williams' clearing to the Joe Davis camp on the Muskegon. "But practically," said Pete, "Joe and I are a thousand miles apart. White men, as a rule, don't undertake to cross this wilderness. The only one I know who has tried it is old Bill Hance; he can tell you all about it."
Hance was the hunting and trapping genius of Saginaw Bay—a man who dwelt in the woods summer and winter, and never trimmed his hair or wore any other covering on his head. Not a misanthrope, or taciturn, but friendly and talkative rather; liking best to live alone, but fond of tramping across the woods to gossip with neighbors; a very tall man withal and so thin that, as he went rapidly winding and turning among fallen logs, you looked to see him tangle up and tumble in a loose coil, like a wet rope, but he was better than he looked. He had a high reputation as trailer, guide, or trapper and was mentioned as a "bad man in a racket." I had met him several times, and as he was decidedly a character, had rather laid myself out to cultivate him. And now that I began to have a strong notion of crossing the woods alone, I took counsel of Bill Hance. Unlike Williams, he thought it perfectly feasible and rather a neat, gamey thing for a youngster to do. He had crossed the woods several times with surveying parties and once alone. He knew an Indian trail which led to an old camp within ten miles of the Muskegon and thought the trail could be followed. It took him a little less than three days to go through; "but," he added, "I nat'rally travel a little faster in the woods than most men. If you can follow the trail, you ought to get through in a little more'n three days—if you keep moggin'."
One afternoon I carefully packed the knapsack and organized for a long woods tramp. I took little stock in that trail, or the three days' notion as to time. I made calculations on losing the trail the first day and being out a full week. The outfit consisted of rifle, hatchet, compass, blanket-bag, knapsack and knife. For rations, one loaf of bread, two quarts of meal, two pounds of pork, one pound of sugar, with tea, salt, etc. and a supply of jerked venison. One tin dish, twelve rounds of ammunition and the bullet-molds, filled the list, and did not make a heavy load.
Early on a crisp, bright October morning I kissed the little fellows goodbye and started out with Hance, who was to put me on the trail. I left the children with sorrow and pity at heart. I am glad now that my visit was a golden hiatus in the sick monotony of their young lives and that I was able to brighten a few days of their dreary existence. They had begged for the privilege of sleeping with me on a shake-down from the first; and when, as often happened, a pair of little feverish lips would murmur timidly and pleadingly, "I'm so dry; can I have a drink?" I am thankful that I did not put the pleader off with a sip of tepid water, but always brought it from the spring, sparkling and cold. For, a twelve-month later, there were two little graves in a corner of the stump-blackened garden, and two sore hearts in Pete Williams' cabin.
Hance found the trail easily, but the Indians had been gone a long time and it was filled with leaves, dim and not easy to follow. It ended as nearly all trails do; it branched off to right and left, grew dimmer and slimmer, degenerated to a deer path, petered out to a squirrel track, ran up a tree and ended in a knot hole. I was not sorry. It left me free to follow my nose, my inclination and the compass.
There are men who, on finding themselves alone in a pathless forest, become appalled, almost panic stricken. The vastness of an unbroken wilderness subdues them and they quail before the relentless, untamed forces of nature. These are the men who grow enthusiastic—at home— about sylvan life, outdoor sports, but always strike camp and come home rather sooner than they intended. And there be some who plunge into an unbroken forest with a feeling of fresh, free, invigorating delight, as they might dash into a crisp ocean surf on a hot day. These know that nature is stern, hard, immovable and terrible in unrelenting cruelty. When wintry winds are out and the mercury far below zero, she will allow her most ardent lover to freeze on her snowy breast without waving a leaf in pity, or offering him a match; and scores of her devotees may starve to death in as many different languages before she will offer a loaf of bread. She does not deal in matches and loaves; rather in thunderbolts and granite mountains. And the ashes of her campfires bury proud cities. But, like all tyrants, she yields to force and gives the more, the more she is beaten. She may starve or freeze the poet, the scholar, the scientist; all the same, she has in store food, fuel and shelter, which the skillful, self-reliant woodsman can wring from her savage hand with axe and rifle.
Only to him whose coat of rags Has pressed at night her regal feet, Shall come the secrets, strange and sweet, Of century pines and beetling crags.
For him the goddess shall unlock The golden secrets which have lain Ten thousand years, through frost and rain, Deep in the bosom of the rock.
The trip was a long and tiresome one, considering the distance. There were no hairbreadth escapes; I was not tackled by bears, treed by wolves, or nearly killed by a hand-to-claw "racket" with a panther; and there were no Indians to come sneak-hunting around after hair. Animal life was abundant, exuberant, even. But the bright-eyed woodfolk seemed tame, nay, almost friendly, and quite intent on minding their own business. It was a "pigeon year," a "squirrel year," and also a marvelous year for shack or mast. Every nut-bearing tree was loaded with sweet well-filled nuts; and this, coupled with the fact that the Indians had left and the whites had not yet got in, probably accounted for the plentitude of game.
I do not think there was an hour of daylight on the trip when squirrels were not too numerous to be counted, while pigeons were a constant quantity from start to finish. Grouse in the thickets and quail in the high oak openings, or small prairies, with droves of wild turkeys among heavy timber, were met with almost hourly, and there was scarcely a day on which I could not have had a standing shot at a bear. But the most interesting point about the game was—to me, at least—the marvelous abundance of deer. They were everywhere, on all sorts of ground and among all varieties of timber; very tame they were, too, often stopping to look at the stranger, offering easy shots at short range, and finally going off quite leisurely.
No ardent lover of forest life could be lonely in such company and in such weather. The only drawback was the harassing and vexatious manner in which lakes, streams, swamps and marshes constantly persisted in getting across the way, compelling long detours to the north or south, when the true course was nearly due west. I think there were days on which ten hours of pretty faithful tramping did not result in more than three or four miles of direct headway. The headwaters of the Salt and Chippewa rivers were especially obstructive; and, when more than half the distance was covered, I ran into a tangle of small lakes, marshes and swamps, not marked on the map, which cost a hard day's work to leave behind.
While there were no startling adventures and no danger connected with the trip, there was a constant succession of incidents, that made the lonely tramp far from monotonous. Some of these occurrences were intensely interesting, and a little exciting. Perhaps the brief recital of a few may not be uninteresting at the present day, when game is so rapidly disappearing.
My rifle was a neat, hair-triggered Billinghurst, carrying sixty round balls to the pound, a muzzle-loader, of course, and a nail-driver. I made just three shots in ten days, and each shot stood for a plump young deer in the "short blue." It seemed wicked to murder such a bright, graceful animal, when no more than the loins and a couple of slices from the ham could be used, leaving the balance to the wolves, who never failed to take possession before I was out of ear shot. But I condoned the excess, if excess it were, by the many chances I allowed to pass, not only on deer but bear, and once on a big brute of a wild hog, the wickedest and most formidable looking animal I ever met in the woods. The meeting happened in this wise. I had been bothered and wearied for half a day by a bad piece of low, marshy ground and had at length struck a dry, rolling oak opening where I sat down at the foot of a small oak to rest. I had scarcely been resting ten minutes, when I caught sight of a large, dirty-white animal, slowly working its way in my direction through the low bushes, evidently nosing around for acorns. I was puzzled to say what it was. It looked like a hog, but stood too high on its legs; and how would such a beast get there anyhow? Nearer and nearer he came and at last walked out into an open spot less than twenty yards distant. It was a wild hog of the ugliest and largest description; tall as a yearling, with an unnaturally large head and dangerous looking tusks, that curved above his savage snout like small horns. There was promise of magnificent power in his immense shoulders, while flanks and hams were disproportionately light. He came out to the open leisurely munching his acorns, or amusing himself by ploughing deep furrows with his nose, and not until within ten yards did he appear to note the presence of a stranger. Suddenly he raised his head and became rigid as though frozen to stone; he was taking an observation. For a few seconds he remained immovable, then his bristles became erect and with a deep guttural, grunting noise, he commenced hitching himself along in my direction, sidewise. My hair raised and in an instant I was on my feet with the cocked rifle to my shoulder— meaning to shoot before his charge and then make good time up the tree. But there was no need. As I sprang to my feet he sprang for the hazel bushes and went tearing through them with the speed of a deer, keeping up a succession of snorts and grunts that could be heard long after he had passed out of sight. I am not subject to buck fever and was disgusted to find myself so badly "rattled" that I could scarcely handle the rifle. At first I was provoked at myself for not getting a good ready and shooting him in the head, as he came out of the bushes; but it was better to let him live. He was not carnivorous, or a beast of prey, and ugly as he was, certainly looked better alive than he would as a porcine corpse. No doubt he relished his acorns as well as though he had been less ugly, and he was a savage power in the forest. Bears love pork; and the fact that the hog was picking up a comfortable living in that wilderness, is presumptive evidence that he was a match for the largest bear, or he would have been eaten long before.
Another little incident, in which Bruin played a leading part, rises vividly to memory. It was hardly an adventure; only the meeting of man and bear, and they parted on good terms, with no hardness on either side.
The meeting occurred, as usually was the case with large game, on dry, oak lands, where the undergrowth was hazel, sasafras and wild grapevine. As before, I had paused for a rest, when I began to catch glimpses of a very black animal working its way among the hazel bushes, under the scattering oaks, and toward me. With no definite intention of shooting, but just to see how easy it might be to kill him, I got a good ready, and waited. Slowly and lazily he nuzzled his way among the trees, sitting up occasionally to crunch acorns, until he was within twenty-five yards of me, with the bright bead neatly showing at the butt of his ear, and he sitting on his haunches, calmly chewing his acorns, oblivious of danger. He was the shortest-legged, blackest and glossiest bear I had ever seen; and such a fair shot. But I could not use either skin or meat, and he was a splendid picture just as he sat. Shot down and left to taint the blessed air, he would not look as wholesome, let alone that it would be unwarrantable murder. And so, when he came nosing under the very tree where I was sitting, I suddenly jumped up, threw my hat at him and gave a Comanche yell. He tumbled over in a limp heap, grunting and whining for very terror, gathered himself up, got up headway and disappeared with wonderful speed— considering the length of his legs.
On another occasion—and this was in heavy timber—I was resting on a log, partially concealed by spice bushes, when I noticed a large flock of turkeys coming in my direction. As they rapidly advanced with their quick, gliding walk, the flock grew to a drove, the drove became a swarm—an army. To right and on the left, as far as I could see in front, a legion of turkeys were marching, steadily marching to the eastward. Among them were some of the grandest gobblers I had ever seen, and one magnificent fellow came straight toward me. Never before or since have I seen such a splendid wild bird. His thick, glossy black beard nearly reached the ground, his bronze uniform was of the richest, and he was decidedly the largest I have ever seen. When within fifty feet of the spot where I was nearly hidden, his wary eye caught something suspicious; and he raised his superb head for an instant in an attitude of motionless attention. Then, with lowered head and drooping tail, he turned right about, gave the note of alarm, put the trunk of a large tree quickly between himself and the enemy, and went away like the wind. With the speed of thought the warning note was sounded along the whole line and in a moment the woods seemed alive with turkeys, running for dear life. In less time than it takes to tell it, that gallinaceous army had passed out of sight, forever. And the like of it will never again be possible on this continent.
And again, on the morning of the sixth day out, I blundered on to such an aggregation of deer as a man sees but once in a lifetime. I had camped over night on low land, among heavy timber, but soon after striking camp, came to a place where the timber was scattering and the land had a gentle rise to the westward. Scarcely had I left the low land behind, when a few deer got out of their beds and commenced lazily bounding away. They were soon joined by others; on the right flank, on the left and ahead, they continued to rise and canter off leisurely, stopping at a distance of one or two hundred yards to look back. It struck me finally that I had started something rather unusual and I began counting the deer in sight. It was useless to attempt it; their white flags were flying in front and on both flanks, as far as one could see, and new ones seemed constantly joining the procession. Among them were several very large bucks with superb antlers, and these seemed very little afraid of the small, quiet biped in leaf-colored rig. They often paused to gaze back with bold, fearless front, as though inclined to call a halt and face the music; but when within a hundred yards, would turn and canter leisurely away. As the herd neared the summit of the low-lying ridge, I tried to make a reasonable guess at their numbers, by counting a part and estimating the rest, but could come to no satisfactory conclusion. As they passed the summit and loped down the gentle decline toward heavy timber, they began to scatter, and soon not a flag was in sight. It was a magnificent cervine army with white banners, and I shall never look upon its like again. The largest drove of deer I have seen in twenty years consisted of seven only.
And with much of interest, much of tramping, and not a little vexatious delay, I came at length to a stream that I knew must be the south branch of the Muskegon. The main river could scarcely be more than ten miles to the westward and might be easily reached in one day.
It was time. The meal and pork were nearly gone, sugar and tea were at low ebb and I was tired of venison; tired anyhow; ready for human speech and human companionship.
It was in the afternoon of the ninth day that I crossed the South Muskegon and laid a course west by north. The traveling was not bad; and in less than an hour I ran on to the ruins of a camp that I knew to be the work of Indians. It had evidently been a permanent winter camp and was almost certainly the Indian camp spoken of by Bill Hance. Pausing a short time to look over the ruins, with the lonely feeling always induced by a decayed, rotting camp, I struck due west and made several miles before sundown.
I camped on a little rill, near a huge dry stub that would peel, made the last of the meal into a Johnnycake, broiled the last slice of pork and lay down with the notion that a ten days' tramp, where it took an average of fifteen miles to make six, ought to end on the morrow. At sunrise I was again on foot, and after three hours of steady tramping, saw a smoky opening ahead. In five minutes I was standing on the left bank of the Muskegon.
And the Joe Davis camp—was it up stream or down? I decided on the latter, and started slowly down stream, keeping an eye out for signs. In less than an hour I struck a dim log road which led to the river and there was a "landing," with the usual debris of skids, loose bark, chocks and some pieces of broken boards. It did not take long to construct an efficient log raft from the dry skids, and as I drifted placidly down the deep, wild river, munching the last bit of Johnnycake, I inwardly swore that my next wilderness cruise should be by water.
It was in late afternoon that I heard—blessed sound—the eager clank, clank, clank of the old-fashioned sawmill. It grew nearer and more distinct; presently I could distinguish the rumble of machinery as the carriage gigged back; then the raft rounded a gentle bend, and a mill, with its long, log boarding-house, came full in sight.
As the raft swung into the landing the mill became silent; a brown-bearded, red-shirted fellow came down to welcome me, a pair of strong hands grasped both my own and the voice of Joe Davis said earnestly, "Why, George! I never was so damned glad to see a man in my life!"
The ten days' tramp was ended. It had been wearisome to a degree, but interesting and instructive. I had seen more game birds and animals in the time than I ever saw before or since in a whole season; and, though I came out with clothes pretty well worn and torn off my back and legs, I was a little disposed to plume myself on the achievement. Even at this day I am a little proud of the fact that, with so many temptations to slaughter, I only fired three shots on the route. Nothing but the exceptionally fine, dry weather rendered such a trip possible in a wilderness so cut up with swamps, lakes, marshes and streams. A week of steady rain or a premature snow storm—either likely enough at that season—would have been most disastrous; while a forest fire like that of '56 and later ones, would simply have proved fatal.
Reader, if ever you are tempted to make a similar thoughtless, reckless trip—don't do it.
CHAPTER IX The Light Canoe And Double Blade—Various Canoes For Various Canoeists—Reasons For Preferring The Clinker-Built Cedar
THE canoe is coming to the front and canoeing is gaining rapidly in popular favor, in spite of the disparaging remark that "a canoe is a poor man's yacht." The canoe editor of Forest and Stream pertinently says, "we may as properly call a bicycle 'the poor man's express train'." But, suppose it is the poor man's yacht? Are we to be debarred from aquatic sports because we are not rich? And are we such weak flunkies as to be ashamed of poverty? Or to attempt shams and subterfuges to hide it? For myself, I freely accept the imputation. In common with nine-tenths of my fellow citizens I am poor—and the canoe is my yacht, as it would be were I a millionaire. We are a nation of many millions and comparatively few of us are rich enough to support a yacht, let alone the fact that not one man in fifty lives near enough to yachting waters to make such an acquisition desirable—or feasible, even. It is different with the canoe. A man like myself can live in the backwoods, a hundred miles from a decent sized inland lake and much further from the sea coast, and yet be an enthusiastic canoeist. For instance.
Last July I made my preparations for a canoe cruise and spun out with as little delay as possible. I had pitched on the Adirondacks as cruising ground and had more than 250 miles of railroads and buckboards to take, before launching the canoe on Moose River. She was carried thirteen miles over the Brown's Tract road on the head of her skipper, cruised from the western side of the Wilderness to the Lower St. Regis on the east side, cruised back again by a somewhat different route, was taken home to Pennsylvania on the cars, 250 miles, sent back to her builder, St. Lawrence County, N.Y., over 300 miles, thence by rail to New York City, where, the last I heard of her, she was on exhibition at the Forest and Stream office. She took her chances in the baggage car, with no special care and is today, so far as I know, staunch and tight, with not a check in her frail siding.
Such cruising can only be made in a very light canoe and with a very light outfit. It was sometimes necessary to make several carries in one day, aggregating as much as ten miles, besides from fifteen to twenty miles under paddle. No heavy, decked, paddling or sailing canoe would have been available for such a trip with a man of ordinary muscle.
The difference between a lone, independent cruise through an almost unbroken wilderness and cruising along civilized routes, where the canoeist can interview farm houses and village groceries for supplies, getting gratuitous stonings from the small boy and much reviling from ye ancient mariner of the towpath—I say, the difference is just immense. Whence it comes that I always prefer a very light, open canoe; one that I can carry almost as easily as my hat, and yet that will float me easily, buoyantly and safely. And such a canoe was my last cruiser. She only weighed ten and one-half pounds when first launched, and after an all summer rattling by land and water had only gained half a pound. I do not therefore advise anyone to buy a ten and a half pound canoe; although she would prove competent for a skilful lightweight. She was built to order, as a test of lightness and was the third experiment in that line.
I have nothing to say against the really fine canoes that are in highest favor today. Were I fond of sailing and satisfied to cruise on routes where clearings are more plentiful than carries, I dare say I should run a Shadow, or Stella Maris, at a cost of considerably more than $100—though I should hardly call it a "poor man's yacht."
Much is being said and written at the present day as to the "perfect canoe." One writer decides in favor of a Pearl 15 x 31 1/2 inches. In the same column another says, "the perfect canoe does not exist." I should rather say there are several types of the modern canoe, each nearly perfect in its way and for the use to which it is best adapted. The perfect paddling canoe is by no means perfect under canvas and vice versa. The best cruiser is not a perfect racer, while neither of them is at all perfect as a paddling cruiser where much carrying is to be done. And the most perfect canoe for fishing and gunning around shallow, marshy waters, would be a very imperfect canoe for a rough and ready cruise of one hundred miles through a strange wilderness, where a day's cruise will sometimes include a dozen miles of carrying.
Believing, as I do, that the light, single canoe with double-bladed paddle is bound to soon become a leading—if not the leading—feature in summer recreation, and having been a light canoeist for nearly fifty years, during the last twenty of which I experimented much with the view of reducing weight, perhaps I can give some hints that may help a younger man in the selection of a canoe which shall be safe, pleasant to ride and not burdensome to carry.
Let me promise that, up to four years ago, I was never able to get a canoe that entirely satisfied me as to weight and model. I bought the smallest birches I could find; procured a tiny Chippewa dugout from North Michigan and once owned a kayak. They were all too heavy and they were cranky to a degree.
About twenty years ago I commenced making my own canoes. The construction was of the simplest; a 22 inch pine board for the bottom, planed to 3/4 of an inch thickness; two wide 1/2 inch boards for the sides and two light oak stems; five pieces of wood in all. I found that the bend of the siding gave too much shear; for instance, if the siding was 12 inches wide, she would have a rise of 12 inches at stems and less than 5 inches at center. But the flat bottom made her very stiff, and for river work she was better than anything I had yet tried. She was too heavy, however, always weighing from 45 to 50 pounds and awkward to carry.
My last canoe of this style went down the Susquehanna with an ice jam in the spring of '79, and in the meantime canoeing began to loom up. The best paper in the country which makes outdoor sport its specially, devoted liberal space to canoeing, and skilled boatbuilders were advertising canoes of various models and widely different material. I commenced interviewing the builders by letter and studying catalogues carefully. There was a wide margin of choice. You could have lapstreak, smooth skin, paper, veneer, or canvas. What I wanted was light weight and good model. I liked the Peterboro canoes; they were decidedly canoey. Also, the veneered Racines: but neither of them talked of a 20 pound canoe. The "Osgood folding canvas" did. But I had some knowledge of canvas boats. I knew they could make her down to 20 pounds. How much would she weigh after being in the water a week and how would she behave when swamped in the middle of a lake, were questions to be asked, for I always get swamped. One builder of cedar canoes thought he could make me the boat I wanted, inside of 20 pounds, clinker-built and at my own risk, as he hardly believed in so light a boat. I sent him the order and he turned out what is pretty well known in Brown's Tract as the "Nessmuk canoe." She weighed just 17 pounds 13 3/4 ounces and was thought to be the lightest working canoe in existence. Her builder gave me some advice about stiffening her with braces, etc., if I found her too frail, "and he never expected another like her."
"He builded better than he knew." She needed no bracing; and she was, and is, a staunch, seaworthy little model. I fell in love with her from the start. I had at last found the canoe that I could ride in rough water, sleep in afloat, and carry with ease for miles. I paddled her early and late, mainly on the Fulton Chain; but I also cruised her on Raquette Lake, Eagle, Utowana, Blue Mountain and Forked Lakes, I paddled her until there were black and blue streaks along the muscles from wrist to elbow. Thank Heaven, I had found something that made me a boy again. Her log shows a cruise for 1880 of over 550 miles.