BLTC Press Titles

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The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Carlyle, Rudolf Steiner

The Haunted Bookshop

Christopher Morely

The Characters of Theophrastus


The Souls of Black Folk

W. E. B. DuBois

Camp craft

by Warren Hastings Miller


Styles, sizes, and materials of tents vary greatly

according to the climate, number in the party, and transportation possibilities. Every different style of going has its own best kind of tent, and this in its turn is modified by temperatures, wood supply, and available time for camp-making. There is a tendency among modern writers, following doubtless the lead of Nessmuk, to pooh-pooh the wall-tent as unsuited for anything but army conditions. But it is a significant fact that practically all the trappers, lumbermen, and herb men who live in the woods use the benighted wall-tent, and the Indian abandons his teepee for it just as soon as he can afford to buy one. Why? Because for a permanent camp it is the most practical form of shelter yet devised, and with a tent-stove and brush or snow protection it will defy cold better than any teepee or Sibley ever built. It is quickly and easily put up with a ridgepole and a pair of shears outside—those who carry tent-poles do not know the game—it does not need any "fly" overhead with modern tent textiles, and for its weight it gives the maximum available cubic space inside. The commercial sizes of wall-tents run from the little 4^ x 6^-foot affair for two men up to the 15 x 17^3-foot size, taking five camp-cots along both walls. There are, of course, larger sizes for lumber crews, etc., but in camping-party sizes the 9x11, 12x14, and 14x16 about fill the bill. In water-proof flax their weights run from 19 pounds to 81, light green cloths weigh from 10 pounds for the 8x8 tent to 56 pounds for the 12 x 14 in waterproof duck. The above weight should convince you that the wall-tent is not the thing for back-pack trips, nor for one-night-stand canoe trips, nor for a nomadic pack trip for a hunting-party of six or eight men. A tent is an indivisible load, and in large sizes a very bulky one. With a boat, buckboard, or pack-horse to transport the tent, a large one for a party has the advantage that its stove will keep the chill off all night, and it is the thing to have for a permanent base camp of several weeks' duration.

The stove for it is of light sheet iron, in sizes 10x11x18, 10x11x25, an<* 10x12x32 inches. Weights run from 15 to 20 pounds. These stoves are regularly made without a bottom, being intended to be set on a stone hearth and to fold for transportation into a flat parcel. With them is furnished a telescopic pipe of five 2-foot lengths of sheet-iron pipe, the weight of which is included in the totals given above. It is essential to have a spark-arrester with it, for the sparks from a camp-stove are tiny hot embers, and will surely burn holes in the tent when they descend.

However, with a stove and a large wall-tent, a party of hunters or a man and his family are well fixed for comfortable living outdoors—better than the Indian is with his teepee, and far more healthily than the man in a mouldy log cabin or a drafty shack. The beauty of the camp-stove is that it runs all night. In principle it is a charcoal-making machine, with very little draft, and slow, steady combustion. You will have lots of difficulty with it on starting up for lack of sufficient draft, and the surest way to invite trouble is to fill it full of small kindlings and then touch it off", for it will at once smother itself because there is not enough air to support the flames. But go at it gradually, until you have a bed of live coals, and then you have an excellent fire for slow cooking, roasting, and baking, and you can feed it short logs ad lib., with no necessity to be forever rustling small fuel as with the open campfire. At night fill the stove up with logs. The lower ones resting on the bed of live coals burn as fast as the limited draft of air will permit, while all the rest turn to charcoal and burn slowly in their turn. As this is a process of hours, the stove gives a steady heat all night, and is in fine shape for bacon and coffee and flapjacks in the morning.

Contrast this with life in the teepee in cold weather. I have often slept in them, the following experience being typical of a night spent in one: A sturdy fire, three times the size of a camp-stove, ate up a goodly pile of timber and maintained an acrid eye-watering atmosphere in the teepee, even though all its visible smoke was carried out by the draft cloth, which is arranged opposite the smoke flaps in every wellordered teepee. About eleven o'clock the party turned in. By twelve the fire was down to embers, and cold blasts whistled up the draft cloth and out the smoke flaps. It was like sleeping in a chimney. My blanket bag was next the draft cloth and I got all the trimmings—maybe it wasn't cold! I'd far rather have buried the bag in a leaf pile in the woods outside. I got off" to sleep about 1 A. M., and was wakened by the honking of wild geese pitching down into the lake in the dark before dawn. Orion had swung around, and I could see the whole of him through the top of the teepee. The cold of space radiated straight down onto us. You might as well have slept outdoors! The temperature was about plus 20, and there was ice inches deep in every pail in the teepee, and the fire had turned into a dead-white heap of ashes.

It was very poetic, of course. The Red Gods loomed large overhead, and their voices echoed down the lake in the stentorian honking of the Canada geese. We were living in the red man's home since time immemorial, on ground where trod Uncas and Chingachgook and Quonab. They probably slept under piles of caribou skins. I was using a blanket bag that I know is comfortable at plus 2, provided that you keep drafts off" it, but in that teepee the bag was cold at plus 20. Two weeks later the same party were out in a white man's wall-tent 14 x 16

feet, with a 10 x 11 x 25-inch stove—and life was worth living again!

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