Forest and Stream

Bryan Muche

This Forest and Stream podcast will take you to the times, the people and the events that shaped America and Americans, our ideals, our values and our dreams. We’ll seat you alongside the affluent and in the boots of everyday citizens to deliver a rare insight and an unfiltered view through a window into the past. Discover how footprints made generations ago have worn a path to where our own outdoor experiences still intersect today, and affects you now. As with many historical works from past era’s, there are phrases, terms, and descriptions that are inappropriate to our modern sensibilities. We in no way condone these offensive remarks or passages but may choose to read published work in its entirety for purposes of education and accurate historic context. We hope you enjoy this show, perhaps finding a new understanding and even revealing a connection that moves you a little closer to touching our past. read less
HistoryHistory
SportsSports
WildernessWilderness

Episodes

A Greenhorn and Big John in the Wilds of Michigan -  January 18, 1877
Feb 11 2022
A Greenhorn and Big John in the Wilds of Michigan - January 18, 1877
If the sketch which follows, depicting a general outline of incidents which entered into the experience of a "Greenhorn," on his first deer hunt in the wilds of Michigan, shall have the effect of driving the work-encumbered denizens of the city into some reasonable consideration for his own wellbeing, by taking for himself such recreation as will yield him the greatest possible benefit, the object of it will have been accomplished. After a fellow has spent say thirty years of his life with his nose at the grindstone, it is not astonishing that it comes to strike him at last as being somewhat monotonous, and then when he comes to look at the results and sees little but cavernous eyes, sunken cheeks, attenuated frame, and a general slaughter of the vital energies, it is well that he began to think, "What is to be the end of all this anyhow? Does it pay? and, if not, what is the remedy?" When a man has reached this crisis, and asks himself seriously these questions, there is hope for him, and happy will it prove if he can profit by my experience, so he may enjoy himself to the full limit of his capacity; and his capacity will require no stinted draught, particularly if he has been a constant reader of Forest and Stream, for while yet in the toils his tastes and inclinations will have been so shaping and developing as to prepare him to receive the maximum amount of enjoyment and satisfaction the moment he breaks the monotony and enters upon the rejuvenating process. In my case I went into early training. It commenced with the first issue of Forest and Stream, and it still continues. Thursday nights my watch is slow, and from the moment I take my seat before my wide open grate, with slippers and cigars until bed time, I let the world wag. I am drinking in new life, shaking hands with Thad. Norris, holding high carnival with Major Sarasota, and courting old Al. Fresco as I would my “Gum Drop”. Wife says we must make that “party call” tonight. "Not much," say I; "here's mettle more attractive!  Well, I read my Forest and Stream through; then turn again to your new title page on the outside of the cover, study that grand old head, which is the Daniel Webster of all mooses, then to the camp, the rods, the guns.  0h! I wish I were there; but then— not any of this for me. Oh! no, the delicious reality is too far beyond my reach. It is all very nice to know that there is such a fountain of perpetual youth, and that the mysteries of the Forest and the Stream can be enjoyed by some, so that we can read about them and get the crumbs as it were from the rich man's table, or to borrow a smile, we can look at the blackened frames next morning after the fireworks are over, and so enjoy the fireworks second-hand like. Now, it so happens, that in one of these reveries, the post carrier brings a letter posted "Wild Cat," Michigan. Of course that's from Elisha ('Lish for short), lumberman, merchant, notary, constable, sportsman and brother-in-law. Let's see what he has to say; some patent business probably, as usual. What! do I read aright? Why, the boy says: "Dear Greenhorn, if you want some sport, come here at once; lots of deer, plenty of bear, clouds of turkey, wild cats quantum sufficit, and as for partridges, quail, jack rabbits, and all such small insects, they overrun the country, begging for a front seat in a pot-pie. Come quick. Bring "Bird" (that's my wife) and stay eighteen months. Gentle reader: (Original but not copyrighted) were you ever struck by lightning? If so, you can probably imagine the thrill that shivered my timbers the moment the full force of this thing struck me. Here was the grand opportunity of a life time; but how can I? Oh! The tantalizing cuss! he knows it's impossible. Of course it is. But the vision haunts me; like Banquo's ghost, it will not down. I imagine I see the handwriting on the wall — he "who hesitates is lost." Well, I hesitate! I am lost! I resolve. I will go. There ! It is done. I will telegraph so that I can't back out, and a message goes instantaneous. Are there any skeptics in your large family that don't believe in the virtue of a good resolution? Let them try it and see. My resolution is scarce an hour old, and here is a new man already. Why, the new life bursts out all over; the tension of a long strain is off; the whole frame springs upright; the true manhood steps forth and asserts the privilege of a hitherto imprisoned birthright, which else might have gone, like Esau of old, for a mere mess of pottage. So it is fixed. I go. Now to business. Let's see; I must have a Winchester and a— well, never mind. I will tell you just what I did take, and then let you know in the end how the items respectively served my purpose, as follows, viz: A Winchester rifle, a heavy blue flannel shirt, a tightly knit cardigan jacket, a pair of rubber boots, a few pairs of extra heavy woolen socks, a Holabird shooting coat, an old soft felt hat, and a sheath knife, all together (except of course the rifle) filling not more than half an ordinary sized hand bag. I did not take a shot gun, as my ambition was for the "heavy weights" — no sparrows and wrens and sich, for my bag, this time. All these things provided, therefore, the most beautiful morning of the whole year (two month's since) saw me on the rear platform of a Pullman parlor, passing quietly out of the Erie depot, bound for sundown. The next morning found me at Port Huron, with a trip of thirty miles up the shore of Lake Huron yet before me, and no practicable way of making it but by boat. A boat of the regular line would not pass up until evening, but I must do better if possible, for I thought of that "Lordly Buck" that was waiting, and afraid lest Bergh might make a case against me if I taxed his patience too long; but it was no use. After hailing all sorts of craft, and trying to drive a bargain with numerous tug captains I gave it up, and it was ten o'clock at night before I set foot on the dock at Lexington, where was a pair of stalwart arms wide open to embrace, and they being clad in the shaggiest of Ulsters, it was no great stretch of the imagination in the hug that followed, to believe that I had found my own Grizzly, and that he had got the best of me. Five miles more inland in the pitchy darkness behind "Old John" (of whom more anon), brought us to our destination, and by midnight I was fast in the arms of Morpheus under a hospitable shelter, with warm hearts and true around me, and the "Lordly Buck" scarce five hundred yards away in "the bush," waiting to bid me good morning. I was awakened betimes by the sound of voices under my window, and looking out, I saw in the faint grey of the early dawn the preparation on foot for the sport of the day; the boys were waiting for us with the hounds (splendid fellows), and a good backwoods team with hay, straw, robes, and other creature comforts filling the box, and into which, after a glorious breakfast of venison, fresh eggs, wafer-like buckwheat cakes, and the most fragrant and delicious of coffee, we all bundled. Then, amid a jolly outburst of orchestral music from some half-dozen fog horns we started, just as the streaks of grey in the east began to broaden and reflect a silver sheen on the frosty landscape. Now, while we are driving along gaily, but not rapidly (for the corderoy road forbids that), I will introduce my companions: First, there is "'Lish," our brother-in-law, a thorough sportsman, "with all that that implies," a born gentleman in all his walks and conversation, the worthy head of the community, and the authority of an extended local district in all matters pertaining to the horse, the dog, or the gun— a mechanical genius of the first water— and a most genial and intelligent companion. Next comes Buxton, young in years, but old in wood craft; can scent a deer about as well as a hound; can thread the mazes of the forest without breaking a twig, or losing his locality for an instant; a most willing and unselfish worker for the enjoyment of others. Then comes Bertham, an educated and intelligent gentleman, whom taste and inclination, and perhaps fortune, has led to a frontier life, an ardent lover of all manly sports, and a valued teacher and mentor to the youth of the community. Last, but not least, is Joe Butterball, in charge of the team. What Joe don't know about getting a team through a "slashing" isn't worth knowing; but when it comes to guns — well, if Joe has one in his hands give him a wide berth. He "don't know nothing about the dog-goned things — don't like 'em." So we had prepared for Joe an old muzzle loader loaded with blank cartridge, to be used as we should instruct. I was armed with a Winchester, Buxton with a Spencer carbine, Bertham with a fine Webley breech loader, loading buck-shot. 'Lish had both a Winchester and a Daly gun. Well, here we are. We have come a mile due west of the hamlet, and here is apparently a cross road; at least they call it such but it is really little else than a path cut for the surveyor's through the forest for the laying out of the section line roads. Here we drop Buxton and the hounds. They go a mile or two further on foot, when they enter the forest to the north of the road, gradually making their way back towards us, and driving the deer before them. We turn into the forest to the north, and after going in a short distance the horses are hitched, and Joe left in charge. We give him the blunderbuss loaded and prepared for his use, and tell him to pull the trigger if he hears the hounds coming too near his station, so as to frighten the deer over towards us. We cock the gun for him, and leave him fully prepared for the emergency. We then take up our several positions about five hundred yards apart, on a line due north from each other. Joe first, Bertham second, myself third, and 'Lish last. As a Greenhorn, I am told to keep my eye on a certain black stump when I hear the hounds coming, for if the deer comes through on the runway I am watching, he will surely pass within ten feet of that stump. I am told, also, that if the deer gets by me unhurt, not to let the dogs follow, but to stop and tie them fast. I am provided with stout muslin cords for that purpose, for the deer would probably lead them to the lake, seven or eight miles distant, and we might see no more of them for days, our hunt for the next day be spoiled. So, with these hints, I wait in the grand solitude of the virgin forest, with ears intent for the voice of the hounds. I cannot tell how long I waited. I only know that in a supreme moment of contemplation, when the soul seemed filled with the greatness, the grandeur, the glory of the illimitable wilderness, I was suddenly aroused to a realizing sense of the situation by a distant cry of the hounds, distant and low at first, gradually coming nearer and more distinct; now evidently running to the north, now to the south. Oh! the music of that full chorus, which now began to break loudly on the still air, was inspiring. All else was still as death, and every particular hair was standing on end with expectation. One loud, deep, and wonderfully clear voice, was evidently nearer than the rest, but running too far north, for my runway. Presently, crack goes a shot, evidently from 'Lish's Winchester; then another, and another in quick succession. All is still again. The deep, loud-voiced hound, is heard no more; but the others are in full cry, nearly in front of me, but yet at some distance. I cannot resist the inclination to climb that high stump at my right, to see if I can see the result of those three sharp cracks. I am up there in an instant, but can see nothing: I suddenly hear a twig snap almost at my side, and looking down quickly, there is a beautiful fawn bounding lightly by, scarcely seeming to touch the ground, so graceful, so beautiful. I am spell-bound, and haven't the heart to stop him. No! Go on, my jewel, and take your life with you. The hounds are still crying loud and near. I am now back in an instant to my old position, with my eye on the black stump, though my game has probably passed. I must stop the hounds. A' ah! there is a commotion in the brush over by that stump now. No fawn this time. A crash in the thicket, and out rushes like the wind an old grey-haired monarch, plunging like lightning right by my wondering and bewildered vision, and myself powerless to raise an arm to stop him. In an instant, however, Richard is himself again, and I send a wild shot after him. He is away now two hundred yards, going straight from me. I raise my rifle again with comparative deliberation this time. Ah! old fellow, where are you now? His heels fly up, and turning a complete sommersault he lies still. The shot had struck him behind the ear and entered his brain, and in falling his momentum had carried him completely over. I viewed my prize with a pride that I will not attempt to express. He was a grand fellow, and his head and antlers will remain an heirloom, I hope, for many generations to come. I now start to get Joe to help me in the details of bleeding and dressing him. Hark! there goes Joe's gun! Can there be another coming? I stop to listen, but hear nothing but a faint, distant jargon, in Joe's peculiar vernacular, and hasten to see what has happened to him. I found him leaning against a stump, with his hands pressed over his abdominal region, throwing out curses by the bushel on all guns, and that gun in particular, which was lying in the mud at his feet. He was able finally to explain that, after he had heard our shots, he thought all necessity for shooting his gun had passed, and he didn't like to see it standing there cocked, for the "durned thing might go off of itself, you know," and so resolved to put the hammer down. In performing the operation he held the breech against his stomach, the hammers slipped from his fingers and exploded both barrels, the recoil sending him flat on his back, and as he expressed it, "knocking his breakfast clean up into his hat." 'Lish and Bertham had now come up with the hounds, and we passed congratulations and enjoyed a hearty laugh at Joe's expense. 'Lish had killed a buck and a doe, which satisfactorily accounted for his three shots. Bertham had not been in luck, and all agreed that the Greenhorn had acquitted himself with credit, but rather joked the sentiment which gave the fawn his liberty. We now waited for Buxton to come in before we tackled the substantials that we had brought for the inner man. He was not long after the hounds, however, and while regaling ourselves at the festive board, Buxton related how the large buck that I killed was started up by the hounds, only a few rods from where he was standing, and he could have captured him easily, but he thought of that "chap from York who had come a thousand miles to shoot deer, and he wouldn't steal any of his chances no how." Who says there isn't honor and fellow feeling in the backwoods? Indeed, that is just the place to look for it and its name, when you find it— is" Buxton. Well, there must be an end to all things, and the end had now come to our first day's hunt. We all turned to and had our venison stored in the wagon box in short order, which obliged all but that "favored chap from York" to walk home. That night a mysterious party, with glistening knives and lanterns, were busy until midnight cutting up and dividing the spoils, and planning for the next day's hunt, which promised lively sport, inasmuch as bear and wildcat were included in the programme. I find I have forgotten to speak of "Old John," as I promised. He is a grand character in his way, but the length of this paper precludes the singing of his virtues, and of his wonderful intelligence at this time, but will come in with a subsequent account of the three day's sport that followed, and which was participated in by Greenhorn. Part 2 As "Old John" is to figure more or less conspicuously in the account of the next day's hunt, it will be well to introduce him on the start. He is a stallion of almost regal magnificence when he is in shape; but it is not usual in the hunting season to find him in this condition, for his master is almost constantly on his back, and they rough it together, scouring the country in all weathers, and it is a matter of almost daily occurrence to see them come in at nightfall— -'Lish on foot followed by Old John bearing a buck, or a bear, or a brace of turkeys slung over his back; and when we consider the pure white of his coat it is easy to imagine that with such usage he does not at this season appear at his best, as far as looks are concerned, being blood stained and soiled; but as soon as the hunting season is over he appears in his dress suit, which is pure glossy white with jet black spots scattered about his loins and shoulders, with a mane and tail flowing thick and long like silken floss prepared for the loom. A sight of him impressed one with supernatural strength and endurance, combined with the most perfect symmetry and grace of form and movement. 'Lish bought him while a colt, and commenced his education at once. We call him Old John, but he has only turned his sixth year, and is therefore not jet in his prime. His natural intelligence is something wonderful, and after he had been taught that he had an absolute master it was perfectly easy for him to be made to understand and to perform anything. He will acknowledge but one master, however, and -it is worth the life of a stranger to attempt any familiarities with him, and yet 'Lish will put his little six-year old Gussie and five-year old Nellie on his back, and Old John will follow him like a pet dog even into the house, proud of his precious burden. But the noble animal shows best his mettle when on the hunt with his master on his back. The bridle lines are always hanging loosely over his neck, for they are rarely used. 'Lish has his Winchester slung over his shoulder, his breech loader over his arm, his knife in his belt, and off they go like the wind, through thickets, over ditches and fallen logs, turning this way and that, guided by his master's voice or the sway of his body, or a wave of his hand; it is a picture worth going miles to see. Now we will imagine 'Lish and Old John coming home together after a hard day's hunt. They pass in the lane and stop at the side door of the house. The game is taken off Old John's back, and the bridle also removed and done up snugly; no such encumbrance as a saddle is used. Old John is then made to take the bridle in his mouth and receives his orders there. "Now, sir, take your bridle down and hang it up and go into your room and shut the door," and Old John starts off at a lively gait for the barn at the end of the lane, while ‘Lish goes in, kisses wife and babies, takes his game into the dressing room, and then goes down to make Old John comfortable for the night. He finds the bridle hung on its peg all right, and lifting the latch finds the old fellow awfully impatient for his oats; so the feed box is filled, and just as Old John is going for it with a rush, he hears a warning, thus : "Stop, sir! Don't you dare touch an oat until I tell you." We go out and latch the door and look through a crack, keep perfectly still and watch. John stretches out his nose towards the oats just near enough to get a sniff, then throws back his head and looks all around slyly; then once more slowly and cautiously allows his nose to get within an inch of the tempting pile, and holds still a moment, then the lips begin to quiver, then to open and stretch forward. "T-a-k-e c-a-r-e, sir," and back goes his head with a sigh and a half whinney, when 'Lish says "Go in, old chap," and his nose goes in half way up to his eyes, and he is happy. Such is Old John. In order that the plan of the second day's hunt may be clearly comprehended, it is necessary to explain that the Black River runs through the country due south, passing directly through the village where our headquarters are located. All the deer that are started west of here make for this river, which is mainly a deep stream, and probably ten or twelve rods wide, with an occasional fording place. The banks on either side are mostly high and precipitous, of clay and gravel, and fringed with the virgin forest. The river is generally full of logs, which are floated down from lumber camps above to a large saw mill at the village. The deer, when pressed by the hounds, will plunge into the river and hide under the floating masses of logs, with nothing above water but their nostrils, and many of the countrymen who do not own hounds take their stations along the east bank of the river trusting to luck for a shot at some deer who may have run the gauntlet of hunters beyond. Our plan for this day's hunt was for Buxton to take the hounds and go west about a mile, then north two miles, and drive towards the river, while we were to go directly up the east bank of the river about two miles, tramping the whole distance, as there are no roads from the village in this direction, and then take our several stations. I was to take the station furthest north, and 'Lish was to go on Old John and scour a limited district north of me for bear, wildcats, or turkeys, and when he found them, he was either to return to me and let me know, or, if circumstances would not permit of his leaving the game, he was to give two quick shots from his Winchester rifle, and I was to make my way as best I could to where he was, being guided by an occasional whistle from him, he keeping the game cornered or treed as the case might be, until I should come up. We were honored on this trip with the company of Mr. Wildman Mills the owner of countless broad acres in this and adjoining counties, and whose great industry and success in clearing and reclaiming the wild swamp lands of the district causing them to blossom as the rose, has rendered his name a synonym for industry, progress and civilization. Well, Buxton gets an early start with the hounds, and we a little later go our way. Mr. Mills takes the first station, Bertham next, and myself to the extreme north of the line. As we get located 'Lish rushes by on Old John, and with a nod at me he is out of sight in the timber in an instant. We are now all ready for whatever may turn up, and waiting on the tip-toe of expectation for something to happen to call our energies into action. Besides listening for the hounds I have an eye and an ear in the direction whence 'Lish disappeared, and while there waiting I am slightly exasperated by a duck flying around the bend of the river below, and settling in the water directly in front of me— a splendid shot for my rifle, but I dare not shoot for fear of frightening off nobler game, which is liable to appear on the opposite bank at any instant, so I content me by drawing a bead on the duck's head, and betting myself a hundred dollars that I could take it off as clean as a whistle, if I only chose to pull the trigger. We have waited now nearly an hour, and yet no sound from 'Lish or Buxton or the hounds. Meantime Bertham has come up to my station for company, and being a trifle chilled we have built a blazing fire from the fallen pines and birches, and have almost forgotten the excitement of the hunt in the delicious comfort of the situation, and the chat over the camp fire in the midst of the grand, wild surroundings. Bertham does not expect much from this hunt, particularly in the way of deer as the range of the hounds is too limited and the wind is wrong, having changed to the east since we started, and the deer running towards us against the wind might scent us and turn to the north and be lost to us in the swamps abounding in that direction. He acknowledges, however, that with 'Lish's proverbial good luck it would be unusual if he did not start something; and just as he comes to the conclusion we are startled by two quick cracks of the rifle, apparently from a direction a little west of north. Bertham thinks they are from across the river. The wind, however, being from the east might deceive us a point or two, and so I start directly up the river bank, being assured by Bertham that if I have occasion to cross, there are plenty of good places where it can, be done. I follow up the bank of the river perhaps quarter of a mile on the run; but here I am stopped by a dense undergrowth, which it seems impossible to penetrate. I try it, however, and I am startled by a sudden whirr! then another, and another, until it seemed as if at every step I must almost tread on a partridge. Fairly bewildered with excitement at the idea of losing so much of what we in the east would call first class sport, I press forward and come out finally on the edge of a small clearing, where I stop to take breath, listen, and get my latitude. While there listening I notice on the other side of the clearing, moving closely beside the debris of roots and branches which form the northern boundary of the clearing, a long, lithe, brownish figure creeping close to the ground, but rapidly, in the direction of a large pile of roots and logs at the further corner of the field. It was surely a cat, but certainly larger than any I had heard described in these parts. The suddenness of the apparition, so entirely unlooked for, checked my ardor quickly, and led me to consider with such faculties as I remained master of, whether in this case discretion would not be the better part of valor. Alone in the forest with a wildcat, or something worse, for I felt sure from its size that if it were a cat it must be the father of the whole tribe. What shall I do? "I want to go home!" Had he seen me? I could not be sure of it. Could it be possible that this was the game that 'Lish had found, and was he lurking around somewhere taking notes of the situation? No, this could not be, as his shots were further to the westward, and I had been trying to work to the westward as fast as the river would let me. The cat, or whatever it was, had now dragged his sinuous course to the log pile and had disappeared under it, and at this moment I heard a whistle from 'Lish, and evidently on the other side of the river, and not far away; so I concluded at once to retrace my steps to a point where I could hail Bertham and let him have the wildcat all to himself- Back I went— at good speed, too, for I imagined every time a twig snapped that my "friend" was behind me. Reaching a tree that had been uprooted and fallen over the river, with the top nearly to the opposite shore, I crossed on it and down the opposite bank until I could see and hail Bertham, to whom I gave all the points concerning the cat. He seemed to comprehend everything clearly, and started for the game at once, while I turned and made my way towards the sound of the whistle. I had not far to go before I saw 'Lish at a distance lying on the ground and rolling over and over in a manner to astonish me. I hastened to him, thinking he was hurt, but on coming up found him in a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Old John was lying behind a clump of bushes prone on his side and still as a mouse, while all 'Lish could do was to point in a certain direction and laugh until his face was purple. I looked in the direction he pointed, but could see nothing until my attention was attracted by the falling of a piece of bark, or something like it, from a tree near by, and guided by that I soon saw the cause of the "trouble." Only a few rods from where we were was an old pine tree which had been broken off short so that only about a third of the original tree was left standing, and about the top, say perhaps fifteen feet from the ground, a few large branches were left, while from that point down almost to the ground were innumerable small stumps of branches a foot or more in length, the branches themselves having been torn and twisted off by storm and accident so that the stubs were left mainly sharp and slivery. Up in the top among the large branches was a bear cub about two-thirds grown, and he had gotten himself wedged in between two of the large branches so that he could neither advance or retreat, while his hinder parts were astraddle of a long, sharp stub that stood out from the tree directly under him. He was so wedged that he could neither raise himself much above it nor get around it. In endeavoring to keep himself clear of it he had clawed the bark all off, so that now there was no hold for him, and he was continually slipping down on the sliver, which would pierce him every time he touched it, and at such times the snarling and growling and scratching were something terrific, and when undertaking to look around under him to see what the trouble was his head would bump savagely against the limb that held him, and his eyes would fairly shoot fire with rage; in his calmer moments he would look down and seem to say; "This, may be fun for you, but wait till I get down, that's all." We had now had all the laugh that we could possibly endure, and it was really a feeling of alarm for ourselves as to the consequences of immoderate laughter that led us to consider measures of bringing the affair to an end. I proposed shooting him where he was. "Oh! no," says 'Lish,"give him a chance for his life; and besides I want to see him come down from that tree himself. Its a mighty handy tree to climb, but a mighty aggravating one to descend. I'll start him." So saying, 'Lish slipped in a cartridge loaded with No. 6 shot and sent it up to the bear. It stung him perceptibly, and stimulated him to a tremendous effort, which resulted in getting his hinder parts around sufficiently to get one of his hind feet on the sliver, then raising himself up, lifted his foreshoulders out of the crotch and gave a long sigh of relief, and looked again at us as much as to say : "Now I'll attend to you" he then backed around to the other side of the tree and commenced letting himself down. We started also for the other side, and reached there just in time to see him brought up by another sliver. When about a third of the way down his hinder parts had by this time become very tender and susceptible, and his rage at this latter infliction was intense. He bit at the tree with a savage snarl, taking out a piece of bark and shaking it as a terrier would a rat. Everything now assumed a decided air of business. I stood ready with my rifle, 'Lish by my side with his breech-loader ready, in case I should miss. Down came old Bruin, and on touching the ground faced us and raised himself, evidently determined to fight. I could wait no longer, but pulled trigger, aiming directly between his foreshoulders. Expecting to see him drop at once, I did not then reload, and when I saw him come rapidly for us after my shot, I confess to a "buck fever," or something else, that rendered me incapable of any reasonable action, for I let another cartridge into the chamber and pulled the trigger without raising the gun, and the dirt and chips flew in all directions where the shot struck, and if 'Lish had not quickly put two charges of buckshot in a vital spot, I will not pretend to say what the end would have been. The last charge was put in at very short range, tearing a hole in his neck that saved any use of the knife in bleeding him. We soon rigged a purchase, raised him up, opened and cleaned him. We found that my ball had entered just to the right of his breastbone, and instead of penetrating it had glanced and followed the bone around just under the skin, lodging under the shoulder-blade at the joint; an inch further to the left would undoubtedly have finished him at once. While we had been entertained by the bear we had heard two shots in Bertham's direction, and we had also imagined that we had heard the hounds far to the south and west of us, but we had been so busy that we could not feel certain. 'Lish now called up Old John, and placing him in a convenient position, by dint of some tugging and lifting Mr. Bear was placed across his back and started for a ford of the river near where we expected to find Bertham. At the ford the banks on either side were comparatively low, and we had no difficulty in crossing. John, however, did some powerful jumping and plunging on the way, but his eye was continually on his master, and he followed his footsteps closely no matter where they led. Reaching Bertham  at last we found that he had got his cat, and had it propped up on a stump as if in the act of springing. Old John didn't like the looks of the animal in that life-like attitude, for he was about giving it a wide berth, but at his master's command he came up to it trembling and snorting, and finally stood quietly beside it. The cat was a large one, but not as large as he had seemed when I saw him in the field. We now took up our line of march homeward, and related our several experiences. Bertham had made an easy capture of the cat. He tracked him into the pile and ascertained that he had not left it, hence he concluded that the cat had seen me and was keeping dark. Gentle means failing to dislodge him, Bertham had gathered some dry birch bark, which burns like. kerosene, and filling up the crevice on the windward side of the pile, started it burning and stood off waiting results. Pussy soon took the hint, and left, being brought up all standing at the first shot; but Bertham  didn't feel like caressing him much until after the dose had been repeated. On coming up to Mr. Mills's station we found the lunch basket open and Buxton and Mr. M. going for the choice cuts before a blazing fire of birch bark and pine knots. The hounds were tethered near by, and we all sat down to the feast. Any hunter can imagine the delights of the situation at this moment. It was a time for unbridled indulgence in all the propensities that actuate the true bred, genial and jolly sportsman. The incidents of the day, thus far, had been sufficient to furnish material for all sorts of sparkling sallies, which were mostly aimed at your good-natured correspondent.  Of course, it was wholly my generosity that gave Bertham a chance at the wildcat! Nervous? who said anybody was nervous? That shot in the dirt was the fault of that confounded mechanic who put the weapon together and manipulated the lock to pull at a good deal less than the regulation three pounds. Of course, it was. Why certainly. No buck fever in this crowd — oh! no! This might have continued indefinitely had not Buxton suddenly started and run up the bank of the river, soon followed by the whole party. We had learned on first reaching them that Buxton and the hounds had started a doe, but had lost him in the river and the chase had been given over, they supposing that they had seen her tracks up the eastern bank, indicating that she had crossed and was probably on her way to the lake. Buxton had seen some circling ripples in the water up near a bend in the river above us, which was the cause of his sudden start. On arriving at the bend, it was evident that something had been agitating the water, though nothing could be seen. It might have been a duck starting up, or a muskrat. Buxton, meantime, had made his way to the foot of the bank, and was looking intently at a small pile of rubbish which had lodged on a snag near the middle of the river. As this game, whatever it might turn out to be, belonged of right to Buxton and Mr. Mills, we did not interfere. Buxton called on Mr. Mills to put a charge of buckshot in that clump of rubbish, which he did, and immediately a doe's head came to the surface and turned for the opposite shore. Another charge did not stop her. The water now shallowed, and as she was making a final plunge for a foothold, a ball from Buxton's rifle laid her over as quiet as a lamb. Buxton paddled over on a log and towed her across, when we all set to and had her hung-up and dressed in short order. We now had a short rest at the fire, and then for home. Within forty-eight hours from that moment I was treading again the stones on Broadway, but with a lighter step than I had known for years, being now resolved that another hunting season — Providence permitting— will find me once more in Michigan, and with the same genial and kindly companions. Finally, I would say that the articles I took with me all served admirably, and I would duplicate them on another trip, but with the addition, I think, of a good breech-loading shot gun, for the smaller game is so plenty as to be an aggravation unless one has the means of bagging it. After my next trip I trust I may feel sufficiently initiated to abandon the cognomen of Greenhorn.
The Back Lakes of Canada - January 1, 1874
Jan 8 2022
The Back Lakes of Canada - January 1, 1874
The Back Lakes of Canada As was their custom, several young men of the town of Cobourg (a Canadian frontier town) met one evening in Frank Stalwart's rooms at the "North American." This was in the latter days of August, four years ago — yes, it must be four years ago, and yet how fresh in my memory, in spite of the many changes, some so gladly welcomed and others so ruthlessly bitter, which have since then transpired. On this particular evening the usual gossip was almost exhausted, when Ned Benton, a young, but not briefless, barrister, proposed we should settle upon the manner in which to take a couple of weeks' recreation. Placing his pipe carefully against a book on the table, which I remember was Longfellow's Poems, my friend, Frank Stalwart, suggested a trip up the Back Lakes. Said he, "we can have a little deer hunting, a good deal of duck shooting, no end of fishing, and altogether a splendid outing." "Some prefer to 'ball it' at a watering place; what say you, Bob Bertram?" addressing myself, "and put down that novel and order in some claret and ice." "Well," I said, "I know not whether the claret will change my mind, but now I am for the Lakes. I have heard so much about their romantic scenery that I greatly desire to see them." So, it was settled that we should start on the following Monday, after having taken another evening to arrange the route and the requirements of our outfit. Ned Benton and I, according to a previous understanding, met our companion, Frank Stalwart, at Peterborough, about thirty-five miles north of our starting point. This was done so that our friend could go by way of Rice Lake and bring over Thad. Fremont, an accomplished man in the way of dogs, canoes, and camp life on the lakes and in the woods. I may mention here that, besides his many other admirable qualifications, in all things culinary Thad. was a perfect success. During the afternoon of the day of our arrival at Peterborough we proceeded to get together such things as are necessary for the hunter's outfit. Besides the tent, the sportsman, for two weeks of camping, must have buffalo skins and blankets, kettle, tin plates, cups, and such things, together with bacon and bread to last a few days. After that he should trust to his skill in killing to supply the board. Also, he requires a moderate quantity of tea. I believe some carry with them a small keg of whiskey; in fact, it is considered by many a necessary article on these occasions, as it is impossible to drink the lake water on account of the profuse vegetable growth of rice, lilies, and other plants and flowers, which are almost invariably present in these small lakes, and certainly add to their picturesque beauty. Having towards evening collected our necessaries, we began to look for Mr. Thad., who had, unnoticed, strayed from our path. We had in prospect that night a drive of seven miles in a wagon to Bridgenorth, a village consisting of one small tavern and a boat-building shop. We wished to set out as early as possible, so as to obtain a good night's rest and be prepared for a long paddle the next day. Thaddeus, however, was not to be found, and after a diligent search we went without him, taking with us his rifle and cartridge box, and leaving word to have him taken out early in the morning in a buggy. It turned out that the young man could not refrain from visiting an acquaintance of the fair persuasion, and once in the charmer's fascinating presence he found, no doubt, it was impossible to resist the spell of her enchantments, and midnight had stolen in upon the happy lovers ere Thad. awoke to the slightest degree of consciousness. Determined to start that evening, we loaded our wagon with two canoes, ammunition, and other supplies, and ourselves, three in number, besides the driver. The wagon that held all this was very moderate in size, with easy springs, but the canoes are carried in a peculiar way. Two poles are placed across the wagon above the box and nearly over the axles. The poles extend about three feet on each side of the wagon box. Across the poles the canoes are tied, one on each side parallel with the conveyance. Thus, the seats are left free. Away we went, singing merry songs, and it would, I am sure, be hard to find "three blyther lads" than we. After breakfast the next morning at Bridgenorth, on Chemong Lake, having waited a short time for the delinquent Thad. , and upon the arrival of the repentant youth, about nine o'clock, we gaily proceeded to load and trim our canoes. Having arranged to follow this chain of lakes about forty or fifty miles before settling upon a permanent camping ground for our labors, we set out, Frank and I in a birch bark canoe well laden with our guns, ammunition, and camping utensils, besides the two hounds, Woodman and Harry, in the bow at my knees. The wind was pretty fresh, and blowing directly against us, making the paddling rather hard work, and also making the water so rough that a good deal of it was shipped over the bows. This disturbed the dogs considerably, and I was obliged when they would attempt to get up on the bow to keep them down by dint of a few sharp blows on the head with the paddle. The wise creatures, however, soon became accustomed to it, and, as if they knew for what purpose we had embarked, behaved like noble martyrs. The roughness was so great that Frank and I, as well as Benton and Thad., in a broad canoe, were compelled to pull ahead as strongly as we could from island to island, and from time-to-time unload, empty out the water received over the sides of our light crafts, load up and off again. Thus, about nightfall, we got to the foot of the lake, where we pitched our tent and tarried for the night. Chemong Lake is within the pale of civilization, the land on either side being cultivated, and some comfortable looking farm houses being within the view. The islands are numerous, and are covered with shrubs and small trees.  Some of these islands are almost perfectly circular, and seem to rise out of the water like mounds, with the trees so thick and even that they often present the appearance of a beautiful green cone of foliage floating on the surface of the water. We rose in the morning a little before dawn, and the industrious and enthusiastic sportsman, Ned Benton, sallied out in a canoe to make war upon grey-backs and mallards, while the rest of us remained to pack up and arrange for the morning meal, and as, occasionally, we heard the report of our companion’s gun, the light hearted Thad. would exclaim that should he get two or three brace of ducks he would give us a stew that would make us feel like princes. In a couple of hours Ned came in with five beauties. Thad. made good his boast, and as he danced around the fire preparing the savory meal he seemed to us (unaccomplished in the art — I was almost going to say the divine art — of cookery) clad in some mysterious power. During the night the water had become quite smooth and we glide off. We send the canoes along with ease. Everything is calm and quiet. The sun bathes the woods that line the shore in the mellow light of morning. Fresh and soft and pure looks the foliage, as if it had sprung up like magic. Nothing is heard save our chatting voices and the musical ripple of the water, as the canoes shoot through it. Truly we feel like princes; if not as rich at least as independent. Soon we arrived at a mill-dam, at the outlet from Chemong to Buckhorn Lake, owing to which we have to make a portage. Unloading, we carry our packs and canoes nearly half a mile, and then embark in another water. We did not go far before we came to the Buckhorn Rapids down which we ran in beautiful style, Thad. giving us a lead. Frank and I followed in the birch bark, and Benton brought up the rear. On the right is a large mass of rock which rises perpendicularly from the water about forty or fifty feet, and extends along the shore as many yards, sloping down like the roof of a house, and meeting smaller rocks and a rich growth of woods; on the left the water is full of boulders, and the shore thickly lined with young trees and shrubbery close to the water's edge, and even appearing to extend into it. These rapids are comparatively swift and full, but with scarcely any turns. I laid my paddle across the bow and allowed my friend Frank to pilot us through; and it certainly required no small skill in steering and handling the paddle. The sensation was truly pleasurable, and is difficult of description. At first the canoe moves slowly and evenly along of its own accord, without any assistance from the occupants, increasing in speed through every foot of space; then entering the rough waters of the rapids it shoots off like the rush of some living creature let loose from its bonds; then, making a turn between two impending rocks, it darts past within a few inches of one of them, and then, in the deepest and strongest force of the current it bounds gracefully along on the waves, as if glad that it requires not the hand of man to give it motion; and, having acquired this magical independence, it seems to leap from wave to wave, dancing in rejoicing playfulness to the tune of the singing stream till it loses its joy and force and strength in the calm waters of the rapid's foot. Once more we ply the paddles with some degree of force and gracefully glide through the waters of Buckhorn Lake. The advanced morning is splendid in the radiant beams of the warming sun. The small bays that indent the right shore, skirted sometimes on one side with large flat rocks and on the other with heavy forest trees, are entered by rivulets from the wilds and hills beyond, visited only by Indians and adventurous sportsmen. Here all traces of civilization are passed, and the whole prospect is one of primeval nature. Pulling the three canoes abreast we pursue our way in happy commune. "We leave Deer Bay on our left. It is the largest on the lake, thickly covered with rice, and its shores closely grown with trees of various types, looking in the calmness of noon time like a close wall of leaves defending the peaceful water from all intruders. Now, for a mile or two in length, the right shore rises in a sloping hill, nearly two hundred feet in height, giving the effect of a vast, closely wooded slope from the beach up, appearing to extend grandly and proudly to the silver-bordered clouds that rest serenely upon its summit. Taking a turn to the left we hear the rumbling of another rapid, and after holding a consultation as to the proper channel to run, we go down singly, Thad. again proceeding in the van. We conclude to take the side channel, and gently floating through the softly moving sweep of water at the head we turn by the edge of the rocky side with the increasing movement of the current, apparently about to rush against the parapet of solid rock in front, when the stream, by a sudden swerve, as if in merry caprice, bears us around, and then, as if angry at having carried us in safety through twists and turns, sends us with the force of its full speed over the collected volume of its bounding waves, and we enter the strangely named Lovesick Lake. Here we met another party of hunters, like ourselves. It seemed so strange— as if they had sprung up from the water by some magician's wand, after moving the whole day through scenes of enchanting wilderness and peaceful, quiet beauty, which had never in all the roll of ages been disturbed by the innovations of man. They were going, they said, to the rice beds on Deer Bay for the evening duck shooting. They told us where their tents were pitched, and advised us to establish ourselves on an island opposite theirs, which we agreed to do, having concluded previously to make this lake our permanent camping ground. Frank Stalwart had known these gentlemen for years, and hence the greeting of him and his friends was cordial indeed, our canoe and theirs having been drawn up close together. Like us, they were four in number. They told us they had that morning (their first one out) killed a deer, and it was agreed that they should visit our camp in the evening to arrange for a deer hunt in one party the following morning. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon, and in a few minutes after, we reached the island of our destination, where we at once proceeded to unload our canoes and pitch our tent. This island was one well adapted for our purpose, being elevated and dry. From where we landed the approach to the level above was steep, but the ascent made without difficulty; On the other side the rocks were perfectly perpendicular, and rose directly out "of the water about thirty feet. The tent having been tightly fixed, Frank and I selected a trolling hook and line and started off in search of fish, proposing to return in about half an hour, while our two companions prepared the evening repast, passing around the point of the island, we move under the high overhanging cliffs that skirt its side; then, as we near the border of a large rice bed, I let out the trolling line in hopes of securing the prey. In a few minutes, while Frank and I were cementing our friendship with mutual assurances of a constant attachment in the future, I felt a sudden jerk, then, as I took a firmer hold of the line, a stubborn pull. Knowing the cause was an active maskinonge, I began to haul in. Feeling the resistance, he darted forward, then to one side with a wonderfully strong plunge. As I brought him near, he bounded to the surface in frantic efforts to get free, and gave us a very liberal sprinkling. A couple of quick pulls, however, and a good steady haul, laid him captive in the canoe, when, with a last desperate whisk of his tail he snapped my briar wood pipe in two like a piece of thin glass and sent the pieces flying in the air. Thus ended the history of my favorite pipe, which was carefully strengthened with a silver ferule, and thus a plump twelve pounder of the finny tribe was lost to his companions of the deep to satisfy the selfish sport of man. After catching one or two more I roll up the line, and we quietly take a sauntering sort of paddle about the edge of the lake to drink in all the native beauty of the view. I think neither poet's pen nor artist's pencil could fully and clearly describe the delight that fills the mind, or the peculiar thrill of serenity and pure sensation of awe that stirs the heart and moves the thought to involuntary devotion in such a scene. The water is as calm and smooth as a sheet of glass, supporting on its even surface large patches of rich full blooming lilies of spotless whiteness surrounded with their broad, deep green leaves; and very carefully, without knowing it, do we dip our paddles so as not to mar their matchless purity nor disturb the sweet repose of floral beauty at rest upon the water's bosom. It seems a wanton sacrilege to displace the fair ornaments with which nature has adorned herself. The lake side is closely lined with rocks and ledges of uneven height, from out whose crevices grow tall pines and large firs without the slightest evidence of soil. The water is deep quite up to the rocky shore, and the intervening spaces between some of the moss-covered, sloping rocks are filled with a luxuriant growth of trees of numberless shapes and sizes. The autumnal variegated tints of orange, yellow, scarlet, green, and red, intermingled with the unaccountable harmony' of Nature's marvelous work, contrast so pleasingly with the deep and constant color of the foliage of the heavy evergreens. These rocks and wooded growths are high and close, and nothing can be seen over or between them. There is almost an angular bend at this part of the irregular shore, forming, as it were, a temple for the appearance of the divinities of the place. The evening is impressively still, the water is supremely calm, like the innocent sleep of a fair infant; the mild subdued light of the receding sun produces the shadows of the objects in view,  inverted beneath the lake; our paddles are quietly, tenderly, with sacred care, placed across the canoe; our friendly talk is hushed; we are as motionless as the placid lilies that surround us ; we are lost in the sublimity, the grandeur of Nature, fast bound in the awe of the majesty of her magic spell. At length the approach of falling night reminds us of our companions in the camp, and we return to our tent upon the island, exchanging, as we go, expressions of wonder and admiration. In the evening we gathered drift boards from the island and made seats around our camp fire, while arranging which the measured sound of paddles, and the steady hum of voices met the ear. We immediately proceeded to the shore, and there met our acquaintances of the afternoon. Their canoes pulled up, we all formed a pleasant social crescent before the fire, the can having been previously hung above the blaze in readiness for a brew with which to welcome our sporting guests. The night was cool and frosty, not very bright, yet myriads of twinkling stars sparkled in the deep blue sky. No lights or signs of any kind gave token of civilized life. Our small party of eight, gathered from various quarters of the globe (some of whom had travelled in many climes), had met on this tiny islet in a small lake, surrounded by miles upon miles of the untouched wilds of Nature, and no sound was heard save the constant rushing noise of the swiftly flowing rapids. There was Major Howard, an Englishman, now living in the neighborhood of Peterborough, and Mr. Loring, a civil engineer of the same place, with others of lively and social predilections, who all told interesting and romantic incidents of foreign travel, as well as sporting and hunting experiences in the wilds of Canada. In the clear bracing air of the autumn evening, as we smoked our pipes and sipped the warming beverage, our talk became readily savored with the hunter's phraseology. "How clearly," said the Major, "we can hear the tumbling of the rapids; the night is so calm. That point, you know, just at the head, used to be a favorite camping ground, but of late it has been rather abandoned. There have been several drowned in running through. Two poor fellows were lost the past summer: "And why didn't they learn to swim," put in our Irish friend, Carroll, "or not go poking themselves into traps they couldn't get quietly out of again."  "But my dear fellow," replied the Major, "the eddies are so strong, you know, that even good swimmers have rather a frail chance; and as for guns, why bless your heart the foot of these rapids is fairly paved with them." "Are you an experienced canoe-man, Mr. Bertram," the Major continued,' addressing me. "You're not? well, you'll soon like it. It's a fascinating life, I assure you. Upon my life, Mr. Bertram, it's a very fascinating life; so free, and wanting care. Why, we come up here every few weeks and take down a deer or so, and a score or two of ducks. It is really very jolly, and no end of sport."  "Do you remember, Frank," said Loring, "when you and I upset on Black Duck Lake?" "Indeed I do, old boy, and I feel chilly every time I think of it." And then was told, at some length, how they dived and recovered their guns and some of their other traps. "I suppose you were rather moist at the time," said Carroll, "but it makes a very dry story." Then the tin cups were soon replenished from the steaming can and passed around the circle. "There's one thing true," said the incorrigible Carroll, "it would never do to drink this lake water until it was boiled down." And so the talk went on — of yachting in the Mediterranean, racing in England, and social converse concerning mutual friends and acquaintances — till we separated, about eleven o'clock, having settled to meet at dawn ready to chase the deer. Then we spread our buffalo skins on the ground in the tent and retire for the night, well covered with blankets, beneath which we slumber soundly till the break of day. The mouth or door of the tent being open, we behold, on awaking, the waning stars, not yet entirely chased away by the fast-approaching sunlight. A hasty toilet made at the lake, a hasty breakfast, and we are ready for the start.  Frank Stalwart and I were stationed with our canoe at one end of our own island to meet the deer, if one should cross from the main land, and as we sat quietly waiting beneath an overhanging growth of shrubbery, projecting from a ledge of rock, said he, "Rob, did you ever hunt the deer before?" "Not in this way, Frank; I have generally hunted in run-ways."  "And," he replied, "a run-away business I expect it was, was it not?" 'Well, it was not so much their timidity as my ineffectual aim." "It is time, then, you had an aim in life. But you may be more successful in this method, as you get them at shorter range." "I understand," said I, "the general theory of this mode, but will you be kind enough to give me all the minutiae?" "With all the pleasure in life, old chap. It is in this way: — Well, there should be about five or six canoes and four or five hounds, and it is very fortunate for us we met these other fellows, as they make the party about the right strength, and afford us, with our own, the proper number of dogs. There is always an injunction understood that no firing is to take place on the morning of a hunt, as these denizens of the forest are very timid creatures, and avoid the direction whence any noise is heard. So, remember if a half score of ducks fly under your nose you must let them pass. The guns should be loaded with buckshot, although experienced men kill sometimes with small duck shot. The canoes are stationed at different points, where the deer are likely to cross. This morning one is placed at Scow Island, half a mile or more to the right, one down in the bay, about half a mile to the left, one out at Black Duck Lake, nearly two miles away, and others I know not where. Two or three of the party go on the main land to put out the dogs. Thad. , Loring, and Riggits are doing that arduous duty at the present time. When the dogs strike upon the scent of deer they are let loose. When they get within hearing distance the deer break from cover and almost invariably make for the water as a harbor of safety from their canine pursuers. As soon as the does give tongue the men at the different stations are to be on the alert, and when a deer enters the water at any particular, point the man who discovers him must keep perfectly still until the animal is well out in the lake, as the deer's senses of smell and hearing are extremely acute. Then the canoe, quietly and with as little noise of the paddle as possible, meets the intended game, until observed by the unsuspecting creature. Then the pursuer flies after him with all the skill he has in his power till he gains within a short distance of his prey. Then an unmistaken aim and the discharge of the fowling piece lays the forest monarch low." After faithfully remaining at our post about two hours or more, we heard the yelping of the hounds, which made us more sharply attentive. It was soon evident, however we were not to have the good fortune of a chase at our station that morning, for ere long there came from a distance the report of guns. Then we knew the hunt was over, and we repaired to the tent. In about three quarters of an hour the rest of the party came in, and one canoe was the honored bearer of a plump young doe. After a time, the dogs made themselves heard on the main shore opposite, and the active Thad. quickly proceeded to bring them over. So ended the morning's work. After the midday meal we sat and smoked, or lay on the blankets basking in the sun till four or five o'clock, when we set out for the evening's duck shooting, some of the party remaining near the camp and others going up to the large rice bed near Deer Bay. And the party reassembled in the evening well rewarded with game. Thus, we spent the time; and richly did we enjoy the days as they passed. Indescribable was the pleasure of hours upon hours every day in the clear open air and sunlight, with the exhilarating exercise of paddling, the inspiration of the scenery, and the excitement of the sport all commingling their various charms. We were well able before we left to verify the words of the Major, for truly did we find it a fascinating life. Our freedom was perfectly unalloyed. We had no cares of business nor the exactions of the conventional pleasures of society. Liberty was there unbounded. But now I will not make any further narration of our camping expedition, but in another paper may say something of the conclusion of our journey and the romantic interests of these spots of nature so beautifully wild. Rob Bertram
Natures Invitation - August 14, 1873
Jan 2 2022
Natures Invitation - August 14, 1873
NATURES INVITATION On the fair face of Nature let us muse, and dream by lapsing stream and drooping wood; Tread the dark forests whose primeval ranks, since the creation dawn have cast their shade; Ponder by flowing stream and ocean tides, and note the varied forms of life they hold, Mark the wild game so clear to hunter's heart, the swarming fowl that skim the salty deeps, The birds that haunt the woodlands and the plains, The fish that swim the seas, the lakes, the streams, And tempt the thoughtful angler to their marge; Glance at the life that fills our native woods, and game of Asian plains, and Afric wilds. When soft May breezes fan the early woods, and with her magic wand the blue-eye'd Spring Quickens the swelling blossoms and the buds, Then forth the russet partridge leads her brood, while on the fallen tree-trunk drums her mate ; The quail her young in tangled thicket hides, the dun deer with their fawns the forests range, The wild geese platoons hasten far in air, the wild ducks from their Southern lagoons pass, And soaring high their Northward journeyings take, The dusky coot along the coast-line sweeps, The piping snipe and plover that frequent, The sandy bars and beaches, wing their flight, And all the grassy prairies of the West, Team with the speckled younglings of the grouse, And all the budding forests and the streams Are gay with beauty, joyous with young life. Then swell the first bird melodies; the wren chirrups and perches on the garden rail, The blue-bird twitters on the lilac hedge, or flits on azure wings from tree to tree; The golden robin on the apple-bough, hovers, where last year's withered nest had been, The darting swallows circle o'er the roof, the woodpeckers on trunk of gnarled trees Tap their quick drum-beats with their horny beaks, the crow caws hoarsely from the blasted pine, High in mid-air the sailing hawk is poised, while from the grove the purple pigeon-flocks, Burst with loud flapping in the grain-sown fields. Fair is the scene in Autumn, when the frosts from palettes rich, with prodigal, gorgeous brush Color the nodding groves with brown and gold. Then silvery-skied, and purple-hazed the dome of heaven's deep vault, and fair the earth below. Far up, where sunny uplands scope their sides, shaggy with woods, prone to the brimming stream, Where bowering beech trees shake their laden boughs, and oaks their varnished acorns high uplift, Where the broad butter-nut its gummy fruit in russet husks slow-ripens day by day, And where in crowded ranks the chestnut groves waves out their broad-leaved pennons to the air, And from their prickly burs shake treasures down, there the quick clusterings of the squirrels sound. The gentle valley with its belt of hills crowned to their tops with grand, primeval woods, Glows with all forms and hues that nature loves. Deep in its hollow stretch meadows brightly green, kept verdurous by the full o’erflowing stream ; Yet the deep swamps and thickets that engird, the river-reaches, are resplendent all, Their umbrage tinctur'd with imperial dyes. The maples tall with blood-red foliage burn, the hickories clap their palms of burnish'd gold, The poplar thrusts its yellow spire in air, the russet oaks and purpled dogwoods blend, Their colors with the alder's sable green and scarlet sumacks; all contrasted rich With sombre evergreens, and willows pale. And when the winds autumnal, wailing strip the frosted foliage, like a host they stand, With trailing banners and with drooping plumes. Such be the scenes in wondrous forest-land Such be the scenes by sea and lake and stream That we would picture; wild romantic scenes, Dear to the hunter's and the angler's soul. -Isaac McLelllan
Metaphysics of Deer Hunting - October 2, 1873
Dec 31 2021
Metaphysics of Deer Hunting - October 2, 1873
METAPHYSICS OF DEER HUNTING When the financial panic was at its height last week, we visited a wealthy friend whose up-town mansion is palatial, his income from safe and judicious investments always ample and assured, and his bank account invariably showing a balance to his credit of many thousands. A gentleman who dabbles little in speculative risks; and whom cares of State and fluctuations of the market of late do not perplex ; one of those rare exceptions among men, content with sufficient and not ambitious for more. Surely, his was a case not, within the range of human probability, to be affected by any financial crash or monetary crisis. And yet, so intricate and searching are the ramifications of disorder in times like these, when even the most provident and conservative find themselves suddenly cramped for means, that he was unable to command a dollar from ordinary or extraordinary resources. Said he: "I have a balance in bank of $20,000, but all the cash I can raise is a paltry two hundred dollars. It is just enough to take me to the Adirondacks. I am getting my guns and traps together, and tomorrow I start for Paul Smith's, to bury myself in the woods and seek oblivion until the storm is over!" Happy the man who can thus drive dull care away at will, and turn aside the impending wave of trouble ! The bank to which he has confided his trusts may break in his absence and swallow all his surplus; the business, hitherto lucrative, in which he is a silent partner, may suspend and cut off his monthly income; dividend paying stocks may depreciate until they are quoted at half their value; bonds and mortgages may cease to be negotiable; still, like the ostrich with his head in the bush he may roam the forest in blissful ignorance of his misfortunes, and follow his quest for game with a blithesome heart and bounding step! Who would not be an ardent sportsman? Such a man as this never allows business to interfere with his shooting. We wish the same were true of the herd of speculators who squeeze values, upset the market, and set the mercantile world at their wits end. Would that some good genius would inspire them to goof?  For "a day's shooting," and stay until the panic subsides! Ah! there is some soothing influence in this going apart to commune with nature in her solitudes, that makes us forget the struggles of life and our worldly troubles. It banishes all inordinate desires, simplifies our tastes, and makes us contented with mere food, raiment and shelter, which, after all, constitute the sole necessaries of life. This free existence among the woods, with heaven's canopy over us, the crisp and fallen leaves beneath our feet, and the pure untainted air to breathe: it gives us elasticity of step and expands the lungs; it enlarges the generous impulses of man; it dignifies his own self-respect; it makes him noble! In this quiet unconcerned existence, he finds himself moving in a new world populous with strange creatures, with whom in time he learns to hold familiar converse. The little denizens of the stumps and hollow logs become accustomed to his presence at last. When the first sound of his coming footfall was heard, they all hid away. The first warning twig that snapped admonished them to be wary and lie perdu. All was silent as the grave, except when a rustling leaf dropped down, or a walnut slipped from its opening shell aloft. But presently the head of a little gopher popped from under a dry leaf, then his body crept stealthily out, and in a minute with a sharp squeak to show the coast was clear, he rustled away. Then a woodpecker peered cautiously from behind the trunk of a tree, and commenced to hammer, and from a neighboring limb a red squirrel sprung his sharp, shrill rattle. A garter snake glided noiselessly from under a stump and slid into a bog hole, from which an autumn frog already intoned his solemn staccato bass. As we have said, one learns to comprehend the language of these little creatures, and understanding them thoroughly wonders how any man can be so unkind and thoughtless as to blow out their little lives with powder and shot. Even the deer begin to understand him at last, and if he is harmless and uses no gun, will repose such confidence in his honor that they will actually bring the rising generation of agile fawns to drink from the very spring that supplies his camp. Then when both have become better acquainted by closer contact, the sportsman will learn to look into their lustrous eyes as lovingly as did Don Juan into Donna Julia's; and all his conscience will rise up against him in reproof for his cruel slaughter in bygone years. His resentment will follow the hunter who dares to lay violent hands upon these innocent creatures whom he has learned to regard as his companions. If his larder becomes empty, he will have to select another locality where the deer are wild. It is only when they are running, that he can make up his mind to shoot. If bucks and does would only walk gently up to the magnanimous hunter when they see him stalking in the distance, they would never get shot. Even the tiger seldom springs upon a creature that is not in motion. This is nature. We are a creation of pursuers and pursued, but not insatiable for that reason, by any means. If one will not run, there can be no pursuit. It is only human beings like the Neros, Herods, and Caligulas that butcher in cold blood. These are the metaphysics of deer hunting. He who has studied the subject thoroughly, will find his thoughts yielding a responsive assent to their truthfulness. Now is the time for enjoying the full fruition of the delights which a ramble in the forests affords. Whether it be in the eager pursuit of the chase, or in the simpler study of the gorgeous tints of autumn, in breathing the sharp, invigorating frosty air, or in seeking merely a temporary relaxation from business cares, the glorious month of October yields an appreciable reward which no other month affords. Episode Part 2 THE WASTE OF TIMBER. A Paragraph floating around states that the Indians upon the Leech Lake Reservation, in Minnesota, have become so enraged at the destruction of timber on their lands that they have taken the war path, and are burning the lumbermen's hay by way of reprisal. Here is a lesson for the Hon. Joel T. Headley and those very few other gentlemen who deny that cutting away our forests will diminish our water supply, or work out climatic and organic changes that must prove detrimental. Even the untutored savage can appreciate the value of our forests to the extent that, he not only implores that the "woodman spare that tree," but absolutely insists upon it in a way that is neither gentle nor kind. He realizes that the denudation of the earth is extermination to the red man, and that with the deep damnation of the taking off of its timber, food, fuel, shelter, navigable waters, and means of transportation all vanish. Geology tells us that the mosses and ferns were the first vegetable products that grew upon the surface of the earth, and that, the pines and then the deciduous forest trees succeeded; and after them came animal life. By inversion, it is easy to determine that animal life must perish after the trees are destroyed. It is the duty of man, by what he owes to his fellows, if not by the universal law of self-preservation, to prevent so sweeping a calamity. And man, when impelled to that sterner mood which horrible conviction brings, will not stop to "argify" the question with the Hon. J. T. Headley, et al, but, taking the ounce of prevention in his hands, make the advocates and defenders of timber-cutting "cut stick" in a fashion which will throw all the devices of the Minnesota redskins far in the shade. Episode Part 3 Difference in Weights Does a sportsman's full bag or basket ever feel heavy?   For the sensation of the strap over the shoulder is, doubtless, very different from what it would have been if, instead of beautiful trout, one has a twelve-pound cannon shot in the basket. Indeed, this notion of weight, though absolute and positive, as marked by the scales of material philosophers, has got a variable force and signification, when sentiment lends vigor to the muscles. For what sportsman, helping to carry home a fine buck, or what loving husband, taking a sick wife upstairs in his arms, or what young fellow, on whose back fortune had, for the moment, buckled a laughing lass of a hundred and forty pounds, to be carried over a slough, would feel the weight the same as if the burden were a bag of grain or a sack of salt ? — The Lawrences
Caribou Hunting in Nova Scotia - September 25, 1873
Dec 22 2021
Caribou Hunting in Nova Scotia - September 25, 1873
Hunting Caribou in Nova Scotia Cobequid Mountains, Near Westchester, Nova Scotia September 8th, 1873.   Dear Editor Forest and Stream: — Thanks to some instructions given by you to me, as to time and locality, while in your city in June last, I have had the satisfaction of killing my first caribou. As I had informed you, when last I had the pleasure of seeing you, I was not unfamiliar with hunting this animal, having killed three caribou in 1871, and two last year in New Brunswick. My traps I had sent to a friend in Halifax about the middle of August, and I found them in good order on arrival. At Halifax I stayed a day, and bought a Hudson Bay frieze coat, an admirable protection for bad weather. This with two rubber blankets, a bag or so of buck shot, and a special kind of camp hatchet, made for me deftly by a clever Irish blacksmith, completed my list of purchases. Early next morning after an admirable breakfast at the Halifax House, I took the Inter-Colonial railway to Truro, stopping there at the Prince of Wales Hotel, kept by the most jovial of hosts and Scots, Mr. McKenzie. Truro is a charming little village at the head of an arm of the Bay of Fundy, and is much visited, being the best place to see the wonderful tidal action of the water, known as the Bore. Every fine day hundreds of people drawn from all parts of the world assemble on the bridge which spans the Salmon River, awaiting the coming of the huge tidal wave. Sometimes when wind and tide favor, it rises like a wall, ten feet high, and sweeps on up the Sound. I know of no phenomenon which impresses one more vividly with the idea of the grand, rhythmic power of nature, and I fancy if Herbert Spencer had ever seen it, he would have used it as an illustration. I took some pains to measure accurately the absolute rise of the tide. Taking my sea tackle and sinker, and letting it fall until it touched the bottom, at low water, landing the sinker fast in the mud, and marking the length of the line afterwards, where it was just on the top of the water, the difference I found to be sixty-four feet, eleven inches. Its approach is heralded by a deep, sullen roar. At Truro I remained all day, having to make arrangements for the hiring of horse and buggy for a week or so, not only to carry me and my traps to Purdy's, some thirty-five miles distant, but to facilitate any movements I might desire to make. Next morning, with a very good horse, and a rough but strong vehicle, furnished me by McKenzie, I started on my way, my road having been quite thoroughly explained to me. The country I passed through was magnificent. Dark, umbrageous spruce woods, sombre in character, were relieved occasionally by the brighter colored maples. Sometimes gloomy gorges, hardly wide enough for the buggy to pass through, were almost sepulchral from the heavy shadows of the mountains. In one place the road led along a mere shelf of rock, the Londonderry, a noble stream, rushing along below me. It was a rough road, so that it was almost nightfall before I reached Purdy's. There I found myself in admirable quarters. To the kindness of the host, Mr. Purdy, was added the more delicate attentions of the Misses Purdy, three very handsome and highly educated women. As Purdy's was to be my base of operations, I immediately commenced getting together my supplies, and the question of guides was paramount. I had the choice of several excellent men. Following the advice of my host, I chose George Beesewanger, a native of the place, and secured his services, agreeing to pay him $1.50 a day and to find him. My second guide I was instructed to find later. At Purdy's I laid in the heavy rations, such as pork, tea, coffee, flour, Indian meal, etc...T here never was such a glorious view as I had from my window when I rose next morning. Far, far below me were interminable forests of spruce, huge billows of green leaves, surging to and fro with the breeze, and away beyond lay placidly the dark blue waters of the Bay of Fundy. I tarried here fully three days — days of delightful laziness, pure days of sensuous enjoyment pretending, it is true, to perfect my arrangements, just breathing in the fragrance of the glorious woods, perhaps a little indifferent as to caribou. At last Beese (the final "wanger" to his name I shall drop in the future as quite superfluous) said to me at dinner that "he thought matters were now in good trim, and that he felt it was caribou weather, and that it was time to go to Castlereagh. " In Castlereagh dwelt John Gamble, a famous moose and caribou hunter, who tilled a farm there. Taking horse and buggy, well laden down with provisions, we left Purdy's, and reached Castlereagh, a sparsely peopled settlement, at about dusk. Gamble I found at prayers. There was something inexpressibly solemn in the picture I saw there. In the small rough house were assembled the family, and by the flickering fire Gamble was reading to them the prayers, in deep, sonorous language. I hesitated almost to tell my errand. The last amen was pronounced with unction, when I told him the purpose of my coming. "I was for caribou, and would he join me for ten days or so." He quickly assented, and seemed pleased to go. A more wild place than Castlereagh, as to topography, I never saw. It is the ideal of a spot where civilization ends and a wilderness begins. The people who live here, some forty souls all told, are scattered over an area of about fifty miles. They are all Scotch-Irish, were among the early settlers of the island, and are strictly religious and trustworthy. Their honesty may be shown by the fact that a lock on a door is unknown. Their ideas are primitive, and their language Scotch-English, with a dialect of their own. With but few wants, ignorant of the world or its surroundings, many of them, perhaps, have never, save when hunting, gone out of the shadows of their woods. Everything was arranged for an early start. My party had now an addition George Gamble, a highly intelligent lad of sixteen, with the pseudonym of "Dandy," going with us. Gamble had located a lodge for moose and caribou some six miles from the settlement, which was our objective point. Next morning, before dawn, we started, dividing the buggy-load between us, the horse and vehicle remaining at Castlereagh. My battery consisted of a Remington, a Ballard, and a smooth bore No. 10. My guides told me that it would be a long and tedious tramp, uphill all the way, and so it proved to be. Bass river, quite a brawling stream, waist deep, was forded; no easy task for me, "heavily accoutred" as I was, and, after a scramble up its steep, rocky banks, at last we struck the woodlands. Here we visited what Dandy called Porcupine Den, when Dandy soon ousted a porcupine, which he slew. Here we halted, took a bite, and started again after some ten minutes' rest, and, skirting the woods, a half hour before sundown reached Gamble's lodge, just on the edge of the caribou barren. The lodge was well built; three of the walls were of logs, the other made of piled stones. The floor had been well rammed down, and it was sweet and clean. Near it gurgled a limpid spring. What struck me most about these Nova Scotia woods was the intense, almost painful stillness. Nature must take her kief here, to awaken later, when, in a paroxysm of passion, with icy blasts she lays low the majestic trees. Beese, Gamble, and Dandy in a trice had everything in military order. Of cooking paraphernalia, a kettle and a frying pan made up the catalogue. Of fragile china or stronger delf had we none. In a half hour, with pliant birch bark and threads of withewood, cups, dishes, and plates were improvised, quite as useful and more durable than those made by the potter's wheel. Fresh spruce boughs of aromatic fragrance, so excellent for consumptives, were spread on the floor. Dandy had killed four grouse as we left Castlereagh, and a good supper was assured us. Gamble was desirous of having variety in the menu, and on his assuring me that there was a stream positively not more than forty yards off, I thought I would try for a trout, though I was terribly tired out. With line in hand, cutting a pole as I went, baiting my hook with some white grub picked from a dead tree, in ten minutes I had some dozen trout. They were small ones, scarcely half pound fish, but gamey and pleasant to catch. With Gamble as chef de cuisine, I watched the way he cooked them. The fish were cleaned, not scaled; heads and tails and fins were all left on. Each one was dipped into a birch bark dish, filled with meal, inside a piece of fat bacon was inserted, a place was made for it in the hot coals, and in ten minutes the fish was withdrawn, done to a turn. The grouse were stuffed with wild cranberries, hung from the ceiling with a bit of twine, put before the fire, and Dandy was set to basting them. How good a pottage de Porcupine is I do not know, but I must confess that maple sugar as a condiment to a porcupine, though original, is not to be despised. A famous pot of tea was then brewed, and we had bread from the settlement. Hardly was tea swallowed, our pipes smoked, and the least nip of rum taken, than I got drowsy, and think I must have tumbled on the spruce bough covered floor just as I was, for in the morning, between the last word I had spoken or heard, and the song Dandy was singing (some quaint old stave) outside the lodge at daybreak, there seemed to have been but the interval of a second. Looking at Beese, who was still sleeping, I noticed he held his pipe tightly clutched between his teeth. I ran to my trout stream, took a single refreshing dip, and strolled about some little, and arrived just in time for a glorious breakfast. Our first day was one simply of prospecting and finding out the lay of the land. A caribou barren (we were on the verge of one) may be described as a plateau, covered with a thick grey moss two or three inches thick, on which grows the cranberry. Here and there it is dotted over with huge quartz boulders, covered at their bases with that most succulent of mosses, the lichen, on which the caribou principally feeds. A barren is most always intersected by a running stream, and there are occasional clumps of spruce. This tree always looks dark and sombre, and long trails of funereal-like moss hang like weepers from the limbs. On this moss, too, the caribou feeds. The trees are mostly stunted. This is not owing to the winds, for the barrens are generally encircled by the thick woods, which would keep off the blast, but their low growth is an effect of the soil. Dig where you may in the ground, when you have passed through the cushion of moss there is a morass below. To tread on this carpet of moss may be the poetry of motion as far as softness of footfall goes, but until one is accustomed to its yielding nature it makes walking quite fatiguing. There are no rambles on a barren nothing but the cranberry and whortleberry. The particular barren we were to reconnoiter had an area of some 800 acres and was completely enclosed. The caribou being the most sensitive and observant of the deer species, the utmost silence is necessary when hunting them, so when skirting the barren, save by some mute signs interchanged as to direction, hunters never speak. We all kept together for a mile from the camp, when we divided, Gamble going with me in a southeasterly direction, and Beese and Dandy striking northwest. The woods on our route soon opened, and the walking became easy Gamble pointed out a tree of black spruce, a perfect giant which he made a sign I should climb. It was not difficult to scale, and when fairly on top, with my race-glass I scanned the barren we were skirting. I had a beautiful view of our barren, and of several barrens beyond, fully ten miles distant. On our barren I saw no sign of an animal, but on a barren I should have judged five miles off with my glass I plainly made out two caribou. Gamble on my descending and announcing the fact, expressed some doubt, but on ascending himself verified the statement. Sometime about mid-day we found Beese and Dandy, and after lunching we proceeded homewards by a different route. Dandy was the first to find caribou tracks, which he did cleverly in the afternoon. How he saw it I cannot understand, and it was some time before I could see it, but caribou foot it was, and a little further on the spot where one had laid down was pointed out to me by Gamble. It was determined not to follow up their track, but to still keep up the study of the country, so that in case one of the party got astray, which would probably have been myself, we might have a better chance of finding our quarters. That night, around the camp-fire, Beese told me a hunting story about killing and landing moose, which I at first was inclined to doubt, until Gamble asserted its truthfulness. Some seven years before, Beese said that hunting with two Indians in a rather small canoe, on the headwaters of the River Philip, they had shot a bull and a cow moose. Moose meat was scarce at the settlement, and it was a question how to get their carcasses home, as the canoe was too small to hold even 100 pounds of additional weight, and the two moose would gross 1,800 pounds. One of the Indians suggested making a boat of the bull moose and using it for transporting the cow. The bull was opened and disemboweled, the head was cut off, the neck sewed up, he was split carefully, ribs of wood were built into him, and he was launched into the stream, and so, loaded with the cow, was safely towed to the settlement, twenty miles distant. Next morning it rained heavily, and our camp was thoroughly cleaned and guns overhauled. In the afternoon, the rain having changed to a drizzle, Gamble proposed our going to Rock Lake, some three miles distant. After rather a wet walk of an hour we reached the lake, and Gamble built a raft. One peculiarity of the lake was that it was always bubbling, abounding probably with springs. I had taken a light fly rod, and with a coachman hackle and Blue Professor made a cast or two without success. Later I tried a yellow Dun with no better luck, when choosing a Miller and a bug the trout rose rapidly. In a half hour I had secured eighteen fish, of about two pounds each. A flock of black duck on the upper edge of the lake attracted our attention, and I killed five. Of course, this shooting was done at some distance from the barren, as a single gun fired in its immediate proximity would have cleaned the ground of the caribou for a week. Fresh food now becoming scarce, as we had determined not to shoot any more, we smoked our ducks for the future, hanging them in the smoke of the chimney. Next day we started just at daybreak. The sun rose clear, dispelling the mist, and Gamble said it was "a fine hunting morn, and that it would fetch caribou. " Dandy was left in camp, and Gamble, Beese, and myself made the party. It was our intention not to return without a caribou. We made directly for the barren, but saw no sign. We now boldly crossed it, plunged into the deep forest beyond, skirted the second barren, and found here moose tracks three weeks old, but no sign of caribou. Here we came across an old Indian camp, which, being in good order, we took possession of, studying its bearings in case we should have to retrace our steps and spend the night there. We kept on through the second barren, going round a pretty lake, where Gamble set some otter traps. Still no trace of our game. The sun was now but an hour high. As the forests become dark at five o'clock, when it is light on the barrens until eight, we determined to push on through the third barren as far as we could and camp there, so as to be near the fourth barren early next morning. After our supper of bread and pork, without tea, we wrapped ourselves up in our blankets and slept soundly. We were now fully twenty miles from camp, as the bird flies, and fully thirty-five by the route we had taken, Economy Lake being south of us, and we had some two miles yet to make before we could reach the fourth barren. It was dark when Gamble quietly awakened me. We ate our breakfast quickly, and walked fully two hours before dawn cleared the sky. As soon as it was light Gamble climbed a tree. The country he said had changed somewhat, as it had been seven years since he had been at this barren. As he slid down the tree, by the expression of his face and the glitter of his eye I felt sure he had seen caribou. "Five of them in the barren, not more nor a mile off, a feeding, sir." That was all. Now, with the utmost precaution we traced our steps. Just on the south side of the barren we found a distinct trail, which the caribou had made through the woods. Their tracks resembled these made by cattle, only a little more elongated, for the caribou has rather long, low hoofs. The dung was even fresh, and not much larger than that voided by sheep. They had evidently laid down during the night at this very spot, as little bits of hair were visible. We followed the track in Indian file, Gamble leading, I in the middle, and Beese in the rear. The gait was a slow one, and our feet were cautiously placed on the ground, fearful that even a twig should crack. Not a word was spoken. With one hand on his gun, the other behind him, Gamble would signal with his outstretched fingers which way we should go, or whether we should halt. The track was almost 400 yards long, and a small stream had to be crossed. Silently as otters we went through it. Just then the barren opened on us. We rested for a few moments, then got to the last screen of trees, and saw for the first time our caribou. They were hidden by a slight fringe of spruce boughs, and were not more than 600 yards off. About 400 yards distant in the barren there stood a huge boulder, of a greyish white, glistening in the bright morning sun, and throwing off sparkles of light from the quartz crystals in it. Could we reach it ? If able to do that there would be the chance of a shot. We all dropped to the ground, and crawled slowly on the moss, worming our way round smaller boulders until we reached it. Looking stealthfully over the top of it, I was now sure that the caribou were just within long rifle shot. We waited fully five minutes (it seemed to me five hours), hoping the caribou would come nearer. When we saw them first the herd — made up of two old bucks, two male yearlings, and a doe — were playing together; now they were feeding. Thinking Gamble the better shot, I had given him my Ballard, reserving the Remington for myself. Every moment I expected the caribou would move further off. Though they could not wind us, every now and then the nearest buck would pause, slowly raise his head, and look around him, as if on his guard. Gamble looked inquiringly at me, as if asking what to do. I made the motion of firing. Indicating the buck I wanted to shoot at, I left Gamble to pick out any one he chose. I carefully took a resting shot on a sharp edge of the boulder. Presently the furthest buck came a trifle quartering towards me, and taking the most careful of shots, with a fine bead, aiming at the brisket, I let him have it. Almost instantly afterwards Gamble fired. My buck fell dead in his tracks. Gamble's caribou gave one single, short leap, and fell dead not ten yards from mine. One long, exulting shout sounded through the barren as we screamed with excitement. The next moment Gamble was down into the barren with gleaming knife in hand, and the throats of two noble caribou were cut. The buck I had killed was the finest of the two, and would have weighed 300 pounds. Gamble's buck was a trifle lighter. The horns on mine were only fair as to size, while Gamble's were the most magnificent ones as to size and spread I had ever seen. My eight hundred miles of travel were amply repaid. "If my grandsire drew a long bow at Hastings," I must plead it as an excuse for entering somewhat into the exact distance we fired at these animals. Pacing it off, I found that my buck was killed at a trifle under 186 yards, and Gamble's at 170. We rested for a while, and, seated on our animals, ate and drank as only hungry and excited men can. Now came the question of how to get, them to the lodge, some forty miles distant. Gamble's and Beese's woodcraft then came into play. In a half hour, with their axes they had fashioned a sledge of hackmatack, on which the caribou were placed. Long withewood traces were made, and, like horses, we went in double harness. Awful hard work it was. There was a little stream some three miles off which emptied into Economy Lake, and here was where our hauling would end and water transportation begin. Seven mortal hours did it take us before we accomplished those three miles. At sundown we reached the stream. A fire was built, our last bit of pork was devoured, a cup of coffee, was made, and we all soon went to sleep, thoroughly used up men. Next morning was again fine and clear, a trifle cold, but every particle of fatigue had left us. There is some peculiarity in this rare mountain air, which makes a breath of it send the blood through the lungs with renewed and freshened vigor. Gamble proposed making a straight line for camp, and finding Dandy, who would walk to Castlereagh, and from thence take the horse and buggy to Economy Lake and meet us. It was no sooner proposed than off he started, going off with that splendid swinging gait which only one who treads these native wilds can acquire. Beese now built a raft; it was but the matter of an hour. The game was loaded on, and we were just about pushing off into the stream which emptied into the lake, not more than half a mile beyond, when a pleasant morning breeze sprung up. Here I must confess that what nautical knowledge I may have had now came to me as if by inspiration. From a large birch tree we took some sheets of bark. Under my direction Beese sawed them, a mast and a spar were rigged up, a pennon of birch, bark was hoisted to the fore, and with a regular latine sail we went spinning down the lake, much to Beese's amusement. At the foot of the lake Ave found a settler's cabin, and here we moored our raft, From the settler we hired a span of oxen and a cart, and, loading our caribou, leisurely reached Economy. There, sure enough, was Dandy, waiting for us. I am writing this at Purdy's, in delightful quarters once more. In a week or so I will go for moose, just as soon as Gamble has made his crop. I shall take Gamble with me, of course, and Beese and Dandy, for better hunters or more trustworthy people I never came across. Gamble says we may safely call the moose on the next full moon. T. F. 0. T.
Reminiscence of Lake Superior - February 26, 1874
Dec 16 2021
Reminiscence of Lake Superior - February 26, 1874
REMINISCENCE OF LAKE SUPERIOR BY THOMAS SEDGWICK STEELE It was with a hearty laugh that Dr. W. bounded into my room one bright morning in the latter part of September, without waiting to knock or in any way announce his arrival. In almost the same breath he called out, “Why! you’re a pretty fellow to be housed here all day long, fussing over those feathers and wires ! Why are you not on the river trolling, or in the woods after partridges? Come, put up those tools and lets off for a day’s tramp. Peter has put up enough luncheon for two, so pick up your gun and come on.” The fact was, that for the past week I had spent a great portion of my time stuffing birds. I had collected some two dozen, peculiar to the Lake Superior region, and had packed them away preparatory to leaving on “the last boat of the season.” At the present time I had under consideration a Canada jay or “Whiskey Jack,”as they are sometimes called, and was manipulating it in the usual manner. I had just turned the skin of the bird to its natural position and was making a body of hemp as near the size of the original as possible, when the Doctor entered and accosted me with above salutation. Doctor W. was an Englishman, but, instead of possessing the rotund figure which “John Bull” is always supposed to have, he was tall and slim, with that restless activity of manner and overflow of fun and jollity which are the proverbial dignity of an Englishman. He was “a hale fellow, well met” and consequently a favorite with all. His bright face alone brought relief and happiness to a sick room, and as a companion in the woods, he was everything that could be desired. All these attractive qualities were really the secret of his success as a physician—setting aside the fact of there being no other within a radius of thirteen miles. It would indeed have been a brave man who could venture to “hang out his shingle” in competition with Doctor W. Although loath to leave my bird half finished, I knew the Doctor’s company would well repay me, so I carefully smoothed down the plumage and depositing the skin in my drawer, looked about for my gun. To most people, my room might not have been attractive, but to me, as a sportsman, it was perfection. The pegs around the room, not covered by wearing apparel, were decorated with fishing rods, creels, nets and all the paraphernalia of an angler, while in one corner, carefully packed in cotton, were skins of birds and jars of agates which I had collected during four month’s occupation of the premises. In one corner lay my game bag and a pair of deer’s antlers, while last but not least, stood my ever-faithful friend, my gun. To throw on my hunting coat, whose numerous pockets were made to contain everything from game to percussion caps, was the work of an instant, and shouldering my gun, I locked the door and followed the Doctor down stairs and out into the street. It was a lovely morning, bright, clear and frosty, with but little wind to stir the waves of old Superior, in -whose mirror-like surface was reflected the deep blue of the sky. With one long lingering look down the Lake to see that no steamer was in sight, (as their arrival always made a holiday at Ontonagon,) we turned our backs on the scene, and passing through the town, followed the old corduroy road into the woods. Occasionally we stopped to pick a few berries, the last of the season, to snatch a few ferns from the wayside or to cut from some old stump a pretty bit of moss. It would have been better for me if, for once, I had let the “pretty mosses” go, for a favorite hunting knife mounted in ivory and silver, a relic of “our late unpleasantness” may, for aught I know, be still sticking in that old stump or some friendly Indian may have slipped it into his belt ere this. If so, I can safely assure him that he has secured a first-rate piece of cutlery. Mile after mile we plodded up the road, our dogs working in the woods to the right and left, occasionally starting a partridge which fell by the Doctor’s unerring aim. Through the stillness of the woods came the sound of the great tree pecker or woodcock of the northern woods, his body of black and white feathers, almost as large as a partridge and a crest of Vermillion that would put a sunset to blush. Soon we came to the thickest part of the woods where the great trees encroached on the road, and tossed their long branches into dangerous proximity to the stages for the mines. Although the morning was calm, not so had been the night previous, and across our path lay numerous mementoes of the gale, around which we had to work our way. While passing through one of these thickets of fallen branches, our dogs came to a point. Cocking our guns, we made ready for whatever should be flushed. The next moment, whir-r r-r, that music so melodious to all sportsmen’s ears, and up sprang two partridges, the Doctor covering one and I the other. The smoke had hardly cleared away when up sprang another brace, followed almost immediately by a single bird. Being wholly unprepared for quite so many in one spot, we only knocked two, Dr.W. missing the last one. It was with great difficulty we could restrain the dogs and prevent them from rushing in, as we had not as yet retrieved a bird. But it was well we did, for a few feet further on Spot came to a point, backed by Hero in the most graceful manner possible. The undergrowth was very thick, long vines stretching from tree to tree, and across our path in every direction innumerable slippery branches covered the ground, but as Spot very seldom deceived us we pushed forward to where he stood. The Doctor, who was a little in advance, had hardly reached the dogs when up sprang another brace of partridges which he dropped with his right and left barrel. Re-loading, we “quartered” the ground, but not another bird could be flushed, so, picking up those we had killed, we returned to the road, satisfied in bagging six out of a flock of seven. Where that seventh bird disappeared we never could discover; possibly into a swamp hard by, but we contented our minds with the thought that some other sportsman would retrieve him and that we ought to be generous. On we tramped along that corduroy road, every foot of which is so distinct in my memory, until we arrived at an old log house, a few rods back from the road, at whose door we knocked and were greeted with “come in” from a remarkably healthy pair of lungs. The hut contained but two rooms, the latter of which could hardly be called a room, but rather a shed, and contained wood and various tubs arranged for the week’s washing. In the centre of the main room stood an old-fashioned iron box stove, while from the rafters above hung sundry ears of corn, aspargus branches and hams. The female members of the household were grouped around in various corners while the brawny head of the house sat resting one arm on the table and smoking an old clay pipe. To our request for a “glass of water” we received a decided “no,” but the “Lieut. Governor” of the family finally produced a cup of milk, saying that the well had given out and the spring was half a mile distant, but if we would accept of this, (holding forward the cup,) she would be pleased. The cup was of stone china, had evidently seen better days, and been younger and prettier. The handle was gone and the edge looked as if it had withstood a charge of grape and cannister, while numerous dark spots confirmed the fact of there being no water in the house ! But we were wry thirsty and had a walk still of four long miles before we reached another house or the mining town of Rockland, towards which we were bending: our steps; so, shutting our eyes, we each in turn lifted the cup and it-was all over! Thanking them for their kindness, we were soon deep in the woods again, hoping that another bird or two might fall to our bag. We were not disappointed, for we soon flushed three others, all of which fell to our hand. We had now entered the mining town of Rockland, and passing though its muddy streets, wound our way up the hill to the mines on its crest. Here -we rested our weary feet and gazed down on the village below. To the south of us stretched an almost endless forest with hardly an opening, the bright  autumnal foliage in strong contrast with the dark solemn pines. At our feet lay the village with its ever busy inhabitants, its low log houses and its noisy dogs and pigs, a very fair sample of a western mining town. Occasionally a few notes of a flute or violin would be wafted to our ears, for a Cornishman’s house is hardly complete without some kind of a musical instrument. To the east and west extended the mountains of the great mineral range, dotted here and there with the “pepper box” shaft houses, while constantly could be heard the cliinck, chinck, cliinck of the skips as they were drawn out of the mine and the roll of the rock as it rattled down the hill. After we had sufficiently recovered from our walk the Doctor suggested that we should vary our tramp by a trip down the mine, provided we could find a “Mining Captain,” (as they are called,) who was “going in” at that time. So we immediately repaired to the “change house,” and depositing our guns, game bags and other equipments, and securing the dogs, we doffed a portion of our clothing and arrayed ourselves in heavy canvass jackets and pants. Our heads were crowned with odd-looking hats, as hard as sole leather, something after the shape of Esquimaux huts. These were to protect our heads from falling rocks while down the mine. Following the directions of the Captain we rolled a tallow candle in soft clay and sticking it on to the front of our hats, picked our way over the rocks to the shaft house, and entered the shaft through a hole only just large enough to admit one’s body. As soon as daylight disappeared the Captain ordered a “halt,” to impart a few instructions necessary to our safety. From the top to the bottom of the mine extended ladders which were securely fastened to the sides of the shaft, and the Captain’s most important warning was that we must never let go our hold of one round of the ladder until we had firmly secured another, else a remarkably sudden trip of twelve hundred feet would be the consequence. Gradually we began the descent, hand over hand, round by round, until we had reached what is called the “first level.” Taking breath, and pushing the clay from the wicks of our candles, which still adhered to our hats, we slipped a few feet to the right and continued downward on another ladder. On the sides of the rock underneath us ran a rapid stream of water, continually fed by hidden springs, while on all sides the dark damp rocks seemed ready to crush us, so closely did they seem to press, but nothing daunted we continued our downward way. To the left lay another and larger shaft, through which we could see the “skips” filled with copper and rock passing and repassing, to which were fastened copper ropes, running over pulleys and operated by an engine up above at the entrance of the mine. By this time we were decidedly cold, and our hands and wrists all covered with soft sticky clay, which made it extremely difficult to retain our hold on the ladder, but hold we must. Down and farther down, until. the bottom of the mine is reached, 1,200 feet below the surface, while removing our candle from its exalted position on our hats and shading it from the air, we groped our way along in the “level,” expecting every moment to make some unlucky step. The blasts in other parts of the mine sounded like distant thunder as they echoed along the gallery. Away up in one part of the rock men were “stopping” or following a vein of copper, the musical “chinck, chinck” of their hammers and drills falling faintly on our ears, but immediately turning aside we passed through the “level” and entered a large room where, supporting the rocks overhead, were massive timbers some three feet in diameter. Here, we were Informed, a few years ago was taken, out a mass of copper which weighed six hundred tons and which required eighty barrels of powder to blast it and thirty men over a year to cut it up and raise it from the mine. Soon we were obliged to lie flat upon the ground, and by means of our hands and elbows, work ourselves through a small hole in the rock; and in that manner we entered another room or cave where eight miners were engaged at their work. Quitting this noisy place, the Captain taking the lead, we followed him to another gallery, to which we must needs pass over a shaft 500 feet deep, on one of the most slippery logs that ever mortal traveled. We had hardly reached the other side before our ears were nearly deafen'ed by another tremendous blast much nearer than the last, and the room was immediately filled with smoke, so we could hardly see, much less breathe, but feeling our way along, with the help of the Captain’s hand, we passed over a great ledge of rocks and up into a better atmosphere. The Captain now took from his pocket a curious looking brown parcel and asked if we would like some “crib,” or what a miner calls dinner. Crib is a composition of meat, potatoes, bread and other compounds mixed, seasoned and baked into a pie—not a very tempting morsel certainly, but our appetites were sharpened by hard exercise, and remembering the proverb, “When you are in Rome do as the Romans do,” we accepted the offered “crib” with thanks. While thus engaged we had time to gaze around us, and what a sight met our eyes. The roof over our heads was one mass of glittering ore and rock. Great veins of bright copper seamed the grey rock, while here and there were traces of silver and masses of snow-white quartz, which, sparkling in the light of our candles, suggested to our minds a fairy grotto. We sat some time enjoying this picture and absorbed in wonder, until the cold damp atmosphere of the place warned us of the danger of delay, so crawling along over still larger holders until this means of progression became exceedingly painful, we entered another rock bound chamber. Here we found the greatest number of miners we had yet seen, men down on their knees holding long drills, while above them others swinging the huge hammers. On the sides of the rock they had fastened their candles, whose fitful glare, lighting up the huge cave, combined with the tremendous noise of the hammers, made the place seem like a perfect Pandemonium. Leaving the men at their work we passed along a dark gallery and by a deal of climbing reached a ledge of rocks, where, through a small opening, we obtained our first ray of sunlight, and by means of a rope drew ourselves hand over hand out of the mine. Oh! how delightful seemed the “blessed sunlight,” and although the day was cool, how hot the air seemed in comparison with the dampness of the mine. We drew in long draughts of the fresh pure air and sat for a long time enjoying the bright sunlight, while we congratulated one another upon the success of our novel expedition. Then a “happy thought” suggested itself and we at once repaired to a neighboring “photograph cart,” where, with pick in hand, candles on our hats and mining clothes covered with clay, we made a picture which we have carefully preserved as a souvenir and which has proved to our friends a great source of amusement ever since.