CLOTHING FOR WOODSMEN/Hunter
CLOTHING FOR WOODSMEN/Hunter
By A. C. Rowell.
ANY work on wood craft should contain a chapter on canoes and rowboats, but rather than to borrow from the experience of other woodsmen, and thereby deal with a subject that I don't understand, I will leave water-craft to writers that understand the subject.
I have built some pretty fine rafts, but with the best one I ever made I attempted to cross (and did cross) a large lake and got caught in a gale and "shipwrecked" with many miles of water and steep cliffs between me and camp, so I conclude that my kind of raft is not seaworthy. Anybody can make a raft, but the man never lived that could control one in swift water, or in a gale of wind with high waves rolling. So I will advise that any sort of a raft is all right on small ponds and slow flowing streams, and that rafts are unfit for use on any other water.
About bridging streams: I have wasted lots of time and done some pretty hard swimming getting bridges across streams that were too wide for a tree to reach across and too swift and rough for rafting, and the only really good, long bridge that I ever built was so high above the water and so narrow that a would-be bear hunter fell off from it and lost his gun and got awful wet.
That was a long time ago, but the things that that wet, half drowned sport said about that bridge are hot yet, and since that time I have confined my bridge building to bridges of one span and built them by finding a tree on one bank that would reach across to the other. The bridge that dropped the hunter into the muddy was built by dropping a tree from each side so that the top of it reached out over the water forty feet and with the big end far enough back from the bank to over-balance the top and hold it up; and between the tops of these two trees there was a span made by lashing the ends of two thirty-foot poles to them. The bridge was safe so far as carrying a man's weight was concerned; but it could spring up and down and wobble sideways in a way that made it hard to ride, and it took more swimming to build it than it ever saved.
When a tree stands so near the water that in order to use it for a foot log it must not leave the stump, I cut two notches on the side towards the water and split out the block between them, and cut the notch on the other side so that the bottom of it will come even with the middle of the place where the block is taken out. This gives the wood a chance to bend on the side towards the water and nearly always holds a green tree to the stump. With a tree that leans the wrong way, when it is the only one I can use, I cut the notch on the back side square in at both top and bottom and then square the end of a long lever and fit it in to the notch and wedge it fast, then I take out the block on the side ol the tree towards the water and lift on the end of the lever till I tip the tree over to where I want it to go. There is a little extra work about this method, but, unless a man has a saw, it is the only sure, safe way of throwing a large tree against it's own weight. Walking a foot log is really just as easy as walking in a straight line on the ground; but there are a great many men, and some of them woodsmen, that have
not the nerve to walk a log, over a dangerous place, unless they have railing to hold to. To secure a log against rolling so that railing may be fastened along one side of it, cut a notch in each side of it at the base and drive stakes into the ground so that they fit in these notches and reach above the top of the log, then fasten the top of the stakes together and bind them to a cross log that has one end staked down. The braces for the railing may then be fastened to the log so firmly that a fat man can swing un them without turning the log over.
I have often heard it said that "clothes do not make the man" and the expression is doubtless true, but, as a general thing, you can guess pretty close by a man's clothes as to what he is. A dude may imitate the dress of the woodsman as close as he can, and do his best to wear the clothes in a natural manner, yet you can tell by the clothes, and the way they hang, that he is a dude—even the tracks of a dude give him away. On the other hand, a genuine woodsman —one that has never been anything else—may dress up in a fried shirt, cutaway coat, etc., and do his best to appear at ease in them, and you know by the clothes the man inside of them is from the woods—the same clothes would set different on a dude, and appear different.
When a man wears his "own" clothes the clothes have the marks of his calling—a dry goods clerk hardly ever wears gum-boots for his regular foot-wear, nor do we often see a druggist dressed in mackinaws and a fur cap. A butcher dressed in a "Prince Albert" (while v. his business) would appear as much out of place as would a dancing master dressed in a butcher's blouse and overalls.
Woodsmen do not agree as to what is the best dress for the woods, and there is no reason why they should agree, because different individuals have different tastes and habits, and there is a variety of clothing for woods wear to choose from. The snow-shoe rabbit is deal stuck on wearing hair, and it keeps him warm, and when there is danger of getting his clothes wet, he goes into a hole, or under a log. The grouse would not trade his fathers for all the hair that ever grew, and he would he foolish to trade, because hair would get wet whenever he roosted out during a rain storm, and it would switch around in the wind when he wanted to strut and flap his wings. The porcupine would rather have his coat and vest of quills, hair and fur than any other combination that he ever heard of, and when it comes to a show-down, he really has about the best dress that has ever been invented—his coat don't taste good to anything that ever tried it and it turns water equal to a shingled roof and keeps him warm when other things freeze. In spite of all the argument the porcupine could put up in favor of his good coat, the bearer wouldn't trade with him for a bushel of quills to boot—the mud-turtle wouldn't trade with any of them.
I will not attempt to say what kind of clothes are the best for other woodsmen; but for myself I will have the best woolen that I can get, except for outside clothes, and in real cold weather there is nothing better than mackinaw for outside wear. In ordinary winter weather in the mountains I wear heavy woolen underclothes—pure wool with no mixture of cotton; either woolen trousers, or overalls and an extra pair of drawers, a heavy woolen over shirt and a mackinaw jacket. On bad days I put an unlined canvas coat, or a large jumper, over the mackinaw.
Not to wear enough clothes, in a country where a blizzard is apt to come up at any time, is dangerous; but to wear too much clothing on the body is just as dangerous, because too much clothing, when a man is exercising, will cause him to sweat and get too warm, and then the frost gets into his clothes and he chills. In riding, instead of exercising, there is no danger of too much clothing and when it is forty or more below zero a man riding wants all the clothes he can get. Clothing the body is a simple matter, and a reasonable amount of almost any sort of clothing—perforated undershirts excepted— will protect the body, but with the hands and feet it is a different proposition. Badly frozen feet, while alone in the wilds, or a long way from camp, are almost certain to result in a frozen body. Frozen or numbed fingers will prevent a man from starting a fire and cause him to freeze to death with matches in his pocket and fuel at hand. I do not dress my hands and feet always the same for extreme cold, but I always dress them with plenty of something big and loose. For my feet I have never found anything better than two pairs of big, soft, woolen socks, sheep pacs over the socks and over shoes over the pacs—if any part of this rig be tight, the whole rig will be cold; but if it all be so loose that the foot can move inside of it, the foot cannot freeze. It don't matter what a man puts on his feet, so long as there is plenty of it and it is loose. A tight-fitting sheep pac will not hurt the foot like a tight shoe and I have seen lumber-jacks put on sheep pacs that were tight enough to stop the circulation of the blood and declare that they were just the right fit. When Jack got out in the cold with his neat fitting pacs, his feet began to ache and he cursed the sheep pacs and threw them away. The whole trouble was that the pacs were a half-inch thick with wool and in order to have them big enough to be loose on his feet Jack would have to get them big enough to make his feet look like a pair of hams, and he would rather suffer discomfort than to do that. the men from Norway take woolen cloth and it together till it is in the form of felt, a inch or more thick, and make big loose from this felt. These shoes will keep a man's feet warm under any circumstances, and anybody can take old mackinaw, or other heavy woolens, and make them—it don't matter how they fit, or look, so long as they are loose and keep the snow out.
With plenty of woolen socks to keep the feet warm without the moccasins, the moccasins are all right, provided they are loose; but, without over-shoes, it is almost impossible to keep them dry, and with over-shoes they add weight and bulk without adding warmth.
I have a pair of moose hide moccasins (paid $3.00 for them) that are said to be exactly the same as the best grade worn in the lumber woods of the northeast. I find them handy to have in camp so that when I come in I can put on the moccasins and hang my over-shoes up where the heat from the fire will take the frost and moisture out of them. When I hang up my over-shoes I always put cloth of some kind inside of them to absorb the moisture, and unless I do this, or else hang them where they will get too warm, there will be moisture on the inside of them in the morning. By over-shoes I mean the kind that have cloth tops and that are pliable when frozen. The gum-shoe and German sock combination is all right till the weather gets cold; then the gum-shoe freezes till it is about as pliable, and about as warm, as an iron boot, and the inside of it becomes glazed with ice and freezes fast to the German sock. Then the sock, generally composed of woolen waste and cotton, takes on the character of rawhide and freezes to the sock that is inside of it—then the foot gets cold.
There is no danger of getting too much on the feet, so long as it is loose, and in hot weather when doing lots of walking in rough mountains I wear heavy woolen socks and gunny sock foot cloths inside of big, nailed shoes. By doing this I keep my feet cool and dry and have a soft cushion between my foot and the leather.
When wearing one pair of thin socks inside of leather shoes in warm weather my feet would sweat so that in a few hours the socks would be wet and feel like some kind of green skin coated with soap, and hardly a day but what my feet would play out, or become blistered so that I would have to lay off. I have induced other woodsmen to try the heavy woolen socks for warm weather wear and they all agree that they are the cure for wet feet in dry weather—away from the mountains and where the ground is sometimes dry, and it dont' rain more than two or three times a day, the moose hide moccasins and light woolen socks are O. K. for summer. To keep the hands warm, in extremely cold weather, while carrying and using a ski pole, setting traps and so forth, is a hard matter, and I have never been able to find anything readymade that would do it. The best rig for protecting the hands from the cold that I have ever found is big, loose mittens made of wool sheepskin with the wool on the inside. I make these mittens with big gauntlets that go outside of my coat sleeves and reach half way to my elbows —the wool fits the sleeves close enough to keep out wind and snow. The sheep-skin for these mittens may be had from dealers in saddlers' supplies and I get it from the mail-order houses. When, as happened this year, some fine-haired cuss steals my sheep-skin mittens, and I have no sheep-skin for another pair, and the weather is cold, I buy the biggest pair of "warranted double wool lined" mittens that I can get and tear the cotton waste out of the inside of them and line them with woolen cloth. Not at any price have I ever been able to find a mitten that had an honest lining inside of it, and I would be willing to stake my outfit against a plug of tobacco that there is no manufacturer of mittens but what is so dishonest that the would cheat on mitten lining at a profit of a cent a pair, or at no profit, or even at a loss. I saw one man that froze 16 death after making a desperate attempt to start a fire, and he died holding his hands in his arm pits with his mittens cast aside. I have one of his mittens in my trunk, and, while it is heavy, and probably as good as the man could find, it is a fake lined piece of horse hide that had only to get damp to become as cold as a piece of iron. Common cotton gloves, that sell at two pairs for a quarter, worn inside of large, unlined leather mittens are warmer than the cotton waste lining that is put in most lined leather mittens. The lined leather mitten is O. K. when you put it on to try it, but with a few day's wear the lining packs or wads up and takes on its true character of worn out cotton rag. In the really expensive, lined leather mittens there is sometimes found a lining made of wool fleeced cotton cloth, and this would be O. K. if the wool were good; but the wool is the short wool that is scraped from sheared sheep skins and it soon pulls out of the cotton and leaves the lining equal to flour-sack. Any kind of woolen cloth quilted together and made into mittens and covered, or faced, with strong cloth, is better than anything that I have found in the way of lined mittens. Hand knit yarn mittens, made big, worn inside of leather, are O. K.; but the only mittens of this kind that I have seen, since those that my mother used to knit, were made by lightning, and were either flimsy wool or else tufted on the inside with cotton.
There are plenty of wool sheep-skin mittens on the market, but the wool is all on the outside, where it does about as much good as hay on the outside of a horse, and on the inside of these mittens—the part that is out of sight there is the same old cotton waste.
Now all of you at once set up the cry that you have no trouble to keep your hands warm, and I will say wait till you get out sometime when it is really cold with a forty-mile wind blowing and the air so full of fire powdered snow that you can't see. Then if you have to use your hands, and can't keep them warm in your pockets, you will sing a different song, and perhaps freeze because your hands are too numb to start a fire. The fine snow will get inside of your mittens and up your sleeves, and if the wind can get at your wrists it will burn like fire.
A great many men prefer a cap to a hat for cold weather; but I prefer to wear a hat, with a "bale" to hold it on, and have a hood to wear under it. The hat protects the face and neck from falling snow and does not cause the head to sweat the way a cap does, and the hood is better protection against cold than a cap and may be carried in the pocket and worn only when occasion requires it. When it gets really cold the face must be covered, and a cloth put over the face, below the eyes, with the ends held in place by the hood, is the best covering for the face that I know of. Always I have, large snow glasses and when I have to face a blizzard I put them on to protect my eyes from the driving snow. There are caps made that have masks to go over the face and I sent and got one of these. It proved to be made of stiff canvas and lined throughout with wool sheep-skin and while it would sweat the top of the head, it proved to be of about as much protection to the neck and face as would be a tin bucket turned over the head—the wind blowing around my head under the eaves of that cap sounded like it was blowing across a stove pipe and it took it only a few minutes to have the wool on the inside of the cape of the cap packed full of snow.
It is probable that the dealers in supplies for the extreme north handle better articles for protection against cold than can be procured from the get-rich-quick dealers in the west, and it may be that woodsmen of the north know just what to buy to protect the hands, feet, face and head from the cold, and just where to buy it.
In the way of bedding I prefer woolen-covered, wool-filled quilts to anything else, and next to these I prefer good cotton quilts and the best grade of light, all wool blankets.
The woolen quilts may be had by buying wool filled quilts and covering them with light, soft blankets, or by having them made to order. In either case they will cost above a dollar a pound and one that weighs eight pounds will be equal in warmth to two eight pound blankets. A heavy blanket is a poor investment, and the poorest bed for back packing that I ever used was a ten pound blankets that was supposed to be manufactured expressly for that purpose. I had rather have the soft, pure wool, five-pound blankets than two of the best, ten-pound blankets. I have no use for a sleeping bag and never saw one but what was either too cold to sleep in, or too heavy to pack. The only way that I know of that a sleeping bag could be of advantage would be to have it covered with absolutely water-proof material, so that a man could sleep on wet snow or in soft mud and keep dry. But such a bag would weigh as much as a good bed and a rubber blanket, and would be no better. A good fur robe is a good piece of bedding; but one that is heavy enough to be a bed by itself is too heavy to pack in a back-pack. The rabbit-skin blanket that the northern woodsmen tell so much about, I have never used, but, knowing how it is made, I will have to be shown that it is as good as an all-wool quilt of the same weight. Whether the rabbit-skin is the only thing, or not, I know, from handling rabbits, that woolen clothes that came in contact with it would soon look like half picked rabbit-skins.
The hair from the back of a snow-shoe rabbit may be plucked as easily as the feathers from a bird, and, on account of its being so light in weight, compared to its bulk, I intend to fill a quilt with it and see whether or not it will keep the heat, from the body, and the cold from the air, from coming together, as it is claimed that it will.
A bed, with most cowboys and plainsmen, means a horse load of cheap blankets and rag filled quilts (soogans) with a tepee, or a heavy tarpaulin, to keep them dry.
Some dudes come into the wilderness with the idea of being tough, and bring along only a woodsman's bed, and some of these make out all right; but some of them don't, and I saw one from the "old country" crawl out of a henskin sleeping bag and inquire if there was any place nearby where he could get a bit of 'ay to put under his bed. He declared that the "damned ground was froze 'arder than 'ell" and seemed to be surprised that it was so, and insulted about it.
With me, when I can take along all the bed I want, a tarp, a pillow, three quilts and a soft blanket fill the bill. When I am back-packing, a good quilt and a light blanket do very well; but in this case I sleep with my clothes on and generally have extra socks for my feet. If I cannot get dry ground to sleep on, I use boughs, and I always fill a sack with something or other for a pillow, and generally I make a big fire before going to bed; but I hardly ever get up in the night to make fire. No matter whether I have much bedding, or little, I always spread out as much of it as I want to have over me, and then fold it so that one side of it goes over me and the other side under me. In this way the bed is open on one side only and it is easy to draw the bedding together at the open side and make it fit the body snugly. When I have more bedding than I want to put over me, I fold the extra pieces and put them under me.
Heating the ground before sleeping on it is about the surest way to take cold that I know of, and as a general thing, it only makes a bad matter worse—steam heat is all right when the steam is confined, but when the steam comes in contact with a man, or his bed, it has about the same effect as any other warm water. Hot rocks, or logs, are all right to sleep close to; but it is not best to sleep in actual contact with them. A hot stone placed in a tight tepee on a cold night will cause the inside of the tepee to become coated with ice. Sleeping under snow will certainly keep a man warm; but it is uncomfortable, and a good way to get a bad cold.
When I have no bedding at all, I am obliged to sleep close to the fire; but with even one quilt for a bed I find it best to sleep far enough from the fire so that I do not get too warm on one side. At a distance of ten or twelve feet from the fire I can barely feel the heat, yet the air is warmed enough to allow me to go to sleep comfortably warm, and when the fire dies down the change in temperature is not great enough to cause the chill that is felt when sleeping close to the fire, and at ten feet from the fire there is little danger of sparks.
For the first few nights, when back-packing in winter, I get so cold that I can hardly keep from getting up to make fire, but after that when I get cold I turn over and draw the bedding close, almost without waking up. A man can get accustomed to the cold, and I sleep comfortably warm out in the open with less than half the covering that most men think they need in a warm house—habit is the only thing that makes man require warmer covering than that which beasts have by nature, and habit may be overcome. The clothes that a man wears in the day-time do not fit so well as those worn by beasts, and it is almost impossible for a man to dress as warmly as a beast is dressed; but at night a man can shut out the cold with one good quilt better than it is shut out by the coats of most beasts.
About clothing for summer wear in the wilderness, there is little to say: If a man wants to wear a linen duster, stand up collar and took-pick shoes while out camping, the rig will probably fit him all right, and can't do him any great amount of harm. For my own use in summer I prefer light woolen underwear, a flannel shirt and either overalls or light weight trousers, with a water-proof hunting coat for wet weather, and good, solid, leather shoes, well nailed and waterproofed with viscol. At low altitudes, where the weather gets hot, I wear just as little clothing as I can get along with; and drift up country as fast as I can till I get to where clothes are needed.
Fur, News. Fur News, January 1916.
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