FIRES FOR VARIOUS USES
By E. Kreps.
SOMEONE has said that man, and his faithful servant and friend, the dog, can live in any climate, and that they have penetrated the most remote parts of the earth. This statement should be qualified, for while the dog can adapt itself naturally to the heat of the tropics or the cold of the polar regions, man can do so only through his ingenuity or cleverness in providing himself with a protecting covering for his body, and by the use of fire for heating his habitation. If fire were unknown much of the temperate and all of the frigid zones would be uninhabitable to mankind, in fact, the best part of the earth would be un-peopled and in all probability would exist to-day in all the glory of its prehistoric wildness. People could journey from the South up into the latitude of New York State only in the summer, and when the leaves of the trees would commence to color under the touch of the autumn frosts they would have to scurry quickly back to the sunshiny land where snow and ice are almost unknown. We would also have to live on uncooked food if we knew nothing about fire.
Undoubtedly there was a time, far back in the mysterious past, when man possessed no more intelligence than the brute animals among which he lived. He fought his struggle for existence in the jungles of the tropics, dwelling in a dark cavern or a rude hut of bamboo, and subsisting on uncooked meat and fish, raw fruits and wild vegetables. Fire was unknown to him, or at least he knew not how to produce, nourish and use it. But there came a change in time. By chance he learned that fire gave off warmth which was pleasant on chilly days, and he took some home to his lair. He learned to add fuel to keep the fire burning, and when forced by necessity to find a means of keeping the fire without constantly adding fuel, he learned to cover embers with ashes and thus preserve them through the day when he was hunting for food. Later he invented a receptacle for carrying fire so that he could "camp out" in comparative comfort. It was by accident that he learned that meat was improved by roasting in the fire, and experiments followed which ended in mankind accepting cooked food t as the proper diet. It was these discoveries and inventions that elevated man above the brute level and started him on his march of progress. In all probability he has never since made a discovery of such great importance as that of the use of fire.
In an earlier article I wrote about how fire may have been discovered, and some of the primitive methods of producing it. Interesting as such articles are I think that most of Fur News readers would prefer to hear of practical, present day ways of using fire, the methods found most useful by woodsmen.
Most fires to-day are started by means of matches, so, as a starting place we will first consider the match. Insignificant little stick— 500 for five cents—yet that tiny match can start a fire that would destroy a city or lay a hundred miles of forest in ruin! Many a life has been saved by a match, and many millions, yes billions of dollars worth of property has been destroyed by the same insignificant little stick. It is on one hand one of the greatest providers of comfort that science has produced, and on the other the most powerful destroyer known to man. There are various kinds of matches, each having properties peculiar to itself, but we will compare only the most common kinds and judge them from the woodsman's standpoint.
I believe the first matches to come into use were made of a sulphurous compound and such matches are still used in large quantities in Canada. They are generally considered superior to ordinary parlor matches for woodsman's use, but I cannot see that they possess any advantages whatever. They are just as difficult to light as parlor matches, if not more so, just as easily blown out, and just as susceptible to dampness. They are noiseless, which is in their favor, but they throw off disagreeable fumes when lighted. They are reliable matches for the woodsman, although I would take parlor matches in preference.
We have also the little, so-called "safety" matches now so much used by smokers. They are convenient for carrying and get their name from their refusal to light when struck on any surface other than the side of the box in which they are packed. But this very quality makes them unfit for the use of the woodsman. It is difficult to light a fire in a wind if one must hold in his hand the match-box as well as the burning match, for he cannot "cup" his hands perfectly. This is worth remembering,
for out of doors, there is nearly always enough wind to make trouble when building a ire. Another fault of the safety match is its small size; it is apt to be entirely consumed before the fire can be started. The parlor match there is the match for the woodsman, and he should have a bountiful supply when he turns his back on civilization.
The stock of matches should be kept in: waterproof case of some kind. A screw to;. jar is very good if one has it in camp, but glassware is not practical for camping trips and something less fragile but equally waterproof should be found. I have a kodak tank developing outfit, the metal tank of which is excelled for holding matches. The cover locks on by 1 partial turn and is watertight, while the tan* holds enough matches for a whole winter's use. Of course the woodsman will carry with him on his sojourns from camp only a small quantity of matches and at least a few of them should either be so treated as to render them impervious to water, or be carried in a watertight container. It sometimes happens that the traveler in tie woods gets caught in a drenching rain, or be may fall into the water, and unless some provision has been made for keeping the matches dry there will be no more smokes or tea until he gets back to camp. Sometimes more consequences may follow such negligence; for instance the traveler may break through the stream and without a fire may freeze to death. Almost every outdoor man can recall instances where dry matches would at least have added materially to his comfort.
There are various ways of waterproof matches. They may be dipped in melted paraffin, which will keep them perfectly dry, ad when the protecting wax is removed they will be in first class condition. Varnishes of one kind or another will serve the same purpose.
But a waterproof box is more reliable and convenient. There is one matchbox on the market that is very efficient. It is somewhat difficult to open, especially when one's has are cold, but for all of that it is the best thin? I know of, and as its contents are to be only in emergency cases the woodsman may be content with the box as it is. I have seen matchboxes made from brass shotgun shells that were practically waterproof if kept tightly closed, but sometimes it is difficult to remove the cover. A small glass bottle is also good for carrying matches and is frequently used iff this purpose.
It is an easy matter to light a match; but to start a fire is something different, and to a fire when the wind is blowing is often difficult. Even the simple lighting of a pipe in the wind is very uncertain with many smokers. I have seen men out in an exposed place strike match after match in a vain endeavor to light a pipe. Yet rightly done the trick is easy. It is right to get behind a tree if one is near; though it is not at all necessary. In all cases the man should turn his face towards the wind as soon as he strikes the match, form a cup of his hands and thus shelter the burning match. Then it is easy to thrust the bowl of the pipe into his hands to the burning match.
A very practical idea is to sew a small strip of emery cloth on the inside of the coat, the upper half being loose so that it folds down over the other half and thus keeps the rough surface from contact with the clothing. The back of a pocket-knife, the butt plate of a gun, or a key may also be made to answer. Of natural surfaces the side of a stone or the dry trunk of a tree may serve. But the most common scheme is to utilize the trouser leg for striking matches and as long as the clothing is dry it is certainly the most convenient surface for this purpose.
When a match gets wet, if the head is not so much softened that it rubs off the stick, there is hope. Rubbing the match through the hair will dry it in an amazingly short time.
There is no right or wrong way to make a fire unless it is to be used for some special purpose, in which case we must know how the fire is to be used and build it accordingly. As a rule a cooking fire is built differently from one that is designed merely to give warmth. But we must always take into consideration the strength of the wind, whether the fire is for boiling, baking or frying food, and whether a quick or slow heat is wanted, for each and all call for a different kind of fire. The variety if wood and its condition must also be considered.
For most kinds of cooking only a small fire is required, in fact we get better results from a small flame. But it is essential that we have some arrangement whereby the cooking utensils will be held steadily and securely. The most common practice is to place the kettle or frying pan on top of the fuel, shifting the wood about until the utensils sit level. It is about the most unsatisfactory method, outside of holding them by hand, and many a meal has been upset into the fire simply because the cook would not take the trouble to provide a suitable place to prepare the meal. The simplest way of suspending a kettle over the fire is by hanging it from the end of a stick which has been thrust into the ground at an angle of about twenty degrees. In the woods of the north this method is used generally for boiling. When the bushman stops for tea. which .is always the most essential and important part of his repast, he builds a fire, then cuts a stick an inch or a little more in thickness and about four feet long, and thrusts it into the ground in such a way that when the tea-pail is suspended from the end it hangs at just the right height above the fire. Only a
small fire is required, but it should give a clear, steady flame, for the water should be brought to a boil quickly.
For frying, baking, etc., I find an arrangement of two small green logs, flattened on top and bottom, and placed side by side about a half foot apart, the most satisfactory thing for holding the utensils securely. Between these logs a small fire is made, and there is no danger of the food spilling into the fire, or the handles of the utensils becoming so hot that they have to be moved with sticks. For a single utensil, like a frying pan, I find two straight-sided stones placed the right distance apart, fully as good as the logs, and only a few embers from the camp fire will be needed for the cooking.
Almost everybody who camps for the night builds a camp-fire, in fact without it a camp would seem far from complete, even though the night is a warm one. Cooking, however, should he done over a smaller fire placed nearby.
Fur, News. Fur News, January 1916.
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