OVERWORK AND RECREATION.—OUTING AND OUTERS. HOW TO DO IT, AND WHY THEY MISS IT.
IT DOES not need that Herbert Spencer should cross the ocean to tell us that we are an overworked nation; that our hair turns gray ten years earlier than the Englishman's; or, "that we have had somewhat too much of the gospel of work," and, "it is time to preach the gospel of relaxation."
It is all true. But we work harder, accomplish more in a given time, and last quite as long as slower races. As to the gray hair—perhaps gray hair is better than none; and it is a fact that the average Briton becomes bald as early as the American turns gray. There is, however, a sad significance in his words when he says, "In every circle I have met men who had themselves suffered from nervous collapse due to stress of business, or named friends who had either killed themselves by overwork, or had been permanently incapacitated, or had wasted long periods in endeavors to recover health." Too true. And it is the constant strain, without let up or relaxation, that, in nine cases out of ten, snaps the chord and ends in what the doctors call "nervous prostration"— something akin to paralysis—from which the sufferer seldom wholly recovers.
Mr. Spencer quotes that quaint old chronicler, Froissart, as saying, "the English take their pleasures sadly, after their fashion;" and thinks if he lived now, he would say of Americans, "they take their pleasures hurriedly, after their fashion." Perhaps.
It is an age of hurry and worry. Anything slower than steam is apt to "get left." Fortunes are quickly made and freely spent. Nearly all busy, hard-worked Americans have an intuitive sense of the need that exists for at least one period of rest and relaxation during each year, and all—or nearly all—are willing to pay liberally, too liberally in fact, for anything that conduces to rest, recreation and sport. I am sorry to say that we mostly get swindled. As an average, the summer outer who goes to forest, lake or stream for health and sport, gets about ten cents' worth for a dollar of outlay. A majority will admit—to themselves at least—that after a month's vacation, they return to work with an inward consciousness of being somewhat disappointed—and beaten. We are free with our money when we have it. We are known throughout the civilized world for our lavishness in paying for our pleasures; but, it humiliates us to know we have been beaten, and this is what the most of us do know at the end of a summer vacation. To the man of millions it makes little difference.
He is able to pay liberally for boats, backboards and "body service," if he chooses to spend a summer in the North Woods. He has no need to study the questions of lightness and economy in a forest and stream outing. Let his guides take care of him; and unto them and the landlords he will give freely of his substance.
I do not write for him, and can do him little good. But there are hundreds of thousands of practical, useful men, many of them far from being rich; mechanics, artists, writers, merchants, clerks, business men— workers, so to speak—who sorely need and well deserve a season of rest and relaxation at least once a year. To these, and for these, I write.
Perhaps more than fifty years of devotion to "woodcraft" may enable me to give a few useful hints and suggestions to those whose dreams, during the close season of work, are of camp-life by flood, field and forest.
I have found that nearly all who have a real love of nature and out-of-door camp-life, spend a good deal of time and talk in planning future trips, or discussing the trips and pleasures gone by, but still dear to memory.
When the mountain streams are frozen and the Nor'land winds are out; when the winter winds are drifting the bitter sleet and snow; when winter rains are making out-of-door life unendurable; when season, weather and law, combine to make it "close time" for beast, bird and man, it is well that a few congenial spirits should, at some favorite trysting place, gather around the glowing stove and exchange yarns, opinions and experiences. Perhaps no two will exactly agree on the best ground for an outing, on the flies, rods, reels, guns, etc., or half a dozen other points that may be discussed. But one thing all admit. Each and every one has gone to his chosen ground with too much impedimenta, too much duffle; and nearly all have used boats at least twice as heavy as they need to have been. The temptation to buy this or that bit of indispensable camp-kit has been too strong, and we have gone to the blessed woods, handicapped with a load fit for a pack-mule. This is not how to do it.
Go light; the lighter the better, so that you have the simplest materiel for health, comfort and enjoyment.
Of course, if you intend to have a permanent camp, and can reach it by boat or wagon, lightness is not so important, though even in that case it is well to guard against taking in a lot of stuff that is likely to prove of more weight than worth—only to leave it behind when you come out.
Sears, George Washington. Woodcraft. New York: Forest and Stream Publishing, 1884.
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