Walk Like a Woodsman
A woodsman walks with a rolling motion swaying
to the stepping side—it is chiefly a difference of hip
action looseness of joints
up-and-down knee action
springy with rather rigid hips—
center of gravity secure
as a rope-walker
he goes steadily but moderately forward.
Walking in this manner one is not likely to trip
over projecting roots, stones, traps.
One gains ground at every stride.
Make a Good Camp
Seek an open spot level enough with good natural drainage.
A rise or slight slope is better than a depression.
Avoid low ground and swamps.
Face the rising sun—easterly or southeasterly is best.
Don’t trust a clear sky.
Never turn your back on a bear.
Make sure your rain-fly is tight. Crawling out of bed into a storm at night
is miserable business.
Carry a pocketknife. Don’t relent.
Half a potato with a hole scooped in it makes a good portable candlestick.
Make Devices Finely Turned
Make devices finely turned and neatly finished
for purposes of all imaginable kinds
prosaic and exotic as well as weaponry
motorcars heating fans
engines designed for cutting diamonds
deep inside the microscope.
It is profound, significant, and worthy business
turning shapeless slugs into objects of beauty.
Barographs, cameras, clocks. Not watches.
Table clocks and ships’ chronometers.
Long-case grandfather clocks where gearwheels
keep patient time to the phases of the moon.
Make a Good Camp (2)
stretch a stout line between two trees
set up a rustic table & benches drive four stakes
for legs nail cleats across the ends cover
the top with boards or sticks
if you have no nails use forked stakes
hemlock knots are worthless are hard as glass
keep your axe out of them do not leave
your axe outdoors on a cold night
when there is nothing dry to strike it on jerk
the tip of the match forward against your teeth
it’s a bad idea to eat from the ground
meat game fish may be fried broiled roasted
baked boiled stewed steamed (frying & broiling
are the quickest) roasting baking boiling take
an hour or two a stew of meat & vegetables
takes half a day as does soup
tough meat should be boiled in a pot.
Row a Boat
If a man afloat on a body of water pulls a boat,
which is in the water,
by means of an oar,
which is secured by a lock to the boat,
he will cause the boat to move in a direction.
But if several persons row the boat it may happen
by contrary adjustments of direction
and strength exerted
that the boat remains at rest.
The power is the pull of the rower.
The weight is the pressure on the oar.
Pulling on the oar urges the rower backward
and impels the boat forward.
But if a false balance bends the oar
any additional pressure alters its position and so on.
One of those positions is in the horizontal.
The other is in the vertical.
Hence the force with which we row the boat.
Dynamics is the science of the moon.
All motions are performed in Time.
A man puts a foot-lathe in motion.
A woman turns a wheel.
A rower whose vision is obscured will always row in circles.
Avoid Going in Circles
To avoid circling one must travel by landmarks, by compass.
Consult the instrument every two or three minutes.
A lost man’s memory is treacherous.
Work down country. The course of small streams shows
where the main valley lies.
Don’t travel too fast—it would excite you. Keep a stiff upper lip.
This is not a tragedy but only an interesting adventure.
Look for smoke. Note how the sun bears. Pick out a mark
and steer for it. Save your strength by following the easiest way
from this to another and so on.
Before leaving your bivouac blaze a tree and pencil on it
the time of your start and direction. (This will be invaluable
to your mates if they wish to track you up.)
In going around obstacles a man may choose habitually
the same side and not make allowance for this tendency
when averaging up his windings.
Many men swerve to the right
have an unconscious leaning
tend to travel in a circle.
Just why, we do not know.
SOURCES: Camping and Woodcraft, Horace Kephart (1916). The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World, Simon Winchester (NY: Harper. 2018). An Elementary Treatise on Mechanics, William Whewell, (1847).
Jerry Dennis’s many books, including The Living Great Lakes and The Windward Shore, have been widely translated and have won numerous awards. His brief works of poetry and prose have appeared in PANK, Mid-American Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Right Hand Pointing, and elsewhere. He lives with artist Gail Dennis in rural northern Michigan. (www.jerrydennis.net)