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Title: Trails and Tramps in Alaska and Newfoundland

Author: William S. Thomas

Release Date: October 24, 2012 [EBook #41166]

Language: English

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cover

[Pg i]

By William S. Thomas

Hunting Big Game with Gun and with Kodak Trails and Tramps in Alaska and Newfoundland

G. P. Putnam’s Sons
New York    London


Mother 'Possum and her Family Mother 'Possum and her Family

[Pg ii]

TRAILS AND TRAMPS
IN ALASKA AND
NEWFOUNDLAND

BY

WILLIAM S. THOMAS

AUTHOR OF “HUNTING BIG GAME WITH GUN AND KODAK”

WITH ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY-SEVEN ILLUSTRATIONS FROM ORIGINAL PHOTOGRAPHS

G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS
NEW YORK AND LONDON
The Knickerbocker Press
1913

[Pg iii]

Copyright, 1913
BY
WILLIAM S. THOMAS

The Knickerbocker Press, New York

[Pg iv]


To
MY WIFE
WHO SHARED NONE OF THE PLEASURES OF THE TRAIL AND BORE
ALL THE ANXIETIES FOR MY RETURN.


[Pg v]

PREFACE

The matter here submitted has been accumulated upon several hunting trips in the wilderness, and many excursions from time to time into the woods and fields about home. The author has for some years kept more or less extensive field notes, and has taken numerous photographs of objects, scenes, or incidents by the way.

Not all of the narrative is concerned with the chase, but all has to do with, or is in some way attributable to, the wanderlust that from boyhood days has cast its spell over the author at uncertain intervals, and from time to time, has compelled a pilgrimage nearer or farther into the regions of that freedom found only where man is not.

If in the heart of the reader it sets vibrating again some chord once sounded by the breath of the forest, or stirs to harmony some strings[Pg vi] hitherto not attuned to the music of the great outdoors, the mission of this volume will not have been vain, for it will then have assisted in a modest way the interpretation of that medium of expression of which Bryant has said,

“To him who in the love of nature holds Communion with her visible forms, she speaks A varied language.”

W. S. T.

Pittsburgh, Pa.,
March, 1913.


[Pg vii]

CONTENTS

CHAPTERPAGE
ICruising and Hunting in Southeastern Alaska1
IIObservations on Kodiak Island64
IIIHunting Big Game on the Kenai Peninsula123
IVA Trip to Newfoundland181
VHunting with a Ferret222
VIA Night Hunt238
VIIIn the Springtime247
VIIIA Plea for Protection305

[Pg viii]


[Pg ix]

ILLUSTRATIONS

PAGE
Mother ’Possum and her FamilyFrontispiece
Ketchikan3
Myriads of Salmon5
FatherDuncan7
Metlakatla8
Guest House9
FatherDuncan’s Church10
Where the Indians Roamed11
Street Scene in Metlakatla12
Metlakatla Belles13
Indians Cheering the Secretary15
Totems at Sitka18
Indian War Canoe20
Petersburg22
Streams of Crystal Water23
Lighthouse near Dixon’s Entrance26
Sitka27
Priests of the Greek Church at Sitka28
Fairweather Range30
[Pg x]Upper Ice Fields31
The Author Looking into a Crevasse33
Native Women Trading35
Mother and Babe36
Playing in the Sand37
Native Boys out Gunning38
Sunset near St. Elias39
Cape St. Elias41
Hinchinbrook Island44
Valdez after the Flood45
Bruin in a Steel Trap46
Salmon Running up Stream to Spawn49
Killing Fish with a Club50
Gulls Feeding on Salmon51
A Good Fisherman52
Dogs Fishing for Salmon53
Indian Hut55
Indian Graves56
Indian Women Repairing the Bidarka57
Sunrise60
Our Permanent Camp61
An Island near Valdez65
Sea Lion Rocks67
Seward68
Seldovia69
[Pg xi]Turbulent Shellicoff71
The Ravens72
Kodiak79
Gull Island80
Forget-me-nots81
Crow’s Nest and Young82
Nests of Eagle and Magpie83
Eagle Watching for Prey85
Eagle’s Nest and Young86
First Sight of Day88
Sea Parrot Incubating90
Sea Parrot’s Nest and Egg91
Characteristic Nest of "Gygis"93
Nest and Eggs of Herring Gull94
Our Camp among the Cottonwoods97
An Extinct Crater where the Bear Hibernate101
Where he fell103
Stretched Bear Skins105
Indian Barabara108
Kodiak Island Pinks109
Kenai River129
Lining the Boat133
Mid-day on the Kenai137
"Porky"141
[Pg xii]The Tonsorial Artist at Work144
Ready for the Start147
Approaching the Low Pass149
Home of the White Sheep151
Seeking a Ford155
Ptarmigan167
A Bath in Lake Skilak174
Bay of Islands185
Constructing a Raft186
One Took to the Woods187
One of the Others188
Trailing Arbutus190
Spotted Sandpiper’s Nest192
Merganser’s Nest194
Nest of Wilson’s Thrush195
Learning to Swim199
Out for Themselves200
Learning to Walk201
Reflections202
Radiant Splendor206
Whiskey Jack208
Nest and Eggs of the White-Throated Sparrow209
Bunchberries213
The “Steady”215
[Pg xiii]Solitude217
Breakfast Head on the Humber River219
Color Blending224
Putting in the Ferret226
His Last Nibble229
In Hot Pursuit230
Picked up231
Down the Old Fence233
The Dog Listening to the Last Sound235
Did he Come out?236
The Hunting Party239
Dog and Coon in the Mix-up244
Home of the Cardinal249
Cardinal’s Nest and Eggs252
Winter in the North254
Indigo Bunting’s Nest with Cowbird’s Egg256
The Young Interloper258
A Well-Constructed Home259
Madam Vireo at Home260
The Usurper262
Young Flickers265
Nest and Eggs of Tanager267
Little Green Heron’s Nest268
Little Green Heron’s Nest269
Leaving the Nest270
[Pg xiv]Nest and Eggs of Grosbeak272
Nestlings273
Fledglings274
Tom at the Nest275
Nest and Eggs of Blue-Gray Gnat-Catcher276
Nest and Young of Goldfinch277
Red-Spotted Purple Butterfly on Queen Anne’s Lace278
Young Goldfinch280
Nest of Red-Wing Blackbird282
Young Red-Wing Blackbirds283
Homes of the Cliff Swallows285
Nest of the Song Sparrow287
A Tragedy in Nature288
Wood-Thrush289
Nest and Eggs of Wood-Thrush290
Up a Stump291
Wood-Thrush’s Nest with Young292
Nest and Eggs of American Redstart294
Lady Redstart and her Home295
Nest and Eggs of Blue-Winged Warbler296
Young Woodpeckers Foraging297
Nest and Eggs of the Thrasher299
On Night Turn300
Young Thrasher301
[Pg xv]A Delightful Place306
Caught307
Nest and Eggs of Ruffed Grouse313
Not Certain315
A Sure Point317
Orchard Nest of Mourning Dove318
Two Little Turtle-Doves320

[Pg 1]

Trails and Tramps in Alaska and Newfoundland

CHAPTER I

CRUISING AND HUNTING IN SOUTHEASTERN ALASKA

In the midst of the rustling and bustling on the pier, the creaking of the block and tackle, and the hoisting of the duffel, could be heard the loud, clear voice of the mate resounding in the evening twilight, “Heave to!” “That’s well,” and similar expressions, all preparatory to our departure for the far-away North, the land of glaciers, gold, and fish. In the crowd were many sorts and conditions of men—and not the least in evidence were the sturdy Norseman and the Scottish clansman,—some on pleasure bent, some in search of the mighty beasts of the forest, still others seeking their fortune in[Pg 2] the vast gold-fields stretching on and on into the great unknown beyond the Arctic Circle.

Among the ever-changing groups of humanity, my attention was attracted to one, the center of which was a young man about one and twenty. As the time drew near for our departure, around him gathered four or five young ladies, who to all appearances were in sore distress. An only brother, perhaps, was about to leave home and friends to seek his fortune in the Land of the Midnight Sun. The old father, grizzled and gray, stood by with dejected countenance and folded hands, the very picture of despair. Presently one of the girls—the boy’s sweetheart, as I afterwards learned,—unable longer to stand the strain, threw her arms about her lover and wept bitterly. What expressions of sadness upon the faces of those left behind as the lamplight casts its pallid rays over them! And now one staggers and falls into the arms of a friend. Then what a look of grief upon the face of the young man peering over the ship’s rail! Such is the pathos of life at every turn, could we but see it.

Ketchikan Ketchikan

On board the steamer was the Hon. Walter L. Fisher, Secretary of the Interior, and his party, consisting of his son Walter, Alfred [Pg 3]
[Pg 4]
H. Brooks, of the Geological Surveys Committee, Governor W. E. Clark of Alaska, and reporters of various newspapers. Their mission was to investigate the condition and wants of the people of Alaska. The genial and pleasant old sea-dog, Captain Michael Jansen, was at the helm as the steamer wedged her way towards the north.

For some two hundred miles we skirted the eastern shore of Vancouver Island, lined to the water’s edge with hemlock, spruce, and cedar, through which occasionally bluish-white streaks of water came tumbling down the mountain-side, each adding its own particular charm to the scenery. The English Government has erected along the coast many lighthouses for the protection of navigation, but after we passed through Dixon’s Entrance into Uncle Sam’s domain, very few of these were to be seen. Our Government seems to have given too little attention to this matter.

Myriads of Salmon Myriads of Salmon

The first stop on the way north was Ketchikan, a little village nestled snugly at the foothills, with its hospital, saloons, and all the usual adjuncts of a mining town. It has a population of some five hundred souls, whose principal occupation consists of fishing and mining. The most interesting thing to [Pg 5]
[Pg 6]
sightseers was a stroll up the boardwalk laid along a narrow winding stream that has its origin in the snow-capped mountains. Pitching, tossing, and foaming it hurried down the narrow gulch, seeking its level in the briny deep. It was alive with myriads of salmon, jumping and leaping in their mad rush to the spawning ground.


In the dawn of the following morning the boat plowed its way through the green waters of the Strait toward Annette Island, a strip of land covered to the water’s edge with fir and cedar trees. The island is some six miles long, and at the extreme end, on a small, gently sloping plateau, is the little town of Metlakatla, which boasts a population of about a thousand persons. It has its own canneries, saw-mills, and other industries, and the people seem to be happy and contented. At the head of the colony is Rev. William Duncan, who has done much for the uplift of the many tribes of Indians in this locality.

Father Duncan Father Duncan

“Father” Duncan relates that more than half a century ago, when a young man of twenty-five, he was living in England. Upon his ordination as a minister of the Established Church, Alaska was assigned him as the field[Pg 7] of his future life-work. His passage was paid and he arrived at Victoria after a nine-months trip. The old man was very much agitated in relating his early experience. On reaching Victoria, he of course desired to enter at once upon his active duties, but the head official of the town and the captain of the boat used every means in their power to persuade him from going among the Indians, urging that they were bloodthirsty savages and would surely kill him. He told them that he was assigned to the field by the Board and could not think of changing his plan without an order from his superiors, to[Pg 8] procure which would require at least two years. He must get to his labor of love right away. However, he made one request of the officer in charge of the fort, and it was this: he would like to spend about nine months with them in the stockade, and wished they would send for the brightest young man of the most powerful tribe, so that he might learn the language before going among the savages. They granted his request, and in nine months he was ready to deliver his first sermon.

Metlakatla Metlakatla
Guest House Guest House

The Indians were divided into various tribes, each at war with the other. He[Pg 9] thought if he could succeed in getting the chiefs together and could tell them the Word of God in their own language, he would more readily win their confidence and esteem. So he requested his interpreter to call together all the chiefs to one central point, where he would deliver his first sermon. “But oh!” he said, “when I saw before me the assembled braves, decorated in all the colors of the rainbow, my courage left me, and turning to my teacher, I begged of him to deliver the message I had so carefully prepared to the gathered tribesmen. But he positively refused, and told me his intrusion might[Pg 10] cause a war, for the tribes were very jealous of the power and influence of their neighbors. Then I took courage and when I had spoken, oh! what an effect it had upon them! Bodies were rigid and eyes seemed as though they would pierce me through and through. The results were striking. They gathered around in little groups, earnestly discussing the truths made known to them and wondering who could be and whence came this strange white man who spoke their own tongue.

"Father" Duncan's Church “Father” Duncan’s Church

“From that day I became absorbed in my work. For thirty years I labored among them at Old Metlakatla, when one day I was told that the natives did not own the land and that the title was vested in the Queen of[Pg 11] England. The Indians could not understand how a sovereign whom they had never seen could own the land over which they and their ancestors had roamed for centuries, fishing, hunting, and trapping.

Where the Indians Roamed Where the Indians Roamed

Street Scene in Metlakatla Street Scene in Metlakatla

“I went down to Vancouver to examine into the matter, and the Premier and Attorney-General advised me that such was the case. I was fearful lest when the Indians learned this fact they would go on the war-path and kill every white man in the country. I wrote a long letter to them explaining conditions[Pg 12] and saying that I would be back home to Old Metlakatla as soon as I could. Shortly afterwards, much to my surprise, a committee came to Vancouver to confer with me. When I saw them I was greatly excited for fear they had decided upon war. When I inquired of them what had been done at the meeting, they refused to tell me, so that I was considerably worried over the matter. Although it was late in the evening, I went immediately to the Attorney-General’s home to advise him of the situation. I told him I would give him all the information I had that evening, but to-morrow, after I had[Pg 13] learned the action taken, I could not divulge a single word. I did not sleep much that night, and in the morning, when I met the committee, imagine my relief when they told me they had decided to leave English territory and seek a new home under the Stars and Stripes. Shortly after that I went to Washington to arrange matters, if possible, for a new location. I finally succeeded; the United States Government gave Annette Island to my people for[Pg 14] their home, and here we have built the new Metlakatla.”

Metlakatla Belles Metlakatla Belles

“Father” Duncan does not believe in educating the Indian children as they are taught at Carlisle and similar institutions. Once while he was visiting Carlisle at Commencement time, the orator of the day advised a graduating class to go out among the white people and do as the whites did. Speaking of the occasion, he remarked: “I thought as I listened, ‘Oh, what a mistake for them to leave their fathers and mothers, now too old to work, and become worthless and idle, unfitted for the duties of life!’” With deep emotion the old man pointed across the woods toward the cemetery, and said: “Over yonder lie the remains of about thirty young men, the pick of their tribe, who attended such schools, adopted the white man’s mode of living, and contracted tuberculosis, to which they fall ready victims. They are by nature so constituted that they require outdoor life and outdoor exercise.”

While “Father” Duncan was talking, the Secretary of the Interior came out of the Town Hall, where he had been holding a conference with the Town Council, and he and “Father” Duncan walked down the boardwalk toward[Pg 15] the cannery and from there to the boat. As the steamer was about to depart, the passengers gave three rousing cheers for the grand old man who had spent fifty-five years of useful life among these simple children of nature. Scarcely had the echo of the last cheer resounded from the hills about the bay, when, as the steamer left the wharf, the Indians gave three mightier cheers for the Secretary and another three for Governor Clark.

Indians Cheering the Secretary Indians Cheering the Secretary

About midnight of the third day the fog-horn began to blow, repeating the blast every ten minutes or more, and the engine[Pg 16] bells tinkled, tinkled all through the night. Sleep being out of the question, we were up early the next morning, and to our great surprise were informed by the pilot that the Wizard of the Northern Sea had been caught in the fog and had traveled scarcely a mile; in fact, we were obliged to return from the Narrows and wait for the fog to lift. As the old pilot expressed it: “Great Golly! it was a bad night, without a place to throw the anchor and the current running miles an hour.” The old sea-dog had a fine face, carved with stern lines. As he related with his Danish accent the stories of how two men-of-war and several other vessels had met their doom in those waters, hundreds on board going down, the little group was all attention. Even as he talked, he pointed out the partly concealed rocks where the men-of-war had met their fate, and over which the water now broke in innocent-looking ripples.

After thirteen hours waiting for flood tide and the lifting of the fog, we steamed slowly through Wrangel Narrows. What a sight as the sun dispelled the fog! I have seen at night in a puddling mill a ball of molten metal on its way from the furnace to the “squeezers” and, when “soused” with water, emitting[Pg 17] a blue flame and vapor. The sun at Wrangel Narrows was such a ball of molten metal, while the fog clinging to the leeward side of the mountain peaks was the vapor, and the peaks and crags with heads towering far above the clouds were the stacks and beams of a monster mill. Occasionally as we glide along, aquatic birds soar through the air in search of their morning meal; blackfish sport in the water, their fins cutting the surface as they disappear into the depths; and now a little snipe, flying around and around, trying to alight on the vessel, causes a stir among the passengers. A short distance away appears the head of a seal, evidently in search of its prey, and the leaping fish tell the rest of the story. How many things appeal to the lover of nature!

On account of the swift current and concealed rocks, the Narrows can be navigated with safety only in daylight, and I learned that the policy issued by marine insurance companies contains a clause under which no recovery can be had in event of accident to a steamer while passing through the Narrows by night.

Here and there lay an old hull cast high and dry on the rocks, after being tossed and pitched about in the powerful currents until[Pg 18] it was battered and broken out of all resemblance to a boat. The old Portland was pointed out in the distance, not yet a complete wreck, her mast erect, hull submerged, and the breakers booming and splashing over her. A feeling of sadness came over at least one of the party at the pleasant recollections of a former hunting trip made on the Portland with the big-hearted and greatly beloved Captain Moore, who has since passed over the Great Divide.

Totems at Sitka Totems at Sitka
Indian War Canoe Indian War Canoe

Wrangel, the next port of entry, was reached[Pg 19] in due time. To the tourists the most noteworthy objects are the totem-poles. Indian totem-poles are erected in even the smallest Indian settlements along the coast as far north as Sitka. Visitors are always interested in their picturesque carving. All kinds of grotesque figures of birds, animals, and fish are cut into the smooth surface of trees after the bark is removed. Contrary to what seems to be a very general belief, the natives do not worship totem-poles as idols, but regard them as a sort of family register. When a great event takes place, in order that it may be commemorated, they erect a totem; a successful hunter in the tribe becomes well known for his deeds of valor,—straightway he selects a family crest and up goes his totem, tinted with all the colors of the rainbow. Sometimes the poles illustrate legends handed down from generation to generation,—the stories and traditions of this simple-minded people. Ages ago, according to “Father” Duncan, the Indians adopted totems or crests to distinguish the social clans into which the race is said to be divided, and each clan is represented symbolically by some character, such as the finback whale, the grizzly bear, the frog, the eagle, etc. All Indian children take the crest of their mother and they do[Pg 20] not regard the members of their father’s family as relatives. Therefore a man’s heir or his successor is not his own son, but his sister’s son. Not often can an Indian be persuaded to rehearse to a stranger the story represented by the carvings on a pole. Here is a legend which is told of one totem-pole: A very long time ago an old chief with his wife and two small children pitched his wigwam at the mouth of a stream when the salmon were running to spawn. The old squaw, in order to get some spruce boughs[Pg 21] with which to gather salmon eggs, pushed her bidarka, or sealskin boat, into the water, and telling her two little papooses to get into the boat, paddled them across the stream. As she pulled the bidarka up on the other shore she instructed the children to remain in the boat till she returned. She came back in a short time with her load, only to discover that the children were gone. Many times she called to them, but always they answered to her from the woods with the voices of crows, and when she tried to follow them they would keep calling to her from some other direction. She returned to the boat again, gave up the children for lost, and going back to the wigwam reported to the chief that an old white trapper with a big beard had carried away the two little children. To commemorate this event they had a totem-pole carved to show the beard of the white trapper, and frequently point it out as an example to refractory children.


Our next stop was at Petersburg, a typical Alaskan town, with its cannery, saw-mill, and myriads of herring gulls on the wing and on the water. The old totem-poles which had stood for many, many years, worn almost smooth by the constant beating of the ele[Pg 22]ments, excited a great deal of curiosity, and made one wish for some occult power wherewith to read the mysteries of the past. At one pole the party, consisting of several doctors, was much absorbed, and after considerable study deciphered the figure of an old witch doctor carved on the top and below it what seemed to be a squaw, which they interpreted as very suggestive of the operation of laparotomy.

Petersburg Petersburg

A few miles from Petersburg we saw the first ice floe with its deep marine coloring, floating slowly towards the open sea. Two days and nights of continual rain were very[Pg 23] oppressive and trying on sociability, but when the welcome sun reappeared, how enjoyable was the contrast! The mountain-sides in the foreground, clad with verdure from the base half way to the snowy summit, had for a background the arched dome of the heavens, filled with vari-colored clouds. Here and there streams of crystal water coursed down the mountain-side, whence each took a final leap over the rocks into the boiling and seething maelstrom, throwing spray in every direction.

Streams of Crystal Water Streams of Crystal Water

[Pg 24]An interesting visit was had to the Treadwell mine, where the voice of man could not be heard above the noise of the many stamp mills pounding away, crushing the low-grade ores. At six o’clock the day shift is leaving the mines and the night force entering. As the up cage discharges its load of human freight the down cage is ready, packed so tightly that it would be almost impossible for a passenger to turn sideways. Down into the perpendicular shaft for several hundred feet the miners descended, and from there they scattered through the entries drifted out underneath the bay, where the best paying rock is to be found.

Juneau, the capital of Alaska, almost directly across from the mines, was our next stopping-place. The deck hands, at the command of the first officer, threw out the gang-plank. Before it was rightly adjusted, the crowd was waiting eagerly to get ashore. The dock was wet and slippery, for it was raining as usual, the low-hanging clouds shutting out the view of the snow-covered mountain-tops in the background. All hunters in the party made straightway for the Governor’s office to secure licenses at fifty dollars apiece, which entitled each one to shoot two bull moose. But in order that a[Pg 25] trophy may be brought out of Alaska, the Act of Congress makes it obligatory to pay an additional fee of one hundred and fifty dollars. It seems to me absurd to permit the killing of moose and to encourage leaving the trophies where they fall. A subsequent experience on the Kenai River bore out this conclusion very forcibly. On the river we came across a party of hunters from Texas who had killed a very large moose having a noble spread of horn. The body was left to rot on the shore. One of our party who did not care to shoot would gladly have taken the trophy home to decorate his den, but the one hundred and fifty dollars was strictly prohibitory. I am satisfied this party killed several moose and left them because the trophies would not justify the additional cost of bringing them out.

We spent several hours in Juneau sending cablegrams and watching a black bear chained in the middle of the main street. He was walking around and around, as though guarding the entrance to the town. Every person passing kept a safe distance, but occasionally a visitor unawares approached too near and afforded fun for the onlookers when he made a desperate get-away.

Lighthouse near Dixon's Entrance Lighthouse near Dixon’s Entrance
Sitka Sitka

[Pg 26]Leaving Juneau the boat turned south quite a distance in order to reach Sitka. Some time was lost waiting for high tide before we could get through the Narrows, full tide being about eleven o’clock P.M. The night was very dark and the fog thick, making it difficult to keep the boat in the channel. As the old Dane afterwards said, we could keep our course only by noting the echo of the fog-horn as it reverberated among the distant hills; but with great skill we were taken safely through, and when morning dawned clear and bright, we found we were fast approaching Sitka. Many interesting things were to be[Pg 27] seen from the deck as we glided over the water. The reflection of the mountains was beautiful and one could scarcely distinguish the real shore line. Here and there an old bald eagle (HaliŠtus leucocephalus) stood sentinel on some dead tree-top, while the great blue heron (Ardea herodias) waded along the edge of the water in search of something to eat. Thus we were entertained for hours as we neared Sitka. About noon the shrill blast of the whistle reminded us that the town was in sight. Just as soon as the gang-plank was lowered there was a rush[Pg 28] for shore, and every person was on his way to see the sights of Sitka.

Priests of the Greek Church at Sitka Priests of the Greek Church at Sitka

The town was founded in 1799 by Governor Baranoff, a Russian explorer, and is beautifully situated on Baranoff Island. The old Russian Greek church stood there just as it did a hundred years before, with the exception of a new coat of paint, and the priests were in their church garb as of yore. Tourists always visit the old church to see the magnificent Madonna and other paintings brought over from Russia in the last century. On the main street stands the old log-cabin[Pg 29] erected many years ago by the Hudson Bay Company and used as a trading post. The Government has set aside a reservation for a public park, and many totem-poles have been set up all along the roadway. Indian squaws were squatted on the dock selling their little trinkets, such as miniature totem-poles, sealskin moccasins, and vases carved in many forms.

While leaving Sitka the picturesque snow-crowned Mount Edgecumbe serrated the horizon on the left, and on the right the sky-line was much the same. Both shores were advancing nearer and nearer, and it looked as though we were in a cul-de-sac. Presently we passed through Icy Straits, so named because of the many icebergs which, broken from a neighboring glacier, find their way hither.

Fairweather Range Fairweather Range

As we reached the open ocean, “Gony,” as the sailors call the black-footed albatross (Diomedea nigripes), followed in the wake of the steamer, porpoise raced with us, rushing and dodging alongside the boat, occasionally turning their silver bellies skyward and flaunting their tails to show how easy it was for them to keep up with us. The race continued at intervals for more than an hour before they disappeared, and by that time the long swells[Pg 30] of the water rocking the steamer had taken effect and many of the passengers disappeared from the decks. Many miles to the right the purple foothills of the Fairweather range could be seen. Muir Glacier glittering in the distance added to the fascination of the scenery. Along the coast wild strawberries, with their delicate flowers, their fruit sought alike by man, beast, and fowl, grew very abundantly. The weather was just fine and the conditions right (something unusual in this neighborhood) to see the great Mount St. Elias, at least a hundred and fifty miles due north, and her English cousin, Mount St. Logan, farther off across the border line. [Pg 31]
[Pg 32]
The Fairweather range extends for many miles along the coast. The white ice fields glitter in the sunshine and at sunset a halo of many colors hangs over the mountains.

Upper Ice Fields Upper Ice Fields
The Author Looking into a Crevasse The Author Looking into a Crevasse

Alaska seems to be a chosen land for glaciers. The warm Japan stream washes the coast line, the topography of which is well adapted to fashion glaciers out of the heavy snowfall precipitated by the cooling of the humid air as it strikes the mountains. When the lofty summits and surrounding fields have accumulated more snow than they are able to retain, it gradually advances toward the valleys. When it leaves the summit it is soft and flaky, but alternate thawing and freezing gradually change its condition into a granulated form of ice. The pressure of the great body of snow above, the change of the atmospheric conditions, assisted by gravity, are the causes which enter into the formation of the solid glacier ice. These conditions may be increased or diminished by earthquakes and mild winters. Like a great river it advances toward the mouth of the valley, and as the immense body of ice moves downward, it brings with it by erosion huge pieces of rock, earth, and trees. This debris thrown upon the ice is called moraine, and where the moraine gathers the thickest[Pg 33] it protects the ice. When the hot summer sun thaws the unprotected ice, tiny streamlets flow from here and there. These gradually increase in number and size, and as they grow larger and larger cut their way down into the ice, forming deep crevasses, and finally reach bedrock. The interior color of the crevasses is a deep blue and this changes to a light blue at the outer edge where exposed to light. Standing on the brink one can throw a huge boulder into the opening and hear it rumbling for some time before it reaches the bottom. A glacier that is[Pg 34] receding slowly is known locally as a dead glacier, and one advancing as a live glacier. However, a live glacier may become a dead one, and vice versa. A dead glacier has frequently readvanced after years of inactivity, carrying with it trees which had grown up in its course. Columbia glacier in Prince William Sound is an example of this type.

A tiny snowflake falls on the mountain-top, is covered in turn by many others, and disappears for many years. Gradually the whole mass, by its own weight, is pushed down into the valley and solidified. Not a ray of light can penetrate through the thick glacier ice; the little snowflake has been completely immured. After years, perhaps centuries, it finally reappears at sea level, with myriads of others of its kind congealed into one solid mass, which breaks off and floats seaward, clothed in beautiful blue. But it is such a cold, heartless beauty, for until melted away the little snowflake is part of a tremendous mass, whose weight and silent progress are a constant and dreaded menace to human life; many a steamer has been sunk by striking an iceberg.

At the head of Yakutat Bay is situated the Indian village of Yakutat. It has its cannery and saw-mill and village church, in which[Pg 35] last is a large and very interesting totem carved out of the butt of a tree. I have heard it said that these poles are not found north of Sitka. This one is several hundred miles farther north. There is only the one, and it may have been a trophy or a gift. I was unable to get any account of its past or any interpretation of its symbolic carvings.

Native Women Trading Native Women Trading

Before we landed we noticed the natives coming from every possible direction; some in their canoes, others walking, but all loaded down with their trinkets to sell to the passengers on the steamer. When we landed on the dock the women were squatting on the[Pg 36] floor, all in a row, displaying their goods. When a kodak was pointed at them they concealed their faces and demanded “two bits” as the price of a shot. There was among them a young mother with her babe whom I was anxious to photograph, but her price was higher and I was required to raise the amount to “eight bits” before she would step out into the sun for a snap-shot. I was afraid to take a time picture for fear she would “shy” before I got it.

Mother and Babe Mother and Babe
Playing in the Sand Playing in the Sand

The old village, up the shore about a mile, was reached by a narrow walk along the coast line. The walk through the sparsely-[Pg 37]growing spruce and cottonwood was delightful. Ravens flew about here and there, hoarsely calling as we passed by. The undergrowth consisted principally of berry bushes—salmon-berries, blueberries, and red raspberries—and as we walked along we gathered handfuls of the luscious fruit from each in turn as our taste inclined. When we reached the village with its wide beach—for the tide was out—our attention was attracted toward a couple of the native belles, who were sitting tracing on the sand with their fingers images of fish, birds, and animals. We approached suddenly, cutting off their retreat. Being[Pg 38] naturally shy and timid they ceased writing, and when they saw us point the camera toward them, turned their backs. I suggested to my friend that he walk around to the opposite side, take out his kodak as though to photograph them, and when they turned around I would take a snap, which ruse worked admirably.

Native Boys out Gunning Native Boys out Gunning

Abandoning the party at this point, I took a stroll through the woods. There I happened upon half a dozen native boys shooting at a mark with guns. They were not aware of my presence until one of the boys standing apart from the others noticed what I was doing.[Pg 39] Before he got away, however, I had his image on the film. I walked away a few steps and sat down on a log to put in a new film. When I lifted my head, to my surprise every last one of the little rascals had me covered with his gun. One emphatic sentence from me wilted their timid spirits and they skulked away.

Sunset near St. Elias Sunset near St. Elias

The attractive feature of Yakutat is a favorable view of Mt. St. Elias. When we were going up the bay the heavy clouds shrouded the mountain, obstructing our view, and how disappointed were the passengers[Pg 40] as the boat steamed on toward the head of the bay, where the nearer peaks would shut off our view of St. Elias, even if other conditions had been favorable! But when we were leaving the harbor the same day the atmospheric conditions were just right to array the scene in all its splendor. The air was filled with low floating clouds fringed with the most brilliant colors from the setting sun, and as the clouds lifted, the purple foothills added splendor and enchantment to the slope that extended its snow-capped peak eighteen thousand feet into the blue concave of the heavens. Up to this time aboard our ship peace, happiness, and sociability reigned supreme, but when the open waters of the Pacific were reached and the “woollies,” as the fierce blasts from the icy ranges are called by the sailors, struck us, tossing the spray over the pitching, rocking, and quivering steamer, sociability disappeared and peace and happiness left the faces of all the passengers, while the pallor of death overspread blooming countenances. Thereupon the fishes became alert and the herring gulls, gracefully soaring in the wake of the steamer, uttered their hungry call of expectation. Surely ’tis an ill wind that blows no good.

Cape St. Elias Cape St. Elias

[Pg 41]The steamer belched forth the smoke from its stack as we moved slowly along the coast toward Katella harbor, the next port of entry. For fifty miles on the right of us could be seen the terminal edge of the famous Malaspina glacier, looking like the white crest of breakers crashing against a rocky coast. Ahead of us appeared Cape St. Elias, one of the most picturesque promontories of Alaska. Its divided point projected a long way into the ocean and the captain gave it a wide berth.


On reaching Controller Bay the good ship anchored in the poor harbor. Presently a[Pg 42] boat, hailing from the revenue cutter Tahoma, pulled by eight sturdy seamen dressed in their clean, picturesque suits of blue and white, drew near the side of the steamer, and the officer in charge, tall and erect, a fine specimen of manhood, came up the rope ladder and made straight toward Secretary Fisher. In a short time one of the seamen was on the top deck gesticulating with hat and handkerchief to the cutter in the distance. On the cutter could be seen against the sky-line an ensign going through similar signs in answer to the instructions given. The Secretary and his party left the steamer very quietly without a cheer, and as he arrived on the cutter the booming of the cannon, repeated nineteen times, signaled the reception of the party.

Controller Bay is not a natural harbor and the problem it presents is whether an engineer can construct at a reasonable cost an artificial harbor that will protect vessels from the terrific gales that sweep the coast during the winter months. Engineers differ on this matter; some say that the solution of the problem is a great dike constructed of concrete, and others think that a wall could not be built strong enough to withstand the powerful currents and massive ice floes of Controller[Pg 43] Bay, and for this reason it is believed that the only terminal facilities for the Behring coal fields are at Cordova, by water some hundred miles farther north.

At the present time a railroad is being built up the Copper River valley, which is the natural gateway to the great coal and copper deposits of the interior and the rich Tanana Valley. In constructing a railroad up this valley serious difficulties must be overcome. The question of labor is very important. Because of the continual rains and the short open season the highest wages must be paid. To get up the valley, it is necessary to cross the Copper River between two glaciers, and the topography of the country is such that it is a difficult engineering feat to construct a roadbed that will not be carried away by the spring freshets and the glaciers, which are continually changing. Miles and Childs glaciers vary in their movements, at times receding and again advancing, controlled by forces which are not fully understood.


Hinchinbrook Island Hinchinbrook Island
Valdez after the Flood Valdez after the Flood
Bruin in a Steel Trap Bruin in a Steel Trap

Leaving Katella we soon pass Cape Hinchinbrook, where several steamers have been cast ashore and wrecked upon the rocky coast. Entering Prince William Sound we find the water smoother and a pleasant run[Pg 44] is made to Cordova, the present terminus of the Copper River Railroad. Our next stop was Valdez, with its land-locked harbor. The town is built practically on the moraine of a glacier. Sometimes the channel of a glacier stream changes; in the year 1911 such a change took place and carried away about half of the town. In order to prevent a similar accident in the future, the citizens turned out and constructed a levee of logs, rocks, and sand. Valdez glacier extends down from the summit a distance of twenty miles, the foot being about five miles from [Pg 45]
[Pg 46]
the town. During the winter of 1898 gold was first discovered near Center City in the interior. The excitement was great at Valdez, some seven thousand men gathering from all parts of the States to seek their fortunes. So great was the rush for the gold-fields that one continuous procession of prospectors, carrying all kinds of outfits, passed northward over the glacier. The following year many perished on their way out. My guide carried the mail that year, and on one trip found seven men who had frozen to death, having been caught in a storm on the glacier. The[Pg 47] whole party were very weak on account of scurvy and unable to reach Valdez. When found, two were lashed to sleds and one was sitting on a piece of ice, his head resting on his hands. On the same trip my guide came upon an old miner frozen to death, still holding to the handle of his dog sleigh, while the dog lay curled up in a ball, still alive and still in the harness.

After spending several days at Valdez, arrangements were made with the captain of the Hammond for a small boat to take us about fifty miles south into Gravenna Bay. Our little skiff was towed behind all day, and at five o’clock in the evening we were informed by the captain that he was afraid to go up the bay any farther for fear of striking a rock. Consequently our camping outfit had to be piled into our dory in a pouring rain, and after the captain gave two gongs, as the pilot shouted, “Great luck, boys!” the tug left us and disappeared around the cape in the distance. And here we were, fifty miles from human habitation, dependent for our return to civilization upon making connections with this same little tug at its next visit a month later.

Prepared for the rain with rubber boots and oilcoats, we pulled towards the head of[Pg 48] the bay, before the wind and on a flowing tide, so that our little craft fairly glided over the water. About twilight we pitched camp in a drenching rain. If there is one thing more than another which dampens the enthusiasm for the wild, it is making camp with everything soaked. But by perseverance in due time we were getting our supper, snugly housed in our eight by ten tent, and happier than kings in a royal palace. To the music of the rain I soon fell asleep.

In the morning consciousness was restored by the “quack, quack” of the ducks and the splash of the salmon running to their spawning ground,—the occasional wriggling splash of an old “humpback” who had run up the shore too far and was trying to get back into deeper water, the loud splash of the high jumper, and the faint swish of the thousands on their way to fresh water. After breakfast I donned my hunting outfit and strolled along the beach until I reached the mouth of a small creek which flowed into the bay. I was amazed at the number of humpback salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) ascending the stream to spawn, some green and fresh from the briny deep, others changed to a dark lead color by contact with the fresh water, and others, struggle-worn, almost with[Pg 49]
[Pg 50]
out scales or skin to cover their bodies. They were running upstream by the thousands.

Salmon Running Up Stream to Spawn Salmon Running Up Stream to Spawn

Killing Fish with a Club Killing Fish with a Club
Gulls Feeding on Salmon Gulls Feeding on Salmon
A Good Fisherman A Good Fisherman
Dogs Fishing for Salmon Dogs Fishing for Salmon

There was a flock of red-breasted mergansers (Merganser serrator) on a pool nearby. I crept quietly to the brink, and, hat off, peeped over. After the shot was fired it was interesting to see the flock trying to dive; the fish were so thickly massed that the ducks could not get below the surface of the water. This disturbance caused a rush of the fish and they madly churned the water in their efforts to get away from an imaginary enemy. In shallow riffles the fish were so crowded that[Pg 51] it was almost impossible to wade across the stream without being thrown by tramping upon them or tripped by others trying to get away. Closer observation showed them in pairs, rooting their noses into the sand and gravel to make a hole; in this the female deposited the eggs and the male covered them with a milky substance, both turning sideways at the same time and both flapping their tails in covering the spawn. Frequently I could see two males or two females fighting each other, striking with their tails and biting like dogs, trying to get possession of a hole[Pg 52] in the sand in which the spawn might be deposited. Looking at the horde all tattered and torn, I could not but admire their pluck and perseverance in ascending the stream over stones and other obstacles, with scarcely enough water to cover half their bodies, in order that the laws of nature might be obeyed and the species propagated. When the tide went out many were caught high and dry on the shore, and became a prey for birds and beasts. Thousands of gulls gathered daily, feeding on the dead fish, and almost invariably[Pg 53] picking out the eyes first, these being the choicest morsels, according to their taste. I have frequently come across fish still alive, though robbed of their eyes. Our first method of getting fish was to arm ourselves with clubs, walk into the shallow riffles, select some just fresh from the salt water and hit them with our clubs. We abandoned this method because several were killed before we got one that was fresh. We then tied a halibut hook on the end of a pole and, sitting on a rock, waited until a fresh fish appeared. As we caught sight of him some distance[Pg 54] away we would gradually move the hook into position and land him.

It rained for several days and nights, causing the water in the creek to rise very high and run with considerable current. At this time the shore was salmon-colored with eggs uncovered by the swift water. All the fresh streams near camp were so polluted with dead fish that the water could not be used, and we were obliged to go above for some distance to get pure water.


Before leaving Valdez we had taken a little walk out from town, and came across a small stream of pure ice-cold water that had its source in the snow of the mountain. Occasionally could be seen salmon returning to their spawning ground. I have no doubt that before Valdez was built the stream was famous for the annual hordes of fish that returned to spawn (and, as is believed by some, to die), but I was told that the number is getting less and less and now only a very few frequent the stream. While watching them our attention was drawn to a dog jumping into the water and others splashing about, dashing first in one direction and then another, trying to catch the fish. How amusing to see the fish dart between the legs of their[Pg 55] would-be captors, out of the shallows and into deeper water! Occasionally the dogs would catch them and bring them to shore. Had we had the dogs with us at Gravenna Bay, what sport we might have had!

Indian Hut Indian Hut

While writing my notes one evening I smelled something burning, and on turning around saw our bed all ablaze, caught by a spark from the wood fire. If the fire had caught in our absence it would have been a very serious matter. Imagine our predicament to have been without food and shelter, many miles from civilization.

Indian Graves Indian Graves

[Pg 56]On one of our side trips we happened upon an Indian and his family, living in a little hut constructed of logs and other materials. He could talk no English and we could not understand him. After exchanging several grunts and shaking hands we started to go, when we noticed his small boy coming towards us, holding out a paper in his hand. Opening it, we found the following written in a legible hand: “To all to whom these presents come: This is to notify all miners and trappers that there are bear traps set in these diggings.” My guide was always[Pg 57] more or less uneasy for fear of stepping into a steel trap set on a game trail along the stream.

Indian Woman Repairing the Bidarka Indian Woman Repairing the Bidarka

The vegetation along the banks of the creek was almost tropical in its density, and when the fish were spawning, bear frequented the place to catch their prey, which they carried to the bank and devoured. Often we could see the remains of fish left partly consumed, indicating that the bears had been disturbed at their meal. Doubtless they had heard the commotion of the fish trying to get away from us as we ascended the stream.

[Pg 58]One day while paddling our little boat along the water’s edge, my guide called attention to an object in the distance which I was unable to make out for some time, but which the experienced eye of the hunter had observed a long way off, though he was unable to determine exactly what it was. Finally, as we approached nearer, he exclaimed, “Caught his own dog!” and sure enough, there was the Indian’s dog caught in the steel trap set for bear. The poor fellow was whining from pain, as though pleading with us to release him. I wanted the guide to take him out, but he said the dog might bite him and we had better notify the owner, for even if released the dog could never reach home in his present condition. While coming along he told the following story:

“Several years ago there were two white men trapping on a little stream that emptied into the Copper River, and one of them was caught in a steel trap. The bones between the knee and the ankle were crushed where the huge iron jaws came together. After being in the trap for a long time, by almost superhuman efforts he succeeded in extricating his leg. Fortunately he was not far from his boat, and dragging himself over and under fallen trees he reached the dory, almost[Pg 59] exhausted. Taking the oars he pulled several miles to reach his cabin. A day or two afterwards I happened along and found the man suffering great pain, and saw that unless the leg were taken off he would lose his life. We were a hundred miles from a doctor, and before aid could reach him he would have died. After talking the matter over with his partner, it was agreed that I was to cut the leg off in order to save his life, if possible. All the tools we had were a hunting knife and an old rusty saw which had hung in the cabin for several years. We boiled water to clean the tools as well as possible, inserted the end of the old saw in the fire to take off the rust, retempered the teeth in bear oil, got deer sinews ready to tie the arteries, and with these tools I cut the leg off. During the time I was at work the injured man frequently advised us what to do. He recovered from the operation in due time and is now alive and well.” My guide afterwards pointed the man out to me.

Sunrise Sunrise

In this location we spent about a week. We had no difficulty in killing all the teal (Nettium carolinensis) and Canada geese (Branta canadensis) that we cared to eat, and, when the tide was down, in gathering all the clams desired. During the month that we spent[Pg 60] in this part of the country it rained continually, night and day, with the exception of three days, which I spent in photographing. The sun would burst through the clouds like a huge search-light, casting its rays upon the tropical luxuriance of the underbrush, reflecting back a sparkling radiance from myriads of tiny rain-drops. We changed our camp occasionally for new grounds, and one evening we had pitched our tent without pinning it down. It was raining, as usual, and after eating a scanty meal we threw our blankets on the ground and retired early. Some time in the night I heard the crackling[Pg 61] of the rank grass. My first impression was that there was a porcupine skulking near, but as we listened my guide said, “There’s a bear outside!” We had thrown down on the grass at the edge of the tent what was left of a side of bacon, and Mr. Bruin was trying to get it from under the canvas. I immediately jumped up, grabbed my “405,” and started towards the flap of the tent, but about the time I reached it there came two loud “woofs,” accompanied by the sound of crashing bushes, and that was the last we heard of Old Bruin.

Our Permanent Camp Our Permanent Camp

[Pg 62]At the head of one of the fiords in the neighborhood, there was a glacier of considerable size, and on looking over the desolation I half expected to find a glacier bear (Ursus emmonsi). Comparatively little is known about the habits of this animal. The only one in captivity is in the public park at Seattle. It is a fine specimen, and as it walks up and down behind the bars its wild nature seems to predominate in every movement. In the adjoining cages are black and grizzly bears, but they seem to be satisfied in captivity, while the glacier bear reminds one of a hyena as it paces from end to end, occasionally throwing its head into the air. The fur is a bluish black beneath, with outer grayish tips.

In the early morning I started alone in the direction of the dead glacier, crossed the glacier stream easily to the opposite side, which looked more inviting of access, working my way up over the lateral moraine, searching among the crevasses, and now and again getting into a “pocket,” from which I had to retrace my steps. Towards evening I turned homeward. When I reached the stream, I thought I had located the ford where I had previously crossed, but on making the attempt, I found the water too deep and[Pg 63] swift. Many times I tried to cross at different points, thinking each time I had found the ford. I would wade out into the ice-cold stream until I felt the swift current almost lifting me off my feet, and then would make a hasty return. It was beginning to get dark and I was anxious to get home, so I lifted a large stone in my arm to give me additional weight and started toward a little eddy, cautiously feeling my way. When I reached the eddy I felt my feet sinking in the sand. My first thought was of a quick-sand, and I shall never forget the sensation as I hurriedly dropped the stone and made a mad rush for shore. However, I finally succeeded in reaching the other side safely. Before arriving at camp I heard the report of a gun from the direction of home, for the guide had grown uneasy and thought I was lost.

A few more days’ experience in the rain, among the glaciers, then we broke camp at high tide and drifted with the ebb flow out along the shore until we reached the outermost projection of rocks, and there awaited the return of the tug which would take us back to Valdez.


[Pg 64]

CHAPTER II

OBSERVATIONS ON KODIAK ISLAND

An Island near Valdez An Island near Valdez

In the following spring, about the middle of May, we purchased an outfit at Valdez for a trip westward along the Alaskan peninsula. After being bottled up two days in the port of Valdez, we were anxious to get started. The steamer approached the narrow entrance to the harbor, with Fort Liscom, a Government post, on the left, and on the right glaciers and wooded foothills. As we neared the neck it looked as though the stopper was in the bottle and our exit barred by an island; but an abrupt curve at the entrance took us into Prince William Sound, and in due time along Knight’s Island and Latouche Island, where copper is found in paying quantities. And here is the most beautiful glacier of Alaska, the Columbia, with its palisades at times advancing into the forest and at times receding. A large flock of phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus) darting[Pg 65] back and forth over the surface of the water, formed geometric figures in the most graceful manner; occasionally the gray back most conspicuous and then the silvery underside shining, each little plume helping to make one perfect reflection in the water as they move in regular form, without any disarranging of the original positions, until they alight gracefully on the water. The greater scaup-duck (Aythya marila nearctica), with its white spots so noticeable as it takes its occasional upward flight from the water, is always interesting. However, it prefers diving out of sight for a place of safety as[Pg 66] the steamer approaches, coming to the surface from time to time until the boat is quite near, when, after a last long dive, it is off on the wing as fast as possible out of harm’s way.

In the distance to the westward as we entered Resurrection Bay, loomed up the majestic Cathedral Rock, towering skyward a thousand feet, with the Government survey cross on the top, and the roaring breakers washing its foot, filling the coast line with make-believe soap-suds. Near the water’s edge the rocks were white with gulls mating for the nesting-time. With the consent of the captain a shot was fired in that direction, which struck the water some distance from the rock, and myriads of gulls took to wing with their wild cry of alarm. Some person shouted, “There’s a whale!” and all were anxiously waiting for his reappearance, but his huge tail had disappeared to us for the last time. About this time a gull soared gracefully over the steamer and a fellow-passenger, rifle in hand, pointed the muzzle at the bird, and pulled the trigger, bringing down a feather from its wing. At the same time the first officer shouted, “Here, here! Don’t shoot that gull! You’ll bring us bad luck.” There is a well founded superstition among[Pg 67] the “old sea-dogs” that to kill a gull will bring bad luck.

Sea Lion Rocks Sea Lion Rocks

About dusk, as we steamed westward, our attention was called to Sea Lion Rocks, and the genial Captain Jansen steered the ship within five hundred yards of the island in order that we might see the lions. The rocks were covered with the large animals, and they made such an uproar as we passed that they could be heard a long distance off above the noise of the breakers.

Along the coast of Kenai Peninsula the mountains are covered with spruce, hemlock, and birch, until we enter Resurrection Bay,[Pg 68] at the head of which Seward is built. The first time I visited Seward it was practically abandoned. It was the terminus of a new railroad in process of construction across the peninsula, having as its objective point the placer mines of the Susitna Valley. Like a great many other projects of this kind, there was not sufficient money subscribed to finish the undertaking, and the company was forced into the hands of a receiver.

Seward Seward
Seldovia Seldovia

The next stop on our way west was Seldovia. The old Russian church where we attended services was built on a little knoll that overlooked the harbor, and from it we [Pg 69]
[Pg 70]
could see the native burial ground with its dilapidated grave marks. When we entered the church the natives did not seem to be much interested in us. While the sermon is being delivered the women occupy one side of the house and the men the other. During the services they paid close attention to what was going on. There were no seats in the church and all the parties stood during the entire time of worship. When the incense was being burned, filling the room with sweet fragrance, the expression on the features of the worshipers manifested a devout frame of mind and spirit not often in evidence.

In the harbor were hundreds of gulls, floating leisurely on the surface of the water or standing on the logs that drifted with the tide.

Among the passengers on the steamer was a delicate little lady with her three-year-old child, who was on the way to meet her husband at Iliamnia, some sixty miles across the bay. I remember how indignant the passengers were when they learned there was no person present to meet her when she arrived, and no prospect of her getting across Cook’s Inlet for more than a week. A purse was raised among the passengers, all contributing, and with the aid of the captain of[Pg 71] the revenue cutter, who in ordinary cases would take no passengers, the little lady was started on her trip across the Inlet the following morning, happy in the expectation of meeting her husband.

Turbulent Shellicoff Turbulent Shellicoff
The Ravens The Ravens

While crossing the entrance to Shellicoff Straits we encountered a very rough sea and the steamer tossed and pitched among the billows. That evening, as we steamed towards Kodiak Island, the clouds were fringed with pink and purple and through a rift the sun illuminated sky and water with all the splendor and brilliance of those northwestern[Pg 72] sunsets. Passing to the left of Afognak Island, we entered the harbor at Kodiak. The village, with its Greek church similar in structure to the old chapel at Sitka, is built on a plateau and surrounded with sloping, verdure-clad hills. The population consists of about four hundred, a few of them whites, the rest Aliutes and Creoles. The ravens (Corvus corax principalis) were very plentiful, and their croaking could be heard in all directions. One old fellow continually perched on the top of a shanty used as the district jail. Two of the prisoners were permitted to wander around, cut firewood[Pg 73] for the warden, plant seed and the like. Once when the planter was putting in seed at one end of the row and the raven picking it out at the other, we heard the former call out, “Shoo, shoo, you’ll be put in jail for stealing next.”

We arrived in Kodiak on the morning of May 26th, and immediately began our preparations for the hunt. On our way up we became acquainted with the United States Marshal, who kindly invited us to stop at his home until we could arrange matters to go farther westward on the island, where we expected to hunt.

My guide was a man who had spent his early life on the plains as a cow-puncher and trapper. One day he told me that he and a friend left their mountain camp to sell their winter’s catch. It was getting less and less each year because of the slow but sure disappearance of wild life, as the white hunters and trappers increased and the demand for furs grew. He was in love with a daughter of the plains and had returned in the spring with the results of his winter’s work, intending to lay his all at the feet of his lady love. The season had been against him in his search for furs. The heavy snows had kept the fox and lynx from making extensive[Pg 74] forages from their dens, and the low temperature before the snow came froze the creeks so solid that the mink, otter, and beaver were forced to remain indoors the greater part of the time. The winter had been long and severe, the catch was poor, and he left his traps late in the spring when the pelts were beginning to look hairless. Thus he left his occupation in the solitude of the wilds with a heavy heart, for the previous fall when he bade adieu to his fair fiancÚe, full of hope and expectation, with the promise of a large yield, he was sure of sufficient funds to purchase a meager home. When he reached the frontier town he could not muster up courage enough to see her, but disposed of his stock, sold his outfit and all his belongings, and made a bee-line for California; thence he took the first steamer for the Yukon. About this time a strike was made at Nome and hundreds of gold seekers had gathered. There was a great demand for fresh meat, so he conceived the idea of constructing a raft in the upper waters, loading it with moose meat, and then floating the flat to Nome and getting rich quick. About the time he was ready to start with a full load, Congress passed an act making it unlawful to sell or have in possession any[Pg 75] wild game. On his way down he was stopped at the Government fort, put under arrest, and his load confiscated. He argued his own case well, for he got off without imprisonment. After spending several years there he returned to Seattle, and sent for his little girl from Montana; they were united for better or worse, and together they left Seattle and landed on the Alaskan Peninsula, where they spent three years hunting and trapping.

I visited their clean, tidy home in Seattle, was very much delighted, and spent many pleasant hours listening to the wife’s stories of her experiences. Among other things she said: “My husband shot during the three years over one hundred of the big brown bear for the hides. My part was to assist him with the skinning and do the general housework. On one occasion he had shot a big bear and had placed his gun a short distance away while he proceeded to skin the animal. About the time the steel entered the skin the bear jumped up, uttered a hair-raising growl, and as I ran away, Grant grabbed his gun and finished the bear. I tell you that was exciting. For a whole year we did not see a soul at camp, and when we wanted provisions, Grant would make a trip[Pg 76] across Akuton Pass to Unalaska to do the buying. One day he left me in the morning with a large Malamuth dog for my sole companion, saying he would return on the morrow. When the morrow dawned it brought with it one of the worst storms that had swept the coast for years, so bad that even one of the large steamers could not live it out, and was destroyed on the rocks nearby. The storm kept up for four days, and just imagine me alone during those four long, weary days, wondering if Grant had been lost, and what I would do if such were the case.

“The dawning of the fifth day found me looking in the direction of Unalaska, hoping and praying that he might return safely. A little black speck in the blue distance caught my eye. At first I thought it was a bird skimming over the water, but as I looked again and again it seemed to float on the surface. My spirits rose, and the longer I looked the more certain I was that it was the little boat. Oh! what was my joy as the tiny object increased in size as it advanced nearer and nearer until I recognized the little dory and the frantic waving of hat and hands of Grant as he approached closer and closer! The climax came when I recognized his whoop, as he saw me standing on the beach with[Pg 77] arms open to receive him, and woman-like, I proceeded to swoon away.

“The very next trip I determined to go with him. We set sail in our little schooner with a strong fair wind, but before long a fierce gale struck us and was carrying us toward sure destruction on the reef, where the angry sea would have made kindling wood of our frail craft. We cast the anchor, but it dragged, dragged, and would not take hold, and all the while we were drifting nearer and nearer the reef. Grant had given up all hope, and said: ‘Mollie, dear, it’s all up! We’re lost!' I encouraged him, saying that there was still hope, when, much to our relief, the anchor took hold and the bow turned to windward on the very verge of destruction. It held fast all night. As the dawn began to appear the wind shifted, and hoisting our little sail we tacked back and forth to Unalaska. We started on our return trip, but luck was against us; we were blown far out to sea, and for four long days and nights we drifted, we knew not where. Almost the entire time Grant had his head up through the hatchway, around his neck a canvas spread over the hatchway, to keep the breakers from filling the boat, and many, many times I cheered him with a cup of strong tea.[Pg 78] Grant had given up all hope of reaching land, when gradually the wind shifted, blew from the opposite direction, and took us straight to shore.”

On one of their hunting trips to Knight’s Island, Grant prospected a little on the side and staked a copper claim which “panned out” very well, but which eventually cost the life of a partner, who was caught in a snow slide the following spring.

I bade her good-bye as we left Seattle, when she said: “Oh! how I long to return to Alaska! Before I went there I was a very delicate girl and had very poor health; in fact, the opinion of the family physician was that I did not have long to live; but roughing it in the open air seemed to be a tonic and built me right up. Is it any wonder I love Alaska and long for its wild free life?”


Kodiak Kodiak

Kodiak is a charming little village. The natives are lazy and spend most of their time in fishing and hunting. We hired a couple of Aliutes, who owned a schooner, to take our equipment to the camping ground. Our course lay around the northeastern end of Kodiak Island, thence westward. After starting, we were becalmed for some time to leeward of the rocky coast. Along came a[Pg 79] couple of natives, who towed us out a few hundred feet from behind the island, and presently the sails began to fill. As though it were human, the schooner responded to the gentle breezes and away we went toward the open seas. We had to round a distant point in order to get into another bay. With a fair southeast wind we dropped anchor at six o’clock some thirty miles west of Kodiak. We followed the shore line with its picturesque scenery of snow-clad hills covered with scrubby trees, mostly cottonwood and spruce. Here and there the tundra, like a great meadow[Pg 80] fringed with alder, added charm and interest to the surroundings. The waters of Shellicoff Straits threw their breakers far up on the beach, and an occasional whale would spout in the distance. We passed an island covered with different species of gulls nesting on the rocks; it was just the beginning of the nesting season for aquatic birds.

Gull Island Gull Island
Forget-me-nots Forget-me-nots

After several days of these interesting sights, the sailboat entered a beautiful little fiord, where we cast anchor for the night. On the following day we landed our equipment, dismissed the Indians with their boat, and[Pg 81] pitched our tent in a little sheltered nook among the cottonwoods, where we expected to spend several weeks in hunting and photographing the great Kadiak bear (Ursus middendorff). The snow had disappeared for about a third of the way up the mountain, visible beyond foothills densely overgrown with alder, elder, and other bushes. The rocky shore, treeless, save for a stunted cottonwood here and there, was covered with many varieties of beautiful spring flowers. A cluster of fragrant forget-me-nots among the mosses, another of crowfoot, with the long dry grass of the previous year for a background, and a[Pg 82] bunch of pinks with a similar setting added life and color to the rugged surroundings.


Crow's Nest and Young Crow’s Nest and Young
Nests of Eagle and Magpie Nests of Eagle and Magpie

While climbing for a specially beautiful bunch of forget-me-nots I came across a crow’s nest (Corvus americanus) under a ledge of rocks. In the nest were several young crows waiting for the mother bird to return to appease their hunger. The bald eagles (HaliŠtus leucocephalus) were very plentiful and there were several nests built in the vicinity. Never having had any experience with eagles rearing their young, I suggested to my guide[Pg 83] that I would climb one of the trees to the nest and see what effect it would have upon the birds. He insisted that it was dangerous to climb the tree, but could not persuade me to forego the experience. At my request he stood guard near the foot of the cottonwood, with instructions to shoot the birds if they came too close. Taking off my shoes, coat, and hat, I started to climb the tree as the old birds were soaring quite a distance above. As I climbed higher and higher the birds came nearer and nearer, and when I was about half way up the guide tried to[Pg 84] persuade me to come down, for the birds were getting dangerously close. When I had covered about two-thirds of the climb, one of the birds came so near that I could feel the wind from his wing, when “crack” went the gun and down went the bird. I remonstrated with him for shooting the bird, for it was not close enough to do any harm. He again insisted that I come down, saying that the other bird would strike me and knock me off the tree, but I still persisted in going higher, with the male coming nearer and nearer. On one of its circlings it struck me lightly on the head with the tip of its wing. The guide said, “Is that close enough?” and threw his gun up as though to shoot the bird, but I insisted that he should wait a little. All the time my eyes were fixed on the eagle. As he made the next swoop, if I had not dodged behind a limb he would surely have knocked me off with his wing. Again the gun cracked, the bird pitched head-on and, meteor-like, dropped to the ground with a thud.

Eagle Watching for Prey Eagle Watching for Prey

Climbing up to the nest, I found it was built of sticks. Some on the margin of the nest were as large as one’s wrist, those nearer the center were smaller, while the nest proper was lined with grass. The nest over all had[Pg 85] a diameter of about six feet. In it were three little eaglets, possibly two days old, and around the nest were the remains of several species of birds, such as ducks, ptarmigan, and kingfishers, also pieces of fish, to feed the young. When I saw the destruction of life I felt, in common with the guide, that eagles should not receive too much consideration at the hands of the Nimrod. He was anxious to shoot every eagle in sight, as he said many a nice piece of fur caught in his traps had been destroyed by them. Knowing that both the parent birds were[Pg 86] dead, I thought it a pity to leave the young to die of starvation. Pulling my bandanna handkerchief out of my pocket, I carefully stowed away the little birds in the pack, swung it over my arm, and slid down to the ground.

Eagle's Nest and Young Eagle’s Nest and Young

On the lower branches of the same tree a pair of magpies (Pica pica hudsonica) had built their nest in the usual way, covered over to the depth of at least a foot with limbs and sticks, its small entrance at the side, evidently in pursuance of the natural instinct of the birds for the protection of their nest and young. It occurred to me as strange that[Pg 87] both of these birds, carnivorous and well known as destroyers of eggs and nests, seemed to live happily together, though the eagle, if it so desired, could have destroyed the nest of the magpie with one grip of its powerful talons.

We took the young eagles to camp, fed them for several days, and the amount they could devour of fresh codfish, cut up in large chunks, was surprising. They would fill their craws so full that they looked like pouter pigeons.

First Sight of Day First Sight of Day

For several days we observed with the field-glass that a bald eagle had built its nest away up among the crags at the end of a projection on one of the peaks. We noticed that the old bird spent a great deal of time on the nest, and we knew she was hatching. After discussing the matter, we decided to take the young eagles and put them in the nest to be reared by the foster-mother. About dawn we started for the eyrie on the cliffs, with our kodak, gun, and the young eaglets. After climbing three or four hours we reached a point above the rocks, and then by advancing cautiously, sliding and crawling, we safely reached the nest. I had given the guide positive instructions that he was under no circumstances to kill the old birds, but scare[Pg 88] them away by shooting into the air occasionally. He took a position a little above where he could command a good view of the birds and keep guard over me while I was photographing the nest. There were two pale buff eggs (size 2.75 Î 2.10) in the nest, and while I was arranging my camera an occasional report from the gun in the hands of the guide kept the eagles at a respectful distance. While setting up the kodak I heard the “peep, peep” of the little eaglets in the eggs trying to get the first sight of day, and about the time everything was ready to take the picture[Pg 89] the egg cracked, with the result that I obtained a picture of the little bird just coming out. We left our two little eagles with the others, worked our way down the mountain-side, and since then I have often wondered if the foster-mother reared the young.

Sea Parrot Incubating Sea Parrot Incubating

We decided to change our camping-ground into the adjoining fiord. Taking the twenty-foot tide at flood, as we thought, we were a little slow in starting, had some difficulty getting out, and before we reached deep water were caught and left high and dry on a shoal, where we were obliged to remain for several hours, waiting for the return of the tide. During the interim we waded to shore and scoured the neighboring hills in search of some evidence of Bruin. We found none, and by the time we came back to the water’s edge, the tide had set in so far that we were forced to wade for a quarter of a mile to our boat. The latter was heavily loaded, but as the current caught it, it moved gently at first, then at last cleared the sandbar. With a strong wind blowing, we were carried out to the promontory just about the time the tide was turning and the flood tide carried us up to the head of the adjoining bay. The breakers were running high on the point and it was with the greatest difficulty that we[Pg 90] were able to get around with our dory. Frequently the wind blew the spray all over us, and by the time we reached the return tide on the other side I was greatly exhausted and gave a sigh of relief, for conditions were such that we were afraid our little dory could not stand much more of the kind of sea that was running. Once around on the other side the wind changed, and with the inflow of the tide and our little leg-of-mutton sail, we were carried with race-horse speed to the[Pg 91] head of the bay. We steered for a small island, and as we approached, many gulls, sea-parrots, and ducks were flying around the bay. We landed the dory on the beach, and climbed the rocks while the birds hovered about us by the thousands, uttering their shrill cries of alarm as we gathered a few fresh eggs for breakfast on the morrow. Sea-parrots (Fratercula arctica) were quite numerous, and many left their holes in the rocks, startled no doubt by the warning given by the gulls. Peeping down into one of the crevices I discovered a sea-parrot’s nest[Pg 92] with the female sitting on it. In order to get in to the nest it was necessary to pass horizontally between the rocks and drop vertically about five feet into a small, cavern-like space. Being anxious to photograph the nest, I discarded a part of my clothing, entered the hole feet first, with the guide holding on to me until my feet reached solid ground. Having a pair of buckskin gloves on my hands I caught the parrot, and at the same time the parrot caught me with its powerful beak, and if it had not been for the gloves I would have received an ugly bite. I handed the bird and her one dull-white-and-lilac-marked egg to the guide, who placed the bird in my kodak box until he helped me out. I had considerable difficulty in getting out at the hole by which I had entered, for to do so it was necessary for my body as it emerged to be at right angles with the wall rock. When I did succeed in getting out, with the aid of my guide pulling and tugging, I was minus considerable clothing.

Sea Parrot's Nest and Egg Sea Parrot’s Nest and Egg

A little farther down the rocks we came to a white tern’s nest (Gygis alba kittlitzi), viz, an egg laid upon the bare rock without a vestige of any structure. In color it was[Pg 93] bluish white, with large liver-colored spots. It is said of these birds that are very reckless in laying their eggs, at times selecting a bare limb, and how they succeed in incubating under certain conditions is remarkable.

Characteristic Nest of Gygis Characteristic Nest of Gygis
Nest and Eggs of Herring Gull Nest and Eggs of Herring Gull

We passed about two weeks in this location in the most ideal weather, without pitching tent, sleeping on the ground rolled in our blankets, our canopy the heavens glittering with myriads of stars overhead. The days were long and we spent most of our time from two o’clock in the morning until eleven[Pg 94] at night where the bear love to roam. They were just coming out of hibernation and had not yet started to feed. During my brief experience I observed from the tracks in the snow that the bear do not eat anything for the first two or three days, then gradually descend toward the snow-line and begin to nip the new grass. While the salmon run their principal diet is fish. With the glasses we could see several trails of Old Ephraim where he came over the very highest peaks of the snow-capped range, quartering down and again returning to the higher altitudes, where he evidently spent his time at this[Pg 95] season of the year. On one occasion we pitched camp about dusk, ten o’clock, and having gathered a good supply of last year’s ferns for bedding, rolled ourselves up in our blankets and forgot we were tired until five o’clock the next morning.

A good hot breakfast limbered up our stiff joints considerably, and in about an hour we were starting for the trails in the snow of the summit. Up we went, steadily and slowly, at an angle of forty-five degrees until we reached the snow-line, when we struck the bear trail where he first had descended the mountain. A part of the time he had come down on his tail, judging from the slides we found occasionally. He had circled around quite a distance and ascended again without even nipping a blade of grass, although in the snow-slides the grass was beginning to grow. Taking the trail we started after him up the mountain, but a more difficult task one could not well imagine. Part of the time the wet snow was up to our waists and all the time over boot-tops. Up and up we went on the trail until we reached the drift snow of the side summit, where we were obliged to crawl on hands and knees in order to get over. Then our task was easy for some time and we found many old[Pg 96] trails on the top. We were satisfied that the bears were not yet feeding.


Returning along the mountains we saw quite a few small snow-slides. On one occasion while crossing between two ridges my companion startled me by shouting, “Run, for Heaven’s sake!” At the same time he made a dash towards the ridge. My first thought was, “A bear!” But almost instantly I realized our danger, as a snow-slide that had started above from some unknown cause, came thundering down, almost upon us. (It is said that under certain conditions the report of a gun may start a slide.) As it descended, gathering speed and bulk and as the loose snow slid over the hard crust, it sounded like a strong wind roaring through the trees. In speaking about his long experience in Alaska, my guide informed me that he was more afraid of a snow-slide than of all the grizzlies in the country. He said that in the spring of ’98, in what was known as the Sheep Creek slide on the Chillcoot Pass, he helped to dig out of the snow fifty-two dead bodies of gold-seekers who were caught on the trail in a big snow-slide, among them being one woman.

Our Camp among the Cottonwoods Our Camp among the Cottonwoods

The next morning, just as soon as the [Pg 97]
[Pg 98]
regular routine of getting breakfast was over, we again started up the mountains in search of the quarry. The hunting was the hardest I have ever experienced, the mountains being a series of peaks and hollows, at the base covered with a dense growth of alder and underbrush, the rocks and crevices hidden beneath moss, dry ferns, and leaves. As we ascended we found less moss and alder and more long grass. The snow had packed the latter flat on the earth and it was as slippery as ice. At each step we were sure to slide if the greatest effort and care were not taken. When we reached the snowy top, as far as the eye could see, peak after peak pushed its head above the clouds, looking like huge sentries, standing guard over an untrodden domain. We scrutinized every suspicious-looking object with the field-glasses in the hope of descrying a bear. Working our way down over the snow, occasionally sliding “hunker” fashion or dropping into a hole between the rocks, greeting with a quiet “damn” an alder switch in the eye or a devil’s club jagger in the hand, we finally reached the valley.

Along the shore of the stream I observed the beaten paths that the bear had worn to a depth of twenty inches at places, evidently where they had been travelling up and down[Pg 99] the stream fishing for many years. Each morning as soon as we opened our eyes we reached for the field-glasses and carefully scanned the mountain-sides for fresh signs. One morning the guide, after looking long and carefully, called my attention to three bears circling up the mountain. We watched them climb higher and higher until they finally disappeared over the backbone of the ridge just about the time we were ready to follow. The foothills were covered at least a third of the way with dense alder and other tangled underbrush that made it very difficult to get through. By the time we reached the snow-line we were tired out and stopped a short time for a rest. Occasionally a ptarmigan would start up, uttering its plaintive, croaking notes as it took to wing. Some were all white in their winter coats, others were partly in their brown summer plumage. Again we plowed our way up through the soft snow, sinking deeper and deeper as we ascended the mountain, a hot sun adding to our discomfort. The guide was in advance and I followed, stepping in his tracks. Even with our snow glasses it was almost impossible to see. The glitter of the snow affected the eyes, though the eyelids, heavy and red, were almost closed and the tears trickled[Pg 100] down our cheeks. Half the time I could not see at all. Sometimes the guide would go into the snow up to his knees and again to his waist into a crevice, which could then be avoided by his follower. Plodding along we reached almost the top of the snowy peak, now enveloped in a canopy of fog, and there we were in the midst of a snowstorm that was so dense we could scarcely see, and all that I could distinguish was a black object about three feet in advance. Finally the guide called out that it was foolishness for us to track the bear under present conditions, and suggested that we circle around the peak and catch their trail on the other side. In a short time we were out of the snowstorm and, tramping around the cone of the mountain, struck the trail, which went straight down the other side toward the valley. Occasionally one of the bear would take a notion to sit down and slide many yards. This habit rubs the hair off rapidly, and if they are not killed shortly after they leave winter quarters the hide is practically ruined. When we got down below the snow-line the bear took to the alder, where we found it was much more difficult to follow the trail. About noon we took off our shoes, wrung out our socks, now soaking wet with snow water, and hung[Pg 101] them up to dry while we slept for about three hours on the bare ground. Then we took the trail again across the opposite mountain, but finally had to give up, for we were unable to overtake the game.

An Extinct Crater where the Bear Hibernate An Extinct Crater where the Bear Hibernate

Two days afterwards we started up the valley, when the guide happened to look back and pointed out a large bear ascending the mountain about half a mile behind us. Through the field-glasses we watched him climbing; frequently he would look back,—evidently he had gotten a whiff of us as we passed him in the valley below. Occasionally he would disappear behind a little knoll and[Pg 102] again appear, at the same time gradually ascending the mountain. Finally he went out of sight behind a knoll and we waited for about twenty minutes to see if he would show himself again before we started after him. We concluded that he had lain down on the knoll, and after fixing the location as best we could, we started to climb the mountain, first through the thick alder until we reached the snow-line, then plowing our way through the snow, using the guns for alpenstocks, as the climbing was very difficult. When we reached the knoll where the bear was concealed we advanced cautiously, puffing like “wind-jammers”—full of excitement at the thought of the quarry being so near.

Where He Fell Where He Fell

The guide was just pointing out to me the back track in the snow beyond, when old Bruin raised up on his hind quarters, opened his mouth, and let out two of the most awful growls one could imagine. At the same time the guide exclaimed, “Get to him, there he is!”—only his language was a little more forcible. With that the bear dropped on all fours, head advanced as though he was going to charge. Before I had time to take a shot he wheeled, disappeared for a second in a little depression beyond, reappeared on[Pg 103] the other side at a distance of about forty yards, going down the mountain at a rapid gait. I fired my first shot from a “405,” but there was no indication that I had touched the mark. I pumped in another shell and fired again, with no better results; again I threw the gun to my shoulder, pulled the trigger, but there was no explosion. I must have been a little excited, for I did not push the lever far enough, consequently it did not throw the shell into the chamber. My guide by this time was very much excited and insisted upon taking a shot, while I demanded[Pg 104] one more chance. All this time the bear was going down the mountain-side at a rapid pace. By the time he was a hundred yards away I fired the last shot and he made one headlong plunge into the snow.

Much to my surprise, although I had frequently heard of the remarkable vitality of the grizzly, we found upon examination that the first shot had passed through the heart and through the entire body, as indicated by the hole on the other side. The second time I fired I overshot and the last charge quartered through the lungs and came out at the left shoulder. Thus he had run at least fifty yards after receiving his death wound, and I have no doubt would have run a long way if it had not been for the last shot that brought him down. We left the bear where he fell in order to get a photograph, and it was necessary to make a special trip back with the kodak, which we did the following day.

Stretched Bear Skins Stretched Bear Skins

Working our way down the mountain trail to the valley we ate our lunch, and took a nap. On awakening we advanced toward the head of a beautiful little lake artistically located in a basin of half snow-clad hills. The silence, save for the crackling cry of the ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus) as they left their[Pg 105] snowy bed in great alarm, was awe-inspiring. A little beyond the head of the lake we were confronted with a mountain stream which to me looked impassable owing to the swiftness of the current. In a few seconds the guide stepped into the ice-cold water, at the same time commanding me to get on his back, and in this way he ferried me across with the water almost carrying him off his feet. Later in the afternoon our progress was again checked by a torrent, the sight of which caused me to say, “It’s impossible for us[Pg 106] to cross this stream, we’ll have to go back the way we came.” My companion followed the stream up and down a short way until finally he came to a cottonwood tree about two feet in diameter. Taking his coat off and reaching for the small axe in his belt, in a short time he felled the tree right across the creek, and by this footbridge we passed over without any difficulty. About ten o’clock in the evening, as we worked our way down the precipitous chasm, we came upon an obstacle that we could not overcome. The gorge was perhaps ten feet wide and we were working our way along on the left of the stream. As we rounded a curve we found that just ahead the course of the torrent was deflected by a boulder on the right, so that it rushed to the left and point blank against a projecting rock directly in our path, effectually cutting off our progress. It was quite an undertaking to get out of the pocket we were in, and it required the alternate assistance of each to accomplish the undertaking. With occasionally a boost and then a pull, and so on, we finally climbed pretty well up to the top, where we could start anew down to the shore a little beyond the canyon. By this time the shadows cast by the midnight sun were lengthening fast.[Pg 107] We began to realize our position, tired and hungry, without food, waiting around the camp fire for six hours for the ebb tide that we might get over to our boat. The guide could not content himself very long and started to work his way around a rock projection. In the undertaking he fell into the water, and instead of trying to get out, made a bold dash across the stream and pulled himself up on the rocks on the opposite side like a half-drowned rat. In a short time he returned with the boat and ferried your humble servant across. By this time it was getting quite cold and he was threatened with chills, so to keep up the circulation he applied the oars furiously to reach our tent, which fortunately was not far away. Hurriedly changing his clothing and wrapping himself up in blankets, he brought on the reaction about the time I had a pot of strong hot tea ready to administer.

Indian Barabara Indian Barabara

On our wanderings around the island we frequently came upon an abandoned winter home of the natives. They fish and trap principally, for a livelihood. Early in the fall they take their families into some remote nook, build a barabara out of logs, thatch the entire outside surface with native red-top hay to keep out the cold, and pile large[Pg 108] logs all over the hay to keep it from blowing away. They dry salmon, cod, and flounders for their winter supply. When the fur becomes prime they set their traps for fox, ermine, and land otter, and in this way eke out a miserable existence. It is said of them that in their early days they were honest to a fault, theft being punished by death, but on associating with the whites they acquired all the faults of the latter with none of the good.

Kodiak Island Pinks Kodiak Island Pinks

The dawn of another day brought a hazy sky and the indications foretold wet weather.[Pg 109] True to our expectations it rained the greater portion of the day. In the afternoon it cleared up somewhat and towards evening the sun came out bright. We then visited Gull Island to get a few fresh eggs for breakfast. The Arctic tern (Sterna paradisŠa) had a large community on the rocky island. When we approached they hovered over us in great numbers. The kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) also had a colony. In many nests on the island, the eggs were blotched and streaked in various shades. They were about the size of an ordinary hen egg, were palatable, and we used quite a number to[Pg 110] make pancakes. After photographing several nests with eggs and a few wild flowers that grew very abundantly on the rocks near the water’s edge, we returned to camp, had supper, consisting of eggs, bear steak, etc., after which we retired for the night about ten o’clock, it being still almost daylight, for during June the days are twenty-two hours long.

We again desired to change our camp into the adjoining bay, so we pulled stakes and started for a fifteen-mile trip. The tide was in our favor, but with a head wind we pulled our little dory down to the turning point, where tide and wind helped us on our way.

When we were about half-way up we came upon a camp of Italian fishermen who had just arrived from “Frisco” to fish for salmon during the season’s run. We turned our boat towards shore and landed to meet our neighbors. They were a villainous-looking lot, about two dozen in all, and could speak no English, except the foreman, and we could understand him only with difficulty. We succeeded in letting him know we were anxious to have a few fish for supper, and soon several of the men were making a haul with the seine for our special benefit, so we had all the fish we wanted. After exchanging com[Pg 111]pliments, our little sail was hoisted, and as the boat sped over the water we waved a good-bye to the “bunch,” although we understood they wanted us to spend the night with them. Before we had gone very far the wind died down to a gentle breeze, and much to our disappointment we had to take down our sail, for it flapped around like a wounded bird, here, there, and everywhere, without wind enough to make it taut. We took the oars about seven o’clock and before long the water became so calm that the snow-capped mountains reflected their peaks on the waters of the bay, seeming to use the smooth surface for a mirror, as they stood majestic in their garments of white. We rode along in silence, hour after hour, past the huge mountains of granite, slate, and sandstone, with here and there a stringer of quartz. I could not but wonder what a force must have been at work to have caused such an upheaval. Beautiful clusters of pink, yellow, and purple flowers were clinging to the perpendicular face of the rocks, and relieved much of the severity of outline. As we advanced toward the head of the bay, the eagles, in their solitude perching here and there on the topmost pinnacles, eyed us with suspicion. Now and again one would leave[Pg 112] the cliff, soar round and round overhead until we passed out of sight, doubtless wondering what strange creatures these were. We arrived at the head of the bay about midnight in this land of twilight, and soon had a good wood fire alongside a big cottonwood tree, where with “spuds” and flounders, hard tack and a tin of hot “Old English Breakfast,” we were quite contented. After a corncob pipe and a short story or two, we threw our blankets on the beach and were quickly in the Land of Nod.

The next morning we were up about the time the sun was casting his rays over the eastern snow-capped peaks. What a picture for an artist! If painted true to nature almost any person would say, “Overdrawn, overdrawn!” yet with the deep blue sky for a background, the white mountains in bold relief, pushing their tops into the blue, and the green foothills and the placid waters of the bay in the foreground, how could the scene be overdrawn? In that dawn of morning the flight of ducks to and from the feeding grounds was numerous, the most conspicuous of them all being the harlequin duck (Histrionicus histrionicus) because of the prominent black and white stripes. It builds its nest along the mountain stream which dashes and[Pg 113] tosses down the gorge, and when the young are hatched leads them to the sea.

Just as soon as we got a bite to eat, with our rifles and field-glasses we started for our daily hunt. On our way up the mountain a little brown body streaked with black fluttered out from beneath a tuft of grass underneath the pussy willows. Stooping and separating the dry grass, we exposed the four whitish eggs of the white-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys). In about an hour we saw a large bear traveling at a rapid gait—at times running—along the mountain just at the snow-line. We sat down and watched him through the glasses, hoping he would soon find a place to his liking to take a little snooze. After paralleling the entire base of the mountain he passed behind a small group of rocks and emerged on the other side against the snow, where we could see him very plainly as he turned back toward the rocks. We were quite sure he had found a bed that would suit his purpose. We knew if he once lay down he was more than likely to stay for a long nap.

In about twenty minutes we started after Old Bruin in earnest. Into alder and elder we plunged, plodding along just as fast as we could, bringing out the perspiration in[Pg 114] beads on our red faces. The sun was very hot and our tramp was difficult,—over rocks, under limbs, using the toes of our guns as alpenstocks, we puffed and blew, going higher and higher. “Oh, how deceiving!” often I thought as we climbed each little knoll, only to find on arriving at the top that our objective point was still in the distance. To be sure, we rested many times before we reached the place. The uncertainty of the wind annoyed us greatly, and often the only way we could tell how it was blowing was by tossing a few crushed leaves into the air.

After two hours’ hard work we arrived at the place best suited for us to get a shot at Mr. Bear, when he should leave the thickest of the alder. We maneuvered around the top a considerable time, found his trail following a ravine up the mountain, and in this way he reached the opening of an extinct crater. At the very time when we were expecting a shot at any minute, he must have been on the other side of the mountain. Wearily we slipped, slid, and tramped our way down. By the time we reached camp, hungry and tired, it was well along in the afternoon. After getting something to eat we took a couple of hours’ nap, and again[Pg 115] watched the foothills in the hope of discovering the object of our search, but in vain.

We had several beautiful days; in fact, the middle of the day was too hot to hunt with any comfort. If you had been watching, you might have seen a solitary pair wending their way up along the river flat; one tall and well built in proportion, with a broad-brimmed western hat on his head, the other small in stature, with a small slouch hat set on the back of his head, one carrying a Winchester and the other an Eastman kodak. If you had observed closely, you would have noticed that both hats were constantly turning in a semicircle from side to side, as the eyes were busy scanning every direction, expecting that the quarry would put in an appearance somehow, somewhere; for we had arrived at the conclusion that we would have to work harder in order to get a big specimen of the Kodiak bear. We followed the river valley for ten miles without seeing any fresh signs. About noon we ate our lunch, stretched out in the warm sun, and slept peacefully for several hours, then turned towards camp, hunting on our way back.

Up to this time the bear seemed to live up on the very tops of the mountains and occasionally to come down about the snow-line[Pg 116] and again return. We had several wild-goose chases after them, only to discover that they were somewhere else. Now we noticed they were beginning to feed on the grass and come down into the valley. The leaves were pretty well developed by this time. Hunting big bear in the alder is very dangerous sport, for at any minute a big she with her cubs might rise up close by and make a charge. If our guns should catch in the brush, the jig would be all up, for the bear are large and hard to stop at close range. My guide said that not many men will hunt them in this way and told me he had had several narrow escapes himself. On one occasion he dropped a big fellow right at his feet. They vary in size; the largest skin in the picture on page 105 measured eleven by nine feet. They also vary in color from a dark brown to yellow. The specimens I have seen have a tawny crescent just back of the neck.

The natives do not hunt the bear by following them through the brush, and have a wholesome fear of stalking them afoot. I have been told that the only way they will hunt is to follow the coast line in a bidarka, and when the bear come out to feed on the fish along some stream they kill them. My guide, who has had a great deal of experience[Pg 117] with the natives of the peninsula, told me that he could sell all the bear intestines to the natives, getting a good price for them. Out of these intestines they make water-proof coats, called kamlaykas. In the early spring they examine the intestines very carefully. They consider that in bear killed as soon as they come out of hibernation the intestines are useless, for they believe the bear retire to their winter quarters in the fall gorged with fish. The fish bones perforate the intestines and it takes several weeks for them to heal enough to make the best water-proof coats.

We worked our way up to the snow-line and hunted until ten o’clock without getting a sight of one, although we trailed a large bear a long way through the grass. They are great tramps and will travel many miles without stopping. Where this one crossed the creek the water was not yet dried on the leaves when we came up. For four days the weather was fine and as it was not necessary to put our tent up, a great deal of time could be saved in this way.

On our wandering about the island, about five o’clock one evening the fishermen’s camp was reached and they treated us royally, gave us a square meal of candle fish, some tobacco,[Pg 118] sugar and tea, and sent us on our way rejoicing. We pulled along all day without any incident of much interest. Once two bald eagles soared over our heads, and my guide could not resist the temptation. Up went his rifle and three times in succession the shot brought some feathers out of the wings, while the fourth brought the bird pitching headlong into the bay. At one point we watched an eagle in the air with two crows after him. It was evident the crows had their nest nearby and the eagle had ventured too near. The crows seemed to have the best of the fight, for they would take turns in darting down on their foe, while the eagle seemed to be helpless in the air, for the crows would strike and be away before he could harm them.

Now our thoughts turned homeward, but we realized that it would take some time to pull with oars seventy or eighty miles in a dory to Kodiak. Breaking camp one morning about two o’clock, we tried to get out with the tide, but unfortunately we were caught on the flats and were forced to spend six hours until the tide returned. Being anxious to get home as soon as possible, we were using every effort to gain time, and one little experience we had I shall not forget as long as I live. The wind had been blowing[Pg 119] a gale all day, and about nine o’clock in the evening, after making slow progress, we came to a point which would require us either to lie by for the balance of the night, then follow the shore line for about ten miles, or cross directly over a distance of about three miles to the other side of the bay. The wind had died down considerably and was blowing toward us from the other shore; we were anxious to cross and discussed the advisability of trying it, finally deciding that we could do so safely. With both at the oars, the dory loaded to within three or four inches of the water, and the breakers running, we started across and got along fairly well until we were about midway over. We naturally expected the whitecaps would diminish in size and the wind would be going down, when to our dismay the wind rose, the waves grew more boisterous, and about every seventh wave would toss part of its volume clear over us. Occasionally I would ship the oars, grab the tomato can, and bail frantically until the water was almost all out,—then to the oars again to assist in keeping the boat under control. My companion was skillful in handling the boat, and while I was bailing out the craft he had to make desperate efforts to keep the bow cutting the rollers diagonally; but[Pg 120] gradually the wind seemed to get the boat out of its safest course, and then I had to take up the oars and help to right her again. To say the least, I realized the predicament we were in. At the time, I had almost given up the idea of reaching the shore in safety, and one who has never had a similar experience cannot understand the feeling of hope that rose within us as we advanced nearer the other side.

While we were still battling with wind and wave, I promised myself that if we reached safety I would never again risk a similar experience, and yet on the following day we pulled the boat fourteen miles across the mouth of another such bay, with the water as smooth as glass all the way over. Knowing the rapidity with which the wind can rise over those treacherous straits and the risk we were taking after the experience of the previous day, neither of us spoke more than half a dozen words during the entire time until we landed safely.

Returning at last to Kodiak, we caught a boat for Valdez, whence we engaged passage on the homeward cruise. Taking the outside route from Valdez to Seattle, we experienced a rough voyage. At the captain’s table were seated about a dozen passengers, all[Pg 121] in high spirits in anticipation of reaching home, and thankful that we had not taken passage on the Valentia, the preceding steamer, which was wrecked on the rocks before it got rightly started. One by one the members of the party would fail to put in an appearance on account of seasickness. One day the captain complimented the author on being such a good sailor, but in answer I suggested that he wait a little. I felt it coming on, and sure enough the captain had the table to himself at the very next meal.

One night while lying in my bunk I was aroused from a doze by a shout from the occupant of the under bunk: “There’s a rat in your bed! There’s a rat in your bed!” I looked out to see my informant standing on a chair. In a short time we had a light, and in the bunk we found a Mother Carey’s chick that had been attracted by the light on the boat and entered the room. We caught the little bird and kept it until morning. It seemed not to be disturbed by our attentions, indeed was content to cuddle down in our hands. Its apparent tameness was probably due to the fact that its habits are partly nocturnal.

After three or four stormy days, with the sea running high and breaking in whitecaps[Pg 122] over the deck, not a thing to be seen save the sailors and the albatross following in the wake of the steamer, we reached the port of Seattle. The vision and the sensation of the tossing and pitching waters remained with us, and on landing we found that our “sea legs” made walking on terra firma a very awkward process.


[Pg 123]

CHAPTER III

HUNTING BIG GAME ON THE KENAI PENINSULA

We arrived at Seldovia, on Cook’s Inlet, on the evening of August 28th. Between the steamer landing and the town, a creek, unbridged as yet, enters the bay, and except at ebb tide the passengers are compelled to cross the arm of the bay by rowboat. The tide being then at flood, it was necessary to get a dory before we could reach the village. One of the natives who hailed from the cannery nearby was the proud owner of an old dugout. We knew the water was quite shallow across the arm of the fiord, yet some of the party were fearful of the craft. We all got into the boat, and how quickly the inexperienced displayed their awkwardness. Instead of stepping carefully to the center they landed on the side, causing the dugout to ship water. After righting matters we started across, when “Clumsy,” in trying to make himself comfortable, rocked[Pg 124] the craft and “Timid” gave peremptory commands to return, which we did. Two of the party got out and the rest were landed safely on the other shore. In a few hours we were all aboard a home-made tug of six tons burden, called the Bydarky, and on our way up the inlet some sixty miles to Kenai. We retired to our bunks shortly after the boat got under way, and when we awoke in the morning we were lying at anchor near the beach at Kenai. The captain of the boat, being very anxious to get out on the tide, asked us to unload our duffel as quickly as possible, so that he might start at once. In our haste we overlooked Doc’s hand satchel but did not discover this until too late.

Kenai is a little village built on a plateau overlooking the inlet, a sixty-foot sand embankment down to the water’s edge, lending it the appearance of a fortified town. We ascended the road, entered the post-office and store, and began to make inquiries about guides, boats, and equipment. We soon learned that we could get white guides for ten dollars per day and “keep,” and natives for five dollars; white packers for five dollars per day and “keep,” natives for three dollars. After scouring the village we found two licensed native guides and two packers and[Pg 125] gave them instructions to get our boats and provisions ready as quickly as possible, so that we could leave on the next flood tide for the Kenai River. In selecting guides and packers, I think it is a mistake to take natives, as they are naturally indolent, lack the interest the white man has in his work, are over-sensitive about their treatment, and sulk upon the least provocation; and then one never can impress upon them the eagerness of the party to secure, in the limited time at its disposal, photographs of big game in its natural haunts, or a desirable trophy. Time is the only object to them when they are out with a party at five dollars a day. To illustrate, on this occasion we had made an agreement with the head guide that the packers would go with us for three dollars a day and “keep,” but we were not out more than a three days’ “line” of the river until they demanded three fifty, and when refused began to sulk and lag behind with their work, and for fear they would leave us before we got up the river we were obliged to grant their demand. Indeed, they will sometimes purposely lead parties away from the best game country in order to keep them out as long as possible.

The evening before we arrived at Kenai,[Pg 126] two miners had come to town for provisions and had sold their dust. They then started out for a good time, landed in a “joint,” consumed all the “houch,” after which they proceeded to “paint the town red.” They succeeded fairly well, ended up with broken heads and limbs, and with a bullet in the breast of one. In the village was a doctor, some eighty years of age, who had long been in the habit of locating for the summer at Kenai to practice medicine. When the old man learned that there was a doctor in our party he looked us up and invited a consultation. Doc accepted the invitation, and on examination found the lead had entered the side, glanced around the ribs, and embedded itself in the muscles. He was very much surprised to find that the patient was wrapped in an extremely dirty towel, and everything was filthy. He said to the local physician, “Are you not afraid of the wound becoming infected?” Whereupon the latter informed him that no pus ever formed in wounds in that country and that infection was unknown. Our doctor made considerable inquiry about the matter, for he was very much interested, and learned that this was true.

The man who did the shooting was arrested and placed in the custody of the town bailiff,[Pg 127] but was permitted to roam over the country at will. The authorities well know, and so do the prisoners, that it would be suicide of the worst form for the guilty to try to escape to the woods, for it means death of the most horrible sort—by exposure and starvation. The only avenue of escape was by boat that left twice a week. Inquiring about the case on our return trip, we learned that the commissioner had arrived, a day was fixed for hearing, the testimony was beyond a doubt conclusive against the prisoner, and he was held without bail for trial at Valdez, whither he was taken by the commissioner. However, the injured man recovered and the gallows was again defrauded.

Our party consisted of four, and for brevity’s sake we will call them “Doc,” “Old Sourdough,” “Cheechalker,” and “Esau.” The provisions had all been purchased at Seattle and packed carefully in water-proof bags and cans. Many and varied were the suggestions made by the party as to what should be taken along. Doc suggested talcum powder, frostilene, and vaseline, with pills of various colors, red, white, and blue. He had a special satchel well filled with antiseptics, anodynes, astringents, styptics, and bactericides, but unfortunately for his peace[Pg 128] of mind he discovered, too late, that the precious satchel had been left on the Bydarky, the little boat that brought us over from Seldovia to Kenai, and there were no immediate prospects of recovering the important parcel. Doc looked wistfully after the little boat disappearing in the distance as it plowed its way through the tide-rifts, and submitted with such grace as he could command to the chaffing of his companions.

By way of firearms Cheechalker (northern name for “tenderfoot”) had quite an assortment,—a ten-gauge shotgun with five hundred rounds of ammunition, one Springfield army rifle, model of 1909, a Winchester .30-.30, and several others. Cheechalker insisted upon his tin bathtub, but Old Sourdough finally pacified him with a description of a bath Ó la Wilderness. This is accomplished by erecting a tepee, like that the Indians build, around a fire in a small depression filled with stones, then, when the bather is ready, removing the fire and pouring water on the stones, thus producing steam enough to open the pores of the skin, after which a good rubbing at the hands of an Indian valet completes the ablution. In this way one might get along for a few weeks at least without his tub. For [Pg 129]
[Pg 130]
this substitute Cheechalker finally consented to give up the useful article.

Kenai River Kenai River

Esau carefully selected a prospector’s pick, gold pan, and shovel to do a little prospecting on the side. In his telescope he had his toothbrush, comb, hair-brush, manicure set, etc., which he considered absolutely necessary for his personal comfort. He also carried his own knife and fork, tin cup, and tin plate, each artistically marked with his own symbol.

Old Sourdough watched these arrangements with an expression of disgust. He carried a red bandanna handkerchief dangling from his belt, containing his change of socks, some smoking tobacco, and matches. Later he improvised a very serviceable pipe by fitting a shot cartridge shell with a split willow stem, artistically wrapped with thread.

After the packing was completed we embarked upon the Kenai River in two twenty-foot dories, with the tide in our favor. The river meandered like a wriggling snake for about a mile through the marshy flats; beyond, the shore was lined to the water’s edge with cottonwood, birch, and spruce. On our way, ducks, geese, and many other water-fowl were flushed by the noise of the oars in the locks and the splash of the blades as they dipped into the water. The guides were making[Pg 131] all haste, being anxious to get as far up the river as possible, knowing it was no mean task to pull, line, and pole the mile or more to the head of tide water without the aid of full tide.

When we reached our first camp the flies and mosquitoes were very plentiful. The boys were loud in their forceful expressions against the songsters and their near cousins, the black flies. All hands were busy, some erecting the tents, others cutting spruce boughs for a good bed, and the rest getting something to eat for the hungry party.

Pitching camp very quickly developed the inexperience of Cheechalker. Always willing to lend a helping hand, he started the fire on the windward side, filling our eyes with smoke. The site he selected for the tent showed plenty of roots, well calculated to furnish an uneasy experience for the night. When he pointed it out to us, we soon overruled him. The duffel was hardly unloaded until Doc was ransacking the outfit for his .22 rifle to shoot some Canada grouse (Dendragapus canadensis). They are very plentiful in the spruce timber and when flushed will fly to a limb, where they sit and crane their necks at the hunter, who, if he is wise enough to pick off the lowest bird at each shot, may, if he so[Pg 132] desires, clean out the entire covey. In the meantime one of the party had shot a red squirrel, and at the suggestion of Old Sourdough it was nailed to the limb of a tree in anticipation of a little fun at Doc’s expense. On his return the old Indian said in his guttural voice (pointing at the squirrel), “Look! look! him big squirrel, shoot!!” Old Sourdough, meanwhile helping the fun along by craning his neck in every direction, said, “Where? where?” In the meantime Doc was making a mad rush for his .35 Winchester; crack went the gun, off went the ears of Mr. Squirrel, and he gently swayed on the nail; once more the gun cracked, and this time the body fell to the ground in fragments. Then the woods rang again and again with the shouts of the party, while Doc threatened dire vengeance on those who perpetrated the joke.

After dinner, a smoke, and a few stories, the Indians departed to their tent and we all stretched out in a row for our night’s sleep. But too soon, for one fellow pulled the blanket from his neighbor. Then there was a “rough house,” and after that duels to the death with mosquitoes, all punctuated with such a variety of exclamations that the vocabulary of each was exhausted before quiet was restored.

Lining the Boat Lining the Boat

On the way out next morning the hunters [Pg 133]
[Pg 134]
were boasting about the number of fine trophies they were going to take home, for all reports indicated plenty of sheep and moose. About that time one of the party remembered we had forgotten to bring salt along for curing the “fine trophies;” then a call was sent out for a meeting to discuss ways and means to procure the necessary salt. At the caucus it was decided to send the packers back to Kenai with a boat, and a halt was called until the following day, when the return of the packers was expected. They arrived in good time with a bushel of coarse salt.

Kenai River is very swift and cannot be ascended in a dory pulled with oars, so the boat must be “lined” along the shore. There is no beach along the river and the shore is almost impassable by foot on account of trees growing at every conceivable angle and hanging over and under the water.

In the morning we started, two natives and two hunters to a boat, the leader with his two-hundred-foot line well in advance, carefully keeping the rope on the river side of all obstructions. Doc selected the position of captain (steersman) of one of the dories. Cheechalker took hold of the rope, but before long he was panting for breath, being quite[Pg 135] fleshy and tipping the scales at two hundred pounds. He soon found that carrying his weight on the many ups and downs over fallen timbers, with the washouts along the bank and the alder growing thick at places along the shore, was not a joy ride over a macadamized road in an auto, nor was it conducive to easy respiration. The advantage a man of experience has over the inexperienced individual, in making his way over and under logs and overcoming other difficulties with the least resistance, is wonderful. For instance, experience has taught the veteran that he must not step on a slanting stick, a slime-covered stone, or grass concealing a washout in the bank. He likewise learns to avoid many other little indiscretions that cause heavy falls and bruising of the limbs and body, which will wear out the vitality of the strongest. Before long Cheechalker, who had had several tumbles into the water, had to have assistance to get out. He was soon lagging behind, and ere the first lap of the journey was completed he was begging us to let him get into the boat. Travel was delayed long enough for him to don dry clothing, and when we started he refused to walk any more, saying it was out of the question,—he was completely “tuckered[Pg 136] out.” It was then that one of the natives hesitated for some time before he would consent to go on, for it required all the red men’s strength and skill on the line to get the boat along without this additional load of two hundred pounds. Cheechalker, with his red face, looked for all the world like a lobster, so Old Sourdough took pity on him and had a heart-to-heart talk with the natives. His argument was, “Him sick, heap sick,—like turtle, no walk!” This and similar logic was used for a period of about five minutes, whereupon the two natives looked at each other, emitted a few grunts, and started up the river.

At the end of the first day’s work we had made about eight miles and built our camp-fire for the night. Nothing unusual happened that evening, but the inevitable “no-see-ims” and mosquitoes had sufficient time to gather and kept us busy moving at short intervals from place to place, following the smudge smoke. Cheechalker, although naturally sluggish on account of his avoirdupois, was quite active now, first to windward and then to leeward of the smudge, between periods of relief from smoke and “no-see-ims.” Doc complained at frequent intervals about the “pesky critters,” donned his veil, [Pg 137]
[Pg 138]
and with hands in his pockets strutted around, restless and impatient.

Mid-day on the Kenai Mid-day on the Kenai

Old Sourdough, without any modern frills, sat quietly smoking his makeshift pipe, evidently enjoying his smoke, but occasionally disturbed and raising his hand to chase an importunate pest out of his eye or ear.

A fallen spruce furnished boughs for a temporary bed for the tired campers after a day’s lining, pulling, and wading. Each man opened his pack, spread his rubber blanket on the boughs, and one long tarpaulin was laid over all. Then each one lay down wrapped in his blanket, and another tarpaulin was drawn over all four in a row. Thus settled, we enjoyed the sweet but restless sleep of the weary. Toward morning when the ice was forming on the water in the camp pails, there was a tug of war going on most of the time between the two end men for the control of the upper canvas, and as the middle man expressed it later, “it had made three round trips during the night,” for he felt it “sawing its way across” under his nose.

Ever to our ears through the night came the roar of the river, here two hundred yards wide, rushing day and night to the sea, grand and powerful, glistening here and there in the morning twilight as the raging waters[Pg 139] boiled and seethed over the hidden bowlders that threw the water as though some huge monster were trying to “buck” the current.

As soon as breakfast was over every man went to his task, the blankets were rolled in separate bundles, the entire equipment packed carefully, the guns tied fast for fear of the boat capsizing in the strong current. The leader started with the rope, two others followed, each taking a hold in turn, and the captain steered. The leader in advance put the rope on the river side of all trees, rocks, and debris; the other two, climbing out on the trees that extended over the water, assisted in pulling and keeping the rope clear. Occasionally we struck rapids, where the current was swift and caused much trouble to the boats by driving one or the other against a hidden bowlder, where it would hang as on a pivot, swinging backward and forward until one of the Indians would wade out in the ice-cold water up to his waist and release it.

The mania to kill was very strong in the hunters and at dawn the most bloodthirsty was astir, exhorting the cook to build a fire in the Yukon stove and hustling the packers to get ready for our up-river trip by loading the boats with the duffel. Across the beautiful river, sparkling with the silt of the glaciers,[Pg 140] aglow with the morning sun, stood a solitary, snow-white herring gull, breakfasting upon a king salmon that had been cast by the swift current into an eddy and gently washed ashore. The passion for wilful destruction was uppermost in the heart of the gunner, and as quickly as possible he had a leaden missile on its way across the water. With the field-glasses could be seen the white bird with its graceful wings spread helplessly over the water and the beautiful white feathers crimsoned with its life blood, slowly moving with the current to the sea.

In a short time stakes were pulled, duffel packed, lines adjusted, and we were on our way. There was a little commotion at the head of the line when Simeon, one of the Indians, spied a large porcupine plodding his way deeper into the forest. Letting go of the rope he made a rush for the “porky,” caught it by the tail, held on till he got a club nearby, and proceeded to pound it over the head. The natives are very fond of “porky,” and when we pitched camp in the evening Simeon was very busy singeing the hair over the fire before boiling.

Porky “Porky”

On our way up the river we were agreeably surprised to see a stranger walk into camp. Tall, erect, with clean-cut features, he looked[Pg 141] the very picture of health. He wore a broad-brimmed hat with the garb of a hunter. Lunch was about ready, and on invitation he dined with us. In conversation we soon learned that he was a college man, a graduate of one of the leading colleges in the East, and had come from our own eastern city some fourteen years before. He told us that for several years he had corresponded with relatives and friends, but finally quit writing because he had not yet made his stake. However, he now had many encouraging prospects, and before long expected to make good and[Pg 142] return east. It was surprising to us how an educated man could spend fourteen of the best years of his life in his little tent, with mosquitoes and “no-see-ims” as his only companions, dreaming, dreaming of the find that never came, and with his pan, pick, and shovel digging every here and there, with color, color everywhere, but not in paying quantities. On our way down we found him as usual, dreaming of the prospects he had staked, and when we left him a sack of flour and a few other necessaries of life he was very grateful, showing that a warm heart beat beneath the rough exterior. We bid him good-bye, and a large tear coursed down his cheek as he said: “I wish I were going with you, boys; but not yet; soon, I hope.” Is it any wonder that the steamers on their return trips carry so many insane men to the States? The entire river has been prospected and staked; the blazed trees and indelible pencil marks are about the only method of indicating that a claim has been staked. About half-way up the river we came to the deserted tent of the fellows who had participated in the shooting at Kenai.

In order to have a pleasant time on a trip of this sort it is very essential to have companions accustomed to “roughing it.” Every[Pg 143] man in the party must sacrifice individual comfort for the benefit of the camp as a whole. I have in mind a trip taken to Alaska with another party where one individual was so selfish that every action was for his own comfort and enjoyment. For instance, he was always first to eat and managed to get a double portion of everything, cooked and uncooked. If there was one duck, one grouse, or one trout, he managed to cook the one and gorge himself and eat all to his own satisfaction. In the morning he was always first up and ready for breakfast, taking care of his individual interests and paying no attention to others. In fact, he would even permit the destruction of goods not his own without showing the least interest. In the same party was another character in many ways the opposite, always last to the table and never looking out for his own things; going around growling about this, that, and the other thing,—never in time for breakfast, lunch, or supper. There is no better opportunity to find out the good qualities of a companion than to go camping with him in the wilds. A selfish disposition soon becomes unbearable, and many a good outing has been spoiled by having such a fellow in the party. Few men are so constituted that they[Pg 144] can stand “roughing it” very long under trying circumstances without showing the “yellow streak.”

The Tonsorial Artist at Work The Tonsorial Artist at Work

After seven days’ hard work we reached Lake Skilak. The sun was just setting, casting a mellow crimson reflection over the placid waters. The beautiful lake was hemmed in on all sides by verdured slopes and snow-capped peaks, the dark green of the spruce intermingling with patches of cottonwood clothed in autumnal colors, “the sear, the yellow leaf” predominating. On the surface of the water, idling away the time, were little flocks of ducks, and in the air were black cormorants heavy in their[Pg 145] flight. This serene panorama filled the nature-lovers in the party with joy and delight, and they felt themselves well repaid for all the hardship of the week. The Indians wanted to make camp at once, and showed their displeasure when they learned that we desired to take advantage of a strong fair wind and hoist our sail regardless of their wishes. We made elegant time to an island, on which we camped for the night. The next day we reached the head of the lake, where we expected to spend several weeks.

The party had decided to make a try after white sheep on the mountain beyond the divide. By this time Cheechalker had had enough of tramping and quietly informed us that we might count him out; he was perfectly satisfied, he said, to remain with the cook at the permanent camp. This was located at the mouth of a little stream which entered the lake after a precipitous course from the glacier at the summit, down the mountain canyon, through the narrow gulch of the upper foothills to the wooded valley, chasing and tumbling under and over moss-grown and decayed trees, fallen giants of other years. The under foliage had been destroyed by a fire which was still smoldering here and there among the moss, and the sun,[Pg 146] entering the opening between the trees, shimmered and fluttered on the spray-moistened bowlders like fantastic rays of Aladdin’s lamp. Here we pitched our tent among the stately birches, intending to make this our headquarters for some time.

Taking a stroll a little way up the beach we were agreeably surprised to find we had neighbors, and were interested to know who they were and what they were doing. One suggested prospectors, another hunters; in the meantime, while we were looking at their outfit for a suggestion, a collection of stones in the niche of a tree, the skull of a rodent, an insect or two, answered the question beyond the shadow of a doubt,—a naturalist in pursuit of data that the world might be benefited by his researches. The following day his packer came into camp with a beautiful specimen of Dall’s sheep (Ovis dalli nelson). We then learned that it was Mr. Bell, from the University of Minneapolis.

Ready for the Start Ready for the Start

We left camp for the top of the mountain, every man with his pack. The tramp along the trail was interesting, leading as it did through spruce, birch, and cottonwood until we reached the end, where we were obliged to push through low alder and “devil’s clubs.” The latter average about one inch in thick[Pg 147]
[Pg 148]
ness, and in this locality grow as high as a man’s head. They are usually straight and branchless, of a yellowish-green color, and are thickly covered with slender sharp spines that readily penetrate the clothing and cause great discomfort to one who undertakes to pass through a thicket.

The ascent was very steep from this point until we reached the altitude of “little sticks.” One of the Nimrods was in advance a short distance, and so anxious was he to reach the sheep country that he went off the trail and had to be recalled. But his aggressiveness was short-lived, and long before midday he was shouting at the top of his voice from the rear end of the string of packs, “Wait! Wait! You’re going too d—— fast!” In a short time we ran into a bees’ nest, and you should have seen the party scatter to get out of raiding distance of the nest, every man for himself, packs bouncing, hats waving, all shouting until we reached a safe distance.

Approaching the Low Pass Approaching the Low Pass

As we ascended the mountain the mosquitoes grew scarcer and scarcer. About the “land of little sticks” we stopped for a light lunch. Looking in the direction indicated by the guide we saw a large moose feeding in a little swale. Doc could not see him, try as he would. The Indian endeavored to [Pg 149]
[Pg 150]
assist him by locating the animal with reference to a good-sized rock, but his untrained eye, even with the aid of field-glasses, could not make out the outline and we had to give up in despair, although he was very keen to see it. Blueberries were quite plentiful all around us and after we ate our lunch we filled up with them as a dessert. We came to a little pond of crystal water at the foot of a small glacier, and as soon as we reached the margin some twenty-five or thirty ptarmigan took flight in all directions. They were still in their moulting plumage. By this time the largest man in the party was unable to keep the pace, and lagging behind kept the entire party back. In starting up the canyon the ambitious member turned up the right side, but erelong came to a place that was impassable and began to shout, “I can’t go any farther along here.” One of the others answered, “Slide, slide!” and the mighty Nimrod took the suggestion and slid down the shale to the bottom and then began the ascent from another point on the opposite side, where he found traveling much easier. This is the common experience of the over-zealous tenderfoot.

Home of the White Sheep Home of the White Sheep

There was a low pass over the mountain and we had to wind our way up, down, and[Pg 151] around in order to make it, for it was only accessible by way of an almost perpendicular rock. The leaders reached the top and were required to wait for the rear-guard, but the tail end, before he could get up, had to have the assistance of a rope tied around his body. What with pulling and tugging by the guides on the upper end of the rope, the big fellow was gently and carefully landed in safety. When he reached us he was puffing and blowing like a wind-broken horse and insisted we must camp right there, for he could go no farther. And although we had intended to reach the valley some five miles beyond,[Pg 152] where we could get wood and water, we were forced, out of sympathy for a big-hearted, congenial companion, to camp just where we were, he being completely tired out from his trying experience.

After a restless night, with visions of sheep and photographs galore, we were up and ready to start about the time the ptarmigan were clucking their announcement of the rosy dawn. The country was cut into gently-sloping valleys clothed with verdure, between long ridges of mountains partly covered with snow. Through the glasses a dozen or more white specks on the mountain-side could be distinguished as sheep moving slowly as they grazed. We were too far away to tell whether there were any big rams in the flock.

Considering the topographical conditions, the wind and the method of approach, we mapped out our modus operandi and started up the ridge of the mountain on the right. It was a long, hard pull and by the time we reached the summit all were wearied, especially my companion, who kept shouting a request not to go so fast. Several hours after we spied the sheep we were crawling stealthily over the backbone of the ridge where we expected to find the flock, but were sadly disappointed. The photographer[Pg 153] threw his kodak back into the case with a quiet “d——”; the other pushed his “safety” on, threw his gun over his shoulder, and turned back with a shaking of the head that was more expressive than language. After examining carefully every likely place, all that we could find of the flock was one lonely little lamb looking at us as though in disgust. Presently it went away down into the valley and we watched it as it ascended the opposite side and disappeared as a little speck over the divide.

When we left camp in the morning the tenderfoot was still in bed and on our return we were surprised to see how happy he was. Pointing to the carcass of a little lamb, and beating his breast with his good right hand, he said: “I’ve got my sheep. No more tramping those d—— mountains for me. I’m going back to camp.” We were very much disgusted to think he would travel six thousand miles and spend so much money to hunt one half-day and then turn “quitter.” We used every argument in our power and as tactfully as possible tried to persuade him not to turn back, but of no avail. Turning to us he retorted: “You old Sourdoughs, I wouldn’t follow you over those mountains for ten thousand dollars.” So with a packer[Pg 154] he started around the mountain towards camp, happy as a lark, promising us he would send the packer back with flour and other provisions. Little did we suspect that he would try to starve us out of the camp and thereby force us to return to headquarters.

According to prearranged plan, we intended to move down the valley and select a camp site where we could get wood. About the time we started the wind blew a gale, bringing rain and sleet. For four hours we tramped through the wet underbrush with the elements pelting and lashing us in their fury. We were drenched to the skin. As soon as our camp site was selected, we threw off our packs in a drizzling rain and each man turned to his task. Two arranged the canvas under a spreading scrub hemlock, for we needed the protection from the wind. Soon a huge fire was going, dispensing its cheerful warmth through the gloom, driving away the blues of my companion, who was beginning to complain a great deal. Disrobing, we hung our wet clothing over the surrounding limbs, where it was soon steaming away, while the hunters were toasting their shins as they waited for dry clothes and liquid refreshment, for by this time the teapot was trying to quench the little side fire and the sizzling[Pg 155] lamb chops were about done to a finish. After a while my friend began to thaw out; turning to me, he said: “Billy, I wonder what our friends would say if they saw us now. I have no doubt they would suggest a committee of the person,” and I answered: “But this is only one side of it. We enjoy life by contrast. When we get into our dry clothing, how we will enjoy it, and when the sun shines to-morrow, how it will fill our hearts with gladness! Every thorn has its rose, the darkest cloud its silver lining.”

Seeking a Ford Seeking a Ford

After a good night’s rest and something to eat, we divided into two parties. My[Pg 156] companion and his guide going toward the north, I started westward up Benjamin Creek with the intention of crossing, but the current was so swift that it was impossible to find a ford. Although the guide, with me on his back, waded into the ice-cold water several times, he was forced to return for fear of being carried off his feet. On the opposite side of the creek could be seen a great many sheep, some feeding, others lying down on rocky points from which they could command a good view of the surrounding valley. They are very quick to distinguish any strange object a long way off, and before you can get at all near they take to the summit and disappear beyond. In the flock there was not a single head that could be considered a trophy worthy of the chase, even to a tenderfoot. I am sorry I did not have a telephoto lens, for I could have secured a fairly good picture of the group. My friend, George Shiras, III., got many good pictures in this same location with a telephoto lens.

In ecstasy I followed the stream, reveling in the solitude of the rocky fastnesses, where the right of eminent domain is granted by the Creator to none save the cloven-hoofed creatures who have roamed there unmolested from time immemorial. But now they are[Pg 157] being taught a new lesson. The modern gun in hands controlled by steady nerves and unerring eye sounds the death knell of the species, unless they are given protection. They are learning slowly and by bitter experience that even at any distance they are in imminent danger from the rifle.

Away yonder on the uppermost crag stood His Majesty, as though chiseled out of and forming a part of the very rock itself. A little below stood his companion, another big ram. Selecting the lower sheep for a trophy, I elevated the sights for six hundred yards. I instructed the guide to watch with the field-glasses where the lead struck the rock. A loud report, a great recoil, and a thud carried the message of danger to the curious, though unsuspecting, sheep. The guide said, “A little too high.” In the meantime the rams were nervous and undecided what to do, seeming uncertain as to the exact location of the enemy. Another thud on the rocks, this time below, and then away they went out of sight over the crest. We did not see them again, and they offered the only desirable trophies of their kind that we found on the trip. In the fall the big rams roam together a great deal in the most remote and inaccessible places, the ewes[Pg 158] generally flocking by themselves. It seems to be the popular belief in that country that the large rams separate from the flocks and withdraw by themselves at that season. We saw several flocks, an average of seventy-five sheep a day, but there were no big rams among them.

Our attention is attracted by a movement on the ground, a glimpse of a marmot, as, making a bolt along its well-worn path, it disappears into a hole, reappears, and again disappears,—a caper which is characteristic of the little animal, as though he were curious to know something definite about the invaders of his domain. This habit frequently gives the hunter a shot, but their tenacity of life is so great that they usually get back into the hole and one seldom recovers the body. Their flesh is quite a delicacy among the natives, as well as to the hunter when hungry. He is conscious of their presence at all times, for their whistling can be heard continually in every direction.

The ptarmigan are plentiful, some partly concealed among the rocks, and some walking about craning their necks, all beautiful in their moulting plumage. Each is in a different stage of transformation from the handsome brown of summer to the more beautiful[Pg 159] winter dress of snow-white. How wonderful are the ways of the Creator for the preservation of the species! If the summer plumage were to remain until the whole land is covered with snow, how easy it would be for the ptarmigan hawk, occasionally seen soaring in the air, to distinguish the bird, make a dart, pick it up for his evening meal—and thus bring about the speedy extermination of this beautiful species! They are so tame you could kill with stones all you would eat. The manner in which nature provides protection for the inhabitants of the snow peaks is illustrated again in the case of the sheep, which are white.

We saw many beautiful little flowers, the bluebell always in evidence, daisies, a bunch of forget-me-nots, and what fascinated me beyond description,—several bunches of violets away above the snow-line. They took me back to the springtime in the Middle States. The wild geraniums were in bloom, varying in color from a delicate purple to a faded hue, with leaves colored from green to scarlet.

When we left the main camp provisions enough to last two days were packed. It was our intention to keep a packer going between camps carrying our supplies; thus[Pg 160] we could move from place to place as light as possible. When Doc returned from the last camp to headquarters with his lamb and a packer to show him the way, he promised faithfully to send the Indian back to us with a good supply of provisions. We suggested writing down the articles desired, but he thought this was not necessary,—that a good supply would be forthcoming. Thus we separated. My companion was uneasy for fear of the Indian not being able to find our camp, for our supplies were getting low. I had no fear from this source, knowing well the natural instinct of a child of the forest for taking our trail, which was so pronounced that even a novice could follow us. You may imagine the chagrin of the party when he returned on the following day with no flour and only bread enough to last one meal. We then came to the conclusion that Doc was tired of the hunt and had adopted this means of forcing us by starvation to return to the provision camp. We hunted all that day with only one small biscuit apiece. It was raining, and in the evening, when we returned to camp wet and hungry, a large fire was built and our wet clothing dried. A tin cup full of boiling hot tea soon revived our depressed spirits. This, with a few ptar[Pg 161]migan roasted on a spit, enabled us to retire in good condition.

By this time my comrade could not stand the hardships any longer and wanted to return to the lake. He insisted that there were no big trophies in the country. I succeeded in getting him to stay a day or two longer by telling him I had seen a large ram. The last day we hunted together we came upon a prospector’s cache. On top of a large stone we noticed a pile of small stones arranged in a way that at first sight indicated the hand of man. Examining the pile we found beans, flour, and dried fruits. Although we had been living on porcupine for two days, the natives refused to touch the cache. There is an unwritten law among prospectors and hunters that is never violated in this far-away land. The cache is never disturbed, for they know full well that some fellow-man is depending upon the provisions to reach civilization, and to disturb it may cost the life of the owner. However, if one in a starving condition helps himself, he leaves his name and the owner considers it an act of humanity. Those only who have been in a similar situation can appreciate what it means. One of the guides insisted it was cached by the owner, who had gone back to[Pg 162] civilization and left it in the hope that some person in great need might find it. How we longed to have a mess of those navy beans, but we had not yet reached the condition where we could help ourselves, for we were only one day’s march from plenty.

Finally my companion had his way, and in the morning, though the weather looked threatening, we started, two of the packers towards camp with the outfit, and the hunters for the summit once more. While resting a little before we made the ascent of a high mountain, my guide pointed out a large moose, with huge palmated horns. He was feeding peacefully in the distance, occasionally looking around as though always on the alert for foes. One horn was still in the velvet, and on the other the velvet was dangling down just ready to drop off, with the red corpuscles on the antlers glittering in the rain.

By and by the clouds began to form on the mountain-tops, and gradually lowered until they enveloped the entire mountains and valleys. Again the rain commenced, and continued a steady downpour for the remainder of the day. The fates were against us in respect to the weather, but we did not have to go hungry, for the marmots were[Pg 163] plentiful, whistling here and there, as though a kind Providence had provided a good supper for the camp. After walking all day in a cold, drizzling rain that was almost sleet, we overtook our packers, who had been traveling since morning in order to reach a camping place where there were both wood and water. We finally reached the foothills, where we found water and scrub spruce in abundance. One of the guides, while “rustling” sticks for fire, ran onto a large porcupine, and between marmot soup and porcupine roast we had an abundance to satisfy the inner man.

After the Indians had eaten their fill,—and the amount they could eat was surprising,—the one that got the brisket had picked it clean and started to twirl it in the air, uttering some chanting words each time he tossed it, until it fell with the narrow side up, then he turned to his companions laughing and shaking his head. Then another went through the same motions. I subsequently learned that if the narrow side turned up frequently this indicated they would have another “porky” on the morrow. Porcupine they prefer to any other kind of meat. The intestines seem to be considered the choice morsels. Our guide would take hold of the intestine with[Pg 164] one hand and with the other would strip it of its contents in the various stages of digestion. Then to each man would be allotted his pro rata share,—and each was careful to see that he got his full portion of the delicacy. Next they would string the sections on sticks and gather round the fire on their “hunkers,” singeing the tidbits more or less, each according to his taste. Upon our inquiring why they did not wash the dainties, they explained that washing spoiled the flavor. There was a great deal of humor about them and they frequently tried to play simple jokes on each other. Occasionally one would reach for the field-glasses, look long and earnestly, then point in the direction of the mountain to some rocks and shout “Mushee”[1] (meaning “Sheep”), and when another member of the party would hurriedly reach for the glasses and shout “No mushee,” all would have a laugh at his expense. They are great tea drinkers and when in camp the teapot is always on the fire getting hot for the next cup. If for any reason they were compelled to do without it, they would sulk until they got it.

[1] The term for mountain sheep in the language of the British Columbian Indians is “Scoulaps.”

It rained all night and we did not rest [Pg 165]well, although very tired after our trip over long stretches of mountain-side covered with loose stones of all sizes and forms thrown down by the elements from the mountain-top. The bed was hard; the tent was pitched under a scrub hemlock to get protection from the strong wind that was blowing down the pass. The wind moaned and groaned all the fore part of the night, then subsided, but the rain continued till morning. The Nimrods huddled together in a small depression on the ground, with no bed but the rubber blankets and very scanty covering. Our hip bones would get sore, and one would turn and then the other, continually. We were glad to see the dawn of another day. All night long, “drip, drip, drip” in different parts of the tent the rain could be heard. The hunting shoe of my companion, standing upright under one of the largest leaks, proved an opportune receptacle, consequently in the morning his shoe was about half full of rain water. After a breakfast of porcupine stewed with a spoonful of evaporated potatoes and washed down with a cup of tea, we folded our tent and plodded our weary way towards camp. Blueberries and salmon-berries were very plentiful. We found at the higher elevations an abundance[Pg 166] of a species of blueberry, the woody plants of which grew less than three inches in height. They were laden with a small berry, very sweet to the taste, and so plentiful that they could be stripped off by the handful. Among them grew another species as heavily laden with red fruit, which I think was a species of partridge-berry. The two grew about the same height. The Indians preferred the red berries and seemed fond of them. As for myself, I was not partial to them, but ate liberally of the blue.

Among the berries we came upon a covey of ptarmigan feeding. Doc, murderously inclined, fired some ten shots at one of them before it flew. Indeed, so recklessly did he scatter his leaden pellets as the birds rose, that old Shanghai, one of our Indians, called to me: “Hey, Billy, Billy! Come on! Damn! Him make bullets whiz by head!”

As we reached lower levels, the blueberries gave way to salmon-berries. They resemble raspberries in growth and appearance, but have a peculiar tart flavor. They were in great abundance, and were much relished by our party.

We arrived at camp in due time, tired and hungry, but none the worse for our experience, and after a short rest, quite ready for[Pg 167] another tramp through the enchanting forest of birch, Cottonwood, and hemlock.

Ptarmigan Ptarmigan

On our way through the woods the Indians gathered for snuff-making a great many fungi growing on the birch trees. In preparing the snuff, they first take a birch limb of sufficient size and with a pocket-knife cut[Pg 168] out a round hole about two inches in diameter and an inch and a half deep; this is the mortar. The fungi are then placed in the hot coals of a birch-wood fire until they are charred through and through, when they are broken into the mortar with a like amount of tobacco leaves. Then with another piece of birch wood about three feet long for a pestle the mixture is ground in the mortar until it becomes of the color and consistency of a moist snuff. This the Indians continually chew and rub in their teeth. Of the many uses of the noble birch surely this is the most unique.

From the seedling to the giant tree the life history of the birch is one of usefulness to the inhabitants of the wild. The hardwood ridge over yonder looks like the woods in the vicinity of a beaver community, only over a much larger area. Acres and acres of birch trees averaging two inches in diameter are broken off a couple of feet from the ground by the giant moose, which straddle a sapling and bend it down to browse upon the boughs and tender twigs of the top. An old-timer in the country told us that once after a hard winter he came upon several “moose yards” in the spring and found many bodies of moose that had starved to death. He also told us that he had saved the lives of quite a number[Pg 169] by cutting down trees where they could feed and thus tide themselves over a severe spell of bad weather. The birch-buds nourish the grouse during the winter. Birch-bark starts the fire and birch-wood furnishes the fuel. Birch-bark supplies the natives raw material from which to manufacture canoes and various utensils and trinkets. Taking it all in all I do not know of any other tree of the forest that is put to so many uses. An interesting instance of its application to the culinary art comes to mind. According to a tradition in our family, some of whom were pioneers in the Huron district of Canada, the Indians taught them to make a very fair substitute for baking powder out of a compound of the ashes of birch and hickory wood. I am sorry I never learned the formula.

Around the camp fire we gathered just before retiring. The night was dark. The doleful cry of the solitary great northern diver (Urinator imperator) came through the stillness of the invigorating atmosphere, and scarcely would the echo die away in the distant hills until the call was repeated. The bird may have been floating on the surface of the lake, or flying in the air, calling, as it frequently does while in flight. The native Indians, like the sailors, do not take[Pg 170] kindly to the laughing of the loon, for there is a superstition among them that it forebodes bad weather or some misfortune. The camp-fire was burning brightly, cutting a luminous hemisphere out of the inky darkness. In the north the aurora borealis was throwing its weird light in streamers stretched in a semicircle over the horizon. While I was admiring these the moon pushing up over the black hilltop across the lake, looked cherry-red. It seemed as though I was under a spell. In my fancy I could see a great boat approaching over the dark water, with a huge search-light just rotating into view and sweeping the northern heavens with its rays. But even as I gazed the full moon appeared in all its northern splendor, the vision dissolved, and I realized that the northern lights and Old Luna had played a prank on me.

The next day we packed our belongings and shifted camp some four miles farther south on the same lake. As soon as the bow of our little boat struck the shore we hopped out and began a reconnoiter for a camp site. A well-worn path across the narrow neck of land separating one little fiord from another attracted our attention. A stroll in that direction disclosed a camp which had lately[Pg 171] been occupied by some unknown party. On a tree we found the card of our fellow townsman, George Shiras, III., who had recently left the camp for the sheep country. It was like receiving a letter from home. How pleasant the surprise had we been so fortunate as to meet him! The “few days in camp together,” suggested by his invitation of long standing, would have been realized by a strange coincidence. While he left civilization from Seward, we departed by way of Kenai, several hundred miles distant, yet both arrived at the same place, he by way of the upper Kenai and we by the lower.

A hurried pitching of camp in anticipation of rain, which had been incessant for the past four days, with only brief intervals of relief from the downpour, put us in excellent shape, with plenty of spruce boughs for bedding, before the rain began to patter, patter on the stretched canvas. To me a most interesting experience is that of being lulled into dreamland under such conditions. It may be due to the effect of the ozone and to the fact that in the woods one is always tired when night comes.

On the following morning we divided the parties and left camp in different directions. After tramping many miles alone I came to[Pg 172] a swamp country. Crossing over one arm of the swamp, wading up to my knees in water, I came upon a path worn almost a foot deep by moose traveling from one place to another. I was unable to figure out why they traveled backward and forward along this particular route. After returning home I learned from Mr. Shiras that not far from this point was a salt lick and the path was the regular route to and from the lick.

The path led through a little depression in a ridge that projected into the swamp. Mounting an elevation in the center of the ridge, I could see on every side little lakes and ponds, surrounded with alders and acres of yellow swamp grass, an ideal home for moose. Taking my field-glass, I looked in every direction for game, and finally my eye rested on a yellowish-brown object, then another and another, which proved to be cow moose feeding among the birches. While resting, there came to my ears from another direction the snapping of bushes. I knew it was a moose feeding, a cow, to be sure. I at once started in the direction whence the sound came, and happened upon three cows feeding and resting. They did not seem to be wild, for on seeing me they threw their ears back and hair forward, just like[Pg 173] mules, then walked off a short distance and stopped. In fact, they appeared to be very tame and evidently knew that the law protected their sex. While looking in the finder of my camera I noticed that their curiosity seemed to be aroused and that they were advancing towards me a little too closely for safety. I hurriedly set down my kodak and raised my gun for fear the foremost would take a notion to charge. Just at this moment she wheeled straight around and with a trotting motion, took to the closest cover. Before I returned to camp my intention had been to come back the next day, but I found the entire party had decided to turn homeward the next morning. What an opportunity I missed to get some photographs of big bull moose! The party saw at least ten cow moose that day. Without a doubt, when the rutting season arrived in about ten days, the large bulls, now in the high timber, would be scouring the forests in search of their mates, bellowing in answer to the call of their lady-loves.

As soon as he reached the camp that evening Cheechalker began to inquire about his bath, and his equilibrium was greatly disturbed when the Indians refused to erect a tepee for a sweat box and give him a bath. The[Pg 174] guide, pointing to the crystal water of the lake, said, “Him good water, make good wash.” Now Cheechalker took as kindly to the crystal water as fish take to the land. Finally the party went for a bath, each performing his ablution in installments, and while they were sunning themselves, Old Sourdough took a header into the lake as an example that they might follow. This was too strenuous for the balance of the party and they were satisfied to look on.

A Bath in Lake Skilak A Bath in Lake Skilak

Doc took a stroll along the beach with his shotgun and returned with a brace of snipe. The white crescent over the eye was very[Pg 175] conspicuous between the black bill and slaty-black feathers of the crown.

Pulling stakes after our breakfast was over next morning, we were soon on our way homeward. We were just one day going down the river. The current was very swift and save for a few stops we made excellent time. At two of the worst rapids we all got out and the Indians ran the rapids. Before we pulled into Kenai we were told the Bydarky had left for Seldovia and would not make another trip for three days, which, if true, would be too late for us to catch the last boat of the season from Seldovia to Seattle. After arriving at Kenai we had about completed arrangements for a little schooner to take us up the inlet to Sunrise, on Turnagain Bay, where we expected to get a train for Seward, in time for the steamer, when, much to our pleasant surprise, the belated Bydarky came into port on her way to Seldovia. We had been misinformed. We quickly transferred our outfit, much relieved that we would not have to miss the last boat of the season.

At two o’clock in the afternoon the boat left Kenai under full steam for the westward. The waters of the inlet were as smooth as glass and we were making good headway.[Pg 176] Not even a gentle breeze was blowing as the sun disappeared behind the snow-covered peaks of Iliamna and Redoubt. The afterglow, reflected from the snowy cap, and the steam bursting from the side of old Redoubt gave it a weird appearance.

All the passengers had retired except Doc and myself, who had been left without a bunk. We first thought we would throw our blankets on the floor of the combination cabin, kitchen, and dining-room. A strong breeze began to blow and we decided to go into the hold for the night, coil ourselves up in our duffel, and go to sleep. The wind increased to a hurricane. What a night we spent down in the hold of that old tub! She was carrying little freight, had no ballast, and could make no time. The tide caught us, and between the outgoing and the incoming tide-rifts the boat was tossed about at the mercy of the elements. When she pitched forward the propeller was out of the water and spun like a button on a barn door. The engine throbbed and beat, stopped and started, with jerks and bounds, and the climax came when it broke.

We were in the most treacherous water of the Pacific, rolling and tumbling in the trough and on the ridge of the high seas. The boat[Pg 177] was drifting out of the charted course and toward a coast bristling with unknown rocks, upon which we were sure of being lost. The instant the engine broke, the engineer came down the hatchway like a meteor. The boat made a plunge and he landed in a heap on top of the doctor, who was so sick that in his misery he did not care whether the craft went down or floated. Righting himself, the engineer made a dash for the engine-room to repair the damage. In the storm the poop deck went to windward over the stern. The repair-men were at work; above the din of the hammer and chisel could be heard the cargo shifting from side to side with the billows. Oh! how I longed to hear again the vibrating of the engine and smell the stench of the fuel oil, which before the storm had made our condition almost unbearable. The doctor lying on the broad of his back lifted his head and stared through the now open poop deck and asked, “Where are those sparks coming from?” I looked up and thought the stack was belching sparks from its fiery bowels. A second look, however, sufficed to show that what seemed to be sparks were the stars as they passed back and forth over the hatch with the rocking of the boat. The illusion was much[Pg 178] more realistic than the narration of it would indicate.

I mustered up enough courage to crawl to the ladder, climbed up, looked out,—and what a night! The stars seemed large and brilliant enough for planets, the moon almost large and bright enough for the sun. How it danced on the foamy crests of the tide-rifts when the whitecaps broke, throwing the silvery spray all around the heaving, plunging, tossing boat. Iliamna and Redoubt stood in their majesty, silent onlookers at the battle that was waging between the little boat and the powerful elements,—wondering who was going to be the victor. I dropped bade into the hold half believing it was all a dream, when I heard the captain shouting to the pilot, “Keep her head on, head on!” For fear of drifting upon the rocks they were obliged to run many miles out to sea before they dared make the turn for the harbor. I heard him shout to the man at the wheel, “Head her into the harbor as quickly as possible when she is in the next trough!” We had now reached the critical moment,—would they select the right time to make the turn? When the boat was turned halfway to leeward and on the crest, the turbine without resistance spun around at a[Pg 179] fearful rate, then the engine stopped for a moment and the breakers struck the side a terrific blow, causing the hull to creak and groan as though it were human and about ready to collapse. The water in the cabin overhead swished back and forth and the pots and kettles, as they beat against the walls, kept time with the rolling and plunging of the boat. The old tub righted herself, we had crossed the danger line, and were heading straight for the harbor.

When we reached quiet water the old-timers shook their heads and vowed that was their last trip in the Bydarky. What happened in the bunks no one would tell, though at least one of the party said that during the night he had offered many a silent prayer for the safety of the craft. There was a foot of water on the cabin floor, the pots and pans were drifting about amid a flotsam and jetsam of pork and beans, vegetables, and what not.

Thus we reached Seldovia and learned that the steamer Portland was about due on her last trip for the season. Coming home by way of the inside passage, we had a pleasant trip, full of interest in a hundred ways. On one occasion, while many miles from land, a curious little bird came fluttering[Pg 180] from mast to mast. Evidently on its way south it had become exhausted in the long flight from some northern point and had taken a short cut across the water. Finally one of the passengers caught the little fellow and it proved to be a crossbill. The mandibles of this species are considerably crossed to assist in picking seeds from the pine cones of the northern land. It stayed with us all day and seemed to be perfectly contented and satisfied to be caressed in the open hand, but just as soon as the boat neared land it took to wing and with a graceful flight reached the timber safely. So the days passed until in due time we arrived at Seattle, where we took the train for the East.


[Pg 181]

CHAPTER IV

A TRIP TO NEWFOUNDLAND

In the spring I had made all preparations for a trip to Newfoundland, and arrived at North Sidney to take the steamer Bruce for Port aux Basques. Walking into the offices of the company upon the dock to make arrangements for my passage, my attention was attracted to a little group of men. I learned that the Government doctor was vaccinating every passenger before allowing him to enter Newfoundland, because at this time Sidney had an epidemic of smallpox. One of the officers shouted to me: “Here you, going over? Bare your arm.” I answered, “Not for me,” knowing it would be useless to go into the woods with a punctured arm. Just a little while before the boat cleared I slipped aboard, heard the officer shout “Cast away!” and we were off for Port aux Basques.

The sea was rough and in the morning all[Pg 182] the “landlubbers” were “pale behind the gills.” On landing, every person called upon the customs officer to have his baggage cleared, and I was required to leave a deposit of fifty dollars for the return of my Auto Graflex camera. The train was scheduled to start in a few minutes, and all the passengers were aboard waiting for more than an hour, wondering what was delaying the start. Inquiry developed the fact that the trainmen were waiting for the wind to subside before they would venture across the viaduct over a swamp a few miles out. It seems that the train had been blown off the track several times by a strong wind. We finally crossed in safety.

Among the passengers were several fishing parties, and they were bubbling over with good fellowship in anticipation of the excellent sport they were going to have in pursuit of their favorite pastime. I believe every person should have a hobby of some kind to divert his mind from his burdens and petty cares. A chance to do something that we like fills us with pleasant thoughts, both in anticipation and realization. Several of the fishermen returned on the same train with me; they looked much better and were quite talkative about “whipping the stream,” their “wonder[Pg 183]ful casts,” and the “big fellows” they didn’t get. Their hearty appearance confirmed my theory.

Passing through the country, as far as the eye could reach we looked out over barrens covered with moss. Here and there a small body of blue water, like a jewel, broke the monotony. Perhaps a solitary duck floated peacefully on its glossy surface, waiting for the little brood soon to appear. Away over yonder on the opposite shore of one of the lakes stood a sentinel, the sandhill crane (Grus mexicana), knee-deep in the water, sedate and motionless, waiting an opportunity to catch some unsuspecting fish that might fortunately pass his way. The countless herds of caribou had returned to the north and were scattered all through the woodland hills, attending to their domestic duties. Towards evening the fishing parties began to drop off, one by one, at Middle Brook, Fischel’s Brook, and Harry’s River, all ideal streams for salmon and trout. They seemed scarcely able to restrain themselves until the morrow, when they could joint their rods, wade the crystal water, and cast the Jock Scott or Silver Doctor into the riffles again and again in anticipation of a strike.

[Pg 184]Arriving at Bay of Islands in due time, we found it a very interesting place, sloping gently up from the water’s edge, with here and there a two-story frame house on its few acres of clearing. The inhabitants live almost wholly by fishing. Each had his own salmon net stretched out at some little projection of rocks in the bay, for the salmon were just beginning to run.

A guide employed, we made a trip up a long valley by the old “Twitchen” road, used years ago and grown up with alder, fir, and balsam so as to be almost closed; up the old caribou path, worn at some places three feet deep in the moss and soft black mire by countless herds of caribou that had passed beyond. To one looking backward before crossing over the divide, as far as the eye could see extended the blue waters of the bay, with the snow-capped mountains in the distance, and in the foreground the park-like lowlands where the stately caribou roamed at will.

Bay of Islands Bay of Islands
Constructing a Raft Constructing a Raft
One Took to the Woods One Took to the Woods

Our objective point was a small lake nestled somewhere in the direction we were going, among the pine, birch, and spruce, but on the way we missed the location and got lost in the undertaking. My guide climbed a tree in order to get a peep of the lake, but [Pg 185]
[Pg 186]
without success. While wandering about we heard from afar the doleful “who, who, hum, hee” of the loon. We had considerable difficulty determining the direction of the sound, but finally made a bee-line for the lake. No sooner had we put in an appearance than from a small grassy island in the middle of the lake a dozen or more herring gulls (Larus argentatus smithsonianus) rose into the air, uttering their distressed, plaintive cries as they soared round and round. After getting a cup of tea and a bite to eat, we cut[Pg 187] down four or five old tree stubs, bone dry from years and years of exposure to the elements. Lashing them together with redwood twisted into a “gad” and propelling the impromptu raft with a pole, we landed safely on the island. Our appearance startled from their island home three little birds, whose whitish down was covered with irregular dusky spots. In their excitement one took to the woods, and when requested to pose for its picture displayed all the resentment and fierceness charged to the American herring gulls. The others took to the water. I am almost sure[Pg 188] this was their first experience in the water, and how the little flesh-covered palmated feet churned it in their desperate efforts to lend the enchantment of distance to the view of their unwelcome visitors. The colony had almost deserted its annual nesting-ground, but here and there a tardy mother bird had not completed incubation, and the little chicks were about due and calling to be released from their prison. At the point of the island, just at the water-line, we found a loon’s nest (Urinator imber). Its two big olive-brown eggs (size 3.50” × 2.25”), marked with dark brown spots, were lying on the[Pg 189] bare, wet ground, with a few rootlets scattered here and there. The old pair floated gracefully on the surface of the water some three hundred yards in the distance, without uttering a sound. What a contrast between the gull and the loon in this respect,—the gulls soaring in the air above us with great excitement and noise, the loons quiet and apparently resting peacefully in the blue distance! The water in the lake was higher than usual. A family of beaver (Castor canadensis Kuhl) had dammed the entrance and had taken possession by building their home close at hand. Occasionally from the fortifications came across the lake a report almost as loud as a gun, the smack of the beaver’s flat tail on the water as he disappeared when alarmed by the intruders.

One of the Others One of the Others

After taking several photographs we boarded our raft, crossed over to mainland, and returned homeward in the dead stillness of the evening. Softly we make our way through the forest, our feet sinking deep into the moss, turning over with our toes the evergreen oval-shaped leaves of the trailing arbutus (EpigŠa repens), exposing to the light of day the beautiful delicate flower that loves sylvan seclusion. Again and again I plucked a cluster which filled the air with a fragrant perfume that[Pg 190] mingled with the odor of the pine; then I thought of the lines,

“Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness on the desert air.”
Trailing Arbutus Trailing Arbutus

On the following day we took the train for the head of Deer Lake, some thirty miles away. After leaving the train we pulled our boat across the lake and pitched our tent on an island at the mouth of the Upper Humber River. The day was beautiful, and the sun hot enough that the eggs of the mosquito, deposited at dawn, were wigglers by noon. All day long the black flies made[Pg 191] our lives miserable, and as night approached the “nippers” took their place. Our tent was brand-new and erected with the most painstaking care, but we were unable to keep them out. We made ourselves busy before retiring for the evening by killing everything in sight, black flies, mosquitoes, and spiders, and then we tucked ourselves away on the balsam fir bed for a night’s rest. But no sooner were we fixed nicely than the music began, and they seemed to come from every direction, so the fight was renewed again and again until we had exhausted ourselves and our “dope,” and fell asleep from sheer weariness. Their favorite point of attack seemed to be behind the ears, and the singing still continued, adding considerably to the torment. In the morning our brand-new tent looked like a slaughter house, all blotched over with red, each mark indicating the death of one of the vicious little pests.

Spotted Sandpiper’s Nest Spotted Sandpiper’s Nest

The weather turned cold,—and how glad we were to find relief! After breakfast we started out in search of anything of interest, and while walking down the beach we noticed many little fine tracks on the sand; three toes in front cleft to the base indicated immediately that the maker belonged to the order of waders (LimicolŠ), and was about the size[Pg 192] of the little spotted sandpiper (Actitis macularia), which builds its nest just along the edge of sparsely-clustered bushes. Taking the trail, we followed, scanning carefully every likely place, and when we were within a few feet of her the little hen bird left in great excitement, twittering and flapping her wings as she fluttered along the ground, evidently trying to feign a crippled condition to draw our attention from the nest. This[Pg 193] was built on the sand; just a very shallow hole and a few small sticks and pieces of bark; the four little cream-colored eggs with their liver-colored spots rested in the center of the nest, with a bunch of green leaves for the background.

Merganser’s Nest Merganser’s Nest

Going a little farther down the beach we found the footprints of another bird on the sands. The trail was scarcely deeper, but quite different. At first sight we recognized the track as made by a member of the order of swimmers (Lamellirostres), for the full palmated feet left their plain imprint, with the three toes pressed a little deeper in the sand than was the web, and with the lobate toe leaving its delicate touch. We followed the trail to a large white birch which was partly undermined by the spring freshet, leaving its mass of roots hanging down to the sand. Getting down on my knees and looking closely I saw a few feathers, and by a long and careful straining of the eye could make out the mother bird on the nest. She was so well concealed it was absolutely impossible to get a photograph of her in occupation of the nest, so we proceeded to pull some of the roots away and even touched her in doing so; still she did not move from her position; but before we got the picture[Pg 194] she left the nest with a “quack, quack,” her neck extended and wings beating the sand. The nest belonged to a family of red-breasted mergansers (Merganser serrator), and contained seven plain cream-colored eggs (size 2.50” × 1.70”); it was built of a few small sticks and lined with down from the breast of the duck. We visited the nest several times afterwards, but believe it was abandoned. At the upper end of the island we pitched our tent, possibly half a mile from the nest, intending to make a midnight visit for the purpose of getting a flash-light picture if possible. Before evening the birds could[Pg 195] be seen a long way off taking in the situation from the distance, but as the evening approached they drew nearer and nearer and then darkness enshrouded the landscape. Although we could not see their flight over our tent, we could frequently hear the whirr of their wings long into the night as they passed up and down, frightened and unable to settle peacefully under the roots of the old birch. The instinct for the protection of her young is very strongly developed in the merganser, and she will resort to every[Pg 196] possible ruse to conceal them, coaxing them into good cover, and, when once they are concealed, leading you away in another direction.

Nest of Wilson’s Thrush Nest of Wilson’s Thrush

In the early dawn, when the dew was glistening on the vegetation and wild life was full of activity, from underfoot glided a Wilson’s thrush (Hylocichla fuscescens). As I looked carefully in the direction whence it came, a small opening in a clump of sticks and grass disclosed a beautifully constructed nest of moss lined with rootlets and coarser grass, embedded in a small hillock. In the nest were three delicate greenish-blue eggs (0.90” × 0.65”). We spent a great deal of time making the acquaintance of the mother bird, while the old man perched on a distant limb, and at our approach seemed to give warning by calling “chip, chip,” so that, no matter how stealthily we drew near, the female was aware of our approach and had left the nest before we were in sight. That she had only just gone was apparent from the warmth of the eggs. We visited the nest many times until finally she became very tame.

What a contrast to the nervous, excited titlark which had built its nest on the ground near a stump! The more we visited the nest of the latter the wilder she became, and after[Pg 197] many attempts to photograph her we had to give up in despair. By the time evening came we were quite well acquainted, and when night set in we tried to take a flash-light picture of the thrush, using an electric lamp to attract attention until the flash went off. The instant of the flash she would glide gently out of the nest, to return again in a few minutes after we left. We made the attempt many times, and finally she became so accustomed to it that she would not leave the nest when the flash went off.

The following day we heard a whistling noise overhead,—a female American golden-eye (Glaucionetta clangula americana) was in full flight, disturbing the air with her laboring short wings. Away over yonder in a burned clearing stood an old birch tree stump, gaunt and white with the constant beating of the weather against it. Some thirty feet from the ground was a large hole in the stump, and as the duck passed by we noticed that she hesitated as though about to enter, but at the same instant she must have seen us, for she continued her vigorous flight up the river as far as we could see. We decided she had her nest in the old tree-top, and by concealing ourselves, gave her to believe we had gone. In a short time we[Pg 198] saw the duck return and pitch into the hole. When she was once in her protected home it was impossible to get her out. We hammered the tree with stones and logs and threw many stones into the opening; in fact, we did everything we could to make her come out, but to no avail. We then cut two long trees and leaned them against the top of the stump, and my guide proceeded to make rungs by binding rope around them until he had a fairly good ladder to the top. Then he climbed up and looked into the hole, but could not see the duck; she had built her nest in the hollow branch and not in the main trunk. The old stump began to sway from a breeze that sprang up, so the guide became nervous and hastened down for fear it would fall. Taking his ax he decided to cut the tree down, but when he was half way through I persuaded him that the mother and young would be killed by the fall, and at my suggestion he let the old stump stand.

Learning to Swim Learning to Swim

Several days later the young were transported to the water by the old ducks, and about the time the last duckling was placed on the water, we arrived on the scene.[1] It was [Pg 199]very interesting to see them trying to dive; they were only able to stick their heads under the water, exposing their white under tail-coverts. As our little boat advanced quietly over the water, the mother bird, in her excited efforts to get them concealed, swam now this way, now that way, and made many attempts at turning into an apparent shelter, only to come out again. After many such zig-zag efforts she decided to take to the open water with her brood. In the meantime we were approaching nearer and[Pg 200] nearer and when we separated them the mother disappeared in the direction of the open lake and the ducklings were forced towards the sandy beach. Thus separated we were able to guide them up and down the shore according to our liking, being careful to keep them along the sandy beach where they could not find any cover to conceal themselves. We followed them for several hours.

[1] Some authorities say that the mother duck carries the young to the water in her bill. Whether this or some other means is adopted, seems to be as yet a mooted question.

Out for Themselves Out for Themselves
Learning to Walk Learning to Walk

This little family had not received many lessons in the way of providing for itself, and when we cut the ducklings off from their mother, fear was uppermost in all their[Pg 201] actions. The instinct of fear gradually left them and in its place the instinct of hunger evidently gained the ascendancy. In the beginning they would swim and paddle over the water in great alarm, calling with a faint “quack, quack,” trying to dive and distance their pursuers. Occasionally they would walk a little on the shore and then take to the water again. We followed them up and down until they finally seemed to pay little attention to us, and how interesting it was to watch them diving in the water for bugs and minnows to satisfy their hunger! Several[Pg 202] times we saw them bring their prey, small minnows or mollusca, to the surface and swallow it. When we first met in the morning they could scarcely dive under the surface of the water. In the afternoon they would disappear for quite a while at a time, and as each in turn would appear and disappear they kept us guessing as to the duration and depth of their dives. Thus we left them.

Reflections Reflections

As we floated leisurely along, the trees skirting the edge of the forest cast upon the surface of the lake their long reflections of[Pg 203] green, mingled with the red, blue, and purple of the sun’s rays. We heard the harsh notes of the kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon) as it skimmed gracefully over the water and, ascending with a quick movement, perched on an old dead limb. With the field-glasses could be distinctly seen her belted markings of white, her ashy blue and rufous color, and her elevated occipital crest. She remained for some time motionless, according to her characteristic habit, when like a flash, with a rapid movement of her long, pointed wings, she made a plunge, disappeared for an instant, and then with a small fish made a graceful flight to her sylvan retreat. Here she delights to build her nest in a perpendicular bank washed at the base by a swift current, a protection from intruders. Quietly the canoe entered the mouth of a little creek and at an abrupt bend there was almost a collision between the man in the boat and the kingfisher returning to its home. With a series of rattles, backing of pedals, and evolutions in the air, the frightened bird, naturally timid and of secluded habits, hastened away.

The gnarled and picturesque old birch, with its smooth white-spotted bark twisting and curling in every direction, covered with[Pg 204] ages of moss and lichen, spread its drooping limbs gracefully over the water. Among the slender twigs, with their long-pointed, triangular, saw-toothed leaves, were many redpolls (Acanthis linaria) feeding on the brown buds, clinging in all conceivable positions, like boys picking cherries.

The day was hot, and late in the afternoon a warmer stratum of air saturated with vapor was being driven up the mountain-side. We knew by the uniform gray tint that a nimbus cloud was forming and we could expect a heavy rain erelong. As we glided over the smooth water of the lake, looking anxiously for a good temporary camp site, large drops of rain, spreading a silvery spray over the surface as they struck it, hastened our progress. Heading our craft direct for shore, the oarsman plied the oars with full force, expecting to make a jump to beach as the bow neared shore, but just about the time he straightened up the boat struck a rock and away he went, head first, over the duffel and into the water. A hearty laugh, and we were tugging away at the boat, doing our utmost to get out the tent and save harmless our bed and board. Fortunately on the edge of the bank was a grassy spot large enough to spread a small wall tent. Having[Pg 205] our tent-poles with us, already cut, we formed a crotch by tying ropes around the ends. The center pole was thrown into the crotch, and while I steadied the frame Charley slashed four pins out of young saplings, the four corners of the tent were staked down, and in less time than it takes to write it we had a good shelter for the outfit.

The rain was increasing while we rustled the outfit to cover. With the woods appetite we hastened the frying pan onto the fire as the resinous smoke curled in rings gracefully away from the tent, and by the time the pan was hot and the solid chunks were aglow, speckled beauties, fresh from the riffles, were curling and drawing, but the rain-drops, sizzling and sputtering, marred their symmetry by making them stick to the pan. In the meantime the forked pole was punched into the soft soil until it leaned at an angle above the fire, and the coffee-pot was soon boiling over, adding its sweet aroma to the already fragrant atmosphere.

Radiant Splendor Radiant Splendor

It was evident that the weather was clearing up. Looking toward the purple foothills the air was rapidly taking up the vapor and mist, and the sun peeped out from its con[Pg 206]cealment, illuminating the lake with radiant splendor. We walked up the old lumber road, abandoned many years and almost covered with underbrush, to a deserted cabin, with its tumble-down roof and moss-grown sides. A small stream of pure, cold water gurgled as it disappeared under a decayed and broken corduroy bridge,—an ideal spot to cast for trout. A little beyond, the jack pines towered their heads high in the air, each vying with the other for supremacy over the light and sun. Close by stood a beautiful birch, which, after the manner of those who wear a band of[Pg 207] black crape around the arm in respect for the memory of some dear one, wore a band of crape encircling its very trunk, in token of its own premature death. The work of a novice or the spirit of destruction was plainly evident, for the living cambium had been destroyed and pulled off with the bark. The wilful destruction of trees casts a sadness over me when I think how easy it is in a few moments to destroy that which it has taken the wise Creator years to develop. No wonder the spirit of conservation is spreading over the country!

A short cut through the woods disclosed timber in every stage of decay, from the tall, stately birch, frayed at the very top, like a bald-headed man, to the giant lying prostrate on the ground, uprooted by the wind years before and covered with moss and decaying leaves. As you step upon the moss, down you go to your knees into the rotten trunk, and it seems to say, “Dust thou art, to dust thou shalt return.”

When we arrived at camp several Canada jays (Perisoreus canadensis) were in evidence, examining every nook and corner and exercising their well-known powerful instinct in this respect; in fact, their curiosity is so overpowering that they have no fear of man[Pg 208] and in a short time become very tame. They are well-known camp robbers, and carry away everything that strikes their fancy. In this instance they were busy toting away into an old tree-top remnants of trout, both cooked and uncooked.

Whiskey Jack
Nest and Eggs of the White-Throated Sparrow Nest and Eggs of the White-Throated Sparrow

[Pg 209]Towards evening, a dead stillness pervaded the air, broken occasionally by the “hoot, hoot” of an owl and the sharp smack of the beaver’s tail on the water as he was disturbed in his night prowlings. Through the stillness came to us the sweet notes of the white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) roosting among the fragrant boughs of the balsam fir. His song may have been inspired by the changed and refreshing atmosphere, or[Pg 210] perhaps he was inquiring about the welfare of his little mate as she brooded over her four wee brown-speckled eggs carefully laid in the small arched house on a cushion of moss lined with fine grass and rootlets.

Arranging our bed of balsam boughs, we were just about ready to blow out the light, when my half-breed guide, who held the candle in his hand, suggested that he offer up a little prayer. I assented to his desire and he knelt on the boughs with the candle in his hand, while with face upturned he remained silent in this suppliant attitude for some time. The mellow light of the candle on his swarthy, upturned face, amidst the quiet solemnity of the night, was very impressive and turned my earnest thought to the higher things of life. It touched me very deeply. I thought if this simple child of the forest had so much to be thankful for, how much more we, a happy, prosperous people.

Just as the half-risen sun kissed the tips of the mountains, we pushed our little craft from the shore. Gently the current caught the stern, and like a magnet drew the boat towards the head of the Lower Humber,—gently at first, but faster and faster as we neared the rapids.

[Pg 211]The woodman with his ax had been at work. Floating silently with the current were two large tree-trunks felled by the ax of the lumberman. The one, with grayish-brown bark, is known as the white spruce (Picea canadensis), a tree until recently of no value, its foliage nasty smelling, its wood soft and brittle. When burned it cracks and throws off sparks that eat holes in the wearing apparel of the camper-out. The other, with its white resinous bark, was the canoe birch (Betula papyrifera), which has given pleasure to man from time immemorial, and is used in so many ways by both Indian and white hunters. On the latter three white gulls, with their mantles of black, were standing with heads bowed, as though respectful mourners at the funeral of the noble birch that was moving faster and faster towards the rapids. About the time the log reached the brink of the boiling and seething waters the mourners left it to its fate. The current tossed and pitched it in every conceivable direction, and at last plunged it into the billows head-on, where it disappeared, and after being lost to sight for some time finally floated gracefully into an eddy not much the worse for wear and tear, turning around like an animate being,[Pg 212] while the little voices of the forest seemed to unite in praise of their hero. The old spruce with its soft substance appeared tattered and torn—“unwept, unhonored, and unsung” by any except the new man—the pulp manufacturer.

At the head of the rapids we made a landing and walked through a beautiful strip of woods to select a camping-site. When we reached the foot of the rapids we found a place to our liking. I suggested to the half-breed that while he prepared a dwelling-place I would go and shoot the rapids with the boat. He positively refused to let me go, and in fact would not allow me to get in the boat for fear we should capsize, saying that several of those who had tried to run the river at this point had lost their lives. When I saw our little craft float the rapids like a duck and swing gracefully into the haven of safety, I naturally felt relieved. We pitched our tent on a grassy bank above the water where it surged back into an eddy, as though it was tired after its swift and tumultuous passage over the bowlders, and longed to tarry for a short time to enjoy the quiet and peaceful pool. We spent several days in this locality, roaming among the spruce and pines. Under the secluded spruce the bunchberries (Cornus[Pg 213] canadensis) love to grow and blossom. After the flowers fade, from the whorls come clusters of red berries that, mingling with the moss, work out fantastic patterns on the beautiful natural carpet.

Bunchberries Bunchberries

Into the pool were brought many insects, larvŠ, and frogs, which invited schools of speckled trout to enjoy the quiet waters where we took advantage of the natural haven for our little craft.

Toward evening a colony of tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) invaded the surrounding valley, feeding on the numerous insects. As we watched their flight the under white[Pg 214] plumage looked like silver streaks. So rapid were their movements that the wings were scarcely perceptible, and when they skimmed the surface of the meadow and rose gracefully over the willows below us, the beautiful cerulean of their upper plumage so harmonized with the deep blue of a rainbow which spanned the heavens at that moment, that the air seemed to shimmer and sparkle with light and motion.

The tiger swallow-tail butterflies (Papilio turnus) were very plentiful. The cook had thrown on the shore the heads and entrails of fish and by some unknown method the butterflies were able to ascertain its location. During the afternoon some twenty-four butterflies actually collected around the refuse and with their antennŠ sensed the dainties—shall I say?—that seemed to appeal to their taste. When one approached too close, all would take wing and the air was filled with yellow fancies as they scattered in all directions. They soon returned and seemed to bring their friends and neighbors with them, for at each flush they were more numerous than before.

The "Steady" The “Steady”

The Humber looked calm and peaceful in the big “steady.” How serene and beautiful the mountain appeared in Nature’s mirror![Pg 215] How charmingly all the natural colors were reproduced in the reflection on the placid lake! Even the purple foothills displayed their beauty as they clung to the weeping willows along the shore-line. Here and there the water was broken occasionally by the jumping of the salmon and trout on the way to the spawning-waters. The little brook, now full, came tossing, plunging, and pitching with a great noise down the mountain, and at its mouth, gracefully idling away the time, were thousands of trout jumping and splashing in the spray, waiting to strike and dart away[Pg 216] with any larvŠ or bug that was caught by the onrush of the water. Under such conditions the angler could gather a rich harvest, for the trout takes the bait just as soon as it touches the water, and darts away, making the line “sizz” as it cuts through, breaking again and again until after a desperate struggle he gives up to the inevitable and is landed safely in the boat. Man is not the only creature familiar with this condition and the feeding habits of the fish. At the mouth of every stream the merganser loiters with her family to take toll; the kingfisher makes its morning call along the route; the loon, swimming gracefully around the projecting willows that quiver in the gentle current, disappears like a flash, and another is added to the tally; the osprey soaring through the air takes a dive beneath the surface and brings up one of the finny tribe, then makes a true line to the top of the old dead tree stump, where the young are waiting with stretched necks and open mouths to receive their allotment.

Solitude Solitude

While we anchored to an old snag that had drifted with the current into an eddy, there appeared from the depths the head of a muskrat, moving gracefully around in a semicircle and throwing off little wavelets that[Pg 217] broadened as they approached the shore. The cast of the fly frightened His Majesty, and with a “whack” of his tail on the water he disappeared, but erelong again came to the surface. What a contrast in the disposition of the muskrat and its cousin, the beaver! The latter loves solitude and builds its lodge in the most inaccessible places that can be found in the fastness of the uninhabited mountains and along some stream where the foot of man seldom treads. The other colonizes near civilization in some old dam or waterway thrown up by man. Under the protection[Pg 218] of the law, beaver are becoming more plentiful, and occasionally at the mouths of little creeks can be seen limbs of birch and willow freshly peeled; if the winding course of the stream is followed, you are sure to come upon a dam, lately completed by a pair that have of their own accord left the old lodge to seek their fortune in a new home. The dam is usually constructed first and then the lodge a short distance above, and wonderful in the building of the dam and lodge is the skill of this little animal, known as the King of the Rodents.

Breakfast Head on the Humber River Breakfast Head on the Humber River

A little way below, the waters separated around an acreage of island that afforded protection for the homes of numerous gulls and fish ducks. The undergrowth was very dense out to the edge of the perpendicular wall rock. The mergansers constructed on the ledge their shallow nests encircled with a ring of down. When approached they sailed gracefully along a descending plain a hundred yards beyond, closed their wings, skimmed elegantly over the water several yards and then floated about, perfect pictures of grace, beauty, and ease combined. Seal Cove loomed up in the distance with its two sides of perpendicular reddish sandstone. The gently sloping water front was the breeding[Pg 219]
[Pg 220]
-ground for quite a few harbor seals. They are naturally gregarious, and as we approached them one by one they slid into the water. In a few seconds, noiselessly a shiny black object resembling the head of a dog would come in sight some distance away, and scarcely a ripple of the displaced water marked the spot where the seal emerged. Again and again it appeared and disappeared until a mere speck in the distance. Climbing the rocks we saw remnants of numerous white woolly suits discarded by the newly-born baby seals before they took to the water, where with their brand-new spotted sealskin coats they could be seen sporting and playing before the big bulging, affectionate eyes of the mother. Seals love to spend a great deal of their time resting, sleeping, and sunning themselves on the rocks. Their hearing is not very acute and they can be approached easily by stalking. They are very tenacious of life and when shot must be killed instantly or they will slide into the water and disappear. My Indian guide shot a large bull around the region of the heart, and it would have reached the water although mortally wounded if the Indian had not caught hold of its flippers and pulled back with all his strength. All the time the bull was snapping[Pg 221] viciously at him just like a dog. The northern seal is much prized by the natives for its economic value, its flesh, fat, and skin being in great demand. Seal hunting in these waters has been a great industry for years. The Newfoundlanders are a hardy race, and when hunting seal on the ice floes must endure great privations.

While at Bay of Islands an old sailer came into port with a young man aboard, penniless and very sick. He lived in the interior and the captain was trying to raise money to send him on the train to his home. The lad knew he was going to die and was anxious to reach home to make amends to his old father and mother for seeking, against their wishes, a life on the seas. Passengers contributed the money and sent word to the captain, but before the train arrived the poor boy died.

The train pulled in, not in due time, but several hours late. The conductor shouted “All aboard!” and as it slowly left the bay my thoughts turned homeward. It is then I begin to feel anxious about the folks at home and wonder if all is well.


[Pg 222]

CHAPTER V

HUNTING WITH A FERRET

Having many times tried with indifferent success to photograph the rabbit in his native fields and woods, I cast about for a means of stalking him at close range, and had for some time cherished the idea of taking a hunt with my kodak in a good tracking snow. Thus intent, I jumped from a passenger coach one day in the late fall, equipped with an Eastman twelve-shooter and ammunition enough to make a big bag.

I had left the station scarcely more than a couple of hundred yards behind along the public road, when I leaped a stake and rider fence, crossed a stubble field, bound for the bottom land. A field covered with tall, dry grass, right at the edge of a brier patch, looked a very likely place for cottontail. Just as I reached the little creek covered with ice, save where here and there the rippling water crossed the shallow, pebbly places,[Pg 223] I struck a fresh trail. Carefully examining the footprints in the snow, which had fallen early the preceding day, I reached the conclusion, from the trodden condition of the ground and the little round brownish excrement lying here and there on the surface of the snow, that this was his playground and I must look elsewhere for the quarry. So I began a large circle around the brier patch to catch the trail to his bed. After passing several times around the thicket, I finally discovered the latest trail out. Bunny usually travels by long jumps from the time he makes up his mind to retire for the day. The trail followed what seemed the most cautious route—under an old fallen tree, then two long jumps and into an abandoned ground-hog hole. I cut a pole with the intention, if possible, of routing Bunny from his quarters. About the time the pole was half way in, out he popped from an unexpected direction like a flash, made a dash for a brush heap nearby, and disappeared even before I could get the camera into action.

When a rabbit is once driven out of a hole, it seldom re-enters unless hard pressed by the dogs. I have trailed them in the snow for hours, reading the story from the footprints as they ran, now hopping along[Pg 224] leisurely, now doubling and following old tracks under, through, and over logs. In one instance Br’er Rabbit showed considerable ingenuity in making a long side jump to a board fence and squatting where the color of fence and rabbit was almost the same, by this simple ruse eluding his pursuers.

Color Blending Color Blending

Later I accidentally came upon some fellows who had put a ferret into a hole. In a short time he stuck his nose out, sniffing the air for the scent of the quarry, circling the open for the lost trail. When the owner made a slight movement towards him he[Pg 225] instantly disappeared into the hole. For fully an hour the men tried in vain to catch him as he appeared alternately at either end of the tunnel. Grass had grown around the entrance, and the ferret was busy trying to carry enough into the hole to make a comfortable bed and take up his abode there, unceremoniously abandoning the snug quarters in his master’s pocket. Several times they almost succeeded in getting hold of him by taking a bunch of grass and poking it towards him. This he would grab, hold until his owner had pulled him out almost far enough to catch him, then let go, sniffing as he scurried back out of reach. Finally they were obliged to try a new scheme, and one of them was sent to a neighboring house for a piece of fresh meat. They tied a string to the meat and lowered it into the hole; whereupon the ferret instantly snatched it, and forgetting his late resolve, held on so tenaciously that the hunter soon had him back into the bag.

Putting in the Ferret Putting in the Ferret

On the second day out, the snow was fast disappearing from the open under the influence of a bright sunshine, though it was still quite deep in the woods and on the northerly slopes of the high hills. While looking for tracks I succeeded in gaining the confidence of another party of rabbit hunters who had a good dog[Pg 226] and a “long pole,” as they called it, and directly I obtained an invitation to accompany them as they hunted for signs of the little cottontail. I accepted with some hesitation, determined to take a few observations of the operations of modern “game hogs.” Soon we heard the short, sharp bark of the old hound, indicating that a start had been made; and about the same time a shout rent the air, “Here he goes!” as the little white tail dodged in and out from one cover to another, disappearing in the distance with the old hound in hot pursuit and baying at[Pg 227] every jump. Presently, in the language of the coon-hunter, the dogs tongued “Treed,” which in the dialect of the rabbit hunter is “Holed,” and erelong the law breakers gathered around the hole at the root of the tree. I was hoping the tree was hollow and that the little rabbit who had made such a good long run for his life had climbed the tree and would be safe from the ferret, but my hopes soon vanished when I heard the rumbling noise, first faint in the depths, then coming nearer and nearer as he approached the opening. A hasty scramble by the man on his knees, a muffled “d——”, a wish expressed that he had used his net, and the little rabbit was away again in a race for his life, minus a tail taken by the ferret and a patch of skin and hair taken from his back by the big fellow at the hole. Then follows a long chase during which the old dog overleaps a little bunch of gray as it squats in the grass. For, knowing that the enemy is fleet of foot and is likely to pass hurriedly by, overlooking in his haste the clod of color that blends with the dry grass, he crouches low and gains an opportunity to double on his tracks. His ruse misleads the pursuer for a short time at least and requires a halt in the chase, which gives the fugitive an[Pg 228] opportunity to reach some oft-frequented harbor of refuge.

Again he is tracked to his hiding-place, and again the little bloodthirsty creature is turned loose to drive him from cover. Bunny, always on the alert, makes a bolt for his life with the ferret at his back and the old hound waiting at the other end of the hole to crush his life out. He stops a moment at the entrance as the dog makes a vicious snap at him, returns to meet his arch enemy, lets out a pitiful squeal, and meekly allows his life blood to be sucked without further resistance. His courage and dash are gone and he quietly submits to his cruel fate at the hands of the lawless “game hogs.” After the entrance is dug out a long arm is extended into the hole and Bunny is slowly dragged forth with the ferret hanging on like grim death.

Again the biggest “game hog” of the party could be heard shouting to the dogs, “Whoop her up, Dan,” urging them on the trail of another innocent little rabbit that has a slim chance for life.

While hunting for fresh signs we ran across a little cottontail hanging by his head, caught in a snare set by another type of hunters who bag their game by means of knife, twine, and[Pg 229] apple. A nibble at the apple, the trap is sprung, and the noose tightens around his neck, dangling little cottontail in the air just low enough for his hind feet to touch the ground, and slow strangulation continues until life is extinct. In the morning when the trapper reaches his snare he finds the rabbit frozen stiff, with tongue protruding and eyes bulging from their sockets. Surely he is not without a pang of conscience as he gathers up his catch.

His Last Nibble His Last Nibble

I was startled out of my contemplation by the sound of the old dog giving tongue, and the bang of the musket echoing in the tree-tops. Listening, I could hear the dogs baying on the trail some distance from where[Pg 230] the shot was fired,—plainly a clean miss. In a short time the language of the hound again announced “Holed,” and the gathering of the heartless around the spot told the same old story. At my suggestion, “Give the rabbit a chance,” the dog was removed from the hole, when out popped the rabbit. The dog in hot pursuit soon overtook him, but failed to pick him up. Twice the little fellow fooled the dog, but the third time his doom was sealed. The dog returned with the rabbit kicking in his mouth, and laid it at the feet of his master as a trophy worthy of the chase, occasionally nosing it to see if any life remained. Truly this cannot be sport.

In Hot Pursuit In Hot Pursuit
Picked Up Picked Up

[Pg 231]Crossing the hill we caught a view from the distance of a beautiful meadow flanked on one side by an old orchard, which long needed pruning and was grown up with blackberry briers. On the other side was a thicket of locust, sumac, and elder, which had been cleared several years before and the debris piled on the stone heaps ready for the match that had never been applied. Here and there were stretches of stake and rider fence; in fact, it was an old farm neglected for many years owing to the death of the owner and continued litigation among the heirs for the possession of the land,—an ideal home for the cottontail.

[Pg 232]Crossing the meadow the dogs started a rabbit which had been basking in the sun, coiled up in a bed built in the middle of a bunch of dry swamp grass. The little fellow had remained perfectly quiet, although one of the party passed within two feet without seeing him, so well did his color harmonize with the surroundings. He remained unobserved until one of the dogs passing by started him and warned the other dogs, whereupon away they went in full chase. Through the orchard, down along the old fence, sped the fugitive, the dogs close behind, tonguing at every jump. Into the thicket he plunged, safe for the time being. The dogs began to circle, caught the trail on the opposite side, and followed it into another cover, where Bunny squatted and presently we saw him returning on his own trail. I made a run to head him off so that I could get a snap-shot, but observing me he stopped in the middle of a wheat field. In the meantime the dogs had gathered enough information and were working their way back over the track until the leader came on to him, and away they went. The quarry returned towards the other dogs and was picked up before cover could be reached.

Down the Old Fence Down the Old Fence

Again the dogs were urged to hunt the old orchard. A start was made and away went[Pg 233] a rabbit across the meadow on the far side of which he darted into a burrow. The ferret was put into a hole and out popped three rabbits, one on the heels of the other. Each dog followed one, but soon returned, evidently unable to keep the trails, for they all crisscrossed around the orchard. In the meantime every effort was made to get the ferret, without success, when finally one of the unfeeling suggested shooting a bird. I protested against shooting a song bird and suggested an English sparrow, whereupon[Pg 234] he promised to go down to the barn for a sparrow. However, upon returning he handed over a song sparrow (Melospiza fasciata), with its long tail and brownish-streaked body beautiful even in death. Charity impels me to believe the man was ignorant rather than willful. Pulling a piece of twine from his hunting-coat pocket, he tied fast the bird, a double hitch after hitch, so that the ferret could not loose the bait and carry it into the hole. When properly secured the bird was thrown to the ferret, and instantly seized. Each began to pull, when off went the head into the hole. Returning promptly for the body the ferret made another grab and was finally coaxed out of the hole and caught by the owner.

The Dog Listening to the Last Sound The Dog Listening to the Last Sound

The dogs began to work the trails and again had a rabbit crossing the meadow for dear life, they following close behind. He went into a hole among the roots of an old tree, to escape from his enemies, as he hoped, but alas, only to a cruel fate! “Put in the long pole,” said one of the boys kneeling at the hole. The other started the ferret on its death-dealing mission. In a few minutes we could hear the smothered “Wah, wah, wah” of cottontail, and a curse from the heartless, not out of sympathy for poor little[Pg 235] bunny, but because he knew the rabbit would not make another attempt to reach the opening and the ferret would stay there for days. Fainter and fainter grew the pitiful moans, until finally they ceased forever. One of the men went for an ax to cut a way down to the ferret. The hole took a downward course into an old root, and by cutting through they found the hole, reached in and pulled out the dead rabbit. It was sickening to see the condition of its head. The owner of the ferret had a cruel heart, but even it was[Pg 236] softened a little at the sight, for he threw the murderous creature away from him. Instantly the big dog made a jump, grabbed the ferret, and tossed him into the air several feet before his master could interfere. A feeling of satisfaction came over me when I saw the toss, and I said to myself, “That was your last kill.” But landing on his feet he humped his back and at the same time hissing through his teeth made several vicious snaps at the dog and sought protection by running towards his master. Fortunately for him his master had the[Pg 237] sack open and the ferret hastened into it to safety.

Did He Come Out? Did He Come Out?

When I boarded the train for home that evening I felt as though I had spent a day in the shambles. Such slaughter seems to me to be utterly unjustifiable, even in the name of sport.


[Pg 238]

CHAPTER VI

A NIGHT HUNT

A coon hunt is always interesting to me. Just as soon as night approaches and you call old Stump, who has lost the tip of his tail in a battle royal, he pricks up his ears, begins to whine, and seems to know that the boys are out for a coon hunt. As you approach to loosen the snap that ties him to the kennel he begins to wag what is left of his tail and seems to say, “Boys, I’m happy to be with you to-night!” The wrinkles in his face twitch as the excitement grows. His face and head indicate that he has been in many a coon fight. On one occasion he tracked a ground-hog into its hole underneath an uprooted tree. Being then of tender years and lacking experience, as the ground-hog came out, Stump made a grab and at the same time the ground-hog snapped Stump by the nose and held on like grim death. It took the combined efforts of men and dogs[Pg 239] to separate them. Finally in the mix-up Stump made one desperate struggle to get away and lost the tip of his nose. Thus with the two tips gone Stump entered the arena as a full-fledged—shall we say?—and experienced coon dog.

The Hunting Party The Hunting Party

We gather at the country farm, boys and girls ready for the outing. Stump, Fan, and Towser all are anxious for a night out working the ravines and watercourses. Lanterns and “pit-lamps” are shining brightly as we start across the meadow. The dogs disappear in the darkness. The fireflies flash here and there as though to light our way across the fields. One of the party, and by the way a[Pg 240] fair one, steps into a pool of running water and the night air is pierced—in fact, sadly rent—by the shrill screams of the miss, for this is her first experience “trekking” in the dark. As we approach the woods the weirdness of the scene is enchanting. Shadows play on the trees and leaves, as though in imagination one were transplanted into some fairy-land. Away off among the timber the great horned owl can be heard calling to its mate, “Waugh ho! waugh ho!” just before it makes an excursion into the fields in search of some hapless rabbit or bird. The crickets are fiddling away, making music for their mates while they gather blades of grass for their burrow.

Presently our eager ears catch the low grunt of a dog as he gets the first whiff of the trail, not fresh, but spent. By the reflected light we see Towser wag his tail, slowly at first, but as the scent gets warmer the tail wags more vigorously. Soon one long, loud wail resounds in the stillness of the night and ere the echo dies away in the distance it is repeated, and we know the chase is on. Everybody runs toward the sound. The quarry has taken to the tree and the dogs bay up, but before the party reaches the scene of action the dogs are off again. They[Pg 241] find the trail where the coon has followed a grapevine for some distance, taken the ground again, and “put one over” on the old dog. After considerable delay the dog finds his mistake, picks up the scent and away he goes, and directly, on the other side of the ridge, bays up. Then the party goes pell-mell in that direction. And so the hunt proceeds, now here, now there, up hill and across ravine, until at last the coon is treed, and the dogs by their change of voice tell the news and summon the party, which arrives in installments, out of breath, at the foot of the tree where the dogs are panting after their long chase.

Every one is eager for the finish. The tree-climber of the party takes off his coat, hat, and shoes and begins the ascent to shake Mister Coon from the tree. A shout comes from the tree-top, “Here he is; look out below!” then follows a shake or two and a large house cat disappears into the darkness before the dogs can take hold. When the cat came down it alighted on all fours near the girls, and what with the girls screaming, the dogs barking, and the cat spitting, night was made hideous. We soon called the dogs off and “hied” them on for a fresh trail.

By and by the dogs took another hot scent.[Pg 242] Down the hill, clambering over a stake and rider fence,—a ruse which for a moment confused the dogs,—then across a cornfield to the creek went the coon with the dogs in hot pursuit; he followed the course of the creek for several rods, then dashed through at the shallows and bid fair to make good his escape to the woods beyond. But old Stump had been through that maneuver before; the rest of the dogs knew it and followed him over to the other bank, up the hill, under the cliff, and erelong bayed up. Following as fast as possible over and under dead trees, a jump of several feet over an embankment, a slide of several feet more, a brief climb and we reached the dogs, who, excitedly voicing their triumph, formed a circle around the tree as though appealing to us for action.

The night was dark and just such a night as was well suited for “shining” the eyes of the coon. Lying flat on the ground and staring into every part of the tree, I finally descried two objects shining like stars near together in the zenith. We knew they were the eyes of the treed coon. Calling the dogs we prepared to photograph them and the coon in the mix-up. Setting up the kodak about twenty feet from the spot where we[Pg 243] figured the coon would drop from the tree, we fixed the pan for the flash, loading it with an ounce of flash-light powder. One of the party held the dogs and another lighted Roman candles and shot them towards the coon. Thus we had the artist at the kodak, the man in charge of the flash at the pan, the coon hunters holding the dogs, and one of Payne’s pyrotechnic men setting off the fireworks. The combination was too much for the coon. About that time the big dog began to jerk at his chain, and the pit-lamp in the hands of the man who held him registered on the exposed sensitive film a sort of stylographic record of the efforts of the dog to get at the coon as soon as the latter landed on the ground. As the coon dropped we set the flash off, and caught both the dog and coon about the time they came together at the very spot on which we had focused the lens.

The chase ended, the quarry caught, we straggled back over the hills to the distant trolley line, as Orion rose high toward the zenith. A few hours more, and the eastern sky would grow gray. Tired, but happy, we jogged along, most of us in silence, for about that time in the morning after a coon hunt, the songs and jokes of the early evening[Pg 244] are stale, and our spirits, with the night, are on the wane. Like an exploded skyrocket, we are getting back again to earth as fast as we can after our excursion into the realm of darkness.

Dog and Coon in the Mix-up Dog and Coon in the Mix-up

Note the forefoot of the coon between the dog’s hind legs; his banded tail to the right of the dog’s right forefoot. The zig-zag line in front of the man at the left indicates the movement of his hand in which was a pit-lamp and the end of the dog’s chain just prior to the flash.]

Another denizen of the woods is frequently interrupted in his night prowlings by the dogs hunting for coon. I refer to the oppossum, who is himself frequently the object of the quest. In the Southern States the negroes are[Pg 245] very fond of hunting for ’possum. A successful hunt means a good dinner, the piŔce-de-rÚsistance being the trophy of the chase stuffed with sweet potatoes. Roasted and served as only an old “mammy” can roast and serve it, ’possum defies comparison. Perhaps roast suckling-pig comes the nearest, but even this lacks the flavor of the woods. We are used to thinking of the ’possum as a lethargic animal, but that is only when he is “playing ’possum.” He is really quite agile, and when treed by the dogs, furnishes no end of excitement by climbing, not into the tops of the trees, as does the coon, but merely far enough to be safe from his pursuers. I have yet in anticipation the pleasure of obtaining a flash-light of the hounds on their hind legs, pawing and clawing at a tree on which, just beyond their reach, the ’possum lies stretched indifferently on a horizontal limb. One really ought to have a dictagraph, so that when the picture is thrown on the screen, it may be with the appropriate accompaniment of the baying and barking of the hounds and the shouts of the hunters.

The little animal is very prolific and rears several families in a season. How interesting it is to watch the antics of the young clinging to the mother when disturbed! I have known[Pg 246] cases where an old ’possum, presumably alone, was shaken out of a tree, and as she fell, strange, plaintive cries were heard on all sides. The rays of the lantern disclosed perhaps a dozen young ’possums, who had been ruthlessly dislodged from the pouch or marsupium of the mother as she struck the ground. On such an occasion, if the parent is allowed an opportunity, she will gather up the young and hunt cover.

There is something quite comfortable and clinging about the young ’possums and their mother (Frontispiece). The little fellows are very roguish in their ways, and I have no doubt would in time become friendly. The ’possum has very sharp teeth, and can do good execution upon occasion, but as a general rule he may be said to have a "retiring" disposition.


[Pg 247]

CHAPTER VII

IN THE SPRINGTIME

As soon as the first harbingers of spring arrive we take to the forest. Life is just awakening in the northern woods. The winter has been long and severe. Following the course of the creek we see large cakes of ice thrown topsy-turvy all over the meadow, where they have been carried by the spring freshet. In the gorge block after block is piled; they are lying in every conceivable position. The spring sun is busy undoing what the hard winter has accomplished. The cakes of crystal ice are fast losing their deep blue color, becoming “rotten” and breaking off in huge chunks with a report that fairly startles one. The newly-exposed ice-prisms glisten in the sun like so many jewels. To add to the attractions of the landscape, the creek is lined with stately sycamores,—here and there a lonely buttonball clings by a slender stem to the[Pg 248] parent tree, as though loath to break away. Or perhaps it is hopeful that by some imaginary elixir of life it may renew its youth and live the spring and summer over again, forgetful that on the verge of inaugurating a new cycle of existence,—the birth of another generation,—it has before it the great consummation of all life. Where the hills furnish a dark background the old tree stands out, weird and majestic, its limbs white and naked after shedding their cinnamon-like bark. It glistens in the sunlight almost as much as the ice-prisms. The high water is busy undermining the bank of the stream and an occasional cave-in appears, as though some muskrat surprised in his foraging were making a hasty departure for his tunnelled home.

Home of the Cardinal Home of the Cardinal

The woods are ringing with the song of the cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis cardinalis), and just as soon as you enter their “beat” they seem to take notice and are ready to fight any intruder. It is a noteworthy fact that the “sphere of influence” of a particular cock is limited to a portion of a tract of woodland as well defined as though surrounded by a fence. If you can conceal yourself in his zone and imitate his call, the bird will approach very near. In my younger days [Pg 249]
[Pg 250]
many were the cardinals I trapped in the following manner: In the mating season we would take a caged bird into the woods, the cage covered from the time we left home until we reached the woods. Selecting a likely place, we set our net, and attached a rope which led to a blind constructed of boughs put together as naturally as possible. Then when all was ready we lifted the cover of the cage. The sudden emergence from darkness to light seemed to fill the very soul of the caged bird with gladness, and even before we could conceal ourselves behind the blind it would break forth into the sweetest melodies, filling the woods with its songs, as though once again free in its erstwhile haunts. Ere the first notes die away in the distance, like an echo comes the answer from the proprietary lord of that particular section of woodland, as though he seemed to say: “Some miscreant has entered my shady bowers to entice my fair one away, so I’ll teach him a lesson and drive him out of my domain.” Again the voice of the caged bird peals forth in a loud, clear whistling call, but I have no doubt the notes are not so sweet to the suspicious wild bird, for he is answering in an angry tone. In the meantime the wild bird is cautiously advancing,[Pg 251] flitting from limb to limb. If he comes from the direction of the blind, he may be so near that you can distinctly see the bristled rictus and black mask on his face, the crested top, and glowing red body. Presently he sees the captive bird, makes a dive for it, and hangs onto the wires, trying to get hold of the intruder, picking and striking through the narrow openings so excitedly that he does not notice the net being pulled over him. What loyalty to his mate we see in this little bird! Thus many cardinals are caught. If the other bird does not encroach on their beat they will not answer to the call, but by shifting the cage even fifty feet or less, it may enter the domain of another and then he will show fight even to the death.

The piping of the cardinal is shrill at times, again soft, mellow, and soothing to the ear. He is a perfect vocalist and is known as one of the best whistlers among the feathery tribes; indeed, by some he is called the American nightingale. At times when he ends up his song with “Pretty, pretty, pretty,” I repeat the words, agreeing absolutely with him.

Cardinal's Nest and Eggs Cardinal’s Nest and Eggs

He shows some strange antics occasionally. Once we found a nest built in a crab tree about three feet from the ground. When[Pg 252] we first found it there were four light blue eggs blotched with liver-colored spots, laid in a loosely-built nest of rootlets, grass, and grapevine bark. About a week later[Pg 253] when we visited it the nest was empty. Looking toward the ground by chance, I saw a little bird “in the down” apparently without life. Lifting it up in my hand, by close observation I noticed that it still breathed. We put the bird into the nest, went away, and returned in about thirty minutes, when to our surprise we found the nestling was gone again! Query, did the mother bird carry away its offspring to some place of safety where it would not be disturbed?

On another occasion we found a nest in the top of a grapevine. We drew down the vine, photographed the nest, and restored the nest to its original position. Calling the following week I found the mother bird had incubated the brood as though nothing had happened, but the young were taken from the nest as soon as they could be moved and some days before they would ordinarily have been allowed to leave home. Although the cardinal is naturally shy and retiring, at times he will permit one to get very close. I am glad to think that in many of the States this beautiful bird is increasing under the protection of the law.

While sitting on a moss-covered log enjoying the balmy breezes of spring, the “dee, dee,[Pg 254] dee” notes of the tufted titmouse (Parus bicolor) came to my ear. What hardy little birds they are! The coldest winter of the north does not affect them. They are fearless of man at times, and if you keep quiet they will flit about from place to place, alternately disclosing to you now their ashy blue backs, now their dull white, russet-flanked under-parts, as they swing from twig to twig, scanning each little crevice for a choice morsel of insect life.

Winter in the North Winter in the North

When the first warm rays hatch the winged insects, the tragedy of the woods begins.[Pg 255] A little cream-colored butterfly just out of its winter garb is on the wing, floating gracefully in the air among the leafless trees. The titmouse, with his bright eye ever on the alert, spies the insect, makes a sprightly dart, and seldom misses his mark. Then he perches on a limb with the fly and, like a bird of prey, takes hold with bill and feet and tears his victim apart, and as the remnants of the little wings float slowly to the ground, he feeds on the body.

The indigo bunting (Passerina cyanea) with its exquisite lay makes its abode very attractive to bird fanciers. In the mating season he can be seen perched on the topmost twig of one of the graceful drooping limbs of the elm bush, a little blue ball of feathers, throat expanded, pouring forth sweet music. If an instrument could be invented to record and reproduce the melody as he delivers it in the stillness of the morning when the little songster is at his best, it would become a very popular air. The indigo is frequently kept in captivity, but loses all the sweetness of song and the little male soon drops his beautiful livery and dons a distasteful shabby color, lacking even the somber luster of the female. During the period of mating, the cock-bird can be trapped very easily by using a trap[Pg 256] cage with a bird in the lower compartment. As a boy, I have placed a trap cage on my head, walked under the tree where the wild bird was singing, with my mouth made a few kissing sounds, whereupon the bird would fly down into the cage and try to get through the wires to the captive. If some wheat grains were placed on the “paddle,” the wild bird would invariably light on it first, and picking up the grains would spring the trap and be caught while the cage was on my head.

Indigo Bunting's Nest with Cowbird's Egg Indigo Bunting’s Nest with Cowbird’s Egg
The Young Interloper. The Young Interloper
(He sits on one and crowds the other out.)

[Pg 257]In constructing their nest they usually select a dense thicket and frequently build near the ground, where they deposit four or five bluish-white eggs not much bigger than a large pea. The cowbird (Molothrus ater), which is a sort of parasite, does not build a nest of its own, but lays its eggs in the nest of some other bird. In this respect it shows its wonderful instinct by selecting a smaller bird as foster-mother for its offspring. By experience they have been taught that the larger birds invariably dispose of the eggs by removing them from the nest. It frequently selects the bunting’s nest in which to deposit its brown spotted eggs, which are much larger. The cowbird, being of a larger species, grows much faster, and before long the foundling fills the little nest, forcing the rightful owners out of home and board. On one occasion I visited a nest and found it almost upset, with the “big cow” filling the whole nest. On the upper edge perched one little bunting, almost featherless, shivering in the cold. From underneath the “parasite” could be seen the head of the other, panting for breath and nearly stifled. We removed the cowbird, straightened up the nest, replaced the rightful owners of the house, and perched the cowbird nearby on[Pg 258] a bush. We then went off a short distance and watched developments, and to our surprise the little male bunting fed the cowbird first. It was strange to see the youngster, as large as his foster parent, open his mouth so wide you could imagine he was getting ready to swallow the old bird,—indeed he looked as though he could, rapacious pirate offspring that he was. On telling the story to a friend, he remarked, “Well, how do you account for the foolish old man neglecting his own offspring and feeding the cowbird first?”[Pg 259] I cannot answer that, unless the old fellow was proud of his big son.

A Well-Constructed Home A Well-Constructed Home
(Note the Cowbird’s egg in nest.)
Madam Vireo at Home Madam Vireo at Home

The red-eyed vireo (Vireosylva olivacea) loves solitude. During the nesting season it seeks some dense thicket, selects a fork on a drooping limb, and constructs its wonderful basket-shaped, pensile nest. Intertwining about the fork a silky material for the basis of the structure, they put together with grasses, lichens, and plant fibres a wonderful little home for their progeny. When working away at building they are very cheerful,[Pg 260] almost continually singing a sweet, pleasant warble, as though haranguing the dwellers of the silent places, hence their pseudonym, “preacher.” Very frequently in the dense foliage nearby skulks another member of the feathery tribe, watching every movement of the industrious pair, and now she gloats over them when, their work of art complete, they flit from limb to limb, closely observing the masterpiece and softly twittering their satisfaction, as though to say, “Well done.”[Pg 261] Tired and hungry after their labors they wander away in search of food, singing cheerily as they twitch their heads now this way, now that, seeking a worm or insect. When they have gone, the somber-gowned, parasitic mate of a polygamist makes a bee-line for the nest, hastily drops a large speckled egg in the neat little basket, then quits the thicket and returns afield to the flock from which she came, leaving her ignominious progeny to be hatched and reared by the foster parents. When the vireos return, imagine the little red eyes looking with surprise at the egg that almost fills the cradle. They have not the strength, even if it occurred to them, to tumble the egg overboard, and unlike the yellow warblers, who sometimes build another nest on top of the egg, they resignedly proceed with the family duties.

The Usurper The Usurper

The cowbird is a parasite of the worst kind; it lays its egg, not on the doorstep, like some foundlings, but in the bedchamber. The period of incubation being shorter than with most other birds, the egg is hatched sooner, the bird grows more rapidly, and consequently young molothrus frequently stifles the rightful owners of the home. One by one the vireo fledglings die and are carried from the nest by the mourning parents, and so the survivor[Pg 262] flourishes and grows fat, rocked in the cradle by the gentle breezes and under the care and protection of the little red-eyed vireos. The vireos are noted as good providers and protectors. During incubation they are fearless and loath to leave their eggs,—at times indeed, will permit you to approach the nest within two feet and photograph. We made several attempts to get the picture on page 260 but without success, until with a hand-mirror[Pg 263] as a reflector we threw the rays of the sun on the bird. The light seemed to bewilder her and had the same effect as a “flash-light” has on a moose or deer in the stillness of a dark night. Thus we were able to take a photograph by time-exposure.

It is very seldom that a mixed family is raised. Usually the children of the home perish, and then how the young cowbird does continually call to the foster parents, “hungry, hungry, I’m hungry,” and how the little birds must work to satisfy the fast-growing changeling. At last one day the parents find their darling has disappeared; their summer’s work is finished; four cunning little vireo nestlings have met an untimely fate, and one arrogant young cowbird is well started upon his infamous career. Despite his careful rearing his blood will tell just as surely as if he were human.

Over yonder, a stone’s throw from my sleeping-porch, stands the stump of a hardwood tree, now soft from years of exposure to the elements. First the slender twigs decaying dropped one by one, then limb after limb, until all that remained of the noble tree, the growth of years, was this stump, where one bright morning in March I heard from my bed the familiar tapping sound characteristic[Pg 264] of the woodpecker family. It was a flicker (Colaptes auratus luteus). The mating season was due, the ardent lovers were busy making holes here and there, as is customary, until finally they accomplished one to their liking and began their domestic duties in earnest. Some weeks later, in answer to my tapping on the stump, a head appeared at the door looking from side to side for the cause of the noise. It was the father of the family who reconnoitered the situation. The characteristic broad streaks of black throat feathers, commonly referred to as his “dark mustache,” served to identify him. For some time we had suspected the young were soon to leave their home. Tom climbed the tree in search of “data,” for the accumulation of which he is quite eager, but before he got half way up, shouted, “There goes one of the kids,—there goes another.” While their intentions were good, through lack of training “the kids” soon came to the ground. It is said of the flicker family that the parents coax and coax the young birds to leave the hole, but the latter are very reluctant to do so, and at times the parents are constrained to resort to starving or practically kicking them out. In the hole three were left. Tom brought them out and took them to a slanting[Pg 265] tree. It was interesting to watch them. Like all climbers, they have two toes in front and two behind and in climbing are assisted by their rigid tail feathers. Tom was kept busy trying to arrange them within focus of the camera. For some time it was impossible to make them stay “posed”; they insisted on climbing the tree. After a while they got tired and then posed nicely for their picture. During the whole time they called in plaintive tone and the parent birds answered as they hovered around. After being photographed the birds were returned[Pg 266] to their home, where they seemed well satisfied to remain.

Young Flickers Young Flickers

This member of the woodpecker family has some individuality. While the other woodpeckers stay in the trees, he spends a great deal of his time on the ground, some of it in feeding, and some of it certainly in amusement. He finds the latter on tree and ground alike. I have seen them going through various contortions and maneuvers, some of which closely resembled the figures in a minuet. On one occasion I witnessed a fight between two males on the ground. How they parried, juked, and dodged to avoid the sally of the adversary, until finally one got the better of the other and the vanquished took to flight. Every spring for several years a flicker takes up his abode near the home of a friend of mine, who relates with a great deal of interest how the bird attracts attention by visiting at frequent intervals a tin box on top of an arc-light pole, where he takes much delight in spending considerable time drumming away, as though the musician of the regiment were practicing his favorite tattoo.

Nest and Eggs of Tanager Nest and Eggs of Tanager

Of all the birds of Pennsylvania the male scarlet tanager (Piranga erythromelas) is the most beautifully and attractively colored.[Pg 267] Seldom seen by the occasional visitor to the woods, like a “Will o’ the wisp” he flits through the thick foliage, uttering his peculiar “chirp churr.” I remember well finding my first nest of the tanager after several years of search. On a horizontal limb of an elm tree about ten feet from the ground I noticed a few twigs and roots placed on the limb. So frail was the structure that even the sunlight shone through. Although I saw the female fluttering around considerably disturbed, I did not give it much thought, but left the location, only to return again to investigate. Imagine my agreeable surprise when,[Pg 268] on climbing the tree, I saw four handsome bluish-green speckled eggs in the frail structure of twigs and rootlets. I have no doubt the scanty nest is a protection, for it requires a close observer to distinguish it as the living habitation of a bird.

Little Green Heron's Nest Little Green Heron’s Nest
Little Green Heron's Nest Little Green Heron’s Nest
(Note frog legs to left of young bird.)
Leaving the Nest Leaving the Nest

The green heron (Butorides virescens) dwells in colonies at times, and frequently in solitary pairs along creeks and ponds. They build their nests on small trees and bushes. The same birds will build in one locality for years if unmolested, and even if disturbed will probably find a site nearby[Pg 269] the following year. I remember finding a nest built on a small black-haw bush about ten feet from the ground. We visited the nest frequently until five bluish-green eggs were laid in the frail-looking platform of twigs. Its fragile appearance is deceptive, however, for the nest is realty strongly constructed amongst the limbs upon which it rests. An egg collector found the nest and removed two of the eggs, but the mother bird continued to incubate. We cut the limb off and removed the nest to the ground[Pg 270] to photograph, then returned it, made it fast as before, and the bird hatched out a brood successfully from the three remaining eggs. One day upon visiting the nest I found one of the occupants in the act of swallowing a frog. All that remained of the frog was a leg sticking out of the nestling’s mouth. It was not long before the bird disgorged the legs, or all that was undigested of them. About a week later I visited the nest, and looking up saw three long necks and three heads sticking up over the edge. Before long they started one by one to leave the nest, stepping rather ceremoniously along the limbs towards[Pg 271] the foliage at the top. Occasionally one would miss his foothold and partially lose his balance, but by the use of wings and beak would right himself. Often when in distress and hastening to get away, the young herons will use their heads and necks as a parrot does its beak, “chinning” themselves upon a limb and drawing up the body by main strength. These birds when frightened disgorge partially digested food; and because of their predilection to the generous distribution of ornithological whitewash at frequent intervals as they fly, they well deserve the name of “chalk-line.” While climbing the trees on several occasions when visiting the homes of these birds, I found to my sorrow that “discretion is the better part of valor.” Although they seem to be extremely shy, they will return from time to time to the neighborhood of their nests. They do not often approach closely, however, while a visitor is near, and on such occasions remain at some distance craning their necks curiously in every direction. They seldom utter a sound unless startled, when with a hoarse “quawk” and a shrilly harsh cry, they hastily fly away.

Nest and Eggs of Grosbeak Nest and Eggs of Grosbeak
Nestlings Nestlings

The rose-breasted grosbeak (Zamelodia ludoviciana) is one of the handsomest of the[Pg 272] finch family, and also one of the most useful to the farmer. The grosbeak’s chief diet is bugs and other insects, the potato bug being a favorite morsel in their menu. They usually build their nest on a bush and are very devoted to their home, so much so that when eggs are removed they continue to lay and incubate the remaining eggs. On one occasion in photographing a nest containing two eggs it was necessary to pull the slendor bush over and tie it within range of the camera. The[Pg 273] cord snapped, releasing the sapling and the eggs were thrown out and destroyed, much to our annoyance. On the following week when we returned we found the mother bird had laid two more eggs in the nest. The birds raised their small brood as though nothing had happened. I have visited many grosbeaks’ nests, and excepting on one or two occasions I have not seen the female incubating. This duty[Pg 274] seems to be performed more often by the male.

Fledglings Fledglings
Tom at the Nest Tom at the Nest

The blue-gray gnat-catchers (Polioptila cŠrulea) are among the birds who build their nests early. When building is on, the nests are very easy to find, but ere the young are hatched out the foliage affords effective concealment. Their squeaky voices attract your attention, and looking towards the very top of the tree you can see them flitting from limb to limb. Before long, one or the other draws nearer and nearer the nest; then a quick flight, and there it is in the partly constructed home. Watching with the field-glass you can see them constructing the most[Pg 275] beautiful nest in all bird architecture, save possibly that of the ruby-throated hummingbird, which builds a similar home. They usually select an elm tree, and at a height of thirty to fifty feet saddle the nest on the under or horizontal branch of a fork. Thus the branching system of the elm is peculiarly adapted to their style of architecture. It furnishes a shelter from storm and hawk overhead, and prowling boy or bird of prey in the brush underneath. The nest in the illustration accompanying the text was taken[Pg 276] upon an oak, which my experience leads me to believe is an unusual site. How interesting to watch both male and female building their nest in the crotch! After several days’ work the structure begins to take shape and the master touches are being put to the little cup of lichens, moss, and grass. Alighting in it the builders crane their necks and with their long bills tuck in the moss and lichens all around, much as a mother tucks the clothing around her sleeping babe in the cradle. When all is complete the five little[Pg 277] speckled eggs are deposited and incubation begins. The parent is quite plucky and resents any intrusion upon the sanctity of her home. On one occasion I saw a downy woodpecker come too close to a gnat-catcher’s nest. Like a streak of light she shot out, a mix-up followed, and the downy made haste to get away. Another[Pg 278] time a redstart was taught the lesson that it did not pay to “hang around” this little bird’s home.

Nest and Eggs of the Blue-gray Gnat-catcher Nest and Eggs of the Blue-gray Gnat-catcher
Nest and Young of Goldfinch Nest and Young of Goldfinch

Photo by C. H. Brown

Red-spotted Purple Butterfly on Queen Anne's Lace Red-spotted Purple Butterfly on Queen Anne’s Lace

In the early spring we hear a concert of sweet voices coming from a flock of songsters in the summit of the elm, their favorite tree. Their period of love-making is long, as all their brothers and sisters of the same order have with very few exceptions finished their family duties before the American goldfinch (Astragalinus tristis) looks about and selects for his nest the fork of a bush or tree handy to some thistly field. Here the family of[Pg 279] three to six young is reared. From his fondness for thistle seeds he gets his common name, “thistle-bird.” As the thistles ripen he can be seen picking away as he clings to the burr in every conceivable position, releasing the “witches” that float gracefully off with the gentle breezes over the field; regardless is he of the bees that tend the rose-purple flower-heads scattered here and there among the ripe thistle-tops. Over yonder a colony of the delicate blossoms of the “Queen Anne’s lace” is quite conspicuous. Hovering around are many flies and bees. A red-spotted purple butterfly lights gracefully on the plant, folding and unfolding its beautifully colored wings. He is safe from any molestation on the part of the goldfinch, who is essentially a seed-eater. Thus it is that these two highly-decorated creatures may often be seen gathering food side by side in the meadow.

There are some advantages in late building, and especially to the thistle-birds. They get rid of the parasite cowbird, whose season for propagation must needs be earlier in order to afford sufficient time for development; for the young cowbird is more phlegmatic in temperament and slower in growth, nor does he stay with us so late as the young[Pg 280] goldfinch. Again, the thistle-birds, being seed-eaters, find a more bountiful supply of food as the July days approach.

Young Goldfinch Young Goldfinch

Photo by C. H. Brown

In the air they are readily distinguished by their undulatory flight. Frequently repeating their bubbling, laughter-like call, they pass overhead, describing circle after circle as though compelled thus to work off some of the buoyancy of their nature. The essence of cleanliness, they love to bathe in the purling waters of the brook where the pebbles lend their smoothness to the ever-rippling streamlet; there in some secluded[Pg 281] spot during the sweltering weather of July and August the little birds delight to splash the crystal waters over their lemon-colored plumage. In my earlier days I have often caught them in the following manner: We would thrust a branch into the ground at one of the bathing places, and on the side of the stream from which by prior observation it was ascertained that the birds usually approached. They would alight on this branch as they came to the water, and after a while would become accustomed to linger on it before descending to the bath. In a few days we would cut pliant tips of the willow, smear them with bird-lime, and by means of slits cut in the branch would arrange the besmeared twigs high enough that when the bird alighted the limed twigs stuck to his breast feathers and swung around underneath, sticking the wing fast to his side so that the bird could not move. Invariably it would fall to the ground, unable in the case of the smaller birds either to walk or fly, and thus became an easy prey. Of course this was a boyhood prank, and my love to have the songster with me at home led me to place him in captivity. My ideas have changed and to-day I love the birds best in their natural haunts among the environ[Pg 282]ments in which they sing the sweetest, their plumage is the finest, and where liberty of flight adds to their grace and charm.

Nest of Red-wing Blackbird Nest of Red-wing Blackbird

In selecting the place to trap the birds where they go to bathe, one must bear in mind that some birds will frequent one place, some birds another. We would set out a line of traps some distance apart. In going from place to place we gave the birds time to visit in our absence. If perchance a bird disturbed the twigs, we always knew it, for we kept the number of the smeared twigs set on each branch. If a twig were missing and[Pg 283] no bird in sight, on looking around we were sure to find the bird, if small, somewhere near the branch, or in case of larger birds, some distance away, for while the smaller birds were hopelessly entangled, the larger ones could walk but could not fly, and frequently got away by going through the grass and working rid of the small willow twig.

Young Red-wing Blackbirds Young Red-wing Blackbirds

Among the first harbingers of spring the red-wing blackbirds (Agelaius phœniceus) are conspicuous among the swamps and meadows, where they gather in flocks. The birds build their nests among the cat-tails, willows, and[Pg 284] small bushes along the margin of swamps and meadows. As you approach they warn you of their disapproval in anxious tones. In a short time, however, they cease their noise and fly from point to point, lighting on the slender top of cat-tail, limb or weed, gracefully swaying backward and forward with the gentle breezes. It is thus they show their beautiful wings to the best advantage. Among the cat-tails they love to build their nest from one to three feet above the water. A coarse grass is used to bind the nest to the stock and within this is constructed a bulky basket of weeds and grass, in which they deposit four or five whitish, bluish, or greenish eggs, fantastically marked with dots, scrawls, and blotches, resembling some of the illegible hieroglyphics of the past ages.

Homes of the Cliff Swallows Homes of the Cliff Swallows

My opportunity to study the ways of the cliff swallow (Petrochelidon lunifrons) has been very limited. My young friend Tom wrote me the birds were at work, a colony being busy building their odd-shaped nests on the rafters of a cow barn. When I visited the place I found the nests were built quite close to each other. How the birds did scold when we approached, darting around and around at first, but, gradually quieting down,[Pg 285] they disappeared! In the meantime we were trying to get a snap-shot of a bird entering the neck of the nest. The nests were constructed of small pellets of mud, and were gourd-shaped, lined with grass and feathers. There they laid their four or five white speckled eggs. I understood this was the second year in succession they had built in this barn, but the following year they selected a barn some distance away. How conspicuous the rufous rump appeared when they entered the nest! They never remained long, but were off again, always on the wing. They[Pg 286] entered the frail structures like fairies, touching the opening lightly, entering easily, then reappearing, to be off again on the wing. Sometimes they stopped for a moment at the mouth, clogging the entrance entirely with the body. As some writer has said, the bird is known by its “crescent-shaped frontlet shining like a moon,” hence its specific Latin name “lunifrons,”—moon-brow. One need not draw far on his imagination to think that the moon on her brow dispenses light for the mother bird to see the little mouths as she feeds her young in the “darksome cave.”

Nest of the Song Sparrow Nest of the Song Sparrow

The song sparrow (Melospiza melodia) is among the first to return to its summer home. What a cheerful, fascinating little fellow he is as he perches on the fence post, or “any old place,” pouring forth his lightsome, varied songs! Clothed in his somber brown suit, he is instantly recognized by the dark throat patch. There is no regularity in what they do, or how, where, or when they do it. They build nests on the ground and in bushes, bulky or sparse, lined with horse hairs or otherwise, and lay eggs irregularly speckled. They begin to build their nests about the time the trillium is peeping through the ground, and the brood are ready to leave[Pg 287] their home when the trillium is in full blossom. How delighted the children are when, if perchance out gathering flowers, they see the hasty flight of the mother bird as she quits her carefully concealed nest, and parting the leaves, there they find a family of fledglings, mouths wide open, waiting for the return of the mother with food to satisfy their wants! One day I found a song sparrow’s nest in a small catalpa tree. On closer examination I noticed a young bird hanging by the neck, dead. I have no doubt that when the bird was ready to leave the nest[Pg 288] it became entangled in the horse hair, for a loop was found around its neck, and when the little youngster, in its endeavors to release itself, tumbled overboard, it was strangled to death.

A Tragedy in Nature A Tragedy in Nature

A large percentage of the nests of the wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) are destroyed or abandoned from various causes. When incubation is begun the mother bird is very loath to leave the nest and will permit you to come very near. The accompanying photograph was obtained after many failures. Day by day we approached nearer and nearer until finally the bird allowed us to set the[Pg 289] kodak within two feet of the nest, and the click of the shutter did not disturb her, although she seemed to quiver as if in great fear.

Wood-Thrush Wood-Thrush

These birds love solitude, and how charming to listen to their sweet melodies coming from the depths of the woodland! Often in building their nest they select some limb or fork of a sapling near a path frequented by lovers of the woods. The place, method, and material chosen by them make it quite easy to find their home. It is built of coarse grass, which usually streams down over the limb, while paper is frequently used in the formation of[Pg 290] the lower and outer part of the nest, rendering it quite conspicuous. Various causes, such as hawks, owls, and snakes, contribute to the destruction of a large proportion of these nests.

Nest and Eggs of Wood-Thrush Nest and Eggs of Wood-Thrush
Up a Stump Up a Stump
Wood-Thrush's Nest with Young Wood-Thrush’s Nest with Young

One day we were walking through a strip of woods that lay along a babbling brook, wending our way towards a wood thrush’s nest which on the occasion of our last visit contained several eggs. When we came to[Pg 291] the nest we found the eggs had been removed, and we left, wondering what agency was responsible. A short distance from the nest we saw a large black snake gliding through the grass toward a rotten stump about ten feet high. I set after him and he climbed a big locust tree, on which he paused for a moment at a height of some six feet from the ground. Then when disturbed he slipped over to a hollow stump, which had grown[Pg 292] alongside from the same base, and to our surprise proceeded to enter a knothole that seemed far too small for him. Not to be outdone, we pried the stump from the main trunk and found the snake coiled like a watch spring tightly against the inner walls of the hollow base. From this position he had to be pried, inch by inch, while I pulled him out by the tail and dragged him into an open field nearby, where he could be photographed. We placed a limb in the ground at an angle,[Pg 293] but although we tried many times, the snake refused to crawl up. Finally we got the original stump, placed it in the ground, started Mr. Snake toward it, and he, immediately recognizing his former retreat, gracefully crawled up the tree.

The wood thrush builds its nest anywhere from two to twelve feet from the ground and on almost any kind of bush or tree. They are not over-sensitive if one disturbs the nest. In order to get the accompanying photograph it was necessary to remove the nest from its lofty position some twelve feet above the ground to a limb about two feet high. After taking the picture of the nest with the four eggs, we returned it to its original place. The following week we called and found three of the eggs hatched. We removed the nest and after photographing returned it, and the birds remained until full-fledged, as though nothing had happened to their childhood home.

Nest and Eggs of American Redstart Nest and Eggs of American Redstart

How elegantly dressed the American redstart (Setophaga ruticilla) appears on his arrival from his winter home! The costume of his wife is not so flaming, but is nevertheless very attractive. How active they seem, flitting from place to place, at times having all the characteristics of the flycatcher and[Pg 294] again all the marks of the sylvan warblers they are! Proud as a peacock, he spreads his pretty tail as much as to say to his woodland neighbors, “You can’t match me for grace and beauty.” And well may he be proud of his graceful elegance and his achievements in procuring his food, for he is one of the most charming and energetic of the insectivorous birds. He is a creature of[Pg 295] action, always on the move, lively and alert, getting all that is coming to him in quick succession. The nest is built in the fork of a tree or on some horizontal limb, and is constructed of rootlets and twigs in a skillful manner. Often plant-down and vegetable-silks are woven into the cup much after the fashion of the vireo’s idea. It is frequently adorned on the outside with lichens and other substances tending toward obliterative coloration. If approached, the birds flit from limb to limb in a nervous manner, much excited,[Pg 296] and at times appearing as though ready to strike an intruder. When frightened from the nest they will return if one stands off at some distance.

Lady Redstart and Her Home Lady Redstart and Her Home

Photo by C. H. Brown

Nest and Eggs of Blue-winged Warbler Nest and Eggs of Blue-winged Warbler

Down on the edge of a group of dead trees a pair of red-headed woodpeckers (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) were working away at a height of about twenty feet, getting ready for their anticipated brood. Tom, a boy of fourteen years, came along and noticed the couple at work. They were taking their[Pg 297] turns methodically at intervals of twenty minutes or thereabouts. Later the birds completed the excavated cavity and the female had proceeded fairly well with her maternal duties. Tom climbed the tree to see how she was getting along. He found two eggs in the nest. Because of this intrusion or some other reason, the birds abandoned the nest and eggs and selected another stump not far from the first, where they proceeded along the same lines until they had excavated another hole to their liking, and the mother bird laid three pearly-white eggs which in due time she hatched.

Young Woodpeckers Foraging Young Woodpeckers Foraging

[Pg 298]Now the birds were busy gathering insects to feed their progeny. A short distance from their home was an abandoned tennis-court, grown up with grass. This seemed to be the favorite feeding-ground of the male parent. For hours we watched him coming and going, always alighting on the net-post where he kept a lookout for insects. Every few minutes he would take a rapid flight to the ground and again return to the post with food, then by an easy course to the young. To follow him with the eye in flight conveyed the idea of one continuous line of red, white, and blue. One day while we were watching the tree stump a flicker alighted on it near the hole. Like a flash came the parent bird from some place nearby, made a dart at the flicker, and soon put him to rout.

Nest and Eggs of the Thrasher Nest and Eggs of the Thrasher

Photo by E. W. Arthur

The brown thrasher (Harporhynchus rufus) is an interesting member of the feathery tribe who dwells in the solitude of some thicket, where he is at home among the underbrush. In order to see the inhabitants of the woods, one should avoid light or conspicuous clothing, dress as nearly as may be in harmony with the surroundings, and step about as gently as possible. You may go through a clump of woods talking with a companion and rarely see much that[Pg 299] is happening; but go alone, gently, with eyes and ears open, and Nature begins to unfold some of her secrets. In the early morn the thrashers delight in perching on a tree-top and filling the surrounding glen with delightful melodies. In nesting-time they become very seclusive, and an occasional glimpse is all that we can get of this handsome bird as he flits from limb to limb, jerking and wagging his tail. Sometimes they build their nest on the ground, but more frequently on some bush or small tree. It is characteristic of the female when incubating to let you get[Pg 300] very close before she will leave the nest. On one occasion while walking through an open woods I became conscious of a bright eye fixed upon me. The gleam of an orange iris accentuated its size, and in a second it dawned upon me that a thrasher sitting on its nest in a brush heap was the owner of the eye. I proceeded to arrange my tripod for a picture, but before I secured it she left the nest with a graceful flight. She flew around and around, making an angry[Pg 301] noise, and continued her scolding for some time.

On Night Turn On Night Turn
(Note the protective obliteration.)
Young Thrasher Young Thrasher

Photo by C. H. Brown

A friend of mine found a nest with eggs on the ground among some mandrakes. Selecting a dark night he visited the nest and, by keeping the bird bewildered under the rays of a pocket flash-light, was able to set up his[Pg 302] camera at a distance of perhaps ten feet, arrange a reflector and touch off a flash powder, by the light of which he succeeded in getting a flash-light of the bird while incubating. She seemed to be unconcerned, and in fact did not leave the nest. The intruder decamped and left the serenity of her domestic life undisturbed.

The young of the thrasher are instantly recognized, for they have all the family characteristics of the parent birds so well defined. Frequently as late as the month of August, and long after most birds have turned their attention to other matters, the thrasher devotes its time to domestic duties. Indeed after the song season of many birds has passed, I have found in the Ohio Valley region the nests of thrashers and chewinks with eggs and young.

Measured by the birds and their customs, the springtime may extend, as we have seen, far into the calendar summer. We begin paying our devotions to the goddess while yet the snow is on the ground, and we are still doing homage at the shrine when the mercury hovers about the ninety-five-in-the-shade mark, but the change has come so gradually that from one day to another we have hardly noticed it. If to our worship[Pg 303] we brought receptive hearts, stimulated by keen vision and hearing, we have learned much of practical economic value.

Without ever having opened the craw of one of the feathered tribe, observation with a good glass has taught us a multitude of things in regard to the feeding of the different species and their economic worth to the human race. From a commanding position by the nest of the yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus), we have learned that this bird is an invaluable ally in the war against the tent caterpillar. The grosbeak is the arch enemy of the potato bug; young bobwhites devour untold numbers of the eggs of the Hessian fly, that great ravager of the western grainfields; the woodpeckers save many an orchard and lawn tree from early death as a victim of one or another of the borers. Indeed, the tons of destruction, if we may apply the term, devoured by our birds in a single summer day, if it could be estimated, would make an appalling figure.

But beyond all the mass of facts gathered, which go to make up the sum total of the world’s knowledge, is that oxygenation of spirit, that freshness of vigor, bodily and mental, which we derive from having left behind the busy world for these hours of[Pg 304] devotion at the shrine. I have always thought that there was a more spiritual quality in the religion of the Druids than in that of most ancient heathen faiths, due probably to the fact that their rites and ceremonies were performed in the woods and forests, and that in their seeking after a Force beyond that which they saw, they received some measure of the revelation which comes to every one who loves the woods and fields. To us who have the light of other revelation, the contact with Nature brings a closer touch and keener sympathy with the great scheme of the Author of all creation. And who can contemplate this without gaining dignity in the contemplation?


[Pg 305]

CHAPTER VIII

A PLEA FOR PROTECTION

A Delightful Place A Delightful Place

As I loiter along the banks of a sylvan stream about the first of April, looking for the return of some of the feathery tribe, there falls upon my ears a sound, hoarse and grating as described by ornithologists, but to my ears most pleasant, for it tells me that a fine bird, the belted kingfisher (Ceryle alcyon), has arrived for the season. With his crest plainly visible, in strong flight he is following the course of the winding creek. This highly original character is the only member of the kingfisher family in our part of the country. Yet there is little or no protection extended to him by law. It would be a calamity indeed if he were eliminated from the scenery of the wooded banks, the tossing rapids, and the still pool at the foot of the falls. Here the silvery spray contributes a weird touch to the scene as the “lone fisherman” hovers for an instant, then with[Pg 306] a spiral sweep makes a plunge, disappears for a second, comes up with his finny prey, and takes his rapid flight to some old limb, where he consumes the fish at leisure. I have never heard a word against this striking bird, except on one occasion when a friend, who is the proud owner of a lily pond, complained about one of them making visits to poach on his goldfish. The legislation permitting their slaughter was passed, I presume, in the sole interest of the fisherman. Surely this stately bird should not be exterminated; its chief diet is minnows and small fry, fish rejected by the angler except for use[Pg 307] as bait. To my mind the species is at present in serious danger of becoming extinct and should be protected.

Caught Caught
(Note the minnow in his beak.)

I was quite anxious to get a few pictures before he passed into history. So one bright summer day, selecting a pool previously observed to be much frequented, I constructed a blind out of boughs and weeds on the bank three or four feet away from an old root where I had seen the birds alight as they patrolled up and down the stream. Truly “the watched pot never boils.” After waiting[Pg 308] three or four hours I heard a rattling call, a splash, and through my peephole saw his lordship perched, dripping wet, on the very spot on which I had trained the camera. The shutter clicked, but it might as well have “clacked” for he was instantly alert; I was discovered, and away went the kingfisher, rattling as though in defiance. In the short instant of his sojourn, however, my purpose was accomplished. Only the person who has had this or a similar hobby can appreciate my delight when I developed the film and found it had caught the fisherman with the small fry in his beak.

In building their nest Mr. and Mrs. Ceryle select some high embankment where they excavate a small tunnel from three to six feet long, widened at the far end into a chamber perhaps fourteen inches in diameter. Here the silvery-white eggs are deposited usually on the bare floor. They frequently build their nest in a bank whose base is washed by the waters of a stream. On one occasion we opened a hole about half its length and could see eggs in the chamber. Bridging over the excavation with sticks and leaves, we returned in about a week, opened it up, and found the old bird on the eggs incubating. We replaced the sticks and leaves without[Pg 309] disturbing the bird, and the following week the young were hatched. We thought our opportunity to photograph a kingfisher family had arrived. As the birds were too small to remove from the nest, we left them until the next week, when they were still too young to pose well. Upon our visit a week later, the nest was to all appearances undisturbed as we had left it, but an examination disclosed that it was empty save for the partly decomposed body of a half-fledged young bird. Whether the rest of the brood had fared forth into the world and this one, a weakling or cripple perhaps, had been put to death or deserted, or whether some dire fate had fallen upon the entire household, remains to us an unsolved mystery.

Another bird that is unprotected by our law makers is the green heron (Butorides virescens). For weeks we had been studying the habits of one of these birds and had about decided on the location of a blind or ambush for photographing. One day we saw our little friend rise from the pool where we had so often found him, and take to wing with neck stretched forward and legs backward, in one continuous line. He disappeared around a bend in the stream and presently we heard the report of a shotgun. I thought, perhaps[Pg 310] audibly, “Good-bye, little heron, good-bye!” Sure enough, in a few minutes we met a party of three or four coming towards us with their guns, and a little later came to the place where the shots had been fired. There was the object of our study floating lifeless on the surface of the water, with wings spread out, not in flight, but in death. I deplored the untimely end of the little bird. While looking at his lifeless form I was startled by the appearance of a stranger, who seemed more than casually interested. As I talked with him about the death of the heron we heard the report of a gun several times, and I have no doubt each report rang out the death knell of one of our feathered friends. The stranger proved to be an officer of the law. I was anxious to have him prosecute the person who killed the heron, but he pulled out a copy of the statute that specifically permitted the deed. I was sorry to learn that such an act had been passed. As with the kingfisher so with the heron; it is of economic value in that it devours a great number of destructive insects, as well as crayfish, small water fry, and frogs.

Of the game birds, the ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus) is far superior to all others and well able to take care of itself against its[Pg 311] most deadly foe—the breech-loading shotgun in the hands of a crack shot. He is more than a match for all comers. He outwits the most carefully trained setters, and only the old dogs after years of experience can take him unawares. At times, when flushed, grouse will alight on a limb of a tall tree, squatting near the trunk, where they remain unobserved, and this ruse frequently accounts for the dogs being unable to find the bird again. An “educated” bird will ofttimes “jump” from cover, make a bee-line for a tree, pass around it and continue its flight, thus hidden from sight until beyond gun reach. I have had a staunch point along a stake and rider fence—a flush, a whirr, leaves flying in every direction, and lo! the bird in flight passes between two rails of the fence and continues on the wing up the other side until out of sight. At times I have been fairly successful, occasionally making a “double,” then again, obliged to return home after a hard day’s hunt without a single bird. Hunting grouse in western Pennsylvania is a noble sport, one that requires strong endurance, a good dog, and skillful shooting to out-general the cunning, crafty fowl, who is a problem for most hunters. How it stirs one’s admiration to see the old dog, after[Pg 312] “rhoding” backward and forward, take a trail, follow carefully, head erect, nostrils expanded, and every nerve at its highest tension in anticipation of a point! But the bird is running and ere the point is made, a whirr at the crest of the hill draws the eye, and behold! he is a-wing, sailing over the ravine to the other ridge.

Nest and Eggs of Ruffed Grouse Nest and Eggs of Ruffed Grouse

In the month of April the drumming of an old cock-bird can be heard a long way off, like the muffled beating of a bass drum, beginning soft and slow, then louder and faster until it reaches the highest pitch, and, receding, gradually dies away in the distance. He continues his love call, as some think it, for a considerable time, and if you approach carefully you may see him on an old log, strutting about like a pea-fowl, his tail expanded, erect, and in a semicircle, his head thrown back and his glossy black ruffs spread to their full extent, like the crimped and fluted adornment of the days of “Queen Bess.” About the middle of May he does not drum so much, for the courtship is over and his lady is “sitting” on the nest beside some old log, where she lays as many as fifteen creamy-white eggs in a little depression lined with a few dried leaves and grass. Their color harmonizes so nicely with the surround[Pg 313]ings that it is almost impossible to see them. Grouse seem to understand the law of protective coloration, and will not flush from the nest until they are sure they have been discovered. Whether deliberately, I do not pretend to say, but frequently, as she rises from the nest, the hen grouse with her wings stirs the leaves so that they fall upon and partly conceal the eggs. When once disturbed she will not let you get so close again. As soon as the young are hatched they will run to hide, while the mother bird is feigning[Pg 314] all kinds of decrepitude to attract your attention from the cute little brownish fluffs of feather scampering here and there for cover. I once knew a farmer boy who found a nest, took the eggs home, and put them under a hen. In due time they hatched out. How pretty, cute, and interesting were the little birds, and how the foster-mother strutted about, undoubtedly proud of her chicks! But ere long the little creatures, wild by nature, died for want of proper food and the maternal care required by their kind.

Quite different from the grouse in many respects is the other member of the same family, the bobwhite (Colinus virginianus), the first a woodland bird, the other a dweller in the fields. It is fascinating to follow a well trained dog as he jumps the rail fence, and if the wind is not favorable, slowly and carefully follows the fence line for fear of flushing the covey. When he gets to windward he increases his gait and “rhodes” backward and forward through the stubble until he gets a whiff of the odor so familiar to the experienced dog; then according to the strength of the scent he puts on the brakes. I have seen old Fan stop so suddenly that she turned a somersault, then recover herself sheepishly, if that term may be applied by[Pg 315] way of accommodation to as brave a hunter as she.

Not Certain Not Certain

Quail are easy marks for the hunter. Usually they “roost” in a stubble field in a circle, heads outward, and thus they keep warmer during the cold weather. I have known pot-hunters to shoot into a covey in the early morning before they began to feed, killing almost every one.

A Sure Point A Sure Point

Photo by W. S. Bell

It is rare sport to start out with the dogs on a November morning after a fall of snow, light, but sufficient to show the footprints—three toes in front, one behind. By this time[Pg 316] the birds are strong of flight and at their best. After “heeling” the dogs, the trail is followed. The birds will separate and run hither and thither, always, however, coming together again so that their tracks cross and recross each other over the field. Snow always makes the birds wild, and invariably when feeding they will take to flight long before the dogs are near enough to make a point. A good dog takes the stubble field with the wind in his favor. Getting a fresh scent as the birds are feeding he throws his head and tail in the air and “rhodes” on. Occasionally the bird will run a short distance before taking to wing; then the dog shows his lack of training by running helter-skelter as the hunter shouts, “Steady, steady, old girl!” or “old boy”; or if well trained, the noble fellow returns with his tail between his legs, as much as to say to his master: “It was not my fault they wouldn’t lie to cover; it wasn’t my fault; give me another chance!” The humane master cautions his dog to be careful; the brute probably kicks his dog unmercifully, and all because of lack of knowledge on his part. If he had understood his dog he would have known from its actions that the birds were feeding in the cornfield where there was not much shelter,[Pg 317] and that if time had been given them they would have found cover and the old dog would have made a beautiful point. The birds in the beginning of the open season will not make a long flight, but pitch abruptly over handy cover, such as an old fence grown with[Pg 318] briars, elder, and grass. The dogs follow the windward side with nostrils dilated and the delicate membrane of their olfactory nerves detects the whereabouts of the little feathered creature concealed in a tuft of grass or a bunch of leaves. When the briars are real thick occasionally the little bird does not take to wing easily, but in great alarm runs about, neck extended, tail expanded, and crest erect, calling “peep, peep,” as though loath to leave cover.

Orchard Nest of Mourning Dove Orchard Nest of Mourning Dove

Frequently when the dogs are working a[Pg 319] stubble field they put to flight small flocks of turtle doves (Zenaidura macroura). Although these are scarcely gregarious, they like to mingle together in the fall. They visit the fields to glean a few grains of corn or wheat left after the harvest. On taking to wing they make a whistling noise similar to that of a flight of American golden-eye ducks, and beat a hurried course to the top limb of some old dead tree, where they spread their fan-like tails just before lighting, then meekly turn their heads to take in the situation. Many of the birds are shot over the dogs in this way. Their flesh is considered a great delicacy by some would-be sportsmen. In the nesting time they separate in pairs through the woods, fields, and orchards, building in every conceivable place according to fancy. Measured by the usual standards, their flimsy nests are several sizes too small for the owner. When you approach their home the bird drops to the ground and feigns a crippled condition to entice you away, always careful, however, to keep just beyond your reach.

Two Little Turtle-Doves Two Little Turtle-Doves

The nest shown in the accompanying photograph was happily located upon a broad slab of bark that had fallen from a locust tree and was curiously lodged some feet off the ground among the branches of[Pg 320] undergrowth. Here a few straggling pieces of dried grass, sufficient merely to prevent the eggs from rolling off, formed the nest. To one coming up the hill after inspection of a beautifully constructed vireo’s nest in the woods below, the first impression would be that this crude affair could not be the handiwork of so neat and orderly-looking a bird as the dove on the tree nearby; but alas! fine feathers do not make fine birds, nor do good clothes make good housekeepers. No better illustration of this is needed than the[Pg 321] sight of a dove’s nest with the eggs or young in it.

Thus in our rambles from the opening of spring until the winter snows, we come upon a great variety of feathered friends—some esteemed for their beauty, some for their flesh, some esteemed little or not at all, and yet each one has its place in the general system of creation, each one has its individuality and its own peculiar characteristics so well adapted to the sphere in which it moves. The question often comes to us: Is it for man to say that any of these birds shall be deprived of the law’s protection merely because their habits of life do not appeal to him? A brief study of the question from an economic point of view, aside from the Šsthetic, leads us to hope that the time is not far distant when the several States will afford a uniform protection to all of the native fowls of the air, regardless of whether they be game birds, song birds, or “other” birds, at least until such time as a long-continued investigation will prove beyond a doubt that the restriction of the numbers of any species is of substantive value from an economic standpoint.


[Pg 322]

POSTSCRIPT

With the hope that it may be the means of increasing the love of nature, and thereby adding to the joys of life, this little book is given to the public.

Laws for the preservation of birds and animals, more than any others, need behind them a sensitive public opinion. With this, the law itself is almost forgotten in its general observance, while without this support a breach of the law comes in time to take on something of virtue instead of crime. Whatever tends to spread the knowledge of nature, and consequently the love of it, makes it harder for the man who kills, either for the mere zest of it, for vanity or for purely commercial reasons, and thus each convert becomes, in a limited sense at least, a game warden.

To the lover of Nature, the whole animal and plant world is the quest. Unlimited time can be spent in photographing insects, birds’ nests and birds, endeavoring to catch[Pg 323] and display the butterfly on the particular plant from which it loves to extract the nectar, the bird’s nest in the tree or the bush in its natural surroundings, the old setter on a staunch point among the stubble; thus by pictorial notes reproducing various events in natural history and creating an interest in the study of botany, entomology, and ornithology—in fact, preserving all the conditions that make up the attraction for outdoor recreation, which the American people so much need. By this indirect method many come to be so instructed in the rudiments of nature that they are led to see in life a myriad of interesting things which they could not otherwise enjoy, and the book of Nature, hitherto sealed to the hurrying multitude, becomes an open volume to those who, turning aside from the rush of modern life, bring to its reading a sympathetic mind and an ear attuned to catch the melodious voices, and so,

“This our life, exempt from public haunts, Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in everything.”

[Pg 324]


[Pg 325]

INDEX

AB CD EF GH IJ KL M
NO PQ RS TU VW XY Z

[Pg 331]

A Selection from the
Catalogue of


G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS

Complete Catalogue sent on application


[Pg 332]
[Pg 333]

The Log of the North Shore Club

Paddle and Portage on the Hundred Trout Rivers of Lake Superior

By Kirkland B. Alexander

With over 40 Illustrations. 16mo. $1.25 net

(By mail $1.40)

The land that lies to the north of Lake Superior, where the great god Naniboujou rules over mile upon mile of unreclaimed wilderness, has long been a favorite retreat of the fisher and camper, who finds in the hush of its gaunt forests and on the twinkling ripples of its inland lakes a secure haven from the busy din of the cities. In Kirkland B. Alexander’s “Log of the North Shore Club,” the primeval beauty of this region is described by one who is an alert and appreciative student of nature. Mr. Alexander tells of his camping and fishing experiences along these sequestered waters and of the amusing happenings that seasoned his trips, undertaken with companions after his own heart. The book, which is well illustrated, is written in a sprightly vein and is decidedly entertaining reading.

G. P. Putnam’s Sons
New York       London


[Pg 334]

Written in a vein that enchants not only the sportsman and naturalist, but the general reader as well.

Recreations of a Sportsman on the Pacific Coast

By
Charles Frederick Holder

Author of “Life in the Open,” etc.

8vo. With 80 Full-page Illustrations. Net, $2.00

By mail, 2.20

Mr. Holder has fished in the deep sea of the Pacific and in the mountain streams that are hidden away in the high Sierras and Cascades, protected from the rude intrusions of the crowd and accessible only to the seasoned mountaineer. The tussles he has had with game fish, retold in the dramatic style of which Mr. Holder is the master, will thrill the most phlegmatic reader, while the descriptions of nature which the author presents will fill the reader with a yearning for the spacious country of mountain, desert, sea, and air, with whose unfrequented trails and remote recesses the author is so familiar. The book is copiously illustrated with pictures of game, sporting incidents, and natural scenery.

G. P. Putnam’s Sons
New York       London


[Pg 335]

Sporting Books by Theodore Roosevelt

Hunting Trips of a Ranchman

Sketches of Sport on the Northern Cattle Plains

Standard Library Edition. With numerous engravings from designs by Frost, Gifford, Beard, and Sandham. 8o. $2.50.

Alleghany Edition. Printed on high-grade Old Chester-Laid, containing many rare old Western views and portraits, secured and especially engraved for this edition. 8o. Full buckram, gilt top. $5.00.

Dakota Edition. 2 vols. Crown 8o, with frontispieces. Cloth, gilt top, full gilt back. Each, $1.50.

Sagamore Edition. 2 vols., with frontispieces. Cloth, 16o. Each, 50 cents.

“One of those distinctively American books which ought to be welcomed as contributing to raise the literary prestige of the country all over the world.”—N. Y. Tribune.

“One of the rare books which sportsmen will be glad to add to their libraries.... Mr. Roosevelt may rank with Scrope, Lloyd, Harris, St. John, and half a dozen others, whose books will always be among the sporting classics.”—London Saturday Review.

The Wilderness Hunter

With an Account of the Big Game of the United States and its Chase with Horse, Hound, and Rifle

Standard Library Edition. With illustrations by Remington, Frost, Sandham, Eaton, Beard, and others. 8o. $2.50.

Alleghany Edition. Printed on high-grade Old Chester-Laid, containing many rare old Western views and portraits, secured and specially engraved for this edition. 8o. Full buckram, gilt top, $5.00.

Dakota Edition. 2 vols. Crown 8o, with frontispieces. Cloth, gilt top, full gilt back. Each, $1.50.

Sagamore Edition. 2 vols., with frontispieces. Cloth, 16o. Each, 50 cents.

“A book which breathes the spirit of the wilderness and presents a vivid picture of the phase of American life which is rapidly passing away, with clear, incisive force.”—New York Literary News.

“For one who intends to go a-hunting in the West this book is invaluable. One may rely upon its information. But it has better qualities. It is good reading for anybody, and people who never hunt and never will are sure to derive pleasure from its account of that part of the United States, relatively small, which is still a wilderness.”—New York Times.

G. P. Putnam’s Sons
New York       London


[Pg 336]

“A thoroughly enjoyable sportsman’s book.”

N. Y. Sun

Hunting Big Game

with Gun and with Kodak

A Record of Personal Experience in the United States, Canada, and Old Mexico

By William S. Thomas

Author of Trails and Tramps in Alaska and Newfoundland

Octavo, 240 pages. With 70 Illustrations from Original Photographs by the Author. Net, $2.00. By mail, $2.20

The author makes a sportsmanlike plea for the use of a camera rather than rifle in the quest of big game. The appeal cannot fail to reach the hearts of all those who are interested in preserving the life of wild animals rather than unmercifully slaughtering them with modern firearms. Mr. Thomas procures as much pleasure from his humane method of hunting as does the so-called "sportsman" whose chief desire is to kill.

The territory covered in the book is not only remarkable for its extent, but also for the vivid and picturesque descriptions of every locality visited. The remarkable kodak pictures give one interesting glimpses of large game in their native haunts from Canada to Mexico.

“Every chapter is lively, diverting, and full of good things. The illustrations are as interesting as they are varied in scope.”—Pittsburg Times.

G. P. Putnam’s Sons
New York       London


TRANSCRIBER NOTES:

Archaic, alternate and misspellings of words have been retained to match the original work with the exception of those listed below.

Missing punctuation has been added and obvious punctuation errors have been corrected.

Page 309: "examinanation" changed to "examination" ( but an examination disclosed that it was empty).

Page 335: "willderness" changed to "wilderness" (which is still a wilderness).






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