Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/94

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ing effects of our artificial indoor existence, in overheated, over- furnished rooms, at luxurious, appetite-destroying tables, and longs for and if possible obtains for himself, during at least a few weeks out of the year, a life mainly on horseback or afoot, at the oar or in the surf; a fine savage hunger, appeased by few and plain dishes ; an apotheosis of sleep on a bed of balsam in the tent, or in a hammock under the stars !

So much being granted, it is to be remembered that the Indian can give the white man innumerable " points " on the manner and method of " camping out." Instinctively, or perhaps we should say because of generations of training, he knows the best way to do everything. He is never careless, bungling, or ignorant ; but deliberate, systematic, and exact to a degree which is the despair of the uninstructed pale-face. He shrinks neither from danger nor exertion in the pursuit of his ends, yet he never for a moment submits to unnecessary discomfort.

In the Dakota lodge we have the perfection of a canvas house, as was practically admitted when it was made the model for the Sibley army tent, now in such general use. Of course, the origi- nal lodge of tanned buffalo-hide was warmer and more durable and more completely water-proof ; but even now that this is unat- tainable, the conical tent of the Dakotas remains the best that has been devised. I have tried them all, and nothing would induce me to use any other. It is more roomy and convenient and a thou- sand times prettier, because of its circular form, than a " wall-tent," besides being less liable to blow over in a high wind. It is per- fectly ventilated as well as warmed by the central fire with its opening above ; and the chimney-flaps, which are regulated accord- ing to the direction of the wind, carry off all the smoke. It can be turned in a few moments into a cool, shady awning in hot weather, and instantly made almost storm-proof in case of a sud- den thunder-shower. The women are adepts at making and breaking camp in the shortest possible time. I have ridden into camp in a cold, drenching rain, at dark ; and almost as soon as I had contrived with stiffened limbs to dismount from my pony, remove the saddle and bridle, and picket him out, the tepee would be up, beds arranged, a fire made, water fetched, and sup- per under way in short, the height of cozy comfort awaiting me.

The men are equally apt at calculating distances, predicting weather, selecting a camping-ground, discovering water in un- likely places, tracking men or animals in short, in every variety of woodcraft and plainscraft. Both men and women know how to make available a hundred products of nature of which no white man has ever learned the use. They can build a fire in a treeless country, obtain food from the barren wastes in unex- pected forms it may be of a small land-turtle or hidden water-