Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 01.djvu/85

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77
Camp Fires of the Boys in Gray.

was the camp determined when the bright blaze of the camp-fire was seen. He was a shadowy fellow who kindled the fire. Nobody knows who he was, but no matter how wet the leaves, how sobby the twigs—no matter if there was no fire in a mile of the camp, that fellow could start one. Some men might get down on hands and knees, and blow it and fan it, rear and charge, and fume and fret, and yet "she wouldn't burn." But this fellow would come, kick it all around, scatter it, rake it together again, shake it up a little, and oh! how it burned! The little flames would bite the twigs, and snap at the branches, embrace the logs, and leap and dance, and laugh at the touch of the master's hand and soon lay at his feet a bed of glowing coals.

As soon as the fire is kindled all hands want water. Who can find it? Where is it? Never mind! we have a man who knows where to go. He says, "where's our bucket?" and then we hear the rattle of the old tin cup as it drops to the bottom of it, and away he goes, nobody knows where. But he knows, and he doesn't stop to think, but without the slightest hesitation or doubt, strikes out in the darkness.

From the camp-fire as a centre, draw 500 radii, and start an ordinary man on any of them, and let him walk a mile on each, and he will miss the water. But that fellow in the mess with the water instinct never failed. He would go as staight for the spring, or well, or creek, or river, as though he had lived in that immediate neighborhood all his life and never got water anywhere else. What a valuable man he was. A modest fellow, who never knew his own greatness. But others remember and honor him. May he never want for any good thing! Having a roaring fire and a bucket of good water, we settle down. A man cannot be comfortable anywhere; so each man and his "chum" picks out a tree, and that particular tree becomes the homestead of the two. They hang their canteens on it, lay their haversacks and spread their blankets at the foot of it, and sit down, and lean their weary backs against it, and feel that they are at home. How gloomy the woods are beyond the glow of our fire? How cosy and comfortable we are who stand around it and inhale the aroma of the coffee boiler and the skillet? The man squatting by the fire is a person of importance. He doesn't talk—not he; his whole mind is concentrated on that skillet. He is our cook—volunteer, natural and talented cook. Not in a vulgar sense. He doesn't mix, but simply bakes, the biscuit. Every faculty, all the energy of the man, is employed in that great work. Don't suggest