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Woodcraft   By: (1821-1890)

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E text prepared by Joseph Gray





Woodcraft is dedicated to the Grand Army of "Outers," as a pocket volume of reference on woodcraft.

For brick and mortar breed filth and crime, With a pulse of evil that throbs and beats; And men are withered before their prime By the curse paved in with the lanes and streets.

And lungs are poisoned and shoulders bowed, In the smothering reek of mill and mine; And death stalks in on the struggling crowd But he shuns the shadow of oak and pine.


CHAPTER I Overwork And Recreation Outing And Outers How To Do It, And Why They Miss It

IT does not need that Herbert Spencer should cross the ocean to tell us that we are an over worked nation; that our hair turns gray ten years earlier than the Englishman's; or, "that we have had somewhat too much of the gospel of work," and, "it is time to preach the gospel of relaxation." It is all true. But we work harder, accomplish more in a given time and last quite as long as slower races. As to the gray hair perhaps gray hair is better than none; and it is a fact that the average Briton becomes bald as early as the American turns gray. There is, however, a sad significance in his words when he says: "In every circle I have met men who had themselves suffered from nervous collapse due to stress of business, or named friends who had either killed themselves by overwork, or had been permanently incapacitated, or had wasted long periods in endeavors to recover health." Too true. And it is the constant strain, without let up or relaxation, that, in nine cases out of ten, snaps the cord and ends in what the doctors call "nervous prostration" something akin to paralysis from which the sufferer seldom wholly recovers.

Mr. Spencer quotes that quaint old chronicler, Froissart, as saying, "The English take their pleasures sadly, after their fashion"; and thinks if he lived now, he would say of Americans, "they take their pleasures hurriedly, after their fashion." Perhaps.

It is an age of hurry and worry. Anything slower than steam is apt to "get left." Fortunes are quickly made and freely spent. Nearly all busy, hard worked Americans have an intuitive sense of the need that exists for at least one period of rest and relaxation during each year and all or nearly all are willing to pay liberally, too liberally in fact, for anything that conduces to rest, recreation and sport. I am sorry to say that we mostly get swindled. As an average, the summer outer who goes to forest, lake or stream for health and sport, gets about ten cents' worth for a dollar of outlay. A majority will admit to themselves at least that after a month's vacation, they return to work with an inward consciousness of being somewhat disappointed and beaten. We are free with our money when we have it. We are known throughout the civilized world for our lavishness in paying for our pleasures; but it humiliates us to know we have been beaten, and this is what the most of us know at the end of a summer vacation. To the man of millions it makes little difference. He is able to pay liberally for boats, buckboards and "body service," if he chooses to spend a summer in the North Woods. He has no need to study the questions of lightness and economy in a Forest and Stream outing. Let his guides take care of him; and unto them and the landlords he will give freely of his substance.

I do not write for him and can do him little good. But there are hundreds of thousands of practical, useful men, many of them far from being rich; mechanics, artists, writers, merchants, clerks, business men workers, so to speak who sorely need and well deserve a season of rest and relaxation at least once a year. To these and for these, I write.

Perhaps more than fifty years of devotion to "woodcraft" may enable me to give a few useful hints and suggestions to those whose dreams, during the close season of work, are of camp life by flood, field and forest... Continue reading book >>

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