In walking through a primitive forest, an Indian or a white woodsman can wear out a town-bred athlete, although the latter may be the stronger man. This is because a man who is used to the woods has a knack of walking over uneven and slippery ground, edging through thickets, and worming his way amid fallen timber, with less fret and exertion than one who is accustomed to smooth, unobstructed paths.
There is somewhat the same difference between a townsman's and a woodsmanV gait as there is between a soldier's and a sailor's. It it chiefly a difference of hip action, looseness of joints, and the manner of planting one's feet. The townsman's stride is an up-and-down knee action, with rather rigid hips, the toes pointing outward, and heels striking first. The carriage is erect, the movement springy and graceful, so long as one is walking over firm, level footingóbut beware the banana-peel and the small boy's sliding-place! This is an ill-poised gait, because one's weight falls first upon the heel alone, and at that instant the walker has little command of his balance. It is an exhausting gait as soon as its normally short pace is lengthened by so much as an inch.
A woodsman, on the contrary, walks with a rolling motion, his hips swaying an inch or more to the stepping side, and his pace is correspondingly long. This hip action may be noticed to an exaggerated degree in the stride of a professional pedestrian; but the latter walks with a heel-and-toe step, whereas 13* an Indian's or sailor's step is more nearly flat-footed. In the latter case the center of gravity is covered by the whole foot. The poise is as secure as that of a rope-walker. The toes are pointed straight forward, or even a trifle inward, so that the inside of the heel, the outside of the ball of the foot, and the smaller tees, all do their share of work and assist in balancing. Walking in this manner, one is not so likely, either, to trip over projecting roots, stones, and other traps, as he would be if the feet formed hooks by pointing outward. The necessity is obvious in snow-shoeing.
A fellow sportsman, H. G. Dulog, once remarked: "If the Indian were turned to stone while in the act of stepping, the statue would probably stand balanced on one foot. This gait gives the limbs great control over his movements. He is always poised. If a stick cracks under him it is because of his weight, and not by reason of the impact. He goes silently on, and with great economy of force. . . . His steady balance enables him to put his moving foot down as gently as you would lay an egg on the table".
There is another advantage in walking with toes pointing straight ahead instead of outward: one gains ground at each stride. I have often noticed that an Indian's stride gains in this manner, as well as from the rolling motion of the hips. The white man acquires this habit, if he ever gets it, but an Indian is molded to it in the cradle. If you examine the way in which a papoose is bound to its cradle-board, this will be made clear. Immediately after birth the infant is stretched out on the board, its bowlegged little limbs are laid as straight as possible, and the feet are placed exactly perpendicular and close together before being swaddled. Often the squaw removes the bandages and gently drags and works on the baby's limbs and spine to make them as straight as possible. Then, in reband-aging, care is always taken that the toes shall point straight forward.
The woodsman walks with a springy knee action. There is a "give" at every step, and in going downhill the knees are bent a good deal, as they are when one carries a heavy burden. It is said of the Indian "he does not walk, he glides." No Indian glides in boots, but put him in moccasins and the word does express his silent, rhythmical, tireless, surefooted progress, an admirable example of precision of movement and economy of effort. A white man acquires somewhat the same glide after getting used to moccasins, and especially after some experience on snowshoes, which compel him to walk with toes pointed straight ahead or a little inward.
When carrying a pack on your back, do not over-exert yourself. Halt whenever your breathing is very labored or exertion becomes painful. Nobody who understands horses would think of driving them ahead when they show signs of distress, and there is quite as much common sense in treating yourself with the same consideration, if you want to travel far. Rig your pack at the start so it can be flung off whenever you sit down for a moment's rest; it pays. But don't halt more than three to five minutes. Long halts eat up daylight; they stiffen the muscles; and they cause chills and colds. Over-exertion is particularly disastrous in mountain climbing.
Not only in marching but in other labors, go steadily but moderately. Do not chop to the point of exhaustion, nor strain yourself in lifting or carrying. A feat of "showing off" is poor compensation for a lame back.
One who is unused to long marches may get along pretty well the first day, but on the second morning it will seem as if he could not drag one foot after the other. This is the time when the above remarks do not apply; for if one uses the gad and goes ahead he will soon limber up. But by the morning of the third day it is likely that complications will have set in. The novice by this time is worn, not only from unaccustomed exertion, but from loss of sleepófor few men sleep well the first night or two in the open. He is probably constipated from change of diet, and from drinking too much on the march. More serious still, he probably has sore feet. This latter ailment is not so much due to his feet being tender at the start as from his not having taken proper care of them. Aside from the downright necessity of seeing that one's shoes and stockings fit well, and that the shoes are well broken in before starting, there are certain rules of pedestrian hygiene that should be observed from the word "go".