Among my most valued possessions is a tiny Col-clesser tomahawk, of 8-ounce head and 2 1/2 inch bitt, which, with hickory handle and home-made sheath, weighs only three-quarters of a pound. I seldom go anywhere in the woods (unless in marching order with a heavier axe) without this little trick. It is all that is needed to put up a satisfactory shelter wherever there is hemlock or balsam, or bark that will peel, while for other service I use it oftener than I do my jackknife.
So far I have taken for granted that you have matches and that they are dry. Damp ones, by the way, may be restored by rubbing through the hair; or, place a match between the palms of your hands, with its head projecting a trifle, and roll it briskly back and forth; in a short time it will be dry enough to light.
But suppose you have no matches. Well, with a shotgun the task of making fire is easy; with a modern rifle, or pistol, that uses jacketed bullets, it is not so easy, because the bullet is hard to get out of the shell—still you can manage it by cutting lengthwise through the neck of the shell and prying the bullet out.
First make all preparations needed to ensure success when vou get the flame. Build up vour wood leady to light, the kindling being stood up on end against the larger sticks in a half-cone shape, with opening at the bottom, in front, for tinder. This last may be very dry shredded bark, fine slivers of fat pine, or any dry splinters, pounded between two rocks until the fibers separate. In a rain you can get dry stuff from the inside of a hollow tree.
Worry the bullet out of the cartridge; sprinkle most of the powder (smokeless, I assume) on the tinder, leaving only a few grains in the shell. Then tear a bit of dry cotton cloth (lining from your clothing, for instance) with fluffy edges, and with this loosely fill the nearly emptied cartridge. Put it in your gun, and fire straight up into the air. The cloth will drop close to you, and either will be aflame or, at least, burning so that you can blow it into a blaze. Drop this quickly on your tinder, and the trick is done. Remember, you want only enough powder in the cartridge to blow the bit of rag a few feet into the air. Very little will do.
Sparks may be struck from flint, quartz, or pyrites, by striking a glancing blow with the back of a knife or other piece of hard steel. The chief difficulty is to catch the sparks. Hold the flint between thumb and finger of left hand, and some tinder in the hollow of the same hand. Tinder for this purpose is made by tearing (not cutting) cotton cloth into a long, narrow strip, and rolling it up like a roller bandage, but a bit spirally, so that the fluffy edge will overlay a little at each revolution, thus forming a nest of lint at one end of the roll, into which the sparks are to be struck. As soon as it catches, blow it into a flame.
The lens of a field-glass, or the outer lens of a camera, may do service as a burning glass; but it is another of the little ironies that the sun probably isn't shining when you get lost.
As for the fire-drill so dramatically exploited by popular lecturers, who make fire with sticks in less than a minute, it is all right provided you have the right material, which must be soft, non-resinous wood, thoroughly seasoned, brash, but not the least punky. In most situations it would be accidental if a lost man should find such wood. As a matter of fact, savages carry their fire-sticks with them, as we do matches.
A night's rest, even though fitful, will have cleared your mind a good deal. By this time you probably will nave a definite theory of location, based upon what you know of the relation of the camp site to the surrounding country, and the general course of your wanderings. And you will feel much better at having a whole day of sunlight ahead of you.
The first effort will be to get an outlook over the surrounding country. In the hills this is easy, but in a level country heavily timbered it is difficult. If you are a good climber, pick out a tall tree and go up as high as you can get. Where the trunks are too thick for climbing, select a big tree that has a slender one growing beside it from which you can clamber into the lower limbs of the old one. But don't risk a broken limb of your own—that might be fatal.
Having gained your outlook, note the compass direction of watercourses and other landmarks, mapping them on a piece of paper; for a lost man's memory is treacherous. The courses of small streams show where the main valley lies. Look for smoke. Your comrades will have raised one, if there be a woodsman among them.
Now decide whether to try to reach camp or to "break out" to a known road or settlement. If stil1 completely bewildered, then there is but one thing to do: work down country, either along a stream or a divide. If you do this, even in a remote district, it cannot be more than a few days until you reach habitations of men. In the meantime you may suffer, but you certainly need not starve nor freeze, li you have no one definite objective, but are merely going down country, do not try to steer a straight course, but save your strength by following the easiest way, being careful merely to keep the general direction. Follow divides, rather than streams, for reasons that will be given in the next chapter.
But we will assume that you have an idea which way camp lies. Take the compass direction from your outlook, note how the sun bears as you face that way, pick out a mark in line with the course, and steer for it— then from this to another, and so on. But, before leaving the site of your bivouac, blaze a tree and pencil on it the time of your start and the direction you intend to travel in. This will be invaluable to your mates if they track you up. At intervals of half an hour or so, fire a distress signal, if you can spare the ammunition—dont waste it.
As you travel, make bush marks and blazes along the course. It may be necessary to return; others can follow your trail by them; and, if you should circle, you will know it when you come across your old marks.
When a man travels where there is no outlook over the surrounding country, he is apt to "circle." In going around obstacles he may choose habitually the same side, and not make enough allowance for this tendency when averaging up his windings. But many men have an uncon scious leaning toward one side or the other, even in open country, even on horseback, and will tend to travel in a circle unless they frequently check their course by compass or landmarks. Just why, we do not know. It is said that only an ambidextrous man goes straight naturally. Most men swerve to the right, and, since most of us are right-handed, it may be that when there is nothing else to guide uc we incline toward the stronger side.
I offer this explanation for what it may be worth. Anyway, the tendency to travel in a circle is common to most men when they are lost. Mr. C. C. Filson says that a lost man once came to his camp who had walked continuously for six days and nights and was only about six miles from his starting point. Five hours of travel in any one direction would have taken him out of the woods and saved him the subsequent loss of both feet by freezing.
To avoid circling, one must travel by landmarks, or, where none are visible, as in thick woods, then by compass. Consult the instrument every two or three minutes, for a slight deviation, persisted in, soon swings you far aside. After going around an obstacle to the right, even up, by walking as far to the left. Don't travel too fast—it would excite you, wear you out, and keep you from marking your trail as you went along. Keep a stiff upper lip, and assure yourself that this is not a tragedy but only an interesting adventure—then it will turn out so.
How to live off the country, in case of being out a long time, will be discussed hereafter.
By the time you get out of this predicament you will agree that the art of not getting lost is worth studying. Let me now direct our attention to it.