Among the many interesting woodsmen that I have known was one who, years agone, had lived a long time alone in the forest, not far from where Daniel Boone's last cabin was built, in what is now St. Charles County, Missouri. I call him a woodsman, because he had to be, and loved to be, a real one; but beyond that he was a scholar. In his young manhood he took to the woods that he might gain first-hand knowledge of Nature, and have leisure for a colossal labor of love: that of translating into English, with his own exegesis, the works of the philosopher Hegel. When the Civil War broke out, this hermit abandoned his cabin and raised a body of volunteers to defend the Union. Afterward he became Lieutenant Governor of his State.
One day we were discussing those traits of our old-time frontiersmen that made them irresistible as conquerors of the West. The Colonel named, as one factor, their extraordinary shiftiness in shaping the simplest or most unlikely means to important ends, and he illustrated it with an anecdote.
"I knew an old man of the Leatherstocking type who once was far away and alone in the wilderness, hunting and trapping, when the mainspring of his flint-lock rifle broke. Now what do you suppose he did?"
"Made a new one out of an odd bit of steel.'*
"No, sir: he had no bit of steel".
'Then of seasoned hickory or boh d'arc".
"No room for it in the lock. The old man had killed a turkey. He split several quills of its pinions, overlaid them one on another, bound them together with wet sinews that shrunk when they dried, and —there was his mainspring. It worked".