" We first felled a thrifty butternut tree ten inches in diameter, cut off three lengths of five feet each, and carried them to camp. These were the back-logs. Two stout stages were driven at the back of the fire, and the logs, on top of each other, were laid firmly against the stakes. The latter were slanted a little back, and the largest log placed at bottom, the smallest on top, to prevent tipping forward. A couple of short, thick sticks were laid with the ends against the bottom log by way of fire-dogs; a fore-stick five feet long and five inches in diameter; a well built pyramid of bark, knots and small logs completed the camp-fire, which sent a pleasant glow of warmth and heat to the furthest corner of the shanty. For night-wood we cut a dozen birch and ash poles from four to six inches across, trimmed them to the tips, and dragged them to camp. Then we denuded a dry hemlock of its bark by aid of tern foot poles flattened at one end, and packed the bark to camp. We had a bright, cheery fire from the early evening until morning, and four tired hunters never slept more soundly.
"We stayed in that camp a week; and, though the weather was rough and cold, the little pocket-axes kept us well in firewood. We selected butternut for back-logs, because, when green, it burns very slowly and lasts a long time. And we dragged our smaller wood to camp in lengths of twenty to thirty feet, because it was easier to lay them on the fire and ' nigger ' them in two than to cut them shorter with light hatchets. With a heavy axe we should have cut them to lengths of five or six feet".
The first camp I ever made was built exactly after the " Nessmuk " pattern, shanty-tent, camp-fire with butternut back-logs, and all (see chapters III. and IV. of his Woodcraft). My only implement, besides knives, was a double-bitted hatchet just like his, of surgical instrument steel, weighing, with its twelve-inch handle, only eighteen ounces. I was alone. I stayed in that camp five weeks, in October and November; and I was snug and happy all the time. But then I was Camping just for the fun of it. It is quite a different matter to come in at nightfall, dog-tired, and have to get in night-wood with a mere hatchet. Don't try that sort of camping without a full-size axe.
If there is a big, flat-faced rock or ledge on the camp site, take advantage of it by building your fire against it, with the tent in front. Or build a wall of rocks for a fire-back, with stone " andirons." Wooden ones must be renewed every day or so. But if logs must be used, and you have an axe, cut the back-logs from a green tree at least a foot thick, choosing wood that is slow to burn. Plaster mud in the crevices between the logs, around the bottom of stakes, and around the rear end of " hand-junks " or billets used as andirons; otherwise the fire will soon attack these places. The fire-back reflects the heat forward into the tent, conducts the smoke upward, and serves as a windbreak in front of camp; so the higher it is, within reason, the better.
Novices generally erect the fire-back too far from the tent. Conditions vary, but ordinarily the face of the back-logs should not be more than five feet from the tent front; with a small fire, well tended, it need not be over four feet.
Best where fuel is scarce, or when one has only a small hatchet with which to cut night-wood. Fell and trim a lot of hardwood saplings. Lay three or four of them on the ground, butts on top of each other, tips radiating from this center like the spokes of a wheel. On and around this center build a small, hot fire. Place butts of other saplings on this, radiating like the others. As the wood burns away, shove the sticks in toward the center, butts on top of each other, as before. This saves much chopping, and economizes fuel. Build a little v/indbreak behind you, and lie close to the fire. Doubtless you have heard the Indian's dictum (southern Indians express it just as the northern and western ones do): " White man heap fool; make um big fire — can't git near: Injun make um little fire — git close. Uh, good! "
The best kindling is fat pine, or the bark of the paper birch. Fat pine is found in the stumps and butt cuts of pine trees, particularly those that died on the stump. The resin has collected there and dried. This wood is usually easy to split. Pine knots are the tough, heavy, resinous stubs of limbs that are found on dead pine trees. They, as well as fat pine, are almost imperishable, and those sticking out of old rotten logs are as good as any. In collecting pine knots go to fallen trees that have almost rotted away. Hit the knot a lick with the poll of the axe and generally it will yield; if you must chop, cut deep to get it all and to save the axe edge. The knots of old dead balsams are similarly used. Usually a dead stump of pine, spruce, or balsam, all punky on the outside, has a core very rich in resin that makes excellent kindling. . Hemlock knots are worthless and hard as glass — keep your axe out of them.
The thick bark of hemlock is good to make glowing coals in a hurry; so is that of hardwoods generally. Good kindling, sure to be dry underneath the bark in all weathers, is procured by snapping off the small dead branches, or stubs of branches, that are left on the trunks of small or medium-sized trees, near the ground. Do not pick up twigs from the ground, but choose those, among the downwood, that are held up free from the ground. Where a tree is found that has been shivered by lightning, or one that has broken off without uprooting, good splinters of dry wood will be found. In every laurel thicket there is plenty of dead laurel, and, since it is of sprangling growth, most of the branches will be free from the ground and snap-dry. They ignite readily and give out intense heat.
The bark of all species of birch, but of paper birch especially, is excellent for kindling and for torches. It is full of resinous oil, blazes up at once, will burn in any wind, and wet sticks can be ignited with it.