Woodcraft Camp had originally been the headquarters for one of the largest lumbering crews operating in that section of the north woods. The location had been chosen with the same strategy a general in the field would display in selecting headquarters for the direction of important maneuvers. The site was on a broad level of ground sufficiently high to insure perfect drainage. A boiling spring furnished a perpetual supply of pure water. A logging road had been driven straight east, tapping a heavy hardwood belt on Little Knob, while branching from this road to the south another opened up the northwestern slopes of Mt. Sewell. A third, swinging to the north, brought all of the southeastern side of Old Scraggy under the dominion of the axe and peavy. Thus the operations of three crews could be directed from the one central point, and the entire cut of this region be put into the lake with a minimum of effort. Moreover, it was a scant half mile to the outlet of the lake, so that the rafting of the logs into the swift waters of the river was a comparatively easy matter.
The magnitude of the operations and the comparative permanency of the camp called for substantial buildings, and the three log bunk houses, stables, storehouse and blacksmith's shop were splendid examples of the loggers' skill with axe and peavy. A long pier had been built into the lake, and the underbrush cut out for a considerable distance around the camp.
With the despoiling of the once noble woodlands completed the camp had been abandoned to the occasional hunter or fisherman who passed that way. The clearing had grown up to a tangle of raspberry vines, and the deserted buildings had begun to show signs of neglect and decay, when Dr. Merriam chanced to camp there. At once he saw the opportunity to put into execution his long-cherished dream of a woodcraft school camp for boys.
The property, with some five hundred acres of adjoining land, was bought, the buildings repaired, with only such changes made as would adapt them to the needs of the proposed school, the land in the immediate vicinity cleared of underbrush, and the pier repaired. It was Dr. Merriam's idea to make as little change in appearance and arrangement as possible, that the camp might lose nothing of the romantic charm which surrounds every logging camp when seen for the first time by eager boyish eyes.
Diagram ofWoodcraft Camp
Walter, following Billy up the trail, was ushered into the first of the three large cabins. Inside it was almost as rough as the outside, yet he was at once conscious of that indescribable sense of comfort and security which the log cabin in the forest alone possesses. The low ceiling, which had originally divided the loft from the main room, had been removed to insure a better circulation of air. In a double tier down the two sides were built plain box bunks, each containing a tick filled with straw. Sheets, gray blanket and a thin pillow, filled with aromatic fir balsam, completed the equipment. Each bunk was numbered and a corresponding number appeared on the bedding in each. In the rear of the room was a huge fireplace capable of taking in six foot logs, and on either side a tier of lockers numbered to correspond with the bunks.
Tossing Walter's duffle on to the nearest bunk, Billy suggested that he open up for his soap, towel, brush and comb. Supplied with these necessary adjuncts to the toilet he meekly followed Billy out to a long, low shed located to the rear and midway between the cabin he had just left and another, which was of the same size and, as he later discovered, of precisely the same interior arrangement.
A broad shelf ran the entire length of this shed. On this stood three pails of water, each with a dipper hanging above it, while beneath the shelf hung a row of graniteware washbasins. Big galvanized nails were driven at convenient points for the towels and the folding mirrors which were a part of every boy's equipment. It was primitive, very primitive, but quite in accord with Dr. Merriam's idea, and Walter had to admit that it served his purpose admirably.
While Walter made himself presentable, Billy plied him with questions. When he got through Walter felt that he had been pumped dry, and that the garrulous Billy knew his life history. Finally he ventured a few questions himself.
" Is this your first year? " he inquired.
" Me ? My first year ? Say, do I look like a tenderfoot ? " demanded the indignant Billy. "Say, you are green. Never was off of Broadway before, was you? No, sir, this is my third year. Say, if you want to learn woodcraft, just you trot with me a while."
" Said woodcraft consisting at the present moment in policing camp," broke in a quiet voice just behind them. " Probably Upton had rather be excused."
Both boys turned to find Louis Woodhull, who, walking with the noiseless step of the forest ranger, had come upon them unawares.
" There's a lot of chips around the woodpile, Billy, and cook wants them right now, so trot along, son," he continued.
" Doctor told me to look out for Upton," protested Billy.
" Upton is quite equal to taking care of himself, from all I hear," said Louis drily. " Wood-pile's waiting for a good, strong, able-bodied forester who knows woodcraft, one of the first essentials of which is knowledge of how to swing an axe. Insubordination-"
But Billy, with a grimace, had already started for the chip basket.
Louis laughed. " Billy is one of the best hearted boys in camp, but he's a reckless little beggar, and he does hate work. Look out he doesn't lead you into mischief, Upton. By the way, Big Jim tells me that you've already started in to conquer the wilderness, and have laid one of the savages low. Where did you learn to use your fists ? "
" My father taught me how to protect myself almost as soon as I could walk, and then I took boxing lessons at the gym. That was nothing this morning ; I couldn't have licked him if he'd known what I know," replied Walter modestly.