Two Little Savages
By Ernest Thompson Seton

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The Making of the Teepee

Raften sniffed in amusement when he heard that the boys had really gone to Caleb and got what they wanted. Nothing pleased him more than to find his son a successful schemer.

“Old Caleb wasn’t so dead sure about the teepee, as near as I sized him up,” observed Sam.

“I guess we’ve got enough to go ahead on,” said Yan, “an’ tain’t a hanging matter if we do make a mistake.”

The cover was spread out again flat and smooth on the barn floor, and stones and a few nails put in the sides to hold it.

The first thing that struck them was that it was a rough and tattered old rag.

And Sam remarked: “I see now why Da said we could have it. I reckon we’ll have to patch it before we cut out the teepee.”

“No,” said Yan, assuming control, as he was apt to do in matters pertaining to the woods; “we better draw our plans first so as not to patch any part that’s going to be cut off afterward.”

“Great head! But I’m afraid them patches won’t be awful ornamental.”

“They’re all right,” was the reply. “Indians’ teepees are often patched where bullets and arrows have gone through.”

“Well, I’m glad I wa’n’t living inside during them hostilities,” and Sam exposed a dozen or more holes.

“Oh, get off there and give me that cord.”

“Look out,” said Sam; “that’s my festered knee. It’s near as bad to-day as it was when we called on the witch.”

Yan was measuring. “Let’s see. We can cut off all those rags and still make a twelve-foot teepee. Twelve foot high–that will be twenty-four feet across the bottom of the stuff. Fine! That’s just the thing. Now I’ll mark her off.”

“Hold on, there,” protested his friend; “you can’t do that with chalk. Caleb said the Injuns used a burnt stick. You hain’t got no right to use chalk. ’You might as well hire a carpenter.’”

“Oh, you go on. You hunt for a burnt stick, and if you don’t find one bring me the shears instead.”

Thus, with many consultations of Caleb’s draft, the cutting-out was done–really a very simple matter. Then the patching was to be considered.

Pack-thread, needles and very l-o-n-g stitches were used, but the work went slowly on. All the spare time of one day was given to patching. Sam, of course, kept up a patter of characteristic remarks to the piece he was sewing. Yan sewed in serious silence. At first Sam’s were put on better, but Yan learned fast and at length did by far the better sewing.

[Illustration: Decoration of Black Bull’s Teepee: (Two Examples of Doors)]


Notes on Making Teepee:

  The slimmer the poles are at the top where they cross the smaller
  the opening in the canvas and the less danger of rain coming in.

  In regions where there is much rain it is well to cut the projecting
  poles very short and put over them a “storm cap,” “bull boat” or
  “shield” made of canvas on a rod bent in a three-foot circle. This
  device was used by the Mandans over the smoke-hole of their lodges
  during the heavy rains.

That night the boys were showing their handiwork to the hired hands. Si Lee, a middle-aged man with a vast waistband, after looking on with ill-concealed but good-natured scorn, said:

“Why didn’t ye put the patches inside?”

“Didn’t think of it,” was Yan’s answer.

“Coz we’re goin’ to live inside, an’ need the room,” said Sam.

“Why did ye make ten stitches in going round that hole; ye could just as easy have done it in four,” and Si sniffed as he pointed to great, ungainly stitches an inch long. “I call that waste labour.”

“Now see here,” blurted Sam, “if you don’t like our work let’s see you do it better. There’s lots to do yet.”


“Oh, ask Yan. He’s bossin’ the job. Old Caleb wouldn’t let me in. It just broke my heart. I sobbed all the way home, didn’t I, Yan?

“There’s the smoke-flaps to stitch on and hem, and the pocket at the top of the flaps–and–I–suppose,” Yan added, as a feeler, “it–would–be–better–if–hemmed–all–around.”

“Now, I tell ye what I’ll do. If you boys’ll go to the ’Corner’ to-night and get my boots that the cobbler’s fixing, I’ll sew on the smoke-flaps.”

“I’ll take that offer,” said Yan; “and say, Si, it doesn’t really matter which is the outside. You can turn the cover so the patches will be in.”

The boys got the money to pay for the boots, and after supper they set out on foot for the “Corner,” two miles away.

“He’s a queer duck,” and Sam jerked his thumb back to show that he meant Si Lee; “sounds like a Chinese laundry. I guess that’s the only thing he isn’t. He can do any mortal thing but get on in life. He’s been a soldier an’ a undertaker an’ a cook He plays a fiddle he made himself; it’s a rotten bad one, but it’s away ahead of his playing. He stuffs birds–that Owl in the parlour is his doin’; he tempers razors, kin doctor a horse or fix up a watch, an’ he does it in about the same way, too; bleeds a horse no matter what ails it, an’ takes another wheel out o’ the watch every times he cleans it. He took Larry de Neuville’s old clock apart to clean once–said he knew all about it–an’ when he put it together again he had wheels enough left over for a new clock.

“He’s too smart an’ not smart enough. There ain’t anything on earth he can’t do a little, an’ there ain’t a blessed thing that he can do right up first-class, but thank goodness sewing canvas is his long suit. You see he was a sailor for three years–longest time he ever kept a job, fur which he really ain’t to blame, since it was a whaler on a three-years’ cruise.”


Part I  •  II  •  III  •  IV  •  V  •  VI  •  VII  •  VIII  •  IX  •  X  •  XI  •  XII  •  XIII  •  XIV  •  Part II  •  II  •  III  •  IV  •  V  •  VI  •  VII  •  VIII  •  IX  •  X  •  XI  •  XII  •  XIII  •  XIV  •  XV  •  Part III  •  II  •  III  •  IV  •  V  •  VI  •  VII  •  VIII  •  IX  •  X  •  XI  •  XII  •  XIII  •  XIV  •  XV  •  XVI  •  XVII  •  XVIII  •  XIX  •  XX  •  XXI  •  XXII  •  XXIII  •  XXIV  •  XXV  •  XXVI  •  XXVII  •  XXVIII  •  XXIX  •  XXX  •  XXXI  •  XXXII

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Two Little Savages
By Ernest Thompson Seton
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