Two Little Savages
By Ernest Thompson Seton

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Public Domain Books


White-Man’s Woodcraft

Blackhawk was the introducer of a new game which he called “judging.”

“How far is it from here to that tree?” he would ask, and when each had written down his guess they would measure, and usually it was Woodpecker or Blackhawk that came nearest to the truth. Guy still held the leadership “for far sight,” for which reason he suggested that game whenever a change of amusement was wanted.

Yan, following up Blackhawk’s suggestion, brought in the new game of “White-man’s Woodcraft.”

“Can you,” asked he, “tell a Dog’s height by its track?”

“No; nor you nor any one else,” was the somewhat scornful reply.

“Oh, yes, I can. Take the length in inches of his forefoot track, multiply it by 8, and that gives his height at the shoulder. You try it and you’ll see. A little Dog has a 2-1/4-inch foot and stands about 18 inches, a Sheep Dog with a 3-inch track stands 24 inches, and a Mastiff or any big Dog with a 4-inch track gives 30 to 32 inches.”

“You mean every Dog is 8 feet high?” drawled Sam, doubtfully, but Yan went on. “And you can tell his weight, too, by the track. You multiply the width of his forefoot in inches by the length, and multiply that by 5, and that gives pretty near his weight in pounds. I tried old Cap. His foot is 3-1/2 by 3; that equals 10-1/2, multiplied by 5 equals 52-1/2 pounds: just about right.”

“I’ll bet I seen a Dog at the show that that wouldn’t work on," drawled Sam. “He was as long as my two arms, he had feet as big as a young Bear, an’ he wasn’t any higher than a brick. He was jest about the build of a Caterpiller, only he didn’t have but four legs at the far ends. They was so far apart he couldn’t keep step. He looked like he was raised under a bureau. I think when they was cutting down so on his legs they might have give him more of them; a row in the middle would ’a’ been ’bout right.”

“Yes, I know him. That’s a Dachshund. But you can’t reckon on freaks; nothing but straight Dog. It works on wild animals, too–that is, on Wolves and Foxes and maybe other things,” then changing the subject Beaver continued:

“Can you tell the height of a tree by its shadow?”

“Never thought of that. How do you do it?”

“Wait till your own shadow is the same length as yourself–that is, about eight in the morning or four in the afternoon–then measure the tree’s shadow. That gives its length.”

“You’d have to wait all day to work that, and you can’t do it at all in the woods or on a dull day,” objected Blackhawk. “I’d rather do it by guess.”

“I’ll bet my scalp against yours I can tell the height of that tree right now without climbing it, and get closer than you can by guessing,” said Little Beaver.

“No, I won’t bet scalps on that–but I’ll bet who’s to wash the dishes.”

“All right. To the top of that tree, how much is it?”

“Better not take the top, ’cause we can’t get there to measure it, but say that knot,” was the rejoinder. “Here, Woodpecker, you be judge.”

“No, I want to be in this guessing. The loser takes the next turn of dishwashing for each of the others.”

So Blackhawk studied the knot carefully and wrote down his guess–Thirty-eight feet.

Sam said, “Blackhawk! Ground’s kind of uneven. I’d like to know the exact spot under the tree that you’d measure to. Will you mark it with a peg?”

So Blackhawk went over and put in a white peg, at the same time unwittingly giving Woodpecker what he wanted–a gauge, for he knew Blackhawk was something more than five feet high; judging then as he stood there Sam wrote down Thirty-five feet.

Now it was Yan’s turn to do it by “White-man’s Woodcraft,” as he called it. He cut a pole exactly ten feet long, and choosing the smoothest ground, he walked about twenty yards from the tree, propped the pole upright, then lay down so that his eye was level with the tree base and in line with the top of the pole and the knot on the tree. A peg marked the spot.

Now he measured from this “eye peg” to the foot of the pole; it was 31 feet. Then from the eye peg to the peg under the tree; it was 87 feet. Since the 10-foot pole met the line at 31 feet, then 31 is to 10 as 87 is to the tree–or 28 feet. Now one of the boys climbed and measured the height of the knot. It was 29 feet, and Yan had an easy victory.

“Here, you close guessers, do you want another try, and I’ll give you odds this time, if you come within ten feet you’ll win. I want only two feet to come and go on.”

“All right. Pick your trees.”

“’Tisn’t a tree this time, but the distance across that pond, from this peg (H, in diagram) to that little Hemlock (D). You put down your guesses and I’ll show you another trick.”

Sam studied it carefully and wrote Forty feet. Wes put down Forty-five.

“Here, I want to be in this. I’ll show you fellers how,” exclaimed Guy in his usual scornful manner, and wrote down Fifty feet.

“Let’s all try it for scalps,” said Char-less, but this was ruled too unimportant for scalps, and again the penalty of failure was dishwashing, so the other boys came and put down their guesses close to that of their Chief–Forty-four, Forty-six and Forty-nine feet.

“Now we’ll find out exactly,” and Little Beaver, with an air of calm superiority, took three straight poles of exactly the same length and pegged them together in a triangle, leaving the pegs sticking up. He placed this triangle on the bank at A B C, sighting the line A B for the little Hemlock D, and put three pegs in the ground exactly under the three pegs where the triangle was; moved the triangle to E F G and placed it so that F G should line with A C and E G with D. Now A G D also must be an equilateral triangle; therefore, according to arithmetic, the line D H must be seven-eighths of A G. A G was easily measured–70 feet. Seven-eighths of 70 equals 61-1/4 feet. The width of the pond–they measured it with tape line–was found to be 60 feet, so Yan was nearest, but Guy claimed that 50 feet was within 10 feet of it, which was allowed. Thus there were two winners–two who escaped dishwashing; and Hawkeye’s bragging became insufferable. He never again got so close in a guess, but no number of failures could daunt him after such a success.

Sam was interested in the White-man’s Woodcraft chiefly on Yan’s account, but Blackhawk was evidently impressed with the study itself, and said:

“Little Beaver, I’ll give you one more to do. Can you measure how far apart those two trees are on that bank, without crossing?”

“Yes,” said Yan; “easily.” So he cut three poles 6, 8 and 10 feet long and pegged them together in a triangle (in diagram). “Now,” said he, “_A B C is a right angle; it must be, when the legs of the triangle are 6, 8 and 10; that’s a law.”

He placed this on the shore, the side A B pointing to the inner side of the first tree, and the side B C as nearly as possible parallel with the line between the two trees. Then he put in a stake at B, another at C, and continued this line toward K. Now he slid his triangle along this till the side G F pointed to E, and the side H G in line with C B. The distance from D to E, of course, is equal to B G, which can be measured, and again the tape line showed Yan to be nearly right.

This White-man’s Woodcraft was easy for him, and he volunteered to teach the other Indians, but they thought it looked “too much like school.” They voted him a coup on finding how well he could do it. But when Raften heard of it he exclaimed in wonder and admiration, “My, but that’s mightiful!” and would not be satisfied till the coup was made a grand coup.

“Say, Beaver,” said Woodpecker sadly, harking back, “if a Dog’s front foot is 3-1/2 inches long and 3 inches wide, what colour is the end of his tail?”

“White,” was the prompt reply; “’cause a Dog with feet that size and shape is most likely to be a yaller Dog, and a yaller Dog always has some white hairs in the end of his tail.”

“Well, this ’un hadn’t, ’cause his tail was cut off in the days of his youth!”


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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