Peep into my den, and so realize simplicity like that of Arcadia. A bed of leaves, soft enough and dry as powder, heaped against the rock. The slanting tan-bark shelter above makes the inclosure a trifle gloomy, and you may blink somewhat before you can see the two small pig-hams strung pendent from one of the poles. On another rafter hangs a short bag holding potatoes in one end and onions in the other. A tin can of salt and a little box of pepper are on a ledge. Not another article of food have I. What more do I want save water from the spring? If roasted potatoes, raw onions and boiled ham are not good enough, I must forego pressing hospitality upon you. Tomorrow I may have some saddles of young gray squirrels, if my bow-arm be steady.
There stands a bow with a history. It has sounded its one low, sweet note in the choicest solitudes from upper Michigan to lowest Florida. The wood that it is made of grew in the hills of Spain and was carried over to England in the form of two yew staves. It lay seasoning for nine years; then the bowyer took hold of it and was three more years doing it into a perfect weapon.
Later on, when you have seen me shooting, you will appreciate the tedious care used in making a yew bow of finest quality; for there is no implement at once so simple and yet so wonderful. You see that I have coated it with a film of waterproof wax, which is to keep the wood absolutely dry. Never since the Spanish axeman split the staves has a drop of water, or even a hint of dampness, entered the fiber. From end to end and from center to surface it is as dry as Pharaoh's bones.
If you take it in hand and examine it closely the workmanship will gradually master your admiration. What deftness, patience and astonishing cleverness of judgment have been expended upon it from tip to tip! And a word for my arrows, wrought by my own hand. Nowhere that I know of in the world is there a maker of good hunting arrows for the trade. Target arrows are offered in the shops; but your sylvan archer must needs be his own fletcher.
A sheaf of twenty-four shafts I account enough for an ordinary outing; but there is great labor in making them, since they must be perfectly straight, even, smooth and strong, armed at the fore end with a pewter ferrule, at the other end with a notch and three feathers. Everything about them must be exactly true, so that there cannot arise the least difficulty during their flight.
A glimpse like this into my tan-bark tent must give some sort of impression, crude no doubt and misleading to a degree. To my mind, however, the picture is realistic, being an excerpt from experience. Such a hut certainly demands imagination to light it withal; but this granted, the rest is of the most practical nature. One who has been a soldier has enjoyed poorer quarters as a memorable luxury. Indeed my own preference is for the lion's bed when I am running wild, and the chief comfort of solitude is a mild reversion to nature's simplest type.
The gist of delectation, as it comes to the solitary out-camper of my sort dwells, however, in strongly marked realities not even touched with the rime or mist of imagination. To be a good bowman requires nerve, muscle and clear-eyed intelligence; and to be a good bird-hunter rests upon all the conditions precedent to a full knowledge of nature at first hand. If there is in this world a practical and methodical man it is the accomplished, genuine, outdoors naturalist. Make him furthermore a sylvan archer, the equal of Robin Hood, and there you have a figure to study. At all events I like to follow as best I may in the tracks of such an one for a while; and so you see my tan-bark tent and my tackle of Apollo.