An excerpt from Chapter XLVI;
THE BUILDING OF THE LOG HOUSE
How a Forty-Foot-Front, Two-Story Pioneer Log House
Was Put Up with the Help of “Backwoods Farmers”
—Making Plans with a Pocket Knife.
Almost all of the original log cabins that were once sprinkled through the eastern part of our country disappeared with the advent of the saw-mill, and the few which still exist in the northern part of the country east of the Allegheny Mountains would not be recognized as log houses by the casual observer, for the picturesque log exteriors have been concealed by a covering of clapboards.
To my surprise I discovered that even among the old mountaineers I could find none who had ever attended a log-rolling frolic or participated in the erection of a real log house. Most of these old fellows, however, could remember living in such houses in their youth, but they could not understand why any sane man of to-day wanted “to waste so much good lumber,” and in the quaint old American dialect still preserved in these regions they explained the wastefulness of my plans and pointed out to me the number of good planks which might be sawed from each log.
When I make the claim that any ordinary man can build himself a summer home, I do not mean to say that he will not make blunders and plenty of them; only fools never make mistakes, wise men profit by them, and the reader may profit by mine, for there is no lack of them in our log house at Big Tink. But the house still stands on the bank overlooking the lake and is practically as sound as it was when the last spike was driven, twenty-seven years ago.
A house is never really finished until one loses interest in it and stops tinkering and planning homely improvements. This sort of work is a healthy, wholesome occupation and just the kind necessary to people of sedentary occupations or those whose misfortune it is to be engaged in some of the nerve-racking business peculiar to life in big cities.
Dwellers in our big cities do not seem to realize that there is any other life possible for them than a continuous nightmare existence amid monstrous buildings, noisy traffic, and the tainted air of unsanitary streets. They seem to have forgotten that the same sun that in summer scorches the towering masonry and paved sidewalks until the canyon-like streets become unbearable also shines on green woods, tumbling waters, and mirror-like lakes; or, if they are dimly conscious of this fact, they think such places are so far distant as to be practically out of their reach in every sense.
Yet in reality the wilderness is almost knocking at our doors, for within one hundred miles of New York bears, spotted wildcats, and timid deer live unconfined in their primitive wild condition. Fish caught in the streams can be cooked for dinner in New York the same day.
In 1887, when the writer was himself a bachelor, he went out into the wilderness on the shores of Big Tink Pond, upon which he built the log house shown in the sketch. At first he kept bachelor hall there with some choice spirits, not the kind you find in bottles on the barroom shelf, but the human kind who love the outdoor world and nature, or he took his parents and near relatives with him for a vacation in the woods.
Like all sensible men, in course of time he married, and then he took his bride out to the cabin in the woods. At length the time came when he found it necessary to shoulder his axe and go to the woods to secure material for a new piece of furniture. He cut the young chestnut-trees, peeled them, and with them constructed a crib; and every year for the last eight years that crib has been occupied part of the season.
Thus, you see, a camp of this kind becomes hallowed with the most sacred of human memories and becomes a joy not only to the builder thereof but also to the coming generation. At the big, open fire in the grill-room, with the old-fashioned cooking utensils gathered from farmhouses on Long Island, I have cooked venison steaks, tenderloin of the great northern hare, the plump, white breasts of the ruffed grouse, all broiled over the hot coals with slices of bacon, and when done to a turn, placed in a big platter with fresh butter and served to a crowd who watched the operation and sniffed the delicious odor until they literally drooled at the corners of their mouths. As the house was built on a deer runway, all these things were products of the surrounding country, and on several occasions they have all been served at one meal.
P.S. One of the reasons I picked up this book is that the author, Daniel Carter Beard, is one of the founders of the Boy Scouts of America. His books are fun to read, and I find it no small coincidence that this book happened to be published 100 years ago.