Friday, January 01, 2010

The Last of the Mountain Men

Tomahawk posted this link over on the Bushcraft site

The Last of the Mountain Men

It is a very good read about Sylvan Ambrose Hart, aka Buckskin Bill. Some of his wisdom is imparted in the article.
"For the city man, life is just a jumble, like the facts in a college freshman's notebook. But you can ask me anything about nearly anything and I can answer, because I've had time to think about it."
"The good things a person needs—stubbornness, thinking for himself—don't make him a 'useful member of society.' What makes him 'useful' is to be half-dead. On weekends they open all the cemeteries and all those dead people march out. All the same sickly shade of hide, all sunken-eyed, not really seeing anything, just walking about because it's a weekend. Like I say, dead people. Then Monday—well, they don't all go back to the cemetery, where they belong. They ought to be honor-bound to go back where they'd be happier, the poor human ciphers lead such pitiful circumscribed lives."

"I work three, four hours before it gets hot, then maybe two more after the sun goes down," says Sylvan. "Or I might just stop and watch an otter play. If you lived in a place like this and had to work hard eight hours a day, you'd be a pitiful incompetent."

"These animals are the same as most people, or better," says Sylvan undefensively. "Go down Seventh Avenue in New York and you can see people, but you can't talk to them. You'd be better off seeing animals. Except you could talk to the animals without 'bothering' them."

"Lots of people live a whole lifetime," Sylvan observed, "without having a mountain lion in their garden."

"Now, what is there about buckskin you could get better on Park Avenue or Bond Street?" Sylvan continued, rhetorically, laying out a newer jacket for inspection, bullet holes in the leather neatly mended. "Just this: a cold wind is what kills you in the mountains, but it can't cut through a big stag hide. And buckskin protects you from thorns. Know what those fringes are for? Not for decoration. They let water run off faster, and they make you a poorer target by breaking up the outline."
"Now, bedding," Bill announced. "Here's an elk hide I tanned. That's as good for sleeping as anything. It's warm, the hair is hollow so you can stand to have it against you, and it doesn't absorb moisture."

But in that remote country, as Sylvan says, "even if someone didn't like you very well he was still kind of glad to see you."
"Oh, I'm patriotic," says Buckskin. "Ever' time a bald eagle flies by, I take off my hat."

Sylvan “Buckskin Bill” Hart (1906-1980) was a “modern-day mountain man”. He arrived on the Salmon River in 1932 during the Depression and remained until his death. His story is one of survival in the harsh environment of the Salmon River canyon. He raised his own food, built his own home, and created unique items to survive in the wilderness. The museum has a large collection of Buckskin Bill’s handmade artifacts including utensils, rifles, knives, and buckskin bags. Two books, A River Went Out of Eden by Chana Cox and The Last of the Mountain Men by Harold Peterson, tell the story of this Idaho loner.

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