Dwellers in the Hills (Chapter 5, page 2 of 8)


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Chapter 5

High against the chimney, on two dogwood forks, rested the long rifle with its fishtail sight and the brass plate on the stock for the bullets and the "patching." Below it hung the old powder-horn, its wooden plug dangling from a string,--tools of the long ago. Closing one's eyes one could see the tall grandsires fighting in the beech forest, a brown patch of hide sighted over the brass knife-blade bead, and death, and to load again with the flat neck of the bullet set in the palm of the hand and covered with powder.

That yesterday was gone, but old Simon was doing with to-day. On two benches was a cart wheel, with its hickory spokes radiating like fingers from the locust hub, and on the floor were the mallet and the steel chisel with its tough oak handle. Stacked up in the corner were bundles of straight hickory, split from the butt of the great shell-bark log; round cuts of dry locust, and long timbers of white and red oak, and quarters of the tough sugars, seasoning, hard as iron. With these were the axe, the wedge, the dogwood gluts, and the mauls made with no little labour from the curled knots of the chestnut oak, and hooped with an iron tire-piece.

It was said on the country side that old Simon knew lost secrets of woodcraft taught by the early man;--in what moon to fell the shingle timber that it might not curl on the roof; on what face of the hill the sassafras root was red; how to know the toughest hickory by hammering on its trunk; when twigs cut from the forest would grow, if thrust in the earth; and that secret day of all the year when an axe, stuck into the bark of a tree, would deaden it to the root.

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