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STARTING amid the volcanic precipices, eternal snows, and arid deserts of the Rocky Mountains; the Snake River winds its sinuous way towards the Pacific; one time, rushing headlong through the deep gorges of the mountains, and at another, spreading itself out in still lakes, as it sluggishly advances through ever-varying scenes of picturesque grandeur and of voluptuous softness.

In all this variety, the picture only changes from the beautiful to the sublime; while the eye of the civilized intruder, as it speculates on the future, can see on the Snake River, the city, the village, and the castle, in situations more interesting and more romantic than they have ever yet presented themselves to the world.

The solitary trapper and the wild Indian are now the sole inhabitants of its beautiful shores; the wigwams of the aborigine, the temporary lodge of the hunter and the cunning beaver, rear themselves almost side by side, and nature reposes like a virgin bride in all her beauty and loveliness, soon to be stripped of her natural charms to fulfil new offices with a new existence.

On an abrupt bank of this beautiful stream, overlooking the surrounding landscape for miles - a spot of all others to be selected for a site of beauty and defence, might be seen a few lodges of the Wallawallah Indians.

On the opposite shore stood a fine young warrior, decked in all the tinsel gewgaws which his savage fancy had suggested, to catch the love of his mistress. With stealthy steps he opened the confused undergrowth that lined the banks, and taking therefrom a delicate paddle, he fruitlessly searched until the truth flashed upon him, that some rival had stolen his canoe. Readily would he have dashed into the bosom of the swollen river, and, as another Leander, sought another Hero, but his dress was not to be thus spoiled. Like a chafed lion he walked along the shore, his bosom alternately torn by rage, love, and vanity, when, far up the bank he saw a herd of buffalo slaking their thirst in the running stream. Seizing his bow and arrow, with noiseless step he stole upon his victim, and the unerring shaft soon brought it to the earth, struggling with the agonies of death.

It was the work of only an adept to strip off the skin and spread it on the ground. Upon it were soon laid the gayly wrought moccasons, leggings, and hunting shirt the trophies of honorable warfare, and the skins of birds of beautiful plumage. The corners of the hide were then brought together, and tied with thongs; the bundle was set afloat upon the stream, and its owner dashed on the rear, guiding it to the opposite shore with its contents unharmed.

Again decking himself, and bearing his wooing tokens before him, he ran with the swiftness of the deer to the lodge that contained his mistress, leaving the simplest of all the water-craft of the back-woods to decay upon the ground.

The helplessness of age, the appealing eyes and hands of infancy, the gallantry of the lover, the hostile excursion of a tribe, are natural incentives to the savage mind to improve upon the mere bundle of inanimate things that could be safely floated upon the water. To enlarge this bundle, to build up its sides, would be his study and delight, and we have accordingly next in the list of back-woods craft, what is styled by the white man, - the Buffalo-skin boat. This craft is particularly the one of the prairie country, where the materials for its construction are always to be found, and where its builders are always expert.

A party of Indians find themselves upon the banks of some swift and deep river - there is no timber larger than a common walking stick to be seen for miles around; the Indians are loaded with plunder - for they have made a successful incursion into the territory of some neighboring tribe, and cannot trust their effects in the water; or they are perchance migrating to a favorite hunting ground, and have with them all their domestic utensils, their squaws and children. A boat is positively necessary, and it must be made of the materials at hand. A fire is kindled, and by it are laid a number of long slender poles, formed by trimming off the limbs of the saplings growing on the margin of the stream. While this is going on, some of the braves start in pursuit of buffalo; two of the stoutest bulls met with, are killed and stripped of their skins. These skins are then sewed together, the poles having been well heated, the longest is selected and bent into the proper form for a keel; the ribs are then formed and lashed transversely to it, making what would appear to be the skeleton of a large animal. This skeleton is then placed upon the hairy side of the buffalo skin, when it is drawn around the frame and secured by holes cut in the skin, and hitched on to the ribs; a little pounded slippery-elm bark is used to caulk the seams, and small pieces of wood cut with a thread-like screw, are inserted in the arrow or bullet holes of the hide.

Thus, in the course of two or three hours, a handsome and durable boat is completed, capable of carrying eight or ten men with comfort and safety.

Passing from the prairie we come to the thick forest, and there we find the most perfect of the water-craft of the back-woods - the varieties of the canoe. The inhabitant of the woods never dreams of a boat made of skins; he looks to the timber for a conveyance. Skilled in the knowledge of plants, he knows the exact time when the bark of the tree will most readily unwarp from its native trunk; and from this simple material he forms the most beautiful craft that sits upon the water.

The rival clubs that sport their yachts upon the Thames, or ply them upon the harbor of Mannahatta, like things of life - formed as their boats are by the high scientific knowledge and perfect manual skill of the two great naval nations in the world, are thrown in the shade by the beautiful and simple bark canoe, made by the rude hatchet and knife of the red man.

The American forest is filled with trees, whose bark can be appropriated to the making of canoes; the pecan, and all the hickories, with the birch, grow there in infinite profusion.

A tree of one of these species that presents a trunk clear of limbs for fifteen or twenty feet, is first selected; the artisan has nothing but a rude hunting knife and tomahawk for the instruments of his craft; with the latter, he girdles the bark near the root of the tree - this done, he ascends to the proper height, and there makes another girdle; then taking his knife and cutting through the bark downwards, he separates it entirely from the trunk.

Ascending the tree again, he inserts his knife-blade under the bark, and turning it up, soon forces it with his hand until he can use more powerful levers; once well started, he will worm his body between the bark and the trunk, and thus tear it off, throwing it upon the ground, like an immense scroll. The ross, or outside of the bark, is scraped off until it is quite smooth, the scroll is then opened, and the braces inserted in order to give the proper width to the gunners of the canoe. Strong cords are then made from the bark of the linn tree or hickory, the open ends of the bark scroll are pressed together and fastened between clamps, the clamps secured by the cord. If the canoe be intended only for a temporary use, the clamps are left on.

But if to usefulness there can be added the highest beauty, then the rude clamps are displaced by the sewing together of the ends of the bark. A preparation is then made of deer's tallow and pounded charcoal, which is used instead of pitch to fill up the meshes of the seams, and the boat is complete.

This simple process produces the most beautiful model of a boat that can be imagined art can neither embellish the form, or improve upon the simple mechanism of the back-woods. Every line in it is graceful, and its sharp bows indeed seem almost designed to cleave the air as well as water, so perfectly does it embrace every scientific requisite for overcoming the obstructions of the element in which it is destined to move. In these apparently frail machines, the red man, aided but by a single paddle, will thread the quiet brook and deep running river, speed over the glassy lake like a swan, and shoot through the foaming rapids as sportively as the trout, and when the storm rages, and throws the waves heavenward, and the lurid clouds seem filled with molten fire, you will see the Indian, like a spirit of the storm, at one time standing out in bold relief against the lightning-riven sky, the next moment - disappearing in the watery gulf, rivalling the gull in the gracefulness of his movements, and rejoicing, like the petrel, in the confusion of the elements.

The articles used in savage life, like all the works of nature, are simple, and yet perfectly adapted to the purpose for which they are designed.

The most ingenious and laborious workman, aided by the most perfect taste, cannot possibly form a vessel so general in its use, so excellent in its ends, as the calabash.

The Indian finds it suspended in profusion in every glade of his forest home, spontaneous in its growth, and more effectually protected from destruction from animals, through a bitter taste, than by any artificial barrier whatever. So with all the rest of his appropriations from nature's hands. His mind scarcely ever makes an effort, and consequently seldom improves.

The simple buffalo skin that forms a protection for the trifles of an Indian lover, when he would bear them safely across the swollen stream, compared with the gorgeous barge that conveyed Egypt's queen down the Nile to meet Antony, seems immeasurably inferior in skill and contrivance. Yet the galley of Cleopatra, with all its gay trappings, and its silken sails glittering in the sun, was as far inferior to a "ship of the line," as the Indian's rude bundle to the barge of Cleopatra. Imagination may go back to some early period, when the naked Phoenician sported upon a floating log; may mark his progress, as the inviting waters of the Mediterranean prompted him to more adventurous journeyings, and in time see him astonishing his little world, by fearlessly navigating about the bays, and coasting along the whole length of his native home.

How many ages after this, was it, that the invading fleets of classic Greece, proud fleets, indeed, in which the gods themselves were interested, were pulled ashore, as now the fisherman secures his little skiff? Admire the proud battle ship, riding upon the waves, forming a safe home for thousands, now touching the clouds with its sky-reaching masts, and descending safely into the deep. With what power and majesty does it dash the intruding wave from its prow, and rush on in the very teeth of the winds!

Admire it as the wonder of human skill, then go back through the long cycle of years, and see how many centuries have elapsed in thus perfecting it - then examine the most elaborate craft of our savage life, and the antiquity of their youth will be impressed upon you.

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