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Nessmuk's Adirondack Letters

By George Washington Sears ("Nessmuk") (1821-1890), 1880-3

Cruise of the Sairy Gamp, 1

Forest and Stream, June 28, 1883

OH, the beauties and delights of rural surroundings. The cheerful awakening from sound, healthful slumber. For instance, the time is about 4 a.m., or a little before. Dick, the game-cock, having gone to roost at sundown, suddenly awakens to a sense of his responsibility as boss of the entire premises and sends out a clarion note that may be heard one mile away. Nine female geese and one old gander at once respond, with outstretched necks and voices shrill and deep. Three guinea hens, with their Brigham, take up the cry. The old peacock gets on his wings, sails up to the peak of the barn, and lets go to the bottom of his lungs. A flock of ducks starts up suddenly and waddles off to the creek with much noisy quacking. Four mild-eyed, deer-faced Alderney cows commence a musical bellowing from the paddock on the flat by the creek; four fawn-like calves answer with responsive bleatings from the calf-pasture above.

It is not yet 5 a.m., and the thrush, the robin, the song sparrow, the phoebe-bird, the catbird, the peewee, the chewink, the bluejay and the vireo are making the whole business very musical.

How about the awakening of a summer morning in New York? I am not so certain. I have tried both sides. I prefer the donkey engine to the guinea hen; the steam whistle to the peacock. The rattle and roar of the wakening city is hardly more disturbing to nerves than the racket of a farmyard. I know something better.

I know a spot where plumy pines
O'erhang the verdant banks of Otter,
Where wood-ducks build among the vines,
That bend above the crystal water.
'Tis there the bluejay makes her nest,
In thickest shade of water beeches;
The fish-hawk, statuesque in rest,
Keeps guard o'er glassy pools and reaches.

Well, I am "going through the Wilderness." The Sairy Gamp meets me at Boonville the first week in July. The Sairy weighs ten and one half pounds. I noticed since I commenced writing about light canoes in Forest and Stream, several makers have discovered that a ten-pound canoe will carry a light canoeist and his duffle. Have they ever seen it done? Have they placed a few ten-pound canoes in the hands of skilled canoeists for lone, independent cruises in the North Woods and other glorious lake-dotted forests? Am I to meet one of them here and there, go into camp with him, divide the last ounce of provisions, and then paddle in company with him over the blessed clear waters, and over the inlets, outlets, etc.? I guess not. There is no ten, eleven or twelve-pound cedar canoe afloat this season with a live man in her.

I think a sixteen-pound canoe would be safer and more comfortable. All the same, she is bound to go through. Maybe she will do better than her maker thinks. Possibly he has builded better than he knew. There is a possibility that I may turn out to be an old gray-headed expert in light canoeing. Maybe I have been there. Perhaps I have paddled a kyak, the most ticklish boat that ever floated a man. And I may get drowned. I shall certainly take in some duckings.

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