IT is Saturday. Sunday is the cruiser's day of rest, repairs and letter writing. We look forward to tomorrow's camp with no little degree of pleasure. By the exertions of the past week we have fully earned the rest. Here is a spot suitable for the camp, and although it is still early in the afternoon, we haul out. Here we seem to be somewhat isolated from other human beings, as we have not passed a habitation in the last hour, and there are no signs of any on the long reach ahead of us. Our camp is pitched on a sloping bank, among some very large boulders. In the rear the forest is dense; the opposite shore is very abrupt and heavily wooded to its summit with beech, birch and maple, whose brilliant leaves are just beginning to fall in the light wind that carries them sailing far out on to the bosom of the stream, whose waters are to bear them on their voyage toward the Gulf. Everything is taken out of the canoes tonight, piled in a heap and covered with a tarpaulin, and the craft are turned bottom up, preparatory to the morrow's inspection.



Barnacle builds the fireplace. This is not often done; but as we are to remain here for more than twenty-four hours, we intend to live well, and we need a good fireplace for cooking. Barnacle hashes up half a can of corned beef with half that quantity of sweet corn, and with some onions, warms the mass over the fire. I make the tea, toast some of the stale bread, and open a can of peaches.

Our Sunday breakfast was the usual one -- a can of Boston baked beans, bread and coffee. Then we set about the opening of the various packages constituting the cargo, and spreading their contents out to air, and in some instances to dry. The contents of the clothes bag were hung on the branches, the blankets were whipped, shaken and hung up to air; and then the razor was stropped and the chin shorn of its stubby accumulation of a week. Then we turned to the canoes and carefully examined their bottoms. The Aurora had come out in good shape thus far, and had but few cuts. Here and there I found a pebble firmly imbedded in her planking, and in one place a small piece of tin had been driven in and doubled over, evidently a memento of the empty cans of Salamanca. All pebbles, tin and dirt were carefully scraped away, and the cuts and dents filled in and smoothed over with beeswax, followed by a coat of boiled oil. Then she looked as if she had just come from the hands of the varnisher Before the sunshine left them the blankets were stowed in the tent, the packages again made up, and the clothes bag packed and stowed in its accustomed place. This was to have been a day of rest, but we had made it, thus far, one of continuous work.

We had a can of oysters among our stores, and with a little milk we might have a stew. Barnacle told me he had heard a rooster crowing down stream, so I took a kettle and started on a foraging expedition. A mile below the camp I came upon a small clearing. In the center stood a log building almost covered by vines and bushes. I opened the rickety gate which led through the rail fence, and seeing no one about, whistled to attract attention. It had immediate effect, for as I approached the low porch of the cabin, a long, lean, gaunt dog put in an appearance, looking for all the world as if he had just waked from a long sleep after a night among sheep. Catching sight of me, with a low growl and gleaming teeth, he made a spring for my throat. I dodged the attack. But the brute was as quick as I. Before I could fairly recover from my surprise he again sprang for me. I dealt him a blow with my kettle in his fiery red eyes. As his teeth snapped in rage, I saw that, unarmed, I was no match for the vicious beast; and remembering the stick at the gate, I sprang for it, and by the time the brute could gather from the kick I had dealt him with my heavy shoe, I had a firm grip on the cudgel, and the next instant I dealt him a blow that doubled him up like a ball. Following up my success with another well-directed blow, I had him at my feet, his eyes bloodshot and tongue protruding between his teeth. Of course, with the barking and growling of the enraged brute, and the yelling that I had kept up, the inmates of the cabin had been attracted to the scene.


Milking Under Difficulties.

Oh, what a racket there was then. The old man, with long, tangled hair, tawny beard and tattered clothing, was going to "How the head off the --- tramp," while the sour-visaged skeleton of a woman at his side cursed me for my attempt on the life of her pet. We all tried to talk at once; and they gave me no chance to explain myself, but kept up their infernal din of curses and gesticulations. Meanwhile the dog had recovered from my blow, and crept to his mistress's side with his tail between his legs, looking like the whipped cur he was. He was careful to keep out of the reach of the club, which I still held in my hand. When the anger of the two scarecrows had abated somewhat, I gained a chance to explain my errand, and soon succeeded in obtaining the milk, a dozen of eggs and a cake of honey. The kettle had to undergo some manipulation in order to restore it to any resemblance to its former shape; the eggs I stowed between my shirts, first drawing my belt snugly about my waist. I tendered a silver half dollar in payment for the stores, but it was with considerable hesitation that they accepted it, first biting its edges, and then whacking it down on the table. "Thar's so many counterfeiters 'roun now days. no one knows what money's what," said the male bundle of rags. I told him that in the country I came from we did not discriminate between good and bad coins, so long as we could see the date. But with the eggs in my shirt, the honey in one hand and the milk in the other, how was I to carry the club? I dared not go out without it so long as the brute of a dog was at liberty; and the old heathen obstinately refused to tie him up, but he promised not to let him follow me. I eyed him closely as he lay under the table while I sneaked out of the door, and cast hurried glances over my shoulder as I made tracks for the river bank, thankful that I was out of the presence of so vicious a brute and his equally vicious-looking owners. It may have been owing to excitement produced by my recent encounter that I stumbled and fell full length over a rock on my way back to camp. I saved the honey and most of the milk; but, oh, dear! there were but eight whole eggs left when I fished them out from between my shirts.

So we had our oyster stew; and perhaps I enjoyed it all the more after such a hard fight for the milk.




THE hoo-hoo-to-hoo of an owl wakes me at daylight, and I bound out of the tent with the agility of a young buck. How this life is strengthening wind and limb, expanding the chest and developing the muscles. Fried eggs and bacon, bread, butter and coffee constitute our breakfast, and before the sun has dried the dew on our canoe decks we are afloat. Passing the scene of my encounter of yesterday, I yell at the top of my voice, for why sneak by in fear of another attack? What fear have I now; have I not my revolver lying by my side and my heavy hunting knife in my belt, to say nothing of the stout paddle in my hand? But he comes not, neither is there sign of life about the cabin; and we go on down between the mountains as the sun lifts his red eye over their summits. About ten o'clock we landed on the muddy shores at the town of Elmenton to mail letters. We attracted considerable attention here, for a story had gone the rounds of the local press that we were bound on a cruise around the Horn to the Golden Gate, instead of a quiet, health-seeking voyage to the Gulf of Mexico. Much time was spent in the effort to convince two skeptics that a craft built of strips and ribs could be a canoe as well as one cut out of a log. They doubted their ability to navigate our style of canoe, and we willingly left them in that doubt.

We had a fair current and made a good run in the Indian summer day; and as the evening was so pleasant, we paddled on until night overtook us, just as we ran into a lot of jutting rocks. It had become so dark that we could barely discern the shore line, as we carefully picked our way by feeling for the bottom with our paddles. We came finally to a huge timber raft, and on this hauled out and made our camp. We pitched the large tent over the Comfort, making the bottom fast by driving pegs into the soft pine logs of the raft, while the Aurora had her own little tent buttoned down snugly to the gunwales.

Our rule, on landing for the night, is always first to prepare our sleeping arrangements, and then to get supper. Tonight an occasional drop of rain warns us that we must hasten our supper and get beneath the shelter of our canvas roofs. Hardly is the tea steeped before the rain comes gently down, driving us to the shelter of our tents. Lighting my candle and setting it on the forward hatch, I convert the after hatch into a table, on which I have a steaming cup of tea, two or three good slices of bread and butter, some cold corned beef and a jar of orange marmalade. The rain is pattering gently on the canvas roof of my snug quarters, making music


From Fog to Sunshine.

pleasant to my ears. Reaching under the starboard side, pipe and tobacco are produced from the canvas pocket, and drawing from under the forward hatch a small hand bag, which contains a little of everything, I fish out a rubber-wrapped note book and jot down the events of the day. Then, stretched at full length, with head resting on the clothes-bag pillow, and while puffing away at my pipe, I enjoy the perusal of "A Sailor's Sweetheart" until, overcome by drowsiness, I "douse the glimm," and wake up the next morning to find a heavy fog all about us, and Barnacle in a sputter because his tobacco has got wet and won't burn.

About nine o'clock the fog lifts a trifle, and we shoot out into the channel, which is now quite straight and has a current that carries us along at a fair speed without help from the paddle. The morning train to Oil City rattles past us through the fog as we land at East Brady to lay in a store of bread and potatoes. The mist hides our canoes from view of the loungers, and thus we escape attention, but excite suspicion that we are tramps, because of the small amount of stores we purchase, and by reason of our dilapidated appearance. By noon the sun sends a ray or two through the fog and lights up the high hilltops on the left; and in the middle of the afternoon the fog disappears, and the sun is so warm that we paddle comfortably with arms bared to the elbow and heads uncovered. We are carried around a bend, and my eyes rest upon the hamlet of Templeton, where in 1869 I spent several pleasant days, and where I separated from a party of pleasant companions after a tramp across the mountains from the Susquehanna River. Here the Mahoning Creek adds its waters to the Allegheny and broadens the river to a quarter of a mile, while it is so straight that objects are lost to view in the distance. Opposite Templeton we came upon a rope ferry. The boat was a huge scow. It bore a cargo of household goods and a cow made fast to one of the stanchions. Perched high up on the load was a daughter of the Emerald Isle. Her interest in the strange craft coming down on the boat was so intense that she did not notice the effect our long paddles had on the nerves of her quadruped until, all of a sudden, she was tumbled to the bottom of the scow and almost spilled overboard, as the cow pulled back, upsetting a table and pulling down the chairs and a tin wash-boiler. The din of the tin boiler, the shouts of the ferryman and the screams of the woman rose on the air; while Bossy stood with head and tail erect, ready for some more rampage on the slightest provocation. "It's me that id loik to git a whack at yez wid one o' thim long poles, ye dirty divils," cried Mrs. Ireland, as we again swung the paddles and headed for Dick's Island for our camp.

Barnacle hangs the kettle over the fire, and while the water is heating, picks to pieces half a can of corned beef while I peel two onions, half a dozen potatoes and one turnip; these sliced very thin, together with the beef, are well seasoned and put into the boiling water. When thoroughly cooked the whole is thickened with flour gravy.


Canoeist's Stew.

The mess chests form a table, on which are our cups, pannikins, knife, fork and spoon. A jar of chow-chow, can of condensed milk, can of sugar and one of honey are flanked by bread and butter. Soon the air is redolent with the savory odors of the "canoeists' stew." Having satisfied the cravings of the inner man, it is with difficulty that we summon enough energy to go about the scullion duties. Here a bit of advice. Never put off until tomorrow what can be done tonight -- especially the dish washing. If you leave until morning the washing of the kettle in which the stew has been made, or the pan in which the bacon has been fried, you will find double the quantity of grease in them, and no doubt receive a left-handed blessing from the cook, who will invariably want the frying-pan just when you have got it filled with grease, sand and ashes.




THE next morning we head for the tall spire in the distance, which I know to be in Kittanning, five miles away. The hillsides are pierced with holes almost as far along as the eye can reach. We paddle close along the shore opposite one of these dark holes, when we see a railroad car standing beneath a high trestle with broad platform at its top. Leading up the face of the hill we can see a narrow railway track and make out the little cars, one going up empty while the other comes down with its load of black diamonds. Half way up the hillside, while the loaded car keeps the main track, by a simple mechanical contrivance the switch is turned by the empty one, and it turns off to the right and midway they pass one another, each on its own track. Arrived at the bottom the contents of the loaded one are dumped into a car beneath. With the arrival of the loaded car at the bottom the empty one reaches the mouth of the tunnel, where it is unhitched and run far back into the hill where the miner is at work with pick and shovel cutting down the black walls of coal, which dimly reflect the rays of his tiny covered light.



With the increasing breadth of the river we find a lessening of the current, and in consequence make slower time, but anxiety for the safety of our craft from the treacherous rocks has passed, and we paddle on with laughter and song, paying little heed to the drizzling rain which has set in. The five miles between Kittanning and our last night's stopping place have required as many strokes of the paddle as a like distance on the canals, so that the whistles and bells are summoning the workmen from their mid-day meal as the bows of our canoes grate on the sand beneath the first bridge that spans the Allegheny. We don oil skins, and the skipper of the Aurora attracts no little attention as he stalks through the main street and up to the Post Office. Purchasing a late New York paper and a peck of onions, he returns and finds Barnacle entertaining a number of gentlemen. They have been looking for us for more than a week and feared we had passed in the night. One in particular, who had imbibed more corn juice than was good for the condition of his mind, wanted a "lift as far as Pittsburgh," and almost insisted on coming on board.

High hills crowd the waters into a narrow channel again, and we experience the delights of a rapid current, until some miles below we go into camp. While Barnacle is building the fire, I go off on a foraging expedition and return with sou'wester filled with fine potatoes from a neighboring patch. Supper and the evening past, and candle burning low, I am soon in dreamland.

"Well, now, if that ain't the purtiest bit of a boat I ever see, I'm a sinner."

Am I dreaming? No, it is broad daylight, and as I open the door of my little cabin I see a tall shaggy individual with a shotgun resting carelessly in his hands.

"Good morning, neighbor, is that your potato patch just across the road there? I borrowed some potatoes from it last night, and am ready to pay for them now." I didn't know the meaning of that shotgun in his hands.

"Yer welcome to all the pertates yer want," said he, and then he explained that he was out looking for strayed sheep, and as quail were abundant, had brought the gun to knock one over for breakfast. I had the water boiled and coffee made as Barnacle put in an appearance with a loaf of fresh bread and a string of sausages. The appetizing odor from the sizzling links came from the frying-pan, and our visitor did not resist the invitation to sit by and have a bite.

The morning was bright and clear, with a steady breeze down stream. A goodbye from our friend, and we were again afloat with Pittsburgh twenty-five miles away. While we were considering the expediency of raising sail, the river made a turn and the wind sweeping down a narrow valley, came out dead ahead, giving us a hard day's work. About mid-day we passed Freeport, and at three o'clock, on a low sandy island about five miles above Pittsburgh, made our camp. Tomorrow we would land at the Iron City. The night is dark, with heavy clouds threatening rain before daybreak. The shores on either side of us are thickly dotted with the homes of mechanics, and now and then the hilarity of half drunken men is borne to the ear from the low drinking saloon opposite.



We smother our campfire at an early hour and draw the low-hanging willow branches close, that the light from the lantern within the tent may not attract the attention of inquisitive visitors. Before turning in I take a peep outside and discover that the clouds have disappeared, disclosing the clear heavens studded with bright stars, which the frost-tipped leaves and grasses reflect, while the dark waters of the river flow silently by. The fire is going and the coffee steaming before the sun gets a peep at us the following morning, and before he has a chance to thaw the heavy coating of frost from off the tent and canoes, we have made our breakfast, civilized our faces by the use of a razor, and are rapidly shortening the distance between us and the great Iron City, over which, like a pall, hangs the dense cloud of black smoke from hundreds of tall chimneys and the smoke stacks of steamers. Cautiously we approach the only available landing stage located at the abutment of the bridge which spans the river.




AT the Post Office we receive each a budget of letters; and then with our arms filled with stores we return to the water's edge, and just as a steamer passes under the bridge, we shoot out in her wake, and at 1:30 o'clock are caught in the whirl of meeting waters at the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, and are on the great Ohio, which is a tributary to the mighty Mississippi. The river here has a width of about half a mile, and this is its medial width along its winding course to it debouchure into the Mississippi at Cairo. The head of the river has an elevation of 1150 feet above the sea, while in its long descent to its mouth there is a gradual fall of only 400 feet; thus its current, except at the season of freshets, is more uniform than that of any other river in North America of equal length. The stage of water is now so low that only the lightest draft steamers can navigate its channels, in consequence of which the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers are blocked with hundreds of coal-laden scows awaiting a "coal rise," that they may be towed to their far southern destinations.


A Camp on Dead Man's Island.

On our left the shores are high, and along the face of the hills can be seen the dark, dismal entrances to the mines, and the long troughs down which the coal is sent to the great scow-like boat at the water's edge. One steamer will usually take down a tow of from twenty to thirty of these "coal floats." I am told that not infrequently a whole tow will be sunk, and that a steamer will seldom reach New Orleans without losing one or more of these flats with hundreds of tons of black wealth.

It was not until we were about five miles below the city that the smoke cloud thinned out enough to allow a glimpse of the sun and breathing without inhaling more or less of the sooty deposit into our lungs. Dead Man's Island, one mile above Shoustown, Pa., offering a suitable camp site, we landed and made an early camp, as the air was disagreeably raw and cold. Again, on the following morning, a heavy fog covered all things with a wet blanket, and it was not until ten o'clock that we broke camp and paddled to the forlorn village, where we mailed the answers to the letters we received at Pittsburgh. The day was wet and generally disagreeable; and as we passed town after town, with the black smoke issuing from the chimneys, depositing its soot on land and water alike, filling eyes, nose and mouth with its grime, we did wish for a breath of the fresh air of the glorious Adirondacks and a draft of Horicon's pure waters. We had no longer to guard against running foul of sharp rocks or boulders, as the channel was now clear to the mouth; but a new cause of anxiety presented itself -- the great sternwheel steamers, which a man has told me frequently capsize the large river skiffs with their tremendous swells; but after a day or two of experience we not only lost all fear, but came to have a certain fondness for these craft and hailed the sight of one with delight. If they were coming up stream we paddled so close to them that their guards could be touched with the paddle. It was amusing to see the passengers and crew run aft to see us "overturned" in the great swells that our little craft rode as buoyantly as though they were but corks on the water. Here comes one now, a freight towboat, heading directly for us. We can scarcely see her hull, it is so low in the water, little more than a foot of it rising above the surface, and much of that is hidden by the wave that piles up ahead of her. As we pass within three feet of the guards I can see the negro stokers shoveling the soft bituminous coal into the fireboxes.

A break in the hills shows us the mouth of Beaver River; and notwithstanding that the rain is falling in heavy showers and now and then is driven with force against our faces by a strong blast of wind, we experience a sense of rejoicing on beholding the goodly amount of water that is flowing into the Ohio. I look at it and wonder if I will ever be satisfied with the amount of water. Like the money-making man, "the more I get the more I want." The bread is getting low, and although it is Sunday, we land in front of Georgetown, and while Barnacle makes the necessary purchases, I am interviewed by about half the populace and am asked all sorts of odd questions, one man wanting to know if my companion is trying to hire a hall to show in.


Through the Fog.

The river has now broadened, and the channel is so straight that we are anxious that the wind would come out fair for us, that we may relieve the monotony of paddling by some sailing.

We have left Pennsylvania, and now go into camp on Line Island, in West Virginia. I am awakened in the morning by what I supposed to be rain, but what proves to be a heavy fog dripping off the branches overhanging the canoe. As we are about to push off into the stream I hear the slow puff-puff of a steamer, and shortly after her whistle sounds the signal to keep out of the way, as she pushes her tow of barges against the current. In strong contrast to the one whistle of our Northern steamers are those of the Ohio and Mississippi craft, which seldom have less than three, and from that up to a full octave. Paddling cautiously, with the sense of hearing constantly on the alert, that we may not be run down by a steamer, we reach Steubenville, Ohio, where the fog gradually rises and enables us to have a fair view of the Pan-Handle Railroad bridge which here spans the river. With the lifting of the fog a breeze springs up from the north, and the heart beats quickly in anticipation of the delights of a sail. The loungers along the shore look with amazement marked on their countenances as they witness the quick rigging of the little ships, and one of them waves his hat as the Aurora's white wings, filled with the welcome wind, heel her over, while the waters part with a hissing sound at her fore. Oh, what a delightful relief after the weary miles of paddling. The breeze carries us on at so fair a speed that we find our craft and their occupants the center of attraction as we sail past the busy manufacturing town of Wheeling, W. Va. The wind leaves us soon after, and we make camp, well satisfied with the run of forty-seven miles under sail and paddle. The city of Wheeling presents an interesting scene as viewed from our camp, with the heavy cloud of smoke through which shoot the flames from the many chimneys of forges and glass works which make it the busy city it is. The heavy pounding of the trip-hammer; the rap-a-tap-tap of the riveting hammer as it heads the rivets binding together the plates of boiler iron; the piercing shrieks of steam whistles and the loud calls of the teamsters as they urge their mule teams up the steep cobble-paved levee, are all in strong contrast to the quiet of the upriver country through which we had so lately come. After having well shaken the sails and tents and washed the decks of the canoes to free them from the coating of soot that the heavy cloud of smoke had deposited upon them during the night, we again set sail, and before a favoring but fitful breeze, soon reach Moundsville, the location of one of the prehistoric mounds which are so plentiful throughout the Ohio Valley. Again the high hills have closed in on the river, which here takes a sharp turn to the right and shuts off the wind.


Sunshine and Gloom.

We furl the sails, but leave them on deck, in readiness for use on the slightest intimation of a breeze. The sun has come over the hilltops undimmed by fog or cloud, and sheds his genial warmth upon us, brightening up all nature and instilling new life and activity into the birds that sweetly warble from their perches in the branches of the high trees. The river now winds in and out among the hills, constantly changing the scene.

The night of October 24 was the coldest yet experienced on the cruise, and although I slept warm and comfortable, when I turned out to take my usual morning bath I found a heavy fog being driven before a strong upstream wind, and that the paddles had been frozen to the ground. While we were at breakfast a native came along, and stopping to admire our craft, informed us that "we had a right smart of ice in our hog-trough last night." All day we paddled against the head wind and chilling fog with aching fingers, which received very little protection from the soaked woolen mittens. Except the sight of a steamer slowly ascending the river, we met with nothing to enliven the monotony of the sunless day, and gladly accepted an inviting camp site on Grape Island early in the afternoon.

© 2000 Craig O'Donnell
May not be reproduced without my permission.