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by Ernest Thompson Seton

In the beginning, Woodcraft was the only science known to man, because he lived in the woods, and there had to master the things of his everyday life.

Thus it gave him skill with his hands, speed with his feet, as well as knowledge of all wild nature. It taught him to swim and be brave as well as to obey his leader and be true to his clan. The first time he failed in any of these things might easily mean death. Those who survived were the ones who had learned by heart all the big lessons of Woodcraft. It was not only so then, but it has always been so, and is so today.

All the great men who have made history were trained first in the school of Woodcraft. Nimrod, the mighty hunter, who built the city of Nineveh; Sardanapalus, the lion-killer, the Monarch of Assyria, who, by force of his own arms overcame two lions that attacked him at one time; Brennus, the Gaul, who could shoe his own horse and who was able to master all Rome; Rollo, the sea king, who could steer his sown ship in the wildest water and landed in Normandy to establish order and lay down laws that are now accepted all over, the world; Washington, hunter, woodsman, frontiersman, farmer and army scout, able to run, wrestle, command or obey; Abraham Lincoln hunter, pioneer, woodsman, axeman, farmer, deck-hand; Robert E. Lee, hunter, woodsman, horseman, planter, farmer.

Women too have shown the Woodcraft way to be the way of heroism. Grace Darling, the hardy fisher-girl, the housekeeper to her father, who watched at the Longstone Lighthouse and risked her life with undaunted courage in the midst of terrible storms to save the lives of shipwrecked men, women and children. Nancy Hanks Lincoln, the pioneer, the home-maker, who molded her son Abe along the lines of integrity, and developed those rare and noble moral traits which have given to Lincoln his spotless character and ever-enduring fame.

The Woodcrafter today does not have to study the trail to see what beasts have gone to drink, or put his ear to the ground to know if the buffalo herd is coming; but he knows that in the city the telephone book is the key to the business world. He does not have to smell the wind to learn where the jungle is burning, but he knows where the fire department box is and how to turn in an alarm. He does not have to look up and down the stream for crocodiles before swimming over, but he watches both ways before crossing the street. He need not study the scratches on the trunk for guides to camp, but he notes the name of the street when turning the corner, and in the midst of noise and excitement he keeps his head and knows his way as his forebears kept their wits in the midst of a herd stampeded; otherwise, they, themselves would have had no descendants.

It is in his nature to learn again the trees and plants and to understand the message of any sound in the woods or fields. And because he loves them, he protects the beautiful things of his country. He sees the wonders of the skies and is touched by the mystery of the stars. He knows where to camp; how to sleep; how to cook; how to live comfortably in primitive conditions. And, trained in the far back game of clan, he is thoughtful at home and helpful alike to younger children and older folk. The calm fortitude, built up of manifold training, teaches him to meet friend or foe, pleasure or danger, simply, and bravely. Whatever his situation may be he does his best, conscious of the Great Spirit's presence, and honors Him in his life.

The Woodcraft Girl of today is healthy. She knows how to live so as to have the overflowing sense of power. She is eager to get acquainted with the things in nature, the birds, the trees, the flowers, and to protect the beautiful things of her country. She sees the beauty of the sky and knows something of the mystery of the stars. She knows where to camp, how to sleep, how to cook, how to live comfortably in primitive conditions. She knows, too, how to make home happy and attractive how to make her clothing, how to care for and make friends with the little children. She knows how to meet people simply and in a manner which makes every one at their best. She is brave in the presence of external dangers and in facing her own problems. She does her best, whatever her station may be, conscious of the Great Spirit's presence and honors Him in her life.

Woodcraft says to all who would know the secrets of the woods, who would know the strength which comes from service and the secret trail to the upland of success: come, learn the meaning of the Council Ring, the Council Fire, and the friendship of the Tribe.

As you learn them the other things will come into your heart as gently as the crystal is formed in the heart of the rough hard emery rock, to be known at length as the best and rarest of all gems.

These are the things that Woodcraft built into us in the beginning; these in their total are High Manhood and Womanhood.

The Birch Bark Roll

 

 

   

 

 


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Last modified: October 15, 2016.