By Dan Beard
Don't forget Audubon's Day, the 4th of May, and do not fail to turn out in force and put up bird-boxes on every tree, shed, and barn within reach.
After you have made the prairie schooner, the coasting wagon for running down hills, the pushmobile, and the sailing wagon, you will probably grow ambitious and want to try something on a larger scale.
Of course I am writing for boys of all ages and some of the older boys I know would like to take a vacation in a moving camp which possesses the same advantage as the shell of a snail, it is always with you. With a house-wagon you can spend a most delightful vacation, living the out-door life of a gypsy.
If you are too young to go alone on a trip of this kind, I assure you it has fascinations for any normal, healthy man, and you may induce your big brother, your uncle, or even your father to go with you, and they may take my word for it they will never regret the time they spent playing gypsy in a house-wagon.
Those beautiful summer days in the open fields, the free and independent life, the visions of the flapjacks and the aroma of the coffee, will always remain in their memory as a sort of green oasis in the desert of their business life.
You just tell them this, boys, and picture up the delights of the camp-fire and the scenery and all that sort of thing and enlist them on your side. Then show them the plans and directions, telling them how they can do it. There is no denying the fact that living in a house-wagon, combining as it does the delight of camping with the pleasure of traveling, is one of the finest ways in the world of having
fun in the summer, and is within reach of many boys. Of course, there will be necessarily some expenditure, but if economy and forethought are used, and the expenses divided up among the crowd, it will make a cheap outing, and the longer you stay the cheaper will be the rate per day, because practically all expense occurs in the original outlay. After you are on the road or in camp there is little opportunity to spend money, even if you so desire.
For the boys who cannot go on the road there is still plenty of fun. It is not even necessary to spend a cent in order that a small boy may have fun camping in a wagon. Neither is it necessary to own or hire a horse, because the camp need not be movable.
If you have an old wagon in the back lot, a tent may be made over it by erecting a pole at each end, fastening a
line across, and then throwing across it a piece of canvas, carpet, oil-cloth, or any "old thing" which will serve for a protection from the sun. A box under the wagon seat can be used to conceal your camp "duffle" when you are not at home.
The bodies of the house-wagons built in England (Fig. 70) extend out over the wheels sufficiently to give room
for Camp wagon for two bunks, one above the other, set crosswise at the end of the wagon. These wagons also contain a stove, table, and library, and are often fitted up with solid polished mahogany trimmings and furniture; but they cost a great deal more money than, I am glad to say, most American boys have at their command, for the boys with money enough to buy such an outfit are not the kind of boys that would ever enjoy using it. In Jersey there is a man who builds cheaper wagons for the gypsies, but these are also beyond the reach of the ordinary American boy. There are, however, many
readers of this book who can readily procure a horse and wagon for a summer outing. All that is wanted of the horse is a cheerful disposition and strength enough to pull the wagon over the country roads, and all that is wanted of the wagon is a running gear and body sufficiently well put together to practically do away with the chances of breaking down.
Fig. 71 shows an ordinary grocer's covered delivery wagon, the front-end view with the shafts removed to simplify the diagram. It is flanked upon either side by a lean-to tent, the front flaps of which meeting over the roof enclose the wagon and make a big, roomy camp. An arrangement of this kind gives the privacy of an upstairs bedroom to the upper part of the wagon and a roomy down-stairs bedroom as well. Fig. 72 shows a perspective view of a wagon arranged in this manner.
In arranging these side tents for a wagon it is necessary to have an extra piece of canvas to cover the top of the wagon and lap over the ends of the tent cloth, otherwise in stormy weather the rain will come down the sides of the wagon into the wing tents. In the first diagram (Fig. 70), I have shown the tents rolled upon the side of the wagon, and in Figs. 71 and 72, pitched ready for camp duty. In each case there is a flap attached to the top of the wagon which covers the upper edge of the tent; but this flap is not to be found on all covered wagons, and where it is absent it will be necessary to use a top cloth
or tarpaulin sufficiently large to lap over the tent cloth five or six inches.
We will suppose that the only wagon procurable is a common, wooden, spring-less, one-horse farm wagon, as represented by Fig. 73. Fig. 74 shows a top view of it and Fig. 75 the end view of the same. This is not an imaginary wagon, but a real one that I found standing in a country road and from which I made my drawings on the supposition that it was a typical wagon of the kind. The dimensions, as you may see by referring to the diagram (Fig. 75), are thirty-four by one hundred and ten inches, inside measurement. This would make it rather close quarters for two to sleep side by side if the campers were at all restless, but on a pinch four could sleep in the bed of the wagon two with their heads at the tail-board and two with their heads at the dash-board, allowing their feet to overlap each other in the middle; but for comfort there is only room in the bed of the wagon for two men, one to sleep with his head at the dash-board and the other to sleep with his head at the tail-board. It is supposed, however, that our gypsy family will be composed of more than two individuals, and it will be necessary to provide sleeping-room for the others outside of the wagon bed.
First, we must make a top to the vehicle. It is necessary to have clamps of some kind on the side of the wagon to hold the ends of the ribs of the wagon top (Fig. 76). These can be made at the blacksmith-shop, or may be made at home by hammering a piece of sheet iron, or even a piece of tin, into the proper shape to fit the ends of the sticks. You will need on this wagon about five ribs, one at each
end and three in the middle space (Fig. 73). If you are in town where you can get milled lumber, of course it will be better to have flat ribs for your wagon top, but if you are in the country where the farm wagon belongs, you must take your hatchet and go out and cut a number of hickory or ash saplings with which to make the ribs to support the top.
If the saplings are long and strong enough you can put the butt in at one side and bend the top over to the opposite side and then reverse the next one, but this will probably not be practical, and you will get a more symmetrical curve by taking two saplings for each rib. Select two young trees that are about the same dimensions and small enough to be elastic and large enough to be strong.
With your knife or with a draw-knife shave off the small ends of these sticks, as in Fig. 77, and then lash them together, as in Fig. 78. Trim off each butt end, as in Fig. 76, so that they will slide into the lower clamp but not through it. The upper clamp should be larger than the lower one, allowing the sapling to slide down freely through it.
After all the ribs are in place the wagon may be covered with canvas, as were the old pioneer wagons or the prairie schooners of the West. Fig. 79 shows rear end with the pucker string, B, drawn. Fig. 80 shows cover with loose pucker string, BB, and also lash strings in front.
To plan the tents for this or any other wagon, draw a diagram on a scale, as Fig. 83. That is, measure the height of your wagon from the ground to the top of the ribs, which latter are in this case supposed to be five feet six inches above the bed of the wagon. Then take a ruler and pretend that each inch on the ruler represents a foot, and measure the distance on a piece of paper and make a dot for the height of the wagon.
In the same way measure the distance between the wheels and the wagon bed and sketch it in according to the inches on your ruler. Then allow on the ground on each side room for yourself to lie down and be under shelter, and draw an upright line,
D C, twenty inches high; next draw a line from the top of the wagon to C, and continue to the ground. This will represent the top of the tent. The stay-rope from C is fastened to a peg at the back. In this way you can easily plan a tent to fit any sized wagon.
For the one we have been describing it would take a tent nine feet long on top, including the front flap, five feet ten inches high at the longest edge of the side piece, twenty inches high at the smallest end of the side pieces, and five feet on the ground-line of the same piece; the width of the tent would be the length of the wagon, a little over eight feet, but it is not necessary to have a tent this wide unless you have a large party; any ordinary width will answer your purpose.
Fig. 84 shows the pattern of the tent before it is sewed together.
If you have an open wagon with too narrow a bed you may extend the wagon by running girders across each end so that they will protrude on each side, and putting brackets in the middle, one on each side of the wagon, and then fastening planks along each side to these girders, thus extending your wagon over the wheels, as a farmer does his hay wagon, a foot or so on each side and giving more room inside for sleeping, as you may see.
In this case you can sleep crosswise, and you can pack as big a crowd in the bunks as the horse can pull between camps, but for real comfort the side tents will be found best adapted to your purpose, and if more room is wanted a common A tent can be packed in the bed of the wagon and pitched in front of the opening AB (Fig. 71), and used as a dining-room and lounging-tent.
But a group of boys may go off together with no tent except the wagon cover and no bed except the straw piled in the wagon bed and have a most jolly and enjoyable time.
For outdoor kitchen and dining-room, take tin plates, common kitchen knives and forks, a coffee-pot, tea-pot, bacon and salt pork to use in cooking your fish, game, or domestic fowls bought of the farmers. If you are so fortunate as to have access to an old-fashioned attic you may find there a lot of queer cooking utensils formerly used by your ancestors when all the cooking was done before an open
There may be long-handled frying-pans, small iron camp-kettles, Dutch ovens, broilers, toasters, and a lot of other long-handled utensils which are just the thing for a camp-fire, for the open fire of our grandsires was practically an in-door camp-fire.
Don't forget lanterns and candles. These utensils can be hung by hooks overhead or to the sides of the wagon, or put in a long box and strapped to the tailboard or placed under the front seat.
Pockets or small bags sewed to the inside lining of the wagon cover make splendid places to store your toilet articles, combs, brushes, etc. In fact, half the fun of a house-wagon is planning and making little conveniences of this kind. pails for watering the horse, and other articles which will not be harmed by dust, may be hung from the axles of the wagon.
The fascinating feature of this sort of camp life is that, like a snail, you carry your house with you and your tent is always pitched. You can stop your horse alongside the trout brook, on the mountain road, the lake shore, or the spring at the wayside, and all you have to do is to pull out your cooking utensils, build your camp-fire, and you are fixed for a day, a week, or a month, and when you return it will be with a bronzed skin, toughened muscles, good spirits, a voracious appetite, and a supply of health to last you through the winter months.
It may be possible that some of the older people desire a movable camp, and the last diagrams show how to form a box car into a camp. Figs. 85 and 86 show an ordinary box freight-car on a siding. Fig. 85 is the end view; A is the sliding shutter; D is an awning over the doorway; E and E (Figs. 85 and 86) is the stairway, which can be taken up and put in the car; B is the sliding door. Freight-cars can, with very little expense, be made into splendid movable camps. All the duffle may be packed in one and sent to the siding, where your father wishes to camp
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Last modified: August 20, 2012.