By Dan Beard
Sketch from life of a Main woodman
and his snow-shoe.
A review of the snow fields will reveal all sorts of appliances for binding
the snowshoes to the feet, and every expert and experienced snowshoer,
apparently, has an individual fastening of his own upon which he places the
Some shoes have leather slipper toes attached to them, others broad leather
straps and buckles, some simply too straps (Fig. 453) and thongs, and others
naught but the buckskin thong, the same as the American Indians were using long
before Columbus came blundering around their coast in search of East India.
To prevent a confusing of terms in speaking of the parts of the snowshoe, let
us adopt nautical names. By reference to Fig. 450 it will be seen that the
snowshoe is shaped like an elongated bow kite; this is the most familiar form,
and, although some shoes vary greatly from the one shown in the illustration,
they all agree in their general anatomy with this diagram.
By applying nautical terms the toe (L) becomes the bow, the heel (J) the
stern, and the cross stocks E and H are the thwarts. F and G are simply thongs
to which the coarser net-work between them is attached. K is the hole for the
toe of the moccasin. At the two lower corners of the toe hole will be found
eyelets made of strengthened meshes. The framework is usually made of second
growth white-ash wood, the meshes are of rawhide; from L to E and H to J the
net-work is finely woven, but from F to G, amidship, it must bear the eight of
the man, and the net is here is made of heavier material and with much courser
meshes. It will be seen by further reference to the illustration that a thong is
so strung through the eyelets that the long ends come up between the wide meshes
each side of the toe hole (K, Fig. 450), thus forming a loop or toe-sump into
which the toe of your moccasined foot is to be thrust; by drawing the ends of
the thongs, the loop may be pulled down to fit snugly across the toe of the
moccasin (A, Fig. 451).
Two moccasins and some of the ways
we see snow-shoes fastened.
If your thongs be short an economical tie will be the one shown by B (Fig.
451; to make this, pass one end of the thong under the toe loop, up and back
over the same loop, then under itself, making a half hitch on the toe loop; from
here it brought back behind the moccasin, where it meets the other end of the
loop, as in B Fig. 451). At the heel of the moccasin the ends pass under and
over each other as shown in the diagram, then come around the ankle and tie in
it square knot in front. This, as may be seen, leaves the heel free to move up
and down in a natural manner (a, Fig. 451).
The freedom of the heel is necessary, and the toe hole (K, Fig. 450) permits
a free movement of the toes, the foot being fastened only at the toe joints to
the cross thong F (Fig. 450) It must be remembered that in using snowshoes the
latter are lifted no higher than is necessary to clear the surface of the snow;
in fact, a man walking with snowshoes scuffs along much the same as a man with
slipshod slippers run down at the heels. Another way to tie on the snowshoe is
to simply pull the slack of the toe loop down to fit over the toe of the
moccasin by drawing the ends of the thongs, as in Fig. 455, then crossing them
over the instep and bringing them back over the heel of the moccasin as shown by
diagram C (Fig. 451), and fastening the ends around the ankle (b, Fig. 451). But
the manifest objection to this method is that there is nothing but the friction
of the moccasin to prevent the thong from slipping and sawing; this, however,
can be remedied by a half hitch at each side of the toe, as is done at B (Fig.
451), and is shown with the cross bands over the instep by D and d, Fig. 451).
E and F (Fig. 451) shows two styles of moccasins most frequently seen on
snowshoes in the northern United States, New Brunswick and Southern Canada, and
G the one string hitch.
It is probably with good reason that the majority of men whom necessity
compels to use to use snowshoes, prefer a tie which brings one or more strands
of the thong alongside of the foot, as shown by a and B (Fig. 451), and it is
also evident that the cross bands over the instep give greater security to the
fastening. So a method which combines the instep cross bands and the heel bands
has much to recommend it. Fig. 452, G H I J, shows the evolution of such I tie
with a double toe loop. The heel loop, however, is made first as shown by Fig.
454, then the double toe loop is made by passing each end of the thong through
the opposite eyelet hole, as shown by G (Fig. 452).
Another good hitch.
Next a half hitch is taken over the double toe loop exactly as was done with
the single loop (B and D, Fig. 451) and is now shown by H and I (Fig. 452).
After which the ends are crossed over the instep, half hitched on each side over
the heel loop and brought back behind the feet (J, Fig. 452), where the two ends
are tied in a reefing or square knot.
The tussle-logan toe strap.
Much of the intricacy of this last hitch may be obviated by the use of the
tussle-logan toe strap, which is a permanent affair woven in through the meshes
down each side astern of the eyelet holes (Fig. 453). Put the two ends of your
thong down through the eyelet holes and bring them up between the wide meshes
astern of the bow thwart, as shown by Fig. 454.
Putting on the snow-shoe.
Sketched from life,
Upper Moosehead Lake.
Slip the toe of your moccasin
under the tussle-logan, and, by drawing on the ends of the thong, pull the band
snugly around your heel (Fig. 451). Next take a half hitch (0 and N, Fig. 456)
around the side hand and draw it taut, as in the illustration. Go through the
same process as shown by P R S (Fig. 457), and draw tight, as the man is doing
in the same illustration. T is a back view of this process.
How the half-hitch is
made at the side of the foot.
When the tussle-logan happens to fit the toe too loosely, it may be made
secure by passing the cross straps in and over, as shown at U (Fig. 457).
Details of the process of fastening a snow-shoe,
having a toe strap, to the foot.
458 shows a snowshoer bringing the free ends of the thong back behind the heel,
preparatory to fastening them there with a tie. V shows the thong properly
fastened (the tussel-logan omitted for sake of simplicity in the diagram). W
shows the knot as tied in the Maine woods.
Ready to tie thongs back of the heel.
Fig. 459 shows a man with snowshoes
on both feet, and X, Y, and Z are from sketches of snowshoers in motion, made in
Michigan, Canada and the Maine woods.
A Tussel-Logen Toe Strap
on a shoe posses many advantages for one who must needs use snow shoes every
time necessity compels travel during the winter months, and not the least of
these advantages is the fact that after one's shoes have once been satisfactory
adjusted they need not be untied again until the thongs break or some similar
accident renders a readjustment necessary.
The lad in Fig. 460 has one shoe on, and is in the act of slipping his foot
into the thongs of the second shoe. It will be seen that be takes a pose like an
old-fashioned dancing master, with his toes turned out; this is done so that he
can slip his toes over the first side of the heel loop and tinder the second
side, as is better explained by the empty moccasin (d, Fig. 460).
Next he thrusts his foot so far that his heel comes under the heel loop (b,
Fig. 461). Then, lifting his heel and pointing his toes down (d, Fig. 462), he
twists his foot so that the toe of his moccasin slips under the tussle-logan and
the shoe is adjusted and ready to support him on drifts and fields of snow.
Three figures and three diagrams have been made of this act so that the
reader may not fail to understand how it is done, but because so many pictures
are necessary to make the explanation clear it must not be supposed that this
manner of putting on a snowshoe is either difficult or intricate; it is
accomplished in much less time than it requires to tell how it is done, and is
really only one continuous movement of the foot like one step in dancing.
Now that you know how to put on snowshoes, take them down from the wall where
you hung them as a decoration for the library, dining-room or den and sally
forth, but do not put them on in the house as did the writer in his first
attempt to master the art. There is no enacted law to prevent you from adjusting
the shoes indoors, but it is better to do it outside, where there is more room
and no steps to descend.
The writer forgot about the steps; his only idea was to sneak out the back
way unobserved, but he did not succeed, and in going down the steps the long
heels of the snowshoes made it necessary to step sideways. After the first step
it was impossible for him to take another; he could not lift his foot mom than
an inch, and in spite of a struggle which nearly wrenched the thongs from the
feet he stood as securely to the step as if his shoes were nailed down, and it
really seemed that they had frozen to the snow. The long heel of the one bearing
his weight lay across the heel of the one he was struggling to lift.