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Leave No Trace
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Trees of the NE
Wall Hangings
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Wild Things

Scout Books

Site Contents

by Ernest Thompson Seton

The Hunter in Town

Woodcraft in the beginning was the only science of man. It meant masterful touch with the things of his daily life, indoors and outdoors, near or far. So, also, by growth and transference we define Woodcraft in our city to-day as seeing, comprehending, and mastering the ordinary things of our daily life.

The boy or girl who looks both ways before crossing the street, who knows what all the signs on the lamp-post mean, who avoids breathing through the mouth, especially when there is dust flying, who knows the warnings of the different colored lights, who knows the number on the motor car that rushed by so recklessly, who keeps the chest expanded and the toes nearly straight in walking, who can tell a man's track from a woman's or a young man's from that of an old man on the wet pavement, who realizes that the telephone book is the key to the business life of a city, who recognizes and acts on all the hand signals given by the traffic policeman he is practicing good Woodcraft and cultivating something that in the life-game spells "SUCCESS."

There are three separate fields for Woodcraft in the city.

The first is that of the incidental things of wild life that are found in our parks, suburbs, and water front. No less than one hundred forest trees, one hundred wild flowers, sixty different wild birds, twenty different furry four-foots, a dozen turtles, snakes, etc., are found in New York City, while ever the same, overhead, are the stars.

The second field is in the museums and libraries. Every one of our great cities is rich in material of priceless value, gathered here from the wilderness, stuff really relating to Woodcraft. The material is composed not only of collections of birds, animals, trees, etc., but of robes, boats, songs, dances, ceremonies, legends, pictures, carvings, and a myriad of things that stir the loving imagination of the red-blooded, blue-sky boy or girl.

But the last is the largest and most important department, for it offers the newest field of purely city work. It includes signs, blazes, totems, tracks, sign-language, vermin-fighting, fire prevention, city craft, etc.

A Blaze or Indian sign is understood to be a simple mark conveying information without using words or letters and depending on its position for part of its meaning. There are on Broadway at least fifty signs and blazes descended from those used in the wilderness by savages; in some cases the very same mark is used.

(See Blazes and Signs)

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A Totem is a simple form, usually a natural form used as the symbol of a man, a group of men, an animal, or an idea. It has no reference to words, letters or language, and does not depend on its position for its meaning.

Before men knew how to write they needed marks to indicate ownership. This mark must be simple and legible and was chosen because of something connected with the owner or his family. Later some of the trades adopted a symbol; for instance the barbers in the early days were "blood letters" and were closely associated with the medical profession. Their totem indicated their business, and we have the red-and-white barber pole of to-day. It was among the Indians along the west coast of America that the science and art of totems reached its highest development, though they have a world-wide usage and go back in history to the earliest times.

Out of this use of totems as owner marks and signs grew the whole science of heraldry and national flags.

Thanks to the fusion of many small armies into one or two big armies, that is, of many tribes into a nation, and also to modern weapons which made it possible to kill a man farther off than you could see the totem on his shield, national flags have replaced the armorial devices, and are the principal totems used to-day.

But a new possibility has been discovered in modern times. Totems will serve the ends of commerce, and a great revival of their use is now seen.

The totem is visible such a long way off and is understood by all, whether or not they can read or know our language, is copyrightable and advertisable, so that most of the great railway companies, etc., now have totems.

There are not less than one hundred common totems used in our streets to-day. Among the familiar ones seen are the American eagle, with white head and tail, the Austrian eagle with two heads, the British lion, the Irish harp, the French fleur de lis, etc. Among trades the three balls of the pawnbroker, the golden fleece of the dry goods man, the mortar and pestle of the druggist, and others are well known. Examples of these and others are given in the illustration, but any wide-awake Woodcrafter will be able to find many others by careful observation.

The old sign language of the Plains exists among us to the extent that over one hundred of the gesture signs are in daily use among the school children and the folk from Southern Europe. The policeman regulating the traffic uses at least fifteen of these signs daily and hardly realizes it, yet every one understands them and obeys. Here they serve the same purpose as in the wilds; they convey information when it is impossible to be heard and they do it in the universal language of' ideas which all can comprehend no matter what his speech may be.

The tracks of different human beings as well as of dogs, cats, rats, mice, horses, sparrows, etc., are seen after every shower, when the gutter is wet and the pavements dry, as well as after a snowstorm; and they all have a story to tell to the eyes of woodcraft wisdom.

City craft--the knowledge of the things which are particularly a development of the city: how the streets are paved, how the garbage is disposed of, where the city water is obtained and its quality, these and many other things relating to making life in the city produce the best results, are an open field.

All of these and a thousand more are to be found in the city. And the value of city Woodcraft is not merely in the things themselves but in being able to see the things about you. Begin to-day to see, comprehend, and master the ordinary daily things of your life.

 Birch Bark Roll






Additional Information:

City Totems ] Fire ] Railway Signals ] Roof Camping & Gardening ] Sleep Outdoors ] Value of Doing ] Weather Signals ]

Peer- Level Topic Links:
Activities ] Archery ] Axe, Boy Scout ] Axe, Saw, Forestry ] Axe, Saw,  Knife ] Axe Use: Beard ] Axe Use: Seton ] Axe Use: Traditional ] Axe Throwing ] Beds, Woodcraft ] Bedding Materials ] Bicycle Maintenance ] Birch-Bark Torch ] Birds ] Bird Houses ] Blocks Tackles Purchase ] Blood Red Cross ] Broom: Camp or Witch's ] Buttons ] Campcraft ] Camp Hygiene ] Camp Planning ] Campfire Programs ] Catapult ] Chainsaws ] Checklists ] Chuck Box Riddance! ] [ City-Craft ] Compass Bear Song ] Compass, Home-Made ] Cooking ] Cotton Kills Bear Song ] Deduction in Tracking ] Deduction & Detective ] Drum ] Dyes ] Edible Plants ] Equipment, Leader ] Equipment, Personal ] Equipment Maintenance ] Equipment, Lightweight ] Equip, Pickle Bucket Camp ] Estimation ] Field Signals ] Fire-Building ] Fire Building ] Fire Laying ] Fire Lighting ] Fire Starters ] Fire: Rubbing-Stick ] Fire Types, Wood Types ] Fire Council Ring ] Fires: Woodcraft ] First Aid ] First Class Journey ] Flint & Steel ] Flowers ] Forest ] Gesture Signals ] Ground to Air Signals ] Handicraft Stunts ] High Adventure ] Hiking ] Hike Planning ] Indian Sundial Clock ] Insect Collecting ] Insect Preserve ] Indian Well ] Knife & Hatchet ] Knots, Bends, Hitches ] Knots: Diamond Hitch ] Knots: Lashings ] Knots: Rope Work ] Knots: Seton ] Knots: Traditional ] Knots & Whipping ] Lashings ] Lashing Practice Box ] Lace or Thong ] Learn by Doing ] Leave No Trace ] Leave No Trace ] Lights ] Local Knowledge ] Log Ladders, Notched ] Log-Rolling ] Logs: Cut Notch ] Logs Split with Axe ] Loom and Grass Mats ] Lost in the Woods ] Manners ] Maps ] Map & Compass ] Maps: Without Compass ] Measurement ] Measurement Estimation ] Menu Worksheet ] Menu (Adult IOLS) ] Mosquitoes ] Mushrooms ] Night Tracking ] Observation ] Old Trails ] Paints ] Pioneering, Basic ] Pioneering Models ] Plaster Casts ] Preparations ] Proverbs ] Rake ] Rope Care ] Rope Making ] Rope Spinning ] Scout Reports ] Signal & Sign ] Sign Language ] Silent Scout Signals ] Smoke Prints ] Snakes ] Spanish Windlass ] Spoons ] Staff/Stave Making ] Stalking Skills ] Stalking & Observation ] Stars ] Stools ] Story Telling ] Stoves & Lanterns ] Summoning Help ] Sun Dial: Scientific ] Survival Kit ] Tarp Poles ] Teepee (4 Pole) ] Tent Care ] Tent Pitching ] Tom-Tom ] Tomahawk Throwing ] Tomahawk Targets ] Totem Making ] Totem Animals ] Totem Poles ] Training in Tracking ] Tracks, Ground, Weather ] Tracking & Trailing ] Trail Following ] Trail Signs & Blazes ] Trail Signs of Direction ] Trail Signs: Traditional ] Trail Signs for Help ] Trees of the NE ] Wall Hangings ] Watch Compass ] Weather Wisdom ] Wild Things ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.