Circus in the Woods




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By Dan Beard

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Fig. 145.
A Pioneer Swing from Northern Canada

How to Have a Circus in the Woods!

We have had enough of Forts, club-houses, and that sort of thing for the present. We know how to dress, how to hold a meeting, and how to build a club-house, and now we want to get together for a summer outing in the woods and have some good, old-fashioned fun. Davy Crockett's Day does not come until August, but it will not do to remain idle until then. June is a glorious month for outdoor excursions and just the time to build swings and other similar devices.

On the eastern side of this continent, the farther north you go the more you are struck with the popularity of the swing. After leaving Quebec, as the train goes dashing by the quaint little French villages and settlements, everywhere you see the gaudy red wooden department-store swings filled with French Canadians. You will see them way up beyond Roberval and Lake St. John, and when you take your packs on your backs and canoes on your shoulders at the end of the railroad and strike into the wilderness, at the first log houses with French roofs (for up here they put a mansard-roof even on the log house) which you come across you will in all probability see a bright red swing, one of those turned out by the factories, and which must have been carried on a pack-horse's back into this wilderness.

At the last log house of the frontier settler, beyond any roads which a horse could travel, I saw a swing made without ropes. Evidently it was the work of the pioneer himself, and his only tools were an axe and an auger (Fig. 145). But I am afraid that for small boys this would be rather a difficult swing to make and too strenuous an undertaking, so we will begin with the rope swing (Fig. 146).

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Figs. 146-150. 
Swings, Knots, and Bars

Of course every boy knows how to make a rope swing by tying a rope to an out-stretching limb and putting a board seat at the bottom loop; but in Fig. 147 is shown how to make what the sailors call the bowline bend. The diagram shows this knot in its loose condition; when it is pulled taut it will not slip or come undone. It is a most useful knot to know and every lad should be familiar with it. 

With a double bowline you can make a swing with a single rope, as shown in Fig. 148. To tie the double bowline, make a loop at the end of your rope, then give a great turn to it, as shown in F (Fig. 148).  Then bring the bight (loop) up through the middle of the turn you made in F, as shown by G in Fig. 148. Next bring the two ends of the rope through the loop at the top, as shown by H (Fig. 148). When this is drawn taut it will make the sling shown in X (Fig. 148). With this sling you could let a man down from the window of a tall building in perfect safety.

Fig. 149 shows how to make a pair of parallel bars between two trees; for the bars you want two straight and strong pieces of saplings, which may be nailed on either side of the trees and supported by the cleats marked K in the left-hand side of the diagram (Fig. 149).  Or, if you wish to make it so that you can remove the bars when you are through with the fun, you can spike on double cleats, as shown in K K (Fig. 149) or K K K K (Fig. 150).

L and L in both of these diagrams are pieces of board nailed across the cleats to prevent the side bars from falling out. With such an arrangement your parallel bars may be slipped in and out of place at your pleasure.

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Fig. 151. 
Putting Up the Horizontal Bar

Every  young gymnast wants a horizontal bar on which he may skin the cat, chin himself, and do other stunts so dear to all the boys. For this purpose we want to select a good, stout ash or hickory pole, and square its ends with a hatchet, as shown at E (Fig. 150.  It is now only necessary to find two trees close enough together for our purpose and nail the cleats (C) on each tree at the same height from the ground, so that when the pole is rested upon them it will be horizontal.  

To prevent the pole from slipping off this support, nail the two upright cleats to the tree (D D) and make them just far enough apart to admit the square end of your pole between, and N (Fig. 151) will prevent the bar from springing out of place. You will then have your horizontal bar complete. 

Probably, however, you will derive more fun from the Johnny Appleseed jumper (Fig. 152) than from all the other contrivances put together.

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Figs. 152-153. 
The Johnny Appleseed jumper

This is named after the famous forester of the Ohio Valley, and so named because it is made of two young trees.

Select two young saplings which are tall enough for the purpose and young enough to be elastic. Let one boy climb as far up the tree as he can without danger and make a rope fast near the top; then let all the boys get together and bend the end of the tree down within reach and hold it there until one of them makes the timber-hitch (A, Fig. 153), around the top branches and then throws a number of half-hitches (N, Fig. 153), until he has knitted them securely together, as shown in the lower sketch of this diagram. 

B in each diagram is the long part of the rope. When the rope is fastened to the tops of two saplings in this manner a boy can make a succession of giant and wonderful leaps by grasping the rope in each hand, as shown in Fig. 152. In fact, if he is not very careful the spring of the saplings will throw him loose from the rope.

Vaulting Poles for Boys!

The Boy Pioneers






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Last modified: October 15, 2016.