Securing Supplies or “Possibles”
I posted something similar to this back in September of 2014
Today we call them necessary supplies. Soldiers might call them “rations”. More than just food, “possibles” would also include needles, thread, first aid supplies, perhaps extra ammunition or a knife. In the early days of the mountain man they were “possibles” because there was a good possibility you would need them to survive and if you didn’t have any there was a good possibility you wouldn’t --- survive that is.
Some time ago an agent, commenting on one of my stories, wrote that he had “never heard of a log cabin built high in the trees.” He was commenting on a stores cache I had described. I couldn’t believe that anyone who had read historical fiction, history, or any story depicting mountain men and homesteaders had not heard of a permanent storage cache or understood a description of same.
But then, once I had given it some thought I realized that there are very few such structures described in either fiction or non-fiction. Any pictures of such that I now hold in my imagination are not from description but from an actual structure I’ve seen; perhaps a half dozen of them.
I also had trouble finding pictures of one. There is a copy of one displayed at the Walter Wright Pioneer Village in Dawson Creek and although it is only on posts about 4 feet high it does present the idea quiet well. I should have taken a picture of it this summer. Here is a period picture I did find:
Charlie MacDonald’s cabin near
Without a method of storing supplies in the wilderness and particularly in mountainous country those supplies will not last long. Wolves, bears, wolverines, lynx, and many other animals eat and enjoy the same items humans eat. If efforts are not made to keep those items away from wildlife then the human will not have the supplies he thought he had.
And sometimes even the best of efforts fail.
There are several descriptions of temporary caches such as one Lloyd Cushway describes in one of his stories. He has several collections of short stories, “Trail Smoke” being one but I think this particular story appears in “Crosswind to the Fire.”
Lloyd and a partner had heard of a mineral find in the upper reaches of the
in Cameron River North-East British Columbia. Since they had some experience
with the area they decided that they would attempt to stake claims before the
“big outfits” (primarily Gulf Minerals) could take it all. They put together
supplies for two weeks and flew up near the area. They landed and with each
carrying a heavy pack, hiked for an hour to a good camp.
The partner had to hike back to the plane and fly out to a meeting in
, so they quickly put together a
meal consisting primarily of fried bacon and bannock. Before he left the
partner helped Lloyd cut and limb a tree creating a pole which was then hauled
up into two trees and tied in place between them. Ft. St. John
When the partner had left Lloyd threw a length of rope over the suspended pole. He tied one end of the rope to the extra pack and hauled it high then tied off the other end of the rope to one of the supporting trees. This is a temporary method of creating a cache safe from marauders that has been used by thousands if not millions --- and several times by Lloyd.
A week later, having staked several claims in the pouring rain and crossing a rain-swollen river Lloyd discovered that his oft used method for a temporary cache had this time failed. In his hurry he had forgotten to wash his hands after creating lunch and the rope he had used was therefore covered with bacon grease. Perhaps not enough to be noticed by a human but Mr. Black Bear found it very tasty. After chewing on the tasty rope for a while the rope broke and Mr. Bear --- perhaps became a convert to the Jewish faith for like those who followed Moses he suddenly found himself gifted with manna from heaven; a bag full of all manner of tasty treats.
Black Bear near Tumbler Ridge
When Lloyd returned to his cache there was nothing left to make a meal. What had not been eaten by Mr. Bear had been destroyed.
The native population of
North America had several methods for creating
caches but didn’t have the same problem as the solitary mountain man. A village
by its very existence serves to keep foraging wildlife at bay although stories
of unwelcome visitors during particularly rough periods do exist.
Beaver (Dane-zaa ) family near
Peace River town 1911
another Dane-zaa camp on the west end of Moberly Lake
At the east end of the lake is a corridor used by Grizzly traveling north and south.
The lone trapper or the small holding, whether miner, farmer or trapper did not however have sufficient numbers to scare away wolves, bears, coyotes or wild cats. Therefore, if the human in question intends to remain in one place for any length of time it is worth his while to build a permanent cache that can be used year after year and will protect supplies and, in the case of the trapper, the product of his efforts, the pelts.
Ursus arctos horribilis
Of course there are certain limitation in almost anything. For example, in the case of Ursus arctos horribilis better known as the Grizzly bear they go anywhere and eat anything they want. If your cache is high enough that he can’t tell where that marvelous smell is coming from perhaps he’ll wander off and attack an ant hill. If your cabin is strong enough and the marvelous smells not strong enough to drive him into a frenzy perhaps he’ll tear up some roots down by the lake. If your cabin or cache is in an area he or she fequents and tempts to destroy, perhaps a move is in order.
That’s a move on your part. Mrs. Grizzly will not be moving.
Ursus arctos horribilis
Permanent caches or storage houses were and are built in the trees sometimes as high as fifteen feet. Such a height may not be necessary in summer but may not be enough once there is several feet of snow on the ground. It will appear, should you happen to look up and notice it blending in with the trees, to be a small log cabin tree-house. It will not have any windows and the door will be very strong. On the end where that door is there is a good possibility that the floor will extend beyond the front of the building forming a “porch” to offer a place to load and unload supplies. The roof may be of several materials such as shakes split from local trees, a tarpauline changed every few years or even some material hauled in from “outside”. Access is likely to be via the ladder leaning against the main cabin, but there may be a rope ladder attached to the “porch” or a few cross-pieces attached to one of the supporting trees.
By the way, Lloyd did make it out to civilization and food. He was exhausted, wet, cold, and tired. He had pushed himself in many ways he should have known to avoid, but he made it to a ranch and then back to town. I see one of his collection of stories on Amazon and others can be found at Bill’s News, 250-782-2933. There are also many great treasures at the Dawson Creek Art Gallery, 250-782-2601.
Another one of the places where you can find my novels but you can also click on the book covers to the right or go to Amazon.com/books where you can "look inside the book."