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Author Topic: Horace Kephart  (Read 2846 times)

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Offline Jeff

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Horace Kephart
« on: December 30, 2000, 05:30:21 PM »
I wanted to share a passage from a book written early in the last century. If you are interested in forestry, or just trees in general, Horace Kephart reads almost like poetry. This is from his 1917 "Camping and Woodcraft"

SAMENESS OF THE FOREST. --
All dense woods look much alike.  Trees of most species grow very tall in a forest that has never been cut over, their trunks being commonly straight and slender, with no branches within, say, forty feet of the ground.  

This is because they cannot live without sunlight for their leaves, and they can only reach sunlight by growing tall like their neighbors that crowd around them.  As the young tree shoots upward, its lower limbs atrophy and drop off.  

To some extent the characteristic markings of the trunk that distinguish the different species when they grow in the open, and to a greater extent their characteristic habits of branching, are neutralized when they grow in dense forest.

Consequently a man who can readily tell one species from another, in open country, by their bark and branching habits, may be puzzled to distinguish them in aboriginal forest.

Moreover, the lichens and mosses that cover the boles of trees, in the deep shade of a primitive wood, give them a sameness of aspect, so that there is some excuse for the novice who says that "all trees look alike" to him.


   The knowledge of trees that can be gained, first from books and secondly from studies of trees themselves in city parks or in country wood lots, must be supplemented by considerable experience in the real wilderness before one can say with confidence, by merely glancing at the bark, "that is a soft maple, and the other is a sugar-tree."  And yet, I do not know any study that, in the long run, would be more serviceable to the amateur woodsman than to get a good manual of American trees and then go about identifying the species in his neighborhood.

Having gained some facility in this, then let him turn to studying peculiarities of individual growth.  Such self-training, which can be carried out almost anywhere, will make him observant of a thousand and one little marks and characteristics that are sign-boards and street-numbers in the wilds.
   
WHAT TO NOTICE.--
After a novice has had some preliminary training of the kind I have indicated, so that all things in the woods no longer look alike to him, he will meet another difficulty.  His memory will be swamped!

It is utterly impossible for any man, whether he be red, white, black, or yellow, to store up his mind all the woodland marks and signs that one can see in a mile's tramp, to say nothing of the infinite diversity that he encounters in a long journey.

Now, here is just where a skilled woodcraftsman has an enormous advantage over any and all amateurs.  He knows what is common, and pays no attention to it; he knows what is uncommon, it catches his eye at once, and it interests him, so that he need make no effort to remember the thing.

This disregard for the common eliminates at once three fourths, yes, nine-tenths, of the trees, plants, rocks, etc., from his consideration; it relieves his memory of just that much burden.  He will pass a hundred birch trees without a second glance, until his eye is riveted by a curly birch.  Why riveted? Because curly birch is valuable.  In the bottom lands he will scarcely see a sour gun, or a hundred of them; but let him come across one such tree on top of the ridge, and he will wonder how it chanced to stray so far from home.  

And so on, through all categories of woodland features.  A woodsman notices such things as infallibly, and with as little conscious effort, as a woman notices the crumbs and lint on her neighbor's carpet.



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Offline Gordon

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Re: Horace Kephart
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2001, 02:32:02 PM »
Well Jeff, I took the time to read this post and then reread it.

Great post:)

We took the kids for a walk yesterday and my three year old asked one of the simplest yet most complex questions:
If you love trees so much daddy why are you always cutting them down?

About an hour later after all the kids had their say, I believe we had a 1001 reasons why to cut the trees and 1001 reasons why not to cut the trees. Kids will always get you thinking.
Guess this post could have gone under woods walking as well but it seemed to fit in here also.;)
Gordon

Offline Paschale

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Re: Horace Kephart
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2005, 12:59:49 AM »
You're right, Jeff...that is like poetry.   8)  I was spending some time in the "archives," and came across this--thought it was worth bringing back to the top for some interesting reading.
Y'all can pronounce it "puh-SKOLLY"

Offline dewwood

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Re: Horace Kephart
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2005, 08:31:35 AM »
Thanks for bringing this back up.  I missed it the first time around.  It verbalizes things which we are involved with daily yet do not always think about or understand.  It would be an interesting book to read.
Selling hardwood lumber, doing some sawing and drying, growing the next generation of trees and enjoying the kids and grandkids.

Offline Skytramp

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Re: Horace Kephart
« Reply #4 on: December 13, 2005, 12:27:45 AM »
Thanks Jeff, Great reading.
     A person can go to  school from now to infinity  and can never learn what a sawmiller knows just by doing his job.  No education can match going to the woods selecting a tree for what ever reason, deciding how to fell it with the least damage, then getting it to the sawmill and finally sawing it into lumber, seeing how each large or small limb or defect can affect the wood color, grain etc or where the tree has grown, richness of soil, different minerals in the soil, lack or excess of water. 
     My opinion only, (Theres always a chance that I can be wrong)  But a forestry agent that takes his job seriously and has some background other than books, can be an invaluable asset, but some of these younger guys that take the responsibility of marking timber for the public,(I am speaking only of some that I know in this area) Their time Would be much better spent feeding Smokey the Bear. Ha
     I have gone out to look at timber that has been marked by some of these so called professionals and wonder;  Do these guys really have the landowners best interest in mind?
     Tired minds as well as bodies need rest, Maybe I should just go to bed and shut up.  Couldn't resist a little jab there at the professionals after reading a wonderful story like that.  Sincerely hope no one takes offense.
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Offline Dodgy Loner

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Re: Horace Kephart
« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2008, 01:16:54 PM »
This topic was last replied to well before I joined the Forum.  This was definitely one of the more interesting things I've read recently.  It describes my experience - particularly the part about noticing the peculiar and disregarding the familiar - perfectly.  Thanks for sharing, Jeff :)
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Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: Horace Kephart
« Reply #6 on: July 28, 2008, 01:36:42 PM »
Yup, he wrote that well.  :)
Move'n on.

Offline Jeff

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Re: Horace Kephart
« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2016, 12:11:19 PM »
I wanted to bring this back up because I was thinking about it today as I was holding the book in my hand to recite to someone in an email. I love this book.  :)
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Offline ljohnsaw

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Re: Horace Kephart
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2016, 12:35:36 PM »
Thanks for bringing it back up.  I wasn't on the Forum the first 3 times it was discussed.  What a great passage!
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Offline Savannahdan

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Re: Horace Kephart
« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2016, 12:47:55 PM »
He wrote and edited quite a few books. A books on tape of this book is available in the public domain at www.archive.org as well this book and a number of othe books he wrote.  The audio book is quite large (705mb), in a zip file format and with 26 recordings.    Excellent reading and glad you presented it again.
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Offline LaneC

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Re: Horace Kephart
« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2016, 04:33:06 PM »
  I guess I found a reason to hit the "like" button :D :D. This makes me feel that I am probably (maybe) not too dumb. I have books and pictures and have looked, and looked and admired and asked too many questions to myself about a lot of trees and there are just so many variables that I have found in each tree, that it is still very difficult to positively identify most of them. Thanks for bringing this back up, It is my first time seeing it.
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Offline SwampDonkey

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Re: Horace Kephart
« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2016, 06:35:50 PM »
Yep, and up north here we only have 35 species or so. Apparently 30 years ago, the book "Great Trees of New Brunswick" never had half the species listed in it. A new book is being written by a new author. Dave Palmer, who is a retired forester from Fredericton.
Move'n on.

Offline barbender

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Re: Horace Kephart
« Reply #12 on: December 02, 2016, 11:32:14 PM »
I have some carpentry books of that era that read much the same. They had a much better command of language, it seems. Or perhaps it was like recording music in the early days. If you got some studio time, you had to be something pretty special, unlike these days were any common trash can end up recorded. Whatever the case, I always enjoy reading literature from those days.
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Offline samandothers

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Re: Horace Kephart
« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2016, 10:07:03 AM »
Read it and really enjoyed.  Then realized it was from 15 yrs ago.  Thanks for resurfacing!

Offline WV Sawmiller

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Re: Horace Kephart
« Reply #14 on: December 03, 2016, 10:09:29 AM »
Jeff,

   Thx for posting. This just reminds me people should not live and raise their children in the big cities. They need to be out where they can spread their limbs and grow into individuals.

   I need to go to Charlotte today and tell my daughter to move before the baby gets here.
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