Today we call them necessary supplies. Soldiers might call them “gear” or “rations”. 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 would not --- 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 in a story and I couldn’t believe that anyone who had read historical history, 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, perhaps a half dozen actual structures.
Without a method of storing supplies in the bush 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 those items are not kept away from wildlife by some method then the human will not have the supplies he thought he had.
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 “Upwind of 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
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 between them in place. Ft. St.
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 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.
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.
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.
Of course there are certain quailifications in almost anything. For example, in the case of Ursus arctos horribilis better known as the Grizzly bear even in early times with few humans in their territory they went (and go) anywhere and eat anything they want to. If your cabin or cache is in an area he or she fequents perhaps a move is in order.
Permanent caches or storage houses were and are built in the trees 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 tried 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.
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."