Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Friday, April 22, 2016

S is for Snowshoes

If I were caught in a sudden blizzard deep in the woods and had a knife, I now know how to make snowshoes, thanks to research for my current story-in-progress.

Here's a little snippet from Rivers of Stone, featuring Mary Lane, the Metis wife of Richard Lane, leader of the fur brigade which brought Canadian artist Paul Kane over the Rockies in a late winter crossing.

     In the morning, Mrs. Lane called the three men without snowshoes together. “If you want snowshoes, I will show you. Gather five sticks that yet live. This long." Mary stretched her arms out to show three to four feet. "Bring any ropes you have. If you don't have rope, bring your blanket." 

   The men dispersed out under the trees, cursing again when they stumbled in the snow. Within the half hour, they returned and sat before her in a half circle.

   "Tie your sticks together at one end," Mary commanded. "As tightly as you can. Then, fan the sticks out like this." She spread her fingers wide. "Take three sticks a little larger than your hand and tie them crosswise to make a foot support. Tie them good, but not as tight as the end." 

     She took one of the half-made snowshoes and showed the men how to bend the wood to tie the other end. "Now, lash the completed snowshoe to your foot. This will carry you until we stop for the night." She nodded once, gathered the unused sticks, and put them in her pack.

   Behind her, Lane and Kane took down their night’s shelter, rolling the blankets into their packs.

   “Stand wider than normal,” directed Mary. “When you go uphill, kick your toe into the snow to make a kind of step. Lean a little on the uphill side. Follow the person in front of you. Step in his steps. Going downhill, lean a little backwards. If you fall, just lay backwards, and then roll over to stand up. You don’t want to get stuck in the snow. We can go now, Mr. Lane."

Note: Kane reports in his journal that a few of the men not familiar with snowshoes made slow going and that the pack horses often got stuck in three-foot-deep drifts of snow. He also notes the brigade took a one day stop to make these snowshoes. I also checked with someone in my family who said you should walk a little bowlegged when using snowshoes, like you would for riding a horse.

Moraine Lake, Banff, Rocky Mountains
Source: Wikipedia

Sources for making snowshoes:

These posts are part of the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. I'm a little late in posting today as I accidentally cut my thumb. Luckily my thumb's only needed for the spacebar! Read what others are posting HERE.

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