Edward Stratemeyer.

The Gun Club Boys of Lakeport





Then we can have a fire inside instead of outside, said Harry. That will be jolly. I was afraid wed have to put up with a cold sleeping place.

Im cold now, came from Link Darrow. Guess Ill have to do a dance to get warm.

You can get warm chopping some firewood, said Joel Runnell. Dont waste any of your strength. There is plenty of work to do before we can settle down to enjoy ourselves.

CHAPTER XX
BUILDING THE NEW SHELTER

The young hunters soon found out that what Joel Runnell said was true. At first glance it looked easy enough to put the necessary shelter into shape, but when it came to clearing and leveling the ground, cutting off a great many tree branches and placing them as desired, and then covering the whole with snow, the work was hard and long lasting, and it was not until the evening of the second day that the task was completed.

Yet all worked with a will, deeming it no labor at all, since they were doing it for their own comfort and amusement.

Say, Fred, if you had to cut wood like this at home, what would you think of it? whispered Harry, while both were doing their best to trim away an extra heavy limb of one of the pines.

Id think it was ha hard work, panted Fred, who was almost out of breath.

And wouldnt you like to do it some Saturday afternoon, when there was a football match on, or fine skating?

My gracious! dont mention it, Harry. It would make a fellows heart drop to his shoes.

No laying off there! sang out Joe. This gang has got to keep at work until the jobs finished and I blow the whistle.

Better ring the dinner bell, put in Bart. Im almost hungry enough to chew oh!

Bart broke off with an exclamation, for just then a soft snowball hit him directly in the back of the neck. He turned swiftly, to catch sight of Fred working away, with an extra innocent look on his chubby face.

Oh, you neednt play off on me! he cried. I know you did it, Fred.

Did what? asked Fred, continuing his work. Im cutting tree branches. What are you doing?

This, continued Bart, and let drive with a snowball that took Fred on the shoulder.

Hi! hi! stop that! was the cry, and then Fred aimed another snowball. But it flew past Bart and hit Link in the left ear.

Oh, my ear! came with a roar, and Link began to dance around. Fred Rush, Ill wash your face for that!

He made a drive for Fred, but the latter scrambled to the top of the cliff, where Joe was at work. In another moment the young hunters were having a lively snowball fight. By chance one ball hit Joel Runnell in the stomach.

Hi! Im not in this! cried the old hunter. Stop it, boys, stop it!

But nobody would listen to him. Fast and furious flew the snowballs in all directions, and almost before he knew it Joel Runnell was hit again. Then he joined in the sport. As he was at the top of the cliff and used only huge chunks of loose snow those below had to steer clear of being buried alive.

Want to snowball me, do ye! he cried cheerily.

All right, come along! But take care or the old man will go ye one better! Stand from under! And down came a chunk of snow as big as a feather bolster. It struck Links head and hurled him flat on his back. But Link soon rallied and hit old Runnell in the leg and in the back.

Those at the bottom of the cliff soon sought to get at the top, while those above did their best to keep the others down. It became a battle of three on one side and four on the other. The excitement made Teddy Dugan fairly wild and he let out whoops like an Indian, as he danced around, delivering one snowball after another as if he was in a baseball game.

Whoop! Theres one for first, and another for second! he shrieked. There ye are, shortstop, and, I say, third base, dont miss the liner! And bang! Joe caught the snowball in the waist, which doubled him up for the moment. Heres fer killin the umpire! And at this last speech old Runnell caught a stinger in the ear. But the old hunter was quick to retaliate, and Teddy went down with a chunk of snow completely covering his head and neck. Wurra! he spluttered. Please dont throw the whole cliff at me to onct!

The fight was growing hotter and hotter and in the excitement Joe stepped close to the edge of the cliff. Then, of a sudden his feet slipped, he made a clutch at the pine branches before him, and shot out of sight.

Hurrah! the enemy is capitulating! came from below.

Joe! Joe! where are you? cried Harry.

Ive retired, thank you! came from under the pines. I say, let us call it off! And then the snowballing came to an end. Joe was not hurt, nor had anybody else suffered during the exciting contest.

The boys worked so hard the first day building the shelter that in the morning every back was stiff. When Harry arose it was all he could do to straighten up.

Ill be glad when the job is finished, he grumbled. A little of that sort of thing goes a great way.

Think of how our forefathers used to build their log cabins, said Bart. We can be thankful we dont live in such days.

And dont have any Indians hanging around ready to scalp us, put in Fred.

Sure, an Id run for me life if I seen an Indian, said Teddy, and this caused a laugh.

Bart and Link had brought a fair supply of provisions with them, but Teddy had brought nothing, so it was felt by all in the camp that they must be sparing with their things.

Well have to go out on another hunt to-morrow, said old Runnell. We dont want to live on just deer and bear meat.

The split in the rock had been cleaned out, and on the evening of the second day a fire was started in the rear of the new shelter. There was a fine draught and every bit of the smoke went up the split without any trouble.

This looks more like home, said Harry, after the fire had begun to warm them up. A camp isnt a camp at all unless one has a good fire. Even in the summer time a fellow likes to look at the blaze.

Right you are, lad, answered old Runnell. Ive been out many a time all alone, and I always found a fire the most friendly thing I could think of to drive away the blues. Even in the hottest of weather I start up some kind of a little blaze between the rocks.

While the others were sitting close to the fire, Harry drew Link aside.

Did you hear what Teddy said about Indians, he whispered.

Of course I did, answered Link. He gave a knowing wink. I guess I know what you are up to.

Give him a scare?

Exactly, Harry. But how can we do it? We havent any Indian costumes.

Havent we though? Thats all you know about it. Havent we blankets, and plenty of birds feathers, and some turkey feathers, too, come to think of it. And we can rub a little red dirt on our cheeks.

Good! Thats worth remembering. But we cant do it right away.

Not to-night. Im too tired.

What are you fellows whispering about? demanded Joe.

I just said I was tired, answered Link, innocently. Im going to turn in.

Ill wager you are up to some mischief.

Say, if anybody plays a trick on me to-night Ill Ill shoot him, came from Fred.

No tricks to-night, boys, said old Runnell. Everybody needs a good sleep after such work as weve had.

On each side of the shelter inside fresh pine boughs had been spread. The heat made the boughs give forth a delicious odor, which was as healthy as it was pleasing. So far none of the lads had taken cold and old Runnell sincerely hoped that all would continue to remain well.

Teddy, you want to keep one ear open for bears, said Link, just before retiring.

I dont want to see any bears to-night.

But one may come in, you know, and try to sample your foot or your hand.

Do you think any bears will be around? questioned the Irish lad in quick alarm.

Oh, not more than six or seven, Teddy.

Then Ill not go to sleep at all, at all!

Teddy, dont let them fool you, remonstrated Joel Runnell. If a bear comes Ill take care of him.

I met a bear once, said Teddy, after a pause. I was that close to him, and he measured off a distance of but a few feet.

Oh, Teddy, what did you do? questioned Bart.

Ill wager you was scared half to death, came from one of the others.

Did he try to bite you, or hug you to death? questioned still another.

Were you armed?

Where was this, out around here?

No, it wasnt. It was over to Dackerville.

Dackerville?

Thats what I said. I can tell you that bear was a lively one. Me father was along, but he wasnt as close to that bear as I was.

Well, what did you do to him? asked Link, impatiently.

Do? Didnt do nuthin.

You didnt! What did the bear do?

Rolled over on his head, and walked off.

Teddy, are you going crazy? A bear wouldnt do that.

He did, I tell you.

He couldnt have been very savage.

I dont know about that. He had a leather muzzle on, and a chain around his neck.

A tame bear! screamed Harry, and began to laugh. Oh, thats the best yet. Link, I guess you are sold.

Was it a tame bear? asked Link, weakly.

Sure. He could dance, and roll over on his head, and do lots of stunts, went on Teddy, and now a broad grin crept over his freckled face.

Teddy, youre the worst I ever met, groaned Link, and then after the laughter had subsided he added: Ill get square for that. Just you wait and see!

CHAPTER XXI
THE FIGHT OF THE PINE MARTENS

Now, boys, said Joel Runnell on the following morning, after all of the young hunters had enjoyed a good nights rest, Im going to get you at something new.

What is it? queried several, in chorus.

So far all the game we have had has either been caught by a hook and line or brought down with a gun. Now Im going to show you how to set traps for rabbits and other small animals, and also how to spear some big fish through a hole in the ice.

Thats the talk! cried Joe. Ive been wanting to know something about traps for years.

Well, a small trap isnt much of a thing to make, answered the old hunter.

I know how to make one kind of a rabbit trap, came from Bart. My uncle showed me how to make it.

There are a good many kinds of traps, arent there? asked Fred.

At this Joel Runnell smiled.

I should say so, my boy. I can make at least a dozen kinds, and I once knew a hunter from Canada who boasted of being able to make forty-six different kinds of traps and death-falls.

Gracious! that man hadnt much use for a gun, was Harrys comment.

Its a good thing to know something about traps, went on the old hunter. There might come a time when you were out in the woods and mighty hungry, without a single charge of powder left. In such a case a trap may keep you from starving to death.

The old hunter told them that he would first set a few rabbit and squirrel traps, and after that a death-fall for larger animals.

I think I can locate the run of the rabbits on this island pretty well, said he.

A good hot breakfast was had, and as soon as it was over Teddy insisted on washing up the few dishes which had been used. Then off they set in a crowd, satisfied that nobody would come to disturb their new shelter during an absence of only an hour or two.

Joel Runnell led the way around the cliff and then into a thicket where the pine trees fairly touched the ground.

Here are hundreds of traps fairly waiting for us, he said.

I dont see any, said Teddy, gazing around vacantly.

Youll see one in a few minutes.

Finding a spot that suited him, Joel Runnell cleared away some of the snow, which was but a few inches deep. Then, with a hatchet he had brought along, he cut two short sticks and near the top of each cut a sharp notch, the opening pointing downward.

Now Ill drive these two sticks into the ground, about eight inches apart, said he; and put them down until the notches he had cut were less than a foot from the soil. Joe, he added, you cut a strong, flat stick that will reach from one notch to the other.

While Joe was doing this, old Runnell put down another stick, this time with a sharp upper point. The three sticks in the ground formed a triangle. Then a stick was cut, sharp at one end and blunt at the other. This the old hunter called the catch stick.

Several feet away was a sapling and this was readily bent down in the direction of the imperfect trap. To the sapling Joel Runnell tied a stout cord and to the lower end of the cord fastened a bit of wire in the form of a running loop.

Now well proceed to set our trap, he said, and taking the catch stick he placed the blunt end under the stick Joe had put in the two notches and balanced the sharp end on the equally sharp end of the stick in front.

The sapling was now bent over until the loop, or noose, was low to the ground, between the two sticks in the ground and that in the notches. Then the string, just above the noose, was fastened to the blunt end of the catch stick.

Now all weve got to do is to bait our trap and it will be ready for business, went on Joel Runnell, and around the sharp stick in the ground fastened some extra tender twigs of brushwood he had found on the way. You see, the minute Mr. Rabbit begins to eat the twigs, hell shake the stick. That will make the catch stick slip down at the sharp end. Up will fly the blunt end and so will the noose, with Mr. Rabbit dangling in it by the neck or by the body.

But he may go at the bait from the back, said Bart.

The trap is done, but weve got to persuade Mr. Rabbit to go at the bait from the front, said the old hunter, and banked up the snow and dead brushwood around the three sides, leaving only the spot by the loop clear.

When the trap was completed they walked off and at a distance set another. By this time all the young hunters were at it, and in less than two hours nine traps, large and small, had been set and baited in various ways.

If we wanted to, we could make some box traps for birds, said old Runnell. But I guess you wont care for them this trip. Its better to catch birds in the summer.

Id rather not catch them at all, said Fred. They are not much good for food that is, they dont go aground like rabbits, or turkeys, or a deer. I dont believe in killing them just for the fun of it.

What is a death-fall? questioned Link.

A death-fall is simply a heavy trap, for killing big game, answered the old hunter. Some are made simply of a heavy log, so placed that when the bait is disturbed the log comes down and crushes the beast. Others are made with a tough stick and a big rock.

Some hunters dig pitfalls for bears, dont they? asked one of the boys.

Yes, but its not likely well catch a bear in any such hole they are too scarce around here. Besides, pitfalls are dangerous. Some years ago a hunter I knew fairly well fell into a pitfall dug the season before by some other hunters, and he broke his leg and two ribs.

It was mean to leave the pitfall unmarked, said Joe.

When you are in the woods there are several things worth remembering, lads. One is, never leave a fire without youre certain it wont do damage.

Yes, weve learned what fire can do, said Fred, grimly.

Another thing is, dont fool with your firearms, and dont point a gun at the other fellow just because you think the gun isnt loaded. And another thing, never point your gun at yourself or at anybody else when you are climbing a fence, or crawling through the brushwood. The hammer may catch on something and somebody may be killed.

Yes, I knew of a boy who was killed that way, said Harry. He was climbing a rail fence and the charge nearly took the top of his head off.

And finally, said Joel Runnell, when you leave a camp, dont break up everything in sight just for the sport of it, thinking youll never come back that way again. You may want to come back the very next season, or, if you dont, somebody else may happen that way and it will be a pleasure for that party to find things in shape for use, just as we found Snow Lodge ready for use.

By the time the young hunters had returned to the shelter the wind was rising once more, and they were glad enough to sit around the fire and get warm. While they ate their midday meal Joel Runnel explained many traps and their workings to the boys, and told of what animals he had caught from time to time by such means.

They were just preparing to go out for the afternoon when Link, who was at the doorway, called softly to his companions.

Dont make any noise, he said. I think there is some kind of an animal around.

Is it a bear? queried Bart.

I dont know what it is.

Where did you hear it, Link? asked Joe.

Down near the lake. It made a very odd sound.

By this time all had reached for their guns and were coming forth from the shelter.

Come with me, Link, said old Runnell. You others hang back a little. Well find out what it is that is prowling around. I dont believe its a bear.

With extreme caution Joel Runnell led the way in the direction Link had pointed out. The snow covered the rough rocks so that walking was extremely difficult.

Just as they were to pass from under some pine trees into the open there came a cat-like cry from a tree to their right. Wheeling around, the old hunter caught sight of two animals facing each other on a sloping tree limb. Each animal was rather larger than a good sized house cat and had a long, bushy tail and short, stout legs.

What are they, cats? whispered Link.

No, pine martens, returned the old hunter, in a low voice. Get back and perhaps well see some fun.

He caught Link by the arm, and both drew back a few paces. Then the others were motioned to keep silent.

The two pine martens soon began to growl and spit at each other exactly as do two house cats when on a back fence to settle a long-standing dispute. They were so much in earnest that neither noted the approach of the hunters, although usually a pine marten is very shy and quick to detect danger.

What a battle! remarked Joe, when each had made a savage claw at the other. Youd almost think they were two old Toms, wouldnt you?

Perhaps youd better heave a boot-jack at them, came dryly from Bart.

Hush, lads, put in Joel Runnell. Be prepared to fire the minute they try to run away. Remember, they may disappear like magic.

Let me shoot one, pleaded Link. I havent had any chance at game yet.

And let me try for the other, came from Bart.

All right. But take careful aim, or the martens will get away from you.

CHAPTER XXII
TEDDY MEETS THE INDIANS

In order to get a better view of the pine martens, who had shifted slightly from where they were first fighting, Link and Bart moved cautiously along among several big pine trees.

Ill take the lighter one, said Bart.

All right, Ill try for the darker, said his chum. Both of the martens were brown, but there were several shades of difference between the pair.

Are you ready? came a few seconds later.

Yes.

Then fire!

Crack! crack! went the two guns in rapid succession and up into the air leaped both of the animals. Then they came down into the snow and whirled over and over. One was mortally wounded and quickly expired, but the one shot by Bart, tried to crawl away.

Hes going to get away from ye! cried Teddy Dugan, in strong excitement. Let me give him a shot, wont ye?

Yes, answered Bart, and no sooner had he spoken than the Irish boy blazed away, and over on its back went the pine marten, as dead as a stone.

All of the young hunters rushed up to inspect the prizes. They found the pine martens of a strong odor, but with beautiful furs.

Those pelts are worth something, said Joel Runnell.

Can we eat the meat? asked Bart.

I dont think youll care particularly for the flavor. But you want to save the furs.

We shall certainly do that, said Link, and then old Runnell showed them how to skin the game so that the fur would not be damaged.

Now that they were out with their guns they continued the hunt until sunset. During that time they were lucky enough to get three rabbits and two squirrels and also some more nuts out of the hole of one of the latter creatures.

It was growing colder steadily and by sunset all of the young hunters were more than glad to get back to the shelter.

Oh, but this night is going to be a stinger! predicted Joe, and he was right. They brought in a large quantity of firewood and set the blaze to going as hard as they dared. The pine trees leaning against the cliff were getting dry and they had to be careful that no sparks should set them ablaze.

Weve burnt down one shelter, we dont want to burn down another, said old Runnell, and Joe, Harry and Fred agreed with him.

By midnight it was so cold that several of the boys could not sleep. Wrapped up in their blankets they huddled so close to the fire that one of them, Bart, had one corner of his wrap badly singed.

Look out, youre on fire! came from Joe, in a warning, and Bart leaped up and did a war dance in an effort to brush away the sparks which had reached him.

Some water had been brought into the shelter for drinking purposes, but long before morning this was frozen into a solid chunk, which Teddy Dugan surveyed with a comical look on his face.





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