Gateway to the Classics: Stephen of Philadelphia by James Otis
Stephen of Philadelphia by  James Otis

Going To Meet the "Factor"

It was at once decided that a certain number of our company should make the journey down the river, after having bargained with the savages to guide them, and both Jethro and I were eager to be of the party, even though hardships might be met.

We had remained idle so long, doing little else than eat, that action of any kind, however dangerous, was something greatly to be desired.

It was not an easy matter to gain permission of our parents, however, although we did succeed finally, and you may set it down in good truth that we were in high spirits on that winter morning when we started off.

The party numbered five men, we two lads, and three savages to show the way. We were all well armed, for no one could say how many wild and ferocious beasts might be encountered, and carried provisions in plenty, not being minded to live upon the stores of our friends.

You must know that there was snow upon the ground to the depth of eight or ten inches, and to plough through this would have been most exhausting work; but the savages make a kind of shoe to bear them on the surface, however deep the drifts may be, and already had my father fashioned one pair for himself and another for me.


The shoes are made by working down two pieces of wood from the ash tree, the wood having been well seasoned, until they are of no greater bigness than your smallest finger. The wood is then held in the steam from boiling water until it can be readily bent, when the ends are brought close together and the middle stretched wide apart, something after the fashion of fastening two crescent-shaped sticks at each point.

Across this frame are woven the entrails of deer, until a sort of basket-work has been formed, after which the cords are allowed to dry slowly, when they will become hard and tough, yet so far pliable as to yield somewhat to the pressure of one's foot.

It is not a simple matter to walk on these Indian snowshoes until after one has had considerable practice, and even then it is necessary to advance with the feet so wide apart, in order to allow for the width of the shoes, that the labor is very great, at least so it was to Jethro and me by the time we had traveled three or four miles.

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