Woodsmoke is the Dartmouth Outing Club’s periodic publication of trip and expedition reports, essays, poetry, artwork and photography. Woodsmoke is generally distributed to all members of the DOC community electronically, and print copies are available upon request. If you are interested in contributing material or with compiling and editing, please contact the DOC.
The most recent issue of Woodsmoke (2016) is available for download Click Here to view or download (3.9mb file).
Ross McKenney was the the DOC's Woodcraft Advisor from 1936 - 1959. He oversaw the construction of the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge in 1938-39 and taught woodcraft skills to hundreds of Dartmouth students. Woodsmoke is considered one of his finest statements and has been an inspiration to generations of Dartmouth men and women.
To many people Woodsmoke is just something that comes from burning wood. To others it is something that stands for peace and beauty, something that answers that longing for the wonder and solitude of the outdoors. To lie in a snug shelter at night, when the temperature is creeping close to minus, and watch the Woodsmoke drifting upward through the branches of the trees can instill within you that warmth and confidence that comes from happiness and faith in God. Once I heard some words truly expressive of the greatness of the outdoors, “A kiss of the sun for pardon, the song of the birds for mirth, you're nearer God's heart in the forest than any place else on earth.”
So let me say here that faith in God and Woodsmoke is a mixture that can smooth out some rough roads and keep one's faith in mankind strong and clean, even against mounting odds. These things we need as much as trees need sunshine to live and to give. Did you ever follow the life of a tree? Its seed is carried by the wind or the birds to the forest floor where the rains and winds beat it into the soil. A tiny root reaches down into the earth and the life of the tree starts. The young tree doesn't race upward in a mad race for supremacy. Instead it spends a few years throwing out a foundation root to brace itself against what is to come. Then each year its leader shoots upward, a growth emerges from the tip of each branch; and under the bark of its trunk a ring of wood is formed. Thus it grows outward as well as upward. It starts giving shade to hold moisture. Its foliage give fertilization to the soil. All through life it gives to the forest world and people, and to you and me. Although it may fall to the forest floor, stricken by a bolt of lighting or uprooted or broken by the wind, it doesn't stop giving. For even after many years when it decays and turns to soil, it still is giving. I have often asked myself, “Have I ever come close to living by this standard?” I find many errors and omissions, but have gathered to myself much warmth and happiness in correcting some of these along life's paths. Many of the answers have come to me through the upward curling strands of Woodsmoke.
In the years I have been with the Dartmouth Outing Club many members have come and gone. I have watched them learn how to use an axe, build shelters, and cook a meal over the open fire. I have watched them making paddles, axe handles, snowshoes, pack boards, and many other things. It has been a source of great satisfaction to me to watch their enthusiasm grow as they completed their projects, and to see the deep friendships form between them, lasting friendships built of the courtesy that comes both from their associations with the forest and from their confidence in themselves. I have seen many of these same students living a close parallel to nature's standard of living…giving that the rest may live.
In my years at Dartmouth the students have given me many gifts to show their appreciation. They have given me of their efforts, untiring efforts night or day, always ready and willing to do something for me. For this I will be forever grateful, but the thing they fail to realize is that they have given much more that that. They have given me their friendship, their faith, their courtesy; and like the blaze on the tree, it is within my heart healed over, it is mine forever and can never be taken away. Who will I thank for this? Will I thank God? Will I thank these men? Or will I dream in the warmth of happiness that maybe these things came to me, with the ability to hold them, from the fragrance and beauty of my many campfires and watching the Woodsmoke curl upwards through the branches of the trees.
Hey Fellers! throw some more wood on the fire, slip a couple more slices of bacon into the frying pan, and for-the-Luvva-mike put some more coffee in the pot, I can still pour it, you know I like my coffee in slices.
~C. Ross McKenney
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Last Updated: 6/27/16