California – The Practical Side Of It

A chapter may be added as to the practical side of such a trip by carriage as has just been outlined.

It will be found advantageous to give the horse a full day’s rest every four or five days, though if the daily travel is easy the Sunday rest will be all that is really needful.

Twenty-five to thirty miles a day for a single horse on a fairly good country road is an average day’s travel to reckon upon.

There is nothing in the nature of the trip described that would debar two ladies from undertaking it alone, provided that one is reasonably familiar with horseflesh and has a good head for directions.

It is well to have in the carriage a monkey-wrench, a hatchet, a hank of rope and a few yards of baling wire. “California,” remarked one of our rustic friends, “would have fallen to pieces long ago, if it had not been for baling wire.” There will probably not be need for any of these, but if one requires them at all, it will be when out of reach of human assistance, and then they will be needed badly.

It is always best, when putting up the horse at a stable for the night, to stipulate with the livery man that he gives the animal a grain feed, also that he sees to the greasing of the axles.

When one is on the wing and must cook each meal in a new place, it is of the utmost importance to have all supplies and utensils in complete order. We made two bags of turkey-red calico, material that is easily washed. In one of these were stowed two saucepans, two frying pans, the coffee pot and several tin lids : in the other, enameled-ware plates and cups, knives, forks and spoons in a cloth, a few tin plates and small dishes.

All these things should be packed with layers of newspaper between, and the two bundles tightly tied can then go on the bottom of the wagon. In a chip basket, store such provisions as will carry you to the next stopping-place, salt and pepper in shakers, soap in a small tin box, and numerous small pieces of linen, muslin or cheese cloth for use as dish cloths and tea-towels, one or two of which may be used up at each stopping-place and left behind, since wet rags are unpleasant and unprofitable to transport.

In the bottom of the wagon also stow two iron rings fitted to tripods, which you will find invaluable in cooking on a camp fire, particularly in desert country where logs or large stones are not available to rest your utensils upon over the flame. These rings are sold at all first class campers’ supply stores.

When you stop for a roadside dinner, the following mode of procedure ‘will economize time. As soon as the carriage is stopped, unload the cooking-utensil bags (described above) and start a fire, laying a supply of wood for your hand, needful to keep the fire going. Do not make a big fire—a small fire of glowing coal is what you need. Then while the needs of the horse or horses are being looked after, set the water on the fire to boil. Next prepare the potatoes and open what canned things you are going to use at the meal. Then as soon as the water is boiling, start first upon the fire whatever will consume the longest time to cook. While this is cooking, set out your dishes, cut the bread and make the coffee or tea, fry the bacon or whatever other dish is to be cooked; and by the time the horses have been attended to, dinner should be ready.

Serve everything hot from the pans and at once set some water on the fire to boil while you eat, that there may be hot water for washing up immediately after dinner. Then when the horses are being hitched to the carriage, wash everything and repack the red bags ready for the next time.

When camp is of a more protracted kind, as for several days, or even over one night, it pays to make one or more fire-places of stones. Three substantial stones, each with a fairly smooth top and one fairly perpendicular side are selected. Two are set paralel to each other with the perpendicular sides inward, and just far enough apart to allow the cooking utensils to rest .over the space, and the third is set at right angles across the back. The fire is built between the stones. It is important that the space between the stones be arranged so that the coffee pot or other utensils rest steadily over the flame, or they are sure to tip over at some critical moment and not only spill their contents but put out the fire. If your stay is long enough to warrant it, and fuel is plentiful, you might as well have the luxury of two or three of these fire-places, so that several dishes may be cooked at once.

Should you employ a driver on a carriage trip, your livery people will probably say that the man will board himself ; but our experience has been that as the driver is more or less busied with the horses during the stops for meals, and therefore has little time to cook on his own behalf, it generally proves more expeditious to include him at meals with your-selves. Besides, in the democratic West it does not do to draw social distinctions too fine, and if your driver is a tolerably decent sort of fellow—and you had better have no other kind—it will contribute decidedly to the pleasant feeling to let him know at the outset that he is welcome to what is provided for all. Of course, if he has a liking for some special thing—coffee, for instance, when none of the rest of the party drinks coffee—it would be in order for him to prepare this for himself.

Moreover, in making up your budget of supplies, besides allowing for the driver it is well to provide some margin to take care of any chance visitors that may drop into your camp at meal times. In the hospitable, thinly settled stretches of rural California, where every door is open to the stranger, you will want to be equally open-handed to white or Indian, who may stop at your camp. No one would ever expect you to cook anything extra for him, but a share of whatever might be most convenient—if only crackers and tea—would, if cordially and heartily offered, be as cordially and heartily received.