Fire in the Hole!

Last month, I shared a bit of my history with archery as part of the theme involving The Bow Hart Saga. However, when I wrote the book I also needed some other pertinent information such as tracking, hiding and other survival skills necessary in the wilderness since that is much of the setting that involves the series. Here is one of the small details which I mentioned often in the book by which you may find interesting.

Fire is a necessity when traveling on foot through the wilderness, one which we tend to take in stride since we don’t live outdoors or don’t camp as much as people did a century or more ago. However, up until recent centuries many people had skills for basic survival which they used often. Traveling alone or even with people requires these skills so I added a few more details about this without dwelling on it too much. As I mentioned during the archery piece, relevant information should be shared in context of the story rather than spending a lot of time discussing the detail without any purpose. Also, I chose to include a few of these details since Athson is a woodsman as well as an expert archer. I wanted to express a little more of what it’s like for him and other characters to keep themselves going on the march. This is often glossed-over in many books which discuss the quest as a major theme, but I think it’s a little bit important to include some relevant detail about building an effective fire.

For that reason I a researched campfires among several survivalist topics and found an interesting one that I used in my writing. I found the Dakota fire pit an interesting detail to throw into the story, so you often read that Athson or another character is interested in building such a fire. This type of fire-pit is used for several reasons, so it would be useful for a Ranger of Auguron to use them as well. The so-called Dakota fire-pit/hole is very simply a fire built in a hole.. To accomplish the task, you must dig a hole into which you will build your fire. But the fire also needs oxygen to burn, so a secondary hole or two must be burrowed, usually around the windward side so that oxygen will flow down the hole and provide the fire with the fuel that it needs. To actually build the fire, you begin with lighting some kindling and usually lowering it into the pit with a shovel. From there you build the rest of the fire with wood which has been collected and will burn quickly. It’s important to note that if you were out in the elements fire is going to be one of the main points upon which your travel and survival will orbit. The others will be shelter water and food, water coming first.

With the fire now built, there are a number of things which you get out of this fire. As with all campfires, you get some heat and something on which to cook. Those are the most important elements and a Dakota pit fire is said to burn hotter and cooks food faster. There are a few more reasons why a woodsman would want to use a pit-fire rather than just create a hearth with stones upon the ground. One reason is that the Dakota pit fire is said to also burn more cleanly so it has fewer sparks and produces far less smoke.

In the world of Denaria in which The Bow of Hart Saga is set, Athson and other rangers may well be concerned that their presence remain unknown. This is especially important since they’re often being tracked by trolls at various points in the story. This factor also means that a ranger such as Athson can remain somewhat hidden to anyone tracking them.

One of the best features of the Dakota pit fire is that it can be quickly covered which will effectively put the fire out. This aspect of the pit fire is important for two reasons, the first being that the builder of the fire does not worry about staying behind to make sure the fire is completely out. Instead, the pit is filled in with the dirt that was dug previously, including the holes so that the fire is completely smothered and underground. The second reason that the Dakota pit-fire would be effective in this regard is that it creates or erases someone’s former presence. This is the especially the case when turf is dug up as part of the process then placed on top of the fill dirt which would leave the presence of a fire pit almost entirely hidden. A good woodsman would be able to cover his own tracks and presence very easily rather than leaving a hearth behind which could easily be spotted by trolls in the story. So in this way Athson and fellow rangers would be able to avoid detection of a camp by any enemy. The Dakota pit-fire also means that less of the environment is disturbed which would be a consideration for the Auguron rangers.

That’s all I have for today regarding my research on woodsman ship. I hope you found it an interesting little detail. I’ve never gotten the chance to actually use this information for real, but I would like to give it a try one day.

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