St. Polycarp. St. Paula. St. Conan.
On winter comes—the cruel north
Pours his furious whirlwind forth
Before him—and we breathe the breath
Of famish'd bears, that howl to death:
Onward he comes from rocks that blanch
O'er solid streams that never flow,
His tears all ice, his locks all snow,
Just crept from some huge avalanche. Incog.
BEARS AND BEES.
M. M. M. a traveller in Russia, communicates through the Gentleman's Magazine of 1785, a remarkable method of cultivating bees, and preserving them from their housebreakers, the bears. The Russians of Borodskoe, on the banks of the river Ufa, deposit the hives within excavations that they form in the hardest, strongest, and loftiest trees of the forest, at about five-and-twenty or thirty feet high from the ground, and even higher, if the height of the trunk allows it. They hollow out the holes lengthways, with small narrow hatchets, and with chisels and gouges complete their work. The longitudinal aperture of the hive is stopped by a cover of two or more pieces exactly fitted to it, and pierced with small holes, to give ingress and egress to the bees. No means can be devised more ingenius or more convenient for climbing the highest and the smoothest trees than those practised by this people, for the construction and visitation of these hives. For this purpose they use nothing but a very sharp axe, a leathern strap, or a common rope. The man places himself against the trunk of the tree, and passes the cord round his body and round the tree, just leaving it sufficient play for casting it higher and higher, by jerks, towards the elevation he desires to attain, and there to place his body, bent as in a swing, his feet resting against the tree, and preserving the free use of his hands. This done, he takes his axe, and at about the height of his body makes the first notch or step in the tree; then he takes his rope, the two ends whereof he takes care to have tied very fast, and throws it towards the top of the trunk. Placed thus in his rope by the middle of his body, and resting his feet against the tree, he ascends by two steps, and easily enables himself to put one of his feet in the notch. He now makes a new step, and continues to mount in this manner till he has reached the intended height. He performs all this with incredible speed and agility. Being mounted to the place where he is to make the hive, he cuts more convenient steps, and, by the help of the rope, which his body keeps in distension, he performs his necessary work with the above-mentioned tools, which are stuck in his girdle. He also carefully cuts away all boughs and protuberances beneath the hive, to render access as difficult as possible to the bears, which abound in vast numbers throughout the forests, and in spite of all imaginable precautions, do considerable damage to the hives. On this account the natives put in practice every kind of means, not only for defending themselves
Russian Tree-climbing and Bear Trap.
from these voracious animals, but for their destruction. The method most in use consists in sticking into the trunk of the tree old blades of knives, standing upwards, scythes, and pieces of pointed iron, disposed circularly round it, when the tree is straight, or at the place of bending when the trunk is crooked. The bear has commonly dexterity enough to avoid these points in climbing up the tree; but when he descends, as he always does, backwards, he gets on these sharp hooks, and receives such deep wounds, that he usually dies. Old bears frequently take the precaution to bend down these blades with their fore-paws as they mount, and thereby render all this offensive armour useless.
Another destructive apparatus has some similitude to the catapulta of the ancients. It is fixed in such a manner that, at the instant the bear prepares to climb the tree, he pulls a string that lets go the machine, whose elasticity strikes a dart into the animal's breast. A further mode is to suspend a platform by long ropes to the farthest extremity of a branch of the tree. The platform is disposed horizontally before the hive, and there tied fast to the trunk of the tree with a cord made of bark. The bear, who finds the seat very convenient for proceeding to the opening of the hive, begins by tearing the cord of bark which holds the platform to the trunk, and hinders him from executing his purpose. Upon this the platform immediately quits the tree, and swings in the air with the animal seated upon it. If, on the first shock, the bear is not tumbled out, he must either take a very dangerous leap, or remain patiently in his suspended seat. If he take the leap, either involuntarily, or by his own good will, he falls on sharp points, placed all about the bottom of the tree; if he resolve to remain where he is, he is shot by arrows or musket balls.
White butterbur. Tressilago alba.