EPILOGUE — Other Side of the Cannon: The Journal of an Arb Viking

Hear me now, for I will regale you with the harrowing tale of an Arb Viking. A poor soul, who when forced out of his home, looked to a world of the ancient past for guidance, who walked (and slept) in their footsteps for three days and nights. Listen close, and you will learn of the horrors, the triumphs, the heartbreaks, and the tragedies….

Sunnudagr of the 5th week of Summer-

The beauty of Lyman Lakes (Photo Cred Victoria)

Me and my mighty crew, Vicky, Hope, and Jesse, set out from the Archaeology lab with tent and wagon in tow to the Arb. Our task was daunting, as the tent had not been raised by a number so small before. After stopping to admire the beautiful day (photo cred Victoria), we made our way down the trodden path to our clearing. Recovering the tent posts and supports from their hiding spot, we quickly assembled the tent in a manner and speed any Norseman or Norsewoman would be proud of. While Victoria abandoned the cause, me, Hope, and Jesse finished covering the wooden frame with the cloth, and put a tenon in each post-end. Finished, we stepped back to gaze upon the magnificent tent standing proud over the field. 

Following a hearty dinner at Burton and some live music by DJ’s band any Viking would have been jealous of,  I headed to the tent, a place I would call home for the coming nights. With just a small bag of supplies and sleeping bag. I laid out to rest in the typical Viking fashion, sitting up! With my back against the cold earth and my body resting on the gnarled ground I attempted to fall asleep. After what seemed like an eternity of discomfort, I drifted off. 

Mánadagr of the 6th week of Summer-

Peaceful (but very early) morning

The ground rebelled against me last night. A sleep broken by bouts of restless turning against a chilled, knobbly ground; I was woken by the first rays of sun lighting the clearing in a dull haze. The sky was blue and bright,  pinks and reds reflecting off scattered clouds filling my gaze with an early calm. But it was early. The sun had not fully risen, and I had slept poorly. After several failed attempts to fall back asleep, I left my dwelling and walked through the woods in the chilly morning, trying to warm my aching body. Dispelling my drowsiness, I returned to camp and laid my sleeping bag and blanket in the warming sun to dry. Not wanting to waste precious time, I started carving eating utensils from a leftover elm branch. The carving was slow, as the elm was knotty and twisted. Alas, the crooked elm foiled many-a-spoon as they cracked and warped under my knife. 

As soon as my bag and blanket had dried, I packed them up and headed up the hill to campus. By now the sun had been up for nearly an hour and I needed to top off my water supplies, having depleted them upon waking. I traveled on the beaten path, across the silent road, up the grass-less hill and into the library (A most peculiar place, full of many tomes of indecipherable content with the occasional sketch). It was here my exhaustion caught up to me, and I was fighting the urge to collapse. Finding a large chair fit for a viking chieftain, I quickly succumbed to a light slumber. Never fully falling asleep, for I needed to be on my guard as there are many enemies about, I lightly slept for several blissful hours. 

Awaking quickly, I found that time had slipped through my fingers and I must ready myself for class. Quickly rising, I left the sanctuary of the library and marched to Anderson. I was joined by Evan on my walk to class, as he was in the library at that moment, no doubt also catching up on some sleep. After regaling my class with the first night of my journey and discussion, I returned to the library with my valiant shipmates. 

Later that day a dreadful storm fell upon the land, scattering the people to shelters as the sun was swallowed by a gale of fury. Floods of rain poured from the darkened clouds while sheets of lightning and whirlwinds filled the sky. As the storm raged my hunger also raged. Leaving the sanctuary of the library, I left for dinner and was joined by Aidan (Not to be confused with Aiden Mackie). Our dinner was filled with boisterous conversation and a hearty meal, and by the time we returned to the library, the storm had abated. 

Now the precious hours of sun were waning. Holding my hand to the horizon I knew I had less than 30 minutes of sunlight left. I gathered my belongings and began the lonesome trek to the tent. Upon arriving at my abode, I needed to make some sleeping improvements. The rocky untilled ground that had kept me up last night was to be brought under my control. Taking my carving ax and an elm branch I quickly shaped a plow on one end and began to plow rows in the soil up and down. This leveled out the ground and provided a soft bed of tilled earth to sleep on. After 40 minutes of plowing, tilling, picking rocks, and plowing again, I had made a bed of loose earth I was happy with. 

My rudimentary plow

Settling in for the night I took my ax by my side and laid down. A tiresome day combined with a comfortable bed helped sleep take me sooner than the previous night. 

First sunset at the tent

Tysdagr of the 6th week of Summer-

Early Morning at the tent

I awoke to an early dawn again. This time I was well rested, though still bleary eyed. I lifted myself from my bed of earth and shook off the loose soil. Without class today or a sense of constant tiredness, I had a day of freedom. I began this day by enjoying the sunrise while I ate a filling viking breakfast of dry oats, apples, and bread. 

Grabbing my carving knife and a piece of elm, I walked through trees as the early morning light filtered through the canopy. Settling in by the river, I sat on a fallen tree and carved a spoon while I warmed up for the morning. There was much work to be done on this day. After I enjoyed the peaceful morning forest sounds and carved the rough shape of my spoon, I walked back to my tent and packed up my belongings for the day. I set aside my carving ax, pipe ax, knives, and leather, as I bundled my sleeping bag and tarp and stored them away for the day. 

To begin the day I needed to handle my pipe ax. I had forged this ax head several months ago and had not put a handle on it yet. Searching through the remaining elm branches, I obtained the straightest one and marked out a length suitable for an ax. Lacking a saw to trim the branch I used my carving ax to cut the branch in half. Cutting in at a steep angle I chopped chunks of elm out of the branch until I could snap it in half. Using a board I roughed out of a piece of elm as a chopping block, I hacked the end of the branch off until it was roughly flat and smooth.

But alas! The intense chopping had taken a toll on my ax! There were many nicks in its blade! To let one’s tools fall out of sharpness and proper working order would mean death to any viking! For there is nothing more dangerous than a blunt or nicked blade! I quickly gathered my whetstone and returned to the river, sharpened the blade with the stone until the nicks were removed. Using a piece of leather, I stropped the blade till it shone like a star in the sun. The mirrored blade reflecting the light in the clearing. 

With my tools repaired, I continued to shape the handle from my elm branch. While it was the straightest branch of elm I could find, I had the misfortune of cutting through knots and warped wood in the pursuit of a straight handle. Contemplating giving in to despair as the wood chipped and tore out leaving rough, nasty gouges in my handle, I steeled myself and persevered in the pursuit of my ax handle. After the rough shaping was done, I had to resharpen my ax yet again! For the blade got nicked by the tough knots in the branch. Thankfully, the shaping was done, and I could move on to finish the handle with my knife. Quick trims and plane cuts smoothed the rough surface out as I fit the ax head on the handle, but lo! I encountered yet another problem! I did not have a saw, and so how would I cut a slot for a wedge to hold the ax head in place? Thinking quickly, I grabbed my carving ax and used it to split the top of the handle ever so slightly. Then I reattached the ax head onto the handle, and using an elm wedge I carved, seated the ax securely. The collar of the ax eye contained the split so it did not travel down the rest of the handle, but this is a temporary solution that would need to be reminded once I acquired more tools. 

Long Ax

Speaking of tools, I needed a belt to hold my tools, and to keep my tunic in place. For the past day and a half I had been using a piece of rope as a belt, but I acquired some felted wool that would make a better one. Grabbing my drop spindle and roving, I spun some fine thread to sew my belt together. I planned to make an O-ring belt. O-ring belts used a ring on one end combined with a simple knot to act like a buckle.  I lacked a metal O-ring and the resources to make one, so I grabbed a scrap of leather to form the ring. My carving knife tip poked thread holes in the leather, a needle with the thread I spun earlier sewed the loop together. Rubbing beeswax along the stitches and leather, I sealed it in place with a small flame. With the ring complete, I wrapped it in some thicker spun wool to add some heft to it. The felted belt was cut to length and one end folded over itself with the ring in the middle. I fastened the ring end with a simple stitch and wax. With my belt complete, I tied it around my waist and looped the excess to form an ax rest to carry my tools as I moved around. 

While the day had been productive, it had not been sunny. The dismal clouds covered the sun leaving me under a cold blanket of gray. This would not do, as I needed to wash my clothes! They had gotten a little smelly after wearing them for the past 2 days and nights, but more importantly they had gotten dirty from sleeping on a bed of loose earth. Shaking them out every morning would not do! I needed to wash them, and luckily for me there was a fast flowing river nearby. Gathering my clothes, I walked to the banks of the Cannon and waded into the river. Using loose sand and a rock, I scrubbed my tunic and clothes in the river till the dirt ran from the linen and the smell faded to the dull scent of the river. As I laid my clothes upon a fallen tree to dry, a sun filled rain came down upon me. Perplexed, but not missing the opportunity, I took a bath in the river. 

Having cleaned up and washed, I headed back to camp where I laid my clothes upon the tent to dry in the warming sun. It was here where I was joined by some compatriots. Four runners approached me as I had just laid my clothes out to dry and we merrily conversed while they took a brief respite from their run. As they ran away, I waved farewell and settled back into the routine of work. 

Drying out my garments

You see, for now, I had been barefoot, but this needed to change. With the leather I had, and the thread I had spun, I began to work on a pair of sandals. Not knowing anything about shoe making, I went in blind, just hoping for a thin covering to shield my weak feet from the rocks and sticks that lay along the forest floor. Spreading the leather sheet out, I cut two oversized soles and several straps. Attaching straps around my toes, mid-sole, and heel, I sewed them in place and sealed them with wax. Threading each strap together was a piece of rope or felted wool left over from my belt. The cord ran long and wrapped around my ankles and shins to secure my sandals to my feet. While rough and slightly uncomfortable, they shielded my feet from the harms of the earth.

Sandals Complete, Dawgs out

With the time flying by, so did my water supplies. And though I washed in the Cannon, I would not force my enemies to drink from it! And so I headed back across the road, up the grass-less hill, and to yesterday’s sanctuary, the library. It is here I replenished my drinking water supplies, and conversed with my shipmates. But daylight was burning and I needed to prepare my bed for the night again! Heading back down after my brief visit, I once again plowed the earth of my bed. Mounds of loose soil gathered around my feet as I dug deep with my turf knife and plow, cutting sod and turf for a more comfortable bed. After sifting for rocks and roots, I piled the soil and spread it with the haft of my ax as evenly as I could. Tamping it lightly with my feet, it was ready for sleep. 

Holding my hand to the horizon, I had just one finger of light left, and so I quickly gathered my belongings and spread out my camp for one last night. Pouring some water in my drinking horn, I enjoyed an apple watching the sun dip below the trees, filling the glade in an amber light. Feeling accomplished, I took one last look over my land and turned in for the night. 

Last sunset in the tent

Óðinsdagr of the 6th week of Summer-

Morning ft. a rough carved elm spoon

Morn came and went as I slumbered under the rising sun. My improvements to thine bed proved to be almost too good! As I slept past sunrise for the first time in the tent. As I cleared the haze from my mind, I realized this was to be the last day in my tent. For my shipmates where to come relieve me from my Lesser-Outlawdome and I was to return to society. 

Following a brief walk around my lands, I wandered into town and picked up some supplies, including a croissant (thank god the vikings were in France). After packing up my belongings for the final time. I sat on the wall and contemplated the past few days. There wasn’t much work to do, so I enjoyed a nice walk through the trees and relaxed in the tent. 

Part of a good, abundant meal

Filling the void of time, I spun more roving into woolen thread and thicker yarn for a later date. For there is no time wasted as a viking! There is always something to be doing. Using some thread and elm bark, I wove a sheath for my carving knife and whittled away on some needles and spoon handles. 

Breaking my fast finally I enjoyed a mid-morning meal and spun some more. For my ordeal was over, and there was naught to do but spin my roving. Enjoying the monotony of spinning, I settled back and enjoyed the morning slip by while I awaited the aid of my shipmates in taking down my home. Thus ends the journal of the Arb Viking…For now!

Surveying my lands

By Glen Norvell, Blacksmith, Artist, writer, comedian, notorious arb dweller, he who came from beyond the river, the Ole.

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