From here on I will refer to this persona as a Woodsrunner, which covers both genders. The woodsrunner was a person with certain skills that enabled them to survive with reasonable comfort in the woods & forests. Today we call this combination of skills & crafts woods lore. Not all woodsrunners came from the same mould, not all had that “brier in the eye” look. Daniel Boone by all accounts was a very skilled woodsman & a decent human being that would rather make friends with the woodland Indians than cause them any harm. But was Boone a typical woodsrunner of the time?
Our aim is to interpret the lifestyle of the common woodsrunner, but in doing this we also want to be as good as we can be in regard to woods lore knowledge. Even so, we are individuals, just as they were 300 years ago, & it makes sense that some of us may be better at some things than others are. So this is our quest then, to learn as much as we can & to practice these skills, this lifestyle as much as possible in the time that we have. Our quest in fact then is to become a woodsrunner.
So what did the woodsrunner wear? Well typically they wore a workman’s frock to protect their other clothing. Their clothing consisted of a shirt and breeches or a breechclout, a weskit/waistcoat, neckerchief, a broad brimmed felt hat with a low crown. Leather woodland Indian style leggings and woodland Indian moccasins. A leather belt went round the waist though this could also be a woollen sash. This belt or sash secured a hunting knife, a tomahawk/axe, possibly a flintlock pistol, and a belt bag for carrying flint, steel and tinderbox and possibly other items as well.
In winter they may wear stockings, woollen mittens, a half-blanket or even a French capote or a frock coat. If it is very cold they may also wear two shirts or a woollen shirt, and two weskits. Whatever it takes to stay warm.
There is no evidence to show that they ever carried more than one blanket, summer or winter. But the woodsrunner knows how to stay warm with only one blanket. Rolled up in my blanket I have a spare woollen weskit, a woollen shirt, and a woollen Monmouth cap. These items of clothing are for wearing on cold nights.
The woodsrunner could take a variety of jobs that they were well qualified for. Militia duty fell to every male between 16 and 60 years of age. Ann Bailey was also known to accompany the militia. Rangers as they were called were hired to range the surrounding country round settlements, looking for sign of any enemy. Couriers, hunters, scouts, trappers, all needed to be skilled woodsrunners. Even traders such as Mr and Mrs Pentry were woodsrunners. But many were also farmers and land owners like Boone.
Here are some skills that a typical woodsrunner might be expected to know:
• Flint & steel fire lighting
• Wet weather fire lighting
• Fire-bow fire lighting
• Flintlock fire lighting
• Flintlock use, service & repair
• Field dressing & butchering game
• Blade sharpening
• Tomahawk throwing
• Making rawhide
• Brain tanning
• Primitive shelter construction
• How to stay warm in winter with only one blanket
• Cordage manufacture
• Moccasin construction and repair
• Axe and tomahawk helve making
• Reading sign
• Woods lore
• Primitive trap construction & trapping
• Open fire cooking
• Fireplace construction
• Clothing manufacture
• Drying meat & other foods
• Knowledge of plant tinders & preparation
• Knowledge of native foods & preparation
• Basic first aid
Here is a list of equipment that I carry on a long trip:
• .60 cal/20 gauge fusil. 42 inch barrel.
• Shot pouch and contents.
• Powder horn.
• Butcher/Hunting knife.
• Legging knife.
• Clasp knife.
• Belt pouch.
• Fishing lines in brass container.
• Two snares.
• Gunpowder wallet (contains spare fungus tinder at present).
• Ball mould and swan shot mould.
• Lead ladle.
• Trade kettle.
• Medical pouch.
• Piece of soap and a broken ivory comb.
• Dried foods in bags.
• Wooden spoon.
• Gun tools and spare springs.
• Whet stone.
• One blanket (Monmouth cap, spare wool weskit and wool shirt rolled inside blanket).
• Leather costrel.