from A Grandpa's Notebook, Meyer Moldeven

Think back to the last story. Roger finished telling about Snow White's arrival at Snug Harbor and the race to the campsite. They did locate a real cozy campsite and settled in for the night. Now it's Suzanne's turn to tell what happened afterward. Today's story will be in Suzanne's words.

We pitch our tent in an open space just across the trail from where a girl is flying a kite. It's late afternoon by the time we're settled, so Dad makes a campfire and Mother cooks our dinner over the flames. We sit around the campfire and balance our plates on our laps.

After we finish we help Mother and Dad clean our campsite, and get rid of leftovers. The sky is still light, so we take a hike.

Dad leads the way single file along the trail, then Roger, me, and Mother at the end. In that way Roger can watch Dad, just in case he needs help, and I take care of Mother. Well, Dad and Mother do sort of look after us, too. Anyhow, off we go.

Dad heads toward Mount Nokomis, a low hill a short distance from the campsite. We push through tall grass and around bushes and rocks. Soon we're climbing the slope of Mount Nokomis.

I hear a rustling sound behind a bush.

'What's that noise?' I turn to Mother and whisper.

I really don't know,' Mother says. We look to where the rustling is coming from but can't see anything unusual. Meanwhile, Dad and Roger stop and Mother and I catch up to them. We stand close, the four of us, and look into the bushes.

There it is again. The rustling sound is like leaves and branches gently shaking. We can tell from which clump of bushes the sounds are coming. Dad steps between us and the bushes. Roger and I stand right behind Dad to protect him. Mother is very close.

The rustling is louder. From out behind a bush steps a doe. We relax. Whew!

The doe isn't very big and it's friendly but shy. It looks us over and wiggles it's ears in our direction to hear any noises we might make. She also lifts her head to smell the air. Deer have very sensitive noses for smelling danger, and that's what the doe is doing. She's trying to decide if we're also friendly. We stand quietly so as not to alarm her. After a while the doe moves a little way toward us and smells the air again. I guess it's satisfied because it comes close.

Slowly I reach out and touch the doe's fur. She doesn't seem to mind. The fur feels firm and smooth.

After a short while the doe moves away. It really is getting late, you know, and the setting sun changes the day into evening. The doe needs to find a place to spend the night. Wiggling her ears and flipping her tail, she moves off and disappears into the bushes.

We start back to the campsite and make our way along the trail down the side of Mount Nokomis. Soon we're back at camp.

Dad lights a lantern and gets the campfire going. We put sweaters on, sit on logs next to the fire and sing camping songs. The girl with the guitar joins us, and so do other campers and everyone joins in the singing. The moon and stars shine in the sky and it's very peaceful.

Suzanne and Roger rose, waved to me, and headed for home.

'Don't forget to be here tomorrow,' Roger shouted. 'We had another interesting experience the next day.'

'I'll be here.' I waved back.

(Back) (Index) (Next)

Hike: n. a long walk especially for pleasure or exercise; v. To go on an extended walk for pleasure or exercise.

Okay, now that the lede's out of the way... Webster 1913 defines hiking as "to go with exertion or effort; to tramp; to march laboriously." You might think that this is simply a change in tone as the word evolved through time, and perhaps it is, but there's something else going on here. The word hyke first appears in written English in 1809 in a letter from English organist and composer Samuel Wesley to a friend:

"Adieu for the present,-- we must contrive one more Pull at Surry before I hyke over to Staffordshire. Kindest regards."
The Letters of Samuel Wesley: Professional and Social Correspondence, 1797-1837, By Samuel Wesley (Letter sent to musician Benjamin Jacob, Sept. 4, 1809)

This letter was written in Camden Town; Camden Town is 150 miles from Staffordshire, and Surrey is 160 miles away (in case you are wondering, it is only 30 miles between Surrey and Camden Town). Hyke would probably have been in fairly popular usage at this time, in order for it to be used in this letter without clarification, so it is entirely possible that Wesley is using the term figuratively. But that's far from certain, as hike was probably already collecting some interesting connotations.

The The West Somerset Word-book (1886) claims that 'hike' simply means 'to go', but notes two idiomatic usages: 'hike off', meaning "To skulk off. To slip away, like a rat leaving a sinking ship"; and 'hike out', meaning "Turn out; get out; set off."

Meanwhile, the 1894 U.S. Yearbook of Agriculture used hike in the more modern sense: "Short and frequent hikes, requiring no preparation or special equipment, should be encouraged for most people. The longer hikes, usually requiring advance planning and preparation, may be somewhat more challenging."

Webster's examples might be influenced by the American usage of hike to mean 'pull up' and to 'rise up', first used in written language in 1873. (he gives this usage a mention as well, with "To move with a swing, toss, throw, jerk, or the like. {Dial. or Colloq.}") Or they might be the most exacting and appropriate examples of modern usage in 1913 (although the US department of Agriculture might disagree).

Even today, hike has a range of meanings, from a difficult or laborious trek to a stroll through the woods, and the exact meaning relies heavily on context. This was evidently even more the case in the late 1800s. Despite the impression that hike had a clear, established meaning in 1913, Webster is probably obscuring the fact that it was an informal, slangish term that still wouldn't have been included in many dictionaries -- for example, it did not appear in the 1933 edition of the OED.

Hike (?), v. t. [imp. & p. p. Hiked (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Hiking.] [Cf. Hitch.]

To move with a swing, toss, throw, jerk, or the like. [Dial. or Colloq.]


© Webster 1913

Hike (?), v. i.

To hike one's self; specif., to go with exertion or effort; to tramp; to march laboriously. [Dial. or Colloq.] "If you persist in heaving and hiking like this." Kipling.

It's hike, hike, hike (march) till you stick in the mud, and then you hike back again a little slower than you went.
Scribner's Mag.


© Webster 1913

Hike, n.

The act of hiking; a tramp; a march. [Dial. or Colloq.]

With every hike there's a few laid out with their hands crossed.
Scribner's Mag.


© Webster 1913

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.