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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 48.djvu/511

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GATHERING NAVAL STORES.

GATHERING NAVAL STORES.
By LEE J. VANCE.

THAT portion of the Southern States known as the long-leaf pine belt produces the bulk of all the naval stores used in the world. There is an immense stretch of pine forest beginning in North Carolina near the Virginia border, and it follows along the Atlantic coast-to Florida, and along the Gulf coast as far as Texas. This belt of long-leaf pine varies in width from five to one hundred miles, crosses six states—namely, the two Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana—and covers an area of about one hundred and thirty thousand square miles.

All over this great forest territory the trees are tapped, or "bled," for their sap, which furnishes what are known as naval stores. The work on a "turpentine farm," as a division of the forest is called, begins in winter with the cutting of the "boxes." A broad gash about seven inches deep and fourteen inches long is cut just above the base of the tree, making a kind of box. The cut is V-shaped, slanting from the outside, and thus forms a reservoir, which will hold about three pints of sap.

Meanwhile, the ground around the trees is raked clean, and the pine straw needles are gathered in heaps and usually burned. This is done to protect the boxes from fires, and also to give the "chipper" a firm stand when engaged in his work; but, owing to negligence, small fires are allowed to spread, and often they become disastrous conflagrations, which run over thousands of acres of valuable timber before they are finally checked.

The turpentine season does not really open till early spring, when the sap starts to flow in the trees, and "chipping" begins. The chipper first removes strips about two inches wide, beginning at the corners of the box and extending to a height of about ten inches. Then the surface between the two strips is laid bare to a depth of about one inch beneath the bark.

After a short time the "chip" ceases to "bleed," and then from time to time fresh cuts are made. This is called "hacking," and is done with a peculiar tool called the "hacker." There are two kinds of hackers—the open and the closed hacker. Both are quite similar in shape and size, except that one has an open, strong knife with curved edge, and the other a closed knife blade, fastened to a long iron handle. A heavy weight is attached at the end in order to give momentum to the blows, and it is said to make the work of the chipper easier.

Once a week from March till October the trees are either chipped or hacked. The size of the chip grows at the rate of about two inches a month; so that, by the end of the first season