In the event of demand exhausting his supply of ammunition, Buckskin could turn to his knives. Most formidable of these are a matched set of three of the most enormous bowie knives in or out of captivity, their guillotinelike blades suitably inscribed with such inspirational messages as "Liberty or Death," "Kill or Be Killed" and "Nuts." Hart also has classic daggers, Indian crooked knives, Arabic daggers and French knives, but it is the bowies he likes best.
The tools with which Hart creates these masterworks and others are a cornucopia of finely tempered, ingenious instruments—hundreds of them—too specialized and original to have names. There are scrapers, gouges, skewed chisels, awls, auzes and fine-tolerance dies, taps and punches in sizes and shapes beyond counting. Also there are copper-working tools, silverworking tools, woodworking tools and blacksmithing tools. Beaten from such basic material as abandoned moonshine stills and mining machinery (with gold amalgam still sticking to it), even Hart's lowliest copper pot bears the imprint of his original design.
"My idea of art is to make sure you have good utensils—things you use every day—before you go fooling with pictures," Hart declares. "That's the Scandinavian idea, too." No Danish artisan should object to having his work compared with Hart's bowls, ladles, kettles, lanterns, candle holders, samovar, coffeepots, tea balls, griddles and skillets.
To find something to put into one of these pots for dinner, we strolled around Sylvan's garden, seeking what we might devour. Even in earliest summer, the choice was impressive. At various stations in the 10,000-square-foot plot—fertilized by, among other things, one buried deer, two bear heads and one cougar skeleton—Hart had planted asparagus, parsnips, carrots, beets, cabbage, corn, squash, cucumbers, cantaloupes, peppers, garlic, strawberries, horseradish, rhubarb, rutabaga, kohlrabi, kidney beans, purple beans, white potatoes, purple potatoes....
Purple potatoes? "Just like the Incas used to have," Buckskin explained, cutting one for my inspection. It was indeed a shiny purple. "The only thing that makes white potatoes taste good is that there's some good-looking young lady serving them to you."
In addition to domesticated flora and such in-between species as perpetual onion ("If you see those, you know the Hudson's Bay Company has been there. The company used to give, among other things, seed, eight pounds of flour and five of salt as board, and its traders had to grow or shoot the rest"). Hart plucks certain wild groceries for his table. An informal garden of Oregon grapes, squaw cabbage, dandelion, shadbush berries, currants, rose hips, gooseberries, brodiaea roots and oyster plant roots grows adjacent to the vegetables.
For that evening's meal, Hart selected beans, onions, asparagus, carrots, pieces of imported chuck roast, unidentified bones and chopped potatoes, all of which he put in a massive kettle rather similar to, though somewhat scaled down from, the variety generally used to parboil missionaries in comic strips. For those who might be wondering about it, purple potatoes, when boiled, turn a bright blue. Together with the bright green beans and bright orange carrots, the bright blue potatoes deserved immortalization in Better Homes and Gardens.
After eating this gourmet's delight plus some of Bill's preserved pears, we settled down comfortably to talk and to watch a candle wage its unequal struggle against gathering dusk. During a pause in our conversation I looked around the kitchen house. Of all the thousand articles, useful and whimsical, that inhabited its pegs and shelves, the boxes and boxes of tea caught my eye. Besides a native variety that Hart claims the Indians once picked, mint, Keemun, lapsang souchong, South American mat�, gunpowder, jasmine, India, Russian, ningchow, Japan pan-fried, Irish, oolong, Darjeeling, Earl Grey's and English Breakfast teas marched in ranks and rows. The prize of the lot, a labeled " Boston Harbour Tea, 'Bawstonaba' Registered, Blended and Packed by Davison Newman & Co., Ltd., 14 Cree-church Lane, London E.C. 3, The firm which supplied Tea 1773-1774 for the historic Boston Tea Parties," preserved on its sides a complete if microscopic copy of "The Petition of Davison & Newman to King George III claiming compensation for Chests of their Tea thrown into the harbour of Boston, Massachusetts, by Persons disguised as Indians."
"Is it true," I asked, "that you used to go to town for nothing but tea, books and powder?"
"When it's 40 miles to town on ropes and snowshoes," said Buckskin dryly, "that's about all you can carry." His total supply of other imported goods, some $50 worth, was brought in on a neighbor's pack string once a year, in the autumn. Flour, sugar, coffee, oatmeal, rice and raisins were almost the sole freight. "One year, when I had been prospecting at Florence [another ghost gold town], I walked clear to Grangeville [96 miles from Five Mile] and brought back all my supplies myself," remembered Buckskin.