Norway - on the road near Bolkesjo
( Originally Published 1907 )
Waiting for passengers on the road near Bolkesjo—peak of Mt. Gausta over height at left
Direction—A little north of west. Surroundings—Fields and hills and valleys, like those seen from our last position.
Here is the stolkjoerre all ready for another section of the cross-country trip. The seat is wide enough for two people, differing thereby from a kariol, which carries but one. There are no springs and seldom any cushions. That leather apron reaching up over the seat is often a priceless protection from sudden showers and sharp winds ; indeed there are places a little farther along our route where the tourist sometimes needs shelter from snowstorms in July ! Baggage is lashed to that platform under and behind the seat, and the driver perches beside the baggage or upon it, skilfully guiding the horse from that apparently awkward position. Sometimes the skydsgut (post-boy) is a young girl, equally accustomed to driving. If the passenger prefers, he may handle the reins him-self, but in that case he becomes responsible for accidents, so most tourists trust their fate to the skydsgut. Horse-language here, as well as human language, is different from that in English-speaking lands—the exhortation to speed is a curious sort of cluck or smack of the lips, very difficult to describe ; instead of calling whoa the driver makes a kind of burring-purring noise with his lips—a signal promptly understood by the worker between the shafts. There are no leather traces as in an American harness. The shafts are fastened to the saddle. The horses are usually small, like this one, but surprisingly sure-footed and enduring.
A celebrated story by the Norwegian writer, Jonas Lie (translated under the title Little Grey), has for its three chief characters, a Norse lad about the age of this one here, a sweet-faced country girl and a willing little beast of just this type. The horse was sold into hard hands, the lad went far away to seek his fortune, the blue-eyed girl stayed at home, working and waiting. It was a sad time they had, especially the poor pony, but all came out right in the end and the lovers, presumably, "lived happy ever after."
There is not much money for the farmer in this posting business. The fee of six or seven cents a mile for a pony cart of this sort (the boy receives some trifling gratuity besides) is seldom good compensation for the cost of keeping up the equipage, the labor of harnessing and unharnessing and the inconvenience of letting one's horses go off with tourists just when one wants them for some task on the farm. Householders may, however, be obliged to take a State license for posting service whether they desire it or not, in case they are located at a point where change of horses is necessary for travelers. A skyds station has also to be an inn, at least to the extent of keeping travelers over night when necessary and providing meals.
This stabbur (storehouse) is set on posts, partly to avoid dampness and partly to discourage predatory rats and mice. The sheaves of grain fastened to the twin poles are, on the other hand, a graceful offering to the birds. Such hospitality to wild neighbors in feathers is a traditionally pretty custom of the country. People who do not practise it all winter are at least likely to put up a sheaf at Christmas time, making a gift to the birds a part of the holiday celebration of the household.
The mountain whose summit barely peeps over that range at the left is an important local landmark, about twenty-five miles from here in a straight line. It is the highest peak in south-central Norway. We shall presently (Position 19) see the whole tremendous bulk of the mountain towering over the Maan valley.
In winter the snow is often breast high over this road and those adjoining fields, and the thermometer goes down below zero. On a still day that is not so bad as one might suppose, for the air is dry and bracing, and if one is well protected with furs and over-shoes a brisk ride in a Norwegian sleigh means a pleasant adventure. When one sleigh meets another and somebody has to make way, the horses flounder bravely through the white drifts, frequently upsetting their passengers, but doing no serious harm. The local postman goes about in winter on skis—the Norwegian species of snow-shoes ; a slender piece of wood six or eight feet long, curving upward at the ends, is strapped to each foot, somewhat like the exaggerated blade of a skate. Experts can travel ten miles an hour with that equipment.
Mrs. Tweedie's Winter Jaunt in Norway gives an entertaining account of a visit made in midwinter to this very place near the lakes. A part of the way up from Kongsberg her driver came along on the ice above the frozen river—the same stream that we have just seen rejoicing in summer freedom below the falls (Position 14).
The map sets down our next standpoint a few miles' (three hours') journey northwest of here, marking the spot 18. We shall find it near the south-ern end of a narrow lake.