Living history~ trees bent by Native Americans for use as a trail marker
I have seen many of these out in the grasslands and never really thought much of them being other than distorted trees... was not aware they were road signs
"Living history doesn't get any more "living" than this: a post oak, likely over 150 years old and bent by Native Americans for use as a trail marker.
Steve Houser is a North Texas arborist and has documented about 100 likely trail marker trees, made by bending a sapling with a strap tied down with stones.
"I feel an obligation to do it for future generations," Houser said. "Because once they're gone, they're gone."
Just like we follow highway signs to find points of interest, marker trees often pointed to food, water, shelter, medicine, and low river crossings.
"Almost in total darkness, you would be able to pick out these shapes and it would save your life,” said Dennis Downes, a bent tree expert from Chicago. “Get you to shelter, get you to safety, eluding other tribes."
This post brought back fond memories. I was very fortunate to have taken up back packing as a small child in the mid 60s and learned “back country ways” and the art of survival and finding my way around by an old school “woodsman”. I Must have been around 8 when I first came across a “bent” in the back country of Maine and thought it was an oddity . I was congratulated by my mentor for keeping my “eyes open” to my surroundings and not just the trail in front of me and he proceeded to explain. Yes, this is a Native American technique of trail marking but would be surprised if it wasn’t practiced in other parts of the world. I have come across bents from time to time being an off trail hiker and mountaineer in the various places I have walked softly around our fair country. In “high country” or the high plans where trees are far and few one will come across cairns, large or small piles of rocks that mark the way. They may not mark the way you want to go but if lost they will generally lead the way to a “safe haven” or water.
As to the bents ones we come across today being made by Native Americans would be speculative. Early settlers learned their ways of survival and navigation from the “locals”. I have come across quite a few in my back country travels over the years. And have had the pleasure of revisiting some of my “marks” almost 50 years after the fact.
All things learned as we traveling through life should be taught and or looked at and understood as metaphors. Keeping ones “eyes open” is the same as being told to look for the “next jump”. When I taught skiing I used the term “look outside the bubble” to my students in other words look down the mountain not just at your ski tips. When hunting at a gallop ware holes are always of a concern but are easily recognized by subtle differences in the color of the grass and or landscape.
Interesting! We would find these when I was a child and speculate if they were native American trail markers or if the tree grew that way (in the Midwest). I assume they were trail markers since Native Americans still camped on our farm in my grandfather's day.
We have one very, very old cedar tree here that was a trail marker in itself, the one and only tree in the staked plains around here.
It is even mentioned in the first deeds from the mid 1800's as a fence line between homesteads.
The old rancher that bought that place about 1905 had the cowboys build and maintain a little fence around it, that is still partially there today.
You can see that little hill on the edge of the caprock from many miles away coming from the North and up that one canyon there was a bigger water hole, one of the few ones for miles around.
Some trees don't even have to be bent to be markers, especially here, where there were practically not any tree for miles around.