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proceeded safely to the town. Finding no pleasure whatever in traversing the streets, I repaired straight to my lodgings, where I alighted, cold and tired, but with the blood circulating more briskly in my frame.
Drive in a narta–Peculiarities and use of the reindeer
Their pasture—Their herds in the Ural-Use of their skins and flesh—Their swiftness and powers of endurance-Manner of travelling in Siberia-Fish-skin and mica-slate windows - Fuel — Tremulous state of the atmosphere - Three hours of daylight - No clock in town—Manner of notifying the hours—Taletelling party-Two Ostiak tales-The Hunters-Old Friend's Reindeer.
On the 5th of November, the frost was 30° Reamur. One of the citizens obligingly called on us with a narta—a sledge drawn by reindeer—inviting us to take a drive in it. We accepted the offer most cheerfully; and, wrapped up as warm as possible in such a severe frost, we started on our excursion, with him for our driver, and a most gallant and experienced one
The reindeer is much about the size of a well-grown calf of two years. Its head and hoofs are similar to those of our horned cattle ; the hair under the chin hangs like that of a goat; and the tail is short. In shape, especially when seen from behind, it resembles a deer, though the latter, with its long slender legs, is much more elegant. Its magnificent antlers constitute the reindeer's principal beauty. Its hair is white or chestnut, or a mixture of both those colours.
The reindeer sheds its antlers annually, and they are as often renewed, with the addition of a fresh branch every year. During the period of shedding, the animal is very feeble, and is not employed for any hard work.
The sledges for which reindeer are used, are of a different shape and size from those drawn by horses. They are called nartas, and are much longer than the common sledges, which are employed for heavy loads. There is nothing clumsy or cumbrous in their construction, but everything is light and elegant, and proportioned to the animal's strength, which is not great. The two lateral polozy (slides) underneath, are more distant from each other, to
obviate upsetting, and the upper part is bridged over with thin light boards, evenly fitted, and smooth as a table, with no cavity, as in common sledges, for the feet; and it appears like a wooden litter laid on slides. In travelling, the litter serves as a seat, and the feet are let down on the side. There are neither steps to support the feet, nor anything to lay the hand on in case of upsetting; and the traveller has absolutely nothing to depend on for security, but his own dexterity and caution.
If there is any luggage to carry, it is placed on this upper wooden structure, and covered with skins of reindeer, fastened with ropes. Tied up in this manner, it is safe from falling out, even if the narta should be upset. The narta is commonly drawn by three reindeer, of which only one, in the middle, has reins attached to his antlers, and whichever way it is directed, the others obey the impulse. A brace over the neck, with a leathern girdle under the belly, and attached to the narta, is the only harness required.
The reindeer being in this manner put to the sledge, the driver takes his seat sideways, and is provided with a thin, but sufficiently
strong pole, from eight to ten feet long, covered with iron at one end, with which he is enabled to stop the deer when needed, by thrusting the capped end into the snow, and winding the reins around it. The deer are so light that they run over the surface of the snow when it is hardened with frost; and, in this respect, may be said to be most invaluable in this part of the earth, where there exist no regular roads, and where every traveller must make one for himself. They run with the rapidity of the wind; neither hills nor valleys stop them, nor make any difference in their speed. In going down hill they are even obliged, the higher the hill is, to run the faster, as the very speed of the narta, when pressed downwards by its own weight, compels them to accelerate their pace, or their legs, which are thin and slender, would be broken.
The drivers here either cannot or have not skill enough to manage the deer as we do our horses. They never have power to abate their speed in turning angles or passing perilous places, and indeed the deer can sooner be brought to a sudden stop than made to slacken his velocity when in full career.