When we consider the cost of the equipment to hold a major tent effort—the thousands of dollars invested in tents, chairs, piano, platform, screen, and other items—we can readily understand why we need full information on its care and upkeep. Strange to say, such information is usually passed on by word of mouth, and it happens that the one in charge gets little or no help in handling this responsibility.
When an evangelist selects a location for a tent meeting he should remember that the daily appearance of the tent and the surroundings has its influence. This responsibility should rest first on the shoulders of the associate evangelist, unless someone else is appointed to do this work. No one will think less of the singing evangelist if he does his part toward keeping the place of worship in order.
Usually there is extra help when the tent is pitched. Everything is in good order to begin with, but from then on the proper care of the tent should not be neglected. This care falls naturally into two classes—daily routine and special care required under changing conditions.
In order to understand why we should do certain things each day, we should understand something of the nature of the materials of which the tent is made. The Manila ropes of the tent shrink materially when wet. Canvas, unless waterproof, will also shrink even from the dew at night. Untreated canvas will mildew easily when left damp.
Daily Routine in Care of Tent
I. Upon arising shortly after sunrise, the tent master should raise the walls in two or three places on either side of the tent, so that the air might circulate under the tent and dry it, thus preventing moisture from collecting on the underside of the top, as the heat of the sun warms the air in the tent.
2. This is also a good time to straighten up any chairs that might have been pushed out of line the night before as the audience was leaving. The sawdust or shavings on the floor should also be smoothed out so that anyone passing by during the day will find everything neat and in order. Any trash should be picked up, whether in the tent or on the surrounding grounds. The influence of neatness is always for the good of the cause we love.
3. As the tent dries out, the wall poles should be straightened up and the walls let down. Then the wall should be rolled up (if there is good weather), beginning at the front and working toward the back on either side. Always roll the tent wall up on the inside so that water running down the wall will not collect in the roll.
4. Before time for meeting arrives a careful check should be made to be sure that everything is in readiness for the people. In the hot weather of summertime the wall should be rolled up behind the flap of the top all the way around, except back of the platform. The rolled wall is secured by passing the small wall rope, which hangs outside the wall, under the roll and around the wall pole, passing the end under the body and up, and then down through the loop along the pole, leaving the end hanging so that it may be loosened by simply pulling the end. This knot is very important, for the wall may need to be dropped quickly, with a sudden change in the weather.
5. After the meeting the walls can be dropped, and the wall poles should be crossed, or at least set toward each other, keeping the bottom of the pole out against the wall. Set it toward the one next to it so that every other pole is close together and the next two are wide apart. If all the poles are slanted in the same direction, the top will twist. The poles should be set in just enough to give a good slack to the tent ropes so that the moisture of the dew will not make the tent too tight. If set in too much, there is danger of water pockets forming in case of rain, or of being whipped loose by the wind, should it rise in the night.
Extra Care Under Varying Conditions
Sudden changes in the weather present the greatest danger to the tent. The one who cares for a tent should never be so far away that he cannot reach the tent quickly if a change in weather conditions should arise.
The hot sun of a summer day will slacken all the ropes and canvas ; then a sudden gust of wind may pick the top up like a bulging balloon, letting some of the wall poles drop out or punch up through the canvas top when it comes back down. This is a cause of much damage to tents. If a storm is anticipated, the wall poles should be tied to the top. If a rope has not been provided for this, the wall rope should be brought over the wall and tied tightly to the pole; then if the top lifts, the pole will go with it.
When rain comes, the ropes of a new tent will shrink from six inches to two feet. One dare not wait until it stops raining to loosen these ropes. A sense of responsibility should always bring the tent master out when it begins to rain, day or night. The large ropes that run from the tops of the center poles must be kept tight enough to steady the poles so that they cannot jerk in the wind. They will have to be loosened as often as they tighten. Constant watching is necessary. Wire cables on the center poles save a great deal of exposure to rain for the tent master.
As the tent ropes draw up, they may be slackened by setting the wall poles together as at night. If it rains long, and especially if the tent is new, the ropes will have to be loosened at the stakes. Sometimes a rope will draw up so tight around a stake that it cannot be loosened by hand, then a hammer will be found useful in driving the knot loose. These ropes must not be allowed to become too tight, for there are so many, and the down pull on the center pole and the block-and-tackle ropes is so great that something may break. Strong center poles have been bent under the combined pull of tight ropes. The tightness of the rope may be tested by lifting the wall pole ; about the right tightness allows the pole to be lifted one inch off the ground without difficulty.
In case of high wind, keep the walls down and have all ropes at their maximum tightness. A loose rope allows the wind to jerk or snatch at the stake. Ropes that are too tight may cause the stake to pull up and leave the tent at the mercy of the wind. A tent in proper shape will stand almost as much wind as a house.
DOUBLE STAKING.—The tent master may find that the ground is too soft to hold the stakes securely ; this is true of either boggy or sandy soil. Another stake may be driven at about a forty-five degree angle with the point toward the tent so that it crosses the tent stake. Where the two cross, tie them together with two or three strands of wire, and this will more than double their holding power.
DISMANTLING THE TENT.—When the tent is taken down at the end of the season it should be done on a warm, dry day. Special care should be used for two or three days before to see that no rope is touching the ground. In fact, this should be watched all the time, for rope rots easily. A wet rope in the folded tent is sure to rot the tent. See that every object that could punch a hole in the canvas is out from under the tent before it is lowered. Loosen the walls and roll them up in a tightly folded roll. When the top is folded, put all ropes inside the folds except two to tie the bundle. As the tent is folded, the air should be pushed out so that the bundle will be as small and as compact as possible. It can then be placed in a tent sack and handled easily.
The long ropes should be coiled neatly and tied, and, with the block and tackle and chains, placed in the bags. Each bag should be tagged and the contents carefully listed on the tag. Each tag should bear the name of the evangelist and the date.
How to Make an Old Tent Do
Damaged tents are something of a problem. Old ones are easily damaged and hard to repair. Special care should be used that no special strain be placed on any one place.
Mildew allows water to seep through the canvas, and the tent may leak all over without having a hole in it large enough to see. This condition can be remedied by carefully waterproofing the canvas.
Paraffin wax dissolved in gasoline, one pound to the gallon of gasoline, makes an excellent waterproofing. The gasoline must be heated almost to the boiling point to dissolve the wax, but it may then be applied cold. Put the gasoline into an open bucket or can and drop in stones or pieces of iron heated, but not red hot. This should be done in the open to avoid danger. It will not ignite from the stones if they are not red hot.
Spread the dry tent out on the ground, and then apply this mixture of wax and gasoline with a garden spray or with a sprinkling can. The entire surface must be wet with the solution. Ten gallons, carefully used, is sufficient to treat a fifty-by-seventy tent top.
Transparent waterproof cement makes an excellent patching material. A black cement makes an unsightly patch. The Kress-Dart Cement is the most economical on the market. For small holes, cut a round piece of canvas at least an inch larger than the hole ; put on plenty of cement; and place it firmly over the hole. This may be done while the tent is up. For larger tears and splits it is best to lower the tent so that the two edges may be brought close together. A few strips, well cemented, and put crosswise on the underside, give added strength. A board placed under the tear helps to get the patch on smoothly. The cement should be placed on both the tent and the patch. A weight should be laid on it until it is dry—about thirty minutes. The following summary is by Fulton Bag & Cotton Mills.
Directions for Erecting Gospel Tent
Measure off on the ground a distance equal to the length of tent, and then, measuring from each end in toward the middle, mark a distance equal to one-half width of the tent, at which points drive in three stakes in such a way as to serve as a foothold for the center poles while being raised to position.
Now drive in the stakes for the center pole guys, three stakes to each pole, placing them at a distance from the center poles equal to one-half width of the tent plus height of wall plus five feet.
Before raising center pole, hook the larger block to collar at top of pole. Then raise poles to position, and guy out.
The middle (or middles, as the case may be) is then placed on the ground between the center poles, and the end pieces are brought up to it from each side.
Then, bolt bail-ring together around center pole, lace the pieces together, beginning at bail-ring and working down toward rim.
Now drive in stakes for the wall guys, placing those for the ends at a distance from the center pole equal to one-half width of tent plus height of wall, and those for the middle at the same distance from ridge of tent, and then tie the wall guys around the stakes.
The wall poles are next inserted into the wall-pole holes and raised to a semi-upright position, with the bottom of the pole in toward middle.
The top is then raised to within about four feet of top of center pole, and is tied fast by means of the fall rope, which is securely fastened to the pole near the bottom.
All that then remains to be done is to straighten up the wall poles, insert the quarter poles, if any, and snap on the walls.—Courtesy, Fulton Bag & Cotton Mills.
Every evangelist using a tent should be sure that his tent master has the proper information in his hands, to understand how to care for the equipment, and the evangelist should share with him the sense of responsibility.