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I always drove my men pretty hard for I knew that men had more respect and worked better for a boss that was not easy going but it seemed that is usually the case. I had a reputation for being much harder than I really was. One of my river men fell in the stream once and was under just about long enough to repeat the Lord's Prayer that which he probably did when he was bowed out and restored to an interest in life. The first thing he gasped out to the man who had saved him was for God's sake don't say anything to anybody about how long I was absent from work. If Nelligan heard about it he docked me for sure for the time I was under the water. The way it was presenting eyewitness accounts of historic events. Material for the series was selected from the files and paper itself the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Today Teddy Boys and River Rats.
During the last part of the 19th century the lumber industry was at the zenith of its dominance and financial strength in the north west. It built towns and cities roads bridges and railways. It cleared land that was later used for agriculture offered employment to settlers supply the market to farmers and brought money as well as people into the region. Further it contributed a substantial share of the revenue is required for the administration of state and local governments fostered secondary industries using wood as a raw material and became a power in politics. Printing its own leaders. And finally it produced a way of life that vanished with the last of the great pine forests. It reduced and brought to market. Oh gosh I want a man's life. Oh boy you know of swimming and I
love my writing I love the forests and you know you look more stormy went. Towards me. Many of the records of the Golden Age of pine lumbering exist in letters diaries songs and jokes and the lumber baron I think Stevens and drafted his memories into a book lumberjack John Nelligan did the same with the help of a more literary fellow from Washburn Wisconsin and Steven Bentley got his story published in The Daily News while God is determining the lone lumberjack as he called himself wrote a long descriptive letters to his friend Charlie at the Historical Society and
Bluenose Brainerd wrote nothing. But JF Morton remembered him anyway to the same historical Charlie. First lumberjacks in a forest where the timber cruiser was scouted out tracts of timber to be logged by the company they had to be skilled men able to estimate the amount of lumber an area would yield and able to contend with the unique dangers their profession could offer. Our core of five was made up of Peter Jamieson John
Archibald Jim Sargent from the wire and my thing Jamison Archibald and Sargent were all good land. The wire was no good came he was always seeking wild animals and get himself in trouble. One day he got lost in the woods a short distance from here and instead of trying to keep his head and find his way out he got the idea a mountain lion was chasing him and he began to you know Jamison was in camp and the Shugden scared him stiff. He started running into the brush going like whirlwinds a Hades. I saw him and went after him. Fortunately for Jamison my legs were a bit longer and faster than his and I soon got him. I asked him what the hell's the matter Pete. And he petted the Indians of the time. I said I hope to hell they keep him. But no such luck. I told be back to camp and got him quieted down a bit when along came the wire. The damn fool looking for the butcher knife so that he could fight a mountain lion which had been chasing him. You
have lost your head if you ever had one I told him. But that particular part of his anatomy was as hard as it was empty and he took no offense. After the cruiser had blazed the track to be cut the rest of the logging crew arrived and built the camp a small camp often had but a single building the third position to your bunk house tool shed and cook shanty and mess hall. It was here that the daily routine of the shanty boys began and ended every winter work. At about 4 o'clock in the morning Joy a boy away going by an alarm clock
or more often by the Sixth Sense which warns the man that the designated hour of awakening is at hand. The Jura boy he'd crawled from is cozy nest a warm blanket into the chill early morning atmosphere and start the fires. One of the cooks camp one of the men's camp and a third in the camp office where the foreman in the scaler and perhaps one or two others slept when a good healthy blaze was roaring in each of the three stoves and waves of warmth or attacking the blanket of cold which lay over the camp like a pall. The chore boy would go into the men's camp and shake the Teamsters into wakefulness being careful not to disturb the sleep of the other man. The tour boy's popularity among the jacks depended largely upon his discretion in this matter. The Teamsters and sleepily in noiselessly arise pull on their outer garments and depart for the barn where they said cleaned and harnessed their horses in preparation for the day's work. This done they returned to camp dressed their feet fully washed
for breakfast. And perhaps took a jewel of tobacco as an appetizer. Eating was a serious activity the lumberjacks the memories of what they ate varied with the times as transportation facilities improved it became possible to extend the lumberjacks diet and improve his memories of meal time. There would be a rush for the long tables and the cooks and a pitched battle would ensue between the lumberjacks and the marvelous products of the cooks culinary efforts flapjacks or pancakes. Sometimes a buckwheat fried is only a lumber camp cook and fry. Stacked in great piles along the oilcloth covered tables. These were favorite items affair among the jacks but there might be baked beans or fried meat and potatoes or hash or any other dish which could be prepared from the extensive larder. All of this washed down with great drops of coffee.
Coffee was such fragrance that one's nose crinkles with remembrance at the thought of it. And there were tasty cookies and cakes. Over the men pulled on their working clothes and departed for their various posts. Any more is homeless and no song on. Jobbers on the song. Next come the sun. Come load up your team as the boys in the woods. Most of the men wore wool caps heavy flannel shirts
Mackinaw cloth jackets and pans heavy German socks and low rubbers. This was the warmest most comfortable and most efficient costume for woodwork when the scene of the cutting wasn't too far from camp. The men returned to the cook's shanty for their midday meal but when it was some distance away they flagons carried to him on a large sled by the chore boy. Great six sandwiches large cans full of hot food from which the jacks filled their tin plates and great steaming cans of hot tea. Satisfied the midday hunger back to work they went and labored until after dark. Then they would straggle into camp and eat their evening meal with appetite such as only tired and hungry and develop. Arriving at the shanty with hold on with what feeds off your both small boys far suburb that
suburb to suburb we must force not the stock of one of us you know. After supper the jacks would gather around the great red hot stove in the bunk house pull off their wet Diggins socks and hang them on the dry and rags around and above the stove where they steamed away and emitted an indescribably atrocious odor which permeated the Bronco's atmosphere. Then we roll into our soft downy colored jewel and lousy blankets and lay and listened to the Mockingbird with music by the entire band snoring in 70 different languages mostly imported professional snores
from Germany and Norway. Warren said never to miss a note. We finally fall to sleep through this slow music only to be awakened in a few minutes by the melodious voice of the cook singing we're alone. Body is daylight in the swamp so when the daily routine of a lumberjack from winter to spring keeping order among the jacks was the job of the camp boss and his methods for keeping the law around the whole gamut from my strong arm to a quick wit. Because of the lack of lawyers and the difficulty of resorting to ordinary legal practices for the settlement of private difficulties we were free from the burdens which litigation oftentimes imposes upon a community. There were no divorces whatever but domestic disturbance arose and fell to the lot of the superintendent to settle the boss
usually brought the refractory principals involved in the controversy together scored them roundly for their misbehavior and threatened to turn them loose upon an unfriendly wilderness if they repeated the facts. I have in mind one case which illustrates the effectiveness of this summary treatment. That of an Irishman and his wife. Persons of almost gigantic stature who became involved in a quarrel to end the fracas and save herself the woman with both eyes black and took refuge in my house the husband becoming penitent overnight came the next day to see her. When I told him as gravely as I could of the camp and been so aroused by his brutal treatment of his wife it was bent upon giving him a coat of tar and feathers that it would be well for him to hide himself in the woods for two or three days until the feelings of sight and he was there only frightened and did as I suggested. In the meantime I took the wife in hand by a process of admonition brought her to the stage of penitents alarm over the nonappearance of her husband time she returned to her home where her husband joined her.
Afterward they lived together in perfect serenity models of domestic virtue. Some legal problems couldn't be settled by the camp boss. On occasion he couldn't even settle his own problems. Take the case of Jim Hurley. Well Jim was Irish and good natured but he dearly loved a good old fashioned fistfight. Someone informed him that a stranger was logging up on Mill Creek. Now Jim claimed that land and so on the following Sunday he went up to the stranger's shanty and rapped on the door. The stranger bad him come in and motioned him to a seat. The stranger reclined on a bench with his head resting on his hand and Jim without sitting said Did you know you was on my land here. No I replied I didn't know it is what you are and I'll give you two hours to get out of here. The stranger without rising reached inside his vest and pulled out a large gold revolver.
I'll just give you three minutes to get out of here. Jim said in telling the story afterwards. I got right out by God. There was shoot in his eye. Given the lack of law enforcement a great many crimes went unpunished. The guilty party becoming a matter of speculation and mystery Bluenose Brainerd was a very original character who lived near bloomer near the headwaters of the Chippewa River Raiders daughter who bore a pretty hard reputation in the region of the lumber camp finally married a lumberjack a kind of milk and water character too mild to call his name is all his life with her must have been anything but enjoyable anyway. It was a custom at this backwoods home in the winter to cut off a hole in the ice in the river to draw water for the stock. Also engaged one day the son in law either fell into this hole or deliberately jumped into the icy water and committed suicide to end his troubles. His body was fished out
from beneath the ice by some men from the neighborhood at the riverbed at this place is very shallow. Not a place where a man could easily drown and there were those who said that the unhappy son in law had very probably been knocked on the head and killed during a quarrel or a fight and his dead body thrown into the water and pushed under the ice and there was considerable mystery about his death. When the coroner who lived at some distance finally reached the home of the Brainard's the family was just preparing to eat their supper. He was invited to partake of the meal and did so all through the meal. No one spoke a word. The coroner waited patiently for someone to speak but none of the family did. After supper the women began clearing away the dishes and remains of the repast. Still not a word was spoken. After a while Bluenose hitched his chair up close to that of the car owner and speaking in his ears spoke just these words Don't it beat hell. That was all not a word about the tragedy of which the coroner had come a long
way to get the details. Women in or near a lumber camp generally created problems and solutions of which usually depended on whether the ladies were respectable or not. Catholic sisters often came to our camps collecting money for orphanages and one could not help but admire their courage in going alone into the wilderness among the roughest of men without the slightest kind of protection. But most of the lumberjacks respected them and respected their mission and gave freely and gladly to have them through the humanitarian efforts of these women. They were well aware that their illegitimate
offspring the unintended results of their wild revels were reared in decency and given a chance were a couple of them came to one of our camps once and the foreman in accordance with our usual custom joined the camp office over to spend the night there. The following morning when they did not get up at the usual early rising hour the lumberjacks a miserable cur who was acting as Cook passed some insinuating remarks about the crew paid no attention at the time for they were eating. But when breakfast was over they rose in a body and went after the cook. They wanted to lynch him but he was a fast runner and he got away with all their rough and number jacks but I shovel Rose-Marie and a man who dared to be careless in his comments on respectable women was Deacon Jones. It was seldom however that women were seen around the longer games.
I was in bed at our headquarters in North Crandon one day when Martin woman of wide but not worthy reputation in that region blew in and told the warehouse man that you wanted to go to the pharaoh damn camp and see your husband Frenchman. I was in the next room. I overheard the conversation. He got up and went out and talked to her. I knew that man she referred to wasn't her husband so I wouldn't let her go into him but told her I'd send him out and I did later this wild idea of hers was evidently the result of a little spree. She was still a bit boisterous she told me I got just drunk was how last night I don't want whiskey or whisky I said What's that. It was a new one on me. Why she said that's the kind of whiskey that makes a lumberjack run up one side of a tree and on the other side just like a squirrel. So all the interview was not entirely a loss my vocabulary was richer by a choice and
expressive to what little time the lumberjack had for recreation in the woods. A few hours before bed time and an occasional holiday such as Christmas. He's been playing rough games are telling stories. We'll tell you about the bloody Christmas that they talk about yet. Seven Cruise investor burg on Christmas night and I was in Jim Scott's crew was the best crew it was ever my lot to see together. Not a man under 190 pounds and quite a few over 200. There was forty five in the crew and the thirty two of us went out with the boss. Now our crew had a name for banking more logs in than any crew ever did. Goes our reputation made some crews sure that night we were the last group to get in town. It seemed we could
just smile no trouble coming our way and as we went into a saloon thems got called us together and said Boy is if we want to get back we got to stay together and the first man that leaves the blinds gets his time in the saloon we went in at a bar on one side across one and when we stepped in the side bar I was four and we wind up across the end about two men deep. Will things move fast when the boy's going to drink and finally one of our crew stepped out in the middle of the floor and said I belong to Scott's guru and Webb any man in town white or black had started something. But one man took up the challenge. Scott's man was getting the best of it and the news spread over the time that Scott's Grove was cleaning out the red lights alone and was going to clean the town first thing we knew the place was crowded and someone else killed Scott's crew. We knew
we had to do something that was no place for a we card. We stood with our backs to the bar and started. We drove them for the door and when we hit it we took the hollow and up the street was full. Six crews were waiting to take a poke at Scott's crew. We stayed together and when we hit the street behind Jim Scott stepped to the head of our crew and formed a wedge. Things move. It was not bad unless you went down and then it was real bad. We soon cleaned the street but it was rough. We lost to man and had to go back and pick them up. Some of the other men were land holding their heads. Others was on one elbow and bleeding. The snow was red. No officer dared then believe me. After that when Jim Scott's crew went down they had it all out of them south of. The sawmill time when you're in the lumber camps were much like any other small frontier town of the
myriad boardwalks shipping hired by the club. The river men. Muddy streets flanked by rows of frame business and small and unpretentious dwelling and an unduly large percentage of saloons and gambling houses. The population of these towns generally swelled considerably each spring with the influx of men from the surrounding lumber camps. With the soaring high water and the time for the river rats to ride the winter's cut to the mill border saying you know.
All winter long preparations went forward for this brief period of activity and struggle. Thousands and thousands of logs were banked along the river side or on the ice of the streams. There the lady awaiting the day when they would be tumbled into the streams and rivers to become the multitudinous parts of a mighty surging monster. The drive. In Reservoir dams at the headwaters of the rivers the waters of the springs saw were stored up to carry the logs along the first lap of their journey to the mills. In the camps cutting operations came to an end. Some of the men left for an early spring spree. Others stayed on changing the robbers for calked boots and many spikes of which were filed to sharp points that would bite into the pine logs. The heavy flannels of winter gave way to overalls which would be lighter when wet and would dry out faster.
These river men with a pic of the camp's lumberjacks of unusual strength and agility daring and ideal that they had to be. For days they had to go with but little sleep and with snacks of food snatched whenever and wherever possible. They had to suffer frequent dockings and were almost continually soaked to their skins at a time of year when the weather was still far from Clement. The price of their safety was constant and unfaltering vigilance. They were doing a treacherous element and the slightest misstep or miscalculation might send them relentlessly to their death. One day during the Spring Drive of it he said. I was standing on the bank of the sturgeon River near one of our dams with James McGill and one of my men had a fire near where we stood
and he was starting out some dynamite 250 pound boxes set up close to the blaze. A little too close as it happened and the man wasn't watching closely enough. It caught fire and finally began to burn like grease. I noticed that I yelled Run to McGill and started for cover like a bat out of Hades. We huddled behind a large pine stump some distance from the place and waited for the tremendous explosion. But we waited in vain. It was a lucky thing for us that there were no dynamite caps near the blaze. They would have set off the dynamite and everything in the immediate vicinity would have been blown to bits when we dared to look. Almost all of the dynamite was burned up. The Gillan heaved a sigh of relief. He wiped the sweat from his brow he said. What would have happened if that stuff had exploded. I grinned at him and I said there'd have been two strange Irishman in him over a first line.
When the last drive eventually ended at the sawmill the river rats like the shanty boy and the seasons work in a spree. In a row moment and seemed right on spot. No one I mean the timing about 4 daring minutes of on someones what is Bristol's phrase the following Love This bag is known by men of science as the best of them. Jogging is allowed it's not all over time it comes to town it is a park that most can you visit but it's registered at its thanks is coming to you is that as tame as other Jack says about Potter. I should never forget those young giants. They were strong and wise in both body and spirit
with a careless masculine beauty of men who lived three lives in the open air. This seemed the finest specimens of manhood I have ever seen even in their annual periods of disapprobation when they flung away the wages of a season's work. You know wild orgies like this thing only a week or so. They were magnificent. The way it was presenting eyewitness accounts of historic events. Today the boys and River Rats. Material for this series was drawn from the files and papers of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. Consultant when the series was Doris plant groups by Bethel Pern music can't hymns and production. Ralph Johnson This is the national educational radio network.
The Way It Was
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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"The Way It Was" is a radio program which presents eye witness accounts of notable topics throughout American history. Each episode begins with a description of a specific event, person, or historical topic, followed by several dramatic readings of witness testimonies found in the files and papers of the state historical society of Wisconsin. The program was originally released in 1969, and was re-broadcast from the program library of National Public Radio.
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-37-10 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:25
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Chicago: “The Way It Was; 10,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 28, 2024,
MLA: “The Way It Was; 10.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 28, 2024. <>.
APA: The Way It Was; 10. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from