A RIVER DRIVER'S STORY
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A RIVER DRIVER'S STORY

A RIVER DRIVER'S STORY




      

A RIVER DRIVER'S STORY




From the beginning anything that sounded, looked, smelt, tasted or felt like pine possessed a charm that was indescribable. The picture of the pine in that old Guyott's geography of our school days, with its tall slender trunk, the drooping branches and evergreen foliage was an inspiration.

In March, 1877, I asked parental consent to go to Northern Michigan, where I might "hear the roar of the giant pine that thundered as it fell." Permission granted, April first found me on the trail to Bear Lake, Manistee County, Michigan, where I enlisted as a river driver and was taken as an apprentice under the tender protectorate of Bill Van Alstine, an old white water birler from off the Manistee River. We were to drive the saw logs down the Betsy river (Au Betzese, from the French).

On the drive I was paired off with a young, long, cold, and hungry fellow, called Black Jack, a royal, rugged ironsides boy of my own age, and the men called us the Sunday school class, because we were so young. We were given a mile or more of jam and told to take good or get out of the way.

Northern Michigan at that time was a hunter's paradise. Deer in abundance, some bear, a few wolves and plenty of wildcats and occasionally a lynx. Deer ate overgrowing crops such as oats and buckwheat. They would also dig and eat turnips, carrots, etc., and were destructive to some gardens. The deer never hesitated to cross the river .on a jam of logs and if the jam was solid they could pass safely over but if the logs were loose they were sure to fall between them and be killed as soon as the jam was pulled or a riverman saw them.- Very many fell victims of the riverman's sharp and ever-ready pocketknife, for a deer stood about as much show in a jam as a sow bug at a sapsucker's social. Then, for a few days, we would have venison, mulligan, roast venison, venison steak, etc., made by one of the best cooks that ever flipped a flapjack, Theo. Richly. I never possessed sand enough to thunk a deer on the head when he was fast in a jam of logs and many a set to I have had when some heartless cuss sought to kill them. One October morning Jack and I pulled our jam but it did not draw only a' few rods. Leaving Jack on the jam I rode a log around the bend in the river to the plug and in crossing the loose logs I saw a face looking at me from the water, great big beautiful hazel eyes. The face was all I could see and, Great Scott! who was it what was it ? .Looking a little further I _ saw a large pair of antlers, then I knew what that face belonged to. Fast in that jam were five large deer; with my peva I soon had, a lane open to the shore and got two big does out, then I made a place for the buck and taking him by the horn I was leading him out when he kicked my hand and knocked off a piece of pelt about the size of a fifty cent piece. Cussing him lustily, I seized my peva and intended to kill him, and he looked at me with those hazel eyes and I could not hit him. Jack called to know what the trouble was. I told him, nothing. Then I hurried to release the other two and was just helping the last one out when Jack appeared. He insinuated my intelligence needed a whole lot of repairs, in fact, that I did not possess the, sense that God gave geese; that I did not know enough to carry bear giblets to the hogs and bring the dish back. Said he would take the matter up with the men that evening and see what could be done for me.

Jack passed over the Great Divide many years ago. I have several deer and bear to the credit of my old 30-40, but I have never been prouder of any quarry I have killed than I was of the five that got away.

F. E. Goldwood,

Ghent, Ohio

Hunter-Trader-Trapper. October: 1921,

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