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Restigouche River, New Brunswick

PORTAGE

   The portager was the man that kept the logging camp supplied with food or anything that was needed. He portaged from a depot camp at the river that had been stocked the previous summer by the scow men. He would carry mail in and out and sometimes news from the outside and the lumberjack looked for his arrival. He would usually make one trip each day but that depended on the distance he had to go. He would bring anything from a bottle of pain killer to a grind stone. Let us say something about a grindstone. It was a very important piece of equipment. It was a must in the lumber camp. I don't know what they would have done without one. On Sunday this wheel was kept busy. Turning this stone was a mean job to say the least. Those axemen pressed down awfully hard.

   This reminds me of a little story, true or false it doesn't matter. The foreman asked the portager to bring him a grindstone on his next trip in, so he picked up the stone at the depot, put it in a bag and put it on top of his load. On the way in he stopped overnight at a halfway camp. Some fellow wanted a stone like that or he just did it for a trick. However he had a bit of a problem to find something to put in the bag to replace the stone, but looking around he found the very thing, a piece of ice in a tub, round and not unlike the grindstone. He Took out the stone and put in the piece of ice. In the morning the portager checked his load, everything seem O.K. When he arrived at the camp the foreman was already in the yard. "Have you got the grindstone?," he asked. "Right here", said the portager and he threw down the bag and the ice broke in two. "Now look what you did, you broke my grindstone." He looked in the bag: "That is no grindstone, that is just a piece of ice." The portager said, "Thats funny, it was when I left the depot. In this terrible cold weather it must have turned to ice."
   Tobacco was one thing that the portager must not forget as nearly all lumberjacks either smoked or chewed. Two popular brands were Prince of Wales and Napoleon It was chewing tobacco but they smoked it just the same. He enjoyed a clay pipe with a stem broken off so short that the bowl was no more than a couple of inches from his nose. When it got old or seasoned as they liked to call it, it was hard to break. It was also strong in another way too. Loaded with Prince of Wales, it was potent.

HAULING OFF

    When the winter cut was complete, sometime after New Years, some of the crew would go home but most of the horses would stay, as they were usually in very good condition. They would get double harness and this is where the competition started as teamsters took pride in their horses and harness. Some would decorate them with red white and blue drop rings and keep the harness oiled and shiny and they would plait their manes and tails. They would be a delight to see but this was only the start of the hauling off season. A lot of those horses that started out so proudly would suffer a lot of hardship and cruelty before the winter was over. Some would get thin, leg weary and played out, as the competition grew stronger as the winters went along.
   Then what they called a bucking board went up on the camp wall, figures telling what each teamster had hauled each day, week and month. I always thought this board was a factor in the condition of the horses in the Spring and led to nothing but cruelty for them. As in every trade or profession we have good and bad, so it is with teamsters. After supper some would go into the stable, brush and curry their horses and take good care of them. Others couldn't care less, just threw them some feed and that was all. The best teamster carried no whip, the bad ones did. As the winter went along you could see by the horses which were the real teamsters.
   The teamsters went to the stable about five o'clock in the morning and fed and watered and harnessed the team and then came into the camp and wait for breakfast The loader would hear the team coming out of the stable and help him hitch the team to the sleds. Let us speak here of the logging sled.
   The logging sled was built for one purpose only - to haul logs. It was quite massive and built very strong, two sleds, one front and one tail sled. They were connected by two chains, crossed so as to form an X. This allowed the tail sled to follow exactly in the tracks of the leading sled. The logging sled had three basic parts, first the runners.
   They were about six feet long and ten inches high in the middle, then a bunk from runner to runner, the length would depend on the width of the road that they would use. Then came the rocker, tapered slightly underneath from the middle to the end. This allowed the load to turn freely when the load swayed. The bunks were kept in place by iron rods or starts as they were called, one on each side of the bunks which were grooved for them. A king pin through the rocker and bunk kept the rocker in place and allowed the runners to turn. The runners were shod with steel. In the ends of the rockers were two holes through at an angle and a long chain with a hook on one end and a grab on the other, attached by a small and short chain. This chain was called a corner bind. When a log was placed on the end of each rocker, hooked and grabbed, the long end of the chain was left hanging down, then the space in between was filled in with logs and jammed down very tight. Usually short spurs were inserted into the rockers to keep the logs from slipping, then the next tier of logs was placed and a cross chain was taken from one side to the other and grabbed to the corner bind chain that had been left for that purpose. A skilled loader could build a straight wall of logs, till he had sixty or more, then a long chain called a wrapper was thrown around the load. This was for safety. There were many ways of hauling off. The method used depended on what sort of road was used. Hauling on a long level road would be different from a mountain or hilly road. The management would decide about that when they planned the operation. I think I have hauled on most every kind of road there was on the Restigouche River.

   I will tell you of my experience in one of the bigger camps on the Upsalquitch River where I was a teamster. We were hauling on what they called an iced and rutted road, although all valley roads slant more or less to the river, except for what was known as a pitch of falls, in plain words, just a steep hill and usually not very long.
   A rutter was a simple affair, two massive runners with two steel blades projecting through each bottom about four inches and a bunk and as it needed lots of weight, it was made very heavy, hauled by two strong horses.
   This was a two man job and they had to work at night. Of course this road had to be in good shape and hauled on for some time before this rutter could be used. When it passed over the road it left a rut about six inches wide and about four inches deep.
   Following was a water tank holding about a thousand gallons of water. As there usually is a stream running down every valley, water was no problem.
   The tank had two holes in the rear with two plugs, one for each runner. Filling this tank with buckets or kettles was mean work and with only a lantern for light, didn't make it any easier and as the nights were very cold, in the morning the tank would be covered with ice and also the man.
   Although I had been a teamster in small logging camps, I could put a set of double harness together and also throw them on a team of horses as quick as most men bigger than myself.
   Although I was slight I was strong, at least I thought I was.

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