When I took up the reins the
first morning and started up the valley for my first load, I was quite proud
and even prouder when I sat upon that load and started down that rutted road.
The team was fresh from down river and were very excited and frisky. Everything
went fine This road was a two turn road about five miles from yard to the
landing at the river with one pitch of falls. This hill was controlled by
putting sand or gravel in the rut to slow down the sleds. A man we called the
sand man had a pit with a fire to thaw the gravel. The trick was to knew how
much sand to lay down: too little you would get a fast run, too much would stop
the load. But the sandman soon learned to judge how much sand to use. Usually
if you stopped on the hill it meant that the steel shoeing was hot in relation
to the road, so if you rested for a few minutes till it cooled you could start
I hadn't been there very long till I
learned a lesson. one morning, after a small snow storm, I put on a small load,
in fact just a bottom load and that was lucky for me. When I came to the hill
the sandman wasn't there and I was the first team. I stopped on the top of the
hill and didn't know if I should try to go down or not but finally decided to
take a chance and away we went.
The horses held back the
load as long as they could, then they sat down. We reached the bottom going at
quite a rate but safe, but I don't know who got the worst scare, me or the
horses. When I met the foreman he said; "How did you get down that hill, I
didn't expect you to try that without sand, you might have killed the horses."
I didn't try that again.
As the winter went along the
competition became greater. I admit I was mostly at the bottom of the bucking
board. Sometimes the sled would leave the rut. This was called a cut off. When
this happened you were in trouble because no teamster wanted to unload. This is
where a lot of cruelty occurred and this is where a teamster did an awful
dangerous and foolish thing. Even yet I hate to think of it. This is getting
down on the roller. It gave you the advantage of being close to your horses but
with your back against fifty or more logs and a powerful pair of horses ahead
of you, it was a death trap, but a common practice. I have done it myself many
times, but we took everything in stride. A cut off sometimes kept the teamsters
very late. I have seen them come to the camp as late as ten o'clock. The later
it got in the winter the foreman, anxious to get the logs to the river before
the breakup, started to push.
We were hauling up to
eighty logs to a load. Most of the horses were getting thin, some were getting
leg weary, some were played out completely and had to rest up a day or two
before they could be sent down river. Worst of all they started to what they
call crowding. This is caused by the road getting high in the middle and as
both horses are afraid of falling, and falling is one thing a horse is terribly
afraid of, they lean towards each other, fighting for the center of the road.
This was a serious situation, they just can't haul and crowd at the same time.
It is a habit almost impossible to stop. If you put them on the other side the
habit is so strong they will lean the other way for a day or so, but not for
long and start to crowd again. I saw one team crowd so badly that they stopped
walking and just tried to push the other off the road, but with all our
problems, large and small, we got all the logs to the river in good time.
It was here that the biggest load of logs in the world
was hauled by one team of horses, up to that time at least, and perhaps
forever. Hauled on a special set of sleds and logs picked for their average
size, hauled on an iced and rutted road and drawn by two seventeen hundred
pound horses, driven by Jimmy Clark.
This load was hauled
about eight hundred yards under the management of Ben Underhill, who was
manager of that camp at that time for the Shives Lumber Company. This project
was to prove his undoing with the Company. With the cutting of the logs and
building the sleds, putting the road in condition to carry such a tremendous
weight, building a perfect load by the best builder in the camp and with the
expense of bringing a cameraman from Campbellton, it cost the Shives Lumber
Company one thousand dollars, which was a considerable sum at that time. The
result was Ben Underhill was discharged and never worked for the company again.
Working on statistics that Ben had at hand, this load on the Upsalquitch would
beat the State of Maine load in number of pieces and also scaled more in feet.
No doubt the Shives Lumber Company records would show
this, but they are probably lost as that company went out of business long ago.
The Guinness Book of World Records shows a record load of
logs hauled, but not this one. Perhaps it was never put on official records or
perhaps later beaten. Although company policy forced the officials to discharge
one of their managers, I believe they were proud of this record load.
When I was sixteen, I went to my first brook
drive. My age was not unusual as lots of boys fifteen to sixteen went to the
drive in those days. It was just a way of life. A tough life with hard work,
and sometimes extremely dangerous, and the Restigouche River has taken it's
toll of lives. We would go to the local general store and purchase a pair of
boots and maybe a jacket or whatever we needed for two or three weeks,
sometimes longer. We would pay for them when we came home again. We would pack
a white bean bag, as this was our packsack and also served as a pillow. In this
bean bag we would have some extra clothing and sometimes a straight razor. That
would be all and we would be up river bound. We would board the old I.N.R.,
sometimes called Malcolms Railroad, as that was the
It ran from Campbellton to St. Leonard's and the
boys from our village would board the train at Glenn Co., a little stopping
place. A trip on that train was quite an experience. Those were the days of
open bars and liquor was plentiful. Those log drivers would take one last fling
and the river men loved a good scrap. The conductor in charge of the train
would be policeman as well. Even if they were picked men they sometimes were
hard pressed to keep things under control.
One spring, I
recall, there was a fight at every stop. They would jump off the train and when
the train started, they would grab their jackets and run to catch the train on
the fly. Those fights were what they called rough and tumble, no holds barred.
They were mostly big men, light of foot and tough. Fighting was one of their
favorite pastimes. Men would get off at different places along the line,
sometimes walking for miles through the snow to the head of the stream to a
camp. The same camp that the cutters had built last winter. When they arrived
they would find there was a lot to be desired. Just those round pole bunks and
they would have to go out and get some fresh boughs for their mattress