In fact you could say it was
power steering, for with an experienced man at the sweep, the current would
work for him. This is only a few things about this amazing craft, so now we
will go back to our trip to Pine Island. We were loaded to the gunwales and
towed by three horses walking abreast, young and weighing sixteen to eighteen
hundred pounds, they were mighty and beautiful animals, gentle and well
trained. The rider rode the left-hand horse, called the high horse, the tow
line was a 3/4 inch manila rope and about 150 feet long.
It took three men to handle the scow, the
rider, the bowman and the sternman. Alex Irvine was manager of the club house
scows, he was responsible for them and his job was to take food and everything
that was needed for their camps.
He was in charge of this
scow. A small man of stature with a stubborn and stern face, he was boss and
make no mistake about that. That morning, as he stood in the bow of the scow,
in my young imagination, a strange thought came to me and I remembered a poem I
had read of Napoleon as he stood on a little mound at Ratispon it went like
this: "With neck outthrust, yon fancy how legs wide, arms locked behind, as if
to balance the profound brow, oppressive with his mind." Yes I thought Mr.
Irvine was quite a man and he was. He seemed to know every rock and ripple on
that river and when he said "ride out or ride in, or take short wrap or ferry
here", that is what the crew did and no arguing with Mr. Irvine.
At nine o'clock we stopped for luck. Mr. Irvine was our
cook, altho' we had a cook or two aboard on their way to the camps. We all got
busy and gathered wood. An old Chinese proverb says, "He who gathers wood is
twice warmed," so we didn't mind as it was a chilly day. Orval, his son, was
along. He was the rider, a good horseman and I don't think he every heard the
word fear, if he did he paid it no heed. He was fearless. I don't recall the
names of the other two men in the crew but I do know they were no green horns
at their work. One was the stern man.
He was at the sweep
and could steer the scow with ease. The other was the bow man. He looked after
the warp and knew when and how to take short warp on the bow pin or take long
warp on the how post. We also had on board three or four cooks and waiters for
the camps along the river. Jack Pollick, the cook that I would be with, was not
a Long as his barn had blown down on his part time farm. He would go up on the
I.N.R. train and come down to the camp at Pine Island later by boat. Although
the river had tamed down somewhat, because of melting snow in the far reachen
of the Restigouche tributaries and a lot of rain, it was still high water and
dangerous and not to be taken lightly, but Alex Irvine and his crew were equal
to the task. Going up with the Club scow was quite a thrilling experience for a
young gaffer like me and I marvelled at the matter of fact way those men went
about their work and their sense of humor. We were quite hungry as we had left
Matapedia around 6:30. We soon had a fire going which we enjoyed. Mr. Irvine
heated up some homemade beans he had brought from home, also bread, cake,
cookies, fat pork and molasses which was a must where ever you saw a New
Brunswick or Quebec river man. All this along with a kettle of hot tea made a
very enjoyable lunch.
They let the horses rest and feed
for an hour or so and we were again on our way. Then it started to rain and it
sure came down, but rain to a scow man means nothing. They take it in stride
and pay no attention to it, but we passengers took shelter under a canvas. The
water was rising fast. This changed the river and this is where the real
scowman came into his own. This was a challenge for Alex Irvine and he enjoyed
it. To a green man like myself his knowledge of the river was fantastic. As the
river changed with the rising water, so did his towing plans. He was a man of
few words except to give orders. He talked very little. We were slowed down
somewhat but going steadily up the river. We lunched again at 2:30 o'clock but
we didn't linger long, as it still rained. Nothing exciting happened except a
moose and two deer standing at the edge of the bush. They disappeared as we
approached. We reached Wyers Brook before dark and moored the scow and made a
makeshift stall for the horses. Although the rain had slacked off considerable
it looked like a miserable night. I suppose, normally, the crew would have
pitched a tent, but tonight we would like to get something better if we could.
After supper we would ask Mr. Henry Englehart, a farmer who lived close by, if
he would mind if we slept in his barn.
Mr. Irvine cooked
a typical river man's supper; salt cod, potatoes and par boiled salt fried
pork, cut up raw onions with a little mustard. To me this is better than a
steak dinner, but that is a matter of taste.
After we had
supper, we went of see Mr. Englehart. He said, "sure you can, if you promise
not to smoke." So we each took a blanket and climbed into the hayloft and spent
quite a comfortable night. Mr. Irvine slept in the house.
At daylight we were again on our way. The rain had
stopped but the sun refused to shine. The rest of the trip was routine except
for one incident that occurred that could have been serious. It happened when
we were getting ready to ferry.
As I mentioned before,
our rider, Orval, was a good horseman and fearless, but he was young and
perhaps a little lacking in experience.
I was never on a
scow before and I don't know the procedure of putting horses into a scow but he
must have made a mistake.
The scow was close into shore
and the bank was high and the rain had made it slippery. He jumped one horse
into the scow without any trouble, then he tried to jump the other two together
and I think this is where he made his mistake.
fell just as they were about to jump. He fell against the scow and shoved it
away from the shore and just maybe that. was a lucky thing as the water was
quite deep, otherwise he may have gone under the scow.
Here again is where Mr. Irvine showed his experience and
quick wit. We fellows had been giving a hand trying to hold the scow close to
the bank and now we were trying to shove it in again. He hollered to us to let
it go out to clear the horse that was struggling to get up. In the meantime
Orval was on the scow but still holding the reins. He jumped ashore and managed
to get the fallen horse up, the other one was rearing back but he got them
under control. The man on the sweep swung the stern of the scow out and the
current swept the bow in toward the bank. We lost a couple of hundred yards and
had to do it all over again, this time without mishap. All this happened a lot
quicker than it can be told, but we were lucky to get away so easy. I am not
familiar enough with the Restigouche to know where we camped that night, but
the next afternoon we arrived at Pine Island and the next day after they had
unloaded part of their cargo they would proceed to Indian House and if I
remember correctly the last Club camp on the river. A few days after the man I
would spend the next couple of months with arrived.
Pollock, or Big Jack, as he was known and with good reason. He was a giant. He
weighed in at about 260 pounds and stood well over six feet tall. We had a week
or so before the fishermen came. We whiled away the days swimming a little in
the cold river water, running and jumping and by the way, Big Jack for all his
bulk, could out swim, out run and out jump me by a mile. Sometimes we played
cards with the river guardian, Charlie Law, and Allan Pollock, the cook for the
guides. Then one day the fishermen arrived and I donned a snow white jacket
with silver-looking buttons and spent the rest of the summer trying to be a
good waiter for the American millionaires.
PUTTING IN LANDING,
WITH J. W. FITZGERALD
One Spring I hired to go up river to put in
landing with J. W. Fitzgerald. There were four of us in the party. Frank
Fitzgerald a brother of J. W. a rugged young man, fun loving and I might add
handsome. He would be the boss. I say boss because in those days there seemed
to be no foremen, just bosses. Then Seely Johnson, he would be our cook.
A soft spoken man, strong as a bull and quick as a flash
- a bad man to tangle with, but good natured to a point. With us too was
Doherty Mann, known as Doc, short, stocky and agile and of course myself, tall,
skinny but tough. We set sail from Matapedia one morning in May, bound for
somewhere near Tomsbrook, to roll in landings. We only carried enough food for
about two days but we expected enough food to come down from Kedgwick by boat
the next day. Frank said: "There is some flour and other things there, left
over from last winter." Seely said: "That will be fine, I will make some
homemade bread when we get there." Although I was the smallest man there I
seemed to have the most experience polling a boat and I also think Frank found
that out before we went very far, for he put me in the bow as often as he
could. He being a real river man, of course was in the stern. Without him we
would have gotten nowhere, except maybe in the river. However in the evening we
reached our camp without mishap but very tired. We had done our best and for so
little experience Frank thought we had done well. We unloaded our gear,
peevies, axes and our packsacks or I should say, white bean bags, just a few
clothes, socks and such things. This bag was also our pillow.
As there was still some daylight left we strolled into
the bush to find our mattress. They were hanging in the fir trees and were
called fir boughs. We just took the small ones and stood them on end, butt
down, on the round pole bunk, threw a blanket over them, tucked it in all
around and you would be surprised how soft that bed was the first night. Let us
forget the nights after that, but healthy, tired young men can sleep almost
In the meantime Seely said: "I will look around
and see if I can find something to make some bread." He looked and came up with
some flour. He looked some more and found some yeast cakes and some salt, mixed
it altogether, kneaded thoroughly, put it in a pan and set it by the stove.
Then he got all the coats or anything that would cover this precious bread,
stood back and said, "That should do the trick", and we went to
I don't know what time we arose in the morning but
Seely was already up and sitting on the bench and we knew the worst had
happened. Frank said four dangerous words: "How is the bread? Seely hesitated
for a few seconds to get control of his voice, then he said: "Frank, she never
I suppose the yeast cakes had lost their power
to act and our dream of beautiful crusty, mouth watering bread went out the
window, or was it the door. We will never know, Seely had done his best. It was
not his fault but those darn yeast cakes.
This camp was
our home for the next week. We worked hard in the mud and wet snow, finally the
last log was in the river but we still had a job to do - build a raft of
telephone poles and run them down the river to Tidehead. We finished the raft
in a couple of days and one morning we were ready to set sail. Doc and I were
to man the forward sweep and Frank would man the stern. We had run out of
tobacco a couple of days before and Frank had sent Seely on ahead with the boat
to get some cigarettes from Jim Alford who was working someplace not too far
below. Frank said, "Go to the forward sweep," which was pointed up stream, "and
I will shove your end away from the shore. When it swings across the river your
end will turn down stream and when your end is crosswise I will board the
stern." When the rushing water caught the forward end of that raft it seemed to
be travelling sixty miles an hour and when I looked back it looked to be about
half a mile long.
At that time we were the two lonesomest
men on the Restigouche River. Frank was still on the shore. By now the stern
was leaving the bank and two fellows like Doc and myself that knew nothing
about a raft, much less about the currents of the Restigouche, to be left alone
without a boat would have been a tragedy; Looking back to the shore, for one
frightened second, I thought Frank could not make it. It was a hair raising
thought, but with a wild cat like leap he was on board. We were two very happy
boys and looking ahead to a smoke when Seely would overtake us. He overtook us
alright. When he came on board and reached into his hip pocket the cigarettes
were not there. They had fallen out on the way. I think we would have thrown
him in the river if we had dared to try.
It was on that
trip down that I learned what a river man had to know. Frank could run that
raft and made the water do most of the work with a minimum of labor on the
sweeps. I remember when we got to the Matapedia bridge he said to me: "We go
straight for the first pier from the shore." I thought he had taken leave of
his senses but that is what we did and the water sheared us off with no problem
at all. Yes Frank was a true river man. We snubbed our raft at Gordon's Bridge
in Tide Head.
Doc leaped ashore with a rope and took a
couple of turns around a birch tree and eased the raft to a stop. Our trip was