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Restigouche River, New Brunswick


   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.
   One horse 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.
   Jack 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.


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 anywhere.
   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 sleep.
    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 budged."
   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 complete.

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