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Restigouche River, New Brunswick

LOGGING BRAKE OR CRAZY WHEEL

    I had the occasion to go down a mountain on a load of logs, controlled by one of those logging brakes. This mountain road was approximately one half mile long and slope of about forty five degrees, with a level place about one hundred feet long, half way down the mountain. This brake came from the United States and cost one thousand dollars.
   It was a simple affair, just a series of grooved wheels, sixteen inches in diameter, if I remember correctly, set side by side, horizontally on a steel frame and brake at the rear end, and controlled by a hand lever. A half inch steel cable started through at the left side and came out on the right. A strong hook_ was fastened to both ends. One end was taken down to the bottom of the mountain off the road and behind the trees. The other end remained at the crazy wheel which was anchored by two cables to two birch trees. My trip down was on a load of forty logs. The sled had a ten foot rocker set with spurs. They prevented the load from slipping. The load was secured in the regular manner as I explained in the logging sled chapter, then the cable was hooked onto the tail sled and we started down the mountain. It was quite an experience and just to test the strain the wheel operator applied the brake and stopped the load of many tons without any effort at all. The horses had no hauling or holding back to do till they came to a level space and the wheel man eased the cable strain. How he knew when to do this? I suspect he had a mark on the cable. I could see the cable going up behind the trees, in fact it crossed the road just ahead of the horses.
   Why they had it on the other side of the road I don't know. When we got to the bottom of the mountain, the other hook would be at the crazy wheel ready for another team. This machine was a great advantage and saved a lot of time and money. Without it those logs would have to be transferred to another sled and tail drug down the mountain which was a costly method and I am sure it paid for itself in a short time. That is the crazy wheel.

TALES FROM THE LUMBER WOODS
THE FIEND ON THE ROAD

    In the spring of the year 1918, on the Upsalquitch River, we were just hauling the last of two loads of logs to the landing. We were finishing none too soon as the road was breaking up, already the makeshift bridges across the small streams were afloat. Although the road was quite soft we didn't have too much trouble getting to the landing. It would be worse coming back as our loads would damage the bridges considerably. I was the first to arrive at the landing and had just finished unloading when the second team arrived.
    I had the loader with me this trip as I was anxious about the condition of the roads. The second team would have the landing man with him coming back. Except. for a little trouble at the bridges we arrived safely back at the camp. When the other teamster and landing man came into the camp sometime later, someone said: "You fellows look like you have seen a ghost." Then the teamster told this story. The next morning was to prove it was likely true.
   "We had just finished unloading and were securing our chains when I noticed the horses pricking up their ears and looking towards the bush in an uneasy manner. We heard nothing and as it was getting quite dark we could see nothing. The landing man said: "Likely a deer", but the team seemed anxious to get away so I took the reins and pulled back hard, so they would not take the bit in their teeth. If they did I would have no control over them and they could run away. The landing man turned the rocker at right angles to the bunk and we lost no time sitting down on each side of the rocker. I was anxious about the road as I knew it was in bad condition, especially at the bridges. Then we heard the most hair-raising and blood curdling scream I have ever heard in my life.
   The team bolted and we were hard put to hang on to our seats, although I still had control, I could not hold them. In a couple of minutes we heard it again, that blood chilling scream, half animal and half human. It seemed a little ahead of us and a little closer. The horses were terrified and going at a good clip, then all was quiet for awhile and the horses slowed down a bit. Up to this time neither of us spoke a word. We were too busy trying to hold on. But now that things seemed a little better, the landing man said: "What the hell do you suppose that was." I was just about to answer when the team stopped dead in their tracks and again came that dreaded deadly scream, right in the middle of the road. Then the horses panicked and didn't know what to do and I confess I was frightened. I urged the team on. It came again, this time on the other side of the road and seemed to be going away and a couple of times more as it faded away into the night. How we got over those bridges I'll never know, as I don't remember. When we arrived at the camp the horses were trembling and in a white lather and badly frightened, and so were we.
   The next morning one of the men said: "I heard something prowling around the camp in the night," so we went out to look for tracks and sure enough there were tracks around the camp and around the stable as well, but the snow was melting and they were distorted and could not tell what animal had been there. At that time on the Upsalquitch there was talk of a panther or Injun Devil as they were sometimes called. Some people said, just a story, but perhaps this was one of these animals - who knows?

THE KNOCK ON THE CABIN DOOR

   This story was told to me in a lumber camp when I was a boy. My Father was a cook, so he took me to cookee for him a couple of winters. In the evenings after my work was done in the cook room, I would go into the sleeping camp and listen to the men telling stories. Mostly lies, but to me it helped to pass the time away. I noticed one man who always seemed to be sitting on the bench by himself and taking no part in their conversations. One night I sat down by him. He seemed quite friendly. I talked to him on a few different occasions.
   One night I went in and sat on the bench with him, a little way from the other men. One fellow was telling a ghost story. The old man, as so he seemed to me, asked me if I believed in ghosts. I said I didn't think there were any. He said, "Let me tell you a story and it happened to me." When the men overheard him speaking of ghosts, they were all ears and came over and sat around him and he told this story. I will tell it to you, using my own words, as his English wasn't too good. This is his story:
   "I was born in Finland. There were five children in my family, two boys and three girls. We were poor, my father was a trapper. He didn't make much money but we had plenty to eat and plenty to wear. When I was fifteen or sixteen I went trapping with my father. I learned all about the craft. My father died when I was twenty-four years old and I took over the trap line. I still didn't make much money but I kept my mother and three sisters. My brother went to work in a factory in town. As my trap line was getting longer and farther away I decided to build a log cabin closer to it, about eight miles from my home. With a little help from a neighbour I built a small cabin, brought in some food, traps and things I would need for the winter, then moved in.
   I was doing fine, fur was plentiful there at that time and prices were not bad. It was a lonely life but I was used to being alone so I didn't mind too much. One day in the fall I noticed a few little tracks in the snow. Being a trapper I knew most every track and this had to be a rat track. This puzzled me as I thought rats mostly lived close to civilization, but I didn't worry about a few rat tracks. I soon forgot about it, how little I knew about rats. I looked after my traps and went home about every week to see how things were going and to take my furs in. One evening when I came to my cabin, believe it or not, Mr. Rat had moved into my cabin and now I knew why I heard gnawing in the night. I am a sound sleeper and it didn't keep me awake and I had forgotten about the rat tracks. He had cut a hole between the wall and the floor and came out under my wood pile that I had stored there. When I opened the door he scurried back under the wood pile. Now I had killed many animals in the course of my trapping life but this seemed different. I could not bring myself to kill this little fellow. He seemed to be company for me, even assurance, so I let him live. He would come out in the evening and peer at me with his little eyes as though he was wondering what I was doing here.
   This may seem strange to you but we became good friends. I looked forward to seeing him when I came in off the trap line at night and I think he missed me too. I guess he looked to me for his supper. I always gave him something to eat and drink but he would steal anything he saw lying around. One night he stole one of my socks, perhaps he was cold, for his house was half in the cabin and half in the wall and I didn't blame him for that. He was just getting an extra blanket. Another night he stole my card of sulphur matches. I had lots of them and that didn't worry me either. Everything was going fine. I went out on the trap line every day. When I came home he was waiting for his supper. Then one night a strange thing happened. I went to bed at the usual time. Everything was quiet. I had an oil lamp over the mirror by the wash stand. I never blew it out but just turned it down low. For some reason I always liked a little light in the bedroom and I still do. I soon fell asleep. I don't know how long I slept but I woke with a start and sat bolt upright. Someone was knocking on my cabin door. I couldn't believe it. It must be just a bad dream. It had to be. Who would be in a place like this in the middle of the night, unless someone was lost.
    I waited for the second knock. It never came. Then I thought the rat may have been moving around and as dreams can play strange tricks, I may have mistaken any noise for a knock on my door. So I put it down as a bad dream and went back to sleep. In the morning I was not too sure and checked for tracks. There were none. The next night I was sleeping soundly when it came again and this time I knew it was no dream. I heard four distinct knocks on my cabin door. As I was not fully awake I was more angry than frightened but when I realized where I really was I lost my anger and fright took its place. Now I am not a coward or not a hero. I called out: "Who is there." Nothing but silence. Summoning all my courage I opened the door, a little, I will admit. Nothing but darkness and silence greeted me there. Strange how a knock on the door at night will startle you even if you think it is just your neighbor, but a knock on a door eight miles in the bush, in the dead of winter, with only a snowshoe track to your cabin, and you alone, is to say the least, a fearful experience. I shut the door. I was a puzzled and badly frightened young man. I nailed the door. I don't know why but I guess it made me feel more secure. I didn't sleep much that night.
   In the morning I checked for tracks. Again there was none. Strange why daylight dispels fear but I still worried as I went over my traps. I feared the night. I said to myself: "I won't let a little noise drive me from my cabin." But I was whistling in the dark and I knew it. I didn't sleep much that night. I sat on the bench till break of day then I slept an hour or so, then went out on the trap line. I checked a few traps but didn't feel good and came in early. I barred the door and went to bed early but couldn't sleep. I was waiting for that knock. Sometime in the night it came, more persistent than before - three distinct knocks. The third one was so hard it rattled the door against the frame. If I was frightened before I was terrified now and I didn't have the courage this time to go to the door. I was on the verge of panic. I tried to calm down and think but I thought of only one thing getting out of there and started pack at once and in the morning I loaded my toboggan and put on my snow shoes and started for home. As I couldn't take everything in one load I would have to come back next day for the stove and other things. When I arrived home my mother asked me what happened. I said: "I was lonesome." I said nothing about what I had heard.
   I left home early next morning so as to get back before dark. I could not stay in that cabin another night. When I was getting close to my cabin I smelled smoke. Then I realized I had smelled it. before, awhile back. Then it dawned on me that it may be my cabin. I hurried on. When I got within sight I could see that I was too late to save anything. I was sorry about that but as for the cabin; I was glad. The fire must have started in the night for it had been burning for some time.
   Now for the mysteries. There were three:
   First - although there were rats on our little farm at home, how did one of them get to my cabin? Did he stow away in my stove or in something else or did he follow me in? I don't know but I often wonder if he survived the fire. don't know that either.
   Second mystery: How did the fire start? Did the rat light the matches he had stolen or was he foraging around looking for something to eat, jumped up on the shelf and upset the lamp that I had turned down the night before and in my hurry to get away, forgot. to blow out? Perhaps these are plausible answers but the third one is the greatest mystery of them all.
   Who knocked on my door and why? It could not have been human. That sounds impossible. Was it someone from the spirit world, trying to scare me away from the cabin?
   If so that unearthly being did its work well. Perhaps if I had stayed in that cabin I would have lost my life, because I was a sound sleeper and I could have smothered and been unable to get out. I had no answer as to who knocked on my door those fearful nights and I have no answer now. I passed by lots of times on my way checking my traps but I stayed away as far as possible. I trapped there a few years after that but I never had the interest I should have had. Then my sisters got married and my mother died. I was alone and gave up trapping for good. I migrated to Canada. I am an old man now and that was a long time ago, but I still hear that knock upon my cabin door."
   As for me I went to bed wondering and trying to figure it out.

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