“Tamarack ’er down!”
That old bushwhacker’s battle cry echoes out of the past with the first cold weather. Because that’s what we knew best every January, when our cutters left town following their Christmas break spent visiting our several old hotels.
They were heading back up the railroad east to Flanders, Glenorchie, or Banning—places not so prominent any more. Their camp owners or contractors might become impatient if they lingered too long in town here because our mills needed their cordage and our camp bosses, giants like Eli Johnson and Eric Pearson, were not to be fooled with.
The legend of Paul Bunyan, popular below the border, never received much attention here because we had our own great woodsmen.
And if your production with saws and axes merited their approval, you might win an invitation to spend your summer on the lakes, helping deliver the log booms that once covered entire bays.
Life on the lakes with ’gators and floating cook shacks, or “wanagans”, while handling long pike-poles to guide the huge boom logs and their floating cargoes, sometimes with the useful pickaroons, which took careful use to avoid injury.
And every wanagan or camp needed a cook and helpers, or “cookees,” to satisfy everyone’s appetite, which might be marveled at today. The fresh air and exercise meant big grocery bills, but the camp cooks had to keep their loggers happy.
Among the best of these cooks would be the small Englishman, Percy Brown who equally was at home with his skillet on land or water. In fact, some appreciative lumberjacks claimed Percy had few rivals.
Eventually, the whole crew came into town to shake hands again—and sometimes to sleep off their celebrating in jail cells.
Yes, theirs was a rough life, but one they preferred not to trade for anything else as long as they could respond to that popular old call “tamarack ’er down!”
Which they know how to do well—and sometimes too well!
For the uninitiated, “tamarack” is one of the best trees our lumberjacks went after. It made excellent, tough, and durable lumber, although pine was more plentiful while spruce and poplar were for paper mills.
• • •
An immigrant from Holland, who is said to have arrived in Stratton with a mountain of money from the sale of his farm ($12 million), reportedly has been looking around our district for a dairy farm, for which he would pay $2 million!
As I got this story, along came Charlie Byma, a well-known dairy farmer. But Charlie says he is now through farming and has quietly moved into Emo.
Another place the visitor should consider would be the Mike Zimmerman farm, which was considered tops in its line. It included a silo everyone admired when Mike had a public viewing years ago.
We hope that wealthy visitor does not leave this district disappointed.
• • •
Continuing to hope Mine Centre finally hits it rich with gold mining, it was a pleasure to hear knowledgeable Ken McTavish discussing its prospects, especially around the Foley mine on Shoal Lake.
I visited that area with another prospector a few years ago when a Texas company was surveying the scene.
Foley prospects seem as promising as any of several other former mining sites, Ken reports.
But my visit there indicated the presence of dangerous holes all around that old mine—one of several in production back in the ’30s. While government rules demanded those holes be surrounded by barbed wire fences, visitors should be warned those fences are not in place everywhere needed, as I discovered.
• • •
A Thunder Bay phone call came from Leonard Olsen, who once lived here and enjoyed a recent column concerning our Scandinavian citizens. These formerly and almost entirely populated our East End behind the old Shevlin Clark lumber yard.
Swedes, Finns, and Norwegians predominated across an area just west of the river.
While attending Robert Moore School, I became acquainted with their boys among all our other nationalities. In those days, we were only one generation away from our countries of origin.
• • •
Recent deaths included George Hampton, who certainly will be remembered as the popular father of our provincial MPP, Howard, and for more than that because George drove many miles to contact Howie’s political supporters when Howie could not possibly be both here and in Toronto.
• • •
What did we have to discuss before that devilish diabetes came among us to kill and maim? Apparently our best defence is sensible eating habits and cutting down on sugar!
• • •
While the old town buses are now gone, and regular taxis as well as many cars seem also to be disappearing, what’s filling our streets then today?
Vans, vans, and more vans among all the pickups and have become seemingly the most popular transportation currently. Even the once familiar station wagons have been replaced by all those vans, known to be serious gasoline burners in this time of overly expensive fuel.
These have cast a spell over everyone with a driver’s licence and I cannot explain why.
The station wagon was my own choice a few years ago while my family grew and older relatives needed help getting around. But if anyone had suggested buying a van for personal use, others might believe that would indicate an interest in some business.
The van ws great for advertising a business, but few were in personal use until very recently.
So, gasoline keeps going up in price and most drivers once believed in selecting the smaller vehicles to save money on fuel. Without explanation, so many vans are now in private use—while all its side walls frequently no longer carries advertising.
There is one explanation: Numerous vans formerly serving business have passed into private hands and probably less expensively than second-hand cars.
Half-tons I can see, being a regular pick-up driver myself. Although those take more gas then cars, too, they almost are indispensable for working people needing to carry supplies or equipment that won’t fit into cars.
I kept a lid on my truck box so the tailgate was not blocking the wind to add to running costs.
Just look down a street full of parked vehicles and see fewer cars lately among the trucks and vans. But, hey! Who wants to talk about gasoline prices all the time.
“Tamarack ’er down!”