Here to return to
WHEN THE WHITE MOUNTAINS ARE WHITE
THE southern half of New England was bare and brown; but as I went northward I began to see remnants of drifts, and there were upper hillslopes with a northern exposure that were quite white. By the time I reached the mountains snow was omnipresent, the roads were deep-buried, and travelling was done on runners. My train carried me many miles up the tortuous valleys, and the aspect of the region became less and less inviting the longer the journey continued. The little farms appeared unthrifty, and the frequent, great vacant hotels only accented the desolation.
A Woodland Teamster
I stopped at a village I will call Maple Glen. Like most of the hamlets of the district it consisted of a small group of houses around the railway station, with scattered farmhouses on the roads leading away from this nucleus. It looked lost or misplaced in the white world of frost with which it was enveloped. One doubted if it would thaw out in all summer. Many of the dwellings were meagre little affairs with a few pinched sheds about them. These were the homes of the unenergetic or shiftless. Their dreariness was not due to the poverty of the region and its remoteness from markets, for signs were not lacking that some degree of prosperity was within the reach of all. A portion of the inhabitants grasped it, as was evidenced by buildings repaired and modernized and made pleasing to the owner’s eyes by the application of paint in the striking colors that are at present fashionable. The hotels furnish excellent markets during the summer for eggs, poultry, milk, and early vegetables, and considerable work is to be had at the sawmills which abound along all the streams, while in winter good wages can be earned chopping and teaming on the mountains.
I looked about the village and then went into the station to warm up by the fire. Several men were lounging about there, and two or three others entered soon afterward. One of the latter was an old-fashioned Yankee. He shook hands cordially with an elderly man who seemed to be a particular friend, and said, “Haow dew yeow pan aout tewday?”
His pronunciation was not a fair sample, however, of the conversation I heard in the mountains. On the whole the people used surprisingly good English, and the nasal twang supposed to be characteristic of rustic New Englanders was seldom very marked.
In a corner of the station waiting-room stood a crate of oranges. It had come by express for the local storekeeper. One of the men in the room presently called attention to it and told how fond he was of oranges and named just the length of time it would take him to devour a dozen of them. Another man said there wasn’t enough taste to oranges to suit him, but he could eat lemons right down. This led a third man to relate that while he didn’t have any great hankering for either oranges or lemons, he could despatch sixteen bananas without stopping to breathe. Then a fourth epicure declared nothing suited him as well as peanuts. “I golly!” he exclaimed, “I c’n walk from here to Littleton, and that’s ten miles, and eat peanuts all the way.”
A LOAD OF LOGS ON A FOREST ROADWAY
What other gastronomic revelations might have been made I cannot say, for just then we were all attracted to the windows by a commotion outside. Two drunken fellows were walking along the road, jarring against each other and gesticulating and shouting. The older of the two, who looked to be about twenty-five, was Joe Button, so the men in the station said, and added that he had married, some months before, Eliza Hicks, a girl of thirteen; yet the match was on the whole perhaps a good thing for her, it was argued, as her parents were dead and there was no one to take care of her. The couple were reported to get along well together in spite of her youth and his drunkenness. “But my daughter used to go to school with her,” commented the man standing next me, “and she says Eliza puts on terrible airs over her and the other girls now, because she’s married and they ain’t. The girls pretend not to care, but I guess they feel it some.”
Evening was approaching and I inquired where I could get lodging for the night. My only chance, I was told, was at a boarding-house a little way up the track. This boarding-house proved to be a small yellow dwelling neighboring a sawmill. It was kept by a stout, shrewd-looking Frenchwoman. She had only two or three boarders just then, for the mill was not running, and I was welcome to stay if I chose. The house was very plainly and rudely furnished, but was clean and orderly. I sat down in the kitchen. In a chair near me was a large framed portrait that had apparently just been unwrapped. The woman said it was a crayon enlargement of her mother, and she thought it was very good, but she would never get another. “It is too much troubles. The man he comes here long time ago and he say he make portrait my mother free if I buy the frame — the portrait, it cost nothings. I say I will take the portrait for nothings and never mind the frame, but he say he not do business that way. So I pick a frame and he say he want cash. I say how I know you ever be here another time. I pay you when you the picture brings. But he tell it large expense for the very fine work he do and he must have moneys. I say then I will pay him two dollars and no more, and he say very well. So I have only but a ten-dollar bill and I ask him can he change it and he say he can. But when he get it he take out the full price and I cannot make him do different. He say it is the price only of the frame anyway and a great bargains. I pay four dollars eighty-five for that frame, but I have see just as big a frame at Lancaster in a store for dollar twenty-nine, and my sister’s husband he get portrait like this made large thrown in with a suit clothes. It not so great bargain, I think.
“Well, that agent man, he get my money and it be long time until I think I never see him no more, but to-day he come, and he say they put some extra works on the picture and express, so I have to pay one ninety more. But I say I never order no extras, and they bring themselves the picture, so there be no express, and I have pay all I will. So we have some talks, and he goes away. Oh, we have many pedlers comin’ along here all the times, and tramps too. Some of the tramps make me afraid. I always give them to eat; but if they looks bad or like they was drunk, I keeps shut the door and put somethings in paper, and opens the door only enough to hand it out. One Sunday, a big fat tramp came. All the mans was in the house — my boarders — fifteen mans — and I was not scare that time. It was mos’ dinner, and I say, ‘You have to wait. If there anythings left I give you, but I got only jus’ ‘bout ‘nough to fill my boarders.’ He say he in considerable hurry, so he go on some other house.
“I was most scare once that I was cleaning the buttery and a tramp he came right into the buttery and say, ‘I want some kind o’ grub.’
And I say, ‘Why you not knock?’
“And he say he see nothing of nobody and the door open, so he walk in. I been churning and I have six poun’ butter and have just put it on the shelf, and he say he guess he have a little o’ that butter; and I take a knife to cut, and he say he don’t min’ to have a whole cake — two poun’. Then he say he will have some tea and some sugar, and he take two breads and other things; he look awful bad, and I so much fright I do all he say; and he see a dinner pail all new and shiny, and he say, ‘I take that, too; that be kind o’ handy for me.’ But I tell him that belong to my boarder – ‘I can’t give you that’; and he say he ‘bliged to have it and he settle with the boarder when he come aroun’ nex’. But I guess that be not very soon, and I not want to see him anyway; he too terrible huggly.”
After supper when my landlady had finished doing the dishes and had sat down to sew, we heard a rat in the walls. That reminded her of a chopper who several years ago came to the house to board a few days after he got through the winter in the woods, “and he say he can make the rats go just where he please — send them any place he want; and I say, ‘You a nice man — doin’ such things!’
“But he say, ‘That’s all right. It come very handy knowing to do that sometimes’; and I tell him I don’t think much of man sending rats round. Well, he been long time in camp, and his clothes much dirty, and he want me to wash for him, and I say, ‘No, you hire some other people what does washing here.’ But he was a Frenchman and didn’t want to spend nothings — these French, they come from Canada, you know, and they brings everything they will need and don’t want to spen’ one cent. They want to take they money all back to Canada. Then he ask will I let him do the wash, and so I did.
“When he ready to go home an’ we settle, he don’t want pay fifty cent a day, and he say, ‘You wouldn’t charge so much to a poor workingman,’ and I say, ‘I would. You heat enough for two mans together, and I got have the price what I always have.’ He want to pay twenty-five cents, but I won’t take only my reg’lar price.
“So he went away, and that same day a lot of railway mens come, and the house was full up; and in the night we could not none of us sleep, the rats made so much noise. It was like any one move a trunk and throw a table on the floor — make jus’ as much noise as that — and no one believe that was rats. The boarders, they want know the next morning if we hear that terrible noise — that scratch and bang — and they ask if we have ghosts. We never hear any rats before and we think that Frenchman, he go away mad and he mus’ make the rats of all the peoples round here come down our place. We didn’t have no cat. Every cat we use to have would get fits, and some day we find it turnin’ round and grab on the wall and fall on the floor; and we think the cat might jump up on the cradle and scratch the baby, and we get frightened when the cat have fits, and we kill all the time. One of the boarder, he say he heard if you steal a cat, it keep well and never have that sickness same what all the before cats had. So I say, ‘If you to steal a cat have a chance, I wish you to goodness would.’
“He kind of keep lookout for cats that day and he found one on the sidewalk ‘bout two mile from here; and the boarders say we fed those other cats too much meat, so we didn’t any more, and we had that cat eight or nine years and we got it yet. Soon as we got it that cat begun catch rats. It catch mos’ as fifteen a day and it wouldn’t never eat that rats once. It catch them all night and it not through catching the next morning, but it so tired then it would not kill, but bring them to the kitchen and leave them run round, and we have to take the broom. That make the boarders laugh.
“The next fall that Frenchman come again. It mos’ night, and he go to the barn, but I know him as he pass the window. My husband he milking and he not in the dark remember the man. If he have he take a stick and break his neck. The man he ask if he can get board, and my husband he say, ‘My wife manage all that.’ So the man come and ask me. He have a bag on his back and it been rain hard and he all wet. He say he can’t go any farther; and I say, ‘You the man what send the rats any place you want to. We got lots of rats that night you left. I guess you got you bag full of rats again. No, I not keep you.’
“He never sayed anythings, but jus’ walk away down the road.”
At the conclusion of this tale my landlady brought from the cellar some potatoes to pare for breakfast, and shortly her lodgers, who had been spending the evening at the village store, came in, and then it was bedtime for the household.
WORK AT A LOGGING CAMP LANDING
After an early meal the next morning I returned to the station, where I found a log train preparing to make its daily journey back on a little branch road into the mountains. I decided to go with it and climbed into the rude caboose at its rear. There were about half a dozen other passengers. They visited and joked and added vigor and spice to their conversation by a good deal of casual swearing and some decidedly less excusable foulness. Our journey was up a winding valley, all the way through the interminable and silent woods. Considerable snow had fallen during the night, but it lay light and undrifted and did not materially impede our progress, though the steepness of the grade made the engine pant heavily. The flakes were still flying, and I could only see a little strip of whitened woodland on either side, and nothing at all of the mountains between which we were passing.
I went as far as the train went, to the most remote of the logging camps — that of Jacques Freneau in the very heart of the woods. The camp was in a clearing beside the tracks. It consisted of a group of several buildings and an eighth of a mile of “landing” to which the logs were drawn from the forest, and from which they were rolled on to the platform cars. With the exception of one or two little shanties of boards the camp buildings were of logs made weatherproof by having their cracks chinked with moss. Their rude construction and the lonely winter forest that formed their background made them seem exceedingly primitive and out-of-the-world.
Freneau’s choppers numbered about fifty. They were not making a clean sweep of the forest, but only taking out the spruces and pines, so that they left woodland behind, though a good deal thinned and devastated. To see the wilderness changed to the desert I would have to go up another valley where the “king contractor” of the mountains was at work. He employed seven hundred laborers and had built for them a whole village of houses laid out regularly in streets. The mountains when he finished were shorn of everything but brush, and invited the farther despoiling of fire and storm, so that it seemed doubtful if the forest glory of which the heights had been robbed could ever return.
A well-worn road led back from Freneau’s camp into the woods, and I followed it until I found the choppers. They were working in genuine forest that looked like the undisturbed handiwork of nature, and the trees grew crowded and stalwart. In the past these trees, when they waxed old, had added their forms to the ancestral mould among the rocks where they had stood. But now blows of axes and the grating of sharp-toothed saws were heard among them; and those tiny creatures — those destroying mites known as men — were bringing them down untimely in youth and sturdy prime and dragging them away.
The men sawed off the larger trees, but used their axes for the lesser ones. They usually chopped two to a tree, from opposite sides, and I noticed they could work equally well right or left handed. When a tree is about to fall, the choppers at its base shout to warn such of their companions as are near. At first the tree sways from the upright very gently, and a little snow sifts down from its branches. Then its motion becomes more and more rapid until it crashes to earth. The impact causes a great cloud of powdered snow to burst up like smoke into the air. This slowly drifts away, and by the time it dissipates, the men are working along the prostrate tree trunk, cutting off the branches.
The woodsmen are portioned into crews of four — two choppers, a driver, and a sled-tender, It is the duty of the last-named to help the driver load, and while the team is making a trip he is busy rolling logs to the road ready for his companion’s return. The driver has a single broad sled truck. To this the logs are chained, allowing the rear ends to drag. These ends furrow very smooth and hard tracks, which you have to tread most gingerly or your feet fly from under you with astonishing suddenness. The loads go skimming along the decline at a trot, and in a few minutes are at the landing, where are men who unchain the logs and load them on the cars.
A good deal of rivalry exists between the different crews, and they are always eager to compare records when these are made up in the evening. They work with especial ardor on Saturdays, for it is quite an honor to come out ahead in the week’s total. The boss does all he can to cherish this rivalry, and sometimes offers prizes — perhaps two plugs of tobacco to the crew which accomplishes most in a day, and one plug to each of the three crews which come next.
The logs were marked and a record of them kept by two scalers. The scalers were the aristocracy of the camp, and had a separate cabin of their own. In it, besides the inevitable box stove and a big wood-box, each man had a board desk roughly nailed together and fastened to the wall, and an equally rude bed. Not much factory-made furniture is imported into the camps. The woodsmen get along with what they can construct themselves. Instead of chairs they use benches, though the scalers had been inventive enough to supply a rocking-chair for their cabin. The main
A Woodsman’s Rocking-chair
substance of this article was a flour barrel with a portion of the staves sawed off and inserted for a seat. On the bottom were nailed a few short lengths of boards to form a platform, underneath which were fastened edgewise a couple of boards fashioned into rockers. I tried the chair and found it more comfortable than I would have imagined, though its makers apologized for its lack of upholstering, and for certain nails that were apt to restrain you when you rose.
The man who was chiefly responsible for this chair was a very ingenious sort of a Yankee. Among other things he had whittled out a birch broom, and each winter he was in the habit of making with his jackknife quite a number of slender toy barrels, about six inches high, which he filled with gum and sold some of them to workers in the logging camp who wanted to send away a forest souvenir, some of them to chance visitors. The barrels were very neatly done in white poplar wood, and were marvels of patience.
Camp visitors were usually either pedlers or people from the mountain villages who came on some sort of business. Possibly on a Sunday a priest or a Protestant home missionary might find his way to the camp and hold service, but none had been to Freneau’s this winter, and the only manifestation of religion was the regular appearance of salt codfish on Fridays. One of the most recent of the pedlers was a man who took orders for tailor-made suits. His prices ranged from thirteen to twenty-two dollars, and he did very well; but a fellow with watches and jewellery was much more successful. In a single night he sold one hundred and seventy-five dollars’ worth. The pedlers received payment in the form of orders on the boss, who deducted ten per cent for his share in the transaction.
Nearly all the men in Freneau’s camp were French from Canada. They cleared from fifty to one hundred dollars by their winter’s work on wages varying from seventeen to thirty dollars a month, the sum depending on the individual’s ability and the work he did.
The men were all young, and they seldom came more than two or three seasons. The probability was they were struggling to pay for some little farm that cost about a hundred and fifty dollars, and when this was accomplished they stayed at home to take care of their property. There was rarely any loitering on the part of these Frenchmen after the labor of the four white months in the forest solitude was done. They started promptly northward with their earnings almost intact; but the Irish and Scotch from Nova Scotia, who made up a considerable fraction of the mountain choppers, were apt to celebrate their release and affluence by a grand spree.
In Freneau’s stout log barn were twenty-six horses. He had no oxen. Indeed, the latter are scarcely ever brought into the mountains now. Some of the valley farmers have them and get out lumber from the woodland borders with them; but twenty years ago they were in common use everywhere, both in the forest and out. It was thought then that oxen could do rougher work than horses. The present view is that horses can be put in places where oxen cannot, and their superior intelligence and quickness make them accomplish decidedly more. The only oxen I learned of in the woods were two yoke in a camp a mile below. Their owner was an old-style farmer who was getting timber from his own land. He had a tremendous voice, and on a quiet day could be clearly heard by the men at Freneau’s, shouting to his creatures, “Gee off there! Whoa, back! Whoa, hush! Whoa, ho!” etc.
A Mountain Ox-team
The power of his tones suggested a man hardly less bucolic than the creatures he was directing. I concluded I would go down to see him. During the winter he had employed several choppers, but these had now gone, and only he, and his wife who did the camp housekeeping in the little log cabin, and their son were left. When I approached the clearing I saw that father and son were engaged in loading a car, and were about to put on a long spruce. This was in a pile three or four rods up an incline from the landing, and they were considering whether it would go where it ought if they simply let it roll. With very little trouble they could have set up stakes to stop it on the lower side of the landing, but they guessed it would go all right, and heaved it loose. Off it went, bumping along, and the men watched it with interest. One end gained on the other, and when it struck the car it only partially lodged on the load, and canted up with the small end down on the track. The men were inclined to blame each other for this outcome, but they soon fell to work again, got their yoke of oxen hitched on to the log, and after considerable trouble succeeded in properly adjusting it. Next they dragged a heavy beech out of the snow on the edge of the woods. It was rather short for the landing, and they were half minded to lay down some skids to make sure it should not go astray. But when they talked this over they guessed it wasn’t necessary. “Seems to me it’ll do,” said the old man; “only be careful; yes, be darn careful!” They edged the log along, and so far as I could judge they were “darn careful,” and yet at the last moment down went one end between the car and the landing. Luckily the other end caught up above. Even so it was a bad predicament, and the men hitched on the oxen with the remark that if one yoke couldn’t draw the log out they would bring their second yoke from the barn and see what both together could do. But a single yoke sufficed, though not without a great deal of exertion on the part of men and beasts, and a melancholy waste of time. There was little pleasure in watching such awkward work, and I soon retraced my steps to Freneau’s, where things were not done by haphazard guesswork.
Evening was now approaching, and I went into the lodging-house. The entrance opened on a low, dark apartment which was called the bar-room, though there was no bar, and no liquors were sold in the camp. Its correspondence to its name lay in its being the men’s loafing-place when they were not at work. In one corner was a long sink, with a barrel close by into which excellent water flowed from a spring up the hill. A cracked box-stove stood in the centre of the room, and there was a big grindstone near a window, and several rude benches against the walls. The dining room adjoined. It was nearly filled by four long tables. Separated from it by a slight partition was the office of the camp, serving also as a storeroom and retail shop — a small, narrow room with a box nailed against the wall for a desk, and many shelves piled with gatherings of all kinds. Here were axes, chains, rope, parts of harness, and a supply of old periodicals presented by some religious society. Then there were socks, mittens, overalls, and undershirts for sale, and, in the way of luxuries, plug tobacco, of which the men consumed great quantities.
When it began to grow dark the workers came trooping in to supper, and, that disposed of, adjourned to the bar-room to spend the evening lounging and smoking. They enjoyed the heat and the relaxation, and I suppose did not mind the gloom, only slightly mitigated by a single lamp and stray gleams from the cracks of the stove. At nine we all went upstairs to the loft where we were to sleep. This loft was even more barnlike than the rest of the house.
On the floor around the room borders was a row of bunks-and above these was another row, all made of boards and furnished with straw mattresses and coarse blankets.
In the Sleeping Apartment
The men did not disrobe much, save to take off their jackets and shoes, and soon the dim lamp which had furnished us with light was extinguished and the scattering talk lapsed into silence. Yet there would still be an occasional cough, or some one would rise on his elbow to spit on the floor. These manifestations of wakefulness also ceased presently, and no sound could be heard save the heavy breathing of the sleepers. I did not drop off as readily as the others; for the situation was new to me, and the bed was too densely saturated with stale tobacco fumes that had been accumulating all winter; and, besides, I had the fancy I might be attacked by crawlers. My concern on this score proved needless, and when I finally slept I was awakened only once. That was about midnight. One of the men was singing in his sleep, and he went leisurely and melodiously through a long ballad in French.
Morning was welcome, and I was up with the first risers and went down to the kitchen — a commodious lean-to immediately beyond the dining room. The work there was done by a little old German and his wife assisted by a boy. Around the walls were shelves and broad counters, and everywhere were boxes and barrels of supplies, piles of tin tableware, pots and pans, and tubs and kettles; and a trap-door in the floor gave access to an excavation in which were stored potatoes. The cooking was done on a great flat stove.
During the winter the fifty men consumed a barrel of flour each, sixty bushels of beans, two hundred bushels of potatoes, seven hundred pounds of oleomargarine, one hundred pounds of tea, and a vast amount of meat and fish. There was almost no variation in the daily fare, except that on Friday salt codfish was substituted for meat. Bread, butter, tea, and molasses appeared on the table at every meal. The tea was not very strong, but it was unlimited in quantity, and it was kept long enough on the stove to acquire plenty of color. It was served without milk or sugar. Sugar was formerly supplied, but the men were wasteful, put in half a dozen spoonfuls or more and left the bottom of their cups covered with half-dissolved crystals after they had drank the tea. They seemed to have a particular fondness for molasses, and hardly a man failed, three times a day, to pour on his tin plate a generous puddle in which he proceeded to sop his bread.
Beans and brown bread were the breakfast staples, but these as served at Freneau’s were not considered first-class, for they were baked in the stove oven. Most camps have a bean-hole — an excavation three or four feet deep in the ground just outside the log dwelling. A fire is built in it, and when the wood is reduced to a great heap of coals the bean-pot is put in with some tins of brown bread on top. Then the pot is covered with coals, and ashes and earth are heaped on. It is left thus through the night, to be exhumed the following morning, and the woodsmen all agree that bean-hole beans are far superior to the oven product.
At noon Freneau’s men had potatoes and boiled meat. The meat was usually beef, but occasionally was fresh pork. For supper the meat and potatoes were served again, this time chopped into lumps and mixed together. Doughnuts appeared on the table morning and noon, and cookies at night. I was told that this fare as compared with what the Canadian French had at home was paradise; but it was a good deal humbler than that in the average of the camps, and stories were related of Yankee camps where they had steaks and ham, cake, bread, and raisin pudding, and two or three kinds of pie.
A Corner of the Camp Kitchen
I wondered that those two old people in Freneau’s kitchen could care for their large household. They looked to be about seventy years of age. Both were thin and gray, the man crooked and stooping, the woman wrinkled but upright. They worked hard and made long days.
“I gets up at three o’clock every morning from dot bed,” said the man, pointing to a rude couch in a far corner, “and I have on my underclothes and nightcap, and I don’t stop not to put on nothings more but my rubber boots, and then I makes to start the fires here and in the next room and in the bar-room, and about in twenty minutes I get them all roar.
“Then my wife she get up, and we begin get breakfast. The boy what is suppose to help, we not see him until one-two hour later. He like an old man — he so careful of hisself. He would be kill to get up like me. We have the breakfast at half-past five, but these las’ few week it is not so soon, for the men they get not up when I rings the bell. They work like a tiger when they come at the begin of winter, but now they have got kind o’ balky and will not to hurry.
“These French, they are as more like cattle as anything I have seen. All they have not is the horns. They eat like cattle, and sleep like cattle, and they have not care nothings about your house if it is clean or not. They spittin’ everywhere — on the floor — everywhere. An American man, he take off the stove cover and spit in, or he go outside. But not so the French. Look, too, the way they eat. At the family table, which is what I call to make high tone of it same like hotel — dot where is set the boss and the teamsters who mos’ly not from Canada, — and they eat jus’ one-quarter what do the others. They have the same kind, but they take not so much. How much bread you think I makes every day, hey? It is so much as fifty loaves!
“All the time these French, they feelin’ good. The least little thing they will laugh, and so hearty! — it seem to them so awful funny. They are jus’ like colored people, I make it — so easy to please as a child. But they do not play much — only checkers sometimes, and one more game, which you lean over mit your face in your hat and put your hand flat out behind you. The others they all stand round, and some one he slaps your hand, and you jump quick mit your eyes out of your hat, and try if you can see who it was. If you say right, dot one takes your place. They play dot game much and for long time and laugh and think it more funny as anything in the world. Other camps they play card; but Mr. Freneau do not allow card for because they gamble their money and perhaps they fight. Last year some they play in the blacksmith shop of our camp, and the boss he found about it and turn them off.
“On Sundays we do not our breakfast eat until eight, and the men that day lie much in their bunks, and some read papers. But the half, they can not read at all, they are so ignorant; and so one man he may read aloud to a good many. They mend their clothings on Sunday, and perhaps they wash clean their underwears and hang them to dry, and they might whittle out some axe-helve. It is now coming spring, and we begin have warm Sundays, and the men they go out and run to chase themselves and crow like a rooster and blat like a sheep and all sort of noise, and see which the strongest man at rolling logs.
“You might thinks we be lonesome here, but we have to keep too busy for dot. I have intend, though, not to come into the woods again another time. It is too much cold. This kitchen, it is like one icehouse. There are cracks so many the heat all go out. We had one night thirty-four below zero, and my bread it all froze and had to be thaw before I could get a knife into it. Dot most scare me. We tries to be neat, and we wants to mop the floor often, but when it cold the water freeze right on the boards. Oh, you can’t think there is no fun sometimes.
“The taters what we use now have got freeze, too, and most all the days until this week the windows are frost all over so thick we cannot look out, and I have to fight and fight to get the wood dot we burn. I want not to meddle mit anythings not my business, but how we can cook if we have not the wood? It is the dry wood only we use from trees dot are dead and stand up — and you be surprise the wood in them so dry as one bone. If they fall they get full of wet in no times. It kind of small work chop wood for stoves, and the men not like to spend the time to bother. I wish not to fight, but it is hard not to do dot mit some beoples. You have keep shut your eyes if you don’t want to have troubles mit them. That wood makes me much worry and extra works.”
The cook while he talked did not pause in his labor save now and then to cast his eyes toward me at the more important points and make sure that I understood. But now he stopped both his remarks and his work to peer out a pane of glass in the low back door. “Did you never see this bird?” he asked at length.
I went to the window, and there was a woodpecker digging away at a haunch of beef that lay over a barrel outside. Later I inquired of one of the scalers about the wild creatures of the winter woods, and he mentioned seeing bluejays, chickadees, and flocks of snow-buntings. Red squirrels were plentiful around the camp and made away with a good deal of corn from the storehouse. Often he came across fox and rabbit tracks on the snow, and some of the men had seen a deer.
Nearly all the time I was in the logging camp it snowed, though never with much vigor, and there were spells when the storm would cease and the clouds lift, disclosing the mountains rising in serene majesty all around. I could as easily have believed their ghostly heights were dreams as realities, so unexpectedly did they loom forth from the void, and so strangely transformed and unsubstantial did they appear with the snow delicately frosting their tree-clad slopes to the remotest peak. But these wider outlooks were as fleeting as they were enchanting, and soon the veil of falling flakes would droop over the crystal summits, and the world would quickly dwindle to a little patch of snowbound forest close about. This latter view was the most characteristic one as far as my experience is concerned, and it is this vision which remains with me most vividly — a fragmentary vignette of the great white woods, pure and unsullied beyond expression.
A Logging-camp Dwelling