Small Frye episodes - Old Time Logging - Part 1

Leonard Lea Frazer

Small Frye discovers the exhilarating feeling of working in the woods, using logging tools of the day, getting into fights over his favourite girl friend and meeting two huge Swedish pole-makers. But, is Mike up for the ‘yob’?

There are many who have heard the old expression – “Let's put on the feed bag!' Well, I shall try to explain it to you.

A feed bag or a ‘nose bag’ was a bag made out of an abandoned oat sack. It was formed to be just large enough to fit snugly over the nose of a workhorse and hold around five to ten pounds of oats. This was filled in the morning and hung on the hams of your workhorse as you left for work and your lunch was also placed in this container. At lunch time when you reached a good spot you would build a good campfire to make tea and sit down. You then would tie the nose bag on the horse’s halter so that his nose was inside the bag and this way you need not even untie him. He could munch his oats in comfort. (Of course, you always took out your lunch).

On one of my early logging jobs I was supplied with two teams and two large sets of logging sleighs. These sleighs were not play things. They were built heavy enough to load from one thousand feet of raw, green logs to two thousand board feet. This would be two tiers of logs high on the big bunks, and the bunks were built so if you had trouble, and your sleigh got onto a road too steep, the whole load would tumble off and free the sleigh of its load and the driver could jump.

I bought two brand new 513 Royal Chinook falling and bucking saws. Now, a 513 Royal Chinook was the brand to have but you could get any type you asked for from the commissary at the camps. I had to buy two Black Prince swamping axes, three peaveys size 52 for loading and swamping, and two cant hooks size 56 for unloading at the pond at the mill. Of course, as it was winter, we would be unloading them on the frozen pond above the sawmill. This, with an assortment of logging chain to skid and hold the load on, was all the equipment I needed.

I had to pay Lindsey a dollar a day for each man and whatever the horse feed would cost. It was my job to harness the horses every morning. My brother Jules drove the first team and a young man by the name of Slim Gillette, of our fair village of McBride, drove the other team. Fred and I would build skid ways and help Gillette skid the logs to the trail. Jules had to haul them to the pond at the mill and was kept busy to keeping the skid ways clean of logs.

We had no (Workman’s) compensation in those days nor did we have to keep track of income tax. If anyone got hurt, they paid their own bills and Fred Lindsey paid all the taxes.

Our first day logging went smooth. We hauled in three thousand board feet to the mill and found the horses to be just wonderful animals, but we were all tired and ready to eat a big meal and had no trouble sleeping that night. Jules, Fred, and I were kept very busy swamping and making skid ways but both of us enjoyed the work. So, I had earned thirty-three dollars, after paying all wages and board, I had five dollars left. Five whole bucks of my own! I was already rich!

But, the second day was different. Now we were bucking about three feet of new snow and all of us rode the huge sleighs to work sitting on the bunks with gunnysacks to keep dry from the damp snow.

It was hard work for the horses to break road and they had to stop frequently to get their breath. So we were near half a day before we could haul any wood to the mill and it snowed all day. It was a miserable day and I went five dollars behind but that night the snow let up and the next day saw me well ahead again.

To us all, it was just wonderful! Eat a huge breakfast; get out into the woods that were so very quiet with a soft snow drifting down and experience the wonderful and exhilarating feeling of youth. Nothing was too tough for us!

And to me, of course, the best feeling was to hear the teamsters as they hauled in a huge log to the skid way and load it on the large sleighs and head for the mill with the sleigh runners humming a tune on the cold snow. With the creaking of the runners and the heavy harness, it was a sweet sound to me.

That was the way my first logging went. One day I'd make it good and possibly it would go good for two or three days and then I'd go behind or just break even. Anyway, I liked contracting. There was no one to tell me how hard to work. I was independent, my own boss, and Bull of the Woods! What a feeling!

Nothing exciting happened on that term of logging, except one load tipped over and blocked the road, taking us all day to clear and load again.

However, we all finished that contract and earned over two hundred bucks apiece. I took my pay out in flooring sawed at the mill and all the equipment that I had bought. It was lovely fir flooring and what a treat it was for my mother! I loaded it on the weigh-freight at Lindsey’s Spur and the train stopped right at our house along the railway one mile beyond the station of Albreda. They unloaded it right where all I had to do was haul it over to the house and there I laid it right over the old floor made of one by six. Mom was really proud of me!

I had a few dollars left over from the sale of my labour and after buying the logging equipment, so I bought food and tobacco also. I had the bad habit. Why did I ever start it in the first place? However, oh what a feeling it was to have been a big time logger!

But I was still a kid and I wanted to live it up and play so, although I desperately wanted to get back and earn more money at logging, I knew of a good fishing hole where I could get mountain grayling by the hundreds.

We found the grayling just where we knew they would be - a nice clear hole not far from home in a small stream named Camp Creek. There were thousands of them and all hungry from the long winter. Cutting a good willow pole close by, we rigged up our hooks and soon found them very co-operative. They would take anything we had and soon we caught more than enough.

We fished till we were completely played out and there were two very tired boys that came proudly in that night with all the fish we could pack. We fished for four days and then we quit. Mom soon had all the fish we could eat for all summer canned.

Now, by the time spring rolled around, a young man's feelings turned to love (and I was no exception)! There were several lovely little ladies I considered my harem, but lately I had badly neglected them - too busy making money I guess, but I awoke one morning and thought to myself, “I had better make up for lost time.”

So, as it was a lovely morning with that feel of spring in the air, things starting to grow and I was feeling restless, I headed out to look over the prospects. But I had left things go too far as I soon found out. While I had been busy with other things a good-looking young man had taken over completely and I was left out. None of my old faithfuls would have anything to do with me at all! But I did not give up and I took off to find this culprit.

I had no trouble in finding him. He had corralled the best looking girl that I had been going with and they were out walking on the railway, one on each rail and holding hands across the tracks. This was too much for yours truly and I tied into him. I took an awful beating right there and she just looked on while all this was happening.

When it was all over with, my nose was bleeding and most of my clothes were torn to shreds and I had to give up for the time being. I felt bad about it but had to take it. He had knocked me down and I had mud all over me when I got home. I was a pretty bad raggedly little man and Mom thought I had tangled with a bear.

I never said anything to her; I just went to bed without any supper and lay there thinking. I would get even with that intruder tomorrow. I was not going to let him get away with that. My harem was worth a broken nose or a good beating.

I awoke to a lovely spring morning - just the sort of morning that makes life worth living. The robins were back singing their hearts out and busy making their nests. The sun was shining. Everything seemed to be all right with the world but, as I climbed out of bed, I could feel a very sore place on my jaw where his nibs had connected a good blow when we had our last fight. As I rubbed my sore jaw, I wondered if it was worth it all. For a few minutes I felt quite bad about all this fighting over a mere girl. But, then I figured things out and decided I'd do it again if I had to as I was sure it was worth it after all and I got a sort of a kick out of giving him his spring bath and a darn good black eye to go with it. Possibly that would smarten him up a bit.

My pocket was running short of cash and I had heard of the new pole camp starting up at Mile 86, about five miles from our home. I had not been down to the new camp as yet, but knew I could get a job with them as they had spread the word around that they needed one more man and, if I had anything to say, I'd be that man.

The next morning I went to try for the job. Eating my breakfast, I took an extra shirt and two pair of socks, and stuffing them in a blanket, I rolled it up and took off down the old path that would take me to 86.

I was as happy as any of the birds that seemed to be just bursting with song and I sang along with them as I hiked to my new venture. I made it to where I thought the camp would be located around ten o'clock. Then, I saw a clearing with two log buildings. One looked as if it were a barn. It was set back near the bank of the creek and another one with a stove-pipe sticking up through the roof.

They were rough looking cabins, but I could see only the two and wondered where the bunkhouse was. I went around to the front and found a door made out of split cedar.

I knocked, but no one was home. I went down to the barn and there I found two huge Clydes. I shoved in between them and gave each one a small chew of my plug tobacco and soon made good friends with them. I found a curry comb hanging on a nail and I fondly loved them both up and curried their backs until they shone. Then, I gave them a bit of hay and I went back to the other building.

I found the door wide open and as I stepped in, I saw it had a dirt floor and to my right stood a huge cast-iron cook stove with a small tub on it full of dirty dishes. As I stepped in, I was met by a horde of houseflies. It was dark as Hades and I saw one hole that was the only window in the place and all it had on it was a screen with a gunnysack hung up on a nail to let the daylight in. I guess they would let it hang down to cover the window at night.

As I got used to the interior of the shack, I saw a table made out of split cedar with two benches - one on either side. It was a mess; dirty dishes, food all over it. I could not see how they ate off it. And then I saw two bunks made out of small poles with straw on them for a mattress and dirty clothes all over the bunks.

I looked around and found a broom made out of a small pole with boughs nailed on the end. I grabbed it up and found I could sweep the dusty floor with it and get most of the filth off the hard-packed dirt floor. Then I found a bucket, and running down to the creek, I came back and started a fire in the big stove. I soon had hot water and I was in for a big job of washing up all the dishes and I even scrubbed the plank table and then, as I was hungry, I looked for some grub. I found it in two big wooden boxes under one of the bunks. I looked for some meat but could not find any in the shack so I went out behind and found a cooler made out of screen and in it was some bacon and eggs.

I put a kettle on and a huge frying pan and soon had a meal ready, then washing my dishes I peeled some spuds and looked again for any meat to make a mulligan. I found a twenty-two rifle hanging on a nail. After putting some wood in the big stove, I took off back up the trail where I had seen a bunch of partridges that had flown up into a tree. They were still up in the same tree when I got there and I shot two of them which I cleaned and I put in with the spuds and carrots and onions and soon the wonderful aroma of a big mulligan drifted out the open door.

I found some dried prunes which I put on and then I laid down on my bedroll outside the cabin with the warm sun shining on me. Added to that were the birds singing and the heavenly smell of all the spring flowers. I drifted off and awoke to the sound of the horses nickering. I went back to the barn; I untied the big gelding and wrapping his halter rope around his neck. I let him back out and I led the mare after him. He knew where to go and I followed him down to the creek for a drink; they each had all they wanted and the gelding went right back to the barn and I followed him back with the mare. Tying them both back up again, I fed them some hay and went back to see how my cooking was coming. I found it all just nice and as I stepped outside, I heard someone coming in from the woods. Then, I saw two huge Swedes coming towards me.

One of them shouted, "Veil, veil, vot in the name of heaven have ve got here Olie? Company, by Gar, and I sure can smell a good mulligan!"

I told them my name and asked them for a job. "Veil, I don't know about dat," one of them said, looking at, me. "You look lak you are not too big for a yob making poles, but maybe you can cook. Ve shall see ven ve taste dat mulligan."

I told them I had curried the horses, watered and fed them hay but no oats as yet.

"Gout boy. Let's try dat mulligan and den ve vill talk about a yob for you."

… to be continued