The Round River Drive

James MacGillivray and William MacGillivray. "The Round River Drive."
News Tribune [Detroit, Michigan] 24 July 1910: Illustrated Section 6.

Illustrated by Joseph L. Kraemer
Illustrated by Joseph L. Kraemer

The Round River Drive

"What! You never heard of the Round River drive? Don't suppose you ever read about Paul Bunyan neither? And you call yourselves lumberjacks?

"Why, back in Michigan that's the one thing they ast you, and if you hadn't at least 'swamped' for Paul you didn't get no job-not in no real lumber camp, anyway. You Idaho yaps may know how to ranch all right, or pole a few logs down the 'Maries,' but its Maine or Michigan where they learn to do real drivin'-ceptin' Canada, of course.

"You see back in those days the government didn't care nothin' about the timber and all you had to do was to hunt up a good tract on some runnin' stream-cut her and float her down.

"You was bound to strike either Lake Huron or Michigan, and it made no difference which, 'cause logs were the same price whichever, and they was always mills at the mouth of the stream to saw 'em into boards.

"But the Round River drive-that was the winter of the black snow. Paul, he gets the bunch together, and a fine layout he had.

"They was me, and Dutch Jake, and Fred Klinard, and Pat O'Brien-'P-O-B'-and Saginaw Joe, and the McDonalds-Angus, Roy, Archie, Black Jack, Big Jack, Red Jack, Rory Frazer, Pete Berube-oh, we were there some! They was 300 men all told.

"Canada Bill, he was the cook, and two Negroes were his cookees. We'd a stove, 18 by 20, and Joe ust to keep those Negroes busy in the morning, skatin' round the stove with hams tied to their feet, greasin' the lid for the hot-cakes.

"And it went fine for a while till one morning 'Squint-Eyed' Martin, the chore boy, mistook the gunpowder can for bakin' powder, when the cook told him to put the risen in the batter.

"Those coons had just done a double figger eight when Joe commences to flap on the batter. Good thing the explosion went upward so it saved the stove. But we never did find the coons-at least not then-cause that was the winter of the black snow, as I told you.

"We'd placed our camp on the river's bank-we didn't know it was Round River then-and we put in over a hundred million feet, the whole blame cut comin' off one forty.

"You see that forty was built like one of them gypsum pyramids and the timber grew to the peak on all four sides. It was lucky, too, that we had such an incline, for after we'd been snowed in, shuttin' off supplies, Double Jawed Phalen got walkin' in his sleep one night and chewed up the only grindstone in the camp. So the boys ust to take big stones from the river's bed and start them rollin' from the top of the hill. They'd follow them down on the dead jump, holdin' their axes on them, which was sharp when they got to the bottom.

"We'd a shoot for the timber on all four sides, and when we was buildin' the last one on the west, away from the river, we comes across a deer runway. 'Forty-Four' Jones, kind o' straw boss, was buildin' the slide, and he liked game. But he didn't say nothin', though I knowed he had an idea.

"Sure enough, Jones gets up early next mornin' and he caught the deer comin' down to drink, and he starts the logs comin' down that shoot and kills more'n 200 of 'em. We had venison steak all winter, which went well with the pea soup.

"That pea soup didn't trouble the cook much. You see, we'd brought in a whole wagon load of peas, and the wagon broke down on the last courduroy and dumped the whole mess over into some springs by the wayside.

"The teamster came in sorryful like, expectin' a tote road ticket, but Canada Bill, he says to Bunyan, 'It's all right, Paul, them is hot springs.' So he puts some pepper and salt, and a hunk of pork in the springs, and we'd pea soup to last us the whole job, though it kept the flunkies busy a totin' it into the camp.

"That Round river ox-team was the biggest ever heard of, I guess. They weight forty-eight hundred. The barn boss made them a buckskin harness from the hides of the deer we'd killed, and the bull-cook used them haulin' dead timber to camp for wood supply. But that harness sure queered them oxen when it got wet. You know how buckskin will stretch?

"It was rainin' one mornin' when the bull-cook went for wood. He put the tongs on a big wind-fall and started for camp. The oxen pull all right, but that blame harness got stretchin', and when the bull cook gets his log into camp, it wasn't there at all.

"He looks back and there was the tugs of that harness, stretched out in long lines disappearin' 'round the bend of the road, 'most as far as he could see. He's mad and disgusted like, and he jerks the harness off and throws the tugs over a stump.

"It clears up pretty soon. The sun come out, dryin' up that harness, and when the bull cook comes out from dinner, there's his wind-fall hauled right into camp.

"It's a fright how deep the snow gets that winter in one storm, and she'd melt just as quick.

"Bunyan sent me out cruisin' one day, and if I hadn't had snowshoes I wouldn't be here to tell you. Comin' back, I hit the log road, though I wouldn't knowed it was there but for the swath line through the tree-tops. I saw a whip-lash cracker lyin' there on the snow. 'Hello!' says I, 'someone's lost their whiplash'; and I see it was Tom Hurley's by the braid of it. I hadn't any more'n picked it up, 'fore it was jerked out of my hand, and Tom yells up, 'Leave that whip of mine alone, d-m ye! I've got a five hundred log peaker on the forty foot bunks and eight horses down here, and I need the lash to get her to the landin'.'

"They was big trees what Bunyan lumbered that winter, and one of them pretty near made trouble.

"They ust to keep a compitishun board hung in the commissary, showin' what each gang sawed for the week, and that's how it happened.

"Dutch Jake and me had picked out the biggest tree we could find on the forty, and we'd put in three days on the fellin' cut with our big saw, what was three cross-cuts brazed together, makin' 30 feet of teeth. We was getting' along fine on the fourth day when lunch time comes, and we thought we'd best get on the sunny side to eat. So we grabs our grub can and starts around that tree. We hadn't gone far when we heard a noise. Blames if there wasn't Bill Carter and Sailor Jack sawin' at the same tree.

"It looked like a fight at first, but we compromised, meetin' each other at the heart on the seventh day. They'd hacked her to fall to the north, and we'd hacked her to fall to the south, and there that blamed tree stood for a month or more, clean sawed through, but not knowin' which way to drop 'til a wind storm came along and blowed her over.

"Right in front of the bunk-house was a monster schoolma'am, what's two trees growed as one, so big she'd a put the line mills out of business. Joe Benoit and Dolph Burgoyne ust to say their A, B, C's in front of her, and soon learned to swear in English. Whenever we got lost on that pyramid 40, we'd just look around four ways 'til we see the schoolma'am's bonnet, and then we could strike for camp.

"You should have seen the big men what Bunyan put on the landin' that spring, when they commenced breakin' the rollways. All six-footers, and 200 pounds weight. Nothin' else could classify, and the fellows what didn't come up to the regulations was tailed off to burn smudges, just to keep the musketeters from botherin' the good men. Besides the landin' men got a double allowance of booze.

"I'll tell you how it come.

"Sour-faced Murphy was standin' in the kitchen one day lookin' worse than usual, and first thing the flunky knowed the water and potato parrins in his dish began to sizzle, and he saw right away that it was Murphy's face what was fermentin' them. He strained the stuff off, and sure enough he had some pretty fair booze, which was much like Irish whisky. After that Bunyan takes Murphy off the road and gave him a job as distillery.

"She broke up early that spring. The river was runnin' high, and black from the color of the snow, of course, and all hands went on the drive. Bunyan was sure that we would hit either the 'Sable' or Muskegon, and he cared not a dam which, fer logs was much the same allwheres.

"We run that drive for four weeks, makin' about a mile a day with the rear, when we struck a camp what had been a lumberin' big and had gone ahead with its drive, what must have been almost as large as Bunyan's from the signs on the banks. They'd been cuttin' on a hill forty too, which was peculiar, for we didn't know there could be two such places.

"We drove along for another month and hits another hill forty, deserted like the last one, and Paul begins to swear, for he sees the price of logs fallin' with all this lumberin' on the one stream.

"Well, we sacked and bulled them logs for five weeks more, and blamed if we didn't strike another hill forty. Then Bunyan gets wild! 'Boys,' he says, 'if we strike any more of them d-n camps, logs won't be worth 30 cents a thousand, and I won't be able to pay you off-perhaps some of you want to bunch her? Let's camp and talk it over,' he says.

"So we hits for the deserted shacks, and turnin' the pyramid corner, we who was leadin' butts right into-our schoolma'am! And there at her feet was those two coons what had been blown up months ago, and at their feet was the hams! Then we knowed it was Round river, and we'd druv it three times.

"Did we ever locate it again? Well, some!

"Tom Mellin and I runs a line west, out of Graylin' some years afterwards when logs get high, thinkin' to take them out with a dray-haul, and we finds the old camp on section 37. But the stream had gone dry, and a fire had run through that country makin' an awlful slashin' and those Round river logs was charcoal."

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