Added 15 Mar 2000
"river driving" stories are from an oral biography of
Percy Christie compiled by Mary J. Williams.
Percy was born in 1890 at Oak Hill, Saint James Parish, Charlotte Co. Percy and Bessie, his wife, were our
neighbors in Calais ME when I was a child. They were wonderful, loving people and spoiled us terribly.
Hope you find some names and places you know and, if not, that you enjoy the stories. - Karen Howell
Did you ever work on the river drive?
I went river drivin' that Spring up on Canoose. Then, I got a little bolder, and I went river drivin' up at a place called LaCoot and Bolton, both near Spednic Lake, up that way. That was pretty good. Then I went to Boston, and I couldn't make as much money in Boston as I could in the woods, see? They paid me...well, I wasn't worth nothin' 'cause I couldn't find my way around. They'd tell you to go do an errand someplace, and it might be an hour before you could find your way back. But after it did come to you, it all came right at once, yeah."
Do you recall any specific instances when you were working in the woods?
We'd been up here in Loon Bay in the woods, then we left to go up there drivin' till the 23rd of March. Then went down and got out a big pile of wood, about 100 cords, us boys and father. Then we started goin' river drivin' and we hired with Jim Rideout to go to Bolton, and took the Canadian Pacific Railroad there at Moores Mills and went up to Vanceboro, and took a boat up across Spednic Lake, and then sacked provisions and everything, 'way up to Bolton Lake, at the upper end. And then the drive started, and everybody got their different stations along. Then there'd be jams come and they'd call everybody to bust 'em up. So that time there was a man come there, I think he was a boss, and he was drowned right there at the mouth of Bolton, and they brought someone down from Bangor to help find his body. And they found it, floatin' on an undercurrent underneath.
And then they had a big jam of logs. They called everybody on to bust it up, and the boss wanted three awful good men, and the first one he took after he looked them over was his oldest son, Osk. Then he said after another look around, "Gaston, you'll be the second one." (Gaston was his second son.) Then another peek around and says, "And I'll go myself." And there was about 150 men there that could river drive like you couldn't shoot 'em off a log!
But in the wet like ... sleepin' nights, you was always soppin' wet. But you never got any cold, nothin' like that. Four feeds a day, two out on the job and two in the camp. And you got to be quite a cook. You drank your beans instead of eatin' them.
One think happened that Spring. They brought the logs across Bolton Lake. You bring 'em across with what you call headworks. You tramp around and around andaround. If the wind is with you, you work all night, or whenever, long's it's with you. And they'd brought 'em across first and made fast for the crew to come up and start drivin'. A wind came up and busted where they was, and they went right straight back where they came from, see? All scattered through the woods, but they gathered them up. Horace Glidden was my boss. You know who Horace Glidden was?
Yes, I remember he lived on Hardscrabble Road. [Horace was my great grandfather; Hardscrabble Road is south of Calais. - Karen]
Well, Horace was the boss, and I couldn't swim, and I got off of the bracket boom and I know he reached out his pickpole and got me back in. It was pretty cold business out there on account of snowin' and early Spring drivin', just when the ice went out. Anyway we had a few fellers you probably heard of.
There was a feller from over DeWolfe Corner way, and his sons was there, and they entertained the crowd nights by makin' fun of there father, what he had to say. He was really comical.
Did you go river driving more than one spring?
LaCoote was another drive. That was another boss, Harry Mann. I guess that was the next Spring because they had to dynamite the ice out. But it was a rugged job. When them jams started, the Cantabury fellers would jump aboard them logs and water was so rough, and froth flyin', but they could always hang right on, and it was really risky, but no one was ever hurt or drowned. That was what they call "quick water". The other places are "dead water" and you got to pole and prod them through.
There was one feller, his name was Wilmot Christie, and he kinda picked on us younger fellers and so I took a pole and give the log he was standin' on a push and knocked him head over heels in the water. But it didn't do no good. He went to camp and stayed there all day and we had to do his work! They would always watch when logs started backin' up, know there was trouble, and try to stop the think a'fore it got too bad. Now and then, have to dynamite 'em, yeah.
Then comin' down, when they'd come down, they'd stop at Vanceboro and they'd pretty well...soon's they got their vouchers cashed, they'd all get about half stewed. I knew one feller was kickin' the light in the car (train) kickin' at'em, and he struck his head out the window to say something, and they pushed the window down, with his tongue stickin' out, and the train goin'. But it was good fun. There was always something different and excitin'.
There was two McGaw boys, and one of them liked to cook. He'd play tricks on his brother, and there were cracks in the cookroom wall so he could peek in and see what was goin' on. He put some powder, emptied out a shell, into the bottom of the bowl of his brother's corncob pipe and then tamped the tobacco in all good. Then he watched through the cracks in the cookroom wall to see what happened. His brother lit the pipe and off she went, whole bowl blown to smithereens and him standin' there with the stem in his teeth. But he told the fellers to make as if nothin' had happened, a cause he knew the cook would be watchin' through the cracks.
Yeah, used to have some pretty good times on the drive.