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 Mountain Logger
 The Beginning


          It’s fall and the hogs are slaughtered and the meat is preserved. You are watching the wife and kids finishing canning. Jellies and jams are being prepared on the “cook stove” in the kitchen and water is boiling in the old wash tub, in the back yard, to can the green beans. As you sit on the back porch chewing your tobacco you watch the youngest of your children clean the last of the vegetables for “end of the garden salad”. You like that salad to go with salt pork, pinto beans and cornbread on a cold winter night because it reminds you of spring. Spring! The time to rake the winter clutter of the garden and go “green picken”. All the neighbors say that your old women (wife regardless of age) can spy ramps, tangle gut and joe pie a mile away. It’s a good thing because the only greens you “know” are the turnip greens that sprout in the garden and polk salad. It will be a long time till March.

          For some reason you look toward the green beans hanging at the end of the porch, hanging there and drying in the air so “shuck beans” or “leather britches” can be enjoyed at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Your world revolves around these holidays and you take a minute to talk to God. You know that you can’t pray out loud as long as some of those people at the association meetings or sing a sermon for three hours like some preachers can do, but you know He listens. How did you learn this?

          It must have been a life time of getting up early, eating wholesome food and drinking water from the spring while working hard in the clean air. You always enjoyed taking a break about mid morning to watch the fog rise from the valley floor so she always packed an extra square of cornbread with a piece of pork for you to have. You drink water with your snack, coffee was used sparingly because obtaining it took a long ride on horse back from Delbarton to Williamson and cash money. Suddenly you thought about money, money for the doctor, for flour and spices, nails, shoes, school supplies and food if it ran out during  the winter.

          You feel that you have saved back enough money for the winter and you know that if there is a problem the neighbors will help. It takes a while to walk to your closest neighbor and a long ride to reach others but you are thankful for them. You always let visitors share your table and sleep in the barn, so you could help them and hear the latest news. If a neighbor falls sick and needs help with the chores or if a barn needs raised or house built, every one pitches in. The kids are safe because everyone watches out for them. Boys of various ages can play in the same ball game since the big guys give the little ones a chance and they will watch out for them like a father. Money on the other hand is every ones safety net and hard to come by.  Best not to depend on the neighbors for money.

          After all this thinking you realize that the family’s cash supply is replenished with the spring rain as well and, as always, you look to the hills.

          Time to go to the barn to get your log stamp and to clean the grease of the old cross cut saw, you remember putting grease on it so it wouldn’t rust but does it need sharpened? This winter that oldest boy can help! He spent all last year laying behind the cook stove with his school books and an oil lamp studying for his final test. He did score pretty high on his exams and now he has graduated from the eighth grade! If we had roads and more schools that boy could give anybody’s child, any where, a run for their money.

          You will log this winter just like last winter. The crosscut saw is used to  make a level cut to nearly  the center of the log on the side facing the direction that you want it to fall, use the ax to cut a notch above the saw cut and then from the other side, start a level saw cut 2 or 3 inches above the first  cut. Before the last cut reaches the center of the log the tree will begin to lean. Don’t forget to run, the end of the log can kick back and branches can break off. The logs will be stamped on their ends, and with the help of the neighbors, dragged over saplings laid across their path to the sandbars for the spring floods to carry them to Naugutuck. From there they will float  down the Tug Fork to the long boom at Lousia. The nagging feeling that someone caught some of your logs, dehorned them by cutting the ends off, and re-stamped them always comes back.

          Those big yellow poplars up there in the left branch would fetch a good price at Lousia if you can get them there and get credit for them. Suddenly you remember the big singing convention this summer. Now that was something! The whole family mounted up and rode across Buffalo and Sycamore mountain to Williamson. You managed to get there before they let the cables down at the ford so the steamboat could get to the Mouth of Pond. (The site of this ford was located near where the end of Pike Street is today.)

          That was a beautiful evening sitting on a quilt, pulling pieces of chicken and pie out of that big wicker picnic basket, funny, your favorite was always cold baked potatoes with saltine crackers and lemonade from that old crock that kept it cool. That old fellow from Johns Creek was a talker but what he said makes a lot of sense to you now. If they wanted to splash logs out of a branch having a very small flow they would lay two logs across the stream with one being higher and a little down stream of the other. After a walk way was constructed behind the upper log a wall of 2 x 3 inch timber was placed across them to make a dam. They would blow it up after all the logs were floating. Now there is black powder left over from working the coal bank this summer.

          Your thoughts return to those big poplars and the money they would fetch at Lousia, you might be able to go to one of them Williamson banks and open a savings account for the first time. But, what if the spring rains don’t come right and there is no big raise to wash the logs downstream, or what if someone dehorns the logs?

          If Delbarton had a splash dam we could tie our logs together and splash then down Pigeon Creek when we were ready. We could ride the rafts and have some long poles to guide them so they don’t jam and we will collect the money due us when we get to Lousia. It will take us two days to walk back so we will have to sleep in some ones barn, and we will have to send someone to walk to Naugutuck to warn people to keep their kids back from the creek on the day of the run.

          It seemed pretty clear to you on that fall evening that Delbarton needed a splash dam.

By: Marvin Vernatter
November 2005

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