The picturesque lumber regions of the North and Northwest, which once produced most of the lumber supply, are now almost destitute of pine and cedar, the woods which once made them famous, and are cut ting timber formerly despised. The well-known log ging scenes of the New England States will live only in pictures and history, and when the supply in the northern Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin forests is exhausted, there is only the Pacific slope on which to depend on the American side. Across the Great Lakes on the Canadian side lies one of the largest timber reserves in the world. There is a great deal of the timber land of Canada which has not been sur veyed yet, so, in spite of the tariff imposed, it is not unlikely that we will be able to draw from Canada for many years after our own supply is exhausted. In fact, much timber cut on the other side of the line has been shipped to this country. It is said that there is a timber belt of at least three thousand miles in Canada. Estimating the amount of timber still stand ing in the United States, and that which we could draw from our neighbor country, it will be nearly a century before a substitute will be necessary. Of course the Forestry Department is not idle in the meantime, and active steps are being taken to maintain the reserves and plant new trees. When the immensity of the industry forces itself upon the attention, it is little wonder that one is in terested in the men who do the actual work. Early in the fall the lumberman sends out his "tote teams," with supplies to last for the season, from the centers of northern Michigan, Wisconsin, and Min nesota, and he gathers a heterogeneous lot of men, known as "lumber jacks," comprising men of almost every nation under the sun, who leave civilized life, and go back close to "nature's heart" and to labor as did their forefathers in the days before luxuries warp ed their strength. Their work, in spite of the many labor-saving devices of the day, is that of the primitive man. The discipline of the camp life is rigid. The men are up at four o'clock in the morning, and work from dawn until dark. At night their lights are out at nine. There are no holidays except Sundays. No liquor is sold or allowed to be used in the lumber camp. The cook and his assistants are the first out in the morning, and have breakfast ready as soon as the men are up. The menu of the camp is very different from that of a few years ago. Now coffee, sugar, condensed milk and cream, unknown luxuries to the camp of even twenty years ago, are daily staples. Their hard outdoor life strengthens these men phys ically, and when one sees a large crowd of them eating their dinner in the open with all the gusto of a school boy, while the temperature is sixty degrees below freezing, one is disposed to envy them. The plan of bringing out the midday meal to the men, instead of having them leave their work and trudge back to camp, is a recent idea and saves much time, besides being very pleasing to the men. The cook, with his "run about," brings the dinner, "red hot," to the nearest opening, or clearing space, summons the men with his whistle, and they sit about on logs or on the snow and partake of dinner utterly disregarding the weather. It is at the evening meal that you see the men at their best. They relax and thoroughly enjoy them selves. After supper they retire to the bunk-house and smoke. One might feel a little "finical" about sleeping in a room after fifty or sixty ill-smelling pipes of all sorts and conditions had been filled with tobacco, the odor of which baffles description, but this, like eating out of doors with the thermometer thirty degrees below zero, is an acquired taste. It is only natural that there should be all kinds of men in a camp—garrulous, noisy men; sullen, morose, and reticent men. Sometimes sickness or death re veals the fact that a man who in camp is known as John Smith really was given a name quite different when he came into the world, and perhaps sold his birthright for drink, crime, or for some other reason. A camp is usually loyal though, and John Smith he remains to the end of the chapter if he so desires. Then there is the born entertainer, quite a different sort of a fellow, who always has a story and who is always in demand. The lumber jack, like the dog with a bad name, is often a maligned individual, not being collectively any better or any worse than other men. It is said that nine out of ten lumber jacks are intemperate, and it is certain that the drink habit is the prevailing evil. The very strictness with which the liquor law is enforced during the long lumbering seasons seems to foster the desire; and in the spring, when released from the camp, the majority of the men never get beyond the Bowery district of their home town, always conveniently near to their landing place, until every cent of their hard-earned money is gone. It is said that the moral status of lumber camps has improved in the past few years, owing to the dis tribution of good literature, missionary efforts, and the infusion of a number of better class laborers, notably Pinlanders. In every camp there is a "general store," where everything from a needle to a suit of clothes is kept, and an account run with every man. Each camp also has its own blacksmith and harness shops; in other words, each camp is a small settlement, complete within itself. One thing done quite early in the season is the con struction of an ice road by means of a large water cart. And this roadway aids greatly the hauling of logs. The methods of handling and hauling the giant logs differ in different parts of the country. In the South, an axle with the large wheels and the chain are used, in other places oxen are used, in Minnesota and Michigan horses and sleds are used, and an ice road is made at the beginning of the season by means of a sprinkling cart, and in this way it is comparatively easy to draw a load quite a distance to the rollway. In Oregon and Washington traction engines are used to haul the timber from the cutting points to the place of shipment. On the Great Lakes the lumber boats are among the largest of the modern water craft. It is quite a sight to see two medium-sized horses drawing an immense load of logs with so little appar ent effort, this ease being entirely due to the ice road way spoken of previously. When the trees are felled and sawed into logs, they are skidded into piles by the side of the ice road. This "skidding" is done by means of a small sled, to one end of which the logs are fastened while the other drags upon the ground. Modern skidding is done by means of a skidding machine. Loading logs is an achievement of itself. It is done by means of horses, or by a machine. The banking ground, or rollway, is usually beside a river or stream of some kind, down which the logs are floated to a shipping point. With the breaking up of the ice in the spring, these large piles of logs are rolled into the stream, to be brought to the mills. This is a most interesting and exciting time. The drivers, as they are called, the men who guide these immense lots of logs, are necessarily men of strength, quickness of perception, and nerve, for it is a very perilous occupation, and in which many lives have been lost. The most expert of these men ride upon the swiftly-moving logs, jump ing from one to another when the case requires it, and being a second too late will cost them their lives. When, passing through some narrows, a log is caught, causing hundreds of others to pile up, raising the water and forming what is known as a jam, a driver has the opportunity to show his mettle, for this is the real danger. There are what are called "key logs" ir. this jam, that is, logs which, if released, will ease the congestion, and it is locating these and releasing them which becomes the driver's duty. Sometimes this is not easily done, and frequently a driver loses his life because he is not sufficiently agile to escape, once the fallen giants are released. In many portions of the country rafts are used, as for instance in the South and on the Columbia River, rafts of from five to six million feet of logs are not uncommon. In the early days on the Great Lakes, rafts were brought down to the harbors of Lake Erie, where the sawmills were located. For the past num ber of years, however, the mills have been located at the shipping points, and the lumber is shipped on the boats. There are over three hundred lumber boats depending for cargoes on the lumber of northern Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin, loading at Du-luth, Superior, and other points. Sometimes there is more than a million feet of lum ber in one load, and it can be readily estimated what a statement of this kind would mean, when one real izes that there are some dozen or more lumber harbors on the American side of the Great Lakes. Chicago, Cleveland, Duluth, Erie, and Tonawanda are all large distributing points, and each has received more than five million feet of lumber during one shipping season. It would be interesting to figure the number of car loads this would make, estimating the carrying ca pacity of a car at forty thousand feet. The German army authorities have just commenced, and will continue until January 15, 1908, an important series of experiments in wireless telegraphy at Metz and Strasburg, and at the six leading fortresses of Konigsberg, Thorn, Danzig, Posen, Cologne, and Mainz. One thousand reservists, who have served as military telegraphists, have been called upon to work with those now serving with the army.
This article was originally published with the title "Logging in the Northwest" in Scientific American 97, 21, 375 (November 1907)