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By Donald MacKay

Short-listed for the 1978 Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction

The nineteenth century spawned a different breed of fellows who took delight of their woodsmen abilities and tough codes of behavior. They known as themselves lumberers, shantymen, bushes beasts, les bucherons – and, extra lately, lumberjacks, operating within the substantial forests of jap Canada and British Columbia.

around the kingdom, farm boys could visit the woods, lumbering being the one iciness paintings on hand. Immigrants – Swedes and Finns quite often – resumed the trades that they had realized so good within the forests of northern Europe. They broke the chilly, not easy monotony of camp lifestyles with songs, tall stories and card video games.

inside of those pages, writer Donald MacKay permits us a glimpse into that second in our historical past while males entered the virgin woodland to carve out an from the doubtless never-ending array of pine, spruce, maple and balsam fir stumbled on there.

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Each one guy took one six-mile-long cruise line and those have been one facet of a township to a different. The township strains were blazed round 1909 via Ontario land surveyors. Farther north the strains have been 9 miles aside. the one details on these maps was once what the surveyor observed whilst he crossed rivers or excessive rock hills or parts burned through fireplace. The compassman may steer a direction sooner than you and make a path that you'd persist with and if he used to be reliable and there has been no magnetic distortion he’d pop out inside of a hundred yards of a survey submit on the different finish. The cruiser needed to determine the alterations within the different types of timber, the woodland combination, and we’d estimate via eye the cords in step with acre of pulpwood inside 1 / 4 acre pattern plot — fifty nine ft round us in a circle. what percentage timber have been within the plot, what they have been averaging, perhaps 8 inches in diameter at breast top. We’d estimate the age, forty or 60 years. “In 1924 I cruised up the Péribonka, 2 hundred miles north of Lac St. Jean above Chicoutimi in Quebec. i feel it was once the 1st time somebody explored into that area simply because there have been no Indian trails, even. No signal of whatever up there. It was once reliable bushes. there have been 20 folks yet we didn’t have stable nutrition on that task: sow stomach, prunes, beans, little or no that will hinder scurvy, and everyone acquired boils so rattling undesirable they can hardly ever paintings. We have been lovely robust men in these days. We’d hold eighty kilos, an 18-foot canoe weighed ninety, a few may possibly hold a hundred kilos over a portage. The Péribonka ran due north, an incredible river, approximately as vast because the Ottawa and entire of black flies. ” by way of the Twenties cruising used to be turning into a technological know-how. The cruising staff could degree and describe all of the timber on a strip all over a township, eleven ft on either side of a compass line, probably six strips or extra via a township. The six-mile meridian traces ran north and south and the bottom traces east and west, marked with spruce or cedar posts. First got here a compassman with a “two-chain,” which as soon as used to be a steel-link Gunter chain utilized by nineteenth century land surveyors yet which via the Nineteen Twenties were sophisticated to a 132-foot metal tape anchored to the again of a man’s belt. Checking his path with widespread compass readings, he could halt on the finish of every 132-foot span, “hang” a blaze mark on a tree together with his mild cruising awl, and stroll on. The caliperman with him may pattern the diameters of timber along with his 30-inch wood calipers, and the tallyman, frequently the chief of the workforce, might observe down the wooded area forms which the contours of the land, the hills and streams and valleys. in view that a stand of white pine, for instance, may are likely to run alongside a hillside, the strips have been lower around the contours of the land with a purpose to comprise a pattern of all kinds of timber. A group might cruise approximately 10 in keeping with cent of a space to be reduce, jotting down info to be labored up later into distinct maps. they'd pattern the a long time of the timber with a metal borer which pulled a plug out of a tree so the earrings might be counted, the sunshine strains of summer season progress and the darkish traces of iciness.

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