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Submitted by Nute Chapman, written by Clifford Knowles
From Onaway Outlook May 17, 2013
CAPTION #1: A TYPICAL SCENE at suppertime in a lumber Camp. Take note that three of the men are undoubtedly
in their teens.
CAPTION #2: PART OF THE CREW getting ready to start their day. Note the ladies about to get into the cutter. The gentleman standing in the doorway of the cook shack is holding a large broom.
CAPTION #3: THE COOK, bottom front, and perhaps his wife and daughters on the bench have 31 lumberjacks surrounding them. One can only imagine the pancakes and bacon that this crew would eat. Note the coats hung on the outside of the building.
Noon hour approaches; we return to the engine and in a brief space of time have our feet under the long tables in the mess hall of the lumber camp. This building also contains the kitchen and the commissary. Everything is scrupulously clean and in order. Pete Jackson, the chef, knows the appetite of the woodsman and the two tables were covered with generous portions of boiled beef, potatoes, baked beans, green peas, cucumbers, fresh corn, apple pie, fried cakes and homemade cookies.
Conversation was conspicuous by its absence at the tables and I was later informed that unnecessary talk is prohibited during mealtime, thus eliminating possibilities for heated arguments and a free-for-all. Following the meal, I explored the camp proper, a blacksmith shop, barn, toolhouse and two bunkhouses, each containing a lounging room at the front. All buildings are of rough, undressed lumber, sturdily built to combat the rigors of the northern Michigan winters.
The camp has been three years upon the present site and occupies about two acres including two garden plots and ample space for horseshoe pitching-the sole outdoor diversion of the lumberjack.
The personnel of Camp No. 28 consists of three loaders, eight teamsters, one blacksmith, one chore boy, a train crew of two, chef and kitchen helper, ten sawyers and a camp boss. The lumberjacks of this crew cut 6,000,000 feet of standing timber per year, and they stop not for rain, snow or cold, each working day finds these men at their labor. Their day begins at 4:30, which is breakfast time, and continues until 6 p.m. The chef arises at 3:30 and begins his duties, which ends at 7 p.m.
A lumber camp is designated by numbers, which increase one numeral each time the camp moves to a new location. Three months more and Camp 28 will be deserted and these woodsmen will make their last move in this 2,500-acre tract when they enter Camp 29, which is now under construction about three miles from Onaway.
Two years at the new camp will bring to an end the logging industry in this region, if not in all of Michigan south of the Mackinac straits. Thirty years ago this section was one vast stretch of timberland comprising an area extending north from Bay City to the northern peninsula and across the state east to west. Towns and villages have followed in the wakes of the lumberjacks, only to be deserted or burned out as the timberline was gradually pushed north.
In mid afternoon the train crew was ready to start the return trip so I climbed aboard old No. 2. Fireman Ray Heffner had 160 pounds of steam up, but even this pressure seems inadequate to pull approximately 50,000 feet of logs over tracks containing numerous curves and inclines, but Bill Comfort knew his engine and it responded courageously to the demands.
As the camp faded into the distant horizon and the Dinkey gradually approached the clearings, I realized I was leaving the environs of an industry rich in color, romance and tradition that will soon pass into history I was crossing the last frontier, which characterized the progress and restlessness of a people born to conquer.
In Denny McDouwd I could vision the spirit of the pioneer of the century ago as he blazed the trail through dense forests and trekked the broad prairies, ever seeking the Eldorado, but never contented unless living close to nature.
-From The Onaway Outlook, May 17, 2013, p. 3. Retyped by J. Anderson.