the Rough-and-Tumble Landing.
THE soft smell
of thawing snow was in the air, proclaiming April to the
senses of the lumbermen as unmistakably as could any calendar.
The ice had gone out of the Big
Aspohegan with a rush. There was an air of expectation
about the camp. Everything was ready for a start down-stream.
The hands who had all winter been chopping and hauling
in the deep woods were about to begin the more toilsome
and perilous task of “driving” the logs down
the swollen river to the great booms and unresting mills
about its [Page 97] mouth. One thing
only remained to be done ere the drive could get under
way. The huge “brow” of logs overhanging the
stream had yet to be released. To whom would fall the
task of accomplishing its release, was a question still
The perils of “stream-driving”
on a bad river have been dwelt upon, I suppose, by every
writer who has occupied his pen at all with the life of
the lumber-camps. But to the daring backwoodsman there
seldom falls a task more hazardous than that of cutting
loose a brow of logs when the logs have been piled in
the form of what is called a “rough-and-tumble landing.”
Such a landing is constructed by driving long timbers
into the mud at the water’s edge, below a steep
piece of bank. Along the inner side of these are laid
horizontally a certain number of logs, to form a water
front; and into the space behind are tumbled helter-skelter
[Page 98] from the tops of the bank the
logs of the winter’s chopping. It is a very simple
and expeditious way of storing the logs. But when the
ice has run out, and it is time to start the lumber down-stream,
then comes trouble. The piles sustaining the whole vast
weight of the brow have to be cut away, and the problem
that confronts the chopper is how to escape the terrific
rush of the falling logs.
McElvey, the boss of the Aspohegan camp, swinging an axe
(rather as a badge of office than because he thought he
might want to chop anything), sauntered down to the water’s
edge and took a final official glance at the brow of logs.
Its foundations had been laid while McElvey was down with
a touch of fever, and he was ill satisfied with them.
For perhaps the fiftieth time, he shook his head and grumbled,
“It’s goin’ to be a resky job gittin’
[Page 99] them logs clear.” Then
he rejoined the little cluster of men on top of the bank.
he did so, a tall girl with splendid red hair came out
of the camp and stepped up to his side. This was Laurette,
the boss’s only daughter, who had that morning driven
over from the settlements in the back country, to bring
him some comforts of mended woollens and to bid “the
drive” God-speed. From McElvey the girl inherited
her vivid hair and her superb proportions; and from her
mother, who had been one Laurette Beaulieu, of Grande
Anse, she got her mirthful black eyes and her smooth,
dusky complexion, which formed so striking a contract
to her radiant tresses. A little conscious of all the
eyes that centred upon her with varying degrees of admiration,
love, desire, or self-abasing devotion, she felt the soft
color deepen in her cheeks as [Page 100] she
playfully took possession of McElvey’s axe.
not goin’ to do it, father, I reckon!” she
“No, sis,” answered
the boss, smiling down at her, “leastways, not unless
the hands is all scared.”
who is goin’ to?” she inquired, letting
her glance sweep rapidly over the stalwart forms that
surrounded her. A shrewd observer might have noted that
her eyes shyly avoided one figure, that stood a little
apart from the rest,—the figure of a strongly-built
man of medium size, who looked small among his large-moulded
fellows. As for Jim Reddin, who was watching the girl’s
every movement, his heart tightened with a bitter pang
as her eyes thus seemed to pass him over. Having, for
all his forty years, a plentiful lack of knowledge of
the feminine heart and its methods, he imagined himself
ignored. And [Page 101] yet had he not
Laurette’s promise that none other than he should
have the privilege of driving her home to the settlements
what we’re just a-goin’ to decide,”
said McElvey, in answer to Laurette’s question.
“But first,” he continued, with a sly chuckle,
“hadn’t you better pick out the feller that’s
goin’ to drive you home, sis? We’re goin’
to be powerful well occupied, all hands, when we git a
start on them logs, I tell you!”
this suggestion a huge young woodsman who was standing
behind some of the others, out of Laurette’s range
of vision, started eagerly forward. Bill Goodine was acknowledged
to be the best-looking man on the Big Aspohegan,—an
opinion in which he himself most heartily concurred. He
was also noted as a wrestler and fighter. He was an ardent
admirer of Laurette; but his [Page 102] passion
had not taught him any humility, and he felt confident
that in order to gain the coveted honor of driving the
girl home he had nothing to do but apply for it. He felt
that it would hardly be the “square thing”
to put Laurette to the embarrassment of inviting him right
there before all the hands. Before he could catch her
eye, however, Laurette had spoken what surely the devil
of coquetry must have whispered in her ear. Undoubtedly,
she had promised Jim Reddin that he should drive her home.
But “let him show that he appreciates the favor,”
she thought to herself; and aloud, with a toss of her
head, she exclaimed, “I’ll take the one that
cuts out the logs,—if he wants to come!”
effect of this speech was instantaneous. Fully half the
hands stepped forward, exclaiming, “I’ll do
it!—I’ll do it, boss!—I’m [Page
103] your man, Mr. McElvey!” But Bill Goodine
sprang to the front with a vigor that brushed aside all
in his path. Thrusting himself in front of the laughing
McElvey, he shouted, “I spoke first! I claim the
job!” And, snatching up an axe, he started down
on!” shouted McElvey; but Goodine paid no attention.
“Come back, I tell you!” roared the boss.
“The job’s yours, so hold on!” Upon
this Bill came swaggering back, and gazed about him triumphantly.
guess I’m your teamster, eh, Laurette?”
he murmured. But, to his astonishment, Laurette did not
seem to hear him. She was casting quick glances of anger
and disappointment in the direction of Jim Reddin, who
leaned on a sled-stake and appeared to take no interest
in the proceedings. Goodine flushed with jealous wrath,
and was about to [Page 104] fling some
gibe at Reddin, when McElvey remarked,—
all very well, sis; and it has kinder simplified matters
a lot. But I’m thinkin’ you’d better
have another one of the boys to fall back on. This ’ere’s
an onusual ticklish job; and the feller as does it’ll
be lucky if he comes off with a whole skin.”
At these words so plain an expression
of relief went over Laurette’s face that Bill Goodine
could not contain himself.
Reddin dasn’t do it,” he muttered
to her, fiercely.
girl drew herself up. “I never said he dast,”
she replied. “An’ what’s Jim Reddin
to me, I’d like to know?” And then, being
furious at Jim, at herself, and at Goodine, she was on
the point of telling the latter that he shouldn’t
drive her home, anyway, when she reflected that this would
excite comment [Page 105], and restrained
herself. But Reddin, who imagined that the whole thing
was a scheme on Laurette’s part for getting out
of her promise to him, and who felt, consequently, as
if the heavens were falling about his ears, had caught
Goodine’s mention of his name. He stepped up and
asked sharply, “What’s that about Jim Reddin?”
was gazing at him in a way that pierced his jealous pain
and thrilled his heart strangely; and as he looked at
her he began to forget Bill Goodine altogether. But Goodine
was not to be forgotten.
said,” he cried, in a loud voice, “that you,
Jim Reddin, jest dasn’t cut out them logs.
You think yourself some punkins, you do; but ye’re
a coward!” And, swinging his great form round insolently,
Goodine picked up his axe and sauntered down the bank.
Laurette, as well as most of [Page 106] the
hands, looked to see this insult promptly resented in
the only way consistent with honor. Redden, though tender-hearted
and slow to anger, was regarded as being, with the possible
exception of Goodine the strongest man in that section
of the country. He had proved his daring by many a bold
feat in the rapids and the jams; and his prowess as a
fighter had been displayed more than once when a backwoods
bully required a thrashing. But now he gave the Aspohegan
camp a genuine surprise. First, the blood left his face,
his eyes grew small and piercing, and his hands clenched
spasmodically as he took a couple of steps after Goodine’s
retreating figure. Then his face flushed scarlet, and
he turned to Laurette with a look of absolutely piteous
can’t fight him,” he tried to explain,
huskily. “You don’t understand. I ain’t
afeard of him [Page 107], nor
of any man. But I vowed to his mother I’d be good
to the lad, and—”
I reckon I quite understand, Mr. Reddin,” interrupted
the girl, in a hard, clear voice; and, seeing the furious
scorn in her face, Reddin silently turned away.
scorn was sharpened by a sense of the bitterest disappointment.
She had allowed herself to give her heart to a coward,
whom she had fancied a hero. As she turned to her father,
big tears forced themselves into her eyes. But the episode
had passed quickly; and her distress was not observed,
as all attention now turned to Goodine and his perilous
undertaking. Only McElvey, who had suspected the girl’s
sentiments for some time, said in an undertone, “Jim
Reddin ain’t no coward, and don’t you forget
it, sis. But it is queer the way he’ll
just take anything at all from Bill [Page 108]
Goodine. It’s somethin’ we don’t
none of us understand.”
reckon he does well to be scared of him,” said Laurette,
with her head very high in the air.
this time Goodine had formed his plans, and had got to
work. At first he called in the assistance of two other
axemen, to cut certain of the piles which had no great
strain upon them. This done, the assistants returned to
safe quarters; and then Bill warily reviewed the situation.
“He knows what he’s about,” murmured
McElvey, with approbation, as Bill attacked another pile,
cut it two-thirds through, and left it so. Then he severed
completely a huge timber far on the left front of the
landing. There remained but two piles to withstand the
main push of the logs. One of these was in the centre,
the other a little to the right,—on which side the
chopper had to make his escape when the logs [Page
109] began to go. This latter pile Goodine now
cut half-way through. Feeling himself the hero of the
hour, he handled his axe brilliantly, and soon forgot
his indignation against Laurette. At length he attacked
the centre pile, the key to the whole structure.
at this point, held his breath. Loud sounded the measured
axe-strokes over the rush of the swollen river. No one
moved but Reddin, and no one but Laurette noticed his
movement. His skilled eye had detected a danger which
none of the rest perceived. He drew close to the brow,
and moved a little way down the bank.
can he be up to?” wondered Laurette; and then she
sniffed angrily because she had thought about him at all.
dealt a few cautious strokes upon the central pile, paused
a moment or two to reconnoitre [Page 110],
and then renewed his attack. Reddin became very fidgety.
He watched the logs, and shouted earnestly,—
“Better come out o’
that right now and finish on this ’ere nigh pile.”
looked up, eyed first his adviser, then very narrowly
the logs, and answered, tersely, “Go to h—ll!”
just like the both of ’em,” muttered McElvey,
as Goodine turned and resumed his chopping.
At this moment there came a sullen,
tearing sound; and the top of the near pile, which had
been half cut through, began to lean slowly, slowly. A
yell of desperate warning arose. Goodine dropped his axe,
turned like lightning, and made a tremendous leap of safety.
He gained the edge of the landing-front, slipped on an
oozy stone, and fell back with a cry of horror right beneath
the toppling mass of logs [Page 111].
his cry re-echoed from every throat, Jim Reddin dropped
beside him as swiftly and almost miraculously as a sparrow-hawk
flashes upon its prey. With a terrific surge he swung
Goodine backward and outward into the raging current,
but away from the face of the impending avalanche. Then,
as the logs all went with a gathering roar, he himself
sprang outward in a superb leap, splashed mightily into
the stream, disappeared, and came up some yards below.
Side by side the two men struck out sturdily for shore,
and in a couple of minutes their comrades’ eager
hands were dragging them up the bank.
I tell you Jim Reddin wasn’t no coward?”
said McElvey, with glistening eyes, to Laurette; and Laurette,
having no other way to relieve her excitement and give
vent to her revulsion of feelings, sat down on a sled
and cried most illogically [Page 112].
the two dripping men approached the camp, she looked up
to see a reconciliation. Presently Goodine emerged from
a little knot of his companions, approached Reddin, and
held out his hand.
ask yer pardon,” said he. “You’re a
man, an’ no mistake. It is my life I owe to you;
an’ I’m proud to owe it to sech as you!”
Reddin took no notice of the outstretched hand. The direct
and primitive movements of the backwoodsman’s mind
may seem to the sophisticated intelligence peculiar; but
they are easy to comprehend. Jim Reddin quite overlooked
the opportunity now offered for a display of exalted sentiment.
In a harsh, deliberate voice he said,—
now, Bill Goodine, you’ve got to stand up to me,
an’ we’ll see which is the better man, you
or me. Ever sence you growed up to be a man you’ve
used me just as mean [Page 113] as you
knowed how; an’ now we’ll fight it out right
At this went up a chorus of disapproval;
and Goodine said, “I’ll be d—d if I’m
a-goin’ to strike the man what’s jest saved
needn’t let that worry you, Bill,”
replied Reddin. “We’re quits there. I reckon
you forget as how your mother, God bless her, saved my
life, some twenty year back, when you was jest a-toddlin’.
An’ I vowed to her I’d be good to you the
very best I knowed how. An’ I’ve kep’
my vow. But now I reckon I’m quit of it; an if you
ain’t a-goin’ to give me satisfaction now
my hands is free, then you ain’t no man at all,
an’ I’ll try an’ find some way to make
right!—You’ve got to fight, Bill!—That’s
fair!” and many more exclamations of like character,
showed the drift of popular sentiment so plainly that
Goodine [Page 114] exclaimed, “Well,
if you sez so, it’s got to be! But I don’t
want to hurt you, Jim Reddin; an’ lick you I kin,
every day in the week, an’ you know it!”
a liar!” remarked Jim Reddin, in a business-like
voice, as the hands formed a ring.
this some of the hands laughed, and Goodine, glancing
around, caught the ghost of a smile on Laurette’s
face. This was all that was needed. The blood boiled up
to his temples, and with an oath under his breath he sprang
upon his adversary.
and instantaneously as a shadow Reddin eluded the attack.
And now his face lost its set look of injury and assumed
a smile of cheerful interest. Bill Goodine, in spite of
his huge bulk, had the elasticity and dash of a panther;
but his quickness was nothing to that of Reddin. Once
or twice the latter parried, with seeming ease, his most
destructive [Page 115] lunges, but more
often he contented himself with moving aside like a flash
of light. Presently Goodine cried out,—
don’t yer fight, like a man, stidder skippin’
out o’ the road like a flea?”
I don’t want to hurt you,” laughed Reddin.
that little boastful laugh delayed his movements, and
Goodine was upon him. Two or three terrible short-arm
blows were exchanged, and then the two men grappled.
em be,” ordered McElvey. “They’d better
wrastle than fight.”
a second or two, nay, for perhaps a whole minute, it looked
to the spectators as if Reddin must be crushed helpless
in Bill’s tremendous embrace. Then it began to dawn
on them that Reddin had captured the more deadly hold.
Then the dim rumors of Reddin’s marvellous strength
began to gather credence, as [Page 116] it
was seen how his grip seemed to dominate that of his great
For several minutes the straining
antagonists swayed about the ring. Then suddenly Reddin
straightened himself, and Bill’s hold slipped for
an instant. Before he could recover it Reddin had stooped,
secured a lower grip, and in a moment hurled his adversary
clear over his shoulder. A roar of applause went up from
the spectators; and Goodine, after trying to rise, lay
still and groaned, “I’m licked, Jim. I’ve
boss soon pronounced that Bill’s shoulder was dislocated,
and that he’d have to go back to the settlements
to be doctored. This being the case, Laurette said to
him benevolently, after her horse was harnessed to the
pung, “I’m sorry I can’t ask you to
drive me home, though you did cut out the logs,
Bill. But I reckon it’ll be the next best thing
fur you if I drive you home. An’
[Page 117] Jim Reddin’ll come along,
maybe, to kind of look after the both of us.”
To which proposition poor Bill
grinned a rather ghastly assent [Page 118].