The Blazed Trail

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The Blazed Trail


     The Blazed TrailWhite, Stewart Edward . The Blazed Trail

     Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library

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     About the electronic version

     The Blazed Trail

     White, Stewart Edward

     Illustrator Thomas Fogarty

     Creation of machine-readable version: The Naked Word

     Conversion to TEI.2-conformant markup: University of Virginia Library Electronic

     Text Center. ca. 675 kilobytes

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     Publicly accessible



     About the print version

     The Blazed Trail

     Stewart Edward White

     Illustrator Thomas Fogarty 5 p. l., 3-413 p. front., plates. 19 cm.

     McClure, Phillips & co.

     New York


     Source copy consulted: PS3545.H6 B55 1902 Alderman Library, University of


     Prepared for the University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center.

     Published: 1902

     English fiction prose masculine LCSH

     Revisions to the electronic version

     2000 corrector John Picker, Electronic Text Center

     Added TEI header and tags, scanned images

     etextcenter@virginia.edu. Commercial use prohibited; all usage governed by our

     Conditions of Use: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/conditions.html

     "Oh!" she cried, "I love you; I love you all!"

     The Blazed Trail


     Stewart Edward White

     Author of The Westerners

     Illustrated by Thomas Fogarty

     New York

     McClure, Phillips & Co.


     Part II of this book appeared in McClure's Magazine for December, 1901, and

     January and February, 1902, under the title of "The Forest Runner."


     My Father

     from whose early pioneer life are drawn

     many of Harry Thorpe's


     A Table of the Contents

     PART I Page

     THE FOREST????1

     PART II

     THE LANDLOOKER????111



     PART IV


     PART V


     PART I


     Chapter I

     WHEN history has granted him the justice of perspective, we shall know the

     American Pioneer as one of the most picturesque of her many figures.

     Resourceful, self-reliant, bold; adapting himself with fluidity to diverse

     circumstances and conditions; meeting with equal cheerfulness of confidence and

     completeness of capability both unknown dangers and the perils by which he has

     been educated; seizing the useful in the lives of the beasts and men nearest

     him, and assimilating it with marvellous rapidity; he presents to the world a

     picture of complete adequacy which it would be difficult to match in any other

     walk of life. He is a strong man, with a strong man's virtues and a strong man's

     vices. In him the passions are elemental, the dramas epic, for he lives in the

     age when men are close to nature, and draw from her their forces. He satisfies

     his needs direct from the earth. Stripped of all the towns can give him, he

     merely resorts to a facile substitution. It becomes an affair of rawhide for

     leather, buckskin for cloth, venison for canned tomatoes. We feel that his steps

     are planted on solid earth, for civilizations may crumble without disturbing his

     magnificent self-poise. In him we perceive dimly his environment. He has

     something about him which other men do not possess -- a frank clearness of the

     eye, a swing of the shoulder, a carriage of the hips, a tilt of the hat, an air

     of muscular well-being -- which marks him as belonging to the advance guard,

     whether he wears buckskin, mackinaw, sombrero, or broadcloth. The woods are

     there, the plains, the rivers. Snow is there, and the line of the prairie.

     Mountain peaks and still pine forests have impressed themselves subtly; so that

     when we turn to admire his unconsciously graceful swing, we seem to hear the ax

     biting the pine, or the prospector's pick tapping the rock. And in his eye is

     the capability of quiet humor, which is just the quality that the surmounting of

     many difficulties will give a man.

     Like the nature he has fought until he understands, his disposition is at

     once kindly and terrible. Outside the subtleties of his calling, he sees only

     red. Relieved of the strenuousness of his occupation, he turns all the force of

     the wonderful energies that have carried him far where other men would have

     halted, to channels in which a gentle current makes flood enough. It is the

     mountain torrent and the canal. Instead of pleasure he seeks orgies. He runs to

     wild excesses of drinking, fighting, and carousing -- which would

frighten most

     men to sobriety -- with a happy, reckless spirit that carries him beyond the

     limits of even his extraordinary forces.

     This is not the moment to judge him. And yet one cannot help admiring the

     magnificently picturesque spectacle of such energies running riot. The power is

     still in evidence, though beyond its proper application.

     Chapter II

     IN the network of streams draining the eastern portion of Michigan and known

     as the Saginaw waters, the great firm of Morrison & Daly had for many years

     carried on extensive logging operations in the wilderness. The number of their

     camps was legion, of their employees a multitude. Each spring they had gathered

     in their capacious booms from thirty to fifty million feet of pine logs.

     Now at last, in the early eighties, they reached the end of their holdings.

     Another winter would finish the cut. Two summers would see the great mills at

     Beeson Lake dismantled or sold, while Mr. Daly, the "woods partner" of the

     combination, would flit away to the scenes of new and perhaps more extensive

     operations. At this juncture Mr. Daly called to him John Radway, a man whom he

     knew to possess extensive experience, a little capital, and a desire for more of


     "Radway," said he, when the two found themselves alone in the mill office,

     "we expect to cut this year some fifty millions, which will finish our pine

     holdings in the Saginaw waters. Most of this timber lies over in the Crooked

     Lake district, and that we expect to put in ourselves. We own, however, five

     million on the Cass Branch which we would like to log on contract. Would you

     care to take the job?"

     "How much a thousand do you give?" asked Radway.

     "Four dollars," replied the lumberman.

     "I'll look at it," replied the jobber.

     So Radway got the "descriptions" and a little map divided into townships,

     sections, and quarter sections; and went out to look at it. He searched until he

     found a "blaze" on a tree, the marking on which indicated it as the corner of a

     section. From this corner the boundary lines were blazed at right angles in

     either direction. Radway followed the blazed lines. Thus he was able accurately

     to locate isolated "forties" (forty acres), "eighties," quarter sections, and

     sections in a primeval wilderness. The feat, however, required considerable

     woodcraft, an exact sense of direction, and a pocket compass.

     These resources were still further drawn upon for the next task. Radway

     tramped the woods, hills, and valleys to determine the most practical route over

     which to build a logging road from the standing timber to the shores of Cass

     Branch. He found it to be an affair of some puzzlement. The pines stood on a

     country rolling with hills, deep with pot-holes. It became necessary to dodge in

     and out, here and there, between the knolls, around or through the swamps, still

     keeping, however, the same general direction, and preserving always the

     requisite level or down grade. Radway had no vantage point from which to survey

     the country. A city man would promptly have lost himself in the tangle; but the

     woodsman emerged at last on the banks of the stream, leaving behind him a

     meandering trail of clipped trees that wound, twisted, doubled, and turned, but

     kept ever to a country without steep hills. From the main road he purposed

     arteries to tap the most distant parts.

     "I'll take it," said he to Daly.

     Now Radway happened to be in his way a peculiar character. He was acutely

     sensitive to the human side of those with whom he had dealings. In fact, he was

     more inclined to take their point of view than to hold his own. For that reason,

     the subtler disputes were likely to go against him. His desire to avoid coming

     into direct collision of opinion with the other man, veiled whatever of justice

     might reside in his own contention. Consequently it was difficult for him to

     combat sophistry or a plausible appearance of right. Daly was perfectly aware of

     Radway's peculiarities, and so proceeded to drive a sharp bargain with him.

     Customarily a jobber is paid a certain proportion of the agreed price as

     each stage of the work is completed -- so much when the timber is cut; so much

     when it is skidded, or piled, so much when it is stacked at the river, or

     banked; so much when the "drive" down the waters of the river is finished. Daly

     objected to this method of procedure.

     "You see, Radway," he explained, "it is our last season in the country. When

     this lot is in, we want to pull up stakes, so we can't take any chances on not

     getting that timber in. If you don't finish your job, it keeps us here another

     season. There can be no doubt, therefore, that you finish your job. In other

     words, we can't take any chances. If you start the thing, you've got to carry it

     'way through."

     "I think I can, Mr. Daly," the jobber assured him.

     "For that reason," went on Daly, "we object to paying you as the work

     progresses. We've got to have a guarantee that you don't quit on us, and that

     those logs will be driven down the branch as far as the river in time to catch

     our drive. Therefore I'm going to make you a good price per thousand,


     payable only when the logs are delivered to our rivermen."

     Radway, with his usual mental attitude of one anxious to justify the other

     man, ended by seeing only his employer's argument. He did not perceive that the

     latter's proposition introduced into the transaction a gambling element. It

     became possible for Morrison & Daly to get a certain amount of work, short of

     absolute completion, done for nothing.

     "How much does the timber estimate?" he inquired finally.

     "About five millions."

     "I'd need a camp of forty or fifty men then. I don't see how I can run such

     a camp without borrowing."

     "You have some money, haven't you?"

     "Yes; a little. But I have a family, too."

     "That's all right. Now look here." Daly drew toward him a sheet of paper and

     began to set down figures showing how the financing could be done. Finally it

     was agreed. Radway was permitted to draw on the Company's warehouse for what

     provisions he would need. Daly let him feel it as a concession.

     All this was in August. Radway, who was a good practical woodsman, set about

     the job immediately. He gathered a crew, established his camp, and began at once

     to cut roads through the country he had already blazed on his former trip.

     Those of us who have ever paused to watch a group of farmers working out

     their road taxes, must have gathered a formidable impression of road-clearing.

     And the few of us who, besides, have experienced the adventure of a drive over

     the same highway after the tax has been pronounced liquidated, must have

     indulged in varied reflections as to the inadequacy of the result.

     Radway's task was not merely to level out and ballast the six feet of a

     road-bed already constructed, but to cut a way for five miles through the

     unbroken wilderness. The way had moreover to be not less than twenty-five feet

     wide, needed to be absolutely level and free from any kind of obstructions, and

     required in the swamps liberal ballasting with poles, called corduroys. To one

     who will take the trouble to recall the variety of woods, thickets, and jungles

     that go to make up a wooded country -- especially in the creek bottoms where a

     logging road finds often its levelest way -- and the piles of windfalls, vines,

     bushes, and scrubs that choke the thickets with a discouraging and inextricable

     tangle, the clearing of five miles to street width will look like an almost

     hopeless undertaking. Not only must the growth be removed, but the roots must be

     cut out, and the inequalities of the ground levelled or filled up. Reflect

     further that Radway had but a brief time at his disposal -- but a few months at

     most -- and you will then be in a position to gauge the first difficulties of

     those the American pioneer expects to encounter as a matter of course. The

     cutting of the road was a mere incident in the battle with the wilderness.

     The jobber, of course, pushed his roads as rapidly as possible, but was

     greatly handicapped by lack of men. Winter set in early and surprised him with

     several of the smaller branches yet to finish. The main line, however, was done.

     At intervals squares were cut out alongside. In them two long timbers, or

     skids, were laid andiron-wise for the reception of the piles of logs which would

     be dragged from the fallen trees. They were called skidways. Then finally the

     season's cut began.

     The men who were to fell the trees, Radway distributed along one boundary of

     a "forty." They were instructed to move forward across the forty

in a straight

     line, felling every pine tree over eight inches in diameter. While the

     "saw-gangs," three in number, prepared to fell the first trees, other men,

     called "swampers," were busy cutting and clearing of roots narrow little trails

     down through the forest from the pine to the skidway at the edge of the logging

     road. The trails were perhaps three feet wide, and marvels of smoothness,

     although no attempt was made to level mere inequalities of the ground. They were

     called travoy roads (French travois). Down them the logs would be dragged and

     hauled, either by means of heavy steel tongs or a short sledge on which one end

     of the timber would be chained.

     Meantime the sawyers were busy. Each pair of men selected a tree, the first

     they encountered over the blazed line of their "forty." After determining in

     which direction it was to fall, they set to work to chop a deep gash in that

     side of the trunk.

     Tom Broadhead and Henry Paul picked out a tremendous pine which they

     determined to throw across a little open space in proximity to the travoy road.

     One stood to right, the other to left, and alternately their axes bit deep. It

     was a beautiful sight this, of experts wielding their tools. The craft of the

     woodsman means incidentally such a free swing of the shoulders and hips, such a

     directness of stroke as the blade of one sinks accurately in the gash made by

     the other, that one never tires of watching the grace of it. Tom glanced up as a

     sailor looks aloft.

     "She'll do, Hank," he said.

     The two then with a dozen half clips of the ax, removed the inequalities of

     the bark from the saw's path. The long, flexible ribbon of steel began to sing,

     bending so adaptably to the hands and motions of the men manipulating, that it

     did not seem possible so mobile an instrument could cut the rough pine. In a

     moment the song changed timbre. Without a word the men straightened their backs.

     Tom flirted along the blade a thin stream of kerosene oil from a bottle in his

     hip pocket, and the sawyers again bent to their work, swaying back and forth

     rhythmically, their muscles rippling under the texture of their woolens like

     those of a panther under its skin. The outer edge of the saw-blade disappeared.

     "Better wedge her, Tom," advised Hank.

     They paused while, with a heavy sledge, Tom drove a triangle of steel into

     the crack made by the sawing. This prevented the weight of the tree from

     pinching the saw, which is a ruin at once to the instrument and the temper of

     the filer. Then the rhythmical z-z-z! z-z-z! again took up its song.

     When the trunk was nearly severed, Tom drove another and thicker wedge.

     "Timber!" hallooed Hank in a long-drawn melodious call that melted through

     the woods into the distance. The swampers ceased work and withdrew to safety.

     But the tree stood obstinately upright. So the saw leaped back and forth a

     few strokes more.

     "Crack!" called the tree.

     Hank coolly unhooked his saw handle, and Tom drew the blade through and out

     the other side.

     The tree shivered, then leaned ever so slightly from the perpendicular, then

     fell, at first gently, afterwards with a crescendo rush, tearing through the

     branches of other trees, bending the small timber, breaking the smallest, and at

     last hitting with a tremendous crash and bang which filled the air with a fog of

     small twigs, needles, and the powder of snow, that settled but slowly.

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