The Blazed TrailWhite, Stewart Edward . The Blazed Trail
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The Blazed Trail
White, Stewart Edward
Illustrator Thomas Fogarty
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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.
Source copy consulted: PS3545.H6 B55 1902 Alderman Library, University of
Prepared for the University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center.
English fiction prose masculine LCSH
Revisions to the electronic version
2000 corrector John Picker, Electronic Text Center
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"Oh!" she cried, "I love you; I love you all!"
The Blazed Trail
Stewart Edward White
Author of The Westerners
Illustrated by Thomas Fogarty
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."
from whose early pioneer life are drawn
many of Harry Thorpe's
A Table of the Contents
PART I Page
THE BLAZING OF THE TRAIL????179
THORPE'S DREAM GIRL????263
THE FOLLOWING OF THE TRAIL????307
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
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.
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
"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.