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Stratford centennial
(1891-1991)

I remember when,   pp. 79-82


Page 79

I Remember When
A collection of stories written by or from interviews with long-time Stratford Area people.
Tales of Yesteryear
by Eva Punswick Hougum
The sound of a train whistle takes me back in memory to
my earliest recollections of the old logging train's steam
whistle.
In the early 1900's the lumbering industry was still being
carried on in the north central area of Wisconsin, but much of
the cutover land was being developed into small farms.
To till the soil and to raise a few chickens, hogs, and dairy
cattle for family sustenance was my parents' objective in
moving from southern Wisconsin to Marathon County in the
spring of 1904. Land was cheap and the soil was productive.
My home was sandwiched between the Big Eau Pleine
River and The Connor Lumber Company's railroad tracks.
The buildings were unpainted and weather beaten and had
been used as Connor's Lumber Camp No. 3 prior to my early
occupancy.
To our southern Wisconsin visitors, it seemed a very
isolated and lonely place, but not to one of my tender age. I
always had my faithful dog, 'Iskinote,' which translated from
the Potawatomi language means 'stump' as my companion.
In the summer when the water was low, I could wade
across to the sandbar on the opposite bank. There were clams
to take back to open and look for pearls. In the late summer
there were wading parties, boating, and picnics with neigh-
bors under the shade trees on the river's bank. Wild choke
cherries, plums, thorn apples, and hazel nuts were waiting to
be picked in the fall. Indians made their annual trip at that time
of the year to gather kin-nic-a-nic bark and ginseng roots to
make their tobacco and tea.
In winter the early settlers to the north and south drove
through our fields and by our house on their way across the
frozen ice to dig sand which was hauled home for the next
year's building projects.
In the late spring there were otter and muskrats swim-
ming along the shore and deer to watch as they came to the
river to drink. However, early spring was the most exciting
season of all, as that was when the log drive started down the
river. As soon as the ice started to break up, the river men (or
river-rats as they were sometimes called) with their pike poles
made their appearance. The logs had been cut and hauled on
sleds during the winter months and were piled high along the
riverbank.
The river men that rode the logs, using theirpike poles to
guide the logs from jamming, were a hardy, rough breed of
men. Even though they wore heavy high leather boots with
Log Drive on the Big Eau Pleine
spike soles to keep from slipping, it was a dangerous job and
not uncommon for a man to suffer a crushed leg.
The "wanigan," a tent on a flat boat, followed the log
drive, for it was here that the food was prepared to satisfy the
hungry men and where the river men ate and slept.
River water was used to make the coffee, the beef stew,
to boil the potatoes and to make flapjacks, huge cookies, and
doughnuts. I well remember as a small child getting aboard the
wanigan and being given one of those huge "joe-froggers" to
eat. It was at least six inches in diameter. I remember the head
cook in his none too clean white apron and his assistant, the
cookee.
Mr. Larson was a log scaler from the Weeks Lumber
Company of Stevens Point, where the logs would reach their
destination via the Big Eau Pleine River to the Wisconsin
River. He was a frequent and welcome visitor at our home and
would buy all the eggs my mother could spare. I presume his
other job besides scaling logs was to see to it that the cook had
the food staples needed, such as sugar, flour, lard, and coffee.
Milk was never used.
After the log drive was completed another group of men
assembled at the river for an entirely different occupation.
Fishing was not a sport in those early days; it was a part of the
livelihood for the settlers. My father being a fisherman by
trade in his native land of Norway, knew exactly when the
Pickerel would be running. He had made anew net or repaired
the old one during the winter months and he was ready. The
seining of the fish was usually completed in one or two days.
The net was strung across the river below the deep hole, then
two men in a row boat would start up stream where the water
was deep and while one man rowed the boat the other would
scare the fish into the net by hitting the water with a long pole.


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