I remember when, pp. 79-82
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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