Part 2 out of 12
convoy evidently meant nothing to the little bookkeeper, at least for
the moment. Collins was entirely accustomed to hiring and discharging
men. When transplanted to the frontier industries, even such automatic
jobs as bookkeeping take on new duties and responsibilities.
Bob, after a moment of irresolution, reached for his hat.
"That will be all, then?" he asked.
Collins came out of the abstraction into which he had fallen.
"Oh--yes," he said. "Sorry, but of course we can't take chances on these
things being right."
"Of course not," said Bob steadily.
"You just need more training," went on Collins with some vague idea of
being kind to this helpless, attractive young fellow. "I learned under
Harry Thorpe that results is all a man looks at in this business."
"I guess that's right," said Bob. "Good-bye."
"Good-bye," said Collins over his shoulder. Already he was lost in the
rapid computations and calculations that filled his hours.
Bob left the office and tramped blindly out of town. His feet naturally
led him to the River Trail. Where the path finally came out on the banks
of the river, he sat down and delivered himself over to the gloomiest of
He was aroused finally by a hearty greeting from behind him. He turned
without haste, surprise or pleasure to examine the new comer.
Bob saw surveying him a man well above sixty, heavy-bodied, burly, big,
with a square face, heavy-jowled and homely, with deep blue eyes set far
apart, and iron gray hair that curled at the ends. With the quick,
instinctive sizing-up developed on the athletic field, Bob thought him
coarse-fibred, jolly, a little obtuse, but strong--very strong with the
strength of competent effectiveness. He was dressed in a slouch hat, a
flannel shirt, a wrinkled old business suit and mud-splashed, laced
"Well, bub," said this man, "enjoying the scenery?"
"Yes," said Bob with reserve. He was in no mood for casual conversation,
but the stranger went on cheerfully.
"Like it pretty well myself, hereabouts." He filled and lighted a pipe.
"This is a good time of year for the woods; no mosquitos, pretty warm,
mighty nice overhead. Can't say so much for underfoot." He lifted and
surveyed one foot comically, and Bob noticed that his shoes were not
armed with the riverman's long, sharpened spikes. "Pretty good hunting
here in the fall, and fishing later. Not much now. Up here to look
around a little?"
"No, not quite," said Bob vaguely.
"This ain't much of a pleasure resort, and a stranger's a pretty
unusual thing," said the big man by way of half-apology for his
curiosity. "Up buying, I suppose--or maybe selling?"
Bob looked up with a beginning of resentment against this apparent
intrusion on his private affairs. He met the good-humoured, jolly eyes.
In spite of himself he half smiled.
"Not that either," said he.
"You aren't in the company's employ?" persisted the stranger with an
undercurrent of huge delight in his tone, as though he were playing a
game that he enjoyed.
Bob threw back his head and laughed. It was a short laugh and a bitter
"No," said he shortly, "--not now. I've just been fired."
The big man promptly dropped down beside him on the log.
"Don't say!" he cried; "what's the matter?"
"The matter is that I'm no good," said Bob evenly, and without the
slightest note of complaint.
"Tell me about it," suggested the big man soberly after a moment. "I'm
pretty close to Fox. Perhaps----."
"It isn't a case of pull," Bob interrupted him pleasantly. "It's a case
of total incompetence."
"That's a rather large order for a husky boy like you," said the older
man with a sudden return to his undertone of bantering jollity.
"Well, I've filled it," said Bob. "That's the one job I've done good and
"Haven't stolen the stove, have you?"
"Might better. It couldn't be any hotter than Collins."
The stranger chuckled.
"He _is_ a peppery little cuss," was his comment. "What did you do to
Bob told him, lightly, as though the affair might be considered
humorous. The stranger became grave.
"That all?" he inquired.
Bob's self-disgust overpowered him.
"No," said he, "not by a long shot." In brief sentences he told of his
whole experience since entering the business world. When he had
finished, his companion puffed away for several moments in silence.
"Well, what you going to do about it?" he asked.
"I don't know," Bob confessed. "I've got to tell father I'm no good.
That is the only thing I can see ahead to now. It will break him all up,
and I don't blame him. Father is too good a man himself not to feel this
sort of a thing."
"I see," said the stranger. "Well, it may come out in the wash," he
concluded vaguely after a moment. Bob stared out at the river, lost in
the gloomy thoughts his last speech had evoked. The stranger improved
the opportunity to look the young man over critically from head to foot.
"I see you're a college man," said he, indicating Bob's fraternity pin.
"Yes," replied the young man listlessly. "I went to the University."
"That so!" said the stranger, "well, you're ahead of me. I never got
even to graduate at the high school."
"Am I?" said Bob.
"What did you do at college?" inquired the big man.
"Oh, usual classical course, Greek, Latin, Pol Ec.----"
"I don't mean what you learned. What did you _do?_"
"I don't believe I did a single earthly thing except play a little
football," he confessed.
"Oh, you played football, did you? That's a great game! I'd rather see a
good game of football than a snake fight. Make the 'varsity?"
"Where did you play?"
"Pretty heavy for a 'half,' ain't you?"
"Well--I train down a little--and I managed to get around."
"Play all four years?"
Bob's eye lit up. "Yes!" he cried. Then his face fell. "Too much, I
guess," he added sadly.
For the first time the twinkle, in the stranger's eye found vocal
expression. He chuckled. It was a good, jolly, subterranean chuckle from
deep in his throat, and it shook all his round body to its foundations.
"Who bossed you?" he asked, "--your captain, I mean. What sort of a
fellow was he? Did you get along with him all right?"
"Had to," Bob grinned wryly; "you see they happened to make me captain."
"Oh, they happened to, did they? What is your name?"
The stranger gurgled again.
"You're just out then. You must have captained those big scoring teams."
"They were good teams. I was lucky," said Bob.
"Didn't I see by the papers that you went back to coach last fall?"
"I've been away and couldn't keep tab. How did you come out?"
"Win all your games?"
"That's good. Thought you were going to have a hard row to hoe. Before I
went away the papers said most of the old men had graduated, and the
material was very poor. How did you work it?"
"The material was all right," Bob returned, relaxing a trifle in the
interest of this discussion. "It was only a little raw, and needed
shaking into shape."
"And you did the shaking."
"I suppose so; but you see it didn't amount to much because I'd had a
lot of experience in being captain."
The stranger chuckled one of his jolly subterranean chuckles again. He
arose to his feet.
"Well, I've got to get along to town," said he.
"I'll trot along, too," said Bob.
They tramped back in silence by the River Trail. On the pole trail
across the swamp the stranger walked with a graceful and assured ease in
spite of his apparently unwieldy build. As the two entered one of the
sawdust-covered streets, they were hailed by Jim Mason.
"Why, Mr. Welton!" he cried, "when did you get in and where did you come
"Just now, Jim," Welton answered. "Dropped off at the tank, and walked
down to see how the river work was coming on."
Toward dusk Welton entered the boarding house where Bob was sitting
rather gloomily by the central stove. The big man plumped himself down
into a protesting chair, and took off his slouch hat. Bob saw his low,
square forehead with the peculiar hair, black and gray in streaks,
curling at the ends.
"Why don't you take a little trip with me up to the Cedar Branch?" he
asked Bob without preamble. "No use your going home right now. Your
family's in Washington; and will be for a month or so yet."
Bob thought it over.
"Believe I will," he decided at last.
"Do so!" cried Welton heartily. "Might as well see a little of the life.
Don't suppose you ever went on a drive with your dad when you were a
"No," said Bob, "I used to go up to the booms with him--I remember them
very well; but we moved up to Redding before I was old enough to get
Welton nodded his great head.
"Good old days," he commented; "and let me tell you, your dad was one of
the best of 'em. Jack Orde is a name you can scare fresh young rivermen
with yet," he added with a laugh. "Well, pack your turkey to-night;
we'll take the early train to-morrow."
That evening Bob laid out what he intended to take with him, and was
just about to stuff it into a pair of canvas bags when Tommy Gould, the
youngest scaler, pushed open the door.
"Hello!" he smiled engagingly; "where are you going? Been transferred
from the office?"
"On drive," said Bob, diplomatically ignoring the last question.
Tommy sat down on the edge of the bed and laughed until he was weak. Bob
stared at him.
"Is there anything funny?" he inquired at last.
"Did you say on drive?" inquired Tommy feebly.
"With that?" Tommy pointed a wavering finger at the pile of duffle.
"What's the matter with it?" inquired Bob, a trifle uncertainly.
"Oh, _it's_ all right. Only wait till Roaring Dick sees it. I'd like to
see his face."
"Look here, Tommy," said Bob with decision, "this isn't fair. I've never
been on drive before, and you know it. Now tell me what's wrong or I'll
wring your fool neck."
"You can't take all that stuff," Tommy explained, wiping his eyes. "Why,
if everybody had all that mess, how do you suppose it would be carried?"
"I've only got the barest necessities," objected Bob.
"Spread out your pile," Tommy commanded. "There. Take those. Now forget
Bob surveyed the single change of underwear and the extra socks with
comical dismay. Next morning when he joined Welton he discovered that
individual carrying a tooth brush in his vest pocket and a pair of
woolen socks stuffed in his coat. These and a sweater were his only
baggage. Bob's "turkey," modest as it was, seemed to represent effete
luxury in comparison.
"How long will this take?" he asked.
"The drive? About three weeks," Welton told him. "You'd better stay and
see it. It isn't much of a drive compared with the old days; but in a
very few years there won't be any drives at all."
They boarded a train which at the end of twenty minutes came to a stop.
Bob and Welton descended. The train moved on, leaving them standing by
The remains of the forest, overgrown with scrub oak and popple thickets
pushed down to the right of way. A road, deep with mud and water,
beginning at this point, plunged into the wilderness. That was all.
Welton thrust his hands in his pockets and splashed cheerfully into the
ankle-deep mud. Bob shouldered his little bag and followed. Somehow he
had vaguely expected some sort of conveyance.
"How far is it?" he asked.
"Oh, ten or twelve miles," said Welton.
Bob experienced a glow of gratitude to the blithe Tommy Gould. What
would he have done with that baggage out here in this lonesome
wilderness of unbroken barrens and mud?
The day was beautiful, but the sun breaking through the skin of last
night's freezing, softened the ground until the going was literally
ankle-deep in slush. Welton, despite his weight, tramped along
cheerfully in the apparently careless indifference of the skilled woods
walker. Bob followed, but he used more energy. He was infinitely the
older man's superior in muscle and endurance, yet he realized, with
respect and admiration, that in a long or difficult day's tramp through
the woods Welton would probably hold him, step for step.
The road wound and changed direction entirely according to expedient. It
was a "tote road" merely, cutting across these barrens by the directest
possible route. Deep mire holes, roots of trees, an infrequent boulder,
puddles and cruel ruts diversified the way. Occasional teeth-rattling
stretches of "corduroy" led through a swamp.
"I don't see how a team can haul a load over this!" Bob voiced his
marvel, after a time.
"It don't," said Welton. "The supplies are all hauled while the ground
is frozen. A man goes by hand now."
In the swamps and bottom lands it was a case of slip, slide and wallow.
The going was trying on muscle and wind. To right and left stretched
mazes of white popples and willows tangled with old berry vines and the
abattis of the slashings. Water stood everywhere. To traverse that swamp
a man would have to force his way by main strength through the thick
growth, would have to balance on half-rotted trunks of trees, wade and
stumble through pools of varying depths, crawl beneath or climb over all
sorts of obstructions in the shape of uproots, spiky new growths, and
old tree trunks. If he had a gun in his hands, he would furthermore be
compelled, through all the vicissitudes of making his way, to hold it
always at the balance ready for the snap shot. For a ruffed grouse is
wary, and flies like a bullet for speed, and is up and gone almost
before the roar of its wings has aroused the echoes. Through that veil
of branches a man must shoot quickly, instinctively, from any one of the
many positions in which the chance of the moment may have caught him.
Bob knew all about this sort of country, and his pulses quickened to the
call of it.
"Many partridge?" he asked.
"Lots," replied Welton; "but the country's too confounded big to hunt
them in. Like to hunt?"
"Nothing better," said Bob.
After a time the road climbed out of the swamp into the hardwoods, full
of warmth and light and new young green, and the voices of many
creatures; with the soft, silent carpet of last autumn's brown, the tiny
patches of melting snow, and the pools with dead leaves sunk in them and
clear surfaces over which was mirrored the flight of birds.
Welton puffed along steadily. He did not appear to talk much, and yet
the sum of his information was considerable.
"That road," he said, pointing to a dim track, "goes down to Thompson's.
He's a settler. Lives on a little lake.
"There's a deer," he remarked, "over in that thicket against the hill."
Bob looked closely, but could see nothing until the animal bounded away,
waving the white flag of its tail.
"Settlers up here are a confounded nuisance," went on Welton after a
while. "They're always hollering for what they call their 'rights.' That
generally means they try to hang up our drive. The average mossback's a
hard customer. I'd rather try to drive nails in a snowbank than tackle
driving logs through a farm country. They never realize that we haven't
got time to talk it all out for a few weeks. There's one old cuss now
that's making us trouble about the water. Don't want to open up to give
us a fair run through the sluices of his dam. Don't seem to realize that
when we start to go out, we've got to go out in a _hurry_, spite o' hell
and low water."
He went on, in his good-natured, unexcited fashion, to inveigh against
the obstinacy of any and all mossbacks. There was no bitterness in it,
merely a marvel over an inexplicable, natural phenomenon.
"Suppose you _didn't_ get all the logs out this year," asked Bob, at
length. "Of course it would be a nuisance; but couldn't you get them
"That's the trouble," Welton explained. "If you leave them over the
summer, borers get into them, and they're about a total loss. No, my
son, when you start to take out logs in this country, you've got to
_take them out!_"
"That's what I'm going in here for now," he explained, after a moment.
"This Cedar Branch is an odd job we had to take over from another firm.
It is an unimproved river, and difficult to drive, and just lined with
mossbacks. The crew is a mixed bunch--some old men, some young toughs.
They're a hard crowd, and one not like the men on the main drive. It
really needs either Tally or me up here; but we can't get away for this
little proposition. He's got Darrell in charge. Darrell's a good man on
a big job. Then he feels his responsibility, keeps sober and drives his
men well. But I'm scared he won't take this little drive serious. If he
gets one drink in him, it's all off!"
"I shouldn't think it would pay to put such a man in charge," said Bob,
more as the most obvious remark than from any knowledge or conviction.
"Wouldn't you?" Welton's eyes twinkled. "Well, son, after you've knocked
around a while you'll find that every man is good for something
somewhere. Only you can't put a square peg in a round hole."
"How much longer will the high water last?" asked Bob.
"Hard to say."
"Well, I hope you get the logs out," Bob ventured.
"Sure we'll get them out!" replied Welton confidently. "We'll get them
out if we have to go spit in the creek!" With which remark the subject
was considered closed.
About four o'clock of the afternoon they came out on a low bluff
overlooking a bottom land through which flowed a little stream
twenty-five or thirty feet across.
"That's the Cedar Branch," said Welton, "and I reckon that's one of the
camps up where you see that smoke."
They deserted the road and made their way through a fringe of thin brush
to the smoke. Bob saw two big tents, a smouldering fire surrounded by
high frames on which hung a few drying clothes, a rough table, and a
cooking fire over which bubbled tremendous kettles and fifty-pound lard
tins suspended from a rack. A man sat on a cracker box reading a
fragment of newspaper. A boy of sixteen squatted by the fire.
This man looked up and nodded, as Welton and his companion approached.
"Where's the drive, doctor?" asked the lumberman.
"This is the jam camp," replied the cook. "The jam's upstream a mile or
so. Rear's back by Thompson's somewheres."
"Is there a jam in the river?" asked Bob with interest. "I'd like to
"There's a dozen a day, probably," replied Welton; "but in this case he
just means the head of the drive. We call that the 'jam.'"
"I suppose Darrell's at the rear?" Welton asked the cook.
"Yep," replied that individual, rising to peer into one of his cavernous
"Who's in charge here?"
"H'm," said Welton. "Well," he added to himself, "he's slow, safe and
He led the way to one of the tents and pulled aside the flap. The ground
inside was covered by a welter of tumbled blankets and clothes.
"Nice tidy housekeeping," he grinned at Bob. He picked out two of the
best blankets and took them outside where he hung them on a bush and
beat them vigorously.
"There," he concluded, "now they're ours."
"What about the fellows who had 'em before?" inquired Bob.
"They probably had about eight apiece; and if they hadn't they can bunk
Bob walked to the edge of the stream. It was not very wide, yet at this
point it carried from three to six or eight feet of water, according to
the bottom. A few logs were stranded along shore. Two or three more
floated by, the forerunners of the drive. Bob could see where the
highest water had flung debris among the bushes, and by that he knew
that the stream must be already dropping from its freshet.
It was now late in the afternoon. The sun dipped behind a cold and
austere hill-line. Against the sky showed a fringe of delicate popples,
like spray frozen in the rise. The heavens near the horizon were a cold,
pale yellow of unguessed lucent depths, that shaded above into an
equally cold, pale green. Bob thrust his hands in his pockets and
turned back to where the drying fire, its fuel replenished, was leaping
across the gathering dusk.
Immediately after, the driving crews came tramping in from upstream.
They paid no attention to the newcomers, but dove first for the tent,
then for the fire. There they began to pull off their lower garments,
and Bob saw that most of them were drenched from the waist down. The
drying racks were soon steaming with wet clothes.
Welton fell into low conversation with an old man, straight and slender
as a Norway pine, with blue eyes, flaxen hair, eyebrows and moustache.
This was Larsen, in charge of the jam, honest, capable in his way, slow
of speech, almost childlike of glance. After a few minutes Welton
"He's a square peg, all right," he muttered, more to himself than to his
companion. "He's a good riverman, but he's no river boss. Too
easy-going. Well, all he has to do is to direct the work, luckily. If
anything really goes wrong, Darrell would be down in two jumps."
"Grub pile!" remarked the cook conversationally.
The men seized the utensils from a heap of them, and began to fill their
plates from the kettles on the table.
"Come on, bub," said Welton, "dig in! It's a long time till breakfast!"
The cook was early a foot next morning. Bob, restless with the
uneasiness of the first night out of doors, saw the flicker of the fire
against the tent canvas long before the first signs of daylight. In
fact, the gray had but faintly lightened the velvet black of the night
when the cook thrust his head inside the big sleeping tents to utter a
wild yell of reveille.
The men stirred sleepily, stretched, yawned, finally kicked aside their
blankets. Bob stumbled into the outer air. The chill of early morning
struck into his bones. Teeth chattering, he hurried to the river bank
where he stripped and splashed his body with the bracing water. Then he
rubbed down with the little towel Tommy Gould had allowed him. The
reaction in this chill air was slow in coming--Bob soon learned that the
early cold bath out of doors is a superstition--and he shivered from
time to time as he propped up his little mirror against a stump. Then he
shaved, anointing his face after the careful manner of college boys.
This satisfactorily completed, he fished in his duffle bag to find his
tooth brush and soap. His hair he arranged painstakingly with a pair of
military brushes. He further manipulated a nail-brush vigorously, and
ended with manicuring his nails. Then, clean, vigorous, fresh, but
somewhat chilly, he packed away his toilet things and started for camp.
Whereupon, for the first time, he became aware of one of the rivermen,
pipe clenched between his teeth, watching him sardonically.
Bob nodded, and made as though to pass.
"Oh, bub!" said the older man.
"Say," drawled the riverman, "air you as much trouble to yourself
_every_ day as this?"
Bob laughed, and dove for camp. He found it practically deserted. The
men had eaten breakfast and departed for work. Welton greeted him.
"Well, bub," said he, "didn't know but we'd lost you. Feed your face,
and we'll go upstream."
Bob ate rapidly. After breakfast Welton struck into a well-trodden foot
trail that led by a circuitous route up the river bottom, over points of
land, around swamps. Occasionally it forked. Then, Welton explained, one
fork was always a short cut across a bend, while the other followed
accurately the extreme bank of the river. They took this latter and
longest trail, always, in order more closely to examine the state of the
drive. As they proceeded upstream they came upon more and more logs,
some floating free, more stranded gently along the banks. After a time
they encountered the first of the driving crew. This man was standing on
an extreme point, leaning on his peavy, watching the timbers float past.
Pretty soon several logs, held together by natural cohesion, floated to
the bend, hesitated, swung slowly and stopped. Other logs, following,
carromed gently against them and also came to rest.
Immediately the riverman made a flying leap to the nearest. He hit it
with a splash that threw the water high to either side, immediately
caught his equilibrium, and set to work with his peavy. He seemed to
know just where to bend his efforts. Two, then three, logs, disentangled
from the mass, floated away. Finally, all moved slowly forward. The
riverman intent on his work, was swept from view.
"After he gets them to running free, he'll come ashore," said Welton, in
answer to Bob's query. "Oh, just paddle ashore with his peavy. Then
he'll come back up the trail. This bend is liable to jam, and so we have
to keep a man here."
They walked on and on, up the trail. Every once in a while they came
upon other members of the jam crew, either watching, as was the first
man, at some critical point, or working in twos and threes to keep the
reluctant timbers always moving. At one place six or eight were picking
away busily at a jam that had formed bristling quite across the river.
Bob would have liked to stop to watch; but Welton's practised eye saw
nothing to it.
"They're down to the key log, now," he pronounced. "They'll have it out
in a jiffy."
Inside of two miles or so farther they left behind them the last member
of the jam crew and came upon an outlying scout of the "rear." Then
Welton began to take the shorter trails. At the end of another half-hour
the two plumped into the full activity of the rear itself.
Bob saw two crews of men, one on either bank, busily engaged in
restoring to the current the logs stranded along the shore. In some
cases this merely meant pushing them afloat by means of the peavies.
Again, when the timbers had gone hard aground, they had to be rolled
over and over until the deeper water caught them. In extreme cases, when
evidently the freshet water had dropped away from them, leaving them
high and dry, a number of men would clamp on the jaws of their peavies
and carry the logs bodily to the water. In this active work the men were
everywhere across the surface of the river. They pushed and heaved from
the instability of the floating logs as easily as though they had
possessed beneath their feet the advantages of solid land. When they
wanted to go from one place to another across the clear water they had
various methods of propelling themselves--either broad on, by rolling
the log treadwise, or endways by paddling, or by jumping strongly on one
end. The logs dipped and bobbed and rolled beneath them; the water
flowed over their feet; but always they seemed to maintain their balance
unconsciously, and to give their whole attention to the work in hand.
They worked as far as possible from the decks of logs, but did not
hesitate, when necessary, to plunge even waist-deep into the icy
current. Behind them they left a clear river.
Like most exhibitions of superlative skill, all this would have seemed
to an uninitiated observer like Bob an easy task, were it not for the
misfortunes of one youth. That boy was about half the time in the water.
He could stand upright on a log very well as long as he tried to do
nothing else. This partial skill undoubtedly had lured him to the drive.
But as soon as he tried to work, he was in trouble. The log commenced to
roll; he to struggle for his balance. It always ended with a mighty
splash and a shout of joy from every one in sight, as the unfortunate
youth soused in all over. Then, after many efforts, he dragged himself
out, his garments heavy and dripping, and cautiously tried to gain the
perpendicular. This ordinarily required several attempts, each of which
meant another ducking as the treacherous log rolled at just the wrong
instant. The boy was game, though, and kept at it earnestly in spite of
Welton watched two repetitions of this performance.
"Dick!" he roared across the tumult of sound.
Roaring Dick, whose light, active figure had been seen everywhere across
the logs, looked up, recognized Welton, and zigzagged skilfully ashore.
He stamped the water from his shoes.
"Why don't you fire that kid ashore?" demanded Welton. "Do you want to
drown him? He's so cold now he don't know where's his feet?"
Roaring Dick glanced carelessly at the boy. The latter had succeeded in
gaining the shallows, where he was trying to roll over a stranded log.
His hands were purple and swollen; his face puffed and blue; violent
shivers shook him from head to foot; his teeth actually chattered when,
for a moment, he relaxed his evident intention to stick it through
without making a sign. All his movements were slow and awkward, and his
dripping clothes clung tight to his body.
"Oh, him!" said Roaring Dick in reply. "I didn't pay no more attention
to him than to one of these yere hell divers. He ain't no _good_, so I
clean overlooked him. Here, you!" he cried suddenly.
The boy looked up, Bob saw him start convulsively, and knew that he had
met the impact of that peculiar dynamic energy in Roaring Dick's nervous
face. He clambered laboriously from the shallows, the water draining
from the bottom of his "stagged" trousers.
"Get to camp," snapped Dick. "You're laid off."
"Why did you ever take such a man on in the first place?" asked Welton.
"He was here when I come," replied Roaring Dick, indifferently, "and,
anyway, he's bound he's goin to be a river-hog. You couldn't keep him
out with a fly-screen."
"How're things going?" inquired Welton.
"All right," said Roaring Dick. "This ain't no drive to have things
goin' wrong. A man could run a hand-organ, a quiltin' party and this
drive all to once and never drop a stitch."
"How about old Murdock's dam? Looks like he might make trouble."
"Ain't got to old Murdock yet," said Roaring Dick. "When we do, we'll
trim his whiskers to pattern. Don't you worry none about Murdock."
"I don't," laughed Welton. "But, Dick, what are all these deadheads I
see in the river? Our logs are all marked, aren't they?"
"They's been some jobbing done way below our rollways," said Roaring
Dick, "and the mossbacks have been taking 'em out long before our drive
got this far. Them few deadheads we've picked up along the line;
mossbacks left 'em stranded. They ain't very many."
"I'll send up a marking hammer, and we'll brand them. Finders keepers."
"Sure," said Roaring Dick.
He nodded and ran out over the logs. The work leaped. Wherever he went
the men took hold as though reanimated by an electric current.
"Dick's a driver," said Welton, reflectively, "and he gets out the logs.
But I'm scared he don't take this little job serious."
He looked out over the animated scene for a moment in silence. Then he
seemed suddenly to remember his companion.
"Well, son," said he, "that's called 'sacking' the river. The rear crew
is the place of honour, let me tell you. The old timers used to take a
great pride in belonging to a crack rear on a big drive. When you get
one side of the river working against the other, it's great fun. I've
seen some fine races in my day."
At this moment two men swung up the river trail, bending to the broad
tump lines that crossed the tops of their heads. These tump lines
supported rather bulky wooden boxes running the lengths of the men's
backs. Arrived at the rear, they deposited their burdens. One set to
building a fire; the other to unpacking from the boxes all the utensils
and receptacles of a hearty meal. The food was contained in big lard
tins. It was only necessary to re-heat it. In ten minutes the usual call
of "grub pile" rang out across the river. The men came ashore. Each
group of five or six built its little fire. The wind sucked aloft these
innumerable tiny smokes, and scattered them in a thin mist through the
Welton stayed to watch the sacking until after three o'clock. Then he
took up the river trail to the rear camp. This Bob found to be much like
the other, but larger.
"Ordinarily on drive we have a wanigan," said Welton. "A wanigan's a big
scow. It carries the camp and supplies to follow the drive. Here we use
teams; and it's some of a job, let me tell you! The roads are bad, and
sometimes it's a long ways around. Hard sledding, isn't it Billy?" he
inquired of the teamster, who was warming his hands by the fire.
"Well, I always get there," the latter replied with some pride. "From
the Little Fork here I only tipped over six times, all told."
The cook, who had been listening near by, grunted.
"Only time I wasn't with you, Billy," said he; "that's why you got the
nerve to tell that!"
"It's a fact!" insisted the driver.
The young fellow who had been ordered off the river sat alone by the
drying-fire. Now that he had warmed up and dried off, he was seen to be
a rather good-looking boy, dark-skinned, black-eyed, with overhanging,
thick, straight brows, like a line from temple to temple. These gave him
either the sullen, biding look of an Indian or an air of set
determination, as the observer pleased. Just now he contemplated the
fire rather gloomily.
Welton sat down on the same log with him.
"Well, bub," said the old riverman good-naturedly, "so you thought you'd
like to be a riverman?"
"Yes, sir," replied the boy, with a certain sullen reserve.
"Where did you think you learned to ride a log?"
"I've been around a little at the booms."
"I see. Well, it's a different proposition when you come to working on
'em in fast water."
"Where you from?"
"Down Greenville way."
"Back to the farm now, eh?"
"I suppose so."
"Don't like the notion, eh?"
"No!" cried the boy, with a flash of passion.
"Still like to tackle the river?"
"Yes, sir," replied the young fellow, again encased in his sullen
"If I send you back to-morrow, would you like to tackle it again?"
"Oh, yes!" said the boy eagerly. "I didn't have any sort of a show when
you saw me to-day! I can do a heap better than that. I was froze through
and couldn't handle myself."
"What you so stuck on getting wet for?" he inquired.
"I dunno," replied the boy vaguely. "I just like the woods."
"Well, I got no notion of drownding you off in the first white water we
come across," said Welton; "but I tell you what to do: you wait around
here a few days, helping the cook or Billy there, and I'll take you down
to the mill and put you on the booms where you can practise in still
water with a pike-pole, and can go warm up in the engine room when you
fall off. Suit you?"
"Yes, sir. Thank you," said the boy quietly; but there was a warm glow
in his eye.
By now it was nearly dark.
"Guess we'll bunk here to-night," Welton told Bob casually.
Bob looked his dismay.
"Why, I left everything down at the other camp," he cried, "even my
tooth brush and hair brush!"
Welton looked at him comically.
"Me, too," said he. "We won't neither of us be near as much trouble to
ourselves to-morrow, will we?"
So he had overheard the riverman's remark that morning. Bob laughed.
"That's right," approved Welton, "take it easy. Necessities is a great
comfort, but you can do without even them."
After supper all sprawled around a fire. Welton's big bulk extended in
the acme of comfort. He puffed his pipe straight up toward the stars,
and swore gently from time to time when the ashes dropped back into his
"Now that's a good kid," he said, waving a pipe toward the other fire
where the would-be riverman was helping wash the dishes. "He'll never
be a first-class riverman, but he's a good kid."
"Why won't he make a good riverman?" asked Bob.
"Same reason you wouldn't," said Welton bluntly. "A good white water man
has to start younger. Besides, what's the use? There won't be any
rivermen ten year from now. Say, you," he raised his voice peremptorily,
"what do you call yourself?"
The boy looked up startled, saw that he was indicated, stammered, and
caught his voice.
"John Harvey, sir," he replied.
"Son of old John who used to be on the Marquette back in the seventies?"
"Yes, sir; I suppose so."
"He ought to be a good kid: he comes of good stock," muttered Welton;
"but he'll never be a riverman. No use trying to shove that shape peg in
a round hole!"
Near noon of the following day a man came upstream to report a jam
beyond the powers of the outlying rivermen. Roaring Dick, after a short
absence for examination, returned to call off the rear. All repaired to
the scene of obstruction.
Bob noticed the slack water a mile or so above the jam. The river was
quite covered with logs pressed tight against each other by the force of
the interrupted current, but still floating. A little farther along the
increasing pressure had lifted some of them clear of the water. They
upended slightly, or lay in hollows between the others. Still farther
downstream the salient features of a jam multiplied. More timbers stuck
out at angles from the surface; some were even lifted bodily. An abattis
formed, menacing and formidable, against which even the mighty dynamics
of the river pushed in vain. Then at last the little group arrived at
the "breast" itself--a sullen and fearful tangle like a gigantic pile of
jackstraws. Beneath it the diminished river boiled out angrily. By the
very fact of its lessened volume Bob could guess at the pressure above.
Immediately the rivermen ran out on this tangle, and, after a moment
devoted to inspection, set to work with their peavies. Bob started to
follow, but Welton held him back.
"It's dangerous for a man not used to it. The jam may go out at any
time, and when she goes, she goes sky-hooting."
But in the event his precaution turned out useless. All day the men
rolled logs into the current below the dam. The _click!_ clank! clank!
of their peavies sounded like the valves of some great engine, so
regular was the periodicity of their metallic recurrence. They made
quite a hole in the breast; and several times the jam shrugged, creaked
and settled, but always to a more solid look. Billy, the teamster,
brought down his horses. By means of long blocks and tackle they set to
yanking out logs from certain places specified by Roaring Dick. Still
the jam proved obstinate.
"I hate to do it," said Roaring Dick to Welton; "but it's a case of
"Tie into it," agreed Welton. "What's a few smashed logs compared to
hanging the drive?"
Dick nodded. He picked up a little canvas lunch bag from a stump where,
earlier in the day, he had hung it, and from it extracted several sticks
of giant powder, a length of fuse and several caps. These he prepared.
Then he and Welton walked out over the jam, examining it carefully, and
consulting together at length. Finally Roaring Dick placed his charge
far down in the interstices, lit the fuse and walked calmly ashore. The
men leisurely placed themselves out of harm's way. Welton joined Bob
behind a big burned stub.
"Will that start her sure?" asked Bob.
"Depends on whether we guessed right on the key log," said Welton.
A great roar shook the atmosphere. Straight up into the air spurted the
cloud of the explosion. Through the white smoke Bob could see the flame
and four or five big logs, like upleaping, dim giants. Then he dodged
back from the rain of bark and splinters.
The immediate effect on the jam was not apparent. It fell forward into
the opening made by the explosion, and a light but perceptible movement
ran through the waiting timbers up the river. But the men, running out
immediately, soon made it evident that the desired result had been
attained. Their efforts now seemed to gain definite effects. An
uneasiness ran through the hitherto solid structure of the jam. Timbers
changed position. Sometimes the whole river seemed to start forward a
foot or so, but before the eye could catch the motion, it had again
frozen to immobility.
"That fetched the key logs, all right," said Welton, watching.
Then all at once about half the breast of the jam fell forward into the
stream. Bob uttered an involuntary cry. But the practised rivermen must
have foreseen this, for none were caught. At once the other logs at the
breast began to topple of their own accord into the stream. The splashes
threw the water high like the explosions of shells, and the thundering
of the falling and grinding timbers resembled the roar of artillery. The
pattern of the river changed, at first almost imperceptibly, then more
and more rapidly. The logs in the centre thrust forward, those on the
wings hung back. Near the head of the jam the men worked like demons.
Wherever the timbers caught or hesitated for a moment in their slow
crushing forward, there a dozen men leaped savagely, to jerk, heave and
pry with their heavy peavies. Continually under them the footing
shifted; sullen logs menaced them with crushing or complete engulfment
in their grinding mill. Seemingly they paid no attention to this, but
gave all their energies to the work. In reality, whether from
calculation or merely from the instinct that grows out of long
experience, they must have pre-estimated every chance.
"What bully team work!" cried Bob, stirred to enthusiasm.
Now the motion quickened. The centre of the river rushed forward; the
wings sucked in after from either side. A roar and battling of timbers,
jets of spray, the smoke of waters filled the air. Quite coolly the
rivermen made their way ashore, their peavies held like balancing poles
across their bodies. Under their feet the logs heaved, sank, ground
together, tossed above the hurrying under-mass, tumultuous as a
close-packed drove of wild horses. The rivermen rode them easily. For an
appreciable time one man perched on a stable timber watching keenly
ahead. Then quite coolly he leaped, made a dozen rapid zigzag steps
forward, and stopped. The log he had quitted dropped sullenly from
sight, and two closed, grinding, where it had been. In twenty seconds
every man was safely ashore.
The river caught its speed. Hurried on by the pressure of water long
dammed back, the logs tumbled forward. Rank after rank they swept past,
while the rivermen, leaning on the shafts of their peavies, passed them
"That was luck," Welton's voice broke in on Bob's contemplation. "It's
just getting dark. Couldn't have done it without the dynamite. It
splinters up a little timber, but we save money, even at that."
"Billy doesn't carry that with the other supplies, does he?" asked Bob.
"Sure," said Welton; "rolls it up in the bedding, or something. Well,
John Harvey, Junior," said he to that youth, "what do you think of it? A
little different driving this white water than pushing logs with a pike
pole down a slack-water river like the Green, hey?"
"Yes, sir," the boy nodded out of his Indian stolidity.
"You see now why a man has to start young to be a riverman," Welton told
Bob, as they bent their steps toward camp. "Poor little John Harvey out
on that jam when she broke would have stood about as much chance as a
beetle at a woodpecker prayer meeting."
Two days later Welton returned to the mill. At his suggestion Bob stayed
with the drive. He took his place quietly as a visitor, had the good
sense to be unobtrusive, and so was tolerated by the men. That is to
say, he sat at the camp fires practically unnoticed, and the rivermen
talked as though he were not there. When he addressed any of them they
answered him with entire good humour, but ordinarily they paid no more
attention to him than they did to the trees and bushes that chanced to
surround the camp.
The drive moved forward slowly. Sometimes Billy packed up every day to
set forth on one of his highly adventurous drives; again camp stayed for
some time in the same place. Bob amused himself tramping up and down the
river, reviewing the operations. Occasionally Roaring Dick, in his
capacity of river boss, accompanied the young fellow. Why, Bob could not
imagine, for the alert, self-contained little riverman trudged along in
almost entire silence, his keen chipmunk eyes spying restlessly on all
there was to be seen. When Bob ventured a remark or comment, he answered
by a grunt or a monosyllable. The grunt or the monosyllable was never
sullen or hostile or contemptuous; merely indifferent. Bob learned to
economize speech, and so got along well with his strange companion.
By the end of the week the drive entered a cleared farm country. The
cultivation was crude and the clearing partial. Low-wooded hills dotted
with stumps of the old forest alternated with willow-grown bottom-lands
and dense swamps. The farmers lived for the most part in slab or log
houses earthed against the winter cold. Fences were of split rails laid
"snake fashion." Ploughing had to be in and out between the blackened
stumps on the tops of which were piled the loose rocks picked from the
soil as the share turned them up. Long, unimproved roads wandered over
the hills, following roughly the section lines, but perfectly willing to
turn aside through some man's field in order to avoid a steep grade or
soft going. These things the rivermen saw from their stream exactly as a
trainman would see them from his right-of-way. The river was the
highway, and rarely was it considered worth while to climb the low
bluffs out of the bottom-land through which it flowed.
In the long run it landed them in a town named Twin Falls. Here were a
water-power dam and some small manufactories. Here, too, were saloons
and other temptations for rivermen. Camp was made above town. In the
evening the men, with but few exceptions, turned in to the sleeping tent
at the usual hour. Bob was much surprised at this; but later he came to
recognize it as part of a riverman's peculiar code. Until the drive
should be down, he did not feel himself privileged to "blow off steam."
Even the exceptions did not get so drunk they could not show up the
following morning to take a share in sluicing the drive through the dam.
All but Roaring Dick. The latter did not appear at all, and was reported
"drunk a-plenty" by some one who had seen him early that morning.
Evidently the river boss did not "take this drive serious." His absence
seemed to make no difference. The sluicing went forward methodically.
"He'll show up in a day or two," said the cook with entire indifference,
when Bob inquired of him.
That evening, however, four or five of the men disappeared, and did not
return. Such was the effect of an evil example on the part of the
foreman. Larsen took charge. In almost unbroken series the logs shot
through the sluiceways into the river below, where they were received by
the jam crew and started on the next stage of their long journey to the
mills. In a day the dam was passed. One of the younger men rode the last
log through the sluiceway, standing upright as it darted down the chute
into the eddy below. The crowd of townspeople cheered. The boy waved his
hat and birled the log until the spray flew.
But hardly was camp pitched two miles below town when one of the jam
crew came upstream to report a difficulty. Larsen at once made ready to
accompany him down the river trail, and Bob, out of curiosity, went
"It's mossbacks," the messenger explained, "and them deadheads we been
carrying along. They've rigged up a little sawmill down there, where
they're cutting what the farmers haul in to 'em. And then, besides,
they've planted a bunch of piles right out in the middle of the stream
and boomed in their side, and they're out there with pike-poles, nailin'
onto every stick of deadhead that comes along."
"Well, that's all right," said Larsen. "I guess they got a right to them
as long as we ain't marked them."
"They can have their deadheads," agreed the riverman, "but their piles
have jammed our drive and hung her."
"We'll break the jam," said Larsen.
Arrived at the scene of difficulty, Bob looked about him with great
interest. The jam was apparently locked hard and fast against a clump of
piles driven about in the centre of the stream. These had evidently been
planted as the extreme outwork of a long shunting boom. Men working
there could shunt into the sawmill enclosure that portion of the drive
to which they could lay claim. The remainder could proceed down the open
channel to the left. That was the theory. Unfortunately, this division
of the river's width so congested matters that the whole drive had hung.
The jam crew were at work, but even Bob's unpractised eye saw that their
task was stupendous. Even should they succeed in loosening the breast,
there could be no reason to suppose the performance would not have to be
repeated over and over again as the close-ranked drive came against the
Larsen took one look, then made his way across to the other side and
down to the mill. Bob followed. The little sawmill was going full blast
under the handling of three men and a boy. Everything was done in the
most primitive manner, by main strength, awkwardness, and old-fashioned
"Who's boss?" yelled Larsen against the clang of the mill.
A slow, black-bearded man stepped forward.
"What can I do for you?" he asked.
"Our drive's hung up against your boom," yelled Larsen.
The man raised his hand and the machinery was suddenly stilled.
"So I perceive," said he.
"Your boom-piles are drove too far out in the stream."
"I don't know about that," objected the mossback.
"I do," insisted Larsen. "Nobody on earth could keep from jamming, the
way you got things fixed."
"That's none of my business," said the man steadily.
"Well, we'll have to take out that fur clump of piles to get our jam
"I don't know about that," repeated the man.
Larsen apparently paid no attention to this last remark, but tramped
back to the jam. There he ordered a couple of men out with axes, and
others with tackle. But at that moment the three men and the boy
appeared. They carried three shotguns and a rifle.
"That's about enough of that," said the bearded man, quietly. "You let
my property alone. I don't want any trouble with you men, but I'll blow
hell out of the first man that touches those piles. I've had about
enough of this riverhog monkey-work."
He looked as though he meant business, as did his companions. When the
rivermen drew back, he took his position atop the disputed clump of
piles, his shotgun across his knees.
The driving crew retreated ashore. Larsen was plainly uncertain.
"I tell you, boys," said he, "I'll get back to town. You wait."
"Guess I'll go along," suggested Bob, determined to miss no phase of
this new species of warfare.
"What you going to do?" he asked Larsen when they were once on the
"I don't know," confessed the older man, rubbing his cap. "I'm just
goin' to see some lawyer, and then I'm goin' to telegraph the Company. I
wish Darrell was in charge. I don't know what to do. You can't expect
those boys to run a chance of gittin' a hole in 'em."
"Do you believe they'd shoot?" asked Bob.
"I believe so. It's a long chance, anyhow."
But in Twin Falls they received scant sympathy and encouragement. The
place was distinctly bucolic, and as such opposed instinctively to
larger mills, big millmen, lumber, lumbermen and all pertaining
thereunto. They tolerated the drive because, in the first place they had
to; and in the second place there was some slight profit to be made. But
the rough rivermen antagonized them, and they were never averse to
seeing these buccaneers of the streams in difficulties. Then, too, by
chance the country lawyers Larsen consulted happened to be attorneys for
the little sawmill men. Larsen tried in his blundering way to express
his feeling that "nobody had a right to hang our drive." His
explanations were so involved and futile that, without thinking, Bob
"Surely these men have no right to obstruct as they do. Isn't there some
law against interfering with navigation?"
"The stream is not navigable," returned the lawyer curtly.
Bob's memory vouchsafed a confused recollection of something read
"Hasn't a stream been declared navigable when logs can be driven in
it?" he asked.
"Are you in charge of this drive?" the lawyer asked, turning on him
"Why--no," confessed Bob.
"Have you anything to do with this question?"
"I don't believe I have."
"Then I fail to see why I should answer your questions," said the
lawyer, with finality. "As to your question," he went on to Larsen with
equal coldness, "if you have any doubts as to Mr. Murdock's rights in
the stream, you have the recourse of a suit at law to settle that point,
and to determine the damages, if any."
Bob found himself in the street with Larsen.
"But they haven't got no right to stop our drive _dead_ that way,"
expostulated the old man.
Bob's temper was somewhat ruffled by his treatment at the hands of the
"Well, they've done it, whether they have the right to or not," he said
shortly; "what next?"
"I guess I'll telegraph Mr. Welton," said Larsen.
He did so. The two returned to camp. The rivermen were loafing in camp
awaiting Larsen's reappearance. The jam was as before. Larsen walked out
on the logs. The boy, seated on the clump of piles, gave a shrill
whistle. Immediately from the little mill appeared the brown-bearded man
and his two companions. They picked their way across the jam to the
piles, where they roosted, their weapons across their knees, until
Larsen had returned to the other bank.
"Well, Mr. Welton ought to be up in a couple of days, if he ain't up the
main river somewheres," said Larsen.
"Aren't you going to do anything in the meantime?" asked Bob.
"What can I do?" countered Larsen.'
The crew had nothing to say one way or the other, but watched with a
cynical amusement the progress of affairs. They smoked, and spat, and
squatted on their heels in the Indian taciturnity of their kind when for
some reason they withhold their approval. That evening, however, Bob
happened to be lying at the campfire next two of the older men. As
usual, he smoked in unobtrusive silence, content to be ignored if only
the men would act in their accustomed way, and not as before a stranger.
"Wait; hell!" said one of the men to the other. "Times is certainly gone
wrong! If they had anything like an oldtime river boss in charge, they'd
come the Jack Orde on this lay-out."
Bob pricked up his ears at this mention of his father's name.
"What's that?" he asked.
The riverman rolled over and examined him dispassionately for a few
"Jack Orde," he deigned to explain at last, "was a riverman. He was a
good one. He used to run the drive in the Redding country. When he
started to take out logs, he took 'em out, by God! I've heard him often:
'Get your logs out first, and pay the damage afterward,' says he. He was
a holy terror. They got the state troops out after him once. It came to
be a sort of by-word. When you generally gouge, kick and sandbag a man
into bein' real _good_, why we say you come the Jack Orde on him."
"I see," said Bob, vastly amused at this sidelight on the family
reputation. "What would you do here?"
"I don't know," replied the riverman, "but I wouldn't lay around and
"Why don't some of you fellows go out there and storm the fort, if you
feel that way?" asked Bob.
"Why?" demanded the riverman, "I won't let any boss stump me; but why in
hell should I go out and get my hide full of birdshot? If this outfit
don't know enough to get its drive down, that ain't my fault."
Bob had seen enough of the breed to recognize this as an eminently
"Well," he remarked comfortably, "somebody'll be down from the mill
The riverman turned on him almost savagely.
"Down soon!" he snorted. "So'll the water be 'down soon.' It's dropping
every minute. That telegraft of yours won't even start out before
to-morrow morning. Don't you fool yourself. That Twin Falls outfit is
just too tickled to do us up. It'll be two days before anybody shows up,
and then where are you at? Hell!" and the old riverman relapsed into a
Considerably perturbed, Bob hunted up Larsen.
"Look here, Larsen," said he, "they tell me a delay here is likely to
hang up this drive. Is that right?"
The old man looked at his interlocutor, his brow wrinkled.
"I wish Darrell was in charge," said he.
"What would Darrell do that you can't do?" demanded Bob bluntly.
"That's just it; I don't know," confessed Larsen.
"Well, I'd get some weapons up town and drive that gang off," said Bob
"They'd have a posse down and jug the lot of us," Larsen pointed out,
"before we could clear the river." He suddenly flared up. "I ain't no
river boss, and I ain't paid as a river boss, and I never claimed to be
one. Why in hell don't they keep their men in charge?"
"You're working for the company, and you ought to do your best for
them," said Bob.
But Larsen had abruptly fallen into Scandinavian sulks. He muttered
something under his breath, and quite deliberately arose and walked
around to the other side of the fire.
Twice during the night Bob arose from his blankets and walked down to
the riverside. In the clear moonlight he could see one or the other of
the millmen always on watch, his shotgun across his knees. Evidently
they did not intend to be surprised by any night work. The young fellow
returned very thoughtful to his blankets, where he lay staring up
against the canvas of the tent.
Next morning he was up early, and in close consultation with Billy the
teamster. The latter listened attentively to what Bob had to say,
nodding his head from time to time. Then the two disappeared in the
direction of the wagon, where for a long interval they busied themselves
at some mysterious operation.
When they finally emerged from the bushes, Bob was carrying over his
shoulder a ten-foot poplar sapling around the end of which was fastened
a cylindrical bundle of considerable size. Bob paid no attention to the
men about the fire, but bent his steps toward the river. Billy, however,
said a few delighted words to the sprawling group. It arose with
alacrity and followed the young man's lead.
Arrived at the bank of the river, Bob swung his burden to the ground,
knelt by it, and lit a match. The rivermen, gathering close, saw that
the bundle around the end of the sapling consisted of a dozen rolls of
giant powder from which dangled a short fuse. Bob touched his match to
the split outer end of the fuse. It spluttered viciously. He arose with
great deliberation, picked up his strange weapon, and advanced out over
In the meantime the opposing army had gathered about the disputed clump
of piles, to the full strength of its three shotguns and the single
rifle. Bob paid absolutely no attention to them. When within a short
distance he stopped and, quite oblivious to warnings and threats from
the army, set himself to watching painstakingly the sputtering progress
of the fire up the fuse, exactly as a small boy watches his giant
cracker which he hopes to explode in mid-air. At what he considered the
proper moment he straightened his powerful young body, and cast the
sapling from him, javelin-wise.
"Scat!" he shouted, and scrambled madly for cover.
The army decamped in haste. Of its armament it lost near fifty per
cent., for one shotgun and the rifle remained where they had fallen.
Like Abou Ben Adam, Murdock led all the rest.
Now Bob had hurled his weapon as hard as he knew how, and had scampered
for safety without looking to see where it had fallen. As a matter of
fact, by one of those very lucky accidents, that often attend a star in
the ascendent, the sapling dove head on into a cavern in the jam above
the clump of piles. The detonation of the twelve full sticks of giant
powder was terrific. Half the river leaped into the air in a beautiful
column of water and spray that seemed to hang motionless for appreciable
moments. Dark fragments of timbers were hurled in all directions. When
the row had died the clump of piles was seen to have disappeared. Bob's
chance shot had actually cleared the river!
The rivermen glanced at each other amazedly.
"Did you _mean_ to place that charge, bub?" one asked.
Bob was too good a field general not to welcome the gifts of chance.
"Certainly," he snapped. "Now get out on that river, every mother's son
of you. Get that drive going and keep it going. I've cleared the river
for you; and if you'd any one of you had the nerve of my poor old fat
sub-centre, you'd have done it for yourselves. Get busy! Hop!"
The men jumped for their peavies. Bob raged up and down the bank. For
the moment he had forgotten the husk of the situation, and saw it only
in essential. Here was a squad to lick into shape, to fashion into a
team. It mattered little that they wore spikes in their boots instead of
cleats; that they sported little felt hats instead of head guards. The
principle was the same. The team had gone to pieces in the face of a
crisis; discipline was relaxed; grumblers were getting noisy. Bob
plunged joyously head over ears in his task. By now he knew every man by
name, and he addressed each personally. He had no idea of what was to be
done to start this riverful of logs smoothly and surely on its way; he
did not need to. Afloat on the river was technical knowledge enough, and
to spare. Bob threw his men at the logs as he used to throw his backs at
the opposing line. And they went. Even in the whole-souled, frantic
absorption of the good coach he found time to wonder at the likeness of
all men. These rivermen differed in no essential from the members of the
squad. They responded to the same authority; they could be hurled as a
unit against opposing obstacles.
Bob felt a heavy hand on his shoulder and whirled to stare straight into
the bloodshot eyes of Roaring Dick. The man was still drunk, but only
with the lees of the debauch. He knew perfectly what he was about, but
the bad whiskey still hummed through his head. Bob met the baleful glare
from under his square brows, as the man teetered back and forth on his
"You got a hell of a nerve!" said Roaring Dick, thickly. "You talk like
you was boss of this river."
Bob looked back at him steadily for a full half-minute.
"I am," said he at last.
Roaring Dick had not been brought up in the knowledge of protocols or
ultimatums. Scarcely had Bob uttered the last words of his brief speech
before he was hit twice in the face, good smashing blows that sent him
staggering. The blows were followed by a savage rush. Roaring Dick was
on his man with the quickness and ferocity of a wildcat. He hit, kicked,
wrestled, even bit. Bob was whirled back by the very impetuosity of the
attack. Before he could collect his wits he was badly punished and
dazed. He tripped and Roaring Dick, with a bellow of satisfaction, began
to kick at his body even before he reached the ground.
But strangely enough this fall served to clear Bob's head. Thousands of
times he had gone down just like this on the football field, and had
then been called upon to struggle on with the ball as far as he was
able. A slight hint of the accustomed will sometimes steady us in the
most difficult positions. The mind, bumping aimlessly, falls into its
groove, and instinctively shoots forward with tremendous velocity. Bob
hit the ground, half turned on his shoulder, rolled over twice with the
rapid, vigorous twist second-nature to a seasoned halfback, and bounded
to his feet. He met Roaring Dick half way with a straight blow. It
failed to stop, or even to shake the little riverman. The next instant
the men were wrestling fiercely.
Bob found himself surprisingly opposed. Beneath his loose, soft clothing
the riverman seemed to be made of steel. Suddenly Bob was called upon to
exert every ounce of strength in his body, and to summon all his
acquired skill to prevent himself from being ignominiously overpowered.
The ferocity of the rush, and the purposeful rapidity of Roaring Dick's
attack, as well as the unexpected variety thereof, kept him fully
occupied in defending himself. With the exception of the single blow
delivered when he had regained his feet, he had been unable even to
attempt aggression. It was as though he had touched a button to release
an astonishing and bewildering erratic energy.
Bob had done a great deal of boxing and considerable wrestling. During
his boyhood and youth he had even become involved in several fisticuffs.
They had always been with the boys or young men of his own ideas. Though
conducted in anger they retained still a certain remnant of convention.
No matter how much you wanted to "do" the other fellow, you tried to
accomplish that result by hitting cleanly, or by wrestling him to a
point where you could "punch his face in." The object was to hurt your
opponent until he had had enough, until he was willing to quit, until he
had been thoroughly impressed with the fact that he was punished. But
this result was to be accomplished with the fists. If your opponent
seized a club, or a stone, or tried to kick, that very act indicated his
defeat. He had had enough, and that was one way of acknowledging your
superiority. So strongly ingrained had this instinct of the
fight-convention become that even now Bob unconsciously was playing
according to the rules of the game.
Roaring Dick, on the contrary, was out solely for results. He fought
with every resource at his command. Bob was slow to realize this, slow
to arouse himself beyond the point of calculated defence. His whole
training on the field inclined him to keep cool and to play, whatever
the game, from a reasoning standpoint. He was young, strong and
practised; but he was not roused above the normal. And, as many rivermen
had good reason to know, the normal man availed little against Roaring
Dick's maniacal rushes.
The men were close-locked, and tugging and straining for an advantage.
Bob crouched lower and lower with a well-defined notion of getting a
twist on his opponent. For an instant he partially freed one side. Like
lightning Roaring Dick delivered a fierce straight kick at his groin.
The blow missed its aim, but Bob felt the long, sharp spikes tearing the
flesh of his thigh. Sheer surprise relaxed his muscles for the fraction
of an instant. Roaring Dick lowered his head, rammed it into Bob's chin,
and at the same time reached for the young man's gullet with both hands.
Bob tore his head out of reach in the nick of time. As they closed again
Roaring Dick's right hand was free. Bob felt the riverman's thumb
fumbling for his eyeball.
"Why, he wants to cripple me, to kill me!" the young man cried to
himself. So vivid was the astonishment of this revelation to his
sportsman's soul that he believed he had said it aloud. This was no mere
fight, it was a combat. In modern civilized conditions combats are
notably few and far between. It is difficult for the average man to come
to a realization that he must in any circumstances depend on himself for
the preservation of his life. Even to the last moment the victim of the
real melodrama that occasionally breaks out in the most unlikely places
is likely to be more concerned with his outraged dignity than with his
peril. That thumb, feeling eagerly for his eye-socket, woke Bob to a new
world. A swift anger rushed over him like a hot wave.
This man was trying to injure him. Either the kick or the gouge would
have left him maimed for life. A sudden fierce desire to beat his
opponent into the earth seized Bob. With a single effort he wrenched his
Now this fact has been noted again and again: mere size has often little
to do with a man's physical prowess. The list of anecdotes wherein the
little fellow "puts it all over" the big bully is exceptionally long.
Nor are more than a bare majority of the anecdotes baseless. In our own
lumber woods a one-hundred-and-thirty-pound man with no other weapon
than his two hands once nearly killed a two-hundred-pound blacksmith for
pushing him off a bench. This phenomenon arises from the fact that the
little man seems capable often of releasing at will a greater flood of
dynamic energy than a big man. We express this by saying that it is the
spirit that counts. As a matter of truth the big man may have as much
courage as the little man. It is simply that he cannot, at will, tap as
quickly the vast reservoir of nervous energy that lies beneath all human
effort of any kind whatsoever. He cannot arouse himself as can the
It was for the foregoing reason that Roaring Dick had acquired his
ascendancy. He possessed the temperament that fuses. When he fought, he
fought with the ferocity and concentration of a wild beast. This
concentration, this power of fusing to white heat all the powers of a
man's being down to the uttermost, this instinctive ability to tap the
extra-human stores of dynamics is what constitutes the temperament of
genius, whether it be applied to invention, to artistic creation, to
ruling, to finance, or merely to beating down personal opposition by
beating in the opponent's face. Unfortunately for him, Bob Orde happened
also to possess the temperament of genius. The two foul blows aroused
him. All at once he became blind to everything but an unreasoning desire
to hurt this man who had tried to hurt him. On the side of dynamics the
combat suddenly equalized. It became a question merely of relative
power, and Bob was the bigger man.
Bob threw his man from him by main strength. Roaring Dick staggered
back, only to carrom against a tree. A dozen swift, straight blows in
the face drove him by the sheer force of them. He was smothered,
overwhelmed, by the young man's superior size. Bob fell upon him
savagely. In less than a minute the fight was over as far as Roaring
Dick was concerned. Blinded, utterly winded, his whiskey-driven
energies drained away, he fell like a log. Bob, still blazing, found
himself without an opponent.
He glared about him. The rivermen were gathered in a silent ring. Just
beyond stood a side-bar buggy in which a burly, sodden red-faced man
stood up the better to see. Bob recognized him as one of the saloon
keepers at Twin Falls, and his white-hot brain jumped to the correct
conclusion that Roaring Dick, driven by some vague conscience-stirring
in regard to his work, had insisted on going down river; and that this
dive-keeper, loth to lose a profitable customer in the dull season, had
offered transportation in the hopeful probability that he could induce
the riverman to return with him. Bob stooped, lifted his unconscious
opponent, strode to the side-bar buggy and unceremoniously dumped his
"Now," said he roughly, "get out of here! When this man comes to, you
tell him he's fired! He's not to show his face on this river again!"
The saloon-keeper demurred, blustering slightly after the time-tried
manner of his sort.
"Look here, young fellow, you can't talk that way to me."
"Can't I!" snapped Bob; "well, you turn around and get out of here."
The man met full the blaze of the extra-normal powers not yet fallen
below the barrier in the young fellow's personality. He gathered up the
reins and drove away.
Bob watched him out of sight, his chest rising and falling with the
receding waves of his passion. He was a strange young figure with his
torn garments, his tossed hair, the streak of blood beneath his eye, and
the inner fading glow of his face. At last he drew a long, shuddering
breath, and turned to the expectant and silent group of rivermen.
"Boys," said he pleasantly, "I don't know one damn thing about
river-driving, but I do know when a man's doing his best work. I shall
expect you fellows to get in and rustle down those logs. Any man who
thinks he's going to soldier on me is going to get fooled, and he's
going to get his time handed out to him on the spot. As near as I can
make out, unless we get an everlasting wiggle on us--every one of
us--this drive'll hang up; and I'd just as soon hang it by laying off
those who try to shirk as by letting you hang it by not working your
best. So get busy. If anybody wants to quit, let 'em step up right now.
Any remarks?" He looked from one to another.
"Nary remark," said one man at last.
"All right. Now get your backs into this. It's _team work_ that counts.
You've each got your choice; either you can lie like the devil to hide
the fact that you were a member of the Cedar Branch crew in 1899, or you
can go away and brag about it. It's up to you. Get busy."
Two days later Welton swung from the train at Twin Falls. His red, jolly
face was as quizzical as ever, but one who knew him might have noticed
that his usual leisurely movements had quickened. He walked rapidly to
the livery stable where he ordered a rig.
"Where's the drive, Hank?" he asked the liveryman.
"Search me!" was his reply; "somewhere down river. Old Murdock is up
talkin' wild about damage suits, and there's evidently been one hell of
a row, but I just got back myself from drivin' a drummer over to
"Know if Darrell is in town?"
"Oh, _he's_ in town; there ain't no manner of doubt as to that."
"Spifflicated, pie-eyed, loaded, soshed," agreed the liveryman
Welton shook his head humorously and ruefully.
"Say, Welton," demanded the liveryman with the easy familiarity of his
class, "why in blazes do you put a plain drunk like that in charge?"
"Darrell is a good man on a big job," said Welton; "you can't beat him,
and you can't get him to take a drink. But it takes a big job to steady
"Well, I'd fire him," stated Hank positively.
"He's already fired," spoke up a hostler, "they laid him off two days
ago when he went down drunk and tried to take charge."
"Well, now," chuckled Welton, as he gathered up the reins, "who'd have
thought old Larsen could scare up the spunk!"
He drove down the river road. When he came to a point opposite Murdock's
he drew up.
"That wire said that Murdock had the river blocked," he mused, "but
she's certainly flowing free enough now. The river's sacked clean now."
His presence on the bank had attracted the attention of a man in the
mill. After a long scrutiny, this individual launched a skiff and pulled
across the stream.
"I thought it was you," he cried as soon as he had stepped ashore.
"Well, let me tell you I'm going to sue you for damages, big damages!"
Welton looked him over quizzically, and the laughing lines deepened
around the corners of his eyes.
"Lay on, MacDuff," said he, "nobody's sued me yet this year, and it
didn't seem natural."
"And for assault with deadly weapons, and malicious destruction of
property, and seizure and----"
"You must have been talking to a country lawyer," interrupted Welton,
with one of his subterranean chuckles. "Don't do it. They got nothing
_but_ time, and you know what your copy book says about idle hands." He
crossed one leg and leaned back as though for a comfortable chat. "No,
you come and see me, Murdock, and state how much you've been damaged,
and we'll see what we can do. Why, these little lawyers love to name
things big. They'd call a sewing circle a riot if one of the members
dropped a stitch."
But Murdock was in deadly earnest.
"Perhaps throwin' dynamite on the end of a pole, and mighty nigh killin'
us, and just blowin' the whole river up in the air is your idea of
somethin' little," he stormed; "well, you'll find it'll look big enough
"So that's what they did to clear the river," said Welton, more than
half to himself. "Well, Murdock, suit yourself; you can see me or that
intellectual giant of a lawyer of yours. You'll find me cheaper. So
He drove on, chuckling.
"I didn't think old Larsen had the spunk," he repeated after a time.
"Guess I ought to have put him in charge in the beginning."
He drove to a point where the erratic road turned inland. There he tied
his horse to a tree and tramped on afoot. After a little he came in
sight of the rear--and stopped.
The men were working hard; a burst of hearty laughter saluted Welton's
ears. He could hardly believe them. Nobody had heard this sullen crew of
nondescript rivermen from everywhere exhibit the faintest symptoms of
good-humour or interest before. Another burst of laughter came up the
breeze. A dozen men ran out over the logs as though skylarking, inserted
their peavies in a threatened lock, and pried it loose.
"Pretty work," said the expert in Welton.
He drew nearer through the low growth until he stood well within hearing
and seeing distance. Then he stopped again.
Bob Orde was walking up and down the bank talking to the men. They were
laughing back at him. His manner was half fun, half earnest, part
rueful, part impatient, wholly affectionate.
"You, Jim," said he, "go out and get busy. You're loafing, you know you
are; I don't give a damn what you're to do. Do something! Don't give an
imitation of a cast-iron hero. No, I won't either tell you what to do. I
don't know. But do it, even if you have to make it up out of your own
head. Consider the festive water-beetle, and the ant and other
industrious doodle-bugs. Get a wiggle on you, fellows. We'll never get
out at this rate. If this drive gets hung up, I'm going to murder every
last one of you. Come on now, all together; if I could walk out on those
logs I'd build a fire under you; but you've got me tied to the bank and
you know it, you big fat loafers, you!"
"Keep your hair on, bub; we'll make it, all right"
"Well, we'd just better make it," warned Bob. "Now I'm going down to the
jam to see whether their alarm clock went off this morning.--Now, don't
After he had disappeared down the trail, Welton stepped into view.
"Oh, Charley!" he called.
One of the rivermen sprang ashore.
"When did the rear leave Murdock's?" he asked without preliminary.
"You've made good time."
"Bet we have," replied Charley with pride.
"Who's jam boss?"
"Who's in charge of the river, then?" demanded Welton sharply.
"Why, young Orde!" replied the riverman, surprised.
"Since he blew up Murdock's piles."
"Oh, he did that, did he? I suppose he fired Darrell, too?"
"Sure. It was a peach of a scrap."
"Yep. That Orde boy is a wonder. He just _ruined_ Roaring Dick."
"He did, did he?" commented Welton. "Well, so long."
He followed Bob down the river trail. At the end of a half-mile he
overtook the young fellow kneeling on a point gazing at a peeled stake
planted at the edge of the river.
"Wish I knew how long this water was going to hold out," he murmured, as
he heard a man pause behind him. "She's dropped two inches by my patent
"Young man," said Welton, "are you on the payrolls of this company?"
Bob turned around, then instantly came to his feet.
"Oh, you're here at last, Mr. Welton," he cried in tones of vast relief.
"Answer my question, please."
"What?" asked Bob with an expression of bewilderment.
"Are you on the payrolls of this company?"
"No, sir, of course not. You know that."
"Then what are you doing in charge of this river?"
"Why, don't you see--"
"I see you've destroyed property and let us in for a big damage suit. I
see you've discharged our employees without authority to do so. I see
you're bossing my men and running my drive without the shadow of a
"But something had to be done," expostulated Bob.
"What do you know about river-driving?" broke in Welton. "Not a thing."
"Men who told me did--"
"A bunch of river-hogs," broke in Welton contemptuously. "It strikes me,
young man, that you have the most colossal cheek I've ever heard of."
But Bob faced him squarely.
"Look here," he said decidedly, "I'm technically wrong, and I know it.
But good men told me your measly old drive would hang if it stayed there
two days longer; and I believed them, and I believe them yet. I don't
claim to know anything about river-driving, but here your confounded
drive is well on its way. I kicked that drunk off the river because he
was no good. I took hold here to help you out of a hole, and you're
"But," said Welton, carefully, "don't you see that you took chances on
losing me a lot of property?"
Bob looked up at him a moment wearily.
"From my point of view I have nothing to regret," said he stiffly, and
The humorous lines about Welton's eyes had been deepening throughout
"That tops it off," said he. "First you get me into trouble; then you
fire my head man; then you run off with my property; finally you tell me
to go to hell! Son, you are a great man! Shake!"
Bob whirled in surprise to search Welton's good-natured jolly face. The
latter was smiling.
"Shake," he repeated, relapsing, as was his habit when much in earnest,
into his more careless speech; "you done just right. Son, remember
this:--it's true--it ain't _doing_ things that makes a man so much as
One of his great chuckles bubbled up.
"It took some nerve to jump in the way you did; and some sand to handle
the flea-bitten bunch of river-hogs----"
"You're mistaken about them," Bob broke in earnestly. "They've been
maligned. They're as good and willing a squad as I ever want to see----"
"Oh, sure," laughed Welton; "they're a nice little job lot of tin
angels. However, don't worry. You sure saved the day, for I believe we
would have hung if we hadn't got over the riffles before this last drop
of the water."
He began to laugh, at first, gently, then more and more heartily, until
Bob stared at him with considerable curiosity and inquiry. Welton caught
"I was just thinking of Harvey and Collins," he remarked enigmatically
as he wiped his eyes. "Oh, Bobby, my son, you sure do please me. Only I
was afraid for a minute it might be a flash in the pan and you weren't
going to tell me to go to hell."
They turned back toward the rear.
"By the way," Welton remarked, "you made one bad break just now."
"What was that?" asked Bob.
"You told me you were not on the payrolls of this company. You are."
For a year Bob worked hard at all sorts of jobs. He saw the woods work,
the river work, the mill work. From the stump to the barges he followed
the timbers. Being naturally of a good intelligence, he learned very
fast how things were done, so that at the end of the time mentioned he
had acquired a fair working knowledge of how affairs were accomplished
in this business he had adopted. That does not mean he had become a
capable lumberman. One of the strangest fallacies long prevalent in the
public mind is that lumbering is always a sure road to wealth. The
margin of profit seems very large. As a matter of fact, the industry is
so swiftly conducted, on so large a scale, along such varied lines; the
expenditures must be made so lavishly, and yet so carefully; the
consequences of a niggardly policy are so quickly apparent in decreased
efficiency, and yet the possible leaks are so many, quickly draining the
most abundant resources, that few not brought up through a long
apprenticeship avoid a loss. A great deal of money has been and is made
in timber. A great deal has been lost, simply because, while the
possibilities are alluring, the complexity of the numerous problems is
At first Bob saw only the results. You went into the woods with a crew
of men, felled trees, cut them into lengths, dragged them to the roads
already prepared, piled them on sleighs, hauled them to the river, and
stacked them there. In the spring you floated the logs to the mill where
they were sawed into boards, laden into sailing vessels or steam barges,
and taken to market. There was the whole process in a nutshell. Of
course, there would be details and obstructions to cope with. But
between the eighty thousand dollars or so worth of trees standing in the
forest and the quarter-million dollars or so they represented at the
market seemed space enough to allow for many reverses.
As time went on, however, the young man came more justly to realize the
minuteness of the bits comprising this complicated mosaic. From keeping
men to the point of returning, in work, the worth of their wages; from
so correlating and arranging that work that all might be busy and not
some waiting for others; up through the anxieties of weather and the
sullen or active opposition of natural forces, to the higher levels of
competition and contracts, his awakened attention taught him that
legitimate profits could attend only on vigilant and minute attention,
on comprehensive knowledge of detail, on experience, and on natural
gift. The feeding of men abundantly at a small price involved questions
of buying, transportation and forethought, not to speak of concrete
knowledge of how much such things should ideally be worth. Tools by the
thousand were needed at certain places and at certain times. They must
be cared for and accounted for. Horses, and their feed, equipment and
care, made another not inconsiderable item both of expense and
attention. And so with a thousand and one details which it would be
superfluous to enumerate here. Each cost money, and some one's time.
Relaxed attention might make each cost a few pennies more. What do a few
pennies amount to? Two things: a lowering of the standard of efficiency,
and, in the long run, many dollars. If incompetence, or inexperience
should be added to relaxed attention, so that the various activities do
not mortise exactly one with another, and the legitimate results to be
expected from the pennies do not arrive, then the sum total is very apt
to be failure. Where organized and settled industries, however
complicated in detail, are in a manner played by score, these frontier
activities are vast improvisations following only the general
unchangeable laws of commerce.
Therefore, Bob was very much surprised and not a little dismayed at
what Mr. Welton had to say to him one evening early in the spring.
It was in the "van" of Camp Thirty-nine. Over in the corner under the
lamp the sealer and bookkeeper was epitomizing the results of his day.
Welton and Bob sat close to the round stove in the middle, smoking their
pipes. The three or four bunks belonging to Bob, the scaler, and the
camp boss were dim in another corner; the shelves of goods for trade
with the men occupied a third. A rude door and a pair of tiny windows
communicated with the world outside. Flickers of light from the cracks
in the stove played over the massive logs of the little building, over
the rough floor and the weapons and snowshoes on the wall. Both Bob and
Welton were dressed in flannel and kersey, with the heavy German socks
and lumberman's rubbers on their feet. Their bright-checked Mackinaw
jackets lay where they had been flung on the beds. Costume and
surroundings both were a thousand miles from civilization; yet
civilization was knocking at the door. Welton gave expression to this
"Two seasons more'll finish us, Bob," said he. "I've logged the Michigan
woods for thirty-five years, but now I'm about done here."
"Yes, I guess they're all about done," agreed Bob.
"The big men have gone West; lots of the old lumber jacks are out there
now. It's our turn. I suppose you know we've got timber in California?"
"Yes," said Bob, with a wry grin, as he thought of the columns of
"descriptions" he had copied; "I know that."
"There's about half a billion feet of it. We'll begin to manufacture
when we get through here. I'm going out next month, as soon as the snow
is out of the mountains, to see about the plant and the general lay-out.
I'm going to leave you in charge here."
Bob almost dropped his pipe as his jaws fell apart.
"Me!" he cried.
"But I can't; I don't know enough! I'd make a mess of the whole