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Among the Forrest Trees
Chapter III - House-Building


TO raise a log house of any great size requires some mechanical contrivance, as well as considerable force, either mechanical or otherwise; and to lay up the walls properly demands a good deal of practice, and not a little skill.

To notch up a corner perfectly is a piece of work that but few men can do. Either it will be "out of plumb," or it will "bow in," or "bow out." Or maybe the logs will "ride," that is, rest on each other, or they will be too far apart, leaving too much of a "crack" between them. The fact that so few men are able to do a nice job on a corner, makes good cornermen an important factor at log-raisings. Such men sometimes go Iona distances. And there have been instances in which cornerrnen have been hired to go into other neighborhoods than their own to lay up corners.

When Bushman enquired among Mr. Root's men he found that three of them claimed to be good corner-men. He could do something at that work himself, so that he felt easy on that score. He then went to Mr. Root and asked him if he had a large auger among his tools.

"What do you want with it?" asked the American. "I want to make some `bull heads' for the raising," replied Bushman.

"What are they, and what use do you make of them?" asked Root.

"Don't you know what a bull's head is for? Why, we use them, and bull's eyes, too, at log raising. Were you never at such a place?" said Bushman.

"No; nothing more than putting up a shanty in the Michigan lumber woods. But what are the things, anyway? I want to see them."

Bushman answered, "Now, I think of it, that you came from an old State where the log raising is one of the old things that are looked back to as belonging to the times of your great-grandfathers, and of course you can't remember them."

Mr. Root said, "That is all true. But are you never going to tell me what bull's heads and bull's eyes are like?"

"Yes, as soon as I can get you ready for the information."

"I am ready now, and have been for some time."

"Not quite ready yet," said Bushman; "did you ever see a skid?"

"Yes, I have cut and used scores of them in the lumber woods," was the reply.

"I thought so. We use skids at log-raisings for the same purpose, and the same way that they are used in the lumbering woods, namely, to roll or slide logs on. But one more question, if you please: Did you ever see a man on crutches?"

"Yes, more than once. But what earthly connection can there be between a man on crutches and the use of a bull's head at a log-raising?"

"I will tell you, my inquisitive friend," said Bushman. "I dare say you have noticed that the head of the crutch, or, in other words, the part that is placed under the arm in walking, is shaped like a new moon with the points of the horns cut off. That piece is put on a long staff, or handle. Well, a bull's head is like a great overgrown crutch, with a handle from ten to twenty feet long, and the head large enough and strong enough to bear the strain of six or eight men pushing on it with all their strength at once."

"I see," said the other. "But after the thing is made, how is it used?"

"In raising, we roll the logs up on the skids as far as we can reach with our hands. Then we put one or two bull's heads under each end of it, and the men take hold of the long handles and push against the log and slide it along the skid to the place where they want it."

"I think I understand. But what is a bull's eye?" asked Mr. Root.

"We cut a long, slim beech, or hickory sapling about the size of a chair post. We leave the top limbs all on, and twist them together until they are like a rope. Bring the end around in a circle of about fifteen inches diameter, fasten it securely to the main body of the sapling. Then you have a hoop on the end of a long pole. Now, the man on the corner takes the pole in his hand, then he slips the hoop on the end of the log and pulls with all his might, to help the men who are pushing the log up the skid. Sometimes ropes are used. But the withes are cheaper and handier."

"I think that I could make either a bull's head or a bull's eye now," said Mr. Root. "But in answer to the question you asked so long ago, I want to say, I have both a large and a small auger among my tools."

"All right," Bushman answered, "I want a two-inch auger to bore into the bull's head for the handles, and I want an inch auger to bore into the handles to put pins into for the men to take hold of when using the articles."

In a few days the necessary preparations for the raising were all finished. Mr. Root and his staff of road-makers came according to the previous arrangement. But the four extra men who were expected did not come in time for the raising, so that the force was not as strong as they had thought it would be. However, they had fourteen men and a good yoke of oxen. This was by no means a light team for the job, especially as the logs to be handled were all cedar.

Bushman had made the best preparations in his power for the comfort of the men, by providing plenty of food and tea and coffee. His bachelor experiences had developed him into a very passable cook.

No whiskey was found in the "bill of fare." There were two reasons for this. The young man never used it, and he was too conscientious to give to others what he would not take himself. And besides this, there was no place for many miles where it could be obtained. It would have been a great rain to this country, if whiskey had always been conspicuous by its absence from the social life, and individual habits of the people, in all the provinces of this young Dominion. But the men were well satisfied with the efforts made for their enjoyment.

As this was to be the first house of any respectable size in two or three townships a great deal of care was taken in laying the foundation and rearing the walls. It must be exactly square. It must be entirely level, and it must stand so that the sides and ends would face the four cardinal points of the compass—East, West, North, and South. And this would make it correspond with the concessions and sidelines of the township. And in ore than this, an example would be set that all new corners might follow in building their new homes.

But a lot of active, handy men would not be long; in laying the foundation and in getting the floor sleepers in their places. By nine o'clock they had everything ready to commence the raising.

Mr. Root superintended the work on the ground, while Bushman himself gave directions to cornermen in regard to their part of the work.

And now, kind reader, let us pause a little to watch those men at their work. See with what readiness they do as they are told by the foremen. Each seemed to vie with the other in doing his part. And when the word is given, see how every man seems to spring with all his might, and how the log fairly seems to jump along the skids toward the place where it is wanted.

But do you notice the peculiar kind of words that are spoken. The only thing said is, "He-o-heave, He-o-heave." Do you ask what is the meaning of those words? I cannot tell you. I have been at a ,great many raisings, and I have heard the words at every one of them; but I have never heard a definition of them by any one. In fact, I never heard a question asked about the meaning of them.

I think I can give you an equivalent for them, that is easily understood. ". Prepare-lift," seems to be what is implied in the words "He-o-heave." At the word "heave," every man does his best, and the work goes on.

\\'e have here an illustration of the benefit of united action. Now, these men might lift, one at a time, until they died, and they could not put up those logs, and make a house of them. But what would be impossible to do by individual effort can easily be accomplished by united and concentrated effort.

But if we do not make haste these busy workers will have the walls up while we are describing the process of raising there. How swift time flies when we are interested in anything. Here it is noon already, and the men are preparing for their dinner or lunch or whatever it may be called.

We will sit clown and share with them. We need have no misgivings as to our being welcome to do so, for backwoodsmen are noted for their unpretentious hospitality.

The men sat at an extempore table, made by placing two large logs so that poles could be laid across from one to the other. These were thickly covered over with bed-quilts, and over all was spread a white table cloth that had been borrowed from the nearest neighbor. The dishes had been got from the road makers.

They sat on the ground in the same manner that tailors sometimes sit on the bench when sewing.

There was considerable mirth among the dinner-party who partook of that first public meal ever enjoyed on the banks of Sylvan Lake.

After they had finished their dinners, some one proposed to drink the health of the future mistress of the house they were raising. The idea took, and the teacups were filled with the clear, pure water from the lake.

It was decided that Mr. Root should propose the toast, and John Bushman was to reply.

After a little hesitation, Mr. Root lifted his cup, and the rest followed his example. He looked around upon the beaming faces of the good-natured lot, and spoke as follows:—

"Here's to the lady who one day will come
And, as the loved mistress of this rural home,
Will preside like a genius that chases away
All the cobwebs and darkness; and make people say,
What a splendid housekeeper John Bushman has got,
Who can make Sylvan Lodge such a beautiful spot;
May her heart long be lightened with music and song;
May her path still be bright as the years pass along,
And as age creeps upon her may her life still be blest
With the love of a husband, the kindest and best;
And at last when the work of this life is all done,
May she rest in the home where the Master has gone."

As Mr. Root sat down, the whole company broke out in a storm of applause. "Hurrah for Root' long life to the Mistress of Sylvan Lodge!" rang into the ears of John Bushman, who colored up and looked like a man who is charged with some mean action. The cups of water were forgotten, and Bushman was called for by half a dozen voices at once.

The young man stepped upon the end of one of the logs used as supports for the table, and commenced by saying:_

"Gentlemen, for the first time in my life I find myself wishing that I was a poet, so that I might reply to my friend in a proper way. But I shall have to ask you to listen to a short speech in prose, and it may be too prosy a speech.

"In reply to the kindly wishes so well expressed by our friend, and so heartily endorsed by you, all I wish to say is, I do indulge a hope that at no very distant day Sylvan Lake will reflect a fairer face than mine, and that the house we are raising to-day may have the presence of a mistress as well as that of a master. And, gentlemen, if, in the future, any of you should be passing this way do not forget this place. And I want you all to remember that the sun that lavishes its warmth and light upon us, is not more free to kiss away the dery-drops from the leaves that bend in the morning under their loads of liquid brightness, than the hospitalities of Sylvan Lodge, as you have been pleased to call this house, shall he free to anyone who is helping to raise this house to-day."

As he finished his short address he was loudly applauded by his comrades. Harry Hawthorn became enthused, as the newspaper men say. He cried out at the top of his voice, "Sucess till yez Maisther Bushman, and may your shaddy niver grow shorter, and may your purse become longer and heavier; and may your dacent lady, Mrs. Bushman, grow purtier, and swater timpered as the years go by."

They now concluded to resume their work. But before they commenced an elderly man, named Adam Switch, told the men that their mirthfulness brought a sad recollection to his mind. Some one asked him to what he referred.

He said, "A number of years ago—I think it was before the Rebellion—I was at the raising of a lo; barn. The men all seemed to be carried away with the spirit of mirth. Although there was not a drop of intoxicating liquor about the place, they acted as if all hands were tipsy.

"Everything went well until about the middle of the afternoon. The barn was up ten or twelve feet high. In putting up one of the long side-logs the men got racing to see whose end would be ahead. In their thoughtless haste one end was shoved so far ahead that it slipped off the skid, and fell. In falling to the ground it struck the owner of the barn and killed hire instantly. [In the Township of Wallace a man was killed in the same way in A.D. 1860, while at his own raising of a log barn.] He left a wife and small family to battle with life in a new country, as best they could without him. I never go to a raising since that day without solemn feelings."

By sundown the walls were up and the rafters, on. Then the men concluded that their task was done, And it was done, too, without Mr. Root having to show them a "Yankee trick by way of ox-driving."

Bushman was well pleased with the way in which the work was done. And Mr. Root, after congratulating him on the success of the day's efforts, said. "Inasmuch as all his men had agreed to come to a `bee,' no charge would be made for the time spent at the raisin.".

The young man was completely taken by surprise. He thanked them for their kindness, and hoped he might he yet able to make them all a suitable return.

One of the men, a Mr. Beech, said to him, "So far as I am concerned, very likely you may have a chance to do it before many months are gone. One of my reasons for joining this party of road makers was the opportunity it would give me to select a good lot of land on which to settle.

"I am so well pleased with the looks of the land and timber about here that I have sent in an application for the lot on the other side of the road from yours. If I get it, which most likely I will, I expect to settle on it early next spring. So, you see, we are likely to become fellow-citizens of the new country, and we may as well commence to be sociable and neighborly at once."

"I am glad to hear it," said Bushman; "and I hope that you may never have cause to think of me in any other character than that of a good neighbor and trusty friend,"

"Well, upon me sowl," broke in Harry Hawthorn, "an', shore, wonders will niver cease. It's meself that's fist afther securin' the roight to build a shanty fur rneself, and a byre fur me cow on the lot over the bound'ry, and jist fiarnenst the lot we are on this blessed minute. Thin I will sind to ould Ireland, that I love so «ell, and bring out my Biddy and our childer, and we will snake ourselves a home, and may the saints be good till all of us."

"I am delighted," said Bushman,"to hear that I am to have two such neighbors as Mr. Beech and Mr. Hawthorn, and I hope that we shall do what we can for each other, so as to lighten the burdens of pioneer life."

"Shure, and we will do that same thing," replied the Irishman. "But, if you please, do not call me Misther. Let me name be only Harry on wake days, and Harry Hawthorn on Sunday fur a change, to match wid me Sunday clothes, you see."

They all laughed at the way that Harry presented his wishes respecting the cognomen by which he would have himself addressed by his neighbors.

"Will you allow me a place in your Backwoods Society?"

The question was asked by Mr. John Brushy. He was the most quiet and the most powerful man in the group. He stood six feet, and weighed two hundred pounds. When he was roused, he was just the kind of mean to be let alone by ordinary men. But he seldom dot roused, sinless he had too much whiskey in him. Then he was quarrelsome, and sometimes dangerous.

But he was the right man for the bush, and his friends were always safe with him, and could trust him.

They all looked at the big man, and they saw that he was in earnest.

"Yes, cheerfully," said Bushman, in answer to his question.

"Yes, with all my heart," said Peter Beech.

"Yes, me too," said Harry; "give us your sledgehammer of a hand, and long may we all live in peace and harmony together."

"\'ell, I hope none of you will leave ime till my contract is filled," said Mr. Root. "Then if I conclude to stay in Canada, and in the meantime, if I find no finer tract of land, I will see if I can come across a vacant lot hereabouts, and settle down in your neighborhood. But at present we will talk about our plans for the future," and turning to Bushman, he said, "What do you calculate on doing next?"

I think I will go on and finish up the house first, and then pay you back the work that I owe you. By that time winter will be here. Then I will leave the house to you and your men, and go home for a couple of months, and come back in the spring."

"And bring a wife with you," broke in one of the men.

"As to that, I don't know whether any one would have me," he said, with a blush on his cheek.

"The first thing to be done will be to go out to Mapleton, and bring in the glass and nails. That will take about two trips. Then I shall have to get a frow and drawing-knife, and cross-cut saw, to make the shingles. I think I can borrow them from the people where I get my bread."

"How far is it to Mapleton?" asked one of them. "About twenty-two miles," was the answer. And what direction is it?"

"There is only one way out from here yet, and that is the way we all carne in on."

"What are you going to do for lumber?" was asked by James Brushy.

"I shall have to hew out timber for the floors, and split cedar slats for the sheeting," was the reply.

"Well," said Brushy, "can't we all who are intending to settle here put in together and buy a whip saw? I know how to use it, and in that way we can get on until somebody comes along to put up a sawmill."

The four men agreed to adopt the plan, and directed Bushman to order the saw through the storekeeper at Mapleton.

Everything succeeded as they wished. The house was made as comfortable as such a one could be. The stable was built for the cattle, the work was duly paid back to Mr. Root, and by the middle of December John Bushman started for home, having been absent since early in the last spring.


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