Benjamin Alexander Heydrick.

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their peavies to the reluctant timbers, heaved, pushed, slid, and
rolled them one by one into the current, where they were
caught and borne away. They had been doing this for a
week. As yet their efforts had made but slight impression on
the bulk of the jam, but some time, with patience, they would
reach the key-logs. Then the tangle would melt like sugar in
the freshet, and these imperturbable workers would have to
escape suddenly over the plunging logs to shore.

My eye ranged over the men, and finally rested on Dickey


Darrell. He was standing on the slanting end of an up-
heaved log dominating the scene. His little triangular face
with the accents of the quadrilateral eyebrows was pale with
the blaze of his energy, and his chipmunk eyes seemed to flame
with a dynamic vehemence that caused those on whom they
fell to jump as though they had been touched with a hot poker.
I had heard more of Dickey Darrell since my last visit, and
was glad of the chance to observe Morrison & Daly's best
" driver " at work.

The jam seemed on the very edge of breaking. After
half an hour's strained expectation it seemed still on the very
edge of breaking. So I sat down on a stump. Then for the
first time I noticed another acquaintance, handling his peavie
near the very person of the rear boss.

"Hullo," said I to myself, "that's funny. I wonder if
Jimmy Powers got even; and if so, why he is working so
amicably and so near Roaring Dick."

At noon the men came ashore for dinner. I paid a quarter
into the cook's private exchequer and so was fed. After the
meal I approached my acquaintance of the year before.

" Hello, Powers," I greeted him, " I suppose you don't re-
member me? "

" Sure," he responded heartily. " Ain't you a little early
this year? "

" No," I disclaimed, " this is a better sight than a birling

I offered him a cigar, which he immediately substituted for
his corn-cob pipe. We sat at the root of a tree.

" It'll be a great sight when that jam pulls," said I.

" You bet," he replied, " but she's a teaser. Even old Tim
Shearer would have a picnic to make out just where the key-
logs are. We've started her three times, but she's plugged
tight every trip. Likely to pull almost any time."

We discussed various topics. Finally I ventured:

" I see your old friend Darrell is rear boss."


" Yes," said Jimmy Powers, dryly.

" By the way, did you fellows ever square up on that birling
match? "

"No," said Jimmy Powers; then after an instant, "Not

I glanced at him to recognize the square set to the jaw
that had impressed me so formidably the year before. And
again his face relaxed almost quizzically as he caught sight of

" Bub," said he, getting to his feet, " those little marks are
on my foot yet. And just you tie into one idea: Dickey Dar-
rell's got it coming." llis face darkened with a swift anger.
" God damn his soul! " he said, deliberately. It was no mere
profanity. It was an imprecation, and in its very deliberation
I glimpsed the flare of an undying hate.

About three o'clock that afternoon Jimmy's prediction was
fulfilled. Without the slightest warning the jam "pulled."
Usually certain premonitory cracks, certain sinkings down,
groanings forward, grumblings, shruggings, and sullen, reluc-
tant shiftings of the logs give opportunity for the men to
assure their safety. This jam, after inexplicably hanging fire
for a week, as inexplicably started like a sprinter almost into
its full gait. The first few tiers toppled smash into the cur-
rent, raising a waterspout like that made by a dynamite ex-
plosion; the mass behind plunged forward blindly, rising and
falling as the integral logs were up-ended, turned over, thrust
one side, or forced bodily into the air by the mighty power
playing jack-straws with them.

The rivermen, though caught unaware, reached either bank.
They held their peavies across their bodies as balancing-poles,
and zig-zagged ashore with a calmness and lack of haste that
were in reality only an indication of the keenness with which
they fore-estimated each chance. Long experience with the
ways of saw-logs brought them out. They knew the correla-
tion of these many forces just as the expert billiard-player


knows instinctively the various angles of incident and reflec-
tion between his cue-ball and its mark. Consequently they
avoided the centers of eruption, paused on the spots steadied
for the moment, dodged moving logs, trod those not yet under
way, and so arrived on solid ground. The jam itself started
with every indication of meaning business, gained momentum
for a hundred feet, and then plugged to a standstill. The
" break " was abortive.

Now we all had leisure to notice two things. First, the
movement had not been of the whole jam, as we had at first
supposed, but only of a block or section of it twenty rods
or so in extent. Thus between the part that had moved and
the greater bulk that had not stirred lay a hundred feet of
open water in which floated a number of loose logs. The sec-
ond fact was, that Dickey Darrell had fallen into that open
stretch of water and was in the act of swimming toward one
of the floating logs. That much we were given time to appre-
ciate thoroughly. Then the other section of the jam rumbled
and began to break. Roaring Dick was caught between two
gigantic millstones moving to crush him out of sight.

An active figure darted down the tail of the first section,
out over the floating logs, seized Darrell by the coat-collar,
and so burdened began desperately to scale the very face of the
breaking jam.

Never was a more magnificent rescue. The logs were rolling,
falling, diving against the laden man. He climbed as over
a treadmill, a treadmill whose speed was constantly increasing.
And when he finally gained the top, it was as the gap closed
splintering beneath him and the man he had saved.

It is not in the woodsman to be demonstrative at any time,
but here was work demanding attention. Without a pause for
breath or congratulation they turned to the necessity of the
moment. The jam, the whole jam, was moving at last. Jimmy
Powers ran ashore for his peavie. Roaring Dick, like a demon
incarnate, threw himself into the work. Forty men attacked


the jam in a dozen places, encouraging the movement, twisting
aside the timbers that threatened to lock anew, directing
pigmy-like the titanic forces into the channel of their effi-
ciency. Roaring like wild cattle the logs swept by, at first
slowly, then with the railroad rush of the curbed freshet. Men
were everywhere, taking chances, like cowboys before the
stampeded herd. And so, out of sight around the lower bend
swept the front of the jam in a swirl of glory, the rivermen
riding the great boom back of the creature they subdued, until
at last, with the slackening current, the logs floated by free, can-
noning with hollow sound one against the other. A half-dozen
watchers, leaning statuesquely on the shafts of their peavies,
watched the ordered ranks pass by.

One by one the spectators departed. At last only myself
and the brown-faced young man remained. He sat on a stump,
staring with sightless eyes into vacancy. I did not disturb his

The sun dipped. A cool breeze of evening sucked up the
river. Over near the cook-camp a big fire commenced to
crackle by the drying frames. At dusk the rivermen straggled
in from the down-river trail.

The brown-faced young man arose and went to meet them.
I saw him return in close conversation with Jimmy Powers.
Before they reached us he had turned away with a gesture of

Jimmy Powers stood looking after him long after his form
had disappeared, and indeed even after the sound of his wheels
had died toward town. As I approached, the riverman turned
to me a face from which the reckless, contained self-reliance
of the woods-worker had faded. It was wide-eyed with an al-
most awe-stricken wonder and adoration.

" DC you know who that is? " he asked me in a hushed
voice " That's Thorpe, Harry Thorpe. And do you know
what he said to me just now, me? He told me he wanted me
to work in Camp One next winter, Thorpe's One. And he


told me I was the first man he ever hired straight into

His breath caught with something like a sob.

I had heard of the man and of his methods. I knew he had
made it a practice of recruiting for his prize camp only from the
employees of his other camps, that, as Jimmy said, he never
" hired straight into One." I had heard, too, of his reputation
among his own and other woodsmen. But this was the first
time I had ever come into personal contact with his influence.
It impressed me the more in that I had come to know Jimmy
Powers and his kind.

" You deserve it, every bit," said I. " I'm not going to call
you a hero, because that would make you tired. What you did
this afternoon showed nerve. It was a brave act. But it was a
better act because your rescued your enemy, because you forgot
everything but your common humanity when danger "

I broke off. Jimmy was again looking at me with his
ironically quizzical grin.

" Bub," said he, " if you're going to hang any stars of
Bethlehem on my Christmas tree, just call a halt right here. I
didn't rescue that scalawag because I had any Christian senti-
ments, nary bit. I was just naturally savin' him for the
birling match next Fourther July."


There are some authors whom we think of as bookmen;
there are others whom we think of as men first, and as writers
secondarily. Lowell, for example was a bookman; Roosevelt
was a man of action who wrote books. Stewart Edward White,
far more of a literary artist than Roosevelt, gives like him
the impression of a man who has done things, of one who lives
a full life, and produces books as a sort of by-product: very
valuable, but not the chief end of existence.

Mr. White was born in a small town near Grand Rapids,
Michigan, March 12, 1873. His parents had their own ideas
about bringing up children. Instead of sending him to school
they sent for a teacher to instruct him, they encouraged him to
read, they took him traveling, not only to cities but to the silent
places, the great forests, and to the lumber camps. He spent
four years in California, and became a good horseman, making
many trips in the saddle to the picturesque old ranches. When
finally, he entered high school, at sixteen, he went in with boys
of his own age, and graduated at eighteen, president of his class.
And what he was most proud of was that he won and still
holds, the five-mile running record of his school. He was in-
tensely interested in birds at this time, and spent all his spare
hours in the woods, studying bird-life. The result was a series
of articles on birds, published in various scientific journals,
papers whose columns are not usually open to high school con-

Then came a college course at the University of Michigan,

with vacations spent in cruising about the Great Lakes in a

twenty-eight-foot cutter sloop. After graduation he worked for

a time in a packing house, then hearing of the discovery of



gold in the Black Hills, he set off with the other gold-diggers.
He did not find a mine, but the experience gave him a back-
ground for two later novels, The Claim Jumpers, and The

He went east for a year of graduate study at Columbia
University. Like many other students, he found a friend in
Professor Brander Matthews, who encouraged him to write of
some of his western experiences. He sold a few short stories
to magazines, and his first novel, The Claim Jumpers was ac-
cepted by Appleton's. The Westerners, his next book, brought
him $500 for the serial rights, and with its publication he defi-
nitely determined upon making authorship his calling. But it
was not authorship in a study. The Blazed Trail was written in
a lumber camp in midwinter. He got up at four o'clock, wrote
until eight, then put on his snowshoes and went out for a day's
work. When the story was finished he gave it to the foreman
of the camp to read. The man began it after supper, and when
White got up next morning at four, he found him still reading,
so he felt that the book would succeed.

Another year he made a trip to the Hudson Bay country,
and on his return wrote Conjurer's House. This was dra-
matized by George Broadhurst, and was very successful on the
stage. With Thomas Fogarty, the artist, he made a long canoe
trip, and the resulting book, The Forest, was illustrated by
Mr. Fogarty. A camping trip in the Sierra Mountains of Cali-
fornia was followed by the writing of The Mountains. His
next book, The Mystery, was written jointly by Mr. White and
Samuel Hopkins Adams. When it was finished they not only
divided the proceeds but divided the characters for future
stories, White taking Handy Solomon, whom he used again in
Arizona Nights, and Darrow, who appeared in The Sign at Six.

Then without warning, Mr. White went to Africa. His
explanation was simple:

I went because I wanted to. About once in so often the wheels
.get rusty and I have to get up and do something real or else blow


up. Africa seemed to me a pretty real thing. Let me add that I
did not go for material. I never go anywhere for material ; if I did
I should not get it. That attitude of mine would give me merely
externals, which are not worth writing about. I go places merely
because for one reason or another they attract me. Then if it hap-
pens that I get close enough to the life, I may later find that I have
something to write about. A man rarely writes anything convincing
unless he has lived the life; not with his critical faculty alert, but
whole-heartedly and because, for the time being, it is his life.

Naturally he found that he had something to write about on
his return. The Land of Footprints, African Camp Fires, Simba,
and The Leopard Woman were books that grew out of his Afri-
can trip. Mr. White next planned to write a series of three novels
dealing with the romantic history of the state of California.
The first of these books, Gold, describes the mad rush of the
Forty-Niners on the first discovery of gold in California. The
Gray Dawn, the second of the series, tells of the days of the
Vigilantes, when the wild life of the mining camps slowly
settled down to law and order. The coming of the World War
was a fresh challenge to his adventurous spirit, and he saw serv-
ice in France as a major in the U. S. Field Artillery.

From this sketch it is apparent that Mr. White's books have
all grown out of his experience, in the sense that the back-
ground is one that he has known. This explains the strong
feeling of reality that we experience as we read his stories.


From the day the Pilgrims landed on a rockbound coast, the
name New Englander has suggested certain traits of character.
It connotes a restraint of feeling which more impulsive persons
may mistake for absence of feeling; a reserve carried almost
to the point of coldness; a quiet dignity which to a breezy
Westerner seems like " stand-offishness" But those who come
to know New England people well, find that beneath the flint
is fire. Dorothy Canfield suggests the theme of her story in
the title" Flint and Fire."




MY husband's cousin had come up from the city, slightly
more fagged and sardonic than usual, and as he stretched him-
self out in the big porch-chair he was even more caustic than
was his wont about the bareness and emotional sterility of the
lives of our country people.

" Perhaps they had, a couple of centuries ago, when the
Puritan hallucination was still strong, a certain fierce savor
of religious intolerance; but now that that has died out, and
no material prosperity has come to let them share in the
larger life of their century, there is a flatness, a mean absence
of warmth or color, a deadness to all emotions but the pettiest
sorts "

I pushed the pitcher nearer him, clinking the ice invitingly,
and directed his attention to our iris-bed as a more cheerful
object of contemplation than the degeneracy of the inhabi-
tants of Vermont. The flowers burned on their tall stalks
like yellow tongues of flame. The strong, sword-like green
leaves thrust themselves boldly up into the spring air like a
challenge. The plants vibrated with vigorous life.

In the field beyond them, as vigorous as they, strode Adoni-
ram Purdon behind his team, the reins tied together behind his
muscular neck, his hands grasping the plow with the masterful
sureness of the successful practitioner of an art. The hot,
sweet spring sunshine shone down on *Niram's head with its
thick crest of brown hair, the ineffable odor of newly turned
earth steamed up about him like incense, the mountain
stream beyond him leaped and shouted. His powerful body
answered every call made on it with the precision of a splen-



did machine. But there was no elation in the grimly set face as
'Niram wrenched the plow around a big stone, or as, in a
more favorable furrow, the gleaming share sped steadily along
before the plowman, turning over a long, unbroken brown rib-
bon of earth.

My cousin-in-law waved a nervous hand toward the sternly
silent figure as it stepped doggedly behind the straining team,
the head bent forward, the eyes fixed on the horses' heels.

" There! " he said. " There is an example of what I mean*
Is there another race on earth which could produce a man
in such a situation who would not on such a day sing, or
whistle, or at least hold up his head and look at all the earthly
glories about him? "

I was silent, but not for lack of material for speech.
'Niram's reasons for austere self-control were not such as I
cared to discuss with a man of my cousin's mental attitude.
As we sat looking at him the noon whistle from the village
blew and the wise old horses stopped in the middle of a furrow.
'Niram unharnessed them, led them to the shade of a tree,
and put on their nose-bags. Then he turned and came to-
ward the house.

" Don't I seem to remember," murmured my cousin under
his breath, " that, even though he is a New-Englander, he
has been known to make up errands to your kitchen to see
your pretty Ev'leen Ann? "

I looked at him hard; but he was only gazing down, rather
cross-eyed, on his grizzled mustache, with an obvious petu-
lant interest in the increase of white hairs in it. Evidently
his had been but a chance shot. 'Niram stepped up on the
grass at the edge of the porch. He was so tall that he
overtopped the railing easily, and, reaching a long arm over
to where I sat, he handed me a small package done up in
yellowish tissue-paper. Without hat-raisings, or good-morn-
ings or any other of the greetings usual in a more effusive
civilization, he explained briefly:


" My stepmother wanted I should give you this. She said
to thank you for the grape-juice." As he spoke he looked
at me gravely out of deep-set blue eyes, and when he had de-
livered his message he held his peace.

I expressed myself with the babbling volubility of one whose
manners have been corrupted by occasional sojourns in the
city. " Oh, 'Niram! " I cried protestingly, as I opened the
package and took out an exquisitely wrought old-fashioned
collar. " Oh, 'Niram! How could your stepmother give such
a thing away? Why, it must be one of her precious old relics.
I don't want her to give me something every time I do some
little thing for her. Can't a neighbor send her in a few bottles
of grape-juice without her thinking she must pay it back
somehow? It's not kind of her. She has never yet let me do
the least thing for her without repaying me with something
that is worth ever so much more than my trifling services."

When I had finished my prattling, 'Niram repeated, with
an accent of finality, " She wanted I should give it to you."

The older man stirred in his chair. Without looking at
him I knew that his gaze on the young rustic was quizzical
and that he was recording on the tablets of his merciless mem-
ory the ungraceful abruptness of the other's action and manner.

" How is your stepmother feeling to-day, 'Niram? " I

" Worse."

'Niram came to a full stop with the word. My cousin
covered his satirical mouth with his hand.

" Can't the doctor do anything to relieve her? " I asked.

'Niram moved at last from his Indian-like immobility. He
looked up under the brim of his felt hat at the sky-line of the
mountain, shimmering iridescent above us. " He says maybe
'lectricity would help her some. I'm goin' to git her the bat-
teries and things soon's I git the rubber bandages paid for."

There was a long silence. My cousin stood up, yawning,
and sauntered away toward the door. " Shall I send Ev'leen


Ann out to get the pitcher and glasses? " he asked in an accent
which he evidently thought very humorously significant.

The strong face under the felt hat turned white, the jaw
muscles set hard, but for all this show of strength there was
an instant when the man's eyes looked out with the sick, help-
less revelation of pain they might have had when 'Niram was
a little boy of ten, a third of his present age, and less than half
his present stature. Occasionally it is horrifying to see how
a chance shot rings the bell.

"No, no! Never mind! " I said hastily. "I'll take the
tray in when I go."

Without salutation or farewell 'Niram Purdon turned and
went back to his work.

The porch was an enchanted place, walled around with star-
lit darkness, visited by wisps of breezes shaking down from their
wings the breath of lilac and syringa, flowering wild grapes,
and plowed fields. Down at the foot of our sloping lawn the
little river, still swollen by the melted snow from the mountains,
plunged between its stony banks and shouted its brave song
to the stars.

We three middle-aged people Paul, his cousin, and I
had disposed our uncomely, useful, middle-aged bodies in the
big wicker chairs and left them there while our young souls
wandered abroad in the sweet, dark glory of the night. At
least Paul and I were doing this, as we sat, hand in hand,
thinking of a May night twenty years before. One never
knows what Horace is thinking of, but apparently he was
not in his usual captious vein, for after a long pause he re-
marked, " It is a night almost indecorously inviting to the mak-
ing of love."

My answer seemed grotesquely out of key with this, but its
sequence was clear in my mind. I got up, saying: " Oh, that
reminds me I must go and see Ev'leen Ann. I'd forgotten
to plan to-morrow's dinner."

" Oh, everlastingly Ev'leen Ann! " mocked Horace from his


corner. " Can't you think of anything but Ev'leen Ann and
her affairs? "

I felt my way through the darkness of the house, toward
the kitchen, both doors of which were tightly closed. When
I stepped into the hot, close room, smelling of food and fire,
I saw Ev'leen Ann sitting on the straight kitchen chair, the
yellow light of the bracket-lamp bearing down on her heavy
braids and bringing out the exquisitely subtle modeling of her
smooth young face. Her hands were folded in her lap. She
was staring at the blank wall, and the expression of her eyes
so startled and shocked me that I stopped short and would have
retreated if it had not been too late. She had seen me, roused
herself, and said quietly, as though continuing a conversation
interrupted the moment before:

" I had been thinking that there was enough left of the
roast to make hash-balls for dinner " " hash-balls " is Ev'-
leen Ann's decent Anglo-Saxon name for croquettes "and
maybe you'd like a rhubarb pie."

I knew well enough she had been thinking of no such thing,
but I could as easily have slapped a reigning sovereign on the
back as broken in on the regal reserve of Ev'leen Ann in her
clean gingham.

" Well, yes, Ev'leen Ann," I answered in her own tone of
reasonable consideration of the matter ; " that would be nice,
and your pie-crust is so flaky that even Mr. Horace will have
to be pleased."

" Mr. Horace " is our title for the sardonic cousin whose
carping ways are half a joke, and half a menace in our family.

Ev'leen Ann could not manage the smile which should have
greeted this sally. She looked down soberly at the white-pine
top of the kitchen table and said, " I guess there is enough
sparrow-grass up in the garden for a mess, too, if you'd like

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Online LibraryBenjamin Alexander HeydrickAmericans all : stories of American life of to-day → online text (page 13 of 23)