I come from a long line of lumberjacks, if you don't know. My grandpa, Jack Morrison, followed his father into logging as my father followed him. It's hard these days to imagine the hardships they endured to settle this state of ours. Life in the woods in Grandpa's time meant living in a bunk house with no privacy, no benefits, no doctors in sight, and completely at the mercy of the weather. Not to mention the mosquitoes.
Grandpa Jack was a character to be sure, and could tell great stories of life in the logging camps. I once encouraged him to share some of his stories with others, but he didn't think he could do it without swearing. One of my favorites is from Grandpa Jack’s boyhood. At the age of 11, living with his family out on the Roddis Line, Grandpa Jack was sent into Park Falls on the train hauling logs. He climbed on board the caboose for the ride. Part way through, as the train chugged it's way over a hill, the caboose came unhitched and rolled back down, heading quite a ways back before it stopped. The train kept going. He had to wait until they noticed the caboose was no longer there to fetch him. He said it took quite some time.
To me, as a kid, Grandpa was this great, hulking presence, my own personal Paul Bunyan. Somewhere in school I had read a poem about Paul Bunyan and Babe his Blue Ox. I adapted it to Jack Morrison and Dan, his Belgian. Grandpa refused to change with the times and continued using Belgian horses until his retirement. Dan was always his favorite. Owens-Illinois honored Grandpa with a plaque mounted inside a horse collar that is on display in the Price County Historical Museum.
October is his birthday month (he'd be a hundred and nine, I believe), so it seems only fitting I give him a shout-out by sharing the poem again.
Come all you old-time lumberjacks
Wherever you may dwell,
And listen to my story -
The truth to you I’ll tell.
It’s of that grand ol’ lumberjack,
Jack Morrison is his name.
He was born up in Wisconsin,
The toughest logger he became.
He came to Park Falls
The winter of the deep, blue snow.
Logged along the Chippeway,
The Turtle and the Flambeau.
Then he got his Dan, a great, white Belgian,
And oft I’ve heard them say,
Every day for dinner that horse
Could eat his weight in oats and hay.
This mighty Belgian, he weighed in at two tons.
A mammoth in the timber, that was Dan.
The hardest working team the north had seen,
Big Dan and Jack, his man.
One day, old Dan got ornery
And met an awful fate.
He slipped and fell and broke his neck,
I’m sorry to relate.
The camp went into mourning,
Jack Morrison, he got tight.
They wept and moaned and howled and groaned
Far, far into the night.
Now I have told you truly,
Of that Belgian and his man,
The greatest logging team ever,
Jack Morrison and Dan.