The Young Woodsman; Or, Life in the Forests of Canada

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THE YOUNG WOODSMAN

OR

Life in the Forests of Canada

BY J. MACDONALD OXLEY

Author of “Diamond Rock; or, On the Right Track,” &c. &c.

1895

CONTENTS.

I. THE CALL TO WORK

II. THE CHOICE OF AN OCCUPATION
III. OFF TO THE WOODS
IV. THE BUILDING OF THE SHANTY
V. STANDING FIRE
VI. LIFE IN THE LUMBER CAMP
VII. A THRILLING EXPERIENCE
VIII. IN THE NICK OF TIME
IX. OUT OF CLOUDS, SUNSHINE
X. A HUNTING-TRIP
XI. THE GREAT SPRING DRIVE
XII. HOME AGAIN

THE YOUNG WOODSMAN.

CHAPTER I.

THE CALL TO WORK.

“I’m afraid there’ll be no more school for you now, Frank darling. Will
you mind having to go to work?”

“Mind it! Why, no, mother; not the least bit. I’m quite old enough, ain’t

I?”

“I suppose you are, dear; though I would like to have you stay at your
lessons for one more year anyway. What kind of work would you like best?”

“That’s not a hard question to answer, mother. I want to be what father
was.”

The mother’s face grew pale at this reply, and for some few moments she
made no response.

* * * * *

The march of civilization on a great continent means loss as well as
gain. The opening up of the country for settlement, the increase and
spread of population, the making of the wilderness to blossom as the
rose, compel the gradual retreat and disappearance of interesting
features that can never be replaced. The buffalo, the beaver, and the elk
have gone; the bear, the Indian, and the forest in which they are both
most at home, are fast following.

Along the northern border of settlement in Canada there are flourishing
villages and thriving hamlets to-day where but a few years ago the
verdurous billows of the primeval forest rolled in unbroken grandeur. The
history of any one of these villages is the history of all. An open space
beside the bank of a stream or the margin of a lake presented itself to
the keen eye of the woodranger traversing the trackless waste of forest
as a fine site for a lumber camp. In course of time the lumber camp grew
into a depot from which other camps, set still farther back in the depths
of the “limits,” are supplied. Then the depot develops into a settlement
surrounded by farms; the settlement gathers itself into a village with
shops, schools, churches, and hotels; and so the process of growth goes
on, the forest ever retreating as the dwellings of men multiply.

It was in a village with just such a history, and bearing the name of
Calumet, occupying a commanding situation on a vigorous tributary of the
Ottawa River—the Grand River, as the dwellers beside its banks are fond
of calling it—that Frank Kingston first made the discovery of his own
existence and of the world around him. He at once proceeded to make
himself master of the situation, and so long as he confined his efforts
to the limits of his own home he met with an encouraging degree of
success; for he was an only child, and, his father’s occupation requiring
him to be away from home a large part of the year, his mother could
hardly be severely blamed if she permitted her boy to have a good deal of
his own way.

In the result, however, he was not spoiled. He came of sturdy, sensible
stock, and had inherited some of the best qualities from both sides of
the house. To his mother he owed his fair curly hair, his deep blue,
honest eyes, his impulsive and tender heart; to his father, his strong
symmetrical figure, his quick brain, and his eager ambition. He was a
good-looking, if not strikingly handsome, boy, and carried himself in an
alert, active way that made a good impression on one at the start. He had
a quick temper that would flash out hotly if he were provoked, and at
such times he would do and say things for which he was heartily sorry
afterwards. But from those hateful qualities that we call malice,
rancour, and sullenness he was absolutely free. To “have it out” and then
shake hands and forget all about it—that was his way of dealing with a
disagreement. Boys built on these lines are always popular among their
comrades, and Frank was no exception. In fact, if one of those amicable
contests as to the most popular personage, now so much in vogue at fairs
and bazaars, were to have been held in Calumet school, the probabilities
were all in favour of Frank coming out at the head of the poll.

But better, because more enduring than all these good qualities of body,
head, and heart that formed Frank’s sole fortune in the world, was the
thorough religious training upon which they were based. His mother had
left a Christian household to help her husband to found a new home in the
great Canadian timberland; and this new home had ever been a sweet,
serene centre of light and love. While Calumet was little more than a
straggling collection of unlovely frame cottages, and too small to have a
church and pastor of its own, the hard-working Christian minister who
managed to make his way thither once a month or so, to hold service in
the little schoolroom, was always sure of the heartiest kind of a
welcome, and the daintiest dinner possible in that out-of-the-way place,
at Mrs. Kingston’s cozy cottage. And thus Frank had been brought into
friendly relations with the “men in black” from the start, with the good
result of causing him to love and respect these zealous home
missionaries, instead of shrinking from them in vague repugnance, as did
many of his companions who had not his opportunities.

When he grew old enough to be trusted, it was his proud privilege to take
the minister’s tired horse to water and to fill the rack with sweet hay
for his refreshment before they all went off to the service together; and
very frequently when the minister was leaving he would take Frank up
beside him for a drive as far as the cross-roads, not losing the chance
to say a kindly and encouraging word or two that might help the little
fellow heavenward.

In due time the settlement so prospered and expanded that a little church
was established there, and great was the delight of Mrs. Kingston when
Calumet had its minister, to whom she continued to be a most effective
helper. This love for the church and its workers, which was more manifest
in her than in her husband—for, although he thought and felt alike with
her, he was a reserved, undemonstrative man—Mrs. Kingston sought by
every wise means to instill into her only son; and she had much success.
Religion had no terrors for him. He had never thought of it as a gloomy,
joy-dispelling influence that would make him a long-faced “softy.” Not a
bit of it. His father was religious; and who was stronger, braver, or
more manly than his father? His mother was a pious woman; and who could
laugh more cheerily or romp more merrily than his mother? The ministers
who came to the house were men of God; and yet they were full of life and
spirits, and dinner never seemed more delightful than when they sat at
the table. No, indeed! You would have had a hard job to persuade Frank
Kingston that you lost anything by being religious. He knew far better
than that; and while of course he was too thorough a boy, with all a
boy’s hasty, hearty, impulsive ways, to do everything “decently and in
order,” and would kick over the traces, so to speak, sometimes, and give
rather startling exhibitions of temper, still in the main and at heart he
was a sturdy little Christian, who, when the storm was over, felt more
sorry and remembered it longer than did anybody else.

Out of the way as Calumet might seem to city folk, yet the boys of the
place managed to have a very good time. There were nearly a hundred of
them, ranging in age from seven years to seventeen, attending the school
which stood in the centre of a big lot at the western end of the village,
and with swimming, boating, lacrosse, and baseball in summer, and
skating, snow-shoeing, and tobogganing in winter, they never lacked for
fun. Frank was expert in all these sports. Some of the boys might excel
him at one or another of them, but not one of his companions could beat
him in an all-round contest. This was due in part to the strength and
symmetry of his frame, and in part to that spirit of thoroughness which
characterized all he undertook. There was nothing half-way about him. He
put his whole soul into everything that interested him, and, so far as
play was concerned, at fifteen years of age he could swim, run, handle a
lacrosse, hit a base-ball, skim over the ice on skates, or over snow on
snow-shoes, with a dexterity that gave himself a vast amount of pleasure
and his parents a good deal of pride in him.

Nor was he behindhand as regarded the training of his mind. Mr. Warren,
the head teacher of the Calumet school, regarded him favourably as one of
his best and brightest pupils, and it was not often that the “roll of
honour” failed to contain the name of Frank Kingston. At the midsummer
closing of the school it was Mr. Warren’s practice to award a number of
simple prizes to the pupils whose record throughout the half-year had
been highest in the different subjects, and year after year Frank had won
a goodly share of these trophies, which were always books, so that now
there was a shelf in his room upon which stood in attractive array
Livingstone’s “Travels,” Ballantyne’s “Hudson Bay,” Kingsley’s “Westward
Ho!” side by side with “Robinson Crusoe,” “Pilgrim’s Progress,” and “Tom
Brown at Rugby.” Frank knew these books almost by heart, yet never
wearied of turning to them again and again. He drew inspiration from
them. They helped to mould his character, although of this he was hardly
conscious, and they filled his soul with a longing for adventure and
enterprise that no ordinary everyday career could satisfy. He looked
forward eagerly to the time when he would take a man’s part in life and
attempt and achieve notable deeds. With Amyas Leigh he traversed the
tropical wilderness of Southern America, or with the “Young Fur Traders”
the hard-frozen wastes of the boundless North, and he burned to
emulate their brave doings. He little knew, as he indulged in these
boyish imaginations, that the time was not far off when the call would
come to him to begin life in dead earnest on his own account, and with as
many obstacles to be overcome in his way as had any of his favourite
heroes in theirs.

Mr. Kingston was at home only during the summer season. The long cold
winter months were spent by him at the “depot,” many miles off in the
heart of the forest, or at the “shanties” that were connected with it. At
rare intervals during the winter he might manage to get home for a
Sunday, but that was all his wife and son saw of him until the spring
time. When the “drive” of the logs that represented the winter’s work was
over, he returned to them, to remain until the falling of the leaves
recalled him to the forest. Frank loved and admired his father to the
utmost of his ability; and when in his coolest, calmest moods he realized
that there was small possibility of his ever sailing the Spanish main
like Amyas Leigh, or exploring the interior of Africa like Livingstone,
he felt quite settled in his own mind that, following in his father’s
footsteps, he would adopt lumbering as his business. ‘Tis true, his
father was only an agent or foreman, and might never be anything more;
but even that was not to be despised, and then, with a little extra good
fortune, he might in time become an owner of “limits” and mills himself.
Why not? Many another boy had thus risen into wealth and importance. He
had at least the right to try.

Fifteen in October, and in the highest class, this was to be Frank’s last
winter at school; and before leaving for the woods his father had
enjoined upon him to make the best of it, as after the summer holidays
were over he would have to “cease learning, and begin earning.” Frank was
rather glad to hear this. He was beginning to think he had grown too big
for school, and ought to be doing something more directly remunerative.
Poor boy! Could he have guessed that those were the last words he would
hear from his dear father’s lips, how differently would they have
affected him! Calumet never saw Mr. Kingston again. In returning alone to
the depot from a distant shanty, he was caught in a fierce and sudden
snowstorm. The little-travelled road through the forest was soon
obliterated. Blinded and bewildered by the pitiless storm beating in
their faces, both man and beast lost their way, and, wandering about
until all strength was spent, lay down to die in the drifts that quickly
hid their bodies from sight. It was many days before they were found,
lying together, close wrapped in their winding-sheet of snow.

Mrs. Kingston bore the dreadful trial with the fortitude and submissive
grace that only a serene and unmurmuring faith can give. Frank was more
demonstrative in his grief, and disposed to rebel against so cruel a
calamity. But his mother calmed and inspired him, and when the first
numbing force of the blow had passed away, they took counsel together as
to the future. This was dark and uncertain enough. All that was left to
them was the little cottage in which they lived. Mr. Kingston’s salary
had not been large, and only by careful management had the house been
secured. Of kind and sympathizing friends there was no lack, but they
were mostly people in moderate circumstances, like themselves, from whom
nothing more than sympathy could be expected.

There was no alternative but that Frank should begin at once to earn his
own living, and thus the conversation came about with which this chapter
began, and which brought forth the reply from Frank that evidently gave
his mother deep concern.

CHAPTER II.

THE CHOICE OF AN OCCUPATION.

The fact was that Mrs. Kingston felt a strong repugnance to her son’s
following in his father’s footsteps, so far as his occupation was
concerned. She dreaded the danger that was inseparable from it, and
shrank from the idea of giving up the boy, whose company was now the
chief delight of her life, for all the long winter months that would be
so dreary without him.

Frank had some inkling of his mother’s feelings, but, boy like, thought
of them as only the natural nervousness of womankind; and his heart being
set upon going to the woods, he was not very open to argument.

“Why don’t you want me to go lumbering, mother?” he inquired in a tone
that had a touch of petulance in it. “I’ve got to do something for
myself, and I detest shopkeeping. It’s not in my line at all. Fellows
like Tom Clemon and Jack Stoner may find it suits them, but I can’t bear
the idea of being shut up in a shop or office all day. I want to be out
of doors. That’s the kind of life for me.”

Mrs. Kingston gave a sigh that was a presage of defeat as she regarded
her son standing before her, his handsome face flushed with eagerness and
his eyes flashing with determination.

“But, Frank dear,” said she gently, “have you thought how dreadfully
lonely it will be for me living all alone here during the long
winter—your father gone from me, and you away off in the woods, where I
can never get to you or you to me?”

The flush on Frank’s face deepened and extended until it covered forehead

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