Back in 2008 I did a series of posts in which I shared a
published interview with my granduncle Clarence P. West
as he looked back on his life. Recently Alan Johnson,
"Rip" was P.C. Ripley, and "father" was my great grandfather P.J.West.
In this installment, Clarence reminisces about a log drive, a trip to
Rangeley, and some advice from "Rip":
“I remember just a boy on a drive. I had the wood going alright
past my station and I built myself a birch bark shelter to get out of
Well, I had got in there, everything going alright, and gone to sleep.
I woke up thinking I heard something funny and listened for it. I
heard a clucking and cracking, like chickens but not altogether,
then I looked out of my hut and lookout! It was afire.
Now, who in the hell could have done that? I don’t smoke on the
drive, just chewed, you know, so it weren’t me. I looked over by
the riverbank and there was the boss trying to walk away out of
He had come around and found me asleep and played a trick on
me, burned my shack over my head.
Them was the days mister. You had your breakfast before daylight,
then at 10 o’clock cookee (cook’s helper) comes up with two pails
full of beans and a knapsack of biscuits and you had baked beans,
boiled potatoes, meat, pie, cake, coffee, tea. And at 2 o’clock you
got it again and you got another feed when you got back to camp.
Four times a day they fed us, but you worked and that’s why we
fed the way we did. I liked it. No, I loved it.
One time I was working with my father up near Deer Mountain. It
was winter, but it commenced to rain and it cut the ice right out.
What with one thing or another, father says we'll go out through
Rangeley and down around Phillips and to Andover and go home
I was tickled to death. I was going to see Rangeley. Why, we went
through Rangeley and never saw a person. They roll the carpet up
right after Labor Day, deadest place you ever saw.
But go there in the summer season, well, you'll have hard work to
get down Main St.
They used to have a sawmill there, but that's gone by. All they got
now is filling stations and stores. It's the highest priced place I think
I ever tried to buy anything in. Terrible. It costs more to go there
than it does to go to Berlin, N.H. or to Colbrook, Canada.
It's 26 miles to Rangeley, 38 to Colbrook and 56 to Berlin.
I was down in Berlin coming up one day and I run into old Rip.
'Hey,kid' says Rip. 'Can I ride up with you?' .
'Why sure.' So he gets in the car and we started up.
He says 'You know, the Brown Company has all the ingredients in
their locker to make whiskey.'
'Yeah,' I says, 'I believe it.'
'Now,' he says, 'You take a jug and you put your prunes and your
He tells me all the folderol you want in the jug and you mix it up
and bury it in the ground.
'And when you take it out of the ground,' he says, 'you got squirrel
whiskey.That stuff's so strong it will make a squirrel run up a tree
To be continued
((Originally published at "West in New England" 4Oct 2010))