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,

the area in Maine where my West ancestors lived, sent
me a copy of another interview with Clarence. This one
appeared in a publication called Maine Profiles back in 1975
and Lynne Franklin was the interviewer.Clarence was 80 years
old at the time and had been forced to retire from his job as
caretaker at the Aziscohos Dam and was not happy about it.
He'd held the position since 1924.

"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

the rain.

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

that way.

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

raisins and...'

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))

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