In this installment, My granduncle Clarence P. West talks
about driving logs over the Azicohos Dam, and describes
how a wad of chewing tobacco saved his life:
“We used to sluice here, and when I started they had to
have 25 men on the sluice boom or they wouldn’t open it
up. My job was to get up in the morning, build a fire under
the boiler to get up steam, and open the sluice to get them
six feet of water. Then the fireman come on and took over,
winding the boom.
Well, they used to wind in three logs, unmarry them, take them back
and it used to take six men just to do that. When they was sluicing they
averaged 150 cords an hour with 25 men working.
“They stopped driving here and after a number of years commenced to
drive again. A fellow named Stan Wenslow of Gorham was woods
superintendent for the Brown Company. He stopped in down to my
old mill here and said they was going to have a drive here and would
I show him what to do.
I said that I’d like to see ‘em put the wood over the spillway. The sluice
was an antique.
I went ahead and showed him what I meant and I put the whole drive
through with three men, and I didn’t need them. Mister, the second
year I put that drive over with one man and the Brown company felt so
good about it they sent me a check for $ 300 and gave me a medal as
The last drive through here I put through alone with one boy on the pier
to help me. I’ll tell you, I got a power of enjoyment out of that.
I’d like to put a drive over this dam today. The wood was driven down
to Berlin, NH. The funny part of it was, when that wood came in here
with bark on it, when it left the pool at the bottom of the dam it was
peeled perfect. It got an awful cleaning in that dam pool, I’ll tell you.
I'd stay here forever if I could. I love it."
“ I was cutting out of that hill across from the dam and it was steep. It
don’t look it maybe, but it was. When I made my turn the scoot caught
on a tree about four inches through. It was yellow birch and it took me
right across the side of the head. I went right off old Kate and I guess
she kept on going. The scoot run right over me, runners 14 feet long
and 8 inches wide.
My friend Littlehill was right there and he picked the scoot up where
it had run over me and let the tractor go. She walked right up a tree,
fell off and turned over. I don’t know how they ever got it straightened
up again because I waren’t there.
Littlehill lugged me out to the main road, I don’t know how in hell he
done it. He was a pretty rugged chap. He piled me into the truck we
was hauling to and rove me to Berlin to hospital. Kept my head in an
ice bag all that time. The nurse tried to prise my chaw of tobacco out
of my mouth, but I had my teeth closed tight around it and nobody
was going to get it loose. The doctor happened by just then and stopped
the nurse just in time. She was going to pry my chaw out with a stick.
‘Leave it in there,’ says the doctor, ‘That’s what saved his life.’ I’d
been swallowing that raw tobacco juice and it kept my heart going.
Nothing else could have done it.”
To be continued
((Originally posted at "West in New England" 7Oct 2010))