Friday, December 16, 2005

The Old River Driver
By Henry Dodge
as printed in the Tuscola County Pioneer Times
July 29th, 1949
I found him down there by the Cass upon a summer day,
His eyes were dim, his form was bent, and locks were thin and gray,
A relic of the days gone by, that I could plainly see,
And a trembling voice he spoke, and told this tale to me:
"The old Cass has a friendly look, it breathes to me of fate,
It whispers to me of those times way back in '68;
Of all the rivers in our state, 'twas in the brightest ranks,
the finest pine in Michigan were standing on its banks.
"I hired out at Saginaw, to work with Avery's men,
Twas on the north branch of the Cass where they were lumbering then,
"Twas a weary tramp to reach the camp, the road a line of mud,
First night we stayed in Watrousville, of course, we stopped with 'Bud'.
"Bud's place that night was crowded full, we camped upon the floor,
And of his best we took it straight and poured it down galore.
Next morn we took a drink for luck and started on our way.
We reached to town of Centerville (Caro) at ten o'clock that day.
"Twas Cross' Tavern where we stopped and early dinner had,
Of course we took a few more drinks to make our hearts feel glad,
Then poured some whiskey in our boots to help our galkied feet
Then on up towards the Forks we went to Ren Teachout's retreat.
"We reached Ren's place long in the night and tired most to death,
I think we took a drink or two to help us draw our breath;
Then into bed we dove at once with boots yet on our feet,
The only thing we cared for then was just a chance to sleep.
"Next morn we took an early start to reach the camp that day,
"The trail was getting dimmer now, 'twas hard to find the way.
"The rain came pouring down in floods as onward we did tramp.
"the wolves were howling on our trail before we reached the camp.
"Four six long months we heard the crash as pine trees met their doom,
At night we sang the songs we learned when driving to the boom;

But when the winter days were past, then came the spring and thaw,
Our drive was started for the mills that lined the Saginaw.
"A drive upon the old Cass then was something grand to see.
From bank to bank 'twas filled with logs and now and then a tree;
With tree tops, logs and ice piled high, while wild the waters roll,
And every year the old Cass claimed, a driver for her toll.
"Twas o'er the Vassar dam one day, down through the mist and foam,
There Arthur Harmon's body lay, Van's horses brought him home.
And up here where the high banks are, Tom Sayres was killed one day,
The old Cass rolled its waters on , resistless to the bay.
"O, many driver that I knew, went to an early doom,
Between north rapids on the Cass and limits of the boom;
But when the drivers at last were down for Saginaw we flew,
The money we had earned so well, it went like morning dew.
"Two weeks at best in glad carouse, our money we would spend.
Then back into the mills again to work 'Till summer's end;
Then back into the woods once more the winter days to pass;
This was the life the driver lead that lumbered on the Cass.
"Of all the drivers that I knew way back in '68,
I wish I knew their resting place and how they met their fate.
"Twas in the mad house we are told there Avery met his doom.
His fevered brain yet drove the Cass from Forks down to the boom.
"And Warren Malcolm, brave and true, the drivers' pride as well,
A mad house closed behind him too, he died within a cell;
And I am left a few more days upon this earth to pass,
Before I meet the friends I knew, that lumbered on the Cass."
The driver's story done at last he gazed down in the stream,
The sunlight o'er the waters now put on a brighter gleam;
His face lit up with sudden light, a spell seemed o'er him cast,
As if he saw reflected there the glories of the past.

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