The Log Story

By Christine Addison Dow

Today I sat listening to my uncle, George Addison, reminisce about the old days at the beach. He summers at the bottom of Concession 14 and has been coming there since he was five or six years old. Now, at eighty-nine, he recalls times the rest of us weren't a part of, but that are rich in story.

Some stories put one's family in a good light. This was not one of those.

The story is about the logs that used to wash up on the beach.

George remembers when great booms of logs were hauled by tugboat from Giant's Tomb and Beckwith Islands to Penetanguishene in the years 1914-17. The huge logs, each branded on the end with the owner's mark, were virgin white pine from the magnificent stands on those islands. Logs would escape from the booms during storms on the lake and wash up all along the beaches.

In due course, a team of horses came along the beach with men called "pickers" to recover these logs for all seven of the sawmills in Penetang. On finding a log, these pickers hooked it up to the team, and the horses would haul it out into the lake. A logman on the end of a pike pole, with spikes on his boots, then mounted one of those very high floating logs, and pushed the others away from the shore to be recovered. Balancing on the log was most important as most of the logmen couldn't swim. George remembers seeing booms of two or three hundred logs, recovered this way, being pulled along by a powerboat in front of our cottages.

Curiously, not very many logs were recovered from our particular piece of the shore.

George told me what his ninety-year-old Grandfather, Peter Addison, a retired Methodist minister, did on finding one of these logs. He, would carefully dig it out of the sand, sweep it off, and wedge it up using equipment that he fashioned for the job. Using a long pole with a wedge on one end he would inch it up and block it. He'd then toddle to the other end and do the same. Notches were made all along its length in readiness for cutting into firewood size rounds.

Young George got involved in the log activity when his Grandfather came to his Father and said "Arthur, I need a boy." The boy was needed to be on the end of the bucksaw----usually for long hours of work under the summer sun. His Grandfather seemed always to pull the saw back towards himself on an angle, thereby cutting a curved channel in the big log. Eventually, the blade would get stuck causing great frustration, especially for "the boy". It therefore became a challenge for Addison boys to avoid being anywhere around when a log was found on our beach.

His Grandfather's first cut, however, was always a thin slice off the marked end.

As I sat with my family this March in the warmth of the early spring sunshine and we talked of trees, I was reminded of how rich we are. So many species are found in the forest that borders the bay. There are white cedar and white pine, oak and maple, beach and birch, hemlock and red pine, all within view of our gazebo. These days I don't find a harvest of firewood on my beach anymore, but neither do I have the frustrations involved in its poaching.