Tougher Than A Boiled Owl

During each field school program, we always take a few hours to visit the Ashland Logging Museum.  It’s a great place to learn more about the woods life lived by loggers before the chainsaw and the logging road.  There are replica cabins, a Lombard log hauler, a king’s pine, and numerous other items of interest.  This past spring we had the good fortune to meet with Bernie Howes, the curator, and he shared his vast knowledge of the history of the north woods with us.  While we were in the main building, I saw a poem posted on the wall.  When he noticed my interest, Bernie recited it perfectly without looking at the paper.  He got a copy of it to me, and now I’ll share it here.  So if you like it, stop in at the Ashland Logging Museum and tell Bernie thanks.

 Tougher Than A Boiled Owl

By Warren Moody of Castle Hill, Maine (1979)

I’ll tell you a story of way back when
The men on the river were manly men
They cut the timber and sluiced the spruce
And never ate of the tender goose

Their grub was beans and salt pork fat
And pancakes tough as an old felt hat
Blackstrap molasses and biscuits too
Was what the cook fed to the rugged crew

It was 1:00pm by the cook’s old watch
The wanigan boat struck Ghost Landing Rock
The pork was lost and the beans flew wide
And flour was spread on the frothing tide

The grub was gone and the progress slow
And the still had many miles to go
The cook just smiled because he knew
Exactly what he would feed his crew

He put an owl in his big black pot
On top of that a sandstone rock
He boiled and boiled a whole half day
Until the sandstone rock melted away

The nights were cold and the wind did howl
And the men chewed away on the old boiled owl
And that is how they made their way
Down to the village and drew their pay

The tale is still told of way back when
The men on the river were manly men
Strong of back and strong of bowel
They dined for days on the old boiled owl.

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