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The Scaler
by [?]

Once Morrison & Daly, of Saginaw, but then lumbering at Beeson Lake, lent some money to a man named Crothers, taking in return a mortgage on what was known as the Crothers Tract of white pine. In due time, as Crothers did not liquidate, the firm became possessed of this tract. They hardly knew what to do with it.

The timber was situated some fifty miles from the railroad in a country that threw all sorts of difficulties across the logger’s path, and had to be hauled from nine to fifteen miles to the river. Both Morrison and Daly groaned in spirit. Supplies would have to be toted in to last the entire winter, for when the snow came, communication over fifty miles of forest road would be as good as cut off. Whom could they trust among the lesser foremen of their woods force? Whom could they spare among the greater?

At this juncture they called to them Tim Shearer, their walking boss and the greatest riverman in the State.

“You’ll have to ‘job’ her,” said Tim, promptly.

“Who would be hired at any price to go up in that country on a ten-mile haul?” demanded Daly, sceptically.

“Jest one man,” replied Tim, “an’ I know where to find him.”

He returned with an individual at the sight of whom the partners glanced toward each other in doubt and dismay. But there seemed no help for it. A contract was drawn up in which the firm agreed to pay six dollars a thousand, merchantable scale, for all saw-logs banked at a rollway to be situated a given number of miles from the forks of Cass Branch, while on his side James Bourke, better known as the Rough Red, agreed to put in at least three and one-half million feet. After the latter had scrawled his signature he lurched from the office, softly rubbing his hairy freckled hand where the pen had touched it.

“That means a crew of wild Irishmen,” said Morrison.

“And that means they’ll just slaughter the pine,” added Daly. “They’ll saw high and crooked, they’ll chuck the tops–who are we going to send to scale for ’em?”

Morrison sighed. “I hate to do it: there’s only Fitz can make it go.”

So then they called to them another of their best men, named FitzPatrick, and sent him away alone to protect the firm’s interests in the depths of the wilderness.

The Rough Red was a big broad-faced man with eyes far apart and a bushy red beard. He wore a dingy mackinaw coat, a dingy black-and-white checked-flannel shirt, dingy blue trousers, tucked into high socks and lumberman’s rubbers. The only spot of colour in his costume was the flaming red sash of the voyageur which he passed twice around his waist. When at work his little wide eyes flickered with a baleful, wicked light, his huge voice bellowed through the woods in a torrent of imprecations and commands, his splendid muscles swelled visibly even under his loose blanket-coat as he wrenched suddenly and savagely at some man’s stubborn cant-hook stock. A hint of reluctance or opposition brought his fist to the mark with irresistible impact. Then he would pluck his victim from the snow, and kick him to work with a savage jest that raised a laugh from everybody–excepting the object of it.

At night he stormed back through the forest at the head of his band, shrieking wild blasphemy at the silent night, irreverent, domineering, bold, with a certain tang of Irish good-nature that made him the beloved of Irishmen. And at the trail’s end the unkempt, ribald crew swarmed their dark and dirty camp as a band of pirates a galleon.

In the work was little system, but much efficacy. The men gambled, drank, fought, without a word of protest from their leader. With an ordinary crew such performances would have meant slight accomplishment, but these wild Irishmen, with their bloodshot eyes, their ready jests, their equally ready fists, plunged into the business of banking logs with all the abandon of a carouse–and the work was done.