Monday, May 12, 2008

Historical Interpretation

Part of being stuck in the "old ways" of doing my work is the desire to teach and entertain young people about the history of logging. Five years ago now, a Mr. Mark Hansen, one of the founding fathers of the North House Folk School here in Grand Marais on the harbor, gifted me with a course for elementary school kids where they build their own wooden scale model of a logging batteau.
The batteau, a french word for boat, finds its origin in the U.S. as a conveyance for the river drive workers, a "water taxi" for the bank rats and river pigs as they used to refer to themselves and one another. They were constantly moving from bank to bank of the rivers and from log to log on the lakes, keeping the saw logs moving when they would get hung up on rocks and shallow spots on the shore.
So we try to re-create, demonstrate, and illustrate just how the hard, heavy work of timber transportation was done, with a log or two the kids can roll into the water with a cant hook or a peavey, special tools with wooden handles and swinging iron hooks for turning and prying large logs apart. I build and fill a square pool of water I call "Lake McGee" and cut scale model logs with a boom, or a bunch of logs chained together end-to-end for surrounding and containing, even for towing thousands of logs within the boom.
It's a lot of fun. The kids spend about half of their time in the three day class learning about the life of a turn-of the century logger, and the other half building their models. It's fun. More to come.