Monday, October 04, 2010


Back in 2008 I did a series of posts in which I shared a published
interview with my granduncle Clarence P. West in which he looked
back on his life. Recently Alan Johnson, who is writing a book about
the area in Maine where my West ancestors lived, sent me  a copy
of another interview with Clarence. This one appeared in a publication
called Maine Profiles back in 1975 and Lynne Franklin the interviewer.
Clarence was 80 years old at the time and had been forced to retire
from his job as caretaker at the Aziscohos Dam and was not happy
about it. He'd held the position since 1924.

"Rip" was P.C. Ripley, and "father" was my great grandfather P.J.West.
In this installment, Clarence reminisces about a log drive, a trip to
Rangeley, and some advice from "Rip":

“I remember just a boy on a drive. I had the wood going alright
past my station and I built myself a birch bark shelter to get out of 
the rain.

Well, I had got in there, everything going alright, and gone to sleep. 

I woke up thinking I heard something funny and listened for it. I 
heard a clucking and cracking, like chickens but not altogether, 
then I looked out of my hut and lookout! It was afire.

Now, who in the hell could have done that? I don’t smoke on the 

drive, just chewed, you know, so it weren’t me. I looked over by 
the riverbank  and there was the boss trying to walk away out of 

He had come around and found me asleep and played a trick on 

me, burned my shack over my head.

Them was the days mister. You had your breakfast before daylight, 

then at 10 o’clock cookee (cook’s helper) comes up with two pails 
full of beans and a knapsack of biscuits and you had baked beans, 
boiled potatoes, meat, pie, cake, coffee, tea. And at 2 o’clock you
got it again and you got another feed when you got back to camp. 
Four times a day they fed us, but you worked and that’s why we 
fed the way we did. I liked it. No, I loved it.

One time I was working with my father up near Deer Mountain. It 

was winter, but it commenced to rain and it cut the ice right out. 
What with one thing or another, father says we'll go out through 
Rangeley and down around Phillips and to Andover and go home 
that way.

I was tickled to death. I was going to see Rangeley. Why, we went 

through Rangeley and never saw a person. They roll the carpet up
right after Labor Day, deadest place you ever saw.

But go there in the summer season, well, you'll have hard work to 

get down Main St.

They used to have a sawmill there, but that's gone by. All they got

now is filling stations and stores. It's the highest priced place I think 
I ever tried to buy  anything in. Terrible. It costs more to go there 
than it does to go to Berlin, N.H. or to Colbrook, Canada.

It's 26 miles to  Rangeley, 38 to Colbrook and 56 to Berlin.
I was down in Berlin coming up one day and I run into old Rip. 

'Hey,kid' says Rip. 'Can I ride up with you?' .

'Why sure.'  So he gets in the car and we started up.

He says 'You know, the Brown Company has all the ingredients in

their locker to make whiskey.'  

'Yeah,' I says, 'I believe it.'

'Now,'  he says, 'You take a jug and you put your prunes and your 

raisins and...'

He tells me all the folderol you want in the jug and you mix it up 

and bury it in the ground.

'And when you take it out of the ground,' he says, 'you got squirrel 

whiskey.That stuff's so strong it will make a squirrel run up a tree 


Carol Yates Wilkerson said...

It's so funny how matter of fact our ancestors could be when they recount their lives. A really good read Bill.

Karen Packard Rhodes said...

I wonder if he ever tried the whiskey recipe!

Great interview, and a great addition to your family records.