The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #54759   Message #1923200
Posted By: Charley Noble
31-Dec-06 - 11:47 AM
Thread Name: Songs of the Sailor and Lumberman
Subject: Lyr Add: LUMBER (Cicely Fox Smith)
It's curious that no work songs have been collected related to loading or unloading lumber aboard the ships. This was very hard work, calling for a team effort, threading the larger beams through the bow or stern ports.

The only thing I've turned up is a poem by C. Fox Smith, appropriately titled "Lumber", which commemorates the experience as she observed it many times in Victoria, British Columbia, in the early 1900s. Here's her poem:

Words by Cicely Fox Smith ©
In ROVINGS, Elkin Mathews, London, UK, © 1921, pp. 33-34.


If I'd got to choose alone
One of all the freights I've known –
All my cargoes live and dead,
Bacon pigs and pigs of lead,
Cattle, copra, rice and rails,
Pilgrims, coolies, nitrates, nails,
Lima beans and China teas –
What do you think my pick would be?

If I'd got to name the best –
Take just one and leave the rest
Out of all the ports I've known –
Coral beaches white as bone,
All the hot lands and the cold,
Nights of stars and moons like gold,
Tropic smells and Spanish wine,
Whispering palm and singing pine,
All the isles of all the sea –
Where do you think I'd want to be?

Loading lumber long ago
In a ship I used to know,
With the bow-ports open wide
In her stained and rusted side,
And the saws a-screaming shrill
At the Steveston lumber-mill;
Where the Fraser floods and flows
Green and cold with melting snows,
And the tow-boats' wailing din,
As the booms come crawling in,
Fills the echoing creeks with sound,
And there's sawdust all around,
Deep and soft like drifted snow;
Nowhere much a man can go,
Nothing much to see or do,
Mouldiest burg you ever knew…

But I'd give the years between –
All I've done and all I've seen,
All the fooling and the fun,
All the chances lost and won,
All the good times and the bad,
All the memories sweet and sad,
Far and near, by shore and sea,
I would give them all to be
Loading lumber years ago
With the lads I used to know –

Loading lumber all day long
Stacks of scented deals among –
Loading lumber at the mill
Till the screaming saws were still,
And the rose-red sunset died
From the mountains and the tide,
And the night brought out its stars,
And the wind's song in the spars
Of that ship I used to know –
Loading lumber, long ago.

Notes: Cicely Fox Smith was based in Victoria, British Columbia, for much of the time that she was on the West Coast of Canada, roughly 1904 to 1913. She describes in vivid detail her experience there walking the docks, watching the sunsets, admiring the ships, listening to the yarns of ship-keepers and other sailors, and nosing around the waterfront. The Village of Steveston is located in Richmond, BC, adjacent to Vancouver where she likely visited. Curiously, there is no record of a "Steveston Mill" in Steveston Village. There were an abundance of Salmon canneries but apparently no lumber mill. However, there was a major railhead for shipping out lumber, and maybe that was the source of the poet's apparent confusion.

Charley Noble