On the Road With Logging's Two-Sleds
SOON the bleak blasts of Boreas will wreak their seasonal worst, and one day snow will cover Maine to the customary depth of eight to 15 feet, and we will have again what used to be called two-sled weather. It is thus timely to hear from Mr. Wendell Stickney of 06907, who explains that he was born and raised in 04414. Let us see if we can't brighten the morning for Mr. Stickney down in Connecticut. Mr. Stickney's theme is the ``traverse-runner'' logging sled, and he has just finished a scale model that he has presented to the historical society in Brownville, Maine, which is 04414.
Mr. Stickney tells me he worked from memory, and according to the picture he sent me, his detail is correct. I suppose a two-sled is extinct except perhaps in the Lumberman's Museum at Patten, here in Maine. Mr. Stickney's model does not show the ``pole'' that would be attached to the front sled for a pair of horses, with whiffletrees and eveners. Once in a while a small set of traverse-runners would be fitted with ``sharves'' for a single horse. Mr. Stickney's model at scale is 16 feet long, with the capacity of two cords, and that might be too much for an unmarried horse. And another thing - where today would a driver find an unplowed and unsanded road? Or where do we find a driver?
The two-sled did move west with lumbering and should be familiar to older folks in Michigan and Washington. Mr. Stickney remembers his from Brownville, which is in the heart of Maine's one-time lumbering country. The two-sled logically had two sleds. Before that, logs were brought from the cutting on a jumper, or a ``one-sled,'' which was a bobsled. The butts of long logs were chained to the ``bunk,'' and the tops of the trees dragged in the road. This was hard on the horses, dirtied the logs, dulled saws, and didn't improve the roadway.
The two-sled followed. An ingenious connection of ropes or chains, connecting the rear of the front sled to the front of the rear sled, caused the two sleds to ``track,'' so curves were readily negotiated. The traverse-runner connection on a two-sled was also tied on a coasting sled used on winter nights when everybody turned out for fun. For long logs, the rear of the after-sled was open, and while the tops still stuck out, they didn't drag.
In the woods, a ``two-sled road'' would have ``lay-bys'' at intervals, where rigs returning empty would wait for loaded sleds to pass - a loaded two-sled had the right of way. Also, on downhill slopes, there was need for snublines, to hold back a descending load so it wouldn't overpower the horses. With two or three turns of the snubline around a tree or stump, a man could ease a load down. If a snubline parted, and now and then one would, the two-sled, the load, the driver, and the horses were said to be ``sluiced,'' and there was usually a finality.
A two-sled road didn't mean two sleds wide. Sometimes one would be called a log-haul. As Yankee minds kept finding improvements, a two-sled road would be iced, and then came the steam-powered log-hauler, first made in Maine by the Lombard family. With the Lombard log hauler, the two-sled was made up in trains, and with 15 to 20 two-sleds in tow a Lombard would clank off to the mill. Then the two-sled was built larger, and a problem developed. For some reason the Lombard two-sleds tracked all right when loaded, but when empty, they'd skip all over the place. So the two-sleds were designed to be taken apart, and when one was unloaded the men pulled pins and loaded all the disengaged parts on one sled for the trip back into the woods. It could be quite a trip - a log-haul at Masardis covered 14 miles.
Then those log-hauls got iced. The icing crew went to work about midnight and would quit at dawn. Tanks on a one-sled had sprinklers. There's a story about a salesman from Boston who spent a cold night at the Huston House in Mattawamkeag, shivering in bed. At daybreak he came down to the lobby, just as Herb Prout came in from icing a log-haul. Herb was a sheet of frozen spray. The salesman said, ``What room did you have?''
The two-sled also gave us the set-over pung. Since a single horse had trouble keeping his footing on a two-sled road, a pung was devised with an offset whiffletree. Now the horse could walk comfortably where the team horses stepped, and the pung runners followed the two-sled runners. The set-over pung also went west with the Maine loggers, the Lombards, and the two-sleds. Thank you, Mr. Stickney. Have a good winter.