Nan Sherwood at Pine Camp: or, the Old Lumberman’s Secret

Author: Annie Roe Carr

Chapter XVII Spring in the Big Woods

That visit to the lumber camp was memorable for Nan Sherwood in more ways than one. Her adventure with the lynx she kept secret from her relatives, because of the reason given in the previous chapter. But there was another incident that marked the occasion to the girl’s mind, and that was the threat of Gedney Raffer, reported to her Uncle Henry.

Nan thought that such a bad man as Raffer appeared to be would undoubtedly carry out his threat. He had offered money to have Mr. Sherwood beaten up, and the ruffians he had bribed would doubtless be only too eager to earn the reward.

To tell the truth, for weeks thereafter, Nan never saw a roughlooking man approach the house on the outskirts of Pine Camp, without fearing that here was coming a ruffian bent on her uncle’s injury.

That Uncle Henry seemed quite to have forgotten the threat only made Nan more keenly alive to his danger. She dared not discuss the matter with Aunt Kate, for Nan feared to worry that good woman unnecessarily. Besides, having been used to hiding from her own mother all unpleasant things, the girl naturally displayed the same thoughtfulness for Aunt Kate.

For, despite Mrs. Henry Sherwood’s bruskness and masculine appearance, Nan learned that there were certain matters over which her aunt showed extreme nervousness.

For instance, she was very careful of the lamps used in the house
she insisted upon cleaning and caring for them herself; she would not allow a candle to be used, because it might be overturned; and she saw to it herself that every fire, even the one in Nan’s bedroom, was properly banked before the family retired at night.

Nan had always in mind what Uncle Henry said about mentioning fire to Aunt Kate; so the curious young girl kept her lips closed upon the subject. But she certainly was desirous of knowing about that fire, so long ago, at Pale Lick, how it came about; if Aunt Kate had really got her great scar there; and if it was really true that two members of her uncle’s family had met their death in the conflagration.

She tried not to think at all of Injun Pete. That was too terrible!

With all her heart, Nan wished she might do something that would really help Uncle Henry solve his problem regarding the timber rights on the Perkins Tract. The very judge who had granted the injunction forbidding Mr. Sherwood to cut timber on the tract was related to the present owners of the piece of timberland; and the tract had been the basis of a feud in the Perkins family for two generations.

Many people were more or less interested in the case and they came to the Sherwood home and talked excitedly about it in the big kitchen. Some advised an utter disregard of the law. Others were evidently minded to increase the trouble between Raffer and Uncle Henry by malicious tale-bearing.

Often Nan thought of what Uncle Henry had said to old Toby Vanderwiller. She learned that Toby was one of the oldest settlers in this part of the Michigan Peninsula, and in his youth had been a timber runner, that is, a man who by following the surveyors’ lines on a piece of timber, and weaving back and forth across it, can judge its market value so nearly right that his employer, the prospective timber merchant, is able to bid intelligently for the so-called "stumpage" on the tract.

Toby was still a vigorous man save when that bane of the woodsman, rheumatism, laid him by the heels. He had a bit of a farm in the tamarack swamp. Once, being laid up by his arch enemy, with his joints stiffened and muscles throbbing with pain, Toby had seen the gaunt wolf of starvation, more terrible than any timber wolf, waiting at his doorstone. His old wife and a crippled grandson were dependent on Toby, too.

Thus in desperate straits Toby Vanderwiller had accepted help from Gedney Raffer. It was a pitifully small sum Raffer would advance upon the little farm; but it was sufficient to put Toby in the usurer’s power. This was the story Nan learned regarding Toby. And Uncle Henry believed that Toby, with his old-time knowledge of land-boundaries, could tell, if he would, which was right in the present contention between Mr. Sherwood and Gedney Raffer.

These, and many other subjects of thought, kept the mind of Nan Sherwood occupied during the first few weeks of her sojourn at Pine Camp. She had, too, to keep up her diary that she had begun for Bess Harley’s particular benefit. Every week she sent off to Tillbury a bulky section of this report of her life in the Big woods. It was quite wonderful how much there proved to be to write about. Bess wrote back, enviously, that never did anything interesting, by any possibility, happen, now that Nan was away from Tillbury. The town was "as dull as ditch water." She, Bess, lived only in hopes of meeting her chum at Lakeview Hall the next September.

This hope Nan shared. But it all lay with the result of Momsey’s and Papa Sherwood’s visit to Scotland and Emberon Castle. And, Nan thought, it seemed as though her parents never would even reach that far distant goal.

They had taken a slow ship for Momsey’s benefit and the expected re-telegraphed cablegram was looked for at the Forks for a week before it possibly could come.

It was a gala day marked on Nan’s calendar when Uncle Henry, coming home from the railroad station behind the roan ponies, called to her to come out and get the message. Momsey and Papa Sherwood had sent it from Glasgow, and were on their way to Edinburgh before Nan received the word. Momsey had been very ill a part of the way across the ocean, but went ashore in improved health.

Nan was indeed happy at this juncture. Her parents were safely over their voyage on the wintry ocean, so a part of her worry of mind was lifted.

Meanwhile spring was stealing upon Pine Camp without Nan’s being really aware of the fact. Uncle Henry had said, back in Chicago, that "the back of winter was broken"; but the extreme cold weather and the deep snow she had found in the Big Woods made Nan forget that March was passing and timid April was treading on his heels.

A rain lasting two days and a night washed the roads of snow and turned the fast disappearing drifts to a dirty yellow hue. In sheltered fence corners and nooks in the wood, the grass lifted new, green blades, and queer little Margaret Llewellen showed Nan where the first anemones and violets hid under last year’s drifted leaves.

The river ice went out with a rush after it had rained a few hours; after that the "drives" of logs were soon started. Nan went down to the long, high bridge which spanned the river and watched the flood carry the logs through.

At first they came scatteringly, riding the foaming waves end-on, and sometimes colliding with the stone piers of the bridge with sufficient force to split the unhewn timbers from end to end, some being laid open as neatly as though done with axe and wedge.

When the main body of the drive arrived, however, the logs were like herded cattle, milling in the eddies, stampeded by a crosscurrent, bunching under the bridge arches like frightened steers in a chute. And the drivers herded the logs with all the skill of cowboys on the range.

Each drive was attended by its own crew, who guarded the logs on either bank, launching those that shoaled on the numerous sandbars or in the shallows, keeping them from piling up in coves and in the mouths of estuaries, or creeks, some going ahead at the bends to fend off and break up any formation of the drifting timbers that promised to become a jam.

Behind the drive floated the square bowed and square sterned chuck-boat, which carried cook and provisions for the men. A "boom", logs chained together, end to end, was thrown out from one shore of the wide stream at night, and anchored at its outer end. Behind this the logs were gathered in an orderly, compact mass and the men could generally get their sleep, save for the watchman; unless there came a sudden rise of water in the night.

It was a sight long to be remembered, Nan thought, when the boom was broken in the morning. Sometimes an increasing current piled the logs up a good bit. It was a fear-compelling view the girl had of the river on one day when she went with Uncle Henry to see the first drive from Blackton’s camp. Tom was coming home with his team and was not engaged in the drive. But reckless Rafe was considered, for his age, a very smart hand on a log drive.

The river had risen two feet at the Pine Camp bridge overnight. It was a boiling brown flood, covered with drifting foam and debris. The roar of the freshet awoke Nan in her bed before daybreak. So she was not surprised to see the river in such a turmoil when, afer a hasty breakfast, she and Uncle Henry walked beside the flood.

"They started their drive last night," Uncle Henry said, "and boomed her just below the campsite. We’ll go up to Dead Man’s Bend and watch her come down. There is no other drive betwixt us and Blackton’s."

"Why is it called by such a horrid name, Uncle?" asked Nan.

"What, honey?" he responded.

"That bend in the river."

"Why, I don’t know rightly, honey-bird. She’s just called that. Many a man’s lost his life there since I came into this part of the country, that’s a fact. It’s a dangerous place," and Nan knew by the look on her uncle’s face that he was worried.


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Chicago: Annie Roe Carr, "Chapter XVII Spring in the Big Woods," Nan Sherwood at Pine Camp: or, the Old Lumberman’s Secret in Nan Sherwood at Pine Camp: or, the Old Lumberman’s Secret (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1903), Original Sources, accessed July 24, 2024,

MLA: Carr, Annie Roe. "Chapter XVII Spring in the Big Woods." Nan Sherwood at Pine Camp: or, the Old Lumberman’s Secret, in Nan Sherwood at Pine Camp: or, the Old Lumberman’s Secret, New York, Grosset & Dunlap, 1903, Original Sources. 24 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Carr, AR, 'Chapter XVII Spring in the Big Woods' in Nan Sherwood at Pine Camp: or, the Old Lumberman’s Secret. cited in 1903, Nan Sherwood at Pine Camp: or, the Old Lumberman’s Secret, Grosset & Dunlap, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 24 July 2024, from