Tug Hill Country, by Harold Samson is the description of a state of mind for all who once lived there and left, as well as for those who still live there.  It is accomplished by the means of descriptions of specific places, events and people and by generalizations of custom, language and industries.  Mary Lou and I are from the Tug Hill Country, from Sandy Creek and Lacona, Mary Lou from Redfield.  Although our home life and upbringing would be considered genteel indeed by most of the characters in the book, still the book portrays the land of our childhood and the culture from which we came.

For those who lived there it tells of home with familiar names, places and stories.  For those who have never lived there but have an admiration for strong men and feats of physical skill, and endurance with emphasis on the rough and rugged it will be enjoyable reading.  For those who admire the sharp business deal, the slick transaction and academics for academics sake, reading the book will be at best an exercise in futility and probably incomprehensible.

A word or two about some of the people, things and places as we have known them.  Redfield was the place where Mary Lou was born and raised until college days.  The Ben Lewis House still stands and we attended Square dances there or right next door at a pavilion type structure.  Falvey's was Falvey's for years and years and one night when Peter had taken Mary Lou home after a date as he drove through Redfield a great crowd of people blocked the road in front of Falvey's Hotel, this about the year 1947 or 48, and at about 1:00 in the morning.  The occasion was one of those bar room misunderstandings that rolled out into the street where two loggers (probably truck drivers judging from the big log trucks nearby) were really going at each other.  As my car rolled to a stop two great fat ladies jumped on the front bumper better to see the contest and shortly thereafter the fight was over with one man out cold on the pavement, receiving a final kick for good measure by the ten inch lace-to-toe logger's boot of the victor.  The boot sunk about four inches into the middle of the rib cage of the vanquished, but no response, he was out cold at the time.

Mary Lou's Uncle Winnie told many a tale of the woods and logging.  One which comes to mind at once concerns hauling logs out of Peaky, which I guess was part of the area of Osceola.  On this occasion, as Winnie told the story, he was driving "The Linn" (if you don't know, is a vehicle tracked on the back with runners for steering on the front, see the second page of pictures after Page 116 in the book), with one passenger aboard and six or eight sleds of logs.  The hill was steep and as the story goes the brakes failed and the whole load started to pick up speed - fast.  At this point Uncle Winnie had two options, one to dump it right there --the other to ride it to the bottom of the hill and hope he could keep the Linn from tipping over and being buried by the following logs.  Common sense would say that option one, --dump it right there and walk away, was the wiser course of action, but the Redfield tradition (or time and a poor memory) said ride 'er out to the bottom.  The passenger was told to jump and then all alone Winnie rode 'er to the bottom of the hill with no bad results other than an unscheduled mid-winter underwear change.

Growing up in Sand Creek and Lacona in the 1940's was not a hard job.  There were a lot more odd jobs to do than there were teenagers to do them and I always had money in my pocket.  The Blount Lumber Company at Lacona was the major employer in the two villages and everyone worked there, AFTER he got to be eighteen.  When I left for college in September of 1948 I fully intended to go only a couple of years and then return to the sawmill and eventually become the sawyer.  The sawyer is the boss in the mill and that looked like a good job to me.  Some of the men in this book were friends of mine - as good friends as a man can be with a paper boy or a teenager.  Andy Blount always paid for his newspaper a day early - Friday.  Earl Noble, on the other end of my paper route, always paid too much for his weekly supply of the Watertown Daily Times, from a roll of bills fully as big as a tomato soup can.  Percy Caster once beat "me an' Phil" at a game of pool in the Masonic Temple using only a chalked broom handle, with the broom still on the other end.

The book does not deal much with women - probably because it was a country and life that did not offer much except crude facilities, tough sledding and men who loved the out of doors and the challenge of hard work, hard play or hard drink.

My dad was the banker in Lacona and we were a church going family yet I was a senior in high school before I ever owned a real suite of clothes.  I first saw a tuxedo in Wooster, Ohio in 1948 while attending college.  The big dance of the year in Sandy Creek was the "President's Ball", put on by the Volunteer Firemen at Washington's Birthday, every one bought a ticket, most everyone used the tickets to satisfy all, there was both round and square dancing with two bands, one for each,   generally by the end of the evening both played at the same time.

Some good reading could have been developed in a chapter on clothing and dress.  Every rural area still has a few hold outs against the weekly bath, especially during the winter time, I know the Allegany Plateau Region where I conduct my law practice does, and Tug Hill surely has the hardy breed who get sewed into their long handles right after the Sandy Creek Fair and unsewed after "Decoration", if the lilac's have bloomed.  There are some other more subtle customs of dress, however, which are interesting to know about.  Woolrich is a name well known on Tug Hill, few know that these heavy coats, trousers and breaches come from a small town in Pennsylvania near Williamsport, but the dark red and black plaid of a Woolrich macinaw is well known on Tug Hill.  Really cold weather will bring out another grade of Heavy pants and coats called the "Malones".  When the thermometer drops to minus (-25 or -30) degrees at night and day time temperatures struggle to get up to zero the denizens of Tug Hill dig back into the closets and chests and "get out the Malones".  Each garment whether pants or heavy coat has a tag which says "Malone - all wool and a yard wide".  It is heavy, course, scratchy and warm.  Wearing it is like wearing clothes made from the heaviest rug you ever saw and long underwear is a must to minimize chaffing of the tender areas.  What nylon and other warm, lightweight fabrics have done to these old style clothes is unknown to me.

Your job also determined what you wore, my dad always wore a suite in the bank, Newt Wheeler wore the smock of the druggist and the men who worked in the feed mill wore the frock coats and bib overalls common to that trade.

Lumbering was a major industry and like any major industry it had many trades and occupations, all with different dress.  For lumber jacks heavy winter clothes included the heavy underwear, pants and jackets already mentioned, as well as foot geat of various degrees of water proof and warmness - felts and boots being one, (insulated boots probably are now in use).  Another item used by most woodsmen was the common cotton glove, one pair being tucked into a pocket during the day to be pulled out warm and dry to wear coming out of the woods at the end of the day to replace other mittens and gloves wet from sweat and snow.

In the saw mill where I worked for several summers the dress of the mill hand was different than that of the logger who hauled in logs to the mill.  Whether intentionally or not the mill hand did not dress like the logger, nor did he put on any appearance of knowing anything about the logging operation.  This was especially true on Thursday (pay day at the Blount Lumber Company in Lacona) and at the bar at the Center Hotel on Thursday evening the mill hands who had been just paid that day, were easily distinguished from that romantic and tough breed of man known as logger - who got paid some other day and who just happened to be around at the bar on Thursday night, (probably the logger knew there would be some excitement that night).

In summer the logger wore a black hat, dark shirt, black cotton pants cut off half way to the knee, fringed from cutting with a Jack Knife, and ten inch lace-to-toe logger boot with a wide high heal.  The mill hand wore any kind of hat and shirt (I preferred an old felt hat) blue dungarees without cuffs but hemmed and six inch wolverine work shoes.  If your job involved rough lumber (as in the saw mill proper) an apron was fashioned from cloth from the bathonette factory (part of the lumber company).  Gloves were a matter of personal choice but some jobs were so tough on hide and calluses that they were a must.  Tail sawing was one of those jobs.

The tail sawyer stood just after the cut had been made, as the log was carried by on the carriage, a slab, plank or board was cut and the tail sawyer merely pulled it off onto the powered rollers of the conveyor system.  This was a dangerous job with a 60 inch saw running at about 850 R.P.M. not more than 30 inches away.  Gloves here were a must and a good pair of leather gloves (purchased by the tail sawyer) would last about 3 weeks.  One good week, one fair week and one week with your calluses getting sore.  Sawdust is everywhere in a saw mill and gets inside the glove fingers.  This problem is overcome by chopping off the top end of the fingers.  Dennis Daily was the best chopper-offer.  Denny worked ahead of the main saw, loading carriage and turning the log for another cut.  He kept a double butted ax handy well honed by Grover Joyner.  Grover was a former sawyer promoted to saw sharpener after a couple of unauthorized trips thru the big saw had impaired his mobility of leg and arm.  When you brought in a new pair of gloves you went straight to the ramp where Denny worked and he would spread them out on the log on the ramp or on the carriage and then finger by finger he would chop off the end of each finger.  When a big chunk got inside the glove you just shook it and it went out the open end.

Mr. Samson refers to Warnick & Brown Tobacco.  I think it is smoking tobacco although I spent all one summer working between Lee Weaver, who smoked it in a pipe which made great clouds of blue smoke that fell to the floor and which you could almost trip over, and Ben Ridgeway on the other side of the edger who would pull out an identical looking package and who never smoked it, he chewed it.

There is a chapter in the book about shin kicking - a sport which no doubt flourished in its day, by the 1940's I believe shin kicking had been discontinued, at least in the saw mills.  It had been replaced by a couple of other more sophisticated sports, one of these was called "Ring" the other was nameless but the improvement over shin kicking was as dramatic as the improvement in football when the forward pass became a legal maneuver.

The nameless sport was conducted at the Blount Lumber Company saw mill in Lacona on the dock along the log pond, which was an artificial body of water about 75 feet by 150 feet or so used to handle and clean logs before sawing.  The sport required just two people, had no time limits or out of bounds markers, neither were any referees, umpires or other officials needed.  In this sport the opponents attempted to do bodily harm to each other with peeves.  For emphasis I shall repeat this, the opponents attempted to do bodily harm to each other with peeves.  There was no "just for fun" or "just nick him" or any other simulation.  Each man, armed with a peeve with a 4 foot handle (short handle as opposed to long handles -6 foot-used in other areas) tried his best to inflict damage on the other.  The dock along the pond was the playing field and no man would step off either end.  (Which was on dry land).  One could be driven onto the hard wood logs floating on the pond with the assurance he'd get wet feet at least.  A torn shirt or pair of pants was the least the loser would get.  Generally skinned knuckles and bruised arms and thighs were received and sometimes a little blood.  My Mother never did understand why so many of my work clothes were torn, although this was cut down considerably after Ben Ridgeway spent one noon hour showing me how to block and parry and the like.

Ring probably is the direct descendant of shin kicking, however, ring required three participants instead of two.  In ring, three grown men, stood in a close circle (hence the work Ring), and the first would strike the second with a sharp blow on the upper arm, the second would strike the third with a similar blow and the third would then strike the first.  This contest required very little equipment or officiating and like shinkicking, stopped and the game was over when someone elected let common sense or pain force him out of the game.  During my college years I always returned to football practice in the fall already black and blue from elbow to shoulder and I know that my coaches always thought I spent the summer in the north woods practicing blocking on some hard wood blocking dummy.

Goodness of heart is something we all like to think we have, something that we all do have some of the time and something that makes the world a better place to be.  The people of Tug Hill have this goodness of heart and your station in life or business success or failure do not seem to make you any more or less likely to show it, or to receive its benefits if you need it.  Two occasions come to mind which illustrate this point.  One of these occasions was about 3 P.M. on a Thanksgiving Day, I had had Thanksgiving Dinner in Sandy Creek with my parents and grand parents and then asked to leave to see my best girl, Mary Lou.  Mary Lou lived some 25 miles away in Redfield and I suppose I had worked it out so that I'd be the beneficiary of two Thanksgiving day dinners.  There was about an inch of snow in Sandy Creek and I headed for Mary Lou's house via Boyleston and Greenboro.  I imagine the elevation increased by 600 or 700 feet from Sandy Creek to Greenboro and by the time I hit the old State Road at Greenboro there was 18 inches of snow on the road and I was still 10 miles or so from my destination.  My dad's old 1937 Studebaker was doing pretty good and, after stopping to put chains on, it looked like I would make it but about 2 miles out of Redfield I skidded off a turn and really hit the ditch.  After more than enough spinning of wheels I concluded I was really stuck and was deciding just what to do next (which way to start walking) when Herm Madison came along with a truck and load of logs.  He was going along fine around the curve and should have kept his righ moving but didn't, he stopped, asked if he could help, pulled me out and towed me into town.  Herm never said he was doing this out of the goodness of his heart, never asked any pay and probably never even considered whether he should or shouldn't stop to help, it was just one of the things you do and he did it.

Ben Ridgeway - I think a bachelor, World War I buddie of Howard Blount, one of the owners of Blount Lumber Company, laborer and mill hand and probably one of the older brothers of a large family of Ridgeways, worked in the saw mill and was there the summers that I was.  Before I worked with him in the saw mill I had worked with him in the feed mill owned by Tom Hammer as extra help, unloading feed from box cars.  Ben always called me "the Banker's Boy" and I think was somewhat mystified at the fact that I was doing manual labor.  I was planning to marry in the summer of 1951, working in the saw mill and doing my share of day dreaming.  Ben was working on the re-saw that summer (a big band saw that turned 2 inch planks into 1 inch boards) and he always took a week of vacation during the week of the Sandy Creek Fair.  This summer he volunteered to work one day of his vacation for me so I could go to the Fair.  I said no but he was quite insistent that I get off a day, especially since I worked all summer and since I'd be getting married and that would about finish me.  Well, I said no and Ben left on vacation as scheduled.  About Thursday of the vacation week I came in to work and found my card had been removed from the out spot on the time clock and assumed that I had been laid off although I had held down the Tail Sawyer job for about 3 weeks (a job I did not report at home since it was dangerous but I received $1.45 per hr. instead of $1.25 per hr. so I was earning big money for that work).  Upon going to the bill from the boiler room where the time clock was located I discovered my old friend Ben, in my spot behind the 60 inch main saw, ready to go to work, wearing my felt hat and apron with my gloves and goggles in hand, ready to spend the day Tail Sawing so "Peter could go to the Fair".  No amount of argument could persuade him to give up, he had punched my card, taken my spot and put on my hat and work apron & gloves.  I finally went home and although I never have been much on fairs and carnivals I went that day to the Sandy Creek Fair.

Tug Hill Country is admittedly a provincial history of very limited scope and limited social significance.  Probably there are hundreds of similar histories of areas and eras and yet herein is one of the great points of our country, it has many customs, traditions, people and philosophies - yet it embraces them all for the good of all - yet as Ben Ridgeway could give up one of five days of paid vacation to help a college kid, just as all of Tug Hill cheered when Percy Caster slipped the 20 penny nail in the bear trap and thereby set a bear trap without levers or clamps, so does each section of our country whether Tug Hill, in Northern New York or Fish Trap in West (By God) Virginia, rejoice at the success of our nation and help each part of to make a better whole.

Mary Lou and Pete came from Tug Hill - and are proud of it - it is part of what we are.  We hope you enjoy reading Tug Hill Country as much as we have.