By Vital Thebeau
I remember my brother Eddy was cutting pulp wood it was called poplar.
In the summertime it was very hot and there were a lot of mosquitoes. My job was to take the bark off the trees with a tool called a spud. It was very hard for me because I was only 15 years old and my brother Eddy was quite a bit older, he was 27. He was a hardworking man.
He had 15 or 20 trees cut down ahead of me; I wasn’t able to keep up with him. I was so tired and so disgusted that I was crying at times, sometimes he would stop cutting down the trees so I would catch up to him. I would take a break for a few minutes, then we would go back to work again. We had to take the pulp to the main highway with a tractor that we made with a 1928 Studebaker. We also had a trailer that we had made ourselves. We had to make a road from the highway to where we piled the pulp so we could load it on the trailer; it was a very hard job.
We did not have a power saw, we had to use what we call a buck saw and that wasn’t run by gas. We had to use our muscles which were hard on our body. When we did a day’s work, we did not feel like doing much that evening. We would cut one cord of wood a day or sometimes we would cut up to two cords a day, it would depend on the stand of trees.
At that time, we were not getting a lot of money for our pulp wood. I think it was about $7.00 a cord. We did not need a lot of money because we were growing most of our food, potatoes and vegetables in the garden and we raised cows, pigs, and chickens. We did have to buy flour, to make our bread, with a big family like ours; it took a lot of bread. I know that my mom made bread a least twice a week.
I went to work for a guy his name was Nasser Richer, it was about 25 miles from home. We had to build a camp, it was16′ by 20′. We did that with boards and we covered it with tar paper. Nothing was insulated. We had to heat the camp with a cook stove. We were using wood and the wood was green, if it had of been dry it would give us a better heat. We had to keep the fire going 24 hours a day to keep warm. It still wasn’t very warm.
My brother was married and he had three small kids at that time. We were all living in that small camp. We moved there the first of September. We worked until Christmas. After Christmas there was so much snow we had to come back home. The rest of the crew stayed there to haul the wood out. They had to haul the pulp with a team of horses. They had five teams of horses. They had cut a lot of pulp that fall and didn’t have enough snow to haul the pulp out before Christmas. They had to wait for more snow to come, but they didn’t wait to long for the snow to come.
Two weeks after Christmas we had a big storm and they started to haul their wood. It took a long time to haul the wood out to the main road; from there they hauled it away with a three ton truck. They had to load that by hand can you imagine that. They had to lift it up 8 feet high, a block of pulp weighed around 100 pounds or more. Now it’s all done by machinery.
I stayed at home for the rest of the winter. I kept busy helping dad in the blacksmith shop. I did the chores, fed the cows, horse, chickens and the pigs. Then I had to bring the wood in the house so we could keep the house warm. Things were pretty quiet through the winter. There were a few people that were coming to the shop to get some work done.
There wasn’t too much else to do for the rest of the winter, then in the spring we started getting the farm equipment ready to plant the oats, potatoes and the garden. After we got done planting the garden we had to wait for the wild strawberries to ripen. We used to pick them to make strawberry jam which we would put in mason jars to preserve them to keep them through the winter. We would pick raspberries as well and do the same thing as we did with the strawberries, after that we started picking wild blueberries. We had to travel about four miles to go to the field. We travelled there with a model T Ford I think it was a 1928.
They had made a tractor with this old car and they had a trailer. They were picking people up along the road about 10 or 12 people. I remember this young girl about my age, 14 years old or so, she liked me, but I was too stupid to know what was going on. My mother told me that young girl liked me, how she knew, was that she was teasing me with a branch. She was poking at me, but at that time I didn’t know a heck of a lot, but nothing ever come of it. She was very pretty and her name was Rita Poirier. This is what happens when you don’t know about love. A few years later I realized what I missed and I felt like kicking my butt. I guess all I had in mind is picking blueberries. I was picking 20 to 25 baskets a day. We were getting 8 cents per basket, so we didn’t make a lot of money. We had a lot of fun.
We were not allowed to run the roads, because I wasn’t old enough. My mother was quite strict, so we had to listen to her. It took two or three more years before I could go out in the evenings. Most of the time we were playing baseball, we were not very good at it, but it was a good pastime. We had a field about a mile and one-half away from home we use to walk to.
Sometimes we were about a dozen young guys, there were not enough of us to make a team but we divided up so we could make two teams. We didn’t stay out to late at night. We had to be home at 9 pm so we could go to bed so we could get up in the morning to do our chores. In the winter time we didn’t have too much to do, so we use go to the neighbours and we played cards.
The game we were playing was called 200. That game was played with the cards number 5 and up to the king and the ace. We used to play with one partner. The winners would stay and another couple sat at the table and played another game. We would play from 7:00 until 10 or 10:30 and then we would walk back home. That was done almost every night in the winter time.
We had a lot fun doing that. We were all young guys about the same age. We use to go there to play Paradise. It was a game you would play with two or four people, you would roll the dice and it was made like a Cross with numbers around the arms of the cross. In the middle there was also numbers with a square and that was called the paradise. We had to go all around then when you made it up to the centre you would win the game.
There wasn’t a lot else to do in the winter time because the nights were short. We sometimes would change and would go to another house and we may play a different game of cards. We had to walk all the time in the winter because there were no vehicles around and the road was not plowed. Summertime wasn’t so bad because we would run our bicycles. It was faster and not so tiresome, it was always the very same routine because we never had any money, and we were poor.
I remember one time I was walking on the sidewalk with this girl, her name was Theresa Hachey. All I had was five or six pennies and couldn’t buy her an ice cream if she would have asked me to buy her one. I probably would have been quite embarrassed because I didn’t have enough money, but that was the good old days so they say.
When I look back to see what we were doing it was not very easy but we were happy, nothing bothered us. We didn’t worry about anything because we didn’t have anything to worry about, the times were hard and money was scarce.