The Donkey that Did

Old she was, disreputable she was, but Timothy loved his battered with a love surpassing the love of women

FRANCIS DICKIE May 15 1927

The Donkey that Did

Old she was, disreputable she was, but Timothy loved his battered with a love surpassing the love of women

FRANCIS DICKIE May 15 1927

The Donkey that Did

Old she was, disreputable she was, but Timothy loved his battered with a love surpassing the love of women

FRANCIS DICKIE

CALFTON'S logging outfit on Myrtle Island was as 'haywire' a one as was to be found along the entire British Columbia coast.

To those unfamiliar with this region, let it be explained that ‘haywire’ is a term of supreme contempt when applied to a logging outfit. For haywire, that thin, strong and enduring wire which comes around baled hay, is used throughout the entire West by stump ranchers, farmers and loggers for a hundred odd and useful purposes—for mending machinery, substituting cheaply for rope, leather and chain ; in short, a makeshift.

So the loggers of the Pacific coast, from Canada to California, term as ‘haywire’ any logging camp operated with old cable, dubious donkey-engines, and dining tables which bear evidence of forced or studied parsimony.

CALFTON’S logging outfit on Myrtle Island had all the drawbacks of a small camp which had been started largely on faith and hope. At the start, Calfton owned one old donkey-engine, but as the timber to be logged ran back a considerable distance from the beach, two engines had been required to carry on worthwhile operations. So, while the ‘fallers’ and ‘buckers’, on contract, were laying the great firs to earth and cutting them in twenty-four to forty-foot lengths, Calfton went scouting in his gas-boat along the rugged and deeply indented coastline. Here, for every straight mile of 'distance, are twelve miles of shoreline; bays and sounds and inlets and narrow lagoons. Along these waterways which wash the mainland, and countless islands of rocky, tree-clad slopes, ranging in size from a mile long to forty, are situated many logging camps. Among these camps Calfton went seeking.

w Finally, not twenty miles from his own timber claims, his search was rewarded, though, such a winding labyrinth of waterway is the region, Calfton did not find that

which he was seeking until after he had covered several hundred miles and visited many camps. To those unfamiliar with the country over which he journeyed, this no doubt is difficult of comprehension, regardless of its truth. But no matter. The real point of interest is that Calfton found Mr. Timothy Murphy at the right moment.

Timothy owned a small donkeyengine, a nine-by-ten machine, even more aged and decrepit than Calfton’s. At the moment of Calfton’s arrival., Timothy had just completed logging, at a loss, a small ‘timber sale’, and was doubly alert for new worlds to conquer in this sombre land of endless miles of steep mountain sides, down which the fir, hemlock and cedar marched closeranked to touch the very waters of the sea.

Calfton had no money, but he was

a most persuasive talker. Furthermore the timber he proposed taking out was Crown, granted previous to April, 1887, and thus bore no royalty, and he said he owned it. So, though he had no money, such was the enchanting quality of Calfton’s talk, that Timothy Murphy, swayed by it, and also by the fact of Calfton’s ownership of royalty free timber, consented not only to a partnership, but gave up his last few hundred dollars to meet certain absolutely necessary cash payments that were outside the peculiar credit system prevailing on this coast, where

most settlements are made when the logs are delivered.

The partnership agreed upon, Timothy at once loaded his donkey-engine upon the giant, waiting raft of cedar logs, and his gas-boat and Calfton’s towed it to the site of the new camp.

THUS came into being Calfton’s logging camp.

Timothy Murphy’s engine pulled itself ashore by own steam, after the regular manner of this most adaptable of all man’s engines. On shore, just above the high tidemark where a small beach of sand and shingle made an opening in the island’s abrupt wall of rock Timothy’s donkey-engine took up its position to act as ‘roader’. That is, its thousand feet of cable ran inland through woods and pulled down to the sea logs already yarded Calfton’s donkey farther inland.

Day followed day, and week followed week, in which Timothy’s donkey, with vast rumbling and much of whistle, hauled the great fir logs in steady,unbroken procession to the water. The haul was long and heavy. That it was achieved with never once a halt or slackening on the part of the ‘roader’ donkey was a tribute Timothy Murphy’s mastery as a ‘donkey-puncher’. This quivering, decrepit, vast bulk of steam-driven machinery long since should have been consigned to rest with honors due to age and full time well served. Indeed, Timothy only operated because of a lucky trick of dodging the traveling government boiler-inspector, a trick difficult along so vast a coastline. In the hands of other man, Timothy’s engine would most certainly have either lain down on the job and died, or blown promptly, in which latter case many persons would have become deceased in company with the machinery. under the cajoling power of Timothy this ancient hulk steel and iron marvellously took on new life, fresh power and a throbbing steadiness and reliability which beyond all argument the eighth wonder of the world.

But love, so the saying goes, will move mountains;

Timothy loved his engine more than anything on earth. Well he might, for it represented such toil-wrung savings, as a man wrests by labor in the woods. Timothy had done all the hardest and least paid jobs in his apprenticeship to the woods. Swamper, knotter, bucker, faller, chaser, choker-man, wood-cutter for a donkey—all these and more had he been in the fifteen years of his slavery, fifteen years of saving and struggling upwards out of the ranks of the casual logger to the heights of ‘boss-logger’; on a limited plane, perhaps, but still boss and owner of one donkey-engine, warranted to go under his manipulation.

His machine, to Timothy, was no mere object of iron and steel. It stood symbol even for more than the fifteen years of sweat and saving, which had bought it: it was an eternal reminder to him of all the trips to town he had not taken; of wine, and women and good clothes, and all the civilized entertainments he had denied himself, which other men enjoyed.

Having sacrificed so much to this altar of steam—one already frail and fading when he got it—Timothy brought to its care all the knowledge of his last five years of wageearning when, from firing a donkey, he had graduated to driver. But he brought more than just mere experience to his donkey-engine driving; he brought a certain intuitive knowledge, a resourcefulness and ingenuity at overcoming mechanical defects, that is only found in the born mechanic, that type of man who loves his tools and engines as animate things, and who can make old machinery react so wonderfully as to cause the layman to wonder if, perhaps, after all, iron and steel may be alive and responsive to kindred human souls.

It was because Timothy Murphy was one of this type of men that he succeeded now with his old nine-by-ten engine in keeping the logs marching steadily to the sea.

LONG before the rest of the crew were stirring of a J morning, Timothy was down to the beach in attendance upon his idol; the hour after supper often found him returning to it for some last attention.

Daily, as the total of timber brought to tidewater increased, Timothy’s heart was gladdened by thoughts apart from those which arose from the excellent showing made by his engine: the partnership now promised him a good profit. Sorely was it needed. For of Timothy’s two previous ventures, undertaken since the purchase of the donkey, the fair profit of the first had been almost entirely swallowed up by the operating loss sustained on the second. What little money he then had left he had given to Calfton.

Thus it was that Timothy watched with joyous heart the big tug take away the first tow of ten sections. Each ‘swifter’ averaged from thirty to thirty-five thousand feet b.m., which, at ten dollars the thousand, even at a minimum of thirty thousand feet to the section, meant three thousand dollars, or eight hundred dollars, at the very least, as his share after all expenses were paid.

Calfton went with the tug to Deep Cove, the little mill town, fifty miles away, to attend to the sale of the logs. Timothy waved him goodbye, and returned once more to the levers of his engine, coaxing the quivering machinery into further winding and unwinding of the cable on the huge drums, which kept the logs moving in endless procession to the sea.

Ten days passed, and still Calfton did not return. A weekly steamer brought mail to a landing some eight miles from the camp. Timothy, wondering and a little anxious, was on hand when the boat arrived. There was no letter from Calfton. Timothy, now genuinely disturbed, returned to camp. He would have remained for some time longer in ignorance of the catastrophe which had befallen him, had not Jackson, one of the ‘chokermen’ of his crew, been a resident of the region and a subscriber to the weekly newspaper published at the little mill town of Deep Cove, where Calfton had gone with the logs.

Timothy, after returning in his gasboat with the mail, had finished dinner and was sitting upon a stump smoking his pipe when Jackson, waving the newspaper in his hand, came bounding out of the door of the floating bunkhouse, ran across the gangplank to the shore and came on straight to where Timothy sat.

“Look at that!” he roared, shoving the paper into Timothy’s hands.

Timothy’s eyes followed the man’s pointing finger. Slowly he read in the Deep Cove Weekly the story of his own undoing.

The ten sections of logs Timothy had so gladly seen towed away to the mill town, had been seized by old creditors of Calfton’s from a distant city, whom he had evidently eluded for some time. But it was not this news, heart-breaking as it was, which now most affected Timothy, but the further intimation the paper conveyed of court proceedings which meant one thing only: that the bailiff would arrive on the next weekly steamer, perhaps before, in some other craft, to seize and to hold all goods and chattels on Myrtle Island.

Instantly Timothy’s thoughts turned to his dearest possession. The bailiff would seize his donkey-engine! He might even lose it!

Timothy had the wise man’s distrust of legal complications. And so, while it did not seem that he, as a partner in Calfton’s present enterprise, could be made responsible for debts contracted by Calfton previous to their partnership, there remained in Timothy’s mind a margin of doubt. Even at the best, the bailiff’s seizure meant a tying up of his precious equipment for he knew not how long. Perhaps for months of time his donkey-engine would have to remain here in idleness. He might even be put to expense to prove his ownership, and save it out of all legal ramifications resulting from Calfton’s dishonesty.

Glumly he handed the paper back to Jackson, realizing as he did so that the men, too, were unpaid. At least they were far better off than he as a partner was so he said:

“Well, wages come ahead of everything. It’s only a question of quick action with you boys, and you can get at least some of your money out of the logs if you hustle to Deep Cove right away. The way things look, Calfton’s likely beat it. Better take his gas-boat, and all of you start right away to Deep Cove and get your lien for wages placed on the logs.”

AT TWO o’clock the thirty-foot gasboat, with the entire crew of fifteen men aboard, chugged away from Myrtle Island. Alone in the deserted camp, Timothy walked to where his now silent donkey-engine stood upon the gravelly ground a few feet above the high tide mark. He sat down upon the sleigh. The March sunshine was unusually warm. High up in a fir tree a junco sang its little tinkling melody, gay and glad greeting to the returning spring. A bronze-winged flicker on a tall snag cried his wickering, ululating call. A voicing pregnant of love-time and all budding things. Amid the white catkins of a willow nearby, many bees were humming drowsily: peace and contentment everywhere but in the heart of the solitary man.

Sitting here, Timothy Murphy was a prey to higher rising doubts and fears. The story of the log seizure and Calfton’s legal troubles, which would not have been given a line in a large city newspaper, had been an important item to the editor of so small a sheet as the Deep Cove Weekly and he devoted considerable space to the happening. While the newspaper had been very complete in its covering of the story, Timothy’s realization of the situation had been based rather on inferences drawn from the general tale. It seemed now unquestionable that Calfton was a rogue. Perhaps, even, his claim to ownership of the timber might be unfounded, and the real proprietor might turn up with claims and further complications. One thing was certain: the bailiff would be here within the week, doubtless much sooner, if he travelled in his own or a hired gas-boat.

Timothy gazed up at the black bulk of his idol, wishing it anywhere but here. The donkey-engine, once away from the island; who was there to say it ever had been here? Ordinarily this thought would have cheered Timothy. Granting the shortest possible time at his disposal before the bailiff could arrive, he had probably seventytwo hours clear for action. In that period, he could have driven the self-propelling engine aboard the mighty raft upon which it had come here a few months previously, and towed it far away with his gas-boat; but that raft had been old and almost ready for discarding at the time of his last move. Now, after further months in the sea, the cedar logs were so water-logged and riddled with teredos that the raft was quite useless. And it was now impossible for him alone to build a new raft in the uncertain, limited time at his disposal.

It seemed to Timothy as if all the forces of man and: Nature had combined to make him penniless. However^ it was not the money lost which now roused him to greatest bitterness, but the consciousness of his own impotency to escape with his donkey-engine from further disaster which now impended.

He sat for a long time brooding on all that might happen, and, with the passing minutes, his own imagination framed an ever darker picture.

In the midst of this his eyes suddenly narrowed as he viewed in a new light the near shore of the adjacent Taltan Island. After a minute, he sat up abruptly alert, and his eyes were bright with the brilliance of an idea, newly dawned.

Taltan Island was some ten miles long; Myrtle Island was three. They lay side by side, with, for the most part, steep rocky shorelines rising from the sea, that of Myrtle Island drawing gradually away from the other till, at its southern end, half a mile of water separated it from the Taltan Island shore. At the northern end, however, the shorelines were separated by only about a hundred feet of water, a channel very shallow when the tide had ebbed. Here Timothy was logging. The little beach, where his donkey stood, was not far from the island’s end. Opposite on Taltan, also was a stretch of smooth beach, rising gradually to a little flatland, at one end of which was the shake cabin of old man Trench, one of the few scattered settlers of the region, come here to end his days where natural surroundings made life fairly easy. Trench and Timothy were good friends, the old man often having come over and sat around the donkey chatting. Timothy had invited him often to meals at the camp. So far as old man Trench was concerned, Timothy was quite safe in his plan.

Timothy, now intent on investigating thoroughly the main part of his just born plan, went to the bunk house and procured a cod-line hanging there. With a carpenter’s square he first measured off a ten-foot length of this. Provided with such known length of line, he proceeded to measure the remainder. Equipped with two hundred feet of measured line, Timothy walked to the beach.

At the high-tide mark he drove a small stake, and fastened to it one end of the cod-line. Holding the other

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The Donkey That Did

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end of the line in his hand, he got into his rowboat and pulled to the shore of Taltan Island opposite, paying out the line as he went. From the high-tide mark on Myrtle Island to the high-tide mark on Taltan was a few inches over ninety feet.

Timothy once more stepped into his rowboat. Slowly he moved across the channel, stopping every few yards to drop a leaded line to the bottom. Returning to the bunkhouse he studied the tide book carefully, made a number of penciled calculations, and then proceeded to get supper.

And here it must be explained that a donkey-engine, by aid of its mainline, fastened to a stout tree in the distance, can haul itself to a new position over unbelievably rough ground. This selfpropulsion is made possible by placing the engine on huge wooden sleds, which are specially built by experts for the purpose.

IRISHMEN are quick-witted and re-

sourceful. And Timothy Murphy, in the blackest hour of his existence, had hit upon a plan such as never a donkeyengine driver before him had ever dreamed of, and of the success of which plan even Timothy was exceedingly doubtful. Yet, great as was the danger of losing his beloved donkey, so frighteningto Timothy had become the thought of the bailiff’s seizure and all its direful following possibilities, that he was ready now to risk everything on one swift moment of action, so unheard of in its nature, that Timothy’s heart quailed with fear for the outcome.

He ate a hurried supper and then fired up his engine. Adjusting the mainline, he turned the donkey about until drums and lines faced toward the little beach on Taltan Island. Working alone, this task occupied some time. However, having noted in the tide-book the exact moment of ebb-tide, Timothy knew that the time at his disposal was ample.

With the donkey faced about, Timothy next took the end of the haul-back line andthe heavy block it ran through, carried these to his rowboat, got in and pulled to the oppposite shore, drawing the light line with him from the free-running drum. On Taltan Island he spent some moments talking with old man Trench, and then the two of them made fast the block upon a stump, well up from the beach. Putting the haul-back line through the block, Timothy once more carried the line’s end to the boat and rowed back across the narrow, shallow channel to make fast the haul-back line to the end of the main-line. This done he started the engine. With rumbling roll the drums revolved, and the main-line plunged into the sea, stretched across the narrow channel and moved oh up the farther shore, till old man Trench’s waving arm signalled Timothy to shut off the power.

Again Timothy crossed the channel. Assisted by Trench he made fast the mainline to a stout tree, an operation requiring care and some little time. Satisfied with its security, Timothy returned to the directing levers of his engine. Very slowly he started up the machine. The monster of steel and iron, groaning, quivering, conscious of its infirmities, lurched gently forward, the wooden runners sliding easily over the soft even soil and gravel. Timothy did not stop the donkey-engine until the nose of the sled runners were level with the

water. The ebbing tide had almost reached the end of its run-out. Dusk was giving way to the soft, spring dark.

Timothy got down from his engine. Now he began to fire in earnest, selecting his wood, throwing in pitchy chunks and finely split pieces. Under the glare of the fire-box his face showed drawn and haggard, and in his eyes lurked a light more fear-filled than hopeful. Still he continued to hurl in the wood. The needle of the steam gauge went up and up, till it was dancing around the 175mark, and the safety valve began its popping whistling—ffor, remember, the donkey engine was ancient, had worked for many months at a maximum of 165 by the gauge.)

When the safety valve was popping merrily, Timothy with a few swift motions plugged it, for in spite of this heightening danger to his dearly beloved idol, every ounce of power must be conserved against the next few moments of gruelling test. The safety valve shut off, Timothy leaped to his levers, started up the engine slowly, then, when the water touched the rim of the drums, he threw the engine wide open and, giving a yell of Celtic encouragement to his cherished monster, he sprang clear into the water. One bound took him to his waiting boat. He jumped in and started rowing for the opposite shore, pushing well away from the black bulk of the moving donkey, close beside which he had stood for so many long days coaxing it to perform the unexpected. But now at a distance he murmured endearing words, in as earnest and prayerful appeal as though the bulk were human.

Into the shallow water the donkey engine lurched under the pressure of the full power suddenly applied. Twenty feet forward and the deepening sea struck the fire-box. Fire and water met with a hissing and bubbling furious gurgling, and steam clouds shrouded the forward forging donkey. When again Timothy could see his heart’s delight, only a few feet of its stack and ‘shoulder’ showed, sturdily pushing through the water like the fin of some pre historic leviathan, unbelievably vast.

Resting on his oars Timothy watched, living years in these fleeting seconds of tense hope and fear.

A yell broke from his lips.

His heart bursting with pride, with gratified vanity, and relieved of its load of fear, Timothy watched the huge, black bulk slowly draw clear of the shallow waters . . . With the sled end just touching the high-tide mark on Taltan Island, the donkey engine, on free soil once more, all clear of bailiff’s clutches, came to a shuddering stop.

Once more Timothy stood beside his idol, now doubly fond of this inanimate thing by reason of the just completed performance.

“Only an Irish engine could do it!” he cried exultantly, to admiring old man Trench, “I’ll betcha all I’ll ever earn, there never was another donkey-engine took to the sea like mine did. Just the same, I sure was scared the steam-pressure mightn’t last, what with all that cold sea-water pressing against the outside of the boiler;, and, with the safety valve plugged, I was just as scared the pressure might blow the old girl all to bits. But no —she’san Irish engine,andw'e’re safe once more!”