The “Badger Drive” Examined
“There is one class of men in this country that never is mentioned in song.
And now, since their trade is advancing, they’ll come out on top before long.
They say that our sailors have danger, and likewise our warriors bold,
But there’s none know the life of a driver, what he suffers with hardship and cold.
Chorus: With their pike poles and peavies and bateaus and all
They’re sure to drive out in the spring, that’s the time
With the caulks on their boots as they get on the logs,
And it’s hard to get over their time.
Bill Dorothey he is the manager, and he’s a good man at the trade;
And when he’s around seeking drivers, he’s like a train going down grade,
But still he is a man that’s kindhearted, on his word you can always depend.
And there’s never a man that works with him but likes to go with him again.
I tell you today home in London, The Times it is read by each man,
But little they think of the fellows that drove the wood on Mary Ann,
For paper is made out of pulpwood and many things more you may know,
And long may our men live to drive it upon Paymeoch and Tomjoe.
The drive it is just below Badger, and everything is working grand,
With a jolly good crew of picked drivers and Ronald Kelly in command,
For Ronald is boss on the river, and I tell you he’s a man that’s alive,
He drove the wood off Victoria, now he’s out on the main river drive.
So now to conclude and to finish, I hope that ye all will agree
In wishing success to all Badger and the A.N.D. Company.
And long may they live for to flourish, and continue to chop, drive and roll,
And long may the business be managed by Mr. Dorothey(sic) and Mr. Cole.[i]”
The Badger Drive is surely the most well-known song about the logging industry in Newfoundland. It was also one of the earliest song written about logging in Newfoundland, having been written just four years after the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company began to cut pulpwood. It is worth looking at the people, places and things mentioned in this song.
The Badger Drive was written in 1912 by John V. Devine. Devine had been employed by the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company as a scaler and had been fired. He wrote his famous song to suck up to the Company with hopes of getting his job back. He performed the song at a concert attended by company officials and it reportedly worked.[ii]
Wood was driven on the rivers and streams of Newfoundland for around eighty years. When the Badger Drive was written the AND Co was driving long wood and the drive was a glamorous operation requiring great skill. Men actually rode the logs down the river and risked life and limb working with the easily jammed long wood.
As the song mentions the tools of the trade included pike poles, peavies and batteaus. The pike pole was the most commonly used tool on the drive and it was used right up through to the end of log driving. It consisted of a very long pole with a hooked spike at the end which was used to guide and pry logs on the river. A peavey was a type of cant hook with a spike at one end and a hinged hook on the bottom which was used for rolling and moving large logs. A bateau was a river boat that was built like a large and sturdily built dory pointed on both ends. Batteaus were used to reach piles of logs located out in the river and as transportation for the crews as they moved down the river. One tool that is not mentioned in the song but widely used was dynamite. In the days when long wood was driven dynamite was used quite a bit to dislodge log jams The caulks on the boots were spikes driven into the soles of the drivers boots that gave them better grip when walking on the long wood.
There are three people mentioned specifically in the song, they are William Dorrity, Ronald Kelly and Hugh Wilding Cole. William Dorrity was an expert river driver from the state of Maine who was brought in by the AND Co to run their drive. Ronald Kelly was another river driver. Kelly was a native Newfoundlander from Gambo where he had gained considerable river driving experience driving wood to the sawmills in that area. Kelly later went to work in the Grand Falls mill and was tragically killed when he was hit by a car in 1947. Hugh Wilding Cole was an Englishman from Kent who had immigrated to Newfoundland around 1902. He was one of the earliest employees of the AND Co. He eventually became the manager of the Badger Woods Division-a position that he held until the late 1940s or early 1950s. Cole was also a Captain with the Newfoundland Forestry Unit in the UK during the First World War. [iii]
There are a few geographical places mentioned in the song. “He drove the wood off Victoria, now he’s out on the main river drive” this line refers to two places, namely Victoria River which is a fairly large tributaries of the lower Exploits River System that flows into Red Indian Lake. Wood would have been driven up Victoria, boomed on Red Indian and towed the short distance to the North where it would have been sluiced into the Exploits or “Main River.” The Exploits was refereed to by many loggers as the “Main River.” After all it was the main river used in log transport and there were drives on all the tributaries of the Exploits River. These feeder Drives were sometimes quite large and included operations on: Victoria, Harpoon and Lloyds Rivers, Great Rattling Brook, Noel Paul, Sandy and Badger Brooks. Mary Ann, Pamehoc and Tom Joe are all also tributaries of the Exploits. Mary Ann flows from Mary Ann Lake on the North Side of the Exploits Pamehoc and Tom Joe are brooks located on the South Side of the River. All three tributaries flow into the Exploits within a few kilometers of Badger. Another important tributary that might be missed in relation to the song is Badger Brook itself. Badger Brook flows through a series of lakes (Joe’s, Paul’s and Crooked Lakes) connecting the Exploits to South Twin Lake. Over the years hundreds of thousands of cords of pulpwood were driven down this system. All the wood from this system as well as all the wood from Red Indian, Harpoon and Noel Paul would have had to go through Badger. There were times a person could surely walk across the Exploits on the logs!
Once the pulpwood reached Badger it started the final stage of the Drive. There were quite a few obstacles like the Badger Chute and the numerous sand bars that had to be dealt with by the drivers before the wood reached the booms at Rushy Pond. The Drive never ended at Grand Falls the drivers only went as far as Rushy Pond where the main holding boom was located. Then presumably it was the responsibility of wood handling crews from the mill at Grand Falls who would open the boom to let in wood as needed. The Drive usually started in April as the snow melted. Most of the wood would be down to Rushy Pond by August but I have come across recorded instances of driving on the Exploits still going on in October!
When I was a kid I remember climbing to the top of Candy Rock off Lincoln Road. Back then it was about one of the best places to look down into the mill pond and see the boom of pulpwood and the little boats that tended to it. In retrospect I wish that I had a camera. You would be surprised at how long the log drive went on. It was the Early 1990’s when the last wood was driven down the Exploits. After that all wood was trucked and now the mill is closed, but if you go down on the Exploits, at certain places you will still find sticks of pulpwood on the banks. These along with Mr. Devines famous song reminders of the “Main River Drive.”
Of interesting side note both Tom Joe and Pamehoc have native origins. Tom Joe being named for a Micmac trapper of that name. Pamehoc is a name of more obscure origins and I have not been able to find out if it is Micmac or even Beothuck. This said the brook itself flows from a picturesque lake and was used for pulpwood driving as lake as the 1970s. I have fished Pamehoc it is still full of pulpwood from the last drives. I have crossed Tom Joe many times and find it hard to believe that it was possible to drive long timber on this little brook, but things may have been different further up near the Exploits and with the use of dams.
John Ashton “The Badger Drive”: Song, Historicity and Occupational Stereotyping
Western Folklore Vol. 53, No. 3 (Jul., 1994), pp. 211-228
[ii] John Ashton “The Badger Drive”: Song, Historicity and Occupational Stereotyping
Western Folklore Vol. 53, No. 3 (Jul., 1994), pp. 211-228
[iii] Cole would be joined in this unit by other men who would become higher echelon A.N.D Woods department officials like Harry S. Crowe ( Not to be confused with his uncle Harry J. Crowe) and Bryan Potts. Both of whom would be managers of Millertown Division.