Tales of the BC Woods
Whistle Punks & Widow-Makers
"For some people maybe logging is the kind of work they'd like to forget. But with stories like Swanson has written in Whistle Punks and Widow-Makers, you can't."
Book DescriptionThese tales from the golden age of logging in BC star all the legends of the woods. Not the founders of corporate dynasties, but the hookers, fallers, bull cooks, whistle punks and locie engineers who became real-life Paul Bunyans of the West Coast. "From sheer force of personality," writes Ken Drushka in his introduction, "these men rose above their workaday callings and became the subject of interminable bunkhouse bull sessions and barroom storytelling."
Whistle Punks and Widow-Makers features twenty-six unforgettable stories about these near-mythical characters. They had names like Bull Sling Bill, Eight-Day Wilson, Daddy Lamb and Broomhandle Charlie, and their stories are told by Robert Swanson, who was an inveterate collector of bunkhouse ballads for more than half a century. With over 120 photos from the glory days of logging, many of them published here for the first time.
Robert Swanson (1905-1994) worked for years as a logger, then as a forestry safety inspector for the government. A special horn Swanson invented for trains was adapted for use all over the world, and he also pioneered the development of air brakes on logging trucks. His expertise on steam trains and their whistles was central to the restoration of BC's popular Royal Hudson excursion train, and visitors to Vancouver will recognize his handiwork in Gastown's steam clock.
However, to his legions of fans Swanson will always be known as the "Bard of the Woods." During his forestry career he went to every logging camp and mill operation on the coast and spent long evenings bull slinging with the legends of logging. He started writing down their stories and ballads in the 1930s, and in the process he became one of BC's bestselling poets. A new edition of his collected bunkhouse ballads, Rhymes of a Western Logger, was published in 1992.