Sunday, July 25, 2010

What IS It?

Two levers control this device.
The town of Blind River, on the North Shore of the North Channel was a locus for lumbering at the turn of the 20th century; the previous "What IS It?" challenge showed the massive incinerator used to burn wood chips at the shore-side sawmill.  (Miles Johnson guessed correctly.)

The town has a small museum dedicated to the history of logging.  The part we liked best was an amazing film--shot in the late 1930s or early 1940s, by the look of the clothes and cars--documenting life in a lumber camp.

The movie shows two skinny young guys felling a huge white pine with just a couple of axes; men walking on (and--brrrr!--falling off) logs floating on freezing water during a lumber drive; a cook stove being loaded on a boat while still smoking hot (the boat shoves off downriver with just a few inches of freeboard, while the cook calmly stirs a pot of beans, making sure the men will have a hot meal at day's end); a similar boat, loaded with the men's bedrolls, swamping as it navigates foaming rapids; and some fascinating, horrifying footage of work horses dragging sleds loaded two stories high with mounds of logs along roads that have been iced to ease the way.

In one scene the route goes down a steep hill. The stout, thick-legged horses actually prance to avoid the unwieldy sled that threatens to crash through their heels.  It's as tense a scene as anything you've seen in a Hollywood horror movie.

Afterward we walked around outside and saw some of the very machinery that had been featured in this film--including THIS instrument.  So, what IS it?

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