The Festive Lumberjack

(the music for this piece has not yet been transcribed)

I’ve been around the world a bit, an’ seen beasts both great an’ small.
The one I mean to tell about for darin’ beats ’em all.
He leaves the woods with his bristles raised the full length of his back.
He’s known by men of science as the festive lumberjack.

He’s a wild rip-snortin’ devil ever’ time he comes to town.
He’s a porky, he’s a moose-cat, too busy to set down.
But when his silver’s registered and his drinks is comin’ few,
He’s then as tame as other jacks that’s met their Waterloo.

While out in camp he’s very wise, he’ll tell you of his plans,
He’s figgered out an’ knows he’ll beat the long white-aproned man,
He means to cut our drinkin’ booze an’ climb right up in fame,
And within a year of time will own a handsome little claim.

He’ll go down to the city with his time-check in his hand.
He’s as busy as a bedbug, for an instant couldn’t stand,
Until he gets his pile o’ silver, which will vanish soon from sight,
For he intends to log a bit, an’ he will do it right.

One dozen drinks o’ whiskey straight an’ the jack feels pretty fair.
The heavy loggin’ then begins, but he’s loggin’ with hot air.
His peakers rise above the clouds; the cross-haul man below
Works by a code, for they couldn’t hear his “Whoa!”

Every jack’s a cant-hook man; no others can be found.
They do some heavy loggin’, but they do it best in town.
They’re loved by all the pretty girls, who at their feet would kneel
If they could win that darlin’ chap that birls the crooked steel.

But here’s a proposition, boys: when next we meet in town,
We’ll form a combination and we’ll mow the forest down.
We then will cash our handsome checks, we’ll neither eat nor sleep,
Nor will we buy a stitch o’ clothes while whiskey is so cheap.

Most folk songs are, of course, anonymous, but sometimes a collector meets the author. Rickaby picked up several songs from William N. Allen, including “The Banks of the Little Eau Pleine” in this collection.

Ed Springstad of Bemidji seems to have been another songwriter who gave Rickaby some of his works. Springstad knew some traditional songs (he sang bits of “Jack Haggerty” and “The Banks of the Little Eau Pleine,” and the full text of “The Shanty-boy and the Farmer’s Son” found in this collection). But several of his songs have been collected nowhere else: “The Festive Lumberjack,” “The Crow Wing Drive,” “The M. and I. Goo-goo Eyes” (no kidding! — Rickaby himself says “here lies the Song of the White Pine Woods, sans originality, sans meaning, sans everything). Springstad claimed to have written (and then forgotten!) “The M. and I. Goo-goo Eyes,” and he is a character in “The Crow Wing Drive.”

By far the best of the three songs, though, is “The Festive Lumberjack.” Springstad claimed to play a role in its composition, but the primary songwriter seems to have been a Black man whom Springstad simply called “Bill.” Presumably Bill’s influence is what made this so much better than the other Springstad songs.

The song is said to be well-known in Minnesota, though Rickaby is the only collector to have found it.

Source: The text is as given by Rickaby.

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