Friday, December 23, 2011

Logging Camp Christmas

Logging camps sprang up in western Montana in the late nineteenth century to support a huge demand for timber to fuel Montana’s mines and smelters. Lumberjacks from Ireland, Germany, Sweden, France, and many other places made the camps international melting pots. In 1899, a reporter for the Anaconda Standard wrote a wonderful description of Christmas in the logging camps. He wrote that a cast off circular saw hung outside the door of every camp cookhouse. When dinner was ready, the cook banged the saw. Deep in the snow-covered forest, the cadence of the cook’s call to dinner was sweet music to the hungry men. Lumberjacks had no day off, no Christmas tree among all the green pine trees they cut. But when the cook’s call came on Christmas Day, the loggers came in at a faster pace than usual, for they have been anticipating this meal for weeks. The cook placed bowls of mashed potatoes and cranberries on the long tables. The men came in merry, red with cold. When all were seated, the cook would bring in the turkeys, big and brown and fragrant. As the savory smell wafted from the national bird, the feast began. This goes to show that the holiday spirit works its way into even the most remote places. May your holiday meal be just as wonderful as the loggers’ feasts of yesteryear.

From Montana Moments: History on the Go

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