Sakari Pälsi:
In timber forests and log-floating streams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Journeys along log-floating channels

The ice retreated from Ounajoki River on the second day of Pentecost, and the good ship Viiri was ready two days later to set out on its advance along the river. The deck was full of men in pullover sweaters already well before five. The lumberjack crowd observed their good manners and arrived on the spot in time. The members of this group, as far as my observations reveal, do not ever arrive late, nor do they hurry without reason. They book their journeys in sufficient time and similar patience. With the Peräpohjola mode of travel, one proceeds with excellent certainty and always to the destination, something everyone who is patient shall certainly notice.

Also in this instance, we departed when the time came in accordance with the captain’s clock. The lumberjacks sat on the deck motionless and as silent as wooden icons. The moment was otherwise a serious one for many of the men. Of the lumberjacks, most be-longed to that rather tame group that always strove last for a place on the log-floating rivers. This group, which arrived after all the others, is usually quite broke—lacking both cash and provisions. Not all had ticket money when climbing aboard: rather, I no-ticed that some were busy arranging such matters while still on their journey.

We came to land repeatedly, at houses and wherever there was a need to do so. There were no docks—nor were they required on those steep shores. A rope was merely thrown ashore and a group of lads pulled the vessel tight against the banks. Once there were about twenty small boys who held on tight to the ship while a deckhand led a woman, with all her charming accoutrements and bundles, by the hand from the step board, managing to get her onto dry land without getting her soaked. “It went well—didn’t even get the trousers wet!” said the captain, issuing commands astern.

At the stern of the boat there was a small salon where men sat drinking coffee. Three mates had a bottle with them, which they tipped back for swallows which lasted one-and-a-half seconds. Each one conscientiously took as long as the others, as if they had checked a stopwatch.

At the end of the navigation route was an inn, and soon the chilly atmosphere which had briefly dominated the men’s mood as they came onto the river was dispelled. A domestic scene common to Peräpohjola appeared at the cottage, with its hostess holding a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, a pipe clenched in her teeth. Dried meat, salted fish and a wooden dish were provided for supper. The dish was thick in structure, shallow and broad, intact from the top and stylish as well, and what to put in it was left entirely to the guest.

The ship spent the night on the shore close to the house and set sail in the morning to re-turn to Rovaniemi. I myself left for the Norvajoki River, where log-floating was just starting. I traversed the river with men in the boat from the log-floating association free-of-charge, because it was not customary to take a charge from “one of the fellows”. I no-ticed that I had finally changed into a real lumberjack after I had thrown my knapsack over my back and set out on foot up the riverside.


(Rovaniemen kuvauksia [Descriptions of Rovaniemi], pp. 159-160)


 

luettelomerkki

Land of the Arctic Circle
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Mountain of the
Midnight Sun

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Finland’s Klondike
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From sleigh rides to the
age of the Concorde

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The nearest real hotel
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Santa Claus Land
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luettelomerkki

A city called by many
names - and the heroes
take the spoils

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Travellers in Lapland - Info -  2007 University  of Lapland