The Tramp Fireman


| September/October 1976



R. R. #1, Dillsburg, Pennsylvania 17019

My father being a farmer all his life would supplement the farm income by custom work for anyone requiring one to four pairs of mules which were kept primarily for this purpose. Most times this work was connected with several local portable sawmillers who hired teams to drag the logs to the mill and deliver the lumber to the purchaser or the rail siding. There were men who would haul regularly for these lumbermen who preferred the road work rather than the log dragging because they had fancy harness and nicely painted wagons while the work in the woods was very destructive to both animals and equipment.

This was an asset to father's plans as the log work and farming could be planned to his advantage as long as the mill was supplied with sufficient logs to keep it operating full time. The mill would operate possibly half the working days per year as many timber lots were small and each lot required dismantling the entire setup to move to another lot and reassemble.

Each move meant that all the saleable lumber be cut out as well as firewood that could be readily sold. It was customary for the mill-man to buy everything on the lot which meant all the tree tops as well as all the small trees which had to be cut into firewood.

The slab wood was sawed to lengths suitable for the engine boiler used to power the mill and any surplus to 12' lengths suitable for stove wood. The slab saw was set up near the fire door of the engine boiler and was operated by the fireman as part of his duties.

Now when yours truly was a small boy, hardly a day would pass without seeing a traveling man go by the farm. These men apparently carried all their possessions in a large handkerchief at the end of a cane over their shoulder. They had many names such as tramp, hobo, bum, traveler, knight of the road, etc. However, they would seldom reveal their names but many would work at one particular job they liked. Many were known by names connected with their jobs such as fireman Joe, whistling Pete, cordwood Mike and happy Jack.