A-Rafting on the Mississip'

By Charles Edward Russell | Go to book overview

Chapter XII
RAFTSMAN JIM AT HIS WORST

SURELY the wise and the thoughtful that write so confidently about man and his ways of fortune-making have often overlooked one element of his success that comes near to top all the others. I mean the happy conjunction of the right time, the right conditions, and the right material, with the right man, and these must be beyond mortal control. In a calm review of the gigantic lumber industry of the West, the main part of its phenomenal development seems at each crux to have been minor to any human agency. Just at the time that, following Stephen Beck Hanks’s experiment in 1844, log rafts began to chase one another down the crooked Mississippi, came the discovery of gold in California and the huge Western surge of peoples that filled the empty solitudes and by a new magic built cities. The logs could not come down fast enough to meet that demand, and a great employment opened for hardy spirits and none other. Rafting in the old floating days was nothing for weaklings. The sheer labor was often so great that, watching the great oars quivering under the strokes of men in a place of peril, I wondered that the flesh-and-blood machine could sustain such efforts. Recur again to the remoteness and lawlessness of the new country, and we can see some of the

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