Over Memorial weekend, I finally had some time to put up my feet and do some reading. Lying on a book shelf was Robert Pike’s wonderful Tall Trees, Tough Men.
Much like Colin Woodard’s The Lobster Coast, Pike’s book offers a snapshot of a place and time in Maine, a state of vast natural resources. Pike’s is filtered through the lens of 18th and early 19th century logging. Actually, Maine was but part of a northern New England focus that included the logging stories and history of New Hampshire and Vermont, also.
Pike wrote his book in the mid-1960s. W.W. Norton & Company published it in 1967 and reissued it in 1999. It’s a book that all Mainers ought to familiarize themselves with simply to have a sense of what the state used to be—mainly a region of tall trees (and rivers to float them down)—with entrepreneurial types finding ways to turn logs into gold.
Because I was curious about Pike, I rooted around the interwebs for more info on why he might have written his book. His obituary (he died in 1997) from the New York Times was a worthwhile read for me.
It’s becoming far too common in our digitally-distracted world to think that life was always about tapping a touchscreen, rather than the kind of dangerous, back-breaking labor inherent in these parts 100+ years ago. Not all jobs included an “easy button.” Pike details the rugged, resilient men necessary for extracting value from the region’s forest resources. Likewise, Woodard’s book offered a similar story about the rebels (and rusticators) that were part of our maritime heritage. The threads are similar and point to a time of hearty souls, rather than the spleeny types dominating the present.