A lumbering tale: From Maine to California

When I was 14 years old, my family relocated from a rural enclave in Connecticut to an even more remote region in the great state of Maine.

My siblings and I were a bit dubious about this move, but our parents promised it would be an adventure. We’d have our own 100-acre farm, high on a hill, overlooking a river.

The river part caught our attention. The prospect of canoeing and fishing right in our back yard seemed appealing.

But when we arrived and ascended the steep gravel road to our new homestead and surveyed the valley below, we could not find the promised waterway.

What we could discern was a vast sea of logs, jammed tightly from shore to shore.

Logs being dumped in the Kennebec River in 1970.
( Photo by Antoinette Paolini
)

We weren’t able to appreciate it at the time, but we were witnessing the end of an era, the last of the great log drives in the United States.

Maine, known then as the lumber capital of the country, had utilized many of its tributaries — the Saco, Penobscot, Machias and “our” Kennebec — to float the felled timber to the mills downstream.

But this aquatic delivery system was at the time being terminated for economic and ecological reasons.

We did have many of those adventures that our parents had promised. But by the end of that decade, many of us, now grown, left Maine for the sunnier climes of California.

Little did I know then that I would one day meet up again with those logs.

Left high and dry

Fast forward 50 years: Sherry and I were staring at a hole in the wall. A very big hole in the wall of our new home in a pleasant little suburb north of Los Angeles.

The previous owners bestowed this gaping atrocity upon us when they removed their widescreen TV, leaving the mess for us to clean up. I suppose we could have slapped another mega-pixel contraption in its place, but we don’t watch conventional TV. And this alcove had all the potential of being a nice little wine bar.

I started to do some research online and a new type of paneling caught my eye. It was from a company called TimberChic , and it offered, direct to your door, wood harvested from reclaimed logs from the rivers of Maine.

OUR FARM IN MAINE, WITH A VIEW OF THE KENNEBEC RIVER, FREE OF LOGS.

These boards were milled from logs that were originally harvested and dumped in the rivers, but never made it their final destination. They sank to the bottom and were preserved in pristine condition in the anaerobic silt. Some of these logs might have been there for 200 years.

“Come hell or high water” means to get the logs in the water at just the right time (during spring runoff) and “left high and dry” refers to logs that were left abandoned on the the shores.

Wikipedia

I’m not sure about the ecological impact of dredging a river and disrupting the ecosystem, but, on the other hand, those logs were never intended to be there, and the Timberchic company claims its recycling process saves about 1,000 acres of forest each year. Seems like a worthy tradeoff.

Given my past with the Pine Tree State, this sounded quite appealing, so, on a whim, I order a batch.

We had to do a bit of “shoring up” of the existing wall. But the whole conversion process took about a day, and the results are remarkable.

So that’s our tale, perhaps not so lumbering after all. But it’s somewhat gratifying to have a reminder of a piece of history near and dear to my heart in our new home.

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