Marie Lake: Back to Hauling Logs – Chapter 9 of 11

Written by Harold McNeill on September 17th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965

Bob sleigh with load

Photo (Cousin Helen Pylypow)  Uncle Denny Dewan with a load of logs.  During the early years many family members gained extra money by logging in the winter. My Dad did that for much of his life.  This story tells about the first experience Louise and I had in hauling logs on our own.

Link to Next Post:  Winter Trip to Cold Lake
Link to Last Post:  On Thin Ice
Link to Family Stories Index

Late Fall, 1948

Dad was behind in his work due to injuries suffered in car accident that summer. As winter was upon us, Louise and I asked if we would be allowed to cut and haul some fire wood, a job dad had usually completed by this time. The snow had arrived early that year and by mid-November, after Louise had turned five, there was nearly two feet on the ground in some places.

When we approached Dad said ‘OK’ but Mom, of course, was not all that thrilled with the idea. She had previously watched us haul manure for her garden and lumber for our playhouse, so I suppose she figured we could do it even if she did not like the idea of us heading off into the bush with the team of horses for a full day. 

Front Bob with HorsesEarly the next morning Dad hitched the horses to the sleigh, mom packed a big lunch and we were off into the woods. Riding an empty bobsleigh was difficult. It actually consisted of two ‘bob’s’ – the back hitched to the front with crossed logging chains. When empty, anyone riding had to balance on the front six which was swivelled on a centre pin.

Photo: Family photo from Helen Pylypow, shows family member riding the front bob and balancing feet on the front runner.

On the sleigh Louise and I were riding also had support posts around which we wrapped our arms around.  Now, in two feet of snow you also needed to be careful to keep your feet in line with the runners otherwise one could easily be pulled under the sleigh.

An hour after leaving home we arrived in an area where there was a lot of standing dead poplar. Poplar was a soft wood and easier to cut than fir, jack pine or tamarak. After downing several trees using a ‘swede saw’, we bucked them into 14 foot lengths, and then stopped for a well deserved lunch. We sat on the bob, talked and marvelled at how our little world expanded with every new adventure.

After lunch, before we started loading the 15 or 20, 20 foot lengths we had cut, we had to turn the sleigh around. Turning was tricky as we had to leave the compacted snow road dad had been using. It meant travelling into two feet of fresh snow that could easily conceal an old stump or fallen tree. If we hooked the front bob on a stump or tree we would be in a real pickle as there was no way we could back up. When that happened to dad, he would have to unhitch the horses and pull the sleigh backwards. I was not sure I could do that, so to make sure it was clear, Louise and I tromped out a circular path we would follow with the sleigh. Once we were sure there were no hidden stumps or trees, Louise waited on the road while I made the turn. Success!

We then loaded and headed for home arriving well before dark. When we pulled into the yard we were pleased as punch. Mom and dad were waiting for us with big smiles. Not a bad day’s work for a couple of kids. We waited while mom fetched the old Brownie and snapped the following shot.

Load of LogsPhoto: Mom captioned this photo as she did with many others. Photo is very dark but shows Shep standing on the load with Louise and me standing at the front (mostly in the shadow). Our legs are visible directly in front Shep on the logs. Also note, the playhouse we built with mom is behind the sleigh, furthest in the bush (See Chapter 6). This is the only picture of the playhouse.

Dad unloaded our precious cargo and put the horses in the barn while mom made hot chocolate. Mom must have died a thousand deaths watching her two little kids, particularly Louise, who was just a flyspeck, sitting on the bob behind those huge draft horses, taking off into the wilderness. One swish of one of those, long, course tails and Louise would have been a goner. As for dad, it was just another day of urging his children learn those little ‘life lessons’ that would serve us well in later life.

Living with these crazy men always made for interesting life experiences. A week after my eighth birthday, in January, 1949, I was offered a new challenge. Some thought it was just plain stupid on the part of my dad. ‘Stupid?’, ‘Smart?’ You be the judge.

Harold McNeill

Link to Next Post:  Winter Trip to Cold Lake
Link to Last Post:  On Thin Ice
Link to Family Stories Index


 c1930s:  Helen Pylypow family photos.  A double bob sleigh with load of very large logs in the yard at Midnight Lake. I believe man on the load her dad, my Uncle Denny.


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  • Mike Fedorowich

    September 1, 2023 |

    I have gone through the above noted text and have found it quite informative.
    I am a former member with several law enforcement agencies from across Canada.
    I worked in the First Nations service under the authority of the RCMP with the over sight of the OPP. My law enforcement service was conducted under the authority of the Nishnawbe – Aski Police Service in North West Ontario the Louis Bull Police Sevice in Hobbema AB, the Kitasoo Xaixais Police Service in Northern in side passage on Swindle Island, the Lac Suel Police Service North West Ontario and the Vancouver Transit Authority Sky Train Police Service. I’m presently dealing with an RCMP member for falsifying a report against me for a road rage event. Court case is finished and the charge was dropped but I have an on going complaint with the member and have forwarded to the WATCH DOGS IN OTTAWA FOR the RCMP review and consideration. I believe the said officer is in violation of his oath of office and should be held accountable for falsifying his RTCC all the while dragging me through the court system here in Nanaimo. RCMP continue to stonewall the appeal but Ottawa and the crowns office are still looking into the matter. if your able and find the time or the interest in this very brief introduction, I would very much like to speak with you and would be grateful to hear any wisdom that may come across from your end. I served with First Nations Police Services for ten years in isolation and six years with Transit Police out of New West Minster. I do value and appreciate any time you could spare to chat for a bit on this particular subject matter. Respectfully with out anger but an open mind, Mike Fedorowich Nanaimo BC 250 667 0060

  • Harold McNeill

    February 28, 2022 |

    Hi Robert, I do remember some of those folks from my early years in Cold Lake (Hazel was my aunt and our family spent many fond times with Uncle Melvin, Aunt Hazel and Family. I knew Lawrence and Adrian. Having read a half dozen accounts it is clear their were many false narratives and, perhaps, a few truths along the way. I tried my best to provide an even account from what I read. Cheers, Harold. (email:

  • Robert Martineau

    February 25, 2022 |

    Its been a long time since any post here, but its worth a shot. My Grandfather was Hazel Wheelers brother Lawrence, and son to Maggie and Adrien. Maggie Martineau (nee Delaney) is my great grandmother. The books and articles to date are based on the white mans viewpoint and the real story as passed down by the Elders in my family is much more nefarious. Some of the white men were providing food for the Indians in exchange for sexual favors performed by the Squaws. Maggie was the product of one of those encounters. Although I am extremely proud of my family and family name, I am ashamed about this part of it.

  • Julue

    January 28, 2022 |

    Good morning Harold!
    Gosh darn it, you are such a good writer. I hope you have been writing a book about your life. It could be turned into a movie.
    Thanks for this edition to your blog.
    I pray that Canadians will keep their cool this weekend and next week in Ottawa. How do you see our PM handling it? He has to do something and quick!
    Xo Julie

  • Herb Craig

    December 14, 2021 |

    As always awesome job Harold. It seems whatever you do in life the end result is always the same professional, accurate, inclusive and entertaining. You have always been a class act and a great fellow policeman to work with. We had some awesome times together my friend. I will always hold you close as a true friend. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you this summer.
    Warm regards
    Herb Craig

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.