Friday, 14 April 2017

Care To Dance? Mind Where You Step.

 

In the early years of logging in Europe and North America, trees were often cut during the winter and then dragged to the nearest river in the spring. With the rivers usually at their highest levels then, due to snow melt runoff, the logs would be floated downstream to the nearest sawmill where they would be cut into lumber.

To help keep the timber moving smoothly in the water, workers would walk or run on the tree trunks while using a pike pole to push logs into position. This required great agility and was the inspiration for a folk song written by Canadian Wade Hemsworth, called "The Log Driver's Waltz."  Hemsworth was "...struck by how much the sight of log drivers at work resembled dancing." (click here for Wikipedia link with more information)

 In 1979, the National Film Board of Canada released a series of vignettes about our country, and one of these was an animated film based on "The Log Driver's Waltz." It is a delightful short film set to Hemsworth's song, performed by Kate and Anna McGarrigle, and The Mountain City Four. It used to play occasionally between programs on our national TV station, which is where I first heard it long ago. I was so happy to find it again a couple of years ago on (where else?) YouTube.

It's a wonderful waltz, with sweet animation, and well performed. Enjoy!

(Note: The word "birl" is an old Scots word meaning "to revolve or cause to revolve" -- and used here, "birling" means "to cause a floating log to rotate by treading on it." Source: Wikipedia link above))




 

Lyrics (from genius.com):

If you ask any girl from the parish around
What pleases her most from her head to her toes
She'll say I'm not sure that it's business of yours
But I do like to waltz with a log driver

[Chorus]
For he goes birling down and down white water
That's where the log driver learns to step lightly
Yes, birling down and down white water
The log driver's waltz pleases girls completely

When the drive's nearly over I like to go down
And watch all the lads as they work on the river
I know that come evening they'll be in the town
And we all like to waltz with the log driver

[Chorus]

To please both my parents, I've had to give way
And dance with the doctors and merchants and lawyers
Their manners are fine, but their feet are of clay
And there's none with the style of my log driver

[Chorus]

Now I've had my chances with all sorts of men
But none as so fine as my lad on the river
So when the drive's over, if he asks me again
I think I will marry my log driver

For he goes birling down and down white water
That's where the log driver learns to step lightly
Yes, birling down and down white water
The log driver's waltz pleases girls completely
Birling down and down white water
The log driver's waltz pleases girls completely

***********

I hope your weekend involves music, or dancing, or both :)


33 comments:

  1. The logging industry at that time has been romanticized. However, songs like Log driver's waltz bring out some of the fun and culture. of the time.

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    1. The clip isn't like the real industry was, that's for sure. I don't think the songwriter intended it to be!

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  2. A fun clip - of what I suspect was an incredibly dangerous profession.
    Have a wonderful weekend.

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    1. Dangerous and demanding, you're right. This video is definitely a lighter look at things.

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  3. Thanks for posting the film..lovely!

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  4. Replies
    1. Very much so. The clip was far from reality.

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  5. A very sanitized view, as was milling lumber...

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    1. Yes, although it wasn't intended to be a realistic view of log driving as much as a comment on how agile and light on their feet the log drivers were! But you're absolutely right, this doesn't show how hard or dangerous the job was.

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  6. Thanks for sharing the interesting story. I enjoyed it. I am just hoping for a weekend free of snow. If I have to do a special dance to make that happen then so be it.

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    Replies
    1. What you have to do is the rain dance, backwards. Guaranteed :) And post a video :)

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  7. Replies
    1. I thought it was fun, too! And catchy :)

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  8. I have to be honest and say the music wasn't quite my cuppa tea, but fun images anyway! Happy Easter to you!

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    1. Haha! I think I would have guessed this wasn't to your taste, Joey! Can't win 'em all :) Happy Easter to you, too!

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  9. I love that song and have watched The NFB film dozens of times. Never had the words before. Thank you.
    And yes, log driving was a dangerous and deadly career. One slip and you were drowned or mashed or both. But there is always glory in those kinds of jobs that attracts a certain kind of person. Sometimes just one looking for a job.

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    Replies
    1. "Sometimes just one looking for a job" - so true. It was a hard fact of life.

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  10. That was awesome! I've never heard this song and never seen the video, but it's a catchy tune. I know Kate and Anna McGarrigle from other recordings, and I love the "folk music" flavor of this one.

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    1. It's also a perfect waltz, which is one of the things I like best about it :) Glad you enjoyed!

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  11. That put a big smile on my face - what a cute video clip and song! I think I saw it many years ago but I'd forgotten it. Thanks for sharing!

    It was very cool to see the actual footage at the beginning of the clip, too - those men's balance and agility is mind-boggling. I can't even balance comfortably when I'm crossing a dry log that's firmly anchored, never mind a slippery one that's twisting and bobbing in the water!

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    Replies
    1. It's amazing how they could do it, and I'm with you in the dry log bit :)

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  12. Sorry for the late comment, but the internet wasn't working right again...
    I grew up in a logging (and fishing) town, but they did it different by the time I showed up.
    The song and video reminds me a lot of "Sometimes a Great Notion" by Ken Kesey, which is one of my favorite books ever, and takes its title from "Goodnight Irene" by Lead Belly:

    Some times I live in the country
    Some times I live in town
    Some times I take a great notion
    To jump in the river and drown

    -Doug in Oakland

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yikes - I didn't know those lyrics were part of Goodnight Irene ... you learn something new all the time! Now I have to check out the Ken Kesey book. Hope your internet settles down soon, Doug.

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  13. O_Jenny, this is delightful! I'm a clumsy dancer but an avid student of dance. I learn here and appreciate it.

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    1. I'm glad you liked it, Geo. I am mesmerized by those who are excellent dancers!

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  14. Thanks for sharing this Jenny. They were brave men. There must have been some terrible accidents and very many near-misses. You can't argue with huge, heavy logs,

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    Replies
    1. Yes, you're right. Brave and/or desperate.

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  15. Oh my gosh, that looks hard. Fun how it went into cartoon.

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    Replies
    1. I think it must have been VERY hard - and dangerous.

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