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Page 53 - Max Basque, Whycocomagh Part 2

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1989/8/1 (178 reads)

Max Basque, Whycocomagh • Part 2 Interviewed by Ruth Whitehead and CAPE BRETON'S MAGAZINE In Issue 51 of CAPE BRETON'S MAGA? ZINE, Max Basque talked about his early life and his family's work and travels. Readers may want to start with that conversation, but the fol? lowing stories certainly stand on their own. Max picks up with the com? ing of World War Two. And I'll tell you about the Navy-- wouldn't happen, maybe, because I'm an Indian. Canadian Navy. 1942. In 1939 I got on the English ships. I was shanghaied out of Halifax with my consent! There were two of us Canadi? ans on that ship. Because--I was working in the woods, and the war was on. I always wanted to go to sea because my father was a sea? man. I could never get on if I tried, even in Sydney, on Dominion Coal boats--no, no. And then Depression was on, anyway. I remember going to Syd? ney, up to Whitney Pier where the shipping office is. And my brother-in- law, John MacEwan, took me over there. And there were about a dozen seamen sitting around outside. No jobs, no work. There was no work, period--1931. And I tried several times. The war started, and I come down, come into Halifax. I was working in the woods for Bill MacPhee--me and Levi Sack. And we were supposed to be the best men in the--best choppers. We got--saw and axe--we got the large sum of $1.40 a day. The rest were getting $1.25. And they had a bullboard...up by the wash- stand- -we called it a bullboard. Every day the boss would yell at the snake-horse drivers, "How many logs did you get?" And he'd mark it down. And then everybody could see how many logs you got. And there were only two--two sets, like regular limber- jacks- -me and Levi, and another set from up that way. And the other three sets, we called them "the farmers." They were from Annapolis way. They were really farmers. And not so much to do in wintertime, they'd work in the woods. A lot of them used to come from P. E. I.--Prince Edward Island. And they really tried to be on top of the list. But me and Levi, we didn't care. 'Cause the boss knew us from way back; we worked for him a lot--Bill MacPhee. And our snake-horse driver was the woods boss's brother. He used to live right next door to us, next to the reservation. They never went to school. So when a lad was big enough to cut pit wood or logs, the old man put him to work. But we're still on this same subject. Me and Levi, one day--well, between three of us--Tommy Tanner and me and Levi. Said, "Let's show those farmers what we can do. They're trying to stay on top of the list." So we had a good chance waiting for us Mon? day. The snake roads were all cut, and a brow all ready. We were supposed to work a 10-hour day. But it was in November, I don't know if we worked 10 hours. But I know we got started at 7 o'clock in the morning. It was still a little on the dark side. And we never stopped till the whistle blew at 12 o'clock. And we hurried and had our dinner, and we went back. And we waited for--we were all set with our saw to start work at 1 o'clock. We didn't even smoke that day. Both of us smoked a little--not much. But we didn't smoke that day. As soon as the whistle blew, we started working. And we worked--we worked till we couldn't work any more. We had 238 logs. I don't know why we didn't cut the two extra so we could have had 120 apiece! But no? body ever got more logs than that the rest of the winter. (Now, they used to pay you $1.40 a day. I take it that 238 logs was more than you 53
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