In the Karjala research center is a short publication titled In Their Own Words: Murder and Mayhem- The Bloody Incidents. The booklet consists of a number of interviews conducted with former lumberjacks. Unfortunately, the names of the lumberjacks are only listed at the beginning of the booklet. Names are not matched with anecdotes, making corroboration of the stories impossible. Nevertheless, it is probably safe to say that, even if some of the details are wrong, the essence of the violent side of lumberjack life is accurately reflected.
Most often, violence was associated with drinking, and drinking was done mostly in the various towns that dotted the northwoods. Thus, the lumber camps themselves were, for the most part, free of conflict. One account, darkly assuming, reads as follows:
“One night in Rajala’s camp, Bill stayed in camp. Bill didn’t normally do that. Two employees came to a back door of the cook shack, oooh late at night.
It was colder than heck, 30 below, the fire was burning cherry red to keep the frost off the ceiling, and they were drunk.
There is one thing that I absolutely detest and not tolerate is drinking. All my life and dested drinking and anybody that did drink. I had nothing to do with it.
These two gippos, a gippo, that’s a piece of work, a guy thats woods, came to my shack and they wanted to come in and get warm. They had their women with them. I said absolutely not. I knew they were drunk and I wouldn’t let them in.
And they howled and begged and finally my wife got soft-hearted and soft-headed and she said she would let the women in to get warm but not the guys. And she did. She let their wives in.
And the guys were hollering and begging to get in and I wouldn’t let them in. They could have gone to their own shack, but, I suppose, they didn’t know enough to.
Anyway, one of the guys was an Indian and he wasn’t too bad of a guy, but the other guy, he was a white guy; I didn’t like him at all. But they were drunk and I wouldn’t let them in.
Finally, the Indian guy talked my wife into letting him in to get warm, but not the other guy. So, we let the Indian in, but not the other guy, he stayed out there. They sat there for a long time, and finally, this guy we had let in… Norbert, Norbert was something… he said, ‘Jez, I better go over and see what Fred is doing. He was going to take his .30-.30 and was going to kill Bill.
Well I ran quick out of my shack and ran to the office; I knew where it was, and I thought maybe it was true. I got halfway across the compound and here comes Bill.
He was holding his pants up with one hand. He had the rifle in that hand and we was dragging old Fred with the other. That’s a fact! The guy actually tried to kill Bill.
But Bill got alert to him. He had heard the guy stumbling around on the boardwalk in front of the office and by the sounds of the cussing knew something was up. So he went to the door and without opening it, asked who was there.
Fred answered, ‘It’s me, Fred.’
Bill said, ‘What do you want at this hour, Fred?’
Fred says, ‘I’m gonna kill Bill. I’m tired of takin’ orders from him. I got my rifle here and I’m gonna shoot him.’
Well, Bill musta figured him for being drunk because he asked him, ‘Well, tell me, do you need any help?’ Fred answered, ‘Can’t hurt, we’ll use my gun though.’
So Bill opens the door and Fred kind of stumbles in and looks right at Bill and says, ‘Where does he sleep?’ Bill points to the cot in the corner.
Fred looks at the cot and looks at Bill and says, ‘He ain’t there.’
Bill says, ‘No he ain’t. I’m right here.’ So Fred says, ‘That’s okey, I’ll just wait for you to get back.’ He went to lay down on the bunk, but by then Bill was done with the game. He grabbed the rifle, grabbed Fred, and as I said, the next thing I saw was him dragging the guy across the compound. I was there.”
– page 12