Really cute drawing of us although it's old and we don't really look too much like that but you know, yeah we do, so it's good 'nuf, which is our house philiosophy.


Dudley Writings

These were all done around 2001-2002


Billy’s house had a fireplace which he used to heat his living room. He would sit in front of of the fireplace with his long overcoat. He burned tree length wood with the limb stubs still on. He used the stubs to push the tree trunk into the fire as it burned away. He sat there reading his popular science magazine. It saved him time and effort; no bucking, little limbing, just less work.


In those days the mud absolutly awful. There was no gravel on the dirt roads. Ergo, all the dirt turned to mud. Today we have some mud on the surface. Then there was no surface. Some mud holes were rthree to fuor feet deep. The road from Marions down the hill was a continuous mud hole with no bottom. To dry it out sooner they would set off a line of dynamite in the ditches. The water would then drain off into the didct and away.

When I was going to high school I caught the school bus in East Dixfield I left my model A at the foot of dugout hill. I had a stripped down Whippet with large tires which I drove to the top of dugout hill. I walked down to the Model A and drove to E Dixfield. Jonny Rollins was trucking wood through the valley and regularly pulled my mud buggy out near the top of Milldam hill. The hill from the valley to Eddie Wrights was a sea of mud and usually not passable till late June. So there’s some about mud.


In days of yore (twenties) papa Ruel hired young people to pick apples. This involved placing a ladder against a tree and climbing up with a basket with attached hook. The hook attached to the ladder or a tree limb while the picker filled the basket with apples. When the basket was full the picker brought it down the sometimes precarious perch and emptied the apples into a barrel. This was repeated until the tree was clean of apples.

Little Ruel also known as Dudley was as usual being a ground brat. He would insult his chosen picker and if that didn’t get his attention he’d pick up a ground apple and throw it at the chosen picker. Finally one of the pickers decided he’d had enough of this brat. He went into the barn and got a bran sack and a piece if binding twine. He chased the brat and finally caught him. The he struggled and with some help from a fellow victim got the brat into the sack, tied it securely around his neck and hung the culprit on a tree limb. The brat struggled and cursed to no avail. He never molested the pickers again.


What is chopping wood? In today’s parlance it refers to what is known traditionally as splitting wood. At the turn of the last century we actually chopped down trees; I mean big trees! The best firewood is cut from the hardest hardwood such as oak,, rock maple. yellow birch, beech, ironwood, and a few other extra hard wood trees. Most woodsmen of that time cut down the trees in December through February; when the ground was covered with snow.

The tree trunks were frozen and extra hard. The trees were cut down with axes; preferably the double-bitted axe. Usually these axes and the other striking tools were left in the woods over night. Therefore the tools cooled to subzero temperatures. At these cold temperatures the steel tools became crystallized, and if struck a sharp blow might break. So the first thing the woodsman did was to build a warming fire. He always had dry fire wood under a canvas nearby to fuel the fire. He would then erect his fire with dry softwood twigs and pile on the dry hardwood fire sticks. Placed near the fire was a flat rock against which he leaned the steel implements; thus heating them to remove the "frost". The tools were then ready to tackle the hardwood trees.

After deciding the fall location the tree was "notched" in that direction. Then he chopped the opposite side of the tree higher or lower than the notch to fell the tree in the proper location. All this work was done with the double-bitted axe. One blade of the axe was ground with a thin sharp edge for limbing the tree. The other side was more blunt; for chopping down the tree.

As you might surmise this was sweat rising work. These woodsmen were tough and real Paul Bunyanesque men. They used a saw to cut the wood into usually four foot lengths for "yarding". Thus came the name "bucksaw". The wedges and sledge were used to split the largest of the four foot pieces into manageable sizes. The wood was then piled into stacks along side the wood road.

All this work was manual labor. The typical woodsman required about 5000 calories of rich food daily. Baked beans and brown bread, potatoes and salt pork. Lots of real rich fatty gravy. Breakfast was often slabs of bacon, fried potatoes, cornbread, and apple pie. The coffee was laced with heavy cream. Lunch was a solid soup with dumplings. Supper was a big slab of beef or venison, mashed or baked potatoes, home baked bread, topped with a huge slab of pie with a sizeable portion of whipped cream. They ate like barnyard hogs and remained slim and trim.

Thus the woodsman of yore appeared to the city-feller as exemplified by the statue of Paul Bunyan.(One may be seen at the entrance of Puiials hardware store in Rumford, Me.)

History by Ruel Dudley Burnham


The one room school was the rule in days of yore. I started school at the Severy Hill one room school at age five in 1928. My teachers name was miss Maclean. She was super pretty. The first thing she taught me was to appreciate pretty legs. She loved wild flowers and natures gift to the woodsdweller; the wild birds and butterflys. The school house was surruonded by all these pretty things. We got our drinking water from a small spring in back of the school. We brought our lunches. We traded lunch box items; cake for pie, egg sandwich for roast beef, etc.

Our side of the hill walked to school; the back side rode on a Collidge conveyance. Harry brought the Averils, Tuckers, and many Coolidges to school on a long wagon or in winter on a large sleigh called a pung. The sides of the road were lined with natures gifts of wild flowers and in season berries. These also came to school. Because the school house was nigh on the top of the hill, it was a place of higher learning.

Higher learning began with ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ. From there we went to words such as; dog ,cat, pig, cow, bull, sow, calf, hen, barn, house, man, goat, sheep, etc. We also learned verbs such as run, walk, skip, jump, talk, etc. We also learned recess words such as damn, shit, piss, and I refuse to fill in the other revolting words; but believe me we learned them all. We fortunately also learned numbers.

By listening to the upperclasses we learned about reading, rithmatic, gorgfry, histry, and other things we could not spell either. We learned that there were places far away called Mexico, Paris, Norway, Madrid, etc. We of course knew there were places in Maine named these same names. We early on learned about death because the school house was next door to a cemetery. There were graves for many old dead people. There were also grave sites for some not dead yet. These were for those making darned sure. There was a board fence all around the cemetery with a wide flat board on top. We walked this fence and this is how we learned to balance.

You see; there was much learning to get not in books. I learned much later in life that the bases on the diamond were not flat rocks. A ball hit out of the school yard into the woods was a home run. You probably could not find it anyhow. We learned about many things not in books; but that was school on Severy Hill in the old days.


Well if you consyst., here’s more. The woodshed was attached and assessable from the inside as well as the out side. It was built to store wood for the wood burning stove and used for “slab on butt” type discipline. That worked too. One or more of the farmers supplied the wood. The nearest neighbor came in early and built a fire so twould be warm when the first kids and teacher got there. The stove was a box shape so we could heat water and food on top of it. The desks were double seated so two scholars could sit at each desk. We had a teacher up front and scholars in the rows of seats. That was before pupils and way before students.

There was a large Seth Thomas clock on the wall., We spent much of its time watching for recess and other major events. The school superentendent , Mr. MacGouldrick came down from Dixfield about once per month. He monitored the class and took care of the heavy duty disciplines in the wood shed. He was not our favorite visitor. All books and school supplies were provided by the school board. We of course provided our own pencils a personal paper.

There were eight grades. Subprimary was not numbered like the others. Many kids did not go on to high school. They were too dumb or needed on the farm. School was mandatory up to age 14 Or until you graduated from the grade school, whichever was first. Only one of the Coolidge kids went to high school.

No Tuckers went to high school. All the Paines went to high school. All the Burnhams went beyond high school. In those days any high school graduate could teach grade school.

The Severy Hill school was one of three one room schools I attended. The other ones were the Lake school and the Intervale school; both in Jay. In these schools you learned more because you listened to all the grades recite. More kids went to these one room schools than went to the in-town schools. In Jay there were six one room schools. North Jay had a two room school , Jay Village had three room school . Chisholm had a two room school and a parochial school for the Catholic kids. So you see even the town schools were not large. The typical one room school had 20 or so kids.

During recess we played games; baseball and haleyover . Haleyover was a game where we had two sides one on each side of the school house. We threw a ball over the roof and it was caught by the other team. Each ball must touch the roof and there were other rules which I’ve forgotten. I had druthers for baseball.

We also played hide-n-seek. We played other games which I’ve forgotten.

In the one room school you learned all the good things that kids learn in school. We didn’t learn about bombing the school.. We loved our teacher. We liked each other. It was like a happy family.


We had only a kitchen wood stove at our farmhouse until Nettie got pregnant--- or until it really showed. So papa Ruel went the North Jay Grange store and bought a new Atlantic wood heater. Mike has it today. This was the heat for the downstairs dining room. A register in the ceiling above the stove allowed heat to rise to the bedroom above. This was the only heat in the farmhouse until Nina and Floyd put in a coal furnace in 1945.

Most all farm houses were heated in much the same way. Some had fireplaces early in the 1800’s . Most of these later had a closure on the fireplace so that a wood heater could be installed. The fire places gave off radiant heat but little convectional heat . You would burn your knees and freeze your rear end .in front of the fireplace.

School houses had large wood heaters that would take two foot lengths and burn large diameter wood. The farmers cut the wood this year for next year; usually in the winter months . The would pile the four foot lengths near the wood shed in the winter such that the northwest wind would blow through it; thus drying the wood much faster. The cold wind was very dry and thus even though the temperature might be subzero the wood dried quickly. By the next fall it was fully dried and ready to be sawed into stove length of about one foot. This was originally bucked up with a bucksaw; a slow and “bean and tater” burning labor.

My father had on of the first firewood power saw rigs in the North Jay area. A three foot circular saw mounted on a swing frame and powered by a one cylinder gasoline engine. This was much faster. Generally three men or an equivalent combination of people provided the labor. One man pushed the wood into the saw, another took off the cut piece, and a third brought the four foot wood to the saw table. The wood was next carried into the wood shed and neatly stacked in storage piles ready for the coming winter. There was always wood boxes in kitchen near the other room heaters. It was brought in and neatly piled in the wood boxes by “kid power”. Thus the farm houses were snug and warm all winter.


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