The Way We Were
The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the August 17, 2005 issue. Reprinted with permission.
Running the boom on the Gatineau River
by Catherine Joyce
Lorne McIntyre is one of the legendary McIntyre boys who grew up in Tenaga in the 1920s and '30s. There were eight of them. Their mom never worried where they were as long as they came home for supper. In those days children had a freedom that today's kids can only dream about.
Everything happened around the river. "I remember when I was about six, I'd tag along with my brother Greg, who was nine, and his buddy Jackie Boyd. We'd hike the rails to the sandpits - from there to Chelsea Island there used to be flat boom logs stretched out with linked sections of boardwalk where we could catch perch or catfish.
"The loose logs were corralled in the bay above the dam by a long string of boom ties. We used to walk across to the dam to watch the men run logs down the sluice way - they had to balance out on the booms to hook the logs with their pike poles, to be sure they went in straight. We'd just stand there watching - three little kids, without a thought of danger.
"The sluice was closed on weekends with a wooden plank but my son told me years later that he and his cousin used to slide down. At the bottom there was a sixty-foot drop into the water below. At least they knew enough to jump out before they got to the end!"
When Lorne was a little older, he and his brothers used to wait for the tugs to come down river and break up the big circles of logs above the dam. The men would tie the booms together in a long string to haul them back up to Cascades.
"We used to row out and hitch a ride upriver to Blackburn Creek. The tugmen never minded - they were used to the kids on the water. We'd get off and row up the creek until it got too shallow. Then you had to walk - the rocks were slippery like crazy but it was worth it. At the falls we'd sit in the deepest pool and the water would come coursing right over our heads - it was the best place to be on a hot summer's day."
Sometimes the wind would blow the booms into the swimming area at Tenaga where the boys would run them. "You'd get big slivers in your feet if the ties were dry but when they were wet you could run forever - from circle to circle way out into the river. If the logs were packed in really tight, you could even run over top of them - sometimes they were two logs deep, it was like running on a heaving carpet. If you fell, you'd get a skinned knee, or worse."
The most daring game involved diving under the logs. "We'd see how far out we could swim, looking up for a breathing hole, a sunlit space. If you couldn't find one, you'd bump your head as you came crashing up through the logs - but while you were under, it was exhilarating!"
The loss of the logs on the river has ended generations of boom runners. "There was always a way across the river -you just had to hop on and run for it!"
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