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Skagit River Journal

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Covers from British Columbia to Puget Sound. Counties covered: Skagit, Whatcom, Island, San Juan, Snohomish & BC. An evolving history dedicated to committing random acts of historical kindness
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Home of the Tarheel Stomp (bullet) Mortimer Cook slept here & named the town Bug

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Klement Chapter 2: Hogtied!
Good old boys in 1882 Lyman — Boredom,
devil rum, hijinks, greed and frontier humor

(Jesse Kennedy and pig)
Jesse Kennedy, whose day job is with the National Park Service in Marblemount, shared this modern-day photo that illustrates the right way to skin a hog and cook it. As Jesse explains, "The critters in the photo include Houdini Hog (the one water trick he couldn't escape), Eric Muller (standing), and me. I wish I could recall what we were listening to. It was probably the banjo theme from Deliverance." Dr. Kennedy is the one seated, with the implements in his hands.

By Otto Klement, circa 1926-29,
dictated to Ethel Van Fleet Harris
      The writer in 1881 opened a trading post at Lyman. The government had just extended the survey over the region. A few settlers had established themselves at eligible points along the river. A score or more of hunters, timber cruisers and adventurers had come to ferret out the mysteries of the trackless wilderness, and a few logging camps had commenced to move into the district.
      The trading post consisted of a store, post office, hotel and saloon, all housed under one roof, and become the hangout of the motley population. The winter of 1882 had arrived and the hotel as filled to capacity. reliance was had on the hunters to keep the hostelry supplied with fresh meat. There came, however, a time when weather conditions were unfavorable to the chase, and the supply of meat had tome to run low.
      Sam the Chinaman presiding over the culinary department, served notice that something must be done looking to its replenishment. There were few domestic animals in the region at the time and nearest meat market was too far away to make it available [probably Whatcom, now Bellingham].
      Sam had in mind a brace of shoats [young pig just after weaning] he had carefully raised from the leftovers from the kitchen and tables, these having attained a weight of around 350 pounds each, and he suggested that one of these be killed to bridge over the emergency. Accordingly, the meat problem seemed to have been solved.

John Bieble superintends,
locals volunteer for butchering
      John Bieble, jack of all trades, volunteered to superintend the slaughter. It was already late in the day, but preparations were set in motion at once. A forty-gallon caldron was borrowed from Henry Cooper, a rancher nearby [grandfather of Bud Meyers, the first steelhead guide on the Skagit, who now owns Klement's old home]. This was suspended on a horizontal pole supported by a pair of tripods. The kettle was filled with water from the river and kindling disposed beneath it, ready to be lighted the next morning.
      A homemade sled was requisitioned. This was covered with boards to answer as a platform. To the side of this platform a large barrel was placed at a suitable angle and secured with a log chain. Butcher knives were sharpened, spoons and other scraping devices supplied, and other emergencies that might arise were provided against.

(Faber Cookhouse)
      This cookhouse has features you can see that were probably very similar to Otto Klement's trading post and saloon 40 years earlier. Wouldn't we love to see those photos on the back wall? They are probably sample photos by Darius Kinsey. Can anyone identify the folks in the photo? Those are Darius Kinsey photos displayed in the background, ready for people at the camp to purchase. Photo courtesy of Lois Pinelli Theodoratus, who grew up near Lyman and Hamilton. It was taken by Nils Larsen.

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We recently visited our newest sponsor, Plumeria Bay, which is based in Birdsview, just a short walk away from the Royal family's famous Stumpranch, and is your source for the finest down comforters, pillows, featherbeds & duvet covers and bed linens. Order directly from their website and learn more about this intriguing local business.

      That night the topic of talk was limited to hogs. Canada and a wide diversity of state had representatives on the scene, and best methods of dispatching a hog were full gone into. The hunters were a unit on placing reliance on the rifle, and from shooting to hanging, every method had its advocates.
      John Sutter undertook to explain how the trick was turned up in the state of Maine, but Tom Porter, leaning back perilously in his chair, his feet deposited in the center of a card table and his hat poised on the back of his head, interrupted by asserting that his experience was that they had no hogs in the state of Maine unless the imagination could be tricked into conceiving a certain long-nosed rat, prevalent in that state, as being one.
      Billy Keho was itching to get into the discussion, but Billy had not yet fully recovered from a certain aggravating case of buck fever contracted in the riverbank where he had been stationed to intercept the incoming deer urged forward by the hounds. He prized himself on his marksmanship, but a buck bouncing out of the tangle and coming to a stand by his side, with a forest on his head, so frightened him that he took to his heels. His recovery was somewhat retarded from the circumstance that Tom Costello, being stationed at a point a little further down the river, was witness to the affair. Tom refused to be bribed into silence and the hotel bar testified that the occurrence had already cost Billy dearly, and lest his participation to the discussion should suggest a change of subject he prudently kept his mouth shut.
      Tom McCaffery, John Browning, George Moran, John Egan, Henry Quinn and a dozen others, all in turn, and as drinks multiplied, all in union expressed their views. Tim Hopper, a little Cockney sailor, having yielded to recurring potations, was sound asleep under a card table and served Bob Franney amicably as a foot rest.
      Meanwhile John Bieble sat apart and said nothing. The consciousness of being able to show these heathen the only approved method of slaughtering a hog was clearly depicted in his countenance. Bieble was the first astir the next morning and by the time breakfast was over the water was hot. His manner betokened that of one who understands his business, while eager eyes followed all his movements. Arming himself presently with a poll ax, he moved leisurely in the direction of the pigsty, with the entire community at his heels.

The ax raises, the moment of truth is at hand
      The victims of his art were confined in a board pen twelve feet square with half the area covered by a shed roof. And now, with a butcher knife between his teeth and a professional air pervading his person, he stepped mechanically into the enclosure. Having selected his victim, he poised his ax on high, his eye focused on a vulnerable spot between the victim's eyes. He let drive.
      Unfortunately for Bieble's fame, the ax collided with the projecting roof, came down and completely severed the shoat's ear from its head. Frantic with pain the pig charged the side of the pen and, bearing it down, escaped into the woods.
      The hunters' opportunity had arrived, and before one had time to say Jack Robinson, a dozen rifles were in evidence. Lone Beach, a spectator, found himself under the wreckage, the shoat in making its getaway, having stepped upon him and broken one of his ribs. The forest had come to resound with the loud mouthing of the hounds, the crack of rifles and shouts of the persons. A couple of hours later word came back from the front that victory had been achieve but not until the victim had been riddled from end to end with bullets. No sticking knife having accompanied the pursuers, the formality of bleeding the pig was dispensed with. The problem of getting the carcass out of the woods now presented itself. Not enough men could get hands on the animal to more than bridge it. After a few abortive efforts, a messenger was dispatched for a rope. This, arriving after interminable delay, was attached to the hind legs of the shoat, and in the hands of a half score of men, reasonable progress was made.
      The heavens were overcast and a fine mist was falling, wholly obscuring the sun, so that direction became a matter of guesswork. Presently, it was felt that the required distance had been covered and that the clearing and buildings of the post should be in sight but these were not appearing. Another forward move was made, and arriving presently at the foot of the table lands which the wayfarers were aware bordered the north side of the valley, they then came to realize that they had traveled in the opposite direction from that intended and that they were now farther away from their destination than at the beginning.
      Undismayed, they turned about and pressed forward with greater circumspection and in due time intercepted a footpath leading back from the post a short distance into the woods. At this point they called into requisition a homemade wheelbarrow. This however had not proceeded far when it collapsed under the heavy burden and the former method of transportation had again to be resorted to. At length the improvised shambles were reached and here it was found that as a result of the carcass having been dragged over windfalls and forest debris, the flesh had been worn away to the bones.
      The fire under the kettle had gone out and the water was cold. The embarrassment, however, was speedily corrected, and what remained to be done promised to go forward with dispatch. The scalding water was transferred to the barrel, followed by submersion of the shoat.

Journal Ed. note: Otto Klement was one of the first Skagit River settlers, arriving here in the fall of 1873 after paddling alone across Puget Sound from the Olympic Peninsula. He eventually chose Lyman as his home on the north bank of the river, when Skagit was still part of Whatcom county and Washington was still a territory. Many thanks to Dr. Jesse Kennedy for additional giggles.

      But the unforeseen now again happened. Getting the carcass into the barrel was an easy matter, but to get it out again proved a problem. The laying out of no amount of strength could make the thing budge. The water had to be gotten rid of instantly to prevent the pig from being cooked too quickly. To do this it was decided to lay the barrel in a horizontal position, but this involved removing the lashing, which required time.
      The feat finally being accomplished and the barrel laid on it side, it was found that no water escaped, the shoat having effectively sealed the receptacle. The ax was called fore, having been left at the pigpen and had to be sent for. When presently it stoved in the bottom of the barrel, the water escaped but to release the carcass the staves in turn had to be broken.
      This expedient came too late, for when the carcass made its reappearance it did so in a sadly shriveled state, with shreds of its own skin dangling about it head and neck.
      There being no large scalding vessel available, other devices had to be resorted to. As an alternative it was now decided to shave the pig, but this proving tedious, a skinning process was adopted. This proved equally tedious and unsatisfactory but with time and perseverance it was effected after a matter. A more spirit-distracting picture than that presented by this dumb creature, as it lay there on the hair and blood begrimed platform, could scarcely be conceived.

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory
      The caldron was now removed and the carcass suspended in it place. With painstaking washing most of the hair and grime were removed. The removal of the entrails was next in progress. The liver and heart had been sent to the evening for the evening meal, when in the course of a scuffle on the part of some of the bystanders the scaffold was overwhelmed, and down came carcass, entrails and all in a ghastly heap into the ashes and mud under foot.
      It needed but this latest disaster to sound the depths of despair. Long, sober faces glared into long, sober faces. Not a word was spoken. Yet there was something so droll in this long, unbroken chain of accidents as to excite emotions, and these presently manifested themselves in an outburst of laughter.
      Night had closed in upon the scene. The catastrophe was repaired after a fashion. It was decided to leave the carcass suspended overnight, and the crestfallen crew retired to their dinner. The repast was unaccompanied by the customary vivacity. The hunters' reputation had suffered along with John Bieble's, and embarrassment found relief in early retirement. Tim Hopper, the Cockney sailor, was the only one to get a measure of glory out of the affair. Tim's seafaring instincts had foretold what would happen — the occasion falling upon a Friday.
      Sam the Chinaman was the first to visit the shambles the next morning, but only to find that a pack of hungry Siwash dogs had preceded him. The carcass had been torn from its position, and what had not been devoured had been dragged about in the mud and now lay there an unrecognizable mass. Its mate was found in the woods a month later with a bullet hole through its side, dead.

(Lyman circa late 1880s)
      This is the earliest known photo of Lyman and it shows the layout of the young village a few years the pig incident above. Taken circa 1888, the photo shows a street that is now largely covered by the river channel. We are looking east at the dogleg of Commercial Street. The Lyman Hotel and Saloon is to at the far left, with the Minkler store and post office to the right of it, and the Knights of Pythias Hall, built in 1889, is at the far right. At the far back center is the Henry Cooper house, the first built in Lyman in about 1883. We are unsure where and when Klement placed his 1881 trading post, and if it was nearest the main river channel at that time, up to a mile to the south. We infer, however, from records provided by Bud Meyers Jr., that this was Klement's original location. By the time of this photo Klement was selling much of his Lyman property to Birdsey Minkler, who became the next Lord of Lyman. Photo courtesy of Maxine Meyers, widow of Bud Meyers Sr., whose grandfather was Lyman pioneer Henry Cooper.

New transcriptions from Otto's diaries in Issue 42, Subscribers Magazine

Story posted on Oct. 1, 2001; last updated March 15, 2008; moved to this domain Jan. 3, 2008
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