Log Cowboy: A Story of Lake Union and Lake Washington by Dorothea Nordstrand

  • By Dorothea Nordstrand
  • Posted 6/08/2010
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 9448

This story about Vern Nordstrand (1918-2009) and his job locating and returning stray logs to their log booms on Seattle's Lake Union and Lake Washington was contributed by Vern's widow, Dorothea Nordstrand (1916-2011). This took place in the mid-1930s.

Log Cowboy

One summer, when Vern was in his late teens, he found a job with Foss Tugboat Company.  He was assigned to work on a small boat whose purpose was to cruise around the lakes Union and Washington in search of stray logs that sometimes escaped from their booms and could be a real danger to other craft on the water.  If they found such a one, they lassoed it and dragged it back to its home boom if they could tell where it came from.

At that time, cut logs were floating free, but surrounded by a rim of logs chained together to make a restraint. Boomed logs were usually all the same species of tree.  Over time, they learned where all the different booms would be found

He told of one day when he was standing on the bow searching the water ahead, the engine stopped and the boat was rammed from behind by the log they were towing, tipping him into the water.

He learned a couple of things in a hurry ... heavy leather shoes and a wool jacket were better replaced by canvas sneakers and two cotton flannel shirts.

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