What better song for a wintry February day than a doleful waltz about a lonely waitress lamenting the tragic death of her sweetheart, on his way home from their final tryst…
This is another I got from Cisco — I’d heard it before I discovered him, sung by Oscar Brand on Everybody Sing! Songs for Juniors, and vaguely recall a verse in which, after the logger freezes to death, they stick him outside as a hitching post — but the version I learned was from Cisco’s songbook, and I still picture the accompanying illustration when I think of it.
I always enjoyed the story, but never gave a thought to who might have written it or why until now — and I’m pleased to find that the author, James Stevens, a self-described “hobo laborer with wishful literary yearning,” actually spent some of his youth working in the logging camps of the Pacific Northwest, wrote multiple books about Paul Bunyan, and became the public relations director for the West Coast Lumberman’s Association.
In “Bunk Shanty Ballads and Tales,” a talk for the Oregon Historical Society, Stevens explained that he composed “The Frozen Logger” for a radio program of Paul Bunyan stories in 1929. The talk also includes a nice example of who the anti-immigrant crowd was targeting back in the 1920s, recalling an editor friend in Oregon receiving “a triumphal poem on the fact that a bunch of dusky foreigners had been fired from a sawmill, leaving only one-hundred percent Nordic type Caucasoid millhands on the pay-roll.” The last verse boasted:
Now our mothers and wives can go and get themselves a seat
In our motion picture show without setting next to a Greek.