I picked up a The Friends of Meager Fortune by David Adams Richards after hearing about it on CBC, and just finished. It’s pretty amazing. Based near where my mother grew up in New Brunswick, in the time when logging was by horse team. The teamsters were incredibly strong men, in so many senses of the word, though uneducated and completely cut off from the urbane existence of those who lived in the mansions and used the furniture constructed of the trees they cut. The story tells of Owen, the brother of a deceased lumber baron, coming home after the war to help the business survive as he carries around the awareness of a prophesy that spells his failure and demise. Though wounded and not the woodsman his brother was, nor as respected by local men except as a war hero, Owen decides to cut and haul out the huge trees on Good Friday Mountain, where no one else had the guts to work because of the steepness of the trails that had to be made and used. The story tells of the kindling of rumors that grow and fester about the man and a young woman of the village whose husband has gone away, how the folks of the town feed their own “inner famine” by condemning and judging others, how corruption enters the camp, and how the kind and simple minded cook, named Meager Fortune, keeps the men alive until their final loads come crashing down. One gets the impression that the story is based on actual events, even in how it leads to the narrator’s origin (not the author) and attempts to understand his heritage. It ends in his wandering through those woods and finding the decayed implements of those lumber operations, and through the graveyard containing the crumbling stones of those who lived and died in that era.
It’s not romance, not cliche, but a kind of honoring of that way of work, which required a kind of strength that has passed away with those times. At the same time the workings out of the “inner famine” of those seeking importance in the community, revenge, or justification leave a pall on the memory of that life, from which Owen failed to escape.