Fatal Oak, The
DESCRIPTION: "'Tis a mournful story I relate, Of three young men who met their fate." The logging team takes their raft downriver and stops for the night. The captain says the site is bad. Come morning, an oak crashes and kills the three loggers.
AUTHOR: (Mrs.) Abbie Payne?
EARLIEST DATE: 1926 (Rickaby)
KEYWORDS: logger death river
FOUND IN: US(MW)
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Rickaby 29, "The Fatal Oak" (1 text)
Peters, pp. 206-207, "The Fatal Oak" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Robert E. Gard and L. G. Sorden, _Wisconsin Lore: Antics and Anecdotes of Wisconsin People and Places_, Wisconsin House, 1962, pp. 99-101, "The Fatal Oak" (1 text, from W. M. Ward of Soldiers Grove)
NOTES: Rickaby's source stated that this piece was "written by Mrs. Abbie Payne." Based on Rickaby's text, I suspected that Payne was simply the transcriber -- as the song stands it reads as though the Captain deliberately condemned his men to death by not moving the campsite.
It appears, however, that Rickaby's text had suffered some damage in transmission. The Gard/Sorden text is more coherent, although it still appears the captain could have done more.
Gard and Sorden attibute the poem to Abbie J. Payne, so it appears that she (?) was in fact the author.
Gard/Sodern call it a ballad, but neither they nor Rickaby nor Peters have a tune, and Gard/Sorden print it without stanza divisions; I suspect it was never more than a poem.
According to Gard/Sorden, p. 101, the "raft was sunk September 14, 1870." Peters (who has the song from a clipping in the Rickaby collection, taken from the La Farge Enterprise) say is was "apparently based on an incident that occurred on the Kickapoo River near its confluence with the Wisconsin River east of Prairie du Chien."
This is item dC39 in Laws's Appendix II. - RBW
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