Customer Reviews: Spiked Boots: Sketches of the North Country
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on January 13, 2000
This book is aptly titled as it concerns those hard-working, hard-living souls who were all but born wearing spiked boots and is a continuing saga of this section of New England known as the "north country". These true accounts of activity in the wood and lumber industry are well detailed from early in the 1800's until the last drive in 1915. Interspersed in these narrations are related stories of heroic deeds, impossible feats of skill, strength and daring; folk lore, superstition and camp fire tales all of which are skillfully described by Pike. These are so well presented that at times it is not easy to separate fact from fiction. Only after years of traveling in the north country, re-living the camp life and winning the confidence and respect of the woodsman was Robert Pike able to put together this story of a by-gone era. He tells it in true vernacular-a peavey is a peavey that was the the everyday tool of the woodsman. The bridal chain was the brake that held back the sled load of logs going down the mountain. His description of the lumber baron-good or not so good- is true to life. No artist could paint a better picture of those spiked boots living in that ice water for days, and weeks, on end. Hardy souls that respected their fellow workers is the tribute describing the strong men of the north country. Spiked Boots is one segment of our culture worth knowing and re-reading.
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on July 13, 2000
Spiked Boots is among a rare breed of books, either fiction or fact, that can take the reader directly into the minds of the characters and places the author is talking about. Robert Pike approaches the tales of Vern Davison, Jack Haley, and a host of others with such clarity you are transported directly back 100 years to the logging industry of the "north country." You sit in your chair reading the book and the words slowly turn into the wind rushing by your face as you are transported into the horse drawn carriage with Vern Davison and Robert Pike, and you find yourself slowly engulfed in another era.
Not to be overlooked in the new Countryman Press edition is the foreword added by Helen-Chantal Pike, Robert Pike's daughter. The foreword adds a look into Robert Pike's life that only a daughter could bring into the book, from the tales of the original "peddling" trips, to the meaning of his writings to himself, to the intimate detail of Robert Pike reading a well worn copy of Spiked Boots over and over again during his last years of life.
Also added to the new edition are several photographs culled from the Pike Archives featuring a rare photographic glimpse of the scenery and people that the tales of Spiked Boots originates from. One can fully appreciate the men spoken of as they gaze at the picture of Ginseng Willard next to the coffin he slept in for two years to, "get used to it."
For fans of America, for fans of history, for fans of self-reliance, the new edition of Robert E. Pike's Spiked Boots is not one to be missing from the shelves of the library. It offers a rare glimpse at a by-gone era, of men and women that no longer exist in this form of ruggedness that made America what it is today.
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on January 2, 2000
Robert Pike grew up in northern VT at the turn of the 20th century, and steeped himself in the lore of that area and era: the loggers, the eccentric woodsman, the singular history of the most independent of the United States.
Throughout his long life, Pike wrote several books about the North Country. One book, "Tall Trees, Tough Men," has been in print since its original publication in 1967, but most of his other books were self-published out of his house in New Jersey.
"Tall Trees" is his most respected book among historians, but "Spiked Boots" is his most beloved. His love of the region and its characters comes out in full, and his penchant for story telling, especially tall tales, is razor-sharp.
"Spiked Boots" had been previously re-issued by Yankee Press. In this latest re-issue from Countryman, it is augmented with a new foreword by his daughter, Helen-Chantal Pike, and new photos culled from Pike's extensive personal archives. To read "Spiked Boots" is to truly travel back in time to a unique American era.
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on August 17, 2012
Robert Pike is a very entertaining author, he writes well, his sense of humor comes through in his work, and in the two books I've read of his, the material itself is funny as well. But there's more to it than that, especially in Spiked Boots, there's A LOT of heart. This book is mainly the tale of the author's relationship with Old Vern ( a man who IS new england if there ever was one). Vern, and many of the other people Mr. Pike writes of are more interesting and special than any characters in fiction because they lived. This book helped me see New England in a different time, but it also allowed me to see what hasn't changed over the years. The book is less about the logging industry and more about some of the people around it; especially Vern Davison. He seemed like quite a man, I would have liked to have met him, and heartily recommend reading about him and others in this book.
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on September 29, 2014
This is a series of anecdotal stories of logging in New England. It is full of old Yankee wit and humor. If you like this sort of thing try any of the North Woods Reader series by Cully Gage, stories of the post logging days (early 1900's) of Michigan's upper peninsular. A more technical view of New England logging, and life back in the day is in Robert Pike's book, Tall Trees and Tough Men. These are all good reads for anyone who wants to learn more about life in the days of logging with axes, two man cross cut saws, and river drives.
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on August 8, 2000
Robert Pike's <i> Spiked Boots<i> is a rare sort of history book, one that a reader loves to come across in the arid sea of historical work out that chokes the shelves of book stores. Presented as a series of vignettes on subjects ranging from haunted hunting camps to Ginseng Willard and his homemade coffin, Pike provides an important insight into the history and society of the northern reaches of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. It is a presentation of a world that is now gone, pushed through the chutes in the style of the great logging rushes that Old Vern, the cagey ex walking boss and Pike's guide through this world, once worked. The presentation of this world is not of a Hesiodic Golden Age, when men were men and trees were more plentiful. It is a presentation of a world where some men worked hard, some women harder, and some not at all. It is a memoir of hard working lumbermen and guides -- how they worked, how they played, and for some of them, the mistakes that they made that took their lives. Pike was a fortunate man to have encountered Vern, for the history that was handed to him is beyond value as a vision into a bygone age and an area that is sometimes forgotten. And the characters are unforgetable also.
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on September 10, 2016
I've spent 40 years working in the woods of Vermont and I can say that this book rings true. It has the flavor of a good storyteller as well as being accurate within it's scope of topics. I'll re-read it many times.
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on December 13, 1999
Robert E. Pike's "Spiked Boots" reminds us how marvelous is the human capacity for writing, in this case the capturing and the preserving of experience. The rough and romantic life of Yankee lumbermen was Pike's fascination, and he hands that world over to us. We're by his side as he absorbs the rich and often humorous lore around him and has a few adventures on his own. Suddenly it's *our* fascination too.
He takes us into the farmhouse of old Vern, who along with the author is the storyteller. Vern, with his down-to-earth manner and sudden wit, fills us in on his years in the north country logging trade and the ways of folks he's known. Take Dan Bosse, "the best man on logs I ever saw in my life." In an audacious spur-of-the-moment rescue, Dan once saved Vern from certain death. Or the moving story of Van Drew, back from the war, who had "enough shrapnel in him to sink a ship." And then there's the haunted camp, which one hunter in every party never left alive.
The captivating people and atmospheric stories keep coming until an intimate structure of lives and times is ours to know and keep. We've been there now. Well, we've been there sort of. It's called damn good reading. Because of Robert E. Pike and "Spiked Boots", folks such as old Vern Davison -- and the lives they led -- are not lost to us. They've made it through. And so has their world. "There's the stuff."
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on December 6, 1999
Spike Boots chronicles not only a history of the Connecticut River Valley that is gone and forgotten by all but Pike's characters who plied the river on their log rafts, it also documents and preserves the arduous and danger-filled adventure that was their lives. This is a good book, written with insight and verve. And it is especially good for those of us who know the landscape, the people, and who have tested the river in spring.
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on February 24, 2005
As someone who grew up listening to my Irish Grandmother tell tales of her Father sneaking out in the middle of the night to catch fish to feed the family which was illegal in enslaved Ireland at that time, I've always been a sucker for a good yarn. (Sorry for the run on)

Spiked Boots is like sitting on the front porch of some old timer who is telling stories to pass the time. In this case however, the listener must have dashed inside to jot everything down every 15 minutes or so. Wow the stories and information never cease. It's wonderful but sometimes the conversation is a little long, hence the 4 stars.

It's a lot of Northern NH and Maine logging stories but really it's all the interesting stories in an area whose main income came from trees at that time. Admittedly, a lot of my enjoyment of this book came from my life long connection to NH and Maine, 2 states I love. There is woods lore, ghost stories and a little ichthyology thrown in for good measure for the fisherman.

Worth your time if these things are of interest to you. I will read Tall Trees, Tough Men" next.
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