WDIO-TV: Local Author Shares Story of Spring Log Drive in Latest Novel


Dead Man's Rapids (William Durbin and Barbara Durbin)Although the month of May is kicking off with snow, spring is here and years ago in our region, that meant the spring log drive. A local, award-winning author tackles that tradition in his latest novel - Dead Man's Rapids

William Durbin stopped by GMN Monday to share some of the history behind the story he shares of Ben, a young boy who signs up for the log drive of 1899. 

Durbin has published 12 young adult novels, many of them tackling local history or traditions. His first novel is about a young fur trader who traveled through the Great Lakes. His wife, Barbara Durbin, gave him the idea to take up a book on logging.

"So I originally wrote a novel called Blackwater Ben that deals with the winter season logging in the woods," explained Durbin. "This one [Dead Man's Rapids] picks up with the same character, Ben, on a spring river drive, floating the logs down to a lumber mill."

Durbin says the spring drives were often more challenging than the winter season of logging because the conditions were difficult and a slip into the freezing water was almost always imminent.

“In order to stay warm they would take off their wool long-underwear, pants, and boots and smear lard all over their legs. So they would literally lard themselves up,” said Durbin.

You'll also find Durbin's wife's name on the cover of Dead Man's Rapids. Durbin said Barbara has always assisted in editing his novels, but now that she has retired from teaching, she was able to co-write this time around. Durbin calls it a "great adventure."

You can find a copy of Dead Man's Rapids at local bookstores, including Fitger's Bookstore, where Durbin recently hosted a book signing. You can learn more about Durbin's work on his website. If you'd like to learn more about local logging history, Durbin says the Forest History Center in Grand Rapids is a great resource.

Durbin is a former teacher who lives on Lake Vermilion. He is a winner of the Great Lakes Book Award and a two-time winner of the Minnesota Book Award.

Watch the segment here.

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