The Frozen Logger

Lyrics: James Stevens
Music: Ivar Hagland

This was performed a few times by Weir as a novelty or to pass the time while equipment problems were fixed. Weir often only sang one or two verses - eg 26 December 1970, when he sang the first verse and the first two lines of the second verse below. The most complete version I know of (thanks to Matt Schofield for the transcription) is from 6 September 1985, when Weir attempted what might have been the full version but couldn't remember it:

As I sat down one evening, within a small cafe
A forty year old waitress to me these words did say
I see you are a logger, and not just a common bum
'Cause no one but a logger stirs his coffee with his thumb

My lover was a logger, but not like none today
If you'd pour whiskey on him, he'd eat a bale of hay

He came one night to see me, [?] 48 below
[forgets words]

He held her close and kissed her, so hard he broke her jaw
So she could not speak to tell him, he forgot his mackinaw

He went [?] off that evening at 48 below
La, la, la, at 48 below [forgetting words again]
The weather tried to freeze him, it tried it's very best
At 20 degrees below zero he buttoned up his vest

It froze clear down to China, it froze the stars above
At a gazillion degrees below zero, it froze her logger love

So now she works all evening [?] cafe

[at this point Weir gives up and says - "I can't remember the last verse, I'm getting out of here."]
Grateful Dead Recordings
     Date Album
     21 Oct 1971 Dave's Picks Volume 3

Origins

The song was written by James Stevens in the late 1940s. Stewart Hendickson gives this background on Stevens' life:
James Stevens (1892-1971) was born on a rented farm in Iowa. His "gypsy father" decided to roam, and his mother worked as a hired girl for $12 per month, so he was raised by his grandmother. At age 10 he was sent to live with relatives in Idaho where he learned to handle horses and cattle. He left home at age 15 to work with horses and mules on construction projects. He also worked in logging camps where late at night around the bunkhouse stove he listened to the lore of the woods and tall tales of Paul Bunyan.

He served in World War I in France and later developed an interest in books. He characterized himself as "a hobo laborer with wishful literary yearning," and became self-educated at public libraries, which he called "the poor man's universities." He settled in Portland, Oregon and began writing for H. L. Mencken's American Mercury magazine. One of his stories was about the mythical giant Paul Bunyan, which later evolved into a best-selling book.

By the end of his literary career Stevens had produced nine books and more than 250 stories and magazine articles. He became the dean of Northwest writers. He was also a protector of the Northwest forest industries and worked to preserve the rich heritage of the woods. In his later years he moved to Seattle. He retired in 1957 as public relations director for the West Coast Lumberman�s Association, and died in Seattle at age 79 on Dec. 31, 1971.
The nearest to an original version seems to be the following, from Stevens' "Bunk Shanty Ballads and Tales" published in 1949:
As I set down one evening in a timber town cafe
A six foot-seven waitress, to me these words did say
"I see you are a logger and not a common bum
For no one but a logger stirs his coffee with his thumb

"My lover was a logger, there's none like him today
If you'd sprinkle whisky on it, he'd eat a bale of hay
He never shaved the whiskers from off his horny hide
But he'd pound 'em in with a hammer, then bite 'em off inside

"My lover came to see me one freezing winter day
He held me in a fond embrace that broke three vertebrae
He kissed me when we parted so hard it broke my jaw
And I could not speak to tell him he'd forgot his mackinaw

"I watched my logger lover going through the snow
A-sauntering gaily homeward at forty eight below
The weather tried to freeze him, it tried it's level best
At a hundred degrees below zero, he buttoned up his vest

"It froze clean down to China, it froze to the stars above
At one thousand degrees below zero it froze my logger love
They tried in vain to thaw him and if you'll believe me, sir
They made him into ax blades to chop the Douglas fir

"That's how I lost my lover and to this caffay I come
And here I wait till someone stirs his coffee with his thumb
And then I tell my story of my love they could not thaw
Who kissed me when we parted so hard he broke my jaw"
Subsequent versions changed the lyrics slightly, for example altering "a six foot-seven waitress" into "a forty year old waitress" (which is what Bob Weir sang):
As I sat down one evening, within a small cafe
A forty year old waitress to me these words did say
I see that you're a logger, and not just a common bum
'Cause nobody but a logger stirs his coffee with his thumb

My lover was a logger, there's none like him today
If you'd pour whiskey on him, he'd eat a bale of hay
He never shaved his whiskers from off his horny hide
He'd drive them in with a hammer, and bite them off inside

My lover came to see me, upon one freezing day
He held me in a fond embrace which broke three vertebrae
He kissed me when we parted, so hard he broke my jaw
I could not speak to tell him, he forgot his mackinaw

I saw my lover leaving, sauntering through the snow
Going gaily homeward at forty-eight below
The weather it tried to freeze him, it tried its level best
At a hundred degrees below zero, he buttoned up his vest

It froze clear through to China, it froze the stars above
At a thousand degrees below zero, it froze my logger love
They tried in vain to thaw him, and would you believe me, sir
They made him into axeblades, to chop the Douglas fir

And so I lost my lover, to this cafe I come
And here I wait till someone stirs his coffee with his thumb
"Frozen Logger" was recorded by Odetta (1954), Cisco Houston (1954), Jimmie Rogers (1960), The Weavers (1963) and many others.


Futher Information
For more information on recordings see Matt Schofield's Grateful Dead Family Discography

 


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