Whitewater Ole: Legends, Log Drives, Dead Immigrants, and Intersectionality

James  P. Leary (University of Wisconsin, Madison, emeritus)

Norwegian-born Ole Horne, a log driver on Wisconsin’s Chippewa River, was one among many poor immigrants and refugees who, as poet Philip Gaston put it, “died in the hundreds with no sign to mark where/save the brass in the pocket of the entrepreneur.” Nicknamed “Whitewater Ole” for log-riding through rapids, Horne nonetheless drowned while breaking a jam in 1905. Legends surrounding Horne’s life, labor, and death variously portray a jovial, daring, admirable yet exploited fellow worker. As we topple monuments to some questionably exalted dead white men, we might honor others whose humbler experiences intersect those of contemporary marginalized workers.

Part of 06-14 Nordic American Folklore: Revitalizations and Implications, Friday, October 14, 2:30 pm–4:30 pm