Two men meet while on a hunting trip near Roseau Minnesota during World War II. The main character is Wil Morgan, an old river rat from the Bigfork River Valley and the other is Matt, a surgeon from Minneapolis. Through the course of the book, Wil tries to teach the young doctor all the things he'll need to know to survive living on the river. Lots of tears and laughter make this an excellent read.
Wil was busy one day in the barn when Joe and Frank Barrett drove into the yard with a team of horses. Joe asked if Wil had ever used dynamite. Wil said that he had, but it was dangerous work and best left to a powder man.
"What in the world are you going to blow up?"
"Well, we got a few big stumps left out at the cabin and they just won't move. We worked on them for a couple days each."
"I do know how to rig the stuff, but that's a little close to the house for using dynamite. I think you'd be better off to use the horses."
"Nope. We done about as much shoveling as we're going to. I need you to show me how to set the blasting caps."
With that, Joe walked to the wagon and got out some sticks of dynamite and handed them to Wil. Wil looked a bit shaken, trying to figure how much trouble Joe could get into with this stuff. Joe gave him a blasting cap and asked Wil to show how it was done. Wil figured that Joe was serious now and decided to cooperate with him.
"Well, you wrap tape around a couple sticks and push the blasting cap inside the dynamite. You cut a long fuse and set it under the stump, light the fuse and run. It'll probably shake the windows in the cabin and loosen the dirt around the stump. You'll be able to pull it out with the team of horses."
Joe seemed to be satisfied with the instructions and thanked him. They got back onto the wagon and headed out to the cabin to finish off the stumps, leaving Wil behind shaking his head.
When Joe got to the cabin, he sized up the first victim and put two sticks under the first stump. He lit the fuse and ran behind the wood pile. When it went off, Joe was a little surprised that it didn't make more noise. It made a low kind of "whump" sound. He went to check on the stump and found dirt had sprayed nearly everywhere, but the stump was still right where he left it. However, it did look a bit worse for wear and came out with only an hours digging. He figured that it was a sure success.
The next stump was quite a bit larger so Joe figured that about six sticks were needed for such a chore. He wrapped them carefully with tape and dug a small hole under the stump for the explosive.
Back down the river at Wil's place, he had heard the first charge go off and had to go and see what had happened. As he neared the cabin, he saw Joe hunkered down behind the wood pile and figured that it was about to blow again. Wil was still a couple hundred yards from the cabin, but he saw it all. Joe had his fingers in his ears nearly up to his elbows. When the charge went off, Wil didn't even have time to blink. There was a bright flash followed immediately by a loud bang, and then he saw it. A large stump was in the air, rising to unheard of heights. It reached its peak and started to come back down. As it disappeared back into the cloud of smoke and dirt, he heard another sound that seemed to be more of a crashing noise. This was getting to be more that Wil could handle and he walked up to Joe.
"I think you used a bit too much on that one Joe."
Joe agreed and said that he might have to be a bit more careful from now on, but the stump was after all gone.
They walked into the cabin to have a cup of coffee and there in the middle of the living room was the wayward stump, still smoking. He had gotten it out of the ground alright, but nearly destroyed the house in the process. Wil saw the look on Frank and Joe's faces and busted out in fits of laughter that could have been heard for miles. All thoughts of coffee faded as Wil bent double shaking in convulsions. Each time that it would start to subside some, he'd look at Joe and start in all over again. Joe however, was having some difficulty finding much humor in his situation.