When I was growing up, my dad would get my sisters and me up with a roar shouting, DAYLIGHT in the SWAMP! We hated it and called it Daylighting. Nothing got us out of bed faster than the threat of being daylighted.
Fast forward twenty years and I’m reading a book set in the late 1860s in a logging camp in the Michigan forests. Imagine my total shock and surprise when I read that the camp cook would wake up the lumberjacks with the call, “Daylight in the Swamps”. The story explained that it was a unique phrase that began in the golden era of logging for white pine in the forests of Michigan in the post-Civil War era. In order to get the country back and running, massive amounts of logs were needed. White pine was like gold and was found in Michigan. The lure for money and also solitude was strong for men recovering from the trauma and horror of the Civil War. Farmers who needed extra cash to make their farms run would spend their winters logging.
It dawned on me that I have deep family roots in Michigan. James Carlos Christler, my great-great grandfather, was born in New York in 1830. He moved to Flint, Michigan as a boy and lived and died there. Flint, Michigan was right at the heart of the logging boom following the Civil War. It is conceivable that either he or a family member took up logging to help their families. And even if they didn’t, the phrase originated in that area so they would have heard it and probably used it.
My dad said that his Uncle Elmer used to say that to him in the morning. This phrase originated from the post Civil War era in Michigan and has traveled over 150 years through generations of Christlers. I don’t say this to my kids, but I’m going to now and I’ll tell them the story of how words can last forever.
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