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Rafting down the Delaware — audio history

Bill Horne’s presentation at the HSM Annual Meeting Oct. 23 gave us a chance to hear voices from the past, namely Mike Todd, legendary hunter and woodsman, and Orson Slack, a former raftsman on the Delaware. Horne’s book, The Improbable Community: Camp Woodland and the American Democratic Ideal, chronicles the relationship between the youngsters at the Phoenicia summer camp (1939-1962) and culture keepers like Todd and Slack. Camp Woodland documents and recordings are preserved with the papers of Norman Studer, the camp’s founder and director, at The M. E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives at SUNY Albany. Give a listen to Studer’s 1944 interview of Orson Slack as he described the process and experience of poling rafts of logs and lumber from Arena to Trenton. He made the trip as a teenager, following his father, Richard Slack, who made more than 50 trips despite wearing a wooden leg, a souvenir of Civil War service.