Swiftwater People is a collection of tape-recorded and edited interviews with more than 40 homesteaders, log drivers, railroad men, flunkeys, mule skinners, gamblers and Wobblies. In their own words they tell what it was like to be one of six girl flunkeys in a hundred man logging camp; to be a single woman homesteader and lost; to be a storekeeper's wife and expected to be the midwife for the neighborhood; to escape from your flooded home in a rowboat across a half mile of streaming river that had been pasture, to the safety of high land with your husband, two kids and only a box of chocolates; to be a log driver clinging to a high limb while two men drown and another makes a magnificent ride on the crest of the Marble Creek flood; to be driven from home and sweetheart by the Depression and almost freeze in a boxcar while looking for work; to be caught in a tug by a wild storm on Lake Coeur d'Alene; to ride a runaway sleigh load of logs. These are the lives of homesteaders, woman flunkeys, lumberjacks and firefighters in the swiftwater country of the St. Joe and St. Maries rivers.
Together, Bert and Marie Russell collected interviews, information and photos from old-timers over many years. Swiftwater People is one of six books produced by the couple. Calked Boots, Hardships and Happy Times, North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River, The Sawdust Dream and Rock Burst all reflect the lives of working men and women in the Coeur d'Alene region.
Bert was born in Harrison, Idaho and worked as a logger, river driver, shipyard electrician, timber cruiser, rancher and writer. Bert passed away in 1997. Marie continued to keep the stories told by these pioneers alive by making the books available to the public. Marie donated the books she had on hand to the Museum of North Idaho. Marie died Dec. 2014.
The Museum of North Idaho reprinted Swiftwater People in 2001.