Seeking the Essence of Gumption and Fortitude

Brave Swedish Log-drivers on the Angernanlaven River in Sollefteå (timmerflotarre)


For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with stories of how vulnerable persons manage to rally the guts and gumption and grit needed in order to rise after suffering assaults that knock them down in their river of life.


Swedes in Sollefteå, Northern Sweden immortalize extraordinary brave men throughout history who accepted the challenge to break up tangled logs and move them downstream to be processed by the waiting lumber mills. Equipped only with poles they perilously balanced on floating logs in often turbulent rolling current as they stubbornly pursued accomplishing their very dangerous mission. The risk was great as a misstep meant instant hypothermia and likely drowning. Rescue was not a practical option. It appears that determined and persistent fortitude and character served to drive them toward earning a living and providing for families who depended on them as breadwinners.

This Swedish timmerflotarre example of gritty guts and gumption in action serves as metaphor for illustrating how human fortitude and mental tough mindedness might serve to explain extraordinary resilience under pressure.


The metaphor helps illustrate what I consider to be a common force behind the spirited resilience patterns demonstrated by my Swedish Grandma Maja and the gutsy log drivers. In her youth Maja often recalled witnessing the log drivers while standing with others on the banks of the Angermanalven River. Each Spring, the townspeople gathered to observe the dance-like work of these rough tough men who put on quite an entertaining show. Their skill and tenacity were much admired. The danger was exciting.

Did Maja internalize and somehow incorporate the iconic impressions she witnessed and chose to tuck them away when needed at tough times requiring a “second wind” boost of spirit, attitude, or energy?

Looking to the larger sphere of our lives, we recognize that each person encounters a unique share of adversity challenges. These challenges test one’s ability to be creative and resourceful as they go about solving the problems they must face.


Over time, one might expect that personal resilience skill grows with experience. Perhaps, each person might gain increased confidence with practice. Grandma Maja suggested that backbone and character connected with dealing with adversity might have been positively impacted by intentionally learning from her relatives how her stories of how her ancestor’s stories teach lessons about how they approached difficulty. Maja suggested that experiences like ski and swim lessons might very well have added to her resilience toolbox. Character building experiences like nurse’s training Maja suggested offered her many opportunities to strengthen her resilience spirit.


In Solleftea, a deep respect and admiration of the timmerflotarre by the people led to commissioning an artist in 1937 to capture and portray brave timmerflotarre in action. Today, a stately bronze statue impressively stands on a stone platform amidst the sometimes raging river current. Lumbering on the river no longer occurs as logs travel today by way of trucks and rail. The local Swedes seem to have made a commitment to immortalize the spirit that drove these local heroes. Note: I stood in awe of this large very striking structure when I visited Solleftea in 2004.

My Grandma Maja referred to the kind of brave spirit of the timmerflotarre as: ” fromatånda: gott gry guts and gumption”. Over her lifetime, Grandma Maja impressed me that she chose to internalize and adopt the courageous spirit lifestyle. Maja described the spirit as adaptable like the inner power of an adjustable heartbeat and breath that steps up on demand. Maja admired the timmerflotarre’s brave tough minded spirit backbone and character,

Grandma’s fascinating life story via storytelling and research have taught life lessons about how resilience is built and called into action. I continue to draw parallels of the timmerflotarre and Grandma Maja’s gritty framåtanda spirit. I am still struggling to completely explain the essence of grit and gumption and the mechanism behind how resilience is built and applied in times requiring resilience. I have become convinced that somehow the two stories that were called into action might be linked to common principles.

Immortalized Timmerflotarre Monument Angermanlaven River, Sollefteå Sweden

It appears to be a remarkable coincidence that Maja’s 100% Swedish husband she found in America came from a lumber town in Northern Michigan’s Clam Lake region. Carl Oscar Wittenstrom left his lumberjack roots in about 1918 in order to pursue a career as an auto repair mechanic in Chicago. They met in church.

Carl Oscar Wittenstrom the husband of Maja (The grandfather I never met) was born in Clam Lake-Cadillac Northern Michigan

Scandinavian culture and philosophies that are chosen to offer potential advantages in managing one’s lifestyle have recently come under an explosion of global interest.


My very knowledgeable and wise Swedish history and culture mentor, Professor Lars Lundström has helped me analyze, compare and contrast some popularized lifestyle phenomena. Lars explains: “Hygge in Danish means having fun.

Hygge in Norwegian means coziness. Swedish lagom means not too much and not too little of everything. I think they have nothing to do with each other

Swedish Gott gry och framåtanda has to do with “rådighet” and “fyndighet” Rådighet means always finding advice (resourcefulness = perplexive = gumption)
Fyndighet means always finding out how to solve problems. Gott gry, framåtanda, rådighet and fyndighet are interwoven together.

Lars has suggested that he believes that Grandma Maja and her adoption of a framatanda based lifestyle influenced physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual traits required to fuel grit and gumption resilience. Lars reminds that Maja was tasught by her parents as they opened and operated a successful business the meaning of: “necessity is the mother of invention.” Necessity at many critical times seemed to activate the need for Maja to call upon the use of her framatanda toolbox. Maja was an entrepreneur in engineering ways to deal with the economic demands of being a breadwinner during the Great Depression. Alone as an immigrant widow in the hostile environment of America’s Great Depression’s economic woes forced the unleashing of framatanda as a means of survival for Maja and her family.

Maja’s habit of the heart resilience was not self serving. Maja’s Swedish American Dream with her husband, Carl Oscar was to raise their three children to be strong and independent. After the death of Carl Oscar, Maja became even more driven to dig deep within herself to activate her framatanda, guts and gumption and resilience powers and together reach her goals. Her goal of refusing to give in or give up to the strain, pressures of what we came to call the “logjams in her river of life” became her ongoing focus. Maja’s story illustrates that it took all of her well built storehouse of framatanda and much more to survive breakdowns that were found to be more than she could handle alone.

It is only though the research in writing a book about Grandma Maja’s grit and resilience that three family secrets which she chose not to share with me have come to light. In the end it is truly framatanda that carried the day so that in 1948 I would meet her and begin attending the Grandma Maja School of Hard Knocks.

Her life lessons have been wonderfully taken to heart and have very much changed my life for the better.

When I visited Sollefteå in 2004, (Maja and my Swedish roots hometown) Relatives ceremoniously presented me with this pewter sculpture. The fascination of the work of the log drivers and their gutsy spiritual character continues. Like ghosts they haunt me to remember them and encourage others to know and tell their story.
The boots of a well equipped Timmerflotarre with added spikes helping his grip as he travels balanced dangerously on floating logs from one to the next.

Published by Donnie: An Admiring Grandson

Living an inspired life modeled after my Grandma Maja, who stepped up as a Swedish immigrant widow and mom of 3, facing America’s Great Depression while demonstrating uncommon grit and valor. I am determined to share her life lessons so she is no longer forgotten. I have a book to share and the reader will preview the entire story by visiting here. You are most welcome.

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