birl v [Brit (chiefly Scots, nIr) dial birl whirl around, cause to whirl around] chiefly Gt Lakes, esp MI
1 Of a floating log: to spin.
1911 Boston Post (MA) 11 May 16/7 NH, They found the bodies of the deer crushed shapeless in the tangle of logs, and that is the fate the rivermen face a hundred times a day while driving the birling sticks. 1920 Perry Heart of Hemlock 101 nWI, In a trice he was left on one lone log, traveling round the rim of the eddy. . . His log birled dangerously under his feet. 1943 WI Rapids Daily Tribune (WI) 12 Aug 5/4 nMI (as of c1898), The river was full of logs, a great boom held them there for the mills at Rapid River and Masonville. While Joe and I were running over great white pine logs, . . a man shouted “Do you kids want to go on a fishing trip?” Not one log birled as we hurried across them so fast that we hardly seemed to touch them.
2 To spin (a floating log) with one’s feet; to maintain one’s footing on a spinning log; spec, to engage in a logrolling competition; hence agent nouns (log) birler; vbl nouns (log) birling. Cf logrolling vbl n 3
1888 (1889) Fitzmaurice Shanty Boy 48 MI, To “birl” a log is a favorite amusement of the “river driver.” Two of them will stand on a log, out in deep water, and by treading it violently with their spiked boots, set it rolling with the greatest rapidity. Ibid 101, Did yer ever come down on the drive? . . Can you birl a saw log down the ragin’ Saginaw? 1904 Bessemer Herald (MI) [10 Sept 3]/2 (newspaperarchive.com), While birling logs in the Thayer Lumber Co.’s boom at Muskegon, Joseph Plant, the 6-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Plant, lost his balance, falling between two logs, which closed over the spot. 1904 White Blazed Trail Stories 4 MI, “Birling match,” he explained briefly. Ibid 7, They commenced to birl the log from left to right. Ibid 10, Darrell still trod the quarter-deck as champion birler for the year. 1906 Metropolitan 24.331 nMI, He had hardly passed the rock when his log struck bottom, swung around sidewise, and began to roll. And as the log began to roll, Tommy began to birl, and he birled for his very life. 1911 Sun. News Tribune (Duluth MN) 28 May Sporting sec 1/2, This summer promises to see a revival among the boat club boys of the old fashioned sport of log-rolling or “birling.” 1928 Traverse City Rec.–Eagle (MI) 16 Aug 9/3, Washburn, Wis. . . Log birlers—those big-muscled, two-fisted sons of lumber camps and virgin timber regions—gathered here today for their annual world championship “roleo.” 1938 Escanaba Daily Press (MI) 16 Aug 7/1, Marietta Phipps and Arbutus Wilson of Ladysmith, Wis., losers in the semi-finals Saturday, birled to decide third and fourth honors. 1969 Sorden Lumberjack Lingo 9, Birl—To rotate a floating log by treading upon it to find the water mark. Birling—The logger’s game of rolling often played on log drives. Two players wearing calked shoes spun a log to see how long their opponent could stay on without being thrown into the water. 1973 Escanaba Daily Press (MI) 6 Aug 10/1, Two log birling events in the last month have brought back memories of the sport’s heyday in Gladstone to many area residents and fulfilled the hopes of some young Escanaba birlers. 2014 Progress (Clearfield PA) 27 Aug 16/3, 5:30 p.m., Log Birling Demonstration, lake shore, below the Woodhick Games Field.