feet, and one of the best Davis raft men to ever work on the Pacific
coast. To the best of my knowledge, he is still pushing logs around
the Minstrel Island area, and I’ll bet his booms, like always,
are the best.
....It was the toughest of work, that Davis
raft building. Heavy wire cables were pulled and placed amongst the
bottom sections of logs until they were laced securely to-gether. The
logs were big, the lines were heavy, the weather could be foul and it
was not a place for dewy-eyed boys with anything else on their minds
except damn hard work. I have known of too many boommen with arthritis
and rheumatism caused by the years of being exposed to the wet and cold
conditions of boom work. Nowhere in the forest industry have I known
of men who worked in the steady uncomfortable conditions in their daily
routine as have the boommen, especially of bygone days.
....So here’s to you Moses Dean,
and Johnny Higgins, and all you other beauties who walked the boomsticks
of this coast. You represent a very special type of man, that this industry
can look on with appreciation and thanks. Those big blue butts would
never have moved to the markets without your ingenuity, your stamina
and your plain ornery oblivion to the tough conditions you worked under.
The people of this forest around us have all gained by you being a part
of us – a big part.
out of the bight,
have glorified the high rigger in songs and stories. They have told of
the steel-nerved log truck drivers and cat operators bringing loads down
impossible mountain sides. Even the whistle punk, that mem-orable name
from past logging days has had his moments of glory in print. But to my
knowledge they forgot about a man who has stood as high as any in the
deeds of daring-do and survival in this forest around us.
....I speak of the boomman – the pike-poled,
weather-beaten faced man who built the Davis rafts, stowed the billions
of board feet of logs into log booms, and always stood out on the windy
end of things to play his part in this coastal forest industry.
....The booming grounds today on our B.C.
coast cannot really be compared with the log ponds of a few years back
– powerful little dozer boats, and sidewinders and pushers of all
types have moved in to change the pike pole and peavey era of years ago.
Most log dumps today are the lift-off variety, whereby the entire truck
load is strapped, lifted and set down into the water with a minimum of
jackpots. The log barges, monsters that carry loads of up to five million
board feet of logs have eliminated the Davis raft, Oregon raft, and the
long hazardous tows of log booms in stormy waters.
....So what about those salt water sprayed
boommen that were the shepherds of the booming grounds. What was their
claim to fame? Well, they were a breed of their own. They were most often
not big men – they were generally loners that lived their working
day on the end of a lonely boom, stowing, pushing, or straightening out
the drifting logs into tight tiers of log booms. They used hand winches
to cinch up the tiers, and the work called for a day of muscle and ingenuity.
....I remember Moses Dean, a quiet man who
spent his days on the boom
cussing every log he pushed with his pike pole and just waiting to
snap the head off some helper who came near him.
....Moses was a down easter from the Atlantic
coast. He had worked his way across the continent on river drives until
he hit Vancouver in the early twenties. His town clothes were the same
as his daily work clothes – a pair of bone-dry pants and a bone
dry coat topped by an old felt hat.
....Like most boommen of the era, he never
wore a lifebelt and did not know how to swim. He had little patience
for greenhorns, knew what he had to do, and was behoven of no boss.
He had worked many a camp on the coast and would quit at the drop of
a hat if he felt so inclined. But he could boom logs, this cranky man,
and the outfit that had him knew that their booming grounds were in
the best of hands.
....Boom work in those days required a
steady, hustling type of man who hardly stopped all day even to roll
a cigarette. Many of them chewed tobacco or Copenhagen because of the
difficulty of rolling or lighting a smoke with their continually wet
hands. They fought the winds and tides year round, and I remember many
of them who talked to the logs as if they were humans.
....When the logs came to the water too
fast for them, they would stand out on the windy, lonely booming grounds
and curse the soul of the woods boss for overloading them with logs.
If the logs didn’t come fast enough, they cursed the woods crew
for being lazy.
....Even the pike poles were different
in those days. Not the light 12 or 14 foot type that are now used –
but a heavy wooden pole of ash or maple. And woe betide the new man
who picked up the head boomman’s pike pole. No greater injustice
could be done than to grab someone else’s pike pole!
....Another colourful man of those by-gone
booming days was Johnny Higgins
- a man with one eye who saw more than most men do with two eyes. Johnny
was a slight fellow, quick on his