The Forest Around Us



Bill Moore

The Loggers’ hiring slip
....It takes a whole heap of people to look after these forests around us. In the past eighty or ninety years—a sliver in the tree of time—they have come to British Columbia from all corners of the earth. There is a sort of adventurous quality to this migration to the land of the big trees of our coast and I have tried to express a part of that feeling in “The Loggers’ Hiring Slip.” It was written for the Annual Timber Club Dinner held at the Vancouver Hilton Hotel this year , and it goes like this.
What was it like, kid?
I’ll tell you what it was like.
And - it wasn’t all good
And - it wasn’t all bad.
It was men and trees – and sidehills,
....and snow, and rain, and mud, - and ....heat – and salal brush up to your ....eyeballs.
It was a time before slick talking men,
....who sit in a tube, telling you about
....the smell of your mouth or your
And it was a time when men were ....what they originally set out to be —

Do I remember the old days, kid?
You bet your sweet life I do.
Cause I go back, boy — a long way back.
Back from where we come from in
....these trees around us.
I hopped a freight in Timmins and saw
....Canada first class — between the
....Slits of a boxcar door — right from
....Ontario to Carrol street.
And there was lots like me, kid,
We’d heard about the big trees
And the loggers that was needed out
To get them blue butts to the blue
I remember them trains, boy, and I
A flat fence post prairie that
Seemed a million miles across.

With a clickity-clack ribbon of steel That said – go back – go back – go back

But we hit this big town called
And I walked the streets – like in a
Things were different then, kid –
Street cars, the Globe theater, big
....Swede immigrants, and a West
....Vancouver ferry boat that rocked
....and bounced its way through a no-
....bridged narrows to a tree lined
....shore over there.
Sawmills everywhere, ripping up the
....big trees into sweet smelling lumber
Not much diesel or gas then, kid.
Steam was king and the white exhaust
....hissed at you like a cat on the fence.

This guy told me to go down to the
....loggers’ employment agency, Black
....was running it, and he scared the
....Jesus out of punks like me from the ....east.
But he pulled out a hiring slip and he
....said — “Ontario, we’ll ship you out
....tomorrow night for Kelleys’ in the
Sign this here hiring slip, and we’ll see
....If Paniky Bell can make a logger out
....of that skinny frame of yours.”

I clutched that hiring slip, kid, and I
....never slept a wink till I got on the
....Old Venture the next night.
God, what a night that was.

Down there at the union steamship
....dock there was steam winches
....loading, deckhands yelling, loggers
....staggering out of taxi cabs, howling saying goodbye to their
....fathers — and beer parlor queens
....with tears in their eyes telling their
....broken down winter time daddies
....that they’d be waiting for them in
....the fall.
That was a time, boy, when the ....loggers’ steamer — a chunk of iron ....they called, the Venture, left for the ....up coast camps.
Loaded with hind quarters of beef,
....Stanfields red label underwear,
....steam donkey boiler tubes and
....Copenhagen snuff.

I got on that old oil burning steamer ....— scared, bony and in a dream.
We took five days that March to get the Charlottes
And I bellied up everything I had ever
....eaten since I was born.
And I swore if I ever got to Cum ....shewaw, I’d never come back
....through those seas again.

British Columbia Lumberman, May, 1973

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We got there — to that fog whisped inlet ....and I sees Paniky giving the new crew ....the green-eyed once over as we
....staggered down the gangplank.
He says, with his old felt hat pulled
....down over his bald spot, “you — and — and you, back up the
....gangplank. and the next time you
....sign one of those God damned hiring
....slips and ship out as a logger throw
....away your rat-tailed comb and get
....rid of that pompadour hair. “
Well I got by old Paniky and you know,
....boy, he made a logger out of me.
I pulled jerk wire whistles on an old 11 x
....13 Willamette steam donkey,
For a hooktender that screamed for my

I worked the booms on the big Davis
....rafts and pulled line till my fingers
....cracked and bled and stung with the
....salt chuck.
I felled spruce trees that looked the size
....of the tower of Babel.
And I topped spars that reached up into
....the heavens and swayed like a leaf in
....the wind when the top came off.
I worked with Roughhouse Pete, High-
....Ball Slim, Bullshit Bill and Moses
....Dean and every other mean, ornery
....son of a bitch of a real man that ever
....called himself a logger.
And the bosses — I hired out to them
....all — old man Allison, Morgan,
....Kelly — P.B. and his boys — Matt
....Hemmingson and the grand daddy
....of them all — H. R.
It wasn’t all good, kid,
and it wasn’t all bad.
And a man was judged by the hunger he
....had for logs.
And we had a hunger, boy, and we got
I wouldn’t have traded one minute of
....that life — the smell of new felled
....Balsam or Spruce in an early misty
or the clang of that old cookhouse bell,
or the feeling of putting a choker round
....a big Spruce blue butt,
or listening to the bunkhouse diplomats they sat on their bunks at night
....sizing up the situation.
The memories of those damn tough,
from bullcooks to presidents,
they are part of your heritage, kid,
and their muscle and savvy gave you
....what you got today.
And it may not be all good, boy —
Bu t it sure as hell ain’t all bad.

....Keep out of the bight,

British Columbia Lumberman, May, 1973