The Forest Around Us



Bill Moore

“Oh, to be a small logger!”

....Now there’s an expression for you to ponder over “Small Logger.” Down through the years we’ve heard this symbolism used again and again, and I thought it was about time we looked into these two enigmatic words and see what we find.
....In the first place I’ve known some logging chaps who weighed three hun-dred pounds and could tackle their weight in wildcats. Likewise, I have yet to know a president of one of the big companies that could beat that weight. So, that lets that explanation out. It has nothing to do with weight, height or physical strength. Let’s follow through.
Maybe it means the company fells small logs. Not so, because I’ve seen some old time handloggers take out some pretty big trees—down a sidehill to the saltchuck. And again, I’ve watched a company like M & B handle some very small pieces of wood in their thinning programs. So, it’s got nothing to do with the size of the trees that are handled. Well, that puts two explanations down the pike!
....By gosh, maybe by the term ‘Small Logger,’ it means the outfit is con-sidered small if it’s got a small bank account. But then that doesn’t ring true because I’ve known of some pretty good-sized outfits that “shut her down” on over-nite notice and the crew have darn near had to ride the last boom of logs to town to get their pay checks. Whereas I’ve known some little logging outfits that you might figure were pretty shakey—but they always paid their bills. No, it’s got nothing to do with the bank manager.
....Could this difference of big and small logger have anything to do with the ideas about logging? By that I mean is it the big companies that come up with the big new ways of getting logs out of the woods. No, I’ll stop you right there, because I think if you look back in your logging history you’ll nearly always find that it was the small-

er sized camps that have initiated most of the new trends in logging. Let’s look at the mobile steel tower for high-lead logging out here in the west. When the Madill Steel Tower came into being in the early fifties, it took nearly ten years before the big companies left their wooden spars behind and converted to steel spars. Amongst the early experiments of the early Madill type were the Baikie Bros. of Campbell River—and no M & B were they! The Baikies —Harper, Jack and Wallace — and some other local loggers finally worked out all the bugs of the new iron contraption and really gave this industry a giant step forward in the high-lead system of logging. Thanks to - (How do you say it?) Small Loggers.
....Well, let’s try another tack—how about financing—maybe this ‘Small Logger’ needs small financing to get into the logging business and to stay there. Now, if you had a half a million dollars today you could find some trees to log, you just might become a small logger. And the advice of those in the know would be to be darn careful with that half a million, for it could slip through your hands like a greasy choker, if you didn’t watch your step. Why is logging so expensive? Well, take a look at the price tags on a logging truck, or a log loader or a steel tower. Or figure out your road costs or falling costs. And just make sure—even if it’s a one man show—that you’ve got a good accountant handy—one who knows how to use a sharp pencil. No, it’s no place for ‘small’ talk, this logging business, and the words “Small Logger” have nothing to do with small financing. That half a million could buy a fellow a fine service station, or a real nice meat market or an apartment house. So take a good look, brothers, there is no ‘small way’ in logging.
....I think the term ‘Small Logger’ is also a very poor way of expressing the
function of the business. Again, as old Bill Shakespeare once said, “What’s in a name?” Well, to the uninitiated it could be quite misleading. Over the years I have had opportunities to see and visit many of these coastal small sized camps. There is nothing small about the people who earn their livelihood in some of the lonesome inlets and out-of-the-way places where they carry on the business of bringing logs out of the forest. It takes toughness and native ability to stick in some of these areas, cut off from the amenities of small towns and parts depots. The order of the day in such camps has always been to make do with what you’ve got and to improvise to the fullest. You won’t find personnel officers or an abundance of side foremen in such camps, but instead just enough men to do the job and a very busy and inventive guy running the show.
....While governments may assist a shoe salesman to buy a lot and build a house in the city, there is no way an ordinary logger could get help to put up a shack on the beach or on a small log float in order to keep his family close to him. Do it yourself brother – and pay your taxes and smile.
....Today there are far less small sized camps on our coast. The timber is mostly held by the large integrated companies. When it was divided up in the late forties and early fifties, to these companies—the writing was on the wall for the majority of small sized independent operators. History will tell us in the years to come of the soundness of their disappearance from the scene. It has been said that the large companies can better look after the governing of the large parcels of forest. I won’t argue the point, but prefer to let history tell us. Keep an open mind on this aspect of “big” and “small.”
....“Can the small logger survive?” I
British Columbia Lumberman, April, 1974

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hear this question from year to year, at logging conventions, and through the media. Let’s phrase it a little differently and see what we get. How about “Can the small car dealer survive without the co-operation of Ford and G.M.?” or “Can the small peanut butter manu-facturer survive without the cooper-ation of General Foods?” So, “Can the small logger survive without the co-operation of the big logger?” The answer is always—no. But I would qualify that answer by adding that if there are to be only big companies, then our free enterprise system will never survive a governmental socialistic takeover of such few big ones. It’s only common sense in this day of the emphasis on a more peoples’ oriented government.
....We have come through times in B.C.’s forest industry’s past, when the smaller sized logging businesses have had their difficulties with the bigger companies. The price was kept lower than it really should have been. Poor contracts were signed by loggers who really didn’t have the time to read the small print. And small camps were closed down on too hasty a notice by the big company. All that is in the past. It is to be hoped that the wise heads of the larger firms will encourage the need for the smaller businessman logger, and in fact will insist on a balance of big and small be maintained. And I don’t mean just contractors but also independent operators too. It would seem a healthy way to keep in business.
....The small sized logging camps have contributed a lot of wood to the mills of this coast and across our Canada. It has not always been a rewarding business for some of the owners. Mortgages, debts, hard work, and long hours are not new to the men who have held these businesses together through good times and bad. Fly-by night operators have come and gone from the forestry scene down through the years, but the good ones hang on—generally in hopes that the next logging area will be better. The industry owes much to the toughness and durability of the men who have invested and rein-vested in the small sized logging camps.
....So what is a “Small Logger?” He’s like a lot of other people in this land. An investor in industry. A producer of raw goods. An employer of people. A taxpayer. A doer. And an important segment in the economy of Canada’s number one renewable resource. He’s Big! Keep him – you may need him!

Keep out of the bight,
British Columbia Lumberman, April, 1974