The Forest Around Us



Bill Moore

Hiding behind stumps

....I’ve had the pleasure of writing this column for five or six years now. From time to time I will sit and wonder — with sharp pencil in hand—just what the heck I’ll put on paper this month. I do not consider myself to be a Hemlock Hemmingway but I guess anyone who meets deadlines gets the same sort of feeling.
....Maybe I’m luckier than most—for the topic I have to write on is so big, and has so many facets that it’s just a matter of looking about a bit and finding another place in the forest that may be of some interest to some reader. Really, I find the forest around us a fascinating subject. The Yonge Streets of Toronto or the mad traffic dodgers of Montreal or the centipedes of cars over a Lion’s Gate Bridge speak only of a beehive living where people buzz about seemingly going nowhere.
....To me there is something special about the individuals of the forest—past and present—about the old machines, and yes, the mighty Yellow Traktors of today and about the ability of a logger to cope with nature and our inability to make full use of what nature gives us. Of places in Canada where forests thrive—and of the men and women who tend those forests. Of the products that we can produce—and of the abundance we truly have here in this breadbasket forest in British Columbia. There’re a lot of stories of this forest and its people yet to be told.
....Which brings me to a point. Why don’t more individuals who make their bread and butter in this industry give a little thanks to this industry and tell their story. Oh sure, good little old P.R. men write up stories about how tough it is to be president of the Big Company. We get stories on some labour or man-


agement high sounding words of “The Other Side Is Wrong.” Then too there are the stories of “Forest Companies Tell Government Off” or “Government Tells Forest Companies Off” or “For-est Companies and Government Tell Nothing.”
....Now these are all great headlines that sell papers. But what I would like to see far more of are the stories of the people who run, direct, have some-thing to do with, care about and live in or near or by the trees. We are a separated people—like so many other big industries—because we simply don’t know about each other. The inter-relationship of logger to ply-wood worker to labour leader to boss to consumer is not too well known be-cause the people who are doing these jobs won’t or don’t take the time out to explain their existence. And it is their individual existence that is inter-esting and important to the rest of us.
....How much do you, dear reader, know about the men who direct this big industry? Damn little except when they announce company year end statements. How much do you know about your local forest ranger or your district forester? I’m sure you know much more about how much it cost to fight fires last year than you know about the men who spend their lives trying to stop those fires before they happen. And do you know much about union officials except when they are barking about some management official who barked at them over statements that were made in the heat of negotiations.
....It’s apparent our daily newspapers aren’t too interested in such individuals — only the results of confrontations these individuals are involved in. And don’t you get tired of hearing of what some “spokesman” has said? The fear

of being quoted or misquoted or not quoted at all seems to be an occu-pational disease with too many in responsible positions today. It’s as if the stump isn’t big enough for them all to hide behind.
....To be more specific—and you can quote me—the pressure that has been brought to bear on safety directors in our industry, from time to time, on what would be called “tender sub-jects” has at times left me wondering if we’re led by a bunch of ostriches.
....Tender subjects could mean so-called accident prone people. Or how much money we’re ready to spend on some new and different type of safety educational program this year. Or just how much support the sincere safety inspector gets when he comes up against a hard nosed manager. It’s never happened! You bet your damned life it’s happened and you’ll see guys peeking out from behind stumps all over the woods on such subjects.
....Management and Labour leaders don’t get together enough when their lawyers or advisors are not around. Well I seem to recall a couple of them taking a little tour of China together recently and I’ll bet they didn’t spend all their time looking for Ming vases. But that case was the rarity. Actually they are afraid to be seen together alone for fear of some media man saying they’re going steady. Maybe it would be better for all of us if they did. And what’s a little hand holding between the big chaps anyway?
....One quite often gets the idea these days that big companies and big unions grow more to look and speak like one another as the years go by. And we the lonely citizens of the forests sit around on our thumbs and wait for their decisions and great
British Columbia Lumberman, September, 1975

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words of wisdom. I say let’s know more about these people as individuals — their philosophies, background, and whether they liked the movie “Jaws” or not. The stumps get pretty big at times and can hide a lot of people when they don’t want to be seen.
....Here’s a subject they’ll run for stumps over. The real need to throw out safety committees as such, and to form “all encompassing committees” in camps, mills and factories. Sounds far too socialistic to me says Big Com-pany, sounds like we might lose some of our authority says Big Union. But the facts are that under our present system the old fashioned safety com-mittee is really becoming obsolete. We have committees of work people, management people and their families and suppliers in our industry today. The risk of bodily injury is still great in many parts of the forest today, but the newer risks of psych-ological injury, family problems, mono-tony of job, high cost of living and the whole scan of work related problems cries out for some type of fair forum where rep-resentatives — on the job — can sit down regularly and define the problem and solve it in the place of work. Logging camps are a good example of the need for such small all-encom-passing councils, as are used in Scan-dinavia. But bring up the subject over here and they’ll cast you off to the looney bin and then go hide behind a stump.
....I read somewhere recently that a committee is looking into the problems of how to keep our loggers on the job and to give them a better feeling of status. One of the findings of this group was the belief that logging camps should provide proper basic needs for loggers. In this way they would feel better about their status. Now for goodness sake, Barney, even you and I know that “proper basic needs” is a requirement for all people, not just this strange breed called loggers. Sure, put in a better camp and some nut will say that you’re “spoiling the boys.” That statement is always said by a spokesman from behind a stump—a big one! Damn right lots can be done to improve the status of loggers—and other people too. But where were you when we needed help to show off the skills of a logger at loggers sports? Of course it’s only a game, but it pleases thousands and thousands of Grannies and Uncles and Sisters and just plain folk all across Canada who never get to see the skills of their logger men. That’s status.
....And what about some money spent on telling of the life and work in camps today written by someone who will be listened to. Or is that 50 to 60 percent

of every dollar I’ve been hearing about for years just a myth?
....Let’s talk about ourselves—not just in forestry journals like this one—but bust into the daily papers and the national magazines. Let’s shove a little of that Toronto news monopoly out of the way for a bit and talk about the people of the forest.
....Energy and money can do a lot of things. This industry has a lot of energetic people. And, in spite of strikes, shutdowns, poor markets and other horrendous horrors, this industry has still got a buck or two in the piggy


bank. Let’s use those two commodities and drag some of the stump hiders out from behind their spokesmen and tell our story—about the people, not the markets. About the people—not the confrontations. About the people—not the doom and gloom. About the people—not the spokesmen from the stumps.

Keep out of the bight,


British Columbia Lumberman, September, 1975