........Comment by Bill Moore

...The forest around us

The gyppo

............There’s some Gyppo in us all
............Whether big or whether small
............And I hope it stays that way for time to come.

............If you’re big and you forget
............Where you came from – you can bet
............You’re in trouble up ahead – my mighty chum

....The word “gyppo” has been used in many ways to describe many things about our logging industry. It generally is used to describe a logger who is, among other things, “a loner,” an “innovator who can patch things up and make them “run,” an “owner of a very small camp” or a “maverick.” To operate a camp in a gyppo way could mean to operate on the cheap, to use haywire equipment or to simply operate with a small crew.
....The word is a loose word. One man’s gyppo is another man’s “small logger.” I’ve heard loggers speak of some of the big camps on our coast as “running gyppo.” A man that owns his own logging truck and contracts it out is often called a gyppo.
....No question about it, in its earlier usage it was not used as a praiseworthy word for loggers. It is difficult to say just how the word came about. Some say the word “gyppo” came to us from the battle times of the “Woodworkers of the World – the Wobblies.” Around and after World War I, men who did not join the union but instead took on piece work would often be gypped – thus the word. Another school accredits its usage to early railroad days. It was not a complimentary word at its origin.
....However, words often change their meaning as years go by and it appears that this word took on a broader meaning by the thirties and forties. By then over 2,000 miles of inleted coastline was dotted with small gyppo camps. Synonymous with their lifestyle were the phrases “in the hole,” “going broke,” “haywire,” “hanging on,” “mortgages – and on occasion – “making it.”
....Tough men, who could “make do” or “patch things together” worked these camps. They were not the specialist logger of today but “handymen” who could put their hand to anything to get logs moving to the salt-chuck. Little wonder the city lights could dazzle them after a six month stint of all work, no play.
....Like all loggers their talk was of the life they led – the

near misses with death or accident, the haywire equipment they somehow kept patched and running, the plans they had for the stake they were making – and at all times their very human thoughts on ladies, who they were separated from for long periods of time.
....Down through our logging years the woods have been full of gyppos. They have innovated new methods of logging out of the sheer need to get the job done cheaper and faster. They have logged areas that most large companies would never have looked at due to remoteness or difficult terrain. The hand logger gyppo, the small camp gyppo, and the owner operator contract gyppo have certainly contributed in no small way to the growth of this forest industry.
....Once the industry became mobile with diesel, rubber and portables, there was no stopping the rash of ideas that constantly grew – and still continue to do so. Logging is not a factory style assembly line business. Every location and every tree presents a new and different challenge. Routine thinking is not the loggers’ trademark, but rather innovative thinking is his thing. And the bigger the trees get or the more difficult the terrain, the more innovation is called upon to solve the problem.

....I would not dare enter into a contest of memory to define whether a gyppo or a big company started any individual system of logging or any particular piece of equipment. But show me a small independent group of loggers who can get the lead out – gyppos – and I’ll guarantee those gents have a half a dozen innovations going for them.
....“Haywire” and “gyppo” – two words that are synonymous but not necessarily bad or unsafe. Haywire means something not permanent – a shortcut – quickly put together to get the job done. “It is done in a haywire manner” doesn’t mean it won’t work. It simply means it isn’t permanent. I’ve known some pretty smart loggers who could specialize in “haywire” if a job needed doing right now. And in the woods there are many such times – as per:
....“Hey, Shorty, haywire that Cat together so we can get the hell out of here in a hurry.” Nothing wrong with that phrase or action if time is running out on you and you must move or your life is endangered by wind or tide or slides.

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British Columbia Lumberman, March, 1977

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See the point?
....I like the story of my departed friend, Ole, a big Swede, and one of the best of the gyppos that ever drew breath. Ole had a little 10-man float camp back in the thirties. He had a good timber sale in a lonely out of the way inlet up the coast. He and the crew moved his little gas Fordson donkey engine up into the felled and bucked and rigged up a spar tree to coldeck a pile of logs. The plan then was to tight-line the logs from the pile about 1,000 feet down a hill into the salt-chuck.

....Just after starting the job Ole received a message from Sweden of some troubles in his family. He left a strong young fellow in charge, arranged credit for grub and supplies at the nearest store 10 miles away by gas-boat, and took off for the old country. He was gone five months – the crew never heard from him but they kept on working. No one worried that Ole the gyppo wouldn’t pay his men.

....When he returned, logs were in the water ready for the mill. The crew were glad to see him. And everyone received his money. It seems to me that such a code could not get by today. That code was called trust.
....A good gyppo, in those days, worked like hell – he had to. Generally the price he was getting for logs was low and the outfit got by on his drive and dedication to the job. If he owned the outfit or had a partner, nights after a hard days work were spent in the small blacksmith shop making chokers or fixing something.
....I suppose if you carried the term gyppo to its proper definition all the big outfits today would be classified as “gyppo” at some time in their early start-ups.
....“From whence did thee spring - oh giant forest corporation?” “From a gyppo, man where else?”
....I wonder why the connotation of the term had to mean “haywire?” People had small shoe stores and small corner groceries with not near the investment of the small gyppo. I don’t recall small shoemakers or small storekeepers being called anything but those names. But the small logger - with more investment – was a “gyppo.” Oh well, I wonder how the small shoemakers made out, poor souls!
....I suppose if there was a quality of character that I remember best about the gyppos I have known, it could be summed up in toughness and an ability to have a sense of humor about their life. Pretty good qualifications for living in this old world!
....The Annual Timber Club Dinner, put on by the nice people of the Vancouver Hilton Hotel this February, honored the gyppo logger as their theme. Sort of good to remember the little guy as well as the big ones. Thank you Hilton!
....The following is a bit of a poem that might typify the humor of life as seen through the eyes of a gyppo.

......................SONG OF THE GYPPO
You are looking my friends at a broken down logger,
But I’ve seen much better days.
I’ve made me a bundle of hundred times
And I’ve blown it up hundred ways.
I started out as a jerk-wire punk
Assigned to a high-ball crew.
They screamed and yelled and scattered for life
At the boners I made when I blew.

............Oh, it’s a haywire camp
............And a haywire crew
............And if I stay here
............I’ll be haywire too!

I’ve worked the big camps to make me a stake
I like it best on my own.
It’s a gamble – you make it,
Then they take it –
The government, some doll or an old bank loan.

When cedar was high I struck out alone
And bought me an old steam pot,
But I learned of despair, and got gray in my hair
When they told me – “the market was shot”.

............Oh, it’s a haywire camp
............And a haywire crew
............And if I stay here
............I’ll be haywire too!

I took me a partner – we logged day and night,
Our bank account grew and grew.
Then I learned about life – he ran off with my wife,
The bullcook and half a damn crew.

I’ve hit the big city that has no pity
For a logger with a bundle to spend.
I meet my old pals down at Mamie’s or Sal’s
And wind up no smarter, my friend.

............Oh, it’s a haywire camp
............And a haywire crew
............And if I stay here
............I’ll be haywire too!

But the life of the gyppo is what I love
And I’d have it no other way.
I’ll make it yet – you bet – so rich all be set
With gold memories of my gyppo logging days.

Keep out of the bight,

British Columbia Lumberman, March, 1977  
page 57