........Comment by Bill Moore
...The forest around us
An all ‘round man
....There are giant yellow iron mach-ines in this forest around us, and there are stories to be told about them. But I find the people much more interesting than the great colored monsters.
....I would like to tell you a story
about a man who spent his working life at the craft of logging. He was
not notorious. His name is not carved in fame. He was just a working
logger, but he was a hun-gry logger. And his hunger was for logs, more
logs, never enough logs. I never knew a day when this man was satisfied
with the amount or scale of logs we produced. He was skinny. Maybe five
foot six. A face well lined and rugged. And he spoke with a soft New
England twang. A “Spar tree” was a “spa tree.”
A quiet man, not given to profane language.
....Harold was 85 when he died peacefully
in his home watching a Boston Red sox game on T.V. at the time. He used
to tell me about watching the great Babe Ruth pitch for Boston –
way back before Ruth became the great slugger for the New York Yankees.
He was bro0ught up not far from Boston and he loved those “Sox.”
Now in her declining years, with a low boiler pressure, she was confined to a large log raft in a lonely inlet.
....Harold kept the old girl going by loving care and a few drops of oil. But each year, when the boiler inspector came to check up on the boiler, he would cut her steam down a few notches. The inevitable day came when the inspector gave his final taps to the boiler, looked at the boiler tubes, and fire grates, and told us – “that’s all” – “she’s condemned.” We pulled her off the log raft and out onto a beach and Harold was the last man to touch her throttle. Good-bye, old girl, just sit there and rest amid the salal and huckleberry bushes.
....It was time for the big change so
Gerrish went with me to the big city to buy a new fangled donkey. This
one had a big diesel engine and just looking at it terrified the two
of us. You see, Gerrish was a steam man – had always been a steam
man – and diesel engines were too noisy, too quick and far too
than to get a load of logs in the chokers and try to bring them in, in fifth gear. Lines would whip, dust would fly, as the logs came whirling down the hill. Unless the load was light logs, Hal would always have to change down to a lower gear, but he loved the speed of that high fifth gear.
....Before the advent of the steel towers, we like all other west coast loggers, used the wooden spar trees in our high-lead system for coldecking logs. Harold always complained that our spars were not tall enough, even though they were the best and tallest available. I remember once we finally found a really tall Sitka Spruce for a spar, measuring 175 feet in length with a 22 inch top. After the tree was rigged and the crew was logging, I went up to the donkey engine and asked Gerrish if the tree satisfied him. He looked down from his machine and with a serious look stated, “There isn’t one tall enough!”
....We had pleasant years together. There
were ups and downs to the logging, but Hal was always optimistic and
always cheerful. He always maintained his old time steam donkey attitudes
– get out there before the crew and have his machine ready to
go at 8 a.m. Keep the machine well greased and clean. And always be
on the ready. And of course, the attitude of “We’re here
to get logs, so let’s get logs!”
British Columbia Lumberman, September, 1977
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day. He’d buy one pork chop or one slice of ham. I’d say, “Hal, why don’t you save the shoe leather and buy a week’s supply at a time?” “No, Bill, that trip each day makes each day worthwhile. I see people and chat a bit and feel like I’m doing something.” How very logical.
....I came to the city on a trip about 1970 and he invited me over to the little apartment to meet “someone.” To my surprise, as I entered his door, a lovely lady named Elsie came toward me with a smile and said, “I’m Harold’s wife.” Hal stood behind her with a big grin on his wrinkled face.
....I had not known much of this man’s early life, but understood there had been a wife – or wives, in way back years. Acknowledging her greeting, I asked when they had last seen each other and where.
....Elsie looked at Hal and told me this rather strange story.
....“Well you see, Hal and I were living near Boston in 1920. I sent him out for a loaf of bread one day and he never came back!” Harold confirmed this, and added that he had simply got aboard a train and didn’t get off ‘til he finally got to Vancouver. He had gone down to Mr. Black’s – the Loggers’ Employment Agency, and hired out as third loader in a logging camp. It was an incredible story of two people who had found each other again after 50 years of being apart and never once corresponding with each other. Neither had remarried in the interim, but they picked up their lives 50 years later and both said, with a smile, “It is just like we had never been apart.”
....So Elsie closed up Hal’s little apartment and they boarded a train for Boston and I suppose Harold finally brought home that loaf of bread.
....I was in the Loggers’ Agency one day in 1971, telling Norm Haris about the Gerrish story, when he said he would go back in the files and see if he could find Hal’s employment card. Sure enough, he brought it down to me and read off the different camps that Gerrish had worked from 1920 on. I noticed a notation by some man-ager of a camp in about 1923 that read, “This is an "all ‘round good man.”
....I thought, what better could be said about anyone? How really worthy to be thought of as “all ‘round.” I sent the card back to Elsie and Harold and they were pleased with having it. She wrote back and, in bold print, stated – “not only is he a good all ‘round man – but he’s a good all ‘round man in all ways!!” Gerrish was then approaching 80.
....His short letters to me – enclosed in Elsie’s longer letters, always asked the
same question, “Are you getting lots of logs?” They traveled about the New England countryside, he put on a bit of weight with her good home cooking, and he grew a moustache. They had some happy years – after the 50 years absence.
....Harold Gerrish contributed his working life to this forest industry. He never asked more than was due him, and he kept his hunger for logs. He
was one of the quiet men that went to work each day
in this forest around us and did his best.
.Keep out of the bight,
Editor’s note: Harold left his wife because he could not find suitable work. In those times a single woman could get help from the government, but not a married one, so Hal left her so she could get by and support their daughter this way. It was a terrible sacrifice, and one which Elsie obviously understood. Hal’s daughter had tracked him down when she grew up, and then waited for the right time to bring them back together.
|British Columbia Lumberman, September, 1977||