............THE FOREST






There are people and there are giant machines in the forest around us, and with apologies to the Great Yellow Traktor Co. et al, I find the people much more interesting.

“Let us now praise
the Flunky”

....As long as I can remember back – and that’s a bit of time – I remember cookhouses. There is something very unique about a cookhouse; it is neither restaurant nor home kitchen, but a blend of the two.
....In our coastal logging camps (modern chaps now call them communities) the cookhouse is and always has been a focal point of camp life for the bunk-house crew. It can be many things to many loggers. I’ve known lads who lap up any concoction at a greasy spoon while on a toot in the Big City and never complain, But are most perturbed and instantly vocal about the lack of black currant jam on the table of the cook-house. Really!
....Other loggers I have known treat the cookhouse like a wife, for it is a sanc-tuary, a hominess that they are absent from in the lonely inlets. There are a thousand and one stories to tell of the gallant and courageous crews that call themselves Cookhouse Staff. I have written of a few of the old cooks of yore (“You got on, Sam!”, Sept. ’73) and now I feel it is time the unsung hero or heroine of the cookhouse be brought to the attention of the world. Let Us Now Praise The Flunky!
....The word “flunky” has been kicking about the English language for a few hundred years. The Bard wrote:
....“But like a sad flunky stay and think
of nought.
....Save, where you are – how happy you make them.”
....A nice thought, but not quite com-patible with some of its synonyms such as “drudge,” or “bheestie.” Webster defines the word as a servile person – a cringing flatterer!
....Now hold on there Mr. Webster, I would not want to use such words to a few of the lads like Carmichael or the Duke or for that matter Red Baily, a great hockey player with the Rangers in


his day. These chaps, and others, followed the trade of kitchen work in logging camps because they liked it and didn’t see any sense in stumbling about in the felled and bucked timber with the other loggers. They were pros at their trade and if such words were ever con-templated by a dining room logger, he would find himself the recipient of a bowl of hot oatmeal in the lap some morning.
....But it is true, kitchen work was considered by many loggers as very lowly work. Logging was a “man’s” work, and cookery was considered a female’s work by the macho loggers of yesterday. It mattered not that a cook and his staff of flunkies and bakers and dish-washers etc. put in much longer hours for generally less pay that the logger. Man’s inhumanity to his fellow chap!
....When I was a lad on the old float camp my father felt I could better while away the time serving tables and wash-ing dishes in our old cookhouse. I much preferred the pulps of Doc Savage or Bluebook, but the soapy sink prevailed and I spent a young, miserable summer under the thumb of one Cook Carl, who screamed at me every time I broke a dish.
....This was in the days when loggers wore their bone dry pants and caulk boots into the cookhouse, and as a result, sweeping the plank floor of slivers was a tedious job. I remember the old cookhouse of the Powell River Co. at Port Hardy, and the channeled depression in the wood floor, made by caulks as men entered the front door and walked to their bench.
....Long tables with benches down each side was the mode of dining in most of the old cookhouses. A set up of condiments and soup bowls etc. would be centred for every eight or ten men. And of course the unwritten rule


was – Shut up and eat!
Which reminds me of Steve the faller. He had a habit of saying, out loud, his dislike of the “soup of the day.” Now if there is anyone in this world with better rabbit ears than flunkies or cooks, medical science has not yet unearthed them.
....On this particular evening, at sup-per, Steve (he was tall and skinny and had the look of an assassin) with his back to the kitchen, was holding forth on various foreign matter in his “soup de jour” and the fact that it was too hot.
....The flunky was called “the Dane,” I suppose for no other reason than he was Danish or looked Danish. How-ever, the Dane heard Steve the faller berating the food once too often, and with the complaint of the soup being too hot, decided to cool the logger down. This he did most simply, by filling a large pan with cold water and calmly walking up behind Steve and ceremoniously dumping the contents over the head of the logger. A com-ment that sounded something like, “Dat vill cool you doon” followed. It did.
....In 1947 we experienced a trouble-some time at our float camp cook-house, with a series of rather poor male chefs who, in order, could not cook hard boiled eggs, were cranky and hated loggers, or drank to excess. With this bit of worry in mind I hired a large lady cook, whose name fortunately escapes me, but who smiled a lot. She brought with her to that completely male camp, her own flunky. The latter was a youngish female of not unpleasant figurations, whose name I also forget. Must see someone about the memory cells!
....As these were busy days, and with the thought that our lads would now get a good homestyle, mother-cooked

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cooked meal, I went about the business of logging and on occasion looked in on the large smiling lady and her liege.
....The food looked edible and the young lady served her tables and washed her dishes in what seemed a most proper manner. All seemed well and in fact all was well, with even the fallers having a smile or two. I felt quite pleased with myself for hiring such a splendid pair.
....Unfortunately it transpired that I happened to take an unexpected late walk down the floatcamp to the black-smith shop one night and passed the cook’s quarters near the cookhouse. There old Martin, the boom man, was chatting with the large lady cook, while three other loggers were shuffling their feet outside the cook’s little house. Just then the door to the house opened and a young logger stepped out to greet his chums with a quite unprintable remark for a nice family magazine like this.
....Needless to say, there as bold as brass stood our young culinary maiden, hands on hips, and kimono akimbo, stating for all the world to hear – “Next!” As the great Durante could have said: “It was exzasspertatin’!”


....Being a young chap, and knowing that mother-cookin’ meals and Sin don’t mix, I had no alternative but to release the ladies from their cookhouse duties. The blacksmith acted as flunky and I as cook for the next two days until the employment agency sent us two stalwart chaps to take over the cookhouse. Old Martin was sad at heart, for he had developed a great care for the large lady.
....I saw him pull his old felt hat down over his eyes and give a sort of unseen wave of his hand to the ladies as I took them, by gas boat, out past the booming grounds and down the inlet to a waiting mail boat. Ah memories, ah youth!
....I used to admire some of the smooth flunkies who could balance a whole stack of serving platters down their arm. Like an expert juggler they would load up their arm to near the shoulder, and saunter out among the tables with the ease of a gazelle. Such flunkies were professionals and took great pride in their appearance and their work.
....I remember also one not so efficient flunky, who, on being discharged for unworthiness, placed Rinso in the cook’s cooking salt. The fried eggs did not wash down well the next morning.

....Nowadays cookhouses are quite modern and food is served cafeteria style. There was a time however that a great many cookhouses served “family style” to the crew. This meant that the flunky carried all the food dishes into the dining room and placed them, steaming hot, in front of the hungry loggers.
....Now a great deal of the work in cookhouses (those few that are left) is done by ladies and men. The dining rooms are bright and comfortable with taped music emanating from the walls to soothe the tired logger while he eats his filet or deep fried prawns. And still there are Cooks and there arte Bakers, and of course there are Flunkies.
....Let the latter n’er forget their fine heritage and if a logger speaks up too noisily about the soup being too hot, remember the famous words of “the Dane:” “Dat vill cool you doon!”

.............................Praise Flunkies and .........................Keep out of the bight,

Bill Moore
British Columbia Lumberman, September, 1980
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