Where have
all the old boys gone?

by: Bill Moore
....I wonder what ever happened to good old so-and-so? I suppose we all at some time wake up to the fact that time has passed by and things around us have changed. Is it possible that events change quicker today, or is the blur of the fast track dulling time?
....As a reader might know, I like to remind people of the yesterdays in this fascinating forest around us. We in the industry so often forget that to the out-sider, many of the events and people involved in our history are unique and Paul Bunyonish. It’s an industry with a mystique that no other large modern industry has ever had.
....The average city dweller is familiar with, say a fishing industry: “Why, sure, Louis, you go out on the ocean in a boat and you catch a bunch of fish. That’s the fishing industry.”
....Or the mining industry: “Like, ah, you dig a hole in the ground and you get this ore and you bust it up in a grinder, and like, there you have a mining industry!”
....But, friends, Sam City reads about giant machines that lift a tree off its stump and limb it and lay it on a truck without a human hand ever touching the tree. That’s mystique. Or they see on the video thousands of acres of forest burning up in forest fires and yet there are still lots of trees. That’s mystique. Or they hear stories about loggers who climbed the wooden spars and danced on top. That is mystique!
....Yes. Indeed, we are gazed upon as something apart from the everyday walks of peoples – and apart from your ordinary garden variety industry. So what’s wrong with that? Not a darn thing. I only say remember it and don’t presume that today’s city folk under-
stand us. Let them know we are different. Anyway, it’s good for your stories and your ego!
....The pathway of time has seen the disappearance of many occupations in our industry, particularly in the logging sector. In thinking back on some of them I find myself identifying faces to well forgotten jobs and I thought it might be fun to remind ourselves of some of the ways we were.
....Jerk Wire Whistle Punk – now there was a beauty. In September of ’74 in the BCL, I wrote of this uniquely named chap whose job it was to relay logging signals from the lads hooking on to the logs out in the felled and bucked to the steam donkey engineer in at the tall wooden spar tree.
....The “punk” as he was known around camp really came in two varieties. There was the bug-eyed young fellow who was starting out in the woods, and who lived in fear of his hooktender’s hollering. The other was really not called “punk,” but rather “signalman,” for he was a professional person who followed the trade and did not fear any hierarchy on the claim.
....A length of galvanized clothes-line wire was stretched from the steam whistle atop the steam donkey engine, and by ingenious means out to near the scene of the logging. Here, within yelling distance, the “punk” listened for commands from his crew to “go ahead,” “slack lines” or “stop” the chokers that were attached to the mainline and haul-back cables.
....A cold, miserable job of standing still and listening for the holler in summer while flies buzzed about you. Auto-mation was a blessing for this job.
...Then there was the “Drag Saw Man."
Some worked on the water at booming grounds. Others worked on land, bucking trees into specified lengths -the forerunner of the chain saw.
....The land job was not too compli-cated. A little single piston engine known as the “Wee McGregor” was mounted on a small wooden frame that could be moved or pulled about by one man. It was set yup to a log, often in the steam donkey’s wood yard, and the little engine would push and pull a heavy saw blade through the tree, cutting it into the lengths desired.
....It was the pond machines I remem-ber with mixed emotions. These little rascals were set up on a small log float with a small roof overhead. The frame was in a fixed position and a set of wooden pulleys and small rope held the saw up. The drag saw man held on to this rope and guided the saw with his foot across one or two floating logs, held firmly in front by a big ratchet hook.
....It was as job of splash and gas fumes and noise and a thrashing big blade. You kept your eye on the situation and you waited for quitting time. In those days many trees were brought to the water in their full length which necessitated them being bucked into log lengths. It was a busy job when the logs were pouring in to the booming grounds and the time went pretty fast. The drag saw man wore heavy black rubber rain gear over his work clothes to keep him somewhat dry. A wet job and a steady job. Another victory for automation.
....Blacksmiths – oh yes, Gerry, there is the odd one still about of these wonderful tradesmen. But, not too many. Strong men who knew how to mould a bar of iron into a useful tool
24  ·  BRITISH COLUMBIA LUMBERMAN           MARCH       1984

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tool for the logger. A trade that came over from Europe and its ‘apprenticeship’ system. A name we still use but in a much abbreviated manner. We could use some of the old fashioned standards today.
....High Rigger – I quite often am amazed as to how this man is thought of by today’s people. But then OI remind myself of the mystique of the job and I explain to my friends what he really did. And he did a lot. The real king of the woods and well deserved.
....When an area was selected for high-lead logging, a tall sound fir or spruce tree was selected in the center of the area to be the spar. This meant the tree had to be limbed and the top cut off. Spars generally averaged 125 feet to 150 feet.
....The high rigger in his belt, rope and spurs climbed the tree with two cutting instruments – a two bladed axe and a short bucking saw. Limbs of spruce trees could be a foot in diameter and as hard as steel. The firs were not much different. It was a torturous job and called for a chap to be in top shape. I have seen a high-rigger spend all day in a spruce limbing, and come back the next day and continue to saw limbs and take off the top.
....When the tree is stripped of its limbs and its top, it is then ready for the high-rigger to place guy line cables on the top so the tree can be steady when the donkey engine uses it as a high-lead system to pull in the surrounding felled and bucked timber.
....And still I have people ask me if the fallers top all the trees before they fall them! See what I mean about mystique?
....There were woodsplitters and woodbuckers and firemen who tended to the heating needs of the big steam donkeys. There were raft builders and stowers who have disappeared from the booming grounds. And there were the skilled donkey-sled builders with their great long hand-augers.
....These were just a small part of the way we once were – but their skills should not be forgotten. They contributed too much to our progress to be allowed to be forgotten.
....Here’s to the old boys. Where have they gone? To our memory banks – I hope.

Keep out of the bight,

Bill Moore