by Bill Moore
He didn’t need an alarm clock, couldn’t afford one anyway. By habit he woke up at 4:30 every morning and started his long day.
....He lived in a small shiplap bunkhouse16 by 20 feet. Three other men lived there with him and it was known as the quiet bunkhouse because no one got a bunk there unless he looked quiet.
....He was called Bullcook – the camp handyman, the hauler of firewood, the lighter of Coleman gas lamps and the maker of logger’s beds.
....Gust Soderlund was a bullcook in a small up-coast float camp and in the lineage of his craft he was a pretty good one. Gust was of course a Swede – short and stocky with a round cherub face. He was a man who went about his work in a steady, plodding manner.
....The camp held 33 employees. There were no family homes and all the loggers slept in bunkhouses and ate in the company cookhouse.
....In 1936, Gust worked seven days a week and he would stay in camp for six months at a stretch. If he was careful, and he was, he could clear $60.00 a month. His total earnings would be close to $100.00, but his board and a few work clothes took off about $40.00.
....Gust was in bed by about 8:30 every night. He stopped for his meals and took a half-hour lay down after lunch if no one needed him.
....Bullcooks were looked upon by the rest of the crew as sort of something they had to put up with. Let the fire-wood be too wet, or run out and there was hell to pay.
....In fact let anything go wrong with the logger’s daily life in camp and the bullcook soon heard about it. Loggers lived by routine in the bunkhouse and the cookhouse – let that routine get slightly out of tune and the hollering started. Just let the bullcook forget to put the apple and orange wrappers out in the three-holer and watch the sparks fly. A heinous crime!

....The float camps are near gone from the coastal inlets of B.C., but 50 years ago they were the small towns and villages of our thousands of miles of timbered water-ways. They ranged in size from a single log float with a hand-logger’s shack on it to a series of log floats stretching up to half a mile long. They were lashed to each other by cables and every so often a good southeaster would descend down the inlet and snap some floats apart.
....When this happened, water lines were severed and general chaos surrounded the camp. And a good south-easter generally happened at night – just to make things interesting.
....It was December and Gust stretched himself and crawled out of bed quietly so as not to disturb his snoring companions. He lit a coal oil lamp and dressed in his work clothes, then went over to the wood heater and stirred up the coals and threw in some dry wood.
....Once in the dry-house he opened up the big iron door on the 90 gallon drum heater and saw that the fire was out. He had kindling ready and set a new fire and banked it up. This old monster dried the loggers’ work clothes and provided hot water for the part of the shiplap building that was the wash-house and shower area.
....Gust then went to his nearby woodyard and loaded up his homemade wooden wheelbarrow with dry kindling and pushed off to the row of bunkhouses and their heaters. The buildings were not insulated and so when it was cold, and the fire went out, it was cold inside as well as outside.
....By six o’clock the early-birds were shuffling back and forth from the wash house and at six-thirty the flunkey came out of the cookhouse to clang the “first bell” on the big iron triangle. That meant, for those hugging the blankets, to get up and get in the lunchroom to make up their lunch and be ready for breakfast at 7 a.m.
                                                         (Cont’d on pg. A6)
A4                                                                                                                                                            British Columbia Lumberman December, 1985

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Bill Moore . . .
(Cont’d from pg. A4)

....By 7:30 the camp was clear of loggers as they headed out to the woods to fight the mighty cedars and spruce and hemlock. They wouldn’t be back in camp until five and Gust was ready to “do up” the bunkhouses.
....For the next three hours he would buck and split big blocks of the best hemlock logs. It was hard work with a steel wedge, sledge hammer and axe and it required a system. A large sloped, cedar shaked roof area made up the woodyard and it was here that the firewood was piled to hopefully dry out. There were rows and rows of split hemlock piled as high as Gust could reach. The job required saavy – and Gust had it.
....He noticed a light dusting of snow falling. He started loading up his old wheelbarrow with firewood and wheel-ing it to the bunkhouses. Then he would stack up a pile for the evening fire. Then he wheeled a few loads into the cookhouse and neatly piled it under the dish-up table that was a few feet in front of the big range. Dave gave the wood a glance and a glare for Gust.
....“Ya, Cook, dis is dey best vood I got so no use look at ol’ Gust like dat.”
....After all the wood chores he went into each bunkhouse and made up the beds and swept the floor. The floors were of shiplap and the loggers wore their caulk boots inside the bunkhouse as they were getting ready in the morning and when they arrived home at five. The result was a mess of fine wood slivers everywhere. It really defied sweeping, but Gust gave it an honest attempt.


....While he was in each bunkhouse he would fill the Cole-man lamps with naptha gas and would replace any broken mantles. He pumped the bases with his little hand air pump so they would be ready for the loggers when they came in from work.
....After lunch, this day, he did without his rest as he had the gray flannel bed sheets to wash in the wash house tubs. He did a few every four or five days so he had room to dry them.
....His day had sped by like all others and as it approach-ed time for the loggers to come home, he went among the bunkhouses and lit the Coleman lamps. It would be another two years before the first small electric generator would appear in camp.
....At five it was dark and he noticed the snow now covered the board walks in front of the buildings. As the loggers trekked in to camp, weary from the day’s work, one of the old timers smiled at Gust and mumbled – “Merry Christmas, bullcook.”
....Gust thought for a minute and smiled to himself. “Yeesus, what you know – it’s Christmas, by golly!”
....And it was – Christmas Day, 1936. Just another work day.
....But then again, it WAS Christmas.
                                     Merry Christmas inlet loggers and
                                                      Keep out of the bight,

Bill Moore

A6                                                                                                                     British Columbia Lumberman December, 1985