Here is the third in the four-part Alaska vacation series. Thought it was three, didn’t you? Last week was the mechanics, or workings of logging camp. Now, the people.
Holy cow, this is 38 years ago. Forgive me if you were there and find my facts don’t ring true.
It rains most of the time in Southeast Alaska and we learned to work in it (now it feels like I never left). Our tin hats had brims all the way around so the rain didn’t go down our necks. Our jeans had the hems cut off and were “high water” so they didn’t get snagged when we ran to safety as the logs were pulled away. We all wore suspenders on our baggy pants for freedom of movement. These sorts of things evolved over the years. OSHA, you are not needed.
There were seven “sides” at the camp and we had a friendly competition in production. Our side was made up of misfits (as if there was something else in Southeast Alaska), a la the old Oakland Raiders.
The hook tender was a guy named Warren. He was a drunk but managed to show up for work. He flew to town every weekend. I don’t imagine he saved up a dime. He called me “the snail.” I wasn’t really all that slow but I helped new guys be more efficient to learn the finer points, and that took some time. The hook tender sets up the routes for the lines (cables). Warren did that alright, then he’d sit on a stump at the back of the show and smoke cigarettes, yelling at us to hustle. I punched him in the nose and everybody cheered when he fell over backwards off that five-foot stump.
I guess Warren didn’t fit in with the misfits. He was fired the next day. His replacement was Chuck Saxton, who became a good friend. Chuck was from a logging family in Roseburg, Oregon. He knew my roommate, Ron, from down there. Ron had some pretty good cassette tapes. He would go out in the narrow hallway in the middle of the night and spew a mouthful of Everclear, lighting it with his Zippo. It made a huge flame and the smoke alarm would go off, causing some irritation to the neighbors.
As soon as Chuck had the sheaves (don’t call them pulleys!) tied to the stumps for the haulback, he would pitch in until we got to the end of that road. We became a well-oiled machine, each with his specialty; tight logs, tall logs, logs that required complicated sets to get around obstacles. We ran, we jumped. It was like football with purpose. My knees hurt. They called us the screwball crew, as a negative version of the usual highball, which meant fast and productive. Eventually the screwball crew outproduced every crew in camp. We whistled “Whistle While You Work” as we left the mess hall every morning.
Gus worked the landing. He would unfasten the chokers so the dragline could load trucks and trim some pieces that the cutters couldn’t reach out in the woods. He was a great little guy that looked like Will Rogers. He got a letter from a friend in the lower 48 telling him of his wife’s infidelity. It ate at him for a couple days but then he stole the crummy (short bus) and drove to camp. He was off on a plane before we got off work. I had worked the landing with the helicopters so I was nominated to fill in for Gus. Ever since then I sing that old Paul Simon song when I think of poor Gus; “Hop on the bus, Gus.”
There is not enough room for what needs to be said here so the story will continue next week. But since this is the week of Independence Day, there are some points that need to be mentioned because the voices who speak the truth are, so often, marginalized as fringe or nutty.
The Revolutionary War was fought for the colonies to secede from their own overarching government that redistributed wealth from the productive citizens to the aristocracy. This war was not unique. The so-called Civil War (six to eight hundred thousand dead is hardly civil) began as the agrarian South was seeing the Yanks doing the same that King George did to the original colonies. The same is happening in Ukraine today. Hong Kong has a burgeoning “democracy” movement as they find the wealth created by an economy once much freer than ours, is increasingly tapped by the Beijing government to supplement their wasteful central planners.
Remember this Fourth of July that our Revolutionary War was fought against our own government, not a foreign power. Presenting King George’s England as a foreign power has a purpose: To make us think only foreigners can be our enemies so we will be obedient to our government and accept such plunder as The Affordable Care Act and Environmental Protection Agency, like it is the patriotic thing to do.
Remember the extreme sacrifice the colonists made for us by upholding the principles for which they fought instead of bowing down to the state that pretends to uphold those principles as it focuses on symbols and slogans.