I remember my first day; the sun was something else.
It didn’t bother Dad though. He was used to the walk, and used to work too. I was eighteen years old, and in for the fright of my life. ”How could this be hard?” I asked myself. “lifting wood and piling it up, not rocket science.” I was about to find out just how wrong I was, on both counts.
Dad was patient with me, which must have taken a lot out of him. I complained about the ride up, I complained about the walk in. I even complained about our dinner, which my Dad packed. God knows I complained about how hot is was and how hard the work was.
Typical teenager I guess.
The night before, we argued most of the evening. Dad really didn’t want me working as a logger. “Once you get in, you never seem to be able to leave. I want more for you than the woods. Its a hard living. Early up, early to bed, and often too tired to enjoy your life. The money is bad, and the weather will get you if the work don’t.”
Of course I never heard a word he said. I always wanted to do one thing, be like my dad.
It seemed that all the bad things happened to me on that first day. I got an eye full of tree sap. Want to talk about pain? Try something that not only burns like hell, but it actually sticks your eye shut, if you are lucky enough that it doesn’t stick to your eye. Nothing except tears gets the stuff off your eye.
The pulpwood was heavy too. And God knows, Dad was never famous for cutting the limbs close to the tree. There was ALWAYS something to stab you, and on my first day, every one got me. I was bleeding from the arms and even the chest.
And then there were the flies. Mosquitoes were bad, but the sandflies (or ‘no-see-ums’) were so thick that you had to scrape them from your face. They would crawl into your ears, nose and even your mouth.
Eating was something that the flies did more than we did. While the chainsaw was running, the oil mixed with the gasoline kept those little buggers away; but when you shut the thing off and tried to eat….they came back with a vengeance.
Pour up a hot cup of tea, and right away a few blackflies have found their way into the cup. “Scoop them out with a stick and eat your dinner” Dad would say. “If you let them bother you, you won’t be able to work, you have to eat to keep your strength up” He knew what he was talking about. By days’ end, I figured I had eaten over a million blackflies. Mmmm Protein!
Dad would cut the tree down and run the chainsaw across the trunk, cutting the heavy limbs from the tree. He would then use the ‘whip’ at the end of the saw to measure two four foot lengths, and cut the tree in eight foot lengths. My job was to pile the pulpwood onto skids so the Tree Farmer (or TimberJack) operator could tackle his cable around the wood and haul it out. This was hard work! The wood wasn’t very well balanced, so you had to pick the wood up at one end, stretch your arm out to balance the thing, and carry it to the pile. You can imagine how sore this was on the arms. Dad used to help out when the wood was too heavy for one person, or when he seen that I was struggling.
I did this work for twenty years. I never heard Dad complain once. The only complaint he had was for me to quit and do something better with my life. What could have been better than working side by side the the man I looked up to all my life?
In those hard times, I was taught a work ethic that I have taken with me to many jobs since. Be to work on time, work hard as you can. Never complain about your work, you are lucky to have work. Be pleasant and always make the best of a situation. Life lessons, taught to me by my dad. I am fortunate to have those memories and those life lessons.