Driving to work this morning, I had a great deal to be thankful for. First, I was seated in a warm truck, a great heater and lots of power under the hood…and I had a roof over my head to shield me from the sloppy snow and brisk wind we get here in Newfoundland, especially this time of year.
While driving in (an hour on the highway gives me lots of time to reminisce) I thought back to some twenty years ago, to a time when my life was much different than it is right now.
It was November 4, 1994, and boy, was it a cold day. Dad had just taken the Yamaha Trike (Three wheeled ATV) out of the shed and had it idling. It was so cold that morning, the exhaust smoke went straight up and seemed to freeze there. The ground was soaking wet from the hard rain we had the night before, and small snowflakes began to fall from the sky and then melt wherever they landed.
My family were far from wealthy, and although my dad and I had steady work, the pay wasn’t very good; because of this, we couldn’t afford the proper safety equipment that was required of the job. We would visit thrift stores and purchase second hand polyester pants. Dad liked those because they had a good stretch, and once our safety pads (Kevlar linings cut from second hand chainsaw pants) were sewed in, the pants were perfect for the hot summer days. They sucked once summer ended though.
We both pulled on our rain gear and got ready to go.
When the ATV was warmed up enough to move, we set out on our way to work. My dad always drove, and I sat on the back. The seat was cold as ice, but thanks to the long johns I had on, my ass didn’t freeze right away.
That morning, the sky clouded up real quick. In no time at all, the few clouds had moved in together and everything turned a dark grey. We could feel the temperature drop quickly as we pushed on through the rough gravel road that led to the cutting site.
There were a few other loggers heading to work at the same time, but they had the convenience of a truck to ride in. Dad and I thought about buying something, but with the roughness of the road, we knew nothing would last. The trike was the best and cheapest mode of travel…but was it ever cold!
Without the help of a windshield, and the fact than neither of us wore a helmet (you didn’t have to back then), there was nothing to shield our eyes from the pelleting rain. In fact, with the wind and the rain heading right into your eyes, it felt as if someone was shooting bullets at your face.
By the time we got to the landing (the site in which the machinery is used to load the pulpwood), we were soaked. It felt like my ass was froze to the seat. We removed our soaking wet rain gear and tucked it into a bag and headed to our cutting site.
You have to remember that this was late in the fall, and we were heading into early winter. At any given time, the rain would change to snow and then back to rain. This meant we got wet and cold at the same time.
We built a fire in the clearing and hung our rain gear so that it would dry. Once we had to stop for a break, it would be nice to have warm, dry clothes to wrap up in. My pants were already soaked, and combined with the wood sap that caked the legs of my pants, it was difficult to keep them up. Thank heavens for the suspenders (we called them ‘braces’).
We had to be very careful that morning. The underbrush got a good soaking the night before, and with a glaze of ice coating everything, it made for some difficult walking. As we headed for the bigger timber, the tuckamores beneath our feet grabbed at our pants legs, making it tiring just to walk.
We passed several cords of wood we had cut earlier in the week, making sure that they were as tightly packed as we had left them, and headed into the deep woods. Dad began to saw a large wedge into the towering fir tree (we first cut a wedge into the tree, and then sawed the other side of the tree, causing a ‘hinge-like’ action to fall the tree), and commenced to cut the tree down. Just then, a terrible wind blew, causing the tree to sway from the original area we aimed it, to a location directly behind us. Huge limbs quickly flipped the chainsaw into the air, and just ducking, my dad barely missed being be-headed by the huge trunk. Once the tree toppled in the forest, one of the limbs slapped me in the back of the head, and threw me some fifteen feet from where I stood.
When I got up, I never seen my dad anywhere. A few of the other cutters came to our rescue, and none of them could find my dad either. Turns out, the ground was slippery, and once he had ducked to miss the tree trunk, his feet came out from underneath him and he fell on his back. The long limbs that covered him also held him to the ground. Luckily, nobody was hurt. I offered my hand and hauled my dad from the wet moss in which he lay. He was real lucky. We both were.
As for all the work we did last week, we weren’t so lucky. The huge tree had fallen directly on top at least five piles of pulpwood, flattening them to the ground. At least two day’s work to fix what we had broken. This week wasn’t the most profitable, but we didn’t complain. We were lucky not to have gotten killed.
Going home that day wasn’t exactly fun either. Snow had fallen at the landing, covering the seat of the ATV. The snow had froze on the seat, and the wet foam that stuffed the seat had froze like a rock. You can imagine how nice it was, walking out through the wet brush, pants soaked, and then sitting on the frozen seat. Despite our rain gear, I didn’t think my ass would ever recover.
Too hot in here now; one thing I can say about this Toyota Tacoma….one hell of a heater! Life is Good!