My Dad’s cousin, Hazel is very supportive of my writing hobby, and is partly the reason for this website. Even though I come from a long line of swashbuckling Hitsons, an encouraging word from someone of her stature and knowledge is like gold to the creative adventurer like myself. Hazel has asked how to contact me and how to comment on here. I am going to make a contacts page for the first request, and for the second, I need to do some research. I know some can comment but I believe you have to go through the WordPress program which this site is built on but I have more accomplished friends who can advise once I can get myself inserted into their busy schedules. In the meantime I am writing more stories to post. I have hundreds 🙂 Be warned some are about family relationships – anything that strikes my writer’s impulse as being story telling worthy. I have contemplated making a little ebook on kindle or Amazon about the wife and selling copies. I was going to do it on Twitter but haven’t figured that platform out as it is in constant change and is not dependable as far as suspending me over dumb stuff.
Date: Tuesday, August 18, 2015 11:50 pm
I’m working on the Fork Fire incident in California. Darvin is my partner as a two man crew of timber fallers working with the fire fighting crews. We support their efforts and help make things safer for them by taking out the super crazy dangerous trees they are not qualified or comfortable with falling theirselves.
We started the day being ordered out by a dozer operator who seems to enjoy running the show from the seat of his machine. He told us to go up a dozer line and do some tree removal operations to improve a fire line. We headed up. It was a whole mountain to climb – up steep shale inclines. We forged onward and upward taking a lot of breaks.
No sooner did we break up on top than we realized I had forgotten our gas container filled with mixed saw gas. It was a long way down. I headed back down and Darvin said not to hurry as he needed a break. I didn’t. I got down to the bottom and just the person I didn’t want to see, the dozer operator was parked right beside the truck. But he was so distressed he didn’t notice why I was back there and he had been chewed out by management for excessive radio traffic. (He talks a LOT on there).
They had made a better parking space on the one lane road around the steep mountain side and told me to move the truck to the better spot. I did. It was a couple of miles down the road at the bottom of the steep mountain we had climbed I was a long way out of the way for my path back so I took a short cut (!!) across country to the work area. It took awhile, and I thought I was lost but forced my intellect to rule my emotions and forged ahead.
By the time I got to the top again I was exhausted. Darvin was missing but I found the saws and packs and reclined to ponder my next move. I thought about taking a nap.
Pretty soon a dozer whose radio name was Bushy Dozer came up and told me my partner was looking for me. It had taken so long Darvin started worrying I had had a heart attack or something, and was probably in deep trouble and needing help all alone in the forest (we were both in our ’60’s) with no one to apply medical procedures.
After awhile he could be seen far below making his way back up the hill. He seemed tired and walked pretty slow – taking a few steps and resting, pausing in the shade of a bush for a break, etc.
He was mad. I got chewed out. We both needed a long break to rest up but it was noon and we had done nothing yet so we soldiered on up the hill cutting trees. For about 200 feet and 10 trees. Then Darvin was so tired he was shaking and said he needed to stop for a lunch break so we spread out our lunches in a picnic fashion and reclined in comfort for a few minutes leaning up against a pine tree. Bushy Dozer left seemingly in disgust ( mad Bro?) and went on back down the hill. We got up in a short while and forged upward and onward. Another 100 feet and a few more trees and we spotted flames. Fire activity was quite pronounced and trees were torching on both sides of the fire line. Something was wrong with this picture. We had learned in fire class that this was NOT normal. We could barely see up the fire line where our next trees were. I suggested our day was over.
Darvin called Division on our radio and got the reply no big deal it was doing that yesterday. “Hmmm” – My personal assessment: “Nope it was not good.” On my last tree I broke my saw. Darvin’s saw fell apart also a little while later while I was working on mine. It was a Monday. He called Division back and said we were not going to continue up the line so then Division decided to hike up. It took the young guy 45 minutes to power up to where they had sent us old guys to soldier on our own. Meanwhile we took apart both saws and came up with one that worked. Break time.
Division came up the hill, took one look and in the finest logger/firefighter lingo expelled a heartfelt word that means something like sex gone amuk. In less than 5 minutes it seemed the hill was swarming with more dozers, hand crews, supervisors and there began to be water drops from about 5 birds (helicopters).
We reclined on the sideline and watched the show in delight. It was about time we got to relax. They sent up two crews who were made up of inmates in bright orange
suits. They were jolly for the most part. One told us how hard the hike up was but then opined philosophically that if you could make it (with a grand gesture in our direction) then surely they could, “No offense!”, They politely exclaimed. “None Taken!” I gestured back with equal grandeur.
The many helicopters had varying degrees of success in hitting the appropriate hot spots of fire but at least three of them had considerable luck and success at dousing the orange suits with their water drops. After at least half a dozen such episodes, with orange suited convicts scattering like a flock of chicks in all directions, one began to suspect intent. One of the helicopters was a National Guard ‘Copter, which seemed most accurate at dropping water on the orange suits.
Soon it was time to hike down the hill. We were thanked by Division for reporting the situation in time so that they might possibly be able to catch it. I.E. our timing was impeccable in my own words.
By the time we got close to the truck we were both barely managing with shaky legs and exhaustion threatening to make us look like losers to the young fellers so we set off across country where there would be no witnesses to our shameful lack of youthfulness. Bed was never so sweet. Dinner? Shower? Nah. Wash hands and face with hot water and hobble to tent and bed and drop. Lights out. Crazy Day Over!
I have worked with the Moon on several fires (first name, Rick, but he likes to go by just Moon), and have written a couple of stories on his life experiences as related by him during ‘staging’ times, or times of waiting around for orders when it gets boring.
(He gets his own category in the side bar for more Moon Stories)
Usually, Moon sleeps at all stops or possible rest breaks. When walking or hiking, however, or just working, few can keep up. Moon walks fast, because he is restless and impatient. He sleeps to store up energy for the next thing or catching up. You can only sleep so much in the day, and then the stories begin if you are lucky.
Moon works on about twice to triple clock-speed (for you computer nerd types) as normal humans. He talks fast. It is often hard to understand what he is saying and I often have to ask for a repeat. Most people just miss the punch line and look at him funny, but they miss a lot, because, to Moon, everything is funny. If you look just right, he looks a lot like Robin Williams, except wild-eyed and long-haired. He reminds me a lot of my brother Landy in some of his traits – Landy was diagnosed as schitzophrenic. Moon is often joking about all the people in his head. I don’t buy it, but I laugh at the joke.
To many Moon, at first glance, is different and off-putting. I felt the same way until I worked with him. Moon is aware of this, but it is something he has accepted and put behind him. It doesnt seem to bother him at all; he jokes about it. He tells about his grandfather, who is a family hero of sorts, saying about him, “Rick is just a little…well… different”, and then he gives that self-deprecating laugh. It took a while for me to figure out that the wild-eyed look and the funny grin was both a defense, and possibly a test to see who could get past it or at least get them to mind their own business.
My recent faller-boss, Jerry, said to me early on, “Marc, your partner is just a little squirrelly!” I laughed and said, “So am I – I just don’t look so much like it”. We ended up working together with Jerry for several days, and there was tension between Moon and Jerry.
Moon is a pest to the authorities. He asks for stuff that seems unreasonable on the surface, like, “Can we take a break, now?” (before we even get started). Once he was sleeping and knew the assignment was short and easy, so refused to wake up and get out of the truck for appearance’ sake. The faller-boss said, “I’m OK with it if you are”. So we went and did it and left the Moon sleeping in the truck.
On previous fires, I worried that his ways were going to cause me embarrassment, or get us de-mobed (laid off) from the fire early, so it was an added stress to deal with. On this last fire, I was more laid back, not worrying so much because I have come to realize that it is a government run endeavor and performance has little to do with anything. I was right – we were there till near the end. One thing I noticed as we went along is that a lot of people know Moon from his 20 years of previous fire experience, and most greet him with respect.
I guess the reason I go into all of this is that this kind of person intrigues me, probably because of some of the experiences with my family. Also, I like finding hidden gold in people in the way of attitudes and life-experiences I can use to figure out the hidden value there. My underlying theory is that many people are hiding stuff that I need to know, interesting stuff, and it is doubly pleasing when somebody I initially wrote off as ‘strange’ (and I don’t think Moon would be offended by my describing him in this manner) turns out to hold so much value that contradicts the initial impression. I sense that there are many contradictions to the person I am mining for stories. He strikes me as an innocent, the more I get to know him, but once when asked for stories by the girl faller-boss we had, he later told me of some illegal activites of his and that he could not tell her a lot of his stories. His self-deprecating laugh accompanied this confession. Then he proceeded to tell me a string of tales that had us both laughing so hard that I could barely see through the tears to drive home.
When we first started on this fire, de-briefings were required at the end of the 12 hour shift, which especially annoyed Moon – he wanted to go home. “Just keep on driving. I’m serious! (as we approached the designated de-briefing spot). Trust me, we won’t get in trouble, keep on going! Go!” I stopped, parked, and joined the crowd of men waiting for the powers in charge to do their work and let us go home. Besides, I enjoy this part. A lot of good stories are related by co-workers as they are in a good mood because of the end of shift that is near after a successful work day on the fire. Moon tolerates it. As soon as the division leader says go, Moon grabs me by the suspenders and drags me backwards on a dead run for the truck to get out first ahead of the convoy of pickups and fire engines headed home to camp. I open my door, hit the starter while I am climbing in, and we are off, at the head of the convoy. We soon leave them in the dust, to Moon’s satisfaction.
One time Moon started pestering Jerry, the faller-boss to let us go home early at about 17:00 pm – the Fire People always use military time – about two hours earlier than the designated ‘wheels turning’ towards home time. This particular day, it had even been intimated that it might go even another hour to 20:00 pm, which was almost unthinkable to us bored staging fallers. We had already completed the day’s mission by working fast and hard, driven by the whip–cracking Fallerboss Jerry; there was nothing for us to do. On top of his normal impatience, he was dealing with problems at home with his lady, and he had come to the fire in the middle of having his home, a modular mobile trailer, being replaced with a newer model. He had been sleeping in his shop every night.
He was pacing back and forth in his fast walk in front of the tailgate where Jerry and I were seated having some kind of deep discussion about politics, religion, fire behavior or whatever else we could think of. Jerry turned out to be a fine person I could relate to. Moon was about 3 feet in front of us doing his pacing for the whole time. The impressively patient Jerry said, “Moon, you’re driving me crazy!” Rick grinned, and said, “I got nowhere to go, but I’m in a hurry to go” as he laughed at himself, but continued to pace. It reminds me of a niece of mine, who when she was little and got frustrated by the limitations imposed on a little one, would go to her rocking horse on springs and make it bounce and buck for long periods of time. I think that rocking horse saved her from mental distress and preserved the wonderful drive she has today – but that is another story.
Finally, Moon got permission from Jerry for us to drive up to a nearby road junction where we had phone service so he could call about his house situation. On our way up there, the Task Force Leader, who was in charge of ‘wheels turning’ times went past and Moon demanded I stop. He got out and flagged down the TFL and asked if we really needed to attend the end of day briefing or if Jerry could do it for us and turn us loose for the day. It was an acceptable idea to the open minded, seasoned TFL, so after going back and clearing it with Jerry, the faller-boss, we were released. Headed out, the jubilant Moon exclaimed, “I’m not as dumb as I look!” I was impressed, and glad I had watched and learned. No one else, including Jerry, had the temerity to ask what was obvious to all of us. It was a win/win – Jerry got his hours in, and we got released early.
Later on, as the long days, seven days a week piled up, Moon became a little hostile when I defied some of his wishes/demands. A little tension began to develop. It is almost inevitable when partnered up with anyone for any length of time. Most of the time it was over work ethics and performance of the job. I have a strong sense of wanting to please the boss. Moon has no boss. One day at the de-briefing place, dp4 (a heli-drop point and a spot wide enough for several rigs to park), after working all day with the sweetest, nicest possible faller-boss, Colin Rabe, I heard an explosion of laughter from Colin and Jerry and the group of fallers around them, as Moon loudly proclaimed about Colin in his fast staccato, “He’s not MY boss!!”.
I stopped worrying about our presentation to the world, but there still developed the tension between Moon and I. I noticed it and disliked it, but there was the issue of dealing with it. My knee-jerk reaction when confronted with hostility is to respond in kind, but silently. I remembered having unsuccessfully dealt with my brother, Landy, in the same sort of tensions, and having a bad time over it. I tried to not react, but there was Moon, sulking in the corner of the pickup. It wasn’t all bad, but noticeably there. The break through came in a strange way. One morning Moon came to work stressed out. He said he felt spacey. I realized that this confession was serious in nature, not the usual joke. I instantly felt concern. I asked him if this was the traditional too-many-days-on-the-fire spaced out feeling. He said no it was not that, it was the fighting with the woman. I know how it is to be doing this kind of work when your mind is out of it – not good.
He was droopy all day. He didn’t even complain about our day of hard work, having to each run a saw all day in the hot sun and do a lot of hiking up Sand Mountain, which was applicably named. I became the mother. I waited on every need. I would jump in and do the hard work that he usually was right on top of, especially first thing in the morning. I packed extra water and Gatorade up the hot mountain and made sure he had some. Water drips off him when he is working. He says he has a ‘leak’. When we all ran out of water before the day was over, I gave Moon half of my last jug which I had hoarded. The droopy Moon was a damper on the outlook of the world. At the end of the day, which I was relieved that we all survived, I shook hands with him and wished Moon well. He seemed to appreciate all my supercilious concern. We would not see each other for a few days, as we were being relieved for a two day break from the fire.
When I came back a few days later, it was a different Moon – he talked so fast and told so many corny puns and Moon jokes, I had to work my brain to keep up. It never stopped all day. I was worn out, but appreciative and amazed. To me, it felt like I had passed a trust test. The rest of the fire was short and over soon as the weather changed and we were no longer needed.
The next to the last day, we had a new faller-boss, Andy. At the staging area, Moon came running (well, his normal fast Moon walk) back to the truck, got in and said, the faller-boss was getting chewed out by the division sup. which was a cute, dark haired lady. Moon had seen her mad before and said you didn’t want her mad at you. He demonstrated both parties of the confrontation, first her pointing her finger, shaking it in their face, shouting down at the offender, then the offender leaning backwards with an alarmed look on his face. He said she could really cuss. Haha! Then he said, “You don’t want to make HER mad!, she’ll get on her ‘huckin’ broom, fly down there and turn you into a TOAD! RIBBIT!!” Haha!
This ride with Moon has been quite the educational experience. I learned that ‘normal’ is boring, stupid and lame. People who judge you by appearance are also, normal, stupid and lame. Moon is more free than most people, has a heart grabbing innocence in spite of his wild exploits, and accomplishes a lot with pure audacity. I think I like Moon’s world better than the normal world where politics rule and people cut each other’s throat for a temporary promotion on a fire. You can have a lot of fun and get away with it most of the time. All is relative to perspective. Best of all, Moon trusts me and I have a friend.
Benny and I are timberfallers, loggers who go on fires in the summers during fire season here in Oregon. Some of the terrain is astoundingly extreme with steep ground, narrow logging roads and big timber. On the 4th day of our tour on the Big Windy Fire Complex we were headed up from base camp to the work area to meet up with our assigned fire division when we came to stopped traffic. I texted to my family:
Aug 6 8:45 AM “There appears to have been an accident. Traffic is stopped; firefighters are parked everywhere along the road. Ambulance and Police are going by”
About 9:45 We saw a medic along the road and stopped to ask about the accident, see if anyone was hurt. The medic was 6’+, sporting a goatee and mohawk with tattoo and earring, wearing Terminator sunglasses. A tear came out and was in his voice as he solemnly said in a rough deep voice, “I don’t think he was in pain very long”
About 10:30 we had a briefing and Division informed us of the fatality. News was scarce and we all wanted to know what was the cause. A young firefighter spoke up with some emotion and said that he had been first responder on the accident. He said that the brakes were burned up and were smoking so much they looked like they were on fire when he got there. He encouraged all the truck drivers to go slower, gear down and use their jake brakes.
Later I learned that he had texted a close friend shortly after the wreck to say that he had just came upon an overturned truck with a 19 yr. old driver underneath and had felt his pulse until it stopped.
As we were waiting with the division to deploy for the day I knew it was going to be a rough day emotionally. We all would be running the little bit of info we had over and over in our mind trying to figure out how a 19 yr. old truck driver could have died while engaged in the fire fighting process. Safety is emphasized so strongly and so much caution is taken to keep every one safe that the theme seems to be woven into the whole scheme of things here.
We knew that he was headed to base camp after finishing the night shift. We knew the road had many sharp corners and steep grades and that he was driving a water tender truck which could have up to 5k gallons of water. Usually, though they went down empty. 19 is pretty young to be driving these treacherous roads. I know from growing up in a logging town that truck drivers have to start in a low gear at the top of the hill and use engine compression to keep from burning up their brakes on the way down. Sometimes a wreck will happen when a driver miss-shifts and can’t get the truck back into gear so then he burns up his brakes and goes faster and faster until he can’t make a corner and crashes.
I overheard “Red”, the Division commander offering the young firefighter who was first responder the services of the Critical Incident Stress Team and heard him decline them respectfully. Pretty soon the young man came over to our truck, stuck out his hand and said, “I’m Justin, and I’m going to be working with you today.” We introduced ourselves and as he walked away, Bennie said “He is messed up!”. He felt that our primary mission was not going to be falling hazard trees, but helping Justin and his brother, Matt, keep their minds off the accident. So we fell to and engaged our self ascribed mission with a maximum effort – Benny cracking jokes, telling tall Marine tales, and generally entertaining with his spicy language.
Matt began to enjoy himself right away and join in the fun, but Justin is the quiet thinker type and he had those dark brooding eyes that told the story of what was going on inside. I certainly could identify, as we all felt sad about it and had not seen what Justin had, but by the end of the day his shell began to crack and I saw a few smiles.
Finally the end of the day came near. Justin and Matt were on the fire as a dozer and lowboy team and had the loaded truck parked at DP18, a staging area at the top of a mountain near our work area. The Division Trainee came by and informed them that the night crew was doing a burn operation and they should move the dozer down the hill to a rock quarry a few miles away so they left to do that. As we worked on down the road on our own, I saw Matt, who is a 19 yr. old college kid/farm boy making money on the fire, go driving by in the cab of the 10 wheeler truck and attached lowboy trailer loaded with a D-6 Cat. He had a big happy grin of pure joy in controlling the power and weight of big iron he was escorting down the hill and it was so bright and fun and such a contrast to our day that it just struck me deeply – he was the same age as the boy who had just had those bright fires of youth extinguished forever. It was so hard to imagine that Matt could possibly perish that way with the joy and skill he displayed.
Later Matt was observed to say how a kid his age had just died in an accident doing what he did and that he felt lucky. I’m not sure luck has much to do with it. I am sure that the boy who died had those same fires burning.
Matt & Benny
Man Down on the Fork Fire2
by Marc Hitson
A few days ago I came to get dinner after work and after it was already dark at fire camp and some medics were rolling in a gurney. A man was lying on the ground by the mess tent and surrounded with medics. I went through the line, got my food and went to sit down in the tent by the man on the ground. As I walked by I glanced at him and he looked dead with a glassy stare straight up. I sat at the table closest to him but with my back to the scene and as I sat down, the whole tent was staring at me. But not really, they were concerned about their fellow fire fighter.
I had the thought that maybe I was resented by the other firefighters for sitting there, but I was tired and so I continued. As I respectfully began to eat my dinner with my very best manners since I was being stared at, I tried to get a handle on the scene I found myself planted in the middle of. Obviously, this guy in trouble was a great person. Their faces, maybe 20 or 25 fire fighters, all with the same uniform, were shocked, alarmed and some reflected an expression of horror — it must have been a bad experience for everybody. I cannot imagine what took place as the fellow dropped from exhaustion just when he thought the long day was almost done and was trying to have dinner, but manliness can only take you so far.
One firefighter with his dread locks tied back in a ponytail had bright tear tracks down his soot stained face. Another in the back had his eyes closed and hands behind his head almost in an attitude of prayer. No talking, just anxious grief stricken looks. Not much eating was going on.
The man at the table next to me was well groomed, in a National Guard uniform and looked like an officer. He was eating alone and not one of the crew, but every time he looked up his eyes were stricken like he had just looked death in the face. There was absolutely no humor in the tent. After a while he got up and very quietly departed.
My dinner was good – fajitas and a nice dessert. I took my time. I reverently thought about the man down. I have had experience with death this year as my family cared for my mother while she was dying and on hospice. She seemed to want people around her and I thought that if I were that guy on the ground, dying, or dead already, I would want everyone to continue enjoying their dinner for my last few moments, not acting grief stricken, so that is what I did. I might have put up a prayer or two for him — he must have been quite a fellow.
As I was finishing my meal, the patient behind me must have been miraculously revived by the medics because everyone jumped up and started cheering
and one fellow yelled, “Jiti! Now you can get a bed finally.” They all whooshed out of there in one big happy suddenly garrulous group, following the gurney as it wheeled away.
The next morning we all got a big lecture at briefing about staying hydrated. It went something like this: “Drink your damn water!” “You can die”.
Today I went to breakfast early to have my oatmeal and bran flakes: the only thing my body can stand in the camp bfst menu lately. A man sat down by me and engaged in conversation quite pleasantly. He was a Division commander, and we got around to the topic of the medics. I mentioned the man down and it turns out the man was from this fellow’s division. They were a crew from Alaska where the heat is less of a factor, so they were not used to it California style. They had done a burn out that day and the man was an animal of a worker. He had been hiking up and down the very steep hill carrying 5 gallon cans of fuel – 1/3 gas and 2/3 diesel for the drip torches. He either must have had heat stroke and/or dehydration issues, which can kill a person in a bad way. I am glad he made it.
Written in 2007
The talk of unions in France reminded me of a funny story. When I was in my 20’s I worked for gyppo loggers. I was an independent worker without a union who bounced around from one logger to another as demand for work occurred, kind of like a free-lance worker. Gyppo’s made fun of union or company workers.
When I was about 22 (mid 1970’s) I got a job offer from Pope and Talbot. I was working for Tom Williams at the time near Cottage Grovc. Dick Scott, one of my co-workers whom I admired, therefore his advice was important, wisely told me to take the job. I was complaining about all the cumbersome safety equipment I would be force to wear, and he responded “I would go to work in Bermuda shorts if that is what they wanted”. The coveted aspect of the union job was benefits such as paid vacations and more steady work, so I took the job. I made more money in the three years I was there than any other time working in the woods before that. Plus I was close to home.
All union workers are grumpy and mad. That is probably because they have to shift blame from all the goofing off they do. We got a 15 minute break every two hours which by definition meant a 30 minute break, and the 1/2 hour lunch often became 45 minutes to 1 hour, including an occasional nice refreshing nap on a sunny spring day.
In the union everything is about working the seniority system until you get the best jobs. (Those who have been there the longest have the most seniority). It takes years because you have to wait until the job is vacated because of death or someone being promoted. Well, one of the bosses got his brother into a nice equipment operating job building roads, bypassing the seniority system. There were no doubt 6 men who had been drooling over that choice job to come open for a long time. The result was similar to current French unrest over corruption in government. Well, my falling partner Leo Knudtson and I were discussing this over coffee on one of our breaks and we came up with the scenario of instigating a union uprising just for the fun of it. He kind of dared me to do it, so I went home and went to work. I collected my colored markers and Kraft paper and began making signs. I called on everyone to stand up and be a man, fight back against the “buddy system” which term my partner and I coined over coffee by the fire on our break. (Hypocrites 🙂 ) Then I threw in a couple of quotes like “life is too short to be little – by Disraeli”. I snuck into work at midnight and put up all the posters in the shop and in the several crummies (worker transport vehicles). There was quite a buzz at 4:00 AM the next morning when I crawled all sleepy-eyed onto the crummy. The authorities were madder than a stirred up hornets nest. The next union meeting, which I think might have been the next Tuesday eve, it seems like there were 300+ guys there, as opposed to the usual 15 to 30. The union leader overwhelmed and truthfully disclaimed any responsibility whatsoever to the company, thus nothing was done and it all fizzled after one meeting. I was disgusted. I guess I wanted more fireworks for my efforts. Young and dumb.
Leo and I got many laughs on our subsequent breaks in the next few days. I was a bit in awe of my bravado at bucking the system and the impressive results, however temporary they were. Leo and I remained silent about the perpetrator, however. It only seemed prudent to let the matter die a silent death.
My Dad, Earl Hitson, “broke me in” falling timber, but got hurt shortly afterwards, maybe less than a year, and I started working with his friends. I worked with Stub, my future father-in-law quite a bit and later married his best-looking daughter. One time I was working with a “set” of fallers, which is two guys who always work together as a team: one fells the trees, and the other “bucks” the trees, cutting them into manageable shorter lengths. I was all excited because these guys were the very best: Dale Sloan and Buford Halverson. I was also nervous, but didn’t need to be because it turned out they liked young fellers who worked hard and didn’t talk much.
I worked the most with Buford. He was one of those cool guys who doesn’t talk much either, and naturally commands a lot of respect. He only weighed 140 lbs–the chainsaw was bigger than he was– but he was one of the hardest working and most productive fallers in the woods, according to my Dad. I tried to make sure I did my part, but being kind of a newbie, I made a lot of mistakes. One time when he had to bring his axe and help me get my saw unstuck, I said something about it, and he had this deep gravely voice in which he said, “I did that once”. I was kind of startled and didn’t know how to take it so I looked at him to check for a smile, but he looked totally serious. I didn’t know anyone else who had only got his saw stuck one time in 30 yrs of work, but he was so good, I thought maybe he was telling the truth. I only figured out later he was joking, after I pondered on it for awhile. True story.
He worked steady, wasting no moves, and I never got a chance to go to the “great outdoor toilet” as I liked to call it. I would wait as long as I could, then inform him I had to take a poop break. He would always say, “Don’t crap right through yourself!”. I would actually get a dry smile on this favorite saying of his.
One time, on steep ground, he was the faller, and I was the bucker. When working on steep ground, the faller cuts the tree down, and it slides down the hill over other trees and logs already down, and ends up kind of like a big stick in a pile of other sticks. The bucker has to climb down with his chainsaw and cut the tree into shorter logs for the loggers and the mill to be able to handle them properly. The problem is you are dealing with tons of weight per log, so when you cut the tree in half, both halves are going to drop, move around, disturb the logs underneath, and maybe take off down the hill again over more logs and timber further down the slope. It’s dangerous.
This one time, Buford fell a tree and after it came to rest, he discerned that it was beyond my expertise, so he hiked down with me to figure out where to cut it at and where to stand, where it would be safe. If you were wrong, you might get squashed. It was really hard to tell which way it was going to go. After what seemed like an extra long time, he made a decision and told me what to do. I did it and everything was fine. I can still picture how that tree was situated on the slope before I bucked it down. Later I realized he took special pains to keep his friend’s kid safe.
Buford and Dad kind of clashed, because Dad was an aggressive Christian person. Buford was an avid fly fisherman, and had been all his life. Dad tried to get info on fishing from him but it was like talking to a brick wall. Dad told me himself he couldn’t get any information on fishing from Buford and it was a great secret. One day, on our one and a half hour drive home, Buford just out of the blue started telling me his favorite flies to use, when to use them and where to cast. Of course, I have forgotten most of it.
I realized later, that must mean I was in good standing with him. I liked him a lot. It was a head trip situation for a dumb kid like I thought I was to be accepted by the older guys.
Dad would witness to Buford about Christ now and then, but he was having none of it, so I didn’t even try. Years later, when Stub (my future Father-in-law) was in the hospital for a stroke (another faith success story), I met Buford in there and he told me to tell my Dad he was going to church and was a Christian now. He was real interested in having Dad know about it. That made me happy to comply with. That’s the last time I saw him.
I thought that was a good note to end on.
Considering the present political climate with loggers being banned from the woods and such, there is a current dislike for the killing of trees. Everyone knows that trees are used to make toilet tissue. For those environmentally aware personas who do not wish to cause a tree to die just so they can wipe their heiny, we displaced woods workers have come up with a wonderful, environmentally friendly option — Owl feathers. This is a green option for all those who are concerned about the environment and should be chosen over the soft ‘Charmin’ by all those who are rather alarmed by the manner in which people have been going.
Anticipating a huge demand due to an endless supply of such personas, we have quite pleasantly fallen into a great capitalistic venture furnishing S.O.F. from the limited quantity of Owls (and feathers). It seems the S.O. molts often, so we have employed some environmentally conscientious owl-lovers to run around in the woods following the S.O.’s with their ‘nose bags’ — ex-logger’s lunch pails which have been recycled into socially acceptable biodegradable containers — in which they can save the Owl-feathers as they come drifting down from the old growth tree tops. I’m sure all those who share our concern for the environment will rest easier knowing they are not killing a tree every time they take a dump.
By the way, our genuine spotted owl feathers toilet tissue engineers have calculated that, in keeping with current ‘green’ sentiment, you can perform said job with only one feather per sitting. In that way you will be conserving the S.O. population, and we will be able to keep up with the needs of this new market.
Go Spotted Owls! , and ain’t capitalism great!
By Marc Hitson
There are times of deep contentment that happen in the woods while working falling timber. It’s deep in the sense that it goes to the very heart of a man, a satisfaction which is more intense than the beautiful day should be the cause of. When I sense this emotion I pause, take a break and enjoy the moment. I like it a lot. I don’t know quite how this super good contented feeling is triggered or why. It sometimes is just working on a nice day doing something I’m quite good at. I had a lot of confidence as a timber faller.Being in the forest has a something to with the satisfaction factor, too but it is not easy to define where it starts and ends. It is not a worship or reverence – lord knows I wreak a lot of havoc on the poor forests of Ma Nature; it is more of a
belonging and being part of God’s art work–nature. I’m not describing it well, except to say this: the experience often involves stopping for a minute and kind of saying “hi” to the forest inside – (which is actually saying ‘hi’ to God as well).
What gets me started on this grand inner expansiveness on a fine and glorious day in the forest could be any one of a thousand things which I have seen and experienced so often that it has become a part of me:
Wind in the trees. The smells of crushed fir and pine needles, of the forest floor of dried needles on a dry summer day, of freshly churned up dirt and limbs ground in from the logging. The sound of log trucks with their jake-brakes echoing through the hills, across canyons, creeks flowing. The dark lights of the deep forest, a ray of sunlight piercing the canopy to shine on one solitary tree branch—a contrast in the darkened forest which is so bright with color contrast it is brilliant. The feel of log bark when you walk down it with caulk (pronounced cork) boots, using the freshly fallen tree for a path over the scented crushed flora of the forest. Rich yellow sunshine on one side of a tree at the end of the day when the light gets intricate.
Nature is just an extension of God’s expression to us via His art—His medium. “The ungodly will know He exists by His creation.”
These momentary pleasures make the everyday grind of work seem pleasant sometimes.
Cuddle with God
Sometimes when your heart is broken and you are trying to sleep, it helps to cuddle with God in your spirit. You can sleep safely and pour out your hurt as you go to sleep knowing God cares for you. When you wake it probably will not be quite as bad, and it’s a spirit thing to pour out your hurting heart into His hands, since there is nothing you can do anyway. Turn to your Heavenly Father, the Big Guy. Just curl your spirit self up in a ball in His hands of Love. Safe. He cares. And besides you trust Him to take care of everything, since He has many times before. Lovingly. Often you don’t even know until later when you look back in amazement and realize: “Wow. God had that