Filed Under: About the Author, Logger Culture
Buford – Timberfalling Mentor
January 14, 2023 Marc Hitson (Edit)
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.