Friday, December 8, 2017
A small town's blessings
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. This wonderful day has been set aside for centuries to simply be thankful. In our country, the Pilgrims set the tone in 1621 in gratitude for their survival and a bountiful harvest. They praised God and their American Indian neighbors who helped them survive. That tradition continues to be an inspiration every November.
Today, unlike the Pilgrims, most of us don’t worry about having a roof over our heads or where our next meal is coming from. We are a blessed nation. Unfortunately, reading or watching the news is enough to suck the life out us and steal our joy. Sometimes we need to look for reasons to be grateful to counter-act the ugliness that seems to prevail in this day and age.
Living in Oregon for the past three decades is one of my many blessings. As Californians, we were accepted whole-heartedly by our new friends and neighbors who couldn’t understand how we had ever lived and thrived in a big city with all that sunshine! Some of the men at our new church immediately took it upon themselves to introduce our sons into the Oregon way of life—everything from deep sea fishing to logging!
I recently was reminded of one of those logging expeditions. Longtime logger Bill Swift got the boys up at 4 a.m. for that adventure! The stories Jeff and John told from that day parallel those in the book, “Bounteous Blessings,” by Francis A. Gillette, a resident of Yacolt, WA. In it, her daughter Cheri Mattson, pens a tribute to her father Sonny. It’s titled “An Honest Heritage— in memory of the American logger.” Here’s an excerpt:
"My dad’s dad was a logger. And like the miners, his sons followed. My dad said, “it was a tough occupation. The old-time loggers were a different breed. Nothin’ stopped ‘em, not rain, cold, heat, wind. The only time we went home early was when the yarder or loader broke down. A lot of people got hurt, too. My oldest brother, George, died at 33…A couple of times, dad was injured and not expected to work again or even survive.”
He neglects to talk much about his own brushes with death, other than to say, “Always be thankful and try to be content with what you have. Many men worry a lifetime about retirement and never live long enough to reach it. Through life, I have found that the mind plays a very big part in making one able to survive.”
Memories as far back as I can remember, revolve around a logger’s life. Dad would begin the day before dawn, meet his partner, climb into the ‘crummy’ and drive one way to work. At daylight they’d hit it hard, put in an honest day’s work and hope to make it home for supper. He’s come home covered with wood chips, even his pockets would be filled! We would run to see what treasures dad would have for us in his lunch pail…maybe a soggy crust of bread, a pinecone or an interesting rock. One time he ripped up his blue and white striped hickory shirt and wrapped it around some baby squirrels he had found…I’d sit next to him and lean into his shoulder drawing in the smell of his day…trees, old coffee, sawdust, fresh air, earth and sweat; greasy oil and gas from the power saw. The mundane cares of the world all seemed so trivial to my dad.
He enjoyed being a cutter or faller for many of his logging year. “It’s very dangerous work but it’s exhilarating and rewarding too,” he said. “We’d work in ‘sets’ and had to fall the timber safely, yet in order. Each tree had its own place to fall. The real test was cutting on steep ground! ‘Timberrr! (A cry goes up by law!) The tree starts to creak and groan…. First in slow motion, then picking up horrific speed. WHOOSH! Down and with an earth-trembling WUMP! All is silent. The tree is down.”
Once on the ground the trees would be ‘bucked’ (cut to size), loaded, branded and sent down the road to the mill—headed for poles, pulp or lumber. Whether producing paper products or homes, the tree truly serves countless beneficial purpose. One large tree can provide enough lumber to frame a whole house!
Once an area is logged, the land is then scarified, where the brush and debris are burned. Then, even more quickly than it was harvested, the area is re-planted with seedlings for the next generation. Dad says, “I have planted thousands of trees. Far more than I could ever cut in my lifetime.”
Loggers! They’re driven by their love of honest hard work, their respect for God’s creation, its gifts— and the thrill of helping re-build a beautiful forest for the next pioneer.”
I love this story. It’s another reason to be grateful for the diversity of our hardworking communities and the awareness that “it takes a village to survive” just as it did with the Pilgrims. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Contact Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox at email@example.com