Summary: Observations from an "old school" rough'n'tumble loggerregarding logging practices, environmentalists, and Clayoquatprotesters...
Subject: Comments from a retired B.C. logger
From: email@example.com (Ken Mcvay)
Date: Sat, 25 Sep 93 00:35:59 GMT
Organization: The Old Frog's Almanac
Summary: Observations from an "old school" rough'n'tumble loggerregarding logging practices, environmentalists, and Clayoquatprotesters...
I've been chatting with a friend about his logging experiences, and
discussing various threads here in bc.general... after hearing him tell
some of his logging stories, I asked if I could reproduce them here -
perhaps to present a different point of view, or perhaps just because I
thought what he had to say was worth listening to.
"I am an ex-logger; a logger that has been rendered quadriplegic as a
result of a logging accident. Note that the Worker's Compensation
board found no one at fault. "An act of God"?!? God wouldn't have
done this to me ... he loves me. It was the circumstances I
allowed myself to be exposed to that did. It was by God's grace
that I am here to tell you my story and to share with you my
opinions. Expect no "Bible Thumping."
Many of those in this area know who this chappie is, but I'm not going
to identify him here because I told him I would post his thoughts
anonymously - I would ask that almanac.bc.ca domain folks respect his
wish to remain unidentified, as a favour to me, and simply because it is
the polite thing to do :-)
When he sent me this note, I thought about doing a bit of editing here
and there, but decided not to... changing his words would most certainly
change the flavour, and I don't want to do that.
One final note - he'll see any responses posted here, and I will
encourage him to join the fray, either anonymously, or under his own
pen. Email addressed to him via this account will be forwarded to him
upon arrival, for those who would prefer addressing him directly.
For those of you that are familiar with high lead logging, I was
operating a Madill steel spar at the north end of Vancouver Island
back in 1984. For those that are not familiar with high lead
logging, ie: steel spars, grapple yarders, tension skidders and the
like, the method is similar to the way that a clothesline works.
Using very strong steel cables that run through blocks (pulleys)
that are anchored to stumps at distances of up to half a mile,
devices called chokers are used to attach logs to the cable, just as
clothes pegs attach clothing to the clothesline. We were yarding
logs off of the top side of the road when a log (about 7 tons of
hemlock, 50' long) came loose from it's choker, came sliding down
the mountainside at about 60 mph and came into my cab. Bluntly, it
broke my neck, scrambled my brains and ripped my guts out. The crew
and first aid attendent scraped up the mess, put me in a chopper,
flew me to Port Hardy where I was stablized, sent me to Shaugnessy
Hospital in Vancouver - saved my life. After 3 1/2 months there, I
went to G.F. Strong where they taught me how to walk, dress ...
live. It was like I was a baby; G.F. Strong's employees were Mon &
Dad. This quad _walked_ out of G.F. Strong after 4 1/2 months of
therapy. I was, and still am one tough S.O.B. Note that I have
regained all of my mental capacity (had suffered retrograde amnesia
for a period of time) but I have "turned my scars into stars". My
life is great!!! I wish that today's loggers were as fortunate as
Enough about my trials and tribulations, I wish to share with you my
views of both sides. I have been reading for weeks, the discussions
in bc.general regarding the logging of Clayoquot Sound. I see it on
the BCTV news and I read it in the papers. Everywhere I look, there
it is again. Regarding the little old ladies in the drunk tank ...
they broke the law, refused to sign, they deserve jail just like the
rest of them. You break the law, you pay the price. Call in
Amnesty International?!? Well ffffffffffffffffffffffffergoodnessakes.
My last two trips to Long Beach and Tofino took me past the Peace
Camp. In my opinion, a great choice of location as the surrounding
area shows the scars of clear cut logging. Note that I have seen
many other areas throughout my logging career, some much worse ie:
Lake Main, Holberg BC. Looks like a rape took place.
Note also that I don't care for the _quality_ of the people,
speaking in general terms, that I saw at the Peace Camp and walking
the streets of Tofino. Dirty hippy types, welfare\gain recipients.
I personally would not associate myself with them. Their cause
maybe ... I'm undecided ... them ... NO!
The following includes a list of some of the attrocities that I have
witnessed and at times, participated in:
I have worked around hydraulic log loaders that have leaked up
to 45 gallons of hydraulic oil per day through bad hoses and
fittings. I witnessed the pump blow completely and oil blast out of
every opening in the shroud of a Washington TL5 hydraulic loader.
This oil eventually seeped into the ditches and into salmon breeding
I witnessed a logger (a _green_ chokerman) intentionally dumping
a mixture of about 4 gallons of 90 weight oil and one gallon of
accumulated rainwater into the ditch - destination - the Goodspeed
River, Holberg. I had seen a great deal of salmon spawning right in
those ditches. Steelhead were abundant there as well. I have not
been back in years so I have no idea of what the fishing is like
I have personally yarded large logs over smaller ones in order
to break them, thus eliminating the need to set chokers on the small
ones. The broken scraps, the bits and pieces that were left would
not have to be yarded as they were under the size limits that were
set by forestry. This practice set me up for recognition as a high
producing "rigging slinger". My high production attitude and my log
counts worked very well for me as I was promoted and broken in on
operating heavy equipment at the early age of 18. Please note that
I have witnessed many steel spar operators over the years that I
have logged. None of them would I consider to be _better_ than I at
executing the duties\responsibilities of this job. I always try to
be ... The Best at everything I do. One steel spar I operated was
a Madill Tension Skidder. 130 tons with full fuel and lines. It
could pick up 20 tons of wood from a half a mile away and transport
it into the landing at 60 mph if the deflection was right. More
like flying a plane than running a yarder ... POWERTRIP :-). It
did little damage to the forest floor as logs were suspended high
above. Back to breaking wood, note that forestry size limits are
much tighter now. If you leave too much wood behind or too many
borderline sized pieces, they will send you back to relog the area.
This could break a "gypo" (small company).
There is often times a thin strip of trees left standing beside
creeks and streams in order to "protect\shade salmon habitat".
These trees have no strength in a thin strip as they are left and
they are eventually blown down and into the creek. The winter winds
do this with ease as the thin strip has no strength and they then
become obstacles for spawning salmon.
Alder trees often grow back amoungst the planted second growth
hemlock, fir, spruce, balsam etc... They are a very resiliant tree
that may some day be used on a large scale for building furniture.
But at the present time it is good for little more than firewood and
smoking fish\meats. It does not provide a quality of wood that is
in demand for our present market. What alder does have going for it
is that it's root structure helps in keeping soil in place and
reduces slide possibilities to some extent. Alder also releases
enzymes that are beneficial to the soil. It is often allowed to
grow to a certain extent, usually until it begins to choke out the
second growth trees at which time it is destroyed by a method called
"hack and squirt". This method consists of crews of workers pushing
their way through dense growth of alder and planted trees with
machete in one hand and a squirt bottle in the other. The squirt
bottle may contain either 24D or krenite. The machete is used to
hack through the bark all around the tree, then the chemical is
squirted into the hack marks. As I remember it being told to me by
a forestry official, 24D works by killing the tree from the hack
marks up, krenite works from the hack marks down. Either way, the
tree is dead and standing, no longer competition for second growth
and has not been fallen onto and crushing the planted trees. I have
also seen 24D mixed with diesel fuel and sprayed on dense roadside
growth. I have hunted grouse and deer in areas where these
practices have taken place, and I have been told by the forestry
official that swallowing a teaspoon full of 24D and you are history.
I witnessed a beautiful stand of spruce being logged using a
Madill grapple yarder, a Washington TL6 Loader and various makes of
logging trucks on Ronning Main, Holberg BC. The butt cut off of the
biggest spruce there was over 28 feet in diameter. The bunks on the
trucks have an inside diameter of 13' 6'' so the logs were bucked to
the shortest allowable length - 22' so that the equipment could yard
it to the road. To make the logs smaller and easier to handle, the
loggers used powersaws to cut a deep groove in the top side and a
high explosive (AMEX) was poured into the grove and detonated,
rendering pieces that could be hauled to the water and then handled
at the mill. It had taken the fallers a faller's day (6 1/2 hours)
and a half (two men) to put that baby down. They had to cut
'windows' into it as their powersaw bars were not long enough to
reach all of the way through. All of that area was covered with
beautiful spruce, many, many of them 10 to 14' at the butt. It
excited me at the time, but it saddens me now.
I watched a "cat skinner" drive his D8 Caterpillar down a
creekbed that was spawning habitat. This happened when he got stuck
while we were installing a culvert for logging trucks to use when
crossing the creek. Some ka ka woulda' flew over that one believe
me if word would have gotten to the wrong ears. I came close to
being killed in this exercise as well as I had been instructed to
set the choker that was on the winch line on the Caterpillar to a
tree. I did this and stepped away from the tree about 50 feet while
the cat skinner winched the cat around and churned up the bottom of
the creek in an attempt to get back on high and dry ground. All of
this pulling hard broke off the top of this tree that happened to be
rotten, and a very large piece fell from almost 100' up. It missed
me by about 12' as it hit very hard and almost disappeared from view
as it slammed into the forest floor. As in the one that did get me,
I wouldn't have known it was coming and I wouldn't have felt it.
Well maybe I did, but I sure don't remember it.
I worked in a camp where black bears, a mother and two cubs were
destroyed by an area foreman. He accomplished this by using a 357
magnum handgun; he may have been using .38 special ammunition. I
suspect that it was done humanely, but the reason for this to have
taken place was because of the crew that was working in that area
had been feeding cookhouse grub to them. The owner ordered the
foreman to carry out this task. This pissed the loggers off a great
deal as they had become very friendly with the bears - friendly
enough that a logger was able to get close enough to spray paint the
company logo on the side of the sow. As a payback, the loggers
slowed production for a period of time.
I have seen _green_ chokermen pick up power saws and start
cutting into logs for "practice", thus degrading the log a great
I helped blast a beaverdam that was 20' feet high, 200' long.
We used a case of Powerfrac 75 (75% nitro) to blow this dam and the
beavers straight to hell. I was a mile away when the charges went
off - extremely impressive water blast. It looked as though jets of
water and debris went 3/4 of a mile straight up. Incredible amounts
of pressure are generated when using dynamite underwater. Some of
the beavers musta' survived as they were right back to building it
the next morning.
I know of a real ass logger\hunter taking a poor shot at a
grizzly bear, wound it and not retrieve anything other that a tuft
of fur and bloodied leaves. The same man took potshots at a loon on
a lake in the same camp to see if his sights were _on_. The first
shot from his 30.06 hit the water close to the bird and stunned it.
It flapped for a while, but after another close shot and another
that was a direct hit, what was left of that loon floated lifeless.
I have also witnessed a logger shoot and kill a whiskeyjack with a
pellet pistol. This was a very sad sight as they are such a
friendly animal. They waste no time in joining you for lunch at the
higher altitudes (above 4,000 ft. above sea level). I have heard
it said that the whiskeyjacks are reincarnated loggers.
I have seen a lot of labor contracts being offered by the big
companies to employees that have worked for them for years. The
companies no longer want to _carry_ the dead weight that has
accumulated over the years and has contracted all of their headaches
out. Now it is the little guy that has to work himself and his crew
into the ground to survive. Truck drivers that used to be paid
their 8 hours straight time 2/3 of an hour a day for servicing their
truck, plus receive an extra hour a day overtime for hauling the
early or late load and getting weekends off, now are working 14 hour
days repairing their trucks and putting in weekends doing brakes,
rearends, springs ... I am glad I am no longer a part of it.
I have lost several friends due to logging accidents. Loader
operators, cat skinners, fallers. Average about 50 a year die in
BC, half of those are fallers. I personally had never had a lost
time accident, nor had I slept in and missed a shift. I drank to
excess a great deal, but never did I go to work under the influence.
My work was my life and I took great pride in it. There was no
other lifestyle that appealed to me more. I was a very big man, 240
pounds, very strong\tough. Packing some extra flab, but I was not
someone that you would want to ... ummm ... mess with. I had
planned to log for the rest of my life - I was good at it and I
loved the work outdoors, good weather - bad weather, it doesn't
matter to a real logger.
So we have a pot smokin' hippy up the tree that figger's he's gonna
stop me from falling it ay!? I bet he is stringin' beads to sell to
tourists at the ferry terminal next summer, a little extra to help
out with his welfare $$$, the $$$ that my @#$%%& taxes are putting
in his pocket. I'm out pulling strawline on the rigging, pulling so
hard I puke, my elbows, wrists, shoulders and back ache ... but I
keep pulling as this is what loggers do. It is a well earned $$.
No @#$%%& way is some @#$%%& tree hugger gonna stop me from doing my
job, earning my money, making my payments. I would have given the
tree hugger that climbed up the tree in an attempt to stop it from
being felled about 5 minutes to climb down before I started my under
cut. Had he not started down, that was his problem, not mine. Upon
completing my undercut and having knocked the wedge out, I would
have proceded with my back cut (that is if the authorities and BCTV
camera crew hadn't attempted to stop me. Nothing much more
dangerous than 240 pounds of pissed off logger packing a Stihl 0.75
cranking out at about 15,000 rpm, equipped with a 42" bar. Note
that .38 special would have worked:-)
I woulda' stopped and lit a smoke, poured a coffee, filed my chain
and said "Listen up mutha#$%@# ... you got three minutes to get you
ass down here, or I will PUT you down."
Anyways, I woulda' fallen the @#$%%& thing, made a martyr outta' the
hugger, bucked his arms and legs off if they happened to be
protruding from under the log. If his corpse happened to be in the
area that the log was to be bucked, I hope for his sake that he was
already dead. Woulda' been a little rough, even for me to buck
through his legs, torso or neck with him screaming. Oh, hold on, I
have just been improvisationally inspired. Get out the screwdriver
and make carbeurator adjustments - lean it right out so I can't
@#$%%& hear him. I knew there was a way :-) I can see Tony Parsons
telling that story :-)
Well, time to slack the haulback and go ahead on 'er, yo-yo-yo!
We're here to log, not ... ummm ... _walk_ the dog, so pitter
patter, lets get at 'er, it's on the ball or on the bomber."
The Old Frog's Almanac - A Salute to That Old Frog Hisse'f, Ryugen Fisher
Ladysmith, British Columbia, CANADA
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