Summary: Observations from an "old school" rough'n'tumble loggerregarding logging practices, environmentalists, and Clayoquatprotesters...

Newsgroups: bc.general
Subject: Comments from a retired B.C. logger
Message-ID: <>
From: (Ken Mcvay)
Date: Sat, 25 Sep 93 00:35:59 GMT
Distribution: bc
Organization: The Old Frog's Almanac
Summary: Observations from an "old school" rough'n'tumble loggerregarding logging practices, environmentalists, and Clayoquatprotesters...
Lines: 290
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.

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 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. "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."

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 I.

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:

  1. 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 habitat.
  2. 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 now.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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. Yummm...
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. I have seen _green_ chokermen pick up power saws and start cutting into logs for "practice", thus degrading the log a great deal.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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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