Soon enough I got a job as a chokerman for Koprino logging company working with men I went to highschool with. “Setting beads” was the idiom for the job I was doing. This involved working on the side of a mountain with a “tower/yarder” at the top with a “Block(pulley)” on the bottom. A 1.5 inch steel cable would loop between the “block” and “tower/yarder’, which was a huge diesel-hydraulic machine that would winch these massive trees up the the “landing” (road) to be loaded onto logging trucks and sent off to the sorting yard. My job was to wrap a 3/4″ cable around a log lying in the clear cut with another man and then we would get out of the way as the “yarder” would pull the tree up the mountain. It was physically enjoyable work and it was very physically challenging. It was also frustrating as the “beads” would get tangled in the underbrush and there was constant tripping…also because of the underbrush there was pressure to hustle and “get some wood”.
The first few days was a trial and I was picked over another guy. I can’t remember how far in but it wasn’t long. There was a massive hemlock at about 3 feet in diameter and 30 feet long. We hooked it up and sent it up the mountain. Our cables came back down and we were getting the next logs ready when we heard the one long horn…and “get the F*&% out!). We scrambled and got about 10 feet away. The log was too big for the grappling machine to load it onto the truck. It slipped and shook the ground on the way down to stop where we were working.
I was shaken up and crying I was so scared. We were called up to the landing and had a safety meeting and let go for the day. I lasted about 3 more days and let go. I was too scared after that. It was surprising how compassionate these very rough and tough men were. They completely understood that I had that kind of scare too early and that there was no shame as I would have gotten seriously hurt if I would have stayed on with that level of fear.
Still teaching dance from time to time and just floating and dreaming of dancing my long distance relationship with Anne came to a close…as most young people long distance relationships do. I got another logging job in Kimsquit Valley. We would fly north in a small plane and land on a gravel runway. It feels like you are going slide into the bush. Once in camp I was the smallest man in there by at least 30 pounds. I had long hair and was told by some of the old timers that if I came back with long hair I would be locked in a barrel. There were also threats of rape…whether it was a joke or not I wasn’t comfortable. This is the blue collar experience.
Men would stay up all night drinking and then get up very early to work their physical and dangerous jobs. Each man was allowed to bring in 48 beers and some would order beer as soon as they landed to make sure they had enough. I saw a guy vomiting first thing in the morning and he didn’t think it was from the alcohol. Apparently they would meet up outside of work and do harder drugs as well. I couldn’t help but think they were in alot of pain or somewhat insane.
I was supposed to go in for 2 weeks and every shift was short I was happy. Every time I was off any blue collar work I ever did was the best time. If a fishing opening was short I was happy. I could do the work at a decent level but hated the childishness.
Camp mealtimes were awesome.The camp cook was a nice man and excellent at his job. The last meals of my last shift up north were spent stuffing my face with triple helpings. I ate so much that I didn’t have to eat for 2 days after coming out.
I am happy to have lived through it.