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The unknown life of a logger


I loved him deeply, unquestionioningly.I also feared and respected my father.He was naturally introspective;easy to love yet kept a part of himself hidden. He was devoid of judgement of others, yet cynical of organized religion as a whole.He loathed the pollution of God’s Holy Word, the way the Bible was misused disgusted and dismayed him. I felt compelled by my love for him to shield him from disagreeable occurrances on the homefront while he was away from home earning our living.Being so very young, I was ill equipped to the challenge of lifting him up when he was down; which due to his very innate personality, was often. The cumbersome, heavy burden of raising a large family had its drawbacks on a limited income such as he faced.It wasn’t until after his death that I discovered just how limited his resourses were. I climbed up into the “cubbyhole” as we dubbed the space up over our basement steps one day not long after the funeral. He was accustomed to filing his important papers haphazardly in two small cardboard boxes kept there. Fueled by a desire to reach out to him in the void of his absence, I delved into the contents. I came across his earnings records. He’d worked as a planer operator at Cardiffs’ sawmill in Pierce, Idaho for the better part of eighteen years just prior to the mills closing the fall before, for  winter.I was stunned to see before me evidence of such a mediocre sum of $500.00 total earnings per month! I realize it was the late sixties, however, even at my tender years of age I also knew the expenses incurred supporting a family of eleven ( there were nine children) were substantial. We weren’t required by law back in those days to obtain car insurance or routine inspections as today, but aside from this he shouldered the inherent expenses of every self-sustaining family man. Hospital bills for births, illnesses, accidents, etc., were paid entirely due to his working abilities. Insurance wasn’t discussed, it seemed a man wasn’t considered a man if he couldn’t provide for his family on his own.A lesser man would have thrown in the towel and fled running for the hills at the enormous task before him, but my father took things in stride and persevered to the end. He was, after all, still a relatively young man by todays standards. He wouldn’t reach his fifty first birthday. I guess most children suppose their parents are sort of “born grown”, they don’t usually envision their parents ever being young, like themselves. I never gave much thought as to my fathers age. He just looked sooo..old to me from my earliest memory. The few photos I have seen support my evaluation. I don’t intend to give the impression that he lumbered around looking dejected or imprisioned in his role in life, quite the opposite. His children made it all worthwhile, he often opined. Quick to smile at our antics, I do believe he was for the most part , content with his life.But I also saw a side of him that was hidden from others quite ingeniously.For the 18 years he spent working in the sawmill at Cardiffs, the preponderance of it was pulling night shifts. Such individuals become used to sleeping days, staying awake nights. Once the routine’s interrupted, one’s system doesn’t adjust abruptly, especially after so long a time.He developed insomnia. No matter how hard he tried to sleep nights, he basically couldn’t.He’d manage an hour or two, then his eyes would pop open and he was up for the remainder of the night.Many was the night I’d find myself plodding down the hall from my bedroom, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. I’d usually find himon the livingroom sofa, reading the Bible. He always expressed concern for me losing sleep, asking why I was out of bed.I’d just reassure him that I wouldn’t stay up long, and it seemed to placate him. Then, inviobly, he’d impart some new insight he’d gained from searching The Scriptures.His eyes seemed to be pleading with me to “get it”.He was doing his best to provide the training spoken of in Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”These nocturnal visits with my father, the one person I esteemed on earth before all others, are still dear to my heart. I’ve often wished my siblings had been able to participate in them, they missed out on so much. I must confess, I felt honoured to have had those precious moments they’ll never experience, and for that I am truly sorry. If only…My father was a man like any other, with his own foibles and weaknesses, but to a large extent he kept them well camoflaged behind his quiet persona.I’d have to truthfully say he had a volatile temper if pushed to his limits. Those rare occasions, he reacted in excessive rage. I believe his abusive childhood with an alcoholic father fueled these abberant behaviors, and he detested himself at such times. One is a product of ones sums and pieces, I feel. I forgave him for his lapses in judgement, sadly, I don’t find the same tolerant attitude in my siblings. They were young and unable to look at the broader picture then, and now, untolerant to forgive.He loved Our Lord, taught us right from wrong and provided well for our family. Though some would classify our family as being “poor”, I say, “I never knew it!” Sure, we didn’t get every new toy or product on the market; didn’t “keep up with the Jones'”, as the saying goes. But our home (which my father and mother built with their own hands) was filled with happy, laughing children. Well dressed and clean, lovingly cared for. We all sat down at the dining-room table together, promptly at 5 o’clock every evening.

On a cold, crisp morning in early May(4th), 1970, I awoke to the tantalizing smells of breakfast wafting into my bedroom.. My first thought was, “School today, I need to go back to sleep until I HAVE to get up!” But my feet found the cold floor of their own accord, leading me to the dining-room table, where sat my father. His work-coarsened hands cupped a crockery mug of cold coffee sitting before him on the table.He looked at me with the saddest, worried looking eyes, and asked me why was I up so early. I made some off-hand remark I don’t even recall, then asked HIM what was wrong? Mom was happily busy in the kitchen, where I could see her preparing the first meal of the day, oblivious to the worried tension at the table where we sat. Then my father began to tell me of a dream he’d had in the night: He’d been lying down and his mother had leaned over him, crying, her tears plopping down upon his still face.(His mother was at this time in Kentucky, we were in Idaho)He said he tried to ask her why she was crying, but couldn’t speak, couldn’t move. Next, he noticed something else quite peculiar, his feet were cold, bare of shoes, yet he was dressed in a brown tweed suit! My father was a working man, suits and the like were of little use to him in his profession, and the only “suit” in his possession was his old army uniform dating back to WWll! While he relayed the details of the dream to me, his eyes worriedly scanned mine as if I may have the elusive answer he was searching for. I was just a sixteen year old girl. I so wanted to alleviate the pain I saw in those worried brown eyes, I wanted so to reassure him that “Its just a dream”, but didn’t dare. You see, my father had  had a few strange (at the time, I thought) dreams before, over the course of the past few years. THEY’D ALL COME TRUE!We both knew this, so the dream before us now held terrible implications. I tried to placacate him with platitudes I didn’t believe, and could see in his eyes I was failing miserably, just when he needed me most.We sat quietly for a few minutes until mom brought plates of food to the table, pouring fresh hot coffee into his mug. My father told me,” Dont worry, Sis, eat”. Not long after finishing his breakfast, he took up his coat and lunchpail, kissed mom on her cheek, kissed my forehead, said he’d see us that evening, and left for work. He’d taken the new job at Schmidt Bros. the week before. I believe he’d only worked there one or two days. He worked “on the landing”. The “landing” to lumberjacks, is the site where fallen timber is loaded by crane onto logging trucks bound for the sawmill. The previous friday father had informed all of us sitting at the supper table that his bosses’ nephew had disobeyed rules and regulations for the operation of the crane that day.He’d swung logs over the heads of the men, which was extremely hazardous. This “college kid” as father referred to him; on school break, thought himself above taking orders from those veterans in the field my father worked with. My father plainly told us  “That boy is going to kill someone if he isn’t careful.” At approximately eleven o’clock that morning, May 4th, 1970, I was paged over the schools intercom to come to the principals office immediately. This was a first for me. I knew I hadn’t done anything to deserve a dressing down from the principal, but as I proceeded to his office, I felt a forboding  aprehension. Once there, I recognized the wife of my fathers boss. I felt like ice-water was coursing through my veins immediately. She informed me, as well as my sister, who’d been summoned also, that our father had been injured in a serious accident. She was there to transport us to the hospital, where we’d meet up with our mother.

The crane had indeed dropped an enormous log from the sky, as my father had predicted would happen, only he had no way of knowing it would be he who would be crushed by the falling log. The nearest funeral home had clothing one could purchase for their deceased. Mom chose the only “suit” that would fit my father, a brown-tweed. The trauma perpetrated upon his body in the accident caused tremendous swelling. A small statured man in life, in death he was horribly bloated. The funeral home was unable to extract all the fluid build-up.

Idaho had a law on the books that prohibited folks from being buried with shoes on.

My dear grandmother’s life had been a hard one. Her eldest son had fought during a world war and been spared. She couldn’t fathom losing him to the unforgiving profession he’d chosen to provide for his family.He’d been so proud to inform her he would making sixteen hundred dollars a month in his new job!

Footnote* The sixteen hundred didn’t cover burial expenses

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The unknown life of a Logger


My fathers hard but fulfilling life and subsequent death

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