July 24, 2010


I'm a Lumberjack and I'm Okay...

When my Dad was young - long before he came east to Ontario, long before I was even a twinkle in his eye - he was a lumberjack. I don't think he did it for long; he was a farmboy off the prairies who stumbled onto the job more out of necessity than desire, or so he once told me.

He was small. He didn't reach his final towering height of 5'8" until he was 21. So it was a diminutive boy in his later teens who became a 'topper' - the smallest, lightest guy who headed to the top of the tree. The thought of someone hurtling UP a tree was a mental image that has stayed with me my entire life. The fact it was my father made it that much more thrilling. In later years, I watched my father chop and chainsaw his way through hundreds of trees. When we had the big Ice Storm of '73 (I think), he ran around for days taking down damaged trees for neighbours for a 5 block radius. They thought he was a hero; he just wanted the wood.

He taught us to chop firewood, and to work a bow saw. At the cottage, we still have his collection of crosscuts and bows, toothy, medieval looking things that still make me pause. His favoured chopping block has long since melted into the earthy landscape up there, but he taught me how to choose one for density, height and levelness. There is nothing that wears you out faster than chopping wood, especially if you are ten and don't want to let your father see your slender shoulders aching. He would lean over and give whatever piece I was struggling with a mighty slam, just to 'help' me along. I was usually fine with the final couple of inches.

In the New York Times today, I learned of a two week credit program for lumberjacks. All of these thoughts came crashing back, and I realize there is nothing I would like more than to go to this school. No, I could never make it. No, I could never graduate. No, I am a lumberjack (or jill) only in my wee mind. But I would still like to feel the energy drain out of me as I tried. I would still like to imagine my Dad leaning over to help.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous buzzwhack said...

Spend a week in Arnprior at lumber jack camp and you will crawl home kissing your chainsaw. I think it's amazing what the early logging camps and shantys endured under the likes of McLachlin Bros.
OK seriously, it's a hardy experience and I think you'd fare alright in it once you learn the tricks. Make it easy on yourself and don't pack those crazy shorts you wore at boxing school.

July 24, 2010 4:36 PM  
Blogger Chris Brown (not the felon) said...

Don't sell yourself short (or tall.) With your Dad covering your back I would never bet against you. My guess is that you'd chop a few of those real lumberjacks down to size.

July 24, 2010 9:36 PM  

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