The Forest Around Us
Day in the life of a chokerman
a quarter after six in the morning, in this forest around us, at the
Big Timber Logging Company’s camp up the coast of B.C. Let’s
say it’s April and the hills surrounding this inlet logging camp
are heavy in mist and occasional light rain. The camp employs about
150 men—a little over 100 eat at the company cookhouse and the
remainder are family men living in company houses up on a slight hill
just behind the single men’s quarters.
....George Arkin (fictitious) has just
been rudely awakened, as only an 18 year old can be rudely awakened,
by the sound of the camp horn. Not exactly your average young man’s
version of an alarm clock.
and toast and he’s sitting down with some of the crew mumbling a few words about what a lousy day it looks like.
....George finishes breakfast and goes back to the bunkhouse to put on his caulks, gather up his yellow rain gear, hard hat and with bag of lunch walks over to the assembly area where the crummies are warming up to take their crews to the woods.
....It’s a 10 mile drive to the woods—the first part over pretty good gravel roads, but as the bus gets closer to the mobile spar on which the crew works it gets quite rough. Now the rain is really starting to come down and as the crew alight from the crummie they all curse the day, each in their inimitable way.
....Lunches are put in a safe place from crows and ravens and it’s “out to the weeds” for George, another choker-man, a rigging slinger and their boss, the hooktender. The talk is short and small as they find their way out to where they left off at quitting time yesterday. The engineer on the steel tower revs his engine up and is soon joined by the roar of the log loader alongside, and a logging truck backing into the landing for its first load of the day.
....Here we go boys—you gotta be tough in the north! B.S.—you gotta be nuts to be in this rain-forsaken-place in the north—figures George.
....Eight o’clock—the whistle blows and back come the two chokers looking for some logs. The rigging-slinger stops the chokers over some logs in the bush, by means of his electronic belt signaling device. When the rigging stops swaying about the three young men walk in to the chokers and wrestle with the inch wire line as they fasten them about a couple of logs. They walk out of the way and once in the clear George watches the rigging slinger give the whistle to go ahead on the mainline. The lines tighten and pull the logs toward the steel spar and the rigging slinger sizes up the next “turn” they will hook onto.
George and his buddy talk a bit but the damn weather is just not con-ducive to finding anything too inter-esting to talk about. It’s wet and the brush is wet and George can feel one foot getting wet because he didn’t grease his boots last weekend. The morning wears on—the hooker hollers over to keep farther away from the lines when they’re moving. The three young men glare at him.
....It’s just about noon—it’s still rainy and it’s the last turn of logs before lunch. George’s buddy is talking about quitting if it doesn’t stop raining—is that all it ever does in this damn country? Oh no—it snows, it hails, it blows and it gets hot. What the hell!
....Lunch—the crew walks in from the woods to the spar and all try to find a
British Columbia Lumberman, June, 1975
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dry spot of sorts to sit and eat their gourmet bag of lunch. It’s
good food — but. The hooktender, an old timer of 34, holds forth
on how a chokerman he worked with at the last camp he was in (a month
ago) nearly got his head taken off by a swinging line. The conversation
turns from near death to a fantastic rich woman the hooktender used
to shack up with on his trips to the big city.
on the hill. He can hear children laughing up there. Must be pretty good to have a house in camp — sure wouldn’t be so lonely. Hell, there’s nothing to do. Wonder what my girl is doing in the city. Guess I better go write her.
....He walks back to the bunkhouse, hears some of the fellows hooting it up in the room next to his. They holler for him to come in and shoot the breeze. Might as well.
....The forest is twilighting. The camp hills are just outlines around the camp. A breeze picks up and the rain starts in a fine mist. The generator noise hums along.
....“Hey George, let’s blow this place in the morning.”
the chokerman thinks for a moment and takes a sip of beer. “Ya,
O.K. Sounds good—you got a partner.”
Keep out of the bight,
|British Columbia Lumberman, June, 1975||