by Bill Moore
He didn’t need an alarm clock, couldn’t afford one anyway. By habit he woke up at 4:30 every morning and started his long day.
....He lived in a small shiplap bunkhouse16 by 20 feet. Three other men lived there with him and it was known as the quiet bunkhouse because no one got a bunk there unless he looked quiet.
....He was called Bullcook – the camp handyman, the hauler of firewood, the lighter of Coleman gas lamps and the maker of logger’s beds.
....Gust Soderlund was a bullcook in a small up-coast float camp and in the lineage of his craft he was a pretty good one. Gust was of course a Swede – short and stocky with a round cherub face. He was a man who went about his work in a steady, plodding manner.
....The camp held 33 employees. There were no family homes and all the loggers slept in bunkhouses and ate in the company cookhouse.
....In 1936, Gust worked seven days a week and he would stay in camp for six months at a stretch. If he was careful, and he was, he could clear $60.00 a month. His total earnings would be close to $100.00, but his board and a few work clothes took off about $40.00.
....Gust was in bed by about 8:30 every night. He stopped for his meals and took a half-hour lay down after lunch if no one needed him.
....Bullcooks were looked upon by the rest of the crew as sort of something they had to put up with. Let the fire-wood be too wet, or run out and there was hell to pay.
....In fact let anything go wrong with the logger’s daily life in camp and the bullcook soon heard about it. Loggers lived by routine in the bunkhouse and the cookhouse – let that routine get slightly out of tune and the hollering started. Just let the bullcook forget to put the apple and orange wrappers out in the three-holer and watch the sparks fly. A heinous crime!
....The float camps are near gone from the coastal inlets of B.C., but 50 years ago they were the small towns and villages of our thousands of miles of timbered water-ways. They ranged in size from a single log float with a hand-logger’s shack on it to a series of log floats stretching up to half a mile long. They were lashed to each other by cables and every so often a good southeaster would descend down the inlet and snap some floats apart.
....When this happened, water lines were severed and general chaos surrounded the camp. And a good south-easter generally happened at night – just to make things interesting.
....It was December and Gust stretched himself and crawled out of bed quietly so as not to disturb his snoring companions. He lit a coal oil lamp and dressed in his work clothes, then went over to the wood heater and stirred up the coals and threw in some dry wood.
....Once in the dry-house he opened up the big iron door on the 90 gallon drum heater and saw that the fire was out. He had kindling ready and set a new fire and banked it up. This old monster dried the loggers’ work clothes and provided hot water for the part of the shiplap building that was the wash-house and shower area.
....Gust then went to his nearby woodyard and loaded up his homemade wooden wheelbarrow with dry kindling and pushed off to the row of bunkhouses and their heaters. The buildings were not insulated and so when it was cold, and the fire went out, it was cold inside as well as outside.
....By six o’clock the early-birds were shuffling back and forth from the wash house and at six-thirty the flunkey came out of the cookhouse to clang the “first bell” on the big iron triangle. That meant, for those hugging the blankets, to get up and get in the lunchroom to make up their lunch and be ready for breakfast at 7 a.m.
(Cont’d on pg. A6)
|A4 British Columbia Lumberman December, 1985|
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Moore . . .
(Cont’d from pg. A4)
....By 7:30 the camp was
clear of loggers as they headed out to the woods to fight the mighty cedars
and spruce and hemlock. They wouldn’t be back in camp until five
and Gust was ready to “do up” the bunkhouses.
....While he was in each bunkhouse he
would fill the Cole-man lamps with naptha gas and would replace any
broken mantles. He pumped the bases with his little hand air pump so
they would be ready for the loggers when they came in from work.
|A6 British Columbia Lumberman December, 1985|