Monday, December 19, 2005

I'll start my logging photos off with this load of logs Robert and I hauled. I call this photo, "Payload". When you can get this many logs on a truck, you know you're going to make some money for yourself when you get them to the mill.

Of all the jobs Robert and I have done, I liked logging the best. It sometimes meant getting up at 1 am so you could be at the woods by 2 or 3 (am) but I love being in the forest and I liked the loggers. They were polite and lots of fun to visit with. Growing up on a farm, I always heard what a rowdy bunch of people loggers were! I was kind of surprised to find I liked them so much. They can be blunt, quick to throw a punch, fast to stand up for themselves and their friends, and lots of fun! Even though they work all but four or five hours out of every day, they also have a great sense of humor.

We hauled a load of logs from Plains, Montana, right before break up in the spring. Robert always pulled a pup trailer behind him. The weather wasn't good for getting the trucks up the hill and the logging company was trying to get all the remaining logs out in one day. They didn't figure the weather would be good for hauling after that as all the load limits were going on the roads.

We were at the log loader at 2 am. We got our load on and started off the hill. Robert had chained up the truck. As we started off the hill, we were driving over roads covered with melting ice and slick wet clay. We came down the first loop and got to the steep part. Right before we came off, Robert decided to put on all the chains he had. We had 18 sets of chains on the truck and pup. He even chained up the steering axle. I'd never seen anyone do that before and I was getting kind of excited. I figured we were going to go for a ride like I'd never seen before.

He wasn't saying much when he got back into the truck and started down off the hill. By the time we hit the first switchback, we were really rolling and there wasn't anything anyone could do about it. The pup was swaying back and forth behind us, knocking down trees as it whipped from side to side, I could hear the cracking of the timber and as the pup ran from side to side, you could feel the pull of it on the truck itself.

At the switchback, we headed up the bank of the road, hitting the corner on the high side. The truck swooped around the corner, following a road shaped like the z of Zorro. We were naturally gaining speed as 18 sets of chains were barely providing enough traction to keep us on the slime of the logging road. Trees of the forest raced by my window, they were going faster and faster as we neared the bottom of the hill.

Waiting log trucks were parked directly in the road where we were to come onto the main road. The drivers were out of their trucks, smoking and visiting. Waiting for their turn to go up the hill and get a load of logs. None of them had a pup, they were all single trailers. Our pup was still whipping and knocking off timber as we came down and the drivers heard the noise. They ran to their trucks, barely pulling them out of the way before we took their spot. We were way down the main road before we got stopped to take off the chains.

The next day, another driver decided to take the run we had the day before, he pulled a pup to the same place and tried to come down. He only put on a few sets of chains and came off the hill. He lost the truck and blew up the engine, taking a ride I would not want to be on!

One other time I took a ride to the top of the mountain with Robert in the log truck. The road was created right on the line of the logging operation and a huge tree was just the other side of the line. Because of the layout of the road, the switchback was right at the tree. The switchback was so severe, and so steep, we backed the trucks in. Not an easy feat when you're pulling a pup.

When we got to the top of the hill, another log truck was there. The man driving that truck walked up to us and he told Robert, "you go down first. I'm not sure a truck can make it down from here." His eyes were so wide and round! When it was time to come off that hill, Robert made me get out of the truck and walk down. I argued with him, but he said No, you're walking. If I can't make it, I can jump out, because I'll be on the high side of the truck, but you wouldn't have a chance. Can you imagine, having to watch him come off that hill as I walked down? I felt like the rat who deserted the sinking ship. But he did make it without incident. He does know how to drive a truck!