Wally Knott on saw and his partner Red Meyers at Meades Creek Oct. 1945 by W.H.Gold PhotoMOFM Logo
Archie White
Archie WhiteI worked for over fifty years in the forest industry from 1944 to 1995. I first started working in the Cowichan Valley in 1959. I had been working out at Jarvis Inlet in Powell River for eleven years, and then transferred to Nitnat.  My father logged years ago, off and on, but would always return to the farm in Courtenay.  I worked with my brother Ralph at Nitnat.  I was head loader and he was second loader.

My first job as head loader involved standing on the cab of the truck and the second loader ran down on the landing.  We used to have two second loader on a hayrack boom.  In 1969 we had the authority to go out and load the shovels, just a single shovel.  We worked hard.  We ran…we didn’t just walk!  They would say:  “You don’t run here boy…you fly!”  The logs were pulled down with a shovel with lines, now they use hydraulic machines but back then we used line machines.  You would pull line for 300 feet or something like that.  You would grab a hook on the line, put it over your shoulder and away you went, up the hill and down the hill.  Sometimes you had a good engineer and he’d wind it up and throw it up the hill for us so we wouldn’t have to pull it so far.

I also hooked and rigged.  You feel kind of lonesome up that 160 ft. tree by yourself the first time.  I would climb up with belt & spurs and hung a small block up at the top.  Then you took what they called a pimp line, a small steel line, and tied it to your belt.  Once you hung the block, you threaded it through the small pass block.  Then we’d pull the line up with our hands and that’s where you’d hang all the guylines.  The guys would be all down on the ground and tying things up.  It was a bit scary and lonesome the first time I did it.  If you miss your step you fall down a few feet.  I remember one that was a pretty high tree up at Jarvis Inlet and I rigged it myself.  They put a chain on one end of the guyline and the other end went on the drum of the rig-up goat, and it came out with an end long enough to go around the tree so you could shackle it up.  Once it was on the tree, you usually had three irons on the tree, one on each side with a pin, and then you lay the guylines above them.  You had mostly six guylines on the top and then down lower, where the loading rigging was, you had four.  Well, you’d pull a tree down and then attach the guyline to the stump and then nail it down with railroad spikes.  The faller wouldn’t come in until we were finished yarding the whole setting.

The whistle wire worked pretty well as long as you had a good whistle punk!  A lot of them were older guys that had lots of experience, and were too crippled up to do much else, as long as they had good ears!  You might be 300-400 feet away from the guy that’s hollering at you. 

A cherry picker is a machine that picks up the logs by the side of the road, that they can reach with the boom.  Sometimes they have a snorkel pole and it straps on top of the boom, and it reaches out 30-40 feet past the end of the boom.  They have a block hanging on the end of it with a line from the fairleads on the machine through that and then down to the ground with a grapple hanging from it.  The main line and the haul back line then swung the grapple out through the block at the end of the snorkel pole and it pulled the logs.  Some of the guys could throw the grapple quite a ways.  They would pick up the logs from 200-300 feet off the road, they call it the “cheap” logs.  There were usually 2-3 guys doing it with one guy operating the machine.  I remember when Dick McQuinn and I were cherry picking with tongs and I had one second loader and we got 22 loads in one day off highway trucks.  I think they averaged 87 tons/load with 22 loads.  Dick McQuinn and I had some memorable times together, even though they tried to separate us once.

I ran a grapple yarder, swing yarder they call it now.  I started with the ordinary high lead tower, and that has a chaser, rigging slinger, two chokermen, and a hooktender.  The slackline went on the 90 ft. steel spar, they used to use wood spars until Madill came out with steel spars.  The grapple yarder had a grapple (shovel) on it and the high lead tower and slackline tower were all choker lines.  They went in all directions and were connected to a spar which helps to pick up the logs and move them.  My son is working up at Mt. Sicker doing my job now working on a grapple yarder.

There are usually two chokermen and the rigging slinger, and then the hooktender was the boss of the crew.  The rigging slinger's job was to spot the choker when it was coming back from the line, and he would help the choker if they had a tight log.  I remember at Jarvis Inlet, working with Jesse James there, and we used to race the young chokermen.  The chokermen thought they were quicker than us, because we were in our 40’s, but we were sly.  There was always harmony, though.

We always had a good crew, but we had to keep an eye on the young guys to make sure they didn’t get hurt.  We did have some close calls the odd time.  There was one time in Jarvis Inlet when my brother-in-law was setting chokers for me, I was pulling rigging then.  We were skyline logging.  When the turn of logs went down onto the landing, it dropped down and the lines were rubbing behind the stump.  We were a long ways away waiting for the rigging to come back.  Right away, the lines caught on the stump, and I had two chokermen with me, and the lines flew off the stump and it was side washed behind the landing.  So, when that came off it went right over our heads and I hit both men and knocked them down to the ground, it was about knee-high.  All three of us were lying on the ground.  That line would have cut us in half; it was a big metal cable.  We also had two fatalities that I can remember. The first one was on grade, he ran a cherry picker.  A log came off the side of the hill and nailed the guy against a stump, a native from down here.  The second one was also on the grade and involved a Cat rolling over the guy.

Life in the forest was at a dead run!  It never stopped.  We usually worked from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  I was married and we lived in a house at the camp, there were about twelve married quarters there, and we took a crummy up to the work site each day.

We had a new block of timber so we worked pretty near 12 months a year, even in the snow.  One year we had about 4-5 feet of snow, but I went up coast for 11 months.  I didn’t get sick very often.  I worked 50 years in the woods and I had maybe one day off!  I think I had the flu, if I remember.

I think we fought fires every year!  Once up in Jarvis Inlet a fire started just from some lines rubbing on a rock and it started sparks which began a fire.

Around here there was Franklin River that had about 2, 000 men, and then there was Hillcrest Lumber Company, WFI Gordon River, Caycuse, and BCFP.  They were good camps; I think they were some of the best.

Wolfe HoffmanLife in camp was quite good, except for the drinking on the weekends.  The majority of the camp workers were white but there were a few from other nationalities.  I have three children, a girl and two boys.  They still say that was the best place we ever lived!  They went to school right in our backyard, right up until grade 5, I think. There was a little lake for them to swim in and there was a recreational hall to play badminton.  We were off on weekends usually and had two weeks of holiday in the summer when we would go to the beach with the kids.

One thing that we did for entertainment was to wrestle.  My brother liked to kid people, and he was fast and strong.  He would stir up a couple of guys and get them wrestling. My brother was really good to work for; no one around there could catch him!  He was fast – always on the go!  That’s the reason he never got hurt, either. 

We had a safety meeting one time at Mesachie Lake for all the companies around, like BCFP.  I was on the safety committee with my brother.  All the camps around, Hillcrest, Gordon River, our Nitnat camp that was Crown Zellerbach at that time, I guess.  We had a meeting and I sat with the superintendent of BCFP, they had divided us up to see what we did in our camps.  They all said we should take time off and go slow.  I got thinking about it and when it came around to asking me I said, “Well, I guess I’m different than you guys – the faster you go the quicker you get it out of the way!”  Well, that’s the way it is, if you're always on the move they never tag you!  Always alert!

It’s changed a lot…they were always at you for more wood and less people to help you.  I was glad to get out of it when I did!  They were always cutting back and cutting back.  You work your hide off and they don’t appreciate it at all. But, I loved it… I just lived for it!  I loved every minute of it!