Wally Knott on saw and his partner Red Meyers at Meades Creek Oct. 1945 by W.H.Gold PhotoMOFM Logo
Garnet Margetish

Garnet MargetishI was born in Duncan, and lived on a float house for several weeks, until they brought the camp up on the beach at Caycuse (Camp 6).  My father, Gordon Margetish, ran cold decker and steam donkeys in 1939.  He operated a thing called a ‘snubber’– it would pull empty rail cars up the hill, because the train couldn’t get up there.  He originally worked at Camp 3, which is known as Nitnat now.  He went to the boss and said, “I guess I’ll have to quit and go somewhere else, because I'm getting married and you don’t have any married quarters here.”  They said, “Don’t quit!  Go to Caycuse because we have married quarters there.”  So that was how we ended up at Caycuse.

At Caycuse we had a floating camp, which included:  a store, a bunkhouse, a cook house, and a place called the Green House, which was a place for guests.  It was all on water until 1945 or 46.  Then they moved onto the land, and they even had Chinese bunkhouses, that were separate from the others.  The Chinese community was over by the shop in the camp.  When they brought the store up on the beach, they cleared off a big area and put in a cook house, and about eight bunkhouses in an ‘H’ form.  They started off in double rooms, because there were so many men.

I worked at Caycuse when I was still a student.  I would work during the summer holidays.  I planted trees in 1955 at Wilson Creek– I was only fifteen.  They wanted tree planters, but they didn’t really have a silviculture group, so BCFP (BC Forest Products) paid us to work for a week at Easter.  In 1956, when I was still a student, I was a ‘spark-chaser’ for the summer.  I also worked on the slackline on the skidder at Seven Mile Creek.  Seven Mile Creek is seven miles up from Nitinat Lake.  In 1958, I set chokers on a skidder, and then I went up to Babine Lake in the Interior.

McClure Lake & Caycuse JunctionI came back from Babine Lake in December of 1958, and in 1959 I started at Gordon River.  I worked there on a cold decker with Reg Stevens as the hooker… he was an old-timer from Camp 3.  Then I worked with Mike Marrs who was the rigging slinger there.  I remember the cold decker operator was an old guy.  We would get up there about a half an hour before the operator would, so we could sit there and do whatever we wanted.  It took him about forty-five minutes to walk up, and it only took us a half hour.  He would stop at the tree, but we could walk right up to where we were working. 

In 1961, I started pulling rigging on a slackline.  Then I started hooking on a high lead tin tree, a Madill 65.  I was also working on a Wyssen System long line.  We had a cable that was five hundred feet short of a mile long, with extensions on both ends.  The machine was up at the top of the hill, and there was one running line– it went into a special carriage that was made in Switzerland, and it ran like clockwork.  It really wasn’t the type of thing you should give to a logger, because of all the intricacies in it.  The carriage would run up the cable, and as long as the carriage was moving, these big clamps would stay off the cable.  As soon as we blew ‘stop’, the carriage would go a little bit further because of the weight of the line.  There was an oil reservoir in there, and when the oil drained out of it, these spring-loaded clamps would clamp onto the cable.  We could hear it all over the valley…  ‘Clang!’  So then we would blow ‘go-ahead’, and when that happened, the operator would ‘trip’ the jaws.  We could hear a ‘click’ and the jaws would open.  Then the bull hook would come down with the chokers, and we would take that thing… if we could pull that line a thousand feet, we could get that much slack.  It didn’t matter how much slack we wanted, as long as we could pull it.  There were places we had to pull it five hundred feet down a canyon.
I received guidance from guys like Al Norman, who was a high rigger at Caycuse, and Frank Fitzpatrick who was a high rigger at Gordon River. Whenever they had to raise a tree, or even an A-frame on the log dump, we had these high riggers to rig things up.  When the engineers set that last Wyssen row up, they had a six hundred foot piece of string tied to the cable down by the lake.  They said, “When that cable touches the ground, and when that cable is up in the air, that’s as high as you can cable up. Otherwise you will have too much tension on the cable.”  Well, they looked up the hill, and the cable was still on the ground at this ridge.  So Ron Lawson said, “Keep going! We can’t log this way.”  But after Al Norman looked at it, he said, “Well, we can put that cable in a tree up there on the ridge.”  So that is what he did! He knew about deflection and what was needed.  For example, skidder trees were ‘home’ trees, by that I mean they had trees at the back-end that were rigged to get that extra lift off the ground… to get that cable off the ground.  Deflection was a thing that loggers loved, but people who were in offices didn’t understand.  They would ask, “How come it takes so long to get a load of logs out?”  It was because we were pulling the logs through mud instead of in the air!
We learned to listen to the old timers, and the guys with a lot of scars.  The guys, who were most wise, were the guys that were there the longest. An old timer once told me that there was no such thing as a bad question!

Nitnat Spruce FlatsIn 1970, I broke onto a loading machine.  It was a snorkel loader, and I worked with Wally Carlson.  I learned a lot from him!  I second-loaded for him, and he let me get on the machine, so I learned how to run those.  In 1975 I started loading, and that was the same kind of a machine that we used for a grapple yarder– Howard Donahue and I ran that for a year in 1976.  In 1977 I went loading– I was on the grapple yarder, and Ronnie Evans was on a loader that Wally was running.  Wally went into the dispatch, because he didn’t want to run the machine, so Ronnie Evans took over for Wally.  One day Ronnie came to me and he said, “Do you like loading?” I said, “Yeah.” So he said, “Well, I don’t like it too much, so how about switching?”  So we did.  We switched, and then the bosses came around and said, ‘What’s going on here?”  I just said, “Well, Ronnie wants to run the grapple yarder.”  They are nearly identical machines except they have different rigging– one was a loader and one was a yarder.  So the bosses said, “I guess that's okay if you both feel good about it.”  So that’s what we did, and then I was a loader operator until I retired in 2004.  I operated different loaders like Snorkles, Madills, and all sorts of different machines. 

Then we had different guys on the crews perform different tasks to a common goal.  The goal is to get the wood out, but to do it safely.  BCFP was big on safety, so I think that safety had to be relative to everybody on the crew.  If we saw anyone doing anything unsafe, we had to let them know.  Al Norman and Hank Fitzpatrick were people that we learned a lot from, about safe logging systems and practices.  There were many others who could teach, talk, and tell of their insights on the rigging:  Lorne Atchison, Bob Norcross, Gerry Salmon, Bill Doyds, Pete Yose Sr., John Hyde,  and Reg Stevens, to name a few.  We learned different methods of doing the same thing.  Sometimes a guy would say, “That’s the wrong way”, but it’s not necessarily the wrong way… its just a different way. 

There were sweetheart deals that weren’t in the IWA settlement agreement, there was especially a lot of overtime… too much overtime.  We got paid the overtime, but they wanted us to work all hours of the day.  I refused because I told them that I only work for eight hours a day, not twelve!  I was bagged after eight hours, and I had to learn to pace myself.  When I tried to do something in a hurry, it would get fouled up and took twice as long to get done.  Plus, it was nice to get home and have some time with my family.  I was living in camp when the kids were young, but we moved out to Cobble Hill when the kids were twelve, ten, and six.  I was away from home for twelve hours, which included the travel time.  There was no way I was going to work an extra four hours!  I told them, “I was born at night… but not last night!”  So, they got another guy to run that machine, and he was a good operator.  There were lots of good operators, especially when there were at least three hundred and fifty guys in each camp. 

The fallers had what they called ‘babysitters’ who were usually people that knew a bit about falling… they were basically flag persons.  The company didn’t want anyone to be left alone.  Even the operator that was on the Wyssen system wasn't by himself there up on the hill.

People had different stories about things that happened to them.  Most of it was talked about before work or after, not during because we had to get the job done.  Humour could lift a person’s spirits, if only for a short time.  It wasn’t healthy to get too uptight.  We often had to humour our bosses, because they always seemed to be lacking it.  I remember one time when a boss came up to me and said, “How are things going?”  I said, “You know there are three kinds of people:  the people that make things happen, the people that watch things happen, and the people that say…‘What happened?’”  He had a good laugh at that!  But, it was true… in fact, I could be all three in the same day.  I could make something happen, or I could watch it with my eyes wide open, and my partner would be there with me.  Usually the boss would come along and say, ‘What happened?’  We would respond, “Well, we thought we had the bus far enough down the road, and then that tree snaked down there… you wouldn’t believe it!”  What had happened, was that one of the guys had moved the crummy, but hadn’t driven it far enough down the road.  So, when we felled a tree, it traveled maybe five hundred feet down… not only down, but sideways!  Then it went down to the road, and under the crummy.  The crummy didn’t get hurt too bad; it just lifted it up and threw it over the bank!

My most memorable time was probably watching three guys topping trees on the same setting on the same day… they were all up there at the same time.  They were Arvid Charlie, Gaspar Martin, and Bob Norcross.  They were all up there on the same slackline show.  It was a place they had just felled the setting, and it was in the spring, I think.  Arvid Charlie had a big Spruce, and where he chopped it off, it was probably thirty inches. It was that big of a tree!  That is hard doing, because on your way up you would have to cut limbs off, and Spruce limbs are just terrible on axes.  They didn’t have saws back then, except for hand-saws.

I remember one time asking a friend of mine, “How did it go tonight?”  He said, “There was this big tree, and I was by a canyon.  I was sliding backwards in the mud with this tree, and I didn’t know what to do with it.”  The way that the cab is in those machines gives a false impression that we were on flat ground.  He did manage to avoid going into the canyon, but he said, “They told me to go in there because that is the only place they had.  I’m not going up there again!”  It took him the rest of the night to get the machine out. 

My job at Caycuse gave my family the security of living in a place with plenty of opportunities.  We did lots of biking, fishing, and hunting… there were lots of outdoor activities!  There was a craft place, a school, and a kindergarten in camp… so it was good for the families.  In 1957, when BCFP lost the Nitinat Valley to Crown Zellerbach, a lot of those people came to live at Caycuse.  They were working for the same company, so they moved down and brought ten or twelve homes.  There was a bowling alley, and a pool hall with three big pool tables in it.

I believe the forest industry provided a lot of people with incomes, and better standards of living for people wherever that product went.  It would be interesting to follow the path of a felled tree.  For example, if I fell a tree here, take it to the mill, and follow the lumber truck… where does it end up?  What does it become? 

In saying that, we need more and better value-added products.  That’s what we have been talking about for years and years with the unions to get onto the companies.  They used to find a good stand of timber, build a road into it, cut it down, take it into the mill, cut it into lengths, and then they would put it out for sale as dimension lumber.  After awhile they went, “Oh that isn’t working too well, because we still have this stuff that we can’t sell.”  So they went to the customers – they would have guys that would go overseas to places like Japan, and they would say that they wanted white hemlock, and they wanted a different size.  So the mills would say, “Oh, we’ve got to change!’  Well… yeah!  They got a pretty good price for that too.  The Youbou mill was a pretty sad case of political mismanagement.  That one was a hard pill to swallow!

We need to look back at the obstacles that were overcome, and find out if we have learned anything?  If we want change in our lives, we will have to change some things in our lives!  Change is ongoing… I remember when we had the old bucking saws, then just a handsaw and an axe, then it changed to power saws, and now they have those big tree snippers.

Camp 6 Cold DeckChange is like letting bottom lines dictate principles instead of procedures, that is the foreboding thing.  We shouldn’t change our principles, but we can change our procedures.  How we do something can change, but why we do something… that can’t change.  Even if you don’t believe in gravity, you know which way you are going to go when you fall off a tree.  That is what is happening in the forest industry today… they are trying to change principles. 
There have been many emotional times in the logging industry: the time to be happy was payday; the time of fear was when there were lay-offs, and bills to pay; the time of joy was when we had children, or were fishing or hunting; the time of grief was when there were fatalities, and permanent shut-downs; and the time to reflect on what we went through.  I remember thinking, “Was that all real?  Did I go through all that?”  Sometimes it seemed as though it never even happened.  I think now we need to have a time of hope, that one day the logging industry will be revived to what it once was.