A boy’s foray into forestry
I was watching a YouTube video this morning of a young man and his dad cutting trees to build a cabin with. The trees were first-growth white cedar, much like the ones we have here. This triggered a memory of when I was 5 or 6 years old and visiting with my grandfather, who lived in New Brunswick.
After these gentlemen had cut the trees and had them down on the ground, they took a hatchet and began peeling the bark from the tree. This reminded me of my visit with Grampa, who was a woods worker all his life.
The big thing is, when Gramp was in the woods, there were no modern conveniences. There were no feller bunchers, nor were there any skidders that could haul a two- or three-cord twitch. If they were lucky they would have an old chainsaw or a really good two man crosscut saw. The “skidder” was either a one- or two-horse team that ran on hay and not diesel fuel.
Gramp asked me on that visit if I was going to work in the woods. Well, that intrigued me, but being 5 or 6 years old, I told him I was too young. What he told me next surprised me and, now as I think back on it, it was highly likely true.
Gramp told me that boys my age were hired for a penny a log, to use a tool called a spud. When he showed me a spud, as I remember it today, it looked like the tool we used on the farm to knock a tire bead loose from the rim in order to change it. The difference was that the working edge of the spud was sharp. He showed me how the spud was used to start a peel on the log and how it was used to help get around the big knots on the log. To me, it looked like magic how the bark seemed to jump from the log.
He also told me that when you peeled a log, it was best done when the log was freshly cut, as the sap was still between the bark and the meat of the log and would come off easier than it would if it were dried.
Some young boys of an age of 10 to 12 years old were so good that they made a pretty good weekly wage peeling pulp wood and logs. He said some of them were so good at it that they would or could do a cord of pulpwood in the morning and one in the afternoon. For the pulpwood they were paid a nickel a cord and a penny apiece for logs.
That day on our way home, I told Dad I wanted to live with Gramp so I could work in the woods. I was told that was not possible, as I was to go to school to get an education so I wouldn’t have to work in the woods. My response was that anything including peeling pulpwood was a giant step up from picking potatoes.
Now when I see a truck going by loaded with logs or watch videos depicting old-time woods work, I am able to reflect back on a time that, as a boy, I learned about woods work, and I can sit and Remember When …
Guy Woodworth, a Presque Isle native now living in Limestone, is a 1973 graduate of Presque Isle High School and a four-year Navy veteran. He and his wife Theresa have two grown sons and five grandchildren. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.