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Reviews

BOOK REVIEW
There's something about logging. Many young men in British Columbia have done it or at least worked in sawmills at some point during their rights of passage. Logging was not the type of work that one looked forward to at six o'clock in the morning. And yet the sheer hardship of the work, whether setting chokers in driving rain or standing in the "Slasher Pit" yanking slabs of bark off conveyor bells with a pickeroon, left one with a sense of reality that made other areas of life look easy. There is something sad about logging as if the .sheer hard work of it was never appreciated. But as logging settles into its own mythology the memories are vivid.

No logger's memory may have been more vivid than Robert Swanson, author of Whistle Punks & Widow Makers Tales of the BC Woods.

First as a logger then as a forestry safety inspector, Swanson visited many logging camps on the coast of BC and he wrote his stories down. "Eight Day Wilson" is a sampling. "Old Eight Day," as he became known to those who hired him out, never liked to work more than eight days in one camp. How he got away with it no one knows but he was continually hired out for 20 years. The story is short and funny and the ending is quite shocking.

"Seattle Red" was another character who became something of a legend in the woods. He was a Canadian logger who wanted to work in the States so he snuck into Washington and then walked back to the border and told Canadian immigration officials he was trying to get back to Vancouver.

Immigration promptly turned him back to the States. "Seattle Red" worked in no fewer than 35 logging camps in 1926. A far cry from logging today.

There are also gems buried in the stories like the diesel locomotives that sounded so much I like a sick moose that there was a problem up north with moose in rutting season challenging the honking diesels and getting themselves killed.

The book is lividly sprinkled with photographs and each tells a story of its own. Socks and long underwear hang from a rope clothesline over a wood burning heater in one bunkhouse, neatly set tables in a dining room at Capilano Timber Companys camp in 1918 could pass for any cookhouse today. Other photographs show loggers standing on spring boards falling trees with axes in Kitsilano while oxen were used on Granville Street in Shaughnessy.

For some people maybe logging is the kind of work they'd like to forget. But with stories like Swanson has written in Whistle Punks & Widow Makers Tales of the BC Woods, you can't.
-Rick Crosby, Business Logger Historical Issue 1998