Logging has changed over the years

One of the enterprises of Stinking Creek since our forefathers arrived has been the timber industry or logging. At first using the lumber was primarily for the family’s use such as building log homes and furniture. Then the wars increased the demand for wood and there developed quite a market for the wood industry. What a difference has occurred over time in the way timber was harvested.

My experiences in logging span about fifty years when the tools used mostly by my neighbors were the crosscut saw, ax, wedges, skid slabs, scotch blocks, grab hooks, log turners, dogwood poles, chains, mule and truck. It was an engineering feat to get the log to the loading spot and then up on the truck. Two men could roll and pole a log up on the truck but it was safer to have the third person to keep the log from descending while the two could get a new grab. It was of the utmost importance to work together.

Fifty years ago we built our bridge with oak logs from the top of the hill behind the house. Charlie helped Peggy and me skid those twenty foot logs down the mountain using a mule, skid slabs, cane hooks, etc. He then shared stories of his earlier days when his family would log out some in the winter. He taught us of the importance for the mule and driver to understand the importance of yelling out instructions of “giddup, whoa, gee and haw.” I knew these terms from my experience on my childhood farm. But he added a term, “j ho”, which was so important for the safety of the mule and workers. There was a special hook on the chain that pulled the log when pulled straight ahead but when the mule pulled to the side, the hook would unhook from the log. Many times the log was too heavy to pull down the hill when lying on the ground. That is when skid slabs were used to make the log slide much easier. Sometimes the log would slide only as long as it was on the skids. But sometimes when the log got going it would go faster than being pulled, so then the driver would yell out, “j ho” and the mule would jump out of the way.

These past several months we had the privilege to observe the modern way of logging using bulldozers with winches and cables able to pull logs up the hill as well as sideways across the hill; a huge loading machine which could lift huge and long logs and place it on a measuring holder which cut it with a swoop and then lift it up and pile a truck high. There is no doubt that the sawyers handling big chain saws earned their pay up in the hills cutting down and trimming up the logs, and handling the cables and hooks on the bulldozers took energy but the big machines at the loading site did most of the hard labor with a flip of a switch. What a difference!