Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Those early years I was in the Valley were spent working like a mad man. The Old Man said he built the Valley against the human nature and he knew what he was talking about. 50 or 60 hours a week was about right. Then on Saturday night you got a steak dinner and a keg or two to drink. Sunday you might get off, if the Old Man did not have a building project or an important job he needed done. I remember when the callouses finally came off my hands in the 80's. Took 'em a while. I had no idea my hands were so well protected... I though everybody could pick up a hot coal from a fire! But you handle that rough lumber all day six days a week and your hands get tough. And mine were tough. And strong! I used to be able to pick up an Oak cross tie and walk away with it. Try that little move sometime. I used to do it for laughs. I don't any more, though. Too much out of shape and messed up.

The day started with people waking the village up. Lots of noise. Some mornings it was bedlam. If everyone seemed to be getting up just fine then there was not much fuss. But if the men seemed to be hesitant about going to work the noise started. Banging and clanging and hollering and name calling and what ever you could think of. We needed everybody and no one could goof off. But when you got dressed and got to the house there was hot coffee for you and plenty to eat. No shortage there! Eggs anyway you liked 'em. Toast and jam. Plenty of milk. Fruit sometimes. Bacon or sausage or biscuits and gravy. Yogurt, plain or with fruit. Plenty of canned fruit juice. Most likely hash browns were available. Like I said, plenty to eat. But if you work a horse you gotta feed him. Just common sense.

The mill started up at 7:00 a.m. prompt. The saw was started and the blower was turned on and it was all about to happen. The first log went on the carriage and headed for the whirling piece of steel. We had eventually put a 35o horsepower 871 Detroit Diesel on the head rig and it would scream. Nothing like having plenty of power. The process began, cutting round things into square things. Money was to be made and people were to be fed. Buildings were to be built and food was to be purchased. And clothes and medicine and doctors appointments for mothers and babies and on and on. But that noise of that blower had to be heard before anything was really going on. I remember when we moved the mill to Bloomington is 1977. The women at home had trouble because there was no blower making noise. They were that used to it. You could hear it a mile in any direction.

The Mill ran until 9:30 a.m. and then we had break. for 15 or 20 minutes while the sawyer sharpened his saw. 9:30 break became a legend. It was even in songs! "Here comes 9:30 break right on time. Pass the word on down the line." After break we ran until lunch, which was about a half hour. The schedule was such a part of village life that the meals were 99% assured of being ready. You trotted down the hill from the Mill and into the dining hall and got with the program. If you wanted to forgo lunch you could stop in at our little office and talk to the Old Man for a while. That was worth your time. Survival in the Mill became automatic and you noticed about everything that was going on. But you didn't have much time to talk and the noise pretty well disrupted that anyhow, so you thought. And because most people are dumber than shit, the only person who had some brains to talk to you was the Old Man. Old Daniel had a lot going for him.

A couple times we had knock down, drag out fights in the Mill. We were an ornery bunch. There was the day of the Charlie Bob Massacre. Charlie Bob has lived in the Valley for a couple months and was accumulating his own gang. He brought one guy with him by the name of Kelly. Charlie Bob hated our Sawyer because he was a nasty sonovabitch and ran that Mill pretty hard, regardless of how people were getting along. If a few guys came to work all hung over it mattered not to the Sawyer. He poured it on. So Charlie Bob hated the Sawyer. And the Sawyer didn't have too high a regard for Charlie Bob. One day something stopped production and the Sawyer got out of the booth and came out into the Mill to see what the hell was going on. Charlie Bob and the Sawyer had words and they were standing in a narrow pathway next to the rollers that moved the lumber. They were working their way out of the narrow part when Charlie Bob smashed the Sawyer with a big ol' sucker punch. The Sawyer dropped to the ground, to be joined rather quickly by Charlie Bob after I assaulted him and broke a couple of his ribs. I jumped on Charlie Bob to finish him off when I found myself in a sandwich. A big ol' young stud had jumped on me to rescue Charlie Bob and I was rolling on the ground between these two combatants and did not have good field position. Blessed be. All of a sudden the young stud rose above me like a soaring bird and went away. He had been picked up by the Debarker Operator and thrown about 6 feet. The Debarker man kept him busy after that. I got to my feet and prepared to deal with Charlie Bob again, but Charlie Bob grew wings on his feet because the Sawyer had recovered and was coming after him and Charlie was about to meet a severe beating and decided that discretion was the greater part of valor and chose the route of escape. He was flying down the road, I tell ya'. The Sawyer would have beaten him to a pulp. I staggered out into the Mill yard and there met Charlie Bob's buddy, Kelly, coming at me with a four foot long piece of 4" by 4", threatening to cave my skull. I picked up my own piece of 4" by 4" and disputed Kelly's attitude. My disputation had the better of Kelly's threat and Kelly threw down his piece of wood and beat feet before I could smash his skull, which I surely would have done.

Charlie Bob and Kelly and a couple idiot friends ran to Charlie Bob's room and hole up. Charlie Bob had guns and we figured he would use them. I went over to another lodge and a nice young lady, who I eventually combined with to create three children, loaned me an HK 91 and I was no longer fearful of Charlie Bob's arsenal. I went to secure the area of Charlie Bob's lair.

When I got across the road from Charlie Bob's lair, I was met by the Sawyer. His brilliant idea was for me to give him the HK 91 and he would cover me while I went up to Charlie Bob's lair and rousted him out. I immediately told him where he could shove that idea. And I made it stick. My blood was up and I was in no mood for any of the Sawyer's bullshit. Charlie Bob and Kelly and a couple of young teenage boys made their escape from the lair and got up in the hills. I sat down and watched the village in case Charlie Bob came back. The Old man had gotten a call up in Bloomington at the construction site of our new Mill and was coming home to take control, which he did. Old Delmas, our buyer of groceries and stuff, found Charlie Bob and Kelly walking a road outside the village and brought them home. Charlie Bob was taken to the hospital to get a professional taping job done to his broken ribs. He moved out that night and so did Kelly. Daniel vouched for their safety until gone and his word was respected. Just another day in Paradise.

I'll write more later. Until then, please stay alive.



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