Logging with Stan

As I was thinking of logging in terms of writing and recording, I began to think of the other type of logging. So I decided to share one of my favorite logging, lumberjack stories.

I use to live in Jackson, Wyoming. I moved there shortly after Y2K to be a rafting guide. I had family living in the area, a native of Idaho myself, and so I packed my bags and my truck and headed East. I had many a rich adventure during the handful of years I lived in Jackson Hole. One of my fondest was the winter Stan and I went into the woods to log some trees for firewood.

I lived in a modest home just south of the Elk Refuge. The home had baseboard heating, but we tried to avoid the high winter electric bill by using the wood burning stove. The stove was nestled in the basement; the ceiling above, or the upstairs floor had vents with fans, that would blow that roasty, toasty hot air up, and keep the frigid winter chill out. The bedrooms on the fringes of the house didn’t share much in this bounty, and even with baseboard heat, you were often left fighting the evening cold and piling on the blankets!

Stan was a dear friend, an older gentleman, and a rugged outdoorsman. He would spend weeks alone in the wilderness and just seemed to know how to survive and thrive in God’s green earth. Smaller in stature, with piercing eyes and a wild and wooly beard, he was tough as nails. But he had a tender heart, a true force to be reckoned with. He owned his own snow removal company and with a handful of hardworking guys, they’d shovel and blow snow for the winter and find enough odds and ends during the warmer months, to do it all over again until first snow fall.

Stan’s tender heart loved to serve. While living in Jackson, when I wasn’t rafting, I had the privilege to serve the youth in the valley, both at a group home for troubled teens and at my local church. It was at church where I first got to know Stan. Every Sunday night, the youth would gather to socialize and have fun, share a meal together, listen to loud Christian music, and hear a message from God’s Word. Stan was a faithful servant. He would quietly serve and clean, and after the meal as everyone ventured up for music and a message, Stan would linger back and humbly clean up after a bunch of rowdy and messy teens.

I grew to deeply respect this quiet, hardworking, rough around the edges Stan. I have many fond memories of time spent with him, especially my logging adventure. This particular winter, Stan knew of my dwindling wood supply and offered to take me out into the mountains to harvest a couple cords of wood to keep the fires burning. I jumped at the opportunity, one because I obviously needed wood and two because my 2 wheel drive truck didn’t fare too well up in the mountains and Stan’s truck was a beast.

But don’t get me wrong, I was quite content with my truck, Old blue as I called her. She was a 1986 Ford F-150, a straight 6 with 4 on the floor. With no girlfriend at the time, that long bench seat would often mock me as I’d drive solo, no gal tucked nearby. But Old blue, with that oft familiar work truck smell, was a comfort none the less. She was baby blue with a black right quarter panel and a red right door. She’d had a run in with a deer many a year back and the door and quarter panel were replaced with parts from a scrapyard and were good enough. Old blue fit me and small mountain town Jackson right well. But I couldn’t venture too far up into the hills and so Stan offered his assistance.

Deep into winter with my wood supply waning, we headed up Togwotee Pass. We wound our way up into the mountains and eventually pulled over at a spot that would barely fit a 4×4 and a flatbed trailer. As we unloaded the chainsaws and such, Stan pulled out of the back of his canopied truck, the hood of an old VW bug. My curiosity was definitely piqued. A 20 ft looped section of frayed climbing rope ran through the nose of this old hood. What in the world was this for?

It turns out I was going to be the mush dog and this hood was my sled. We tromped deep into the woods and found a good grove of old pine to fall. As Stan manned the chainsaws and wedges, I waited. He fell the first tree and then set to work limbing the tree and then bucking the tree. Bucking is cutting the log into manageable size rounds. So Stan fell, limbed, and bucked the trees. And I was the mush dog. I would load the rounds onto the upside down VW hood, maybe getting 10-12 rounds on the hood, precariously stacked. Then I’d take that looped old climbing rope and drape it over my shoulder and heave, ho, mush my way back to the truck and trailer.

The first attempt was simply that, an attempt. Rounds went rolling off into the snow as I huffed and puffed and tried to slog my way through the deep snow and over and around trees and branches. I eventually made it to the road, unloaded the rounds, and headed back into the woods with an old, empty VW bug hood trailing behind. After a few successful deliveries, a groove or snow trough was beginning to take shape. The rounded shape of the VW hood, turned out to be the perfect sled. The work was exhausting and I felt like I had been translated into Rocky IV, where Rocky trains unconventional style in the wilderness before facing the behemoth Russian Drago. Funny enough, those scenes from that movie were filmed in Jackson Hole.

My day was spent dragging that makeshift sled back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. I was no where in shape like Rocky, and was quickly drenched in sweat and fighting a chill, trying not to let ‘tough as nails’ Stan see how weak and puny I was, or at least was feeling. On a couple sections of the slog, there were rises and falls along the trail, so after unloading the logs and making my return trip with an empty hood, I enjoyed a few sled rides.

After a hard’s day work, we ended the day with a trailer full of wood. The logger’s familiar smell of chainsaw grease, sweat, and bark chips complimented us we secured the final rounds to the trailer. We made last minute checks to ensure that cords of wood wouldn’t come tumbling down as we weaved our way down the mountain. We thanked God for the gift of lumber and warmth and drove home to Jackson to unload our cache. Thankfully at home, the distance was short between the trailer and where I stored my wood on the side of the house. This sled dog was done. For the rest of that winter, as I split wood and stoked the stove, I thanked God for Stan and the logging adventures we were blessed to share together.

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