The lumber Jack in America

Door San Daniel gepubliceerd in Verhalen en Poëzie

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'Jack of all trades

Jack or John or Jake are common names in America that are associated with work. We all know the song: 'hit the road Jack and doncha comah back no more', or: get lost man and ddon't come back. Jack is not a name here but has meaning  as a guy, dude, son of bitch, at least it has a negative charge. You also had "a Jack of all trades" or a handyman and you had the lumber Jack. The Jack who dealt with lumber. The guy who dealt with wood. And boy they deal with wood!

 

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The wood was harvested manually. The Humboldt State University of California has opened an archive with photos taken by the photographer A.W. Ericson in the 1880s to 1920s. This photographer has followed the wood guys, the lumber jacks for a few years.

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What kind of people became Lumberjacks? In general, people with problems or without accommodation. Those who lived or had lived on the fringes of society.

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Rough men who, after a couple of years in the bush, became as stong as an ox. People who had something to hide, lost or had left their wives. Those on the run for the law and sought anonymity from the bush.

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In the bush only 1 law applied, the unspoken law of the strongest or toughest. In a time without machines the work was almost insurmountable. The men stayed in the bush for years. Some forever, traveling with the crew and leaving felled forests behind. The transportation from the cutting area was done with oxen,

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If you were lucky then there was a river or a lake near by and the trunks, which were first stripped from the branches, were floated down by the lumberjacks.

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They were the foresters where no foresters ventured, outcasts, with a purpose, survival. It was a tough and difficult life, if you fell ill, you were left behind as the crew continued on.

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These were the pioneers who fell from California to Alaska. When a tree "felled" timber was called and the men withdrew their heads. That was pretty much the only safety regulation.

  The introduction of diesel engines, chainsaws and tractors made this profession extinct in the old way. The contemporary Lumberjack still exists. just like on oil rigs, they are flown in by helicopter. They have a cook and a portable kitchen. A 40-hour working week and are members of the trade union for loggers. The free-spirited has disappeared with the mechanization. For every tree that is felled now, one is planted back so that the forests do not get disrupted.

Monty Python already sang it. I'm a lumber jack, but I'm okay I work all night and sleep all day ...'

17/02/2020 06:57

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