Reviews / Comptes rendus

Bus Griffiths, Now You're Logging.

Robert Griffin
British Columbia Provincial Museum
Now You're Logging. Bus Griffiths. Madeira Park, B.C., Harbour Publishing, 1978. 124p., illus. Cloth ISBN 0-920080-40-5, $15.95. Paper ISBN 0-920080-38-3, $10.95.

1 Recently a number of books and papers have been published on British Columbia's forest industry. Most of these efforts are mediocre and of little value to the serious researcher studying British Columbia's forest history. Now You're Logging is an exception, an enjoyable story of the past glory of truck logging when all a logger needed to dream about was cutting a "forest full of trees." Bus Griffiths was a logger who loved working in the woods; it was a work he learned and remembers well. His delightful drawings portray not some strange imaginative tale but rather a part of the life he and his friends lived during the 1930s. The story, initially written in the 1940s as a comic book, is based on a high rigger Griffiths knew. This man possessed the qualities of daring and adventure personified in the book's two central characters, Al Richards and Art Donnegan.

2 The story opens with Al and his friend Red starting work at a logging operation where Al is trained in the mysteries of logging. Following a shutdown, caused by the injury of two bosses, Al and Red go on a fishing trip during which Al not only finds his "dream-girl" but also the timber upon which to build his future. The researcher will find this aspect of the story frustrating as much of the text is spent on inconsequential dialogue at the expense of solid, logging facts. The story suffers because of its two-part purpose. The author has attempted to write an interesting adventure-love story, while at the same time provide the reader with a view of logging practice during the 1930s and early 1940s. As might be expected, he is not entirely successful. The logging story, partly as a result of the romantic story, is somewhat disjointed; necessary information occasionally comes after the page upon which it is first required, a case in point being that falling and bucking are described near the end of the story when it is the first job undertaken by the logging crew.

3 The most significant aspects of the book are the explanations of logging technology and the accompanying illustrations. If one wants to understand how to top a spar tree this is the book to examine. Written descriptions are frequently comprehensible only to the initiated but illustrations such as Griffiths provides make the explanation clear and simple. It is unfortunate that space and story did not permit detailed descriptions, similar to those on topping a spar tree, falling and bucking, and the duties of the whistle punk, for all aspects of logging. It is necessary to examine the story and each related illustration closely in order to make the whole panorama of a 1930s truck-logging show come clear. Griffiths has filled each panel with splendid detail, from the caulk boots, to Molly Hogans (the logger's cotter pin), to shattered trees and other debris. Thus the text and illustrations together portray many facets of logging, including such procedures as rigging a spar (though even here certain points, such as the reason for tree shoes, are left to the reader's imagination), setting chokers, and moving donkeys. Many other aspects, however, must be detected solely in the illustrations without the aid of text: the necessity of falling and bucking well in advance of the yarding crews; the frequent use, during the 1930s, of steam yarder and gasloader combinations; the difficulties of road construction; and the neatly piled loads of logs carried by the trucks to the dumps (unfortunately we do not see the dump). The detail in the illustrations is so exceptional that each panel should be examined several times.

4 One very regrettable element is the almost total neglect given to the social life of a logger. We are only allowed one brief glimpse of the cookhouse and a vague reference to town but are told nothing of the frequent bouts of rough fun or the hard living conditions. The men present a tough joviality but it is only seen at work. Even the several scenes in which we see Al Richards relaxing always take place at his girl friend's isolated camp and not at the logging camp.

5 A very necessary part of the book are the concise definitions which Griffiths supplies for the many logging terms used. However, these must be approached with caution as there is no differentiation between terms such as "skidroad," which originated in the industry, and terms such as "donkey engine" and "bulldozer" which originated outside the industry and were sometimes more commonly used in other economic spheres. Nor can the terms he uses be accepted as final. "Bunch it," meaning to quit, is only one of several such expressions; "pull the pin," "catch the boat," "mix it up" all had the same meaning as "bunch it" and were in equally common usage.

6 Such cautions are of relatively small concern when weighed against the total worth of the book and are meant more for the researcher than the general reader. The story is not a complete portrayal of logging but many aspects are covered and, perhaps more importantly, Griffiths creates the atmosphere and feeling of the times. The bulk of the logs hauled to the coast during the 1930s was moved by the big railroad outfits such as Bloedel, Stewart and Welch Ltd.; in this book, however, we witness the struggles of a small operation using the early gas technology which, following development in the 1920s, revolutionized British Columbia logging.