In the ‘piney woods’

316715483_27e325ceb4_m.jpg      I was out of my luck several years back-I had been involved with an outfit hauling cattle and things about the job were too dangerous and too erratic and after one of owners kept skipping around and forgetting to pay me-I quit.

Somehow I ended up working for a ‘garden nursery’ in charge of a kid 19 years old who knew a few things like making peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches and the origin of ‘Stone Garden’…a rock and roll band,and not much else. The term-dumber than a box of rocks-worked well with Charlie.

I’m not really sure how long I really went along with the program-it couldn’t have been long,it was just a job to fill space-and to keep eggs in the fridge. I do know it ended abruptly when the owner of the nursery came up to me and asked me if I was “comfortable using a rake”…hell yeah-I had just spent previous months hauling 250 head of cattle a trip from Florida to California in a Peterbilt truck with a 52 foot livestock trailer-double decks-capable of top speeds of 130 mph ,dangerous as can be….yes,I think I can manage a rake! But I didn’t stick around to  prove myself.

Up the highway was a timber company. I always swore if anything-I’d never haul logs. Today it looked more appealing than operating a rake. I walked in the huge garage and faced about ten guys with ‘chew’ in their jaws and doing various mechanic jobs on a few of the trucks-one of them told me if I was hunting a job to go see Pee Wee. No further instruction,but he seemed to know I was there hunting a job…I guess like a deer looking into headlights.

I found this guy Pee Wee-a huge beef of a guy wearing a cowboy hat that seemed to shade a half acre…and I asked him if they were hiring. He pointed out into the yard at a KW and said “take that one and go to Avery’s woods”…and that was it! I had no idea who Avery was-more less what ‘his woods’ were or where , so I asked for a little more detail-and was told to go out highway 121 for about 20 miles and I’d see the ribbons,those would be Avery’s woods.

I’m walking out of this guys office perplexed as can be about this new job. Usually to hire on as a truck driver someone takes you out on the highway and makes you drive around a few miles to see if you can handle the truck-this didn’t happen…nor the usual chat about how much the job pays-or where do you come from,or is your drivers license clean???…..just “take that KW to Avery’s woods”!

I didn’t want to look like a total idiot-not right then after being hired,so I asked for a little more detail from one of the mechanics..how do I find this guy Avery? The information I got was almost as vague-I did learn the ribbons I was hunting for were red and heading south they’d probrebly be on the right….but 121 is a long road-any other clues? The final word of advice as I walked out towards the yard was “make sure you don’t laugh at Avery”!! “He talks funny-don’t laugh at him”!!

That stuck in my mind the entire drive. It was easier than I thought to find Avery’s woods-the ribbons were long and bright day-glo red and there were a dozen or so hanging off a limb of tree on the side of the road,enough to jar your mind that these must be the ribbons! They guided you to a two track logging road heading into the woods.

The drive back to where the camp was set up-the loaders and fuel tanks and such-was about eight miles back this logging trail,not much of a road. I eventually came up on the machines and a group of men huddled behind a truck. I learned later this was to avoid being hit by a flying wedge of tree-a chunk large enough to kill a man (in logging there is a machine that cuts the trees-called a ‘buncher’-and each time it cuts a tree a notch of wood hurtles off to points unknown). It appeared that every body who works in this outfit had a need to chew tobacco-my new work mates all seemed to have a full pack in their mouth. One of them mumbled something then pointed over to this large huge man with a bright red beard chest long-his arms were crossed and each the size of corner posts. My mind raced with fear…”do not laugh at the way he talks”,that’s what the mechanic instilled my mind for the long drive here-all I could think about. I was afraid that I would begin to laugh,and seeing this guy….I was just sure I would!

I walked up to him-his beard showed evidence of chew…his eyes fierce-you could barely see them his beard was so thick-red hair covered his arms thick as I had ever seen…this guy made Pee Wee look tiny and King Kong a cousin.

As I got close he spoke….”you-move dat twuck”!

“What”??

“you gib in dat twuck and you dant top it dare-you pup it ova dare!!”

I had no clue what he was saying-the other drivers told me I was in the way-move my truck.

Then Avery hollared over at me…”dit ova here du tupid ass”!

One of the drivers said “He wants you”!

So I go over towards this huge man who was inflicted with a cleft mouth which gave him a lisp and his voice totally took you to another place with this man-he was huge enough to break you in two,but to grow up talking a same dialect of words yet speaking much differently from the way all the others around  spoke-made him gentle.

Avery was as every other man in the piney woods…that’s what they call them here,the piney woods. He was rough-foul mouthed…and hard for working,every one individual that worked for this outfit-worked!

The mornings began before sunrise-the days ended at 8 or 9 at night,often longer. It was peaceful to me to leave here from the house at the wee hours of the morning and locate each days logging site. I’d back myself up to the loader and crank the  motor to heat it up for the operator-then I’d put a board between the seats of my truck for a bed and nap until the crew arrived some time around 6. I was always in good with the loader operator for him to show up with his rig warmed-the heater running.  Avery helped me figure these things out-how to get this clan of roughnecks to like me!

It was crazy work-how I end up in crazy jobs is unknown,but driving a log truck is a combination of four wheel driving in a tractor trailer and sitting in a line at the ‘log donut’ at the mill waiting to get unloaded-all with one scoop of a crane. In between the job was to get the truck to the mill upright. Upright means-rolling, as often one would pass another timber truck rolled over in a ditch-top heavy from the logs weight with a curve just right to pull it over. I never rolled one onto its side -but Avery said it was the test…because unless you were hurt the crew that up-righted you and reloaded the tossed logs would set you behind the seat and off you’d go…as if none of it happened,off to the mill to wait at the ‘log donut’.

I often times miss the piney woods-driving the huge semi down a narrow lane fit only for a jeep,going only into third gear in a truck that has twenty…just rolling with the flow of the fuel pump pulling the motor and rolling the rig…deer would be abundent as you’d drive through the woods that belonged to them-but were harvested by Georgia Pacific,but even so-the corporation was very strict about their woods and the job taught me that forestry was very controlled,as horrible as it may seem.

Every time we’d roll away Avery would say “teep hur upwite and detween da dubble whines-and top at all the top signs….neva twust anutho dwiver ( he really said ‘dwivel’ )and aw lays use da twurn siknal detwalse the twoople’s will top you if you don’t…and you don wanta geb uh ticket fum uh twoople !! (trooper ! )

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