Robert’s column

Robert Barron column: Forestry big part of Island’s culture

I was delighted to be working within a day of my interview.

I always get concerned when I perceive threats to the province’s once mighty forest industry.

Western Forest Products, B.C.’s largest coastal lumber producer, has bought two sawmills in Washington over the last year.

WFP acknowledges a major advantage, among others, to having production facilities in the U.S. is that the lumber produced there is not subject to softwood lumber duties if intended for the U.S. market.

The company has assured it has no intention of abandoning B.C. anytime soon, but I still find it unsettling.

I remember when I first arrived in B.C. many decades ago, I was amazed at how easy it was to get a fairly high-paying job in one of the many sawmills that were running on the Island at the time.

All it took was for a guy to be fit and have a good attitude toward work to score a job at many of them, and I was delighted to be working within a day of my interview.

I had been working at a concrete plant that had laid me off between contracts at the time, so I thought that I was well prepared for the work I was expected to do.

It turned out to be the hardest job I’ve ever had.

I was assigned to the green chain, in which lumber of different sizes and dimensions move at a controlled rate and about 10 workers are each in charge of removing whatever sizes they are responsible for from the green chain and placing the lumber in ordered stacks.

Seems simple enough until a pile of lumber that you are responsible for comes along all at the same time.

You find yourself frantically trying to get them off the chain and into their stacks because if some of that lumber gets past you, the next guy down the line has to stop the chain so you can retrieve the wayward log(s).

Having the line shut down with everybody just standing there looking at you like an idiot as you apologize and haul the lumber back to their proper stacks is not a position you want to find yourself in too often.

So the next time I found myself overwhelmed by a multitude of lumber that I was responsible for, I just pulled them off the chain and dropped them at my feet until I could find the time to deal with them.

That was a mistake because there is no slack time on the green chain, so I’d stumble about tripping over those logs while I dealt as best I could with the new onslaught of lumber.

I got better at it as the weeks went by (I also lost about 10 pounds), and I began to really appreciate the hard-working mentality of the mill workers around me.

Some of them came from the logging side of the industry and said they were getting worn out sawing down trees and decided to get into the easier milling side of things.

After dealing with the green chain, I could only imagine what physical demands commercial logging requires.

I spent much of a summer working at the saw mill before I was called back to work at the concrete plant.

The experience taught me a lot, including to respect the hard work that forestry workers do every day.

It would be a shame to see the industry here become just another historical footnote.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Cowichan 49ers return to Tony Grover Cup final

The Cowichan 49ers are back in the Tony Grover Cup final after… Continue reading

Nanaimo rink wins Duncan mixed bonspiel

Many local teams in the mix

Flu outbreak at Cowichan District Hospital

42 people diagnosed at facility since March 15

LEXI BAINAS COLUMN: Bikers, dreadlocks, and all that jazz

From happenings down on the farm to how to hang your self: get it all here

Protective human chain forms around Victoria mosque for Friday prayer

Islanders stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

Coming up in Cowichan: World Water Day

Shawnigan Lake marks World Water Day Got clean local water? “The ability… Continue reading

‘Families torn apart:’ Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash gets 8-year sentence

Judge Inez Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask., that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors

Boy who went missing from park remains largest probe in Victoria police history

The four-year old Victoria boy went missing without a trace on March 24, 1991

WestJet sticking with Boeing 737 Max once planes certified to fly

WestJet had expected to add two more of the planes this year to increase its fleet to 13

B.C. driver caught going 207 km/h on motorcycle along Okanagan Highway

A motorcyclist was caught by Kelowna RCMP going 207 km/h on Highway 97C

Protective human chain forms around B.C. mosque for Friday prayer

Vancouver Islanders stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

Motorcyclist dies after three-vehicle crash on old Island Highway

Accident happened at 12:15 p.m. Friday near Country Club Centre in Nanaimo

Most Read