Personal Histories



Bob Wills History

Yeager Creek Logging Camp

The early loggers in Humboldt County felled trees with brute strength. In later years drag saws with gas powered engines were introduced. Drag saws were a step up in the industry, but only when they were in actual operation. Moving the heavy machinery from tree to tree required heaps of stamina. The machines had to be carried on the logger's backs like backpacks and the terrain was most always uphill or downhill.

In the early nineteen fifties, chain saws were introduced into the woods. Probably no other equipment has ever been more beneficial in the art of falling trees. When they began utilizing chainsaws, the volume of downed timber increased to where the fallers virtually worked themselves out of employment.

The men worked two men to a set and two of the most proficient fallers were Don Nolan and Dean Holt. Don is a Fortuna High graduate with the "Class of 47" and would later be owner of a trucking company. Theirs would have been a tough act to follow. The work day began on the jobsite at daybreak. They would start three saws which, I was told, would run the entire day. One saw would be used by the two to fall trees, and then each man would have a machine to buck off limbs. The machines stopped only for refueling, and the men didn't stop. Each would grab from brown bags, or "school buckets", as my daughter called them, and eat on the run.

I was employed by The Pacific Lumber Company (PL) at its Yeager Creek operation near Carlotta. My duties were recording timber harvesting and timekeeping. The camp was the last of its kind for PL and the Humboldt area. I imagine its demise was due to modern transportation. Operating the daily logging train to the Scotia mill was more costly than utilizing trucks. And, apparently more employees were residing as what might be called "off base." A few were residing in cabins at the camp. A cook house provided three meals each working day. Actually the meals were a step up from common eating. Eating was more like dining. The meals were the best. I don't have the words to describe how really really good they were.

Ed Ryan had been with PL for several years and was the office manager. It was a pleasure to hear him share stories and tales of the long ago. In the early years prior to automobiles, most of the logging industry depended on trains for transportation. Men would be paid on Fridays, then ride the rails for a weekend in Eureka. More often then not, most of them would never return after the first week. But, there would be new employees coming in. Ed would relate, "We always had three crews, one working, one coming and one going." He was continually relating, "That's how the mop flops, the way the cookie crumbles or the ball bounces." The office was also a company store. A part of it was set aside for vending work clothing. Levi's were $2.35 a pair.

Bud Oman's dog, Spike (a purebred Heinz), prowled the area and seemed to be in trouble most of the time. His purpose in life appeared to be to watch for the salmon runs up Indian Creek. The fish would die after spawning and he would roll in the rotten carcasses. He was always being threatened by Bud, for his dirty dog ways, but Spike was a slow learner, and I don't think he learned anything all the time I was present.

 

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