Using Daddy’s Falling Axes

Dad by the Jeep

While we still lived near the Oregon coast, we depended on ourselves and our imagination to entertain ourselves as kids. The 5 kids belonging to our Dad’s Catskinner and wife spent most of their time with us, so there were several wild imaginations to cover just about any possibility.

Our Dad started out as a logger before chainsaws were in use in the woods so was a master at felling trees using a double bit ax or a two-man whipsaw. His axes were kept in shaving sharp condition and no one ever touched them. They were works of art, with the heads shaped perfectly and balanced to the nth degree for ease of use during an 8 to 10 hour day.

We first used a couple of Dad’s axes when we devised a new thrill ride. We had been climbing as high as we thought we could safely slide down the outside of cedar trees, but that was starting to seem tame. We then decided to draw straws to see who the loser would be that had to stay on the ground while all the rest climbed the tree. The loser then chopped the tree down with the others riding it to the ground, screaming all the way, then grabbing more straws to do it all over again. It was fun the way riding an extreme roller coaster is fun but didn’t last as long.

We were trying to figure out some way to warm up the creek we swam in so we could actually enjoy the process. The huge trees bowing over the stream seemed to mock our puny kid strength. I don’t remember just who decided we should fall some of the trees along the stream to remove the shade. We quickly decided to just fall all the trees. Those axes were so sharp it usually didn’t take very long per tree to see them fall against the other bank and we soon had the entire area covered in downed trees crisscrossing across the stream we had planned to swim in.

Finally one of the two older boys said he would get those trees out of the way. He climbed up into the tangled mess of trees, taking one of the axes with him. He soon stood up on one tree and started cutting the tree directly in front of him and it made a satisfying splash as it hit the stream. This stream or creek was considered a creek but most of the time it had enough water rushing down it to qualify as a small river. It seldom saw the light of day except through the leaves of dense forest overshadowing it. Taking a drink out of it could give a person a headache it was so cold.

Jerry proceeded to step back onto the tree behind him and cut the one he had just stepped off of and was making great progress on clearing the new swimming hole. The current was fast enough that the cut trees were immediately out of sight on their way to the ocean about 8 miles away with a 500 foot drop in elevation. As Jerry swung the ax, the tree under him shifted and he realized he was on the one he was chopping, it was the last tree to cut.

The tree started down, Jerry flung the ax and was also falling toward the water quite a ways below him. As he rotated, the sun glinting off the razor sharp edge of the ax kept glinting in his eyes. He imagined he was about to not only split the tree but his own head as he hit the water.

My Dad had come back to the house early that day for some reason, heard the chopping and arrived on the scene just in time to see Jerry, the ax and the tree hit the water. The roar my Dad let out scared the rest of us into scattering like quail. Jerry surfaced, saw my Dad and promptly dove for the bottom of the pool. By the time he ran out of air and surfaced again, my Dad reached over the bank and grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, picked him up and said “the next time you surface, you better have that ax.”

Jerry did.

Idiots With Horns

Rosalyn On Sweetheart

Reaching the ripe old age of 17 without ever having to use a horse while working cattle, I was not a natural. After more horse related accidents than I care to remember, I finally learned to ride quite well. I sometimes even enjoyed it, but moving our herd of cattle along the main highway from one pasture to the next was never a favorite time. It wasn’t a hard part of moving cattle as they were hemmed in with fences along each side of the road. It was the cars on the highway.

Why drivers thought it would do any good to crowd the herd and the riders on horses or start honking their horns as they pushed their way through the cattle, I don’t know.

As Goldy and I worked the stragglers, keeping them caught up with the rest of the herd, one car kept creeping directly up behind us and almost touching the horse.

She was not used to working cattle, nor was she used to traffic. We had brought her over with us from the Coast and she didn’t particularly like the changes in her life.

The closer the car would edge, the jumpier she got and kept trying to see directly behind her. I was getting yelled at the keep the cattle bunched closer and pay attention to the cattle while the horse was trying to keep away from the car. The car edged right up behind me and the fellow must have just laid on the horn. That was the final straw for Goldy. She kicked back with both hind feet, right into the grill on the car and got the radiator, also. As soon as she stopped, I got off and was checking her hind legs for injuries. My Dad rode over to see why I was off the horse and not keeping stragglers caught up and must have taken in the problem at a glance. The prolonged horn honking had got his attention, too.

The car driver was looking at the damage to his car and started yelling about who was going to pay. My Dad rode close to him and said a few quiet words I didn’t hear and the fellow immediately got back in his car and was still sitting there as we rounded the bend in the road and down the side road that would take us to the lower pasture on the hill, away from the hay meadows the cattle had just wintered on.

I wasn’t sure, but thought I probably wasn’t going to be in trouble this time. Dad never said a word about it and as we stopped for the day, he did check Goldy over to make sure she really wasn’t injured. The car was not there, when we returned home that afternoon. I never heard any more about it.

Snipe Hunt

Eastern Oregon

We were all spending the evening at one of the neighbor’s houses which meant somewhere within 20 miles of our ranch. I had been invited, Linda invited herself and my brother came along just because he wasn’t doing anything else at the moment.

Earlier, we stopped at another neighbor’s house along the way and picked up LaV. as she was a friend of Linda’s.

Those two immediately started making pests of themselves, vying for one of the young men present at the party. He was not interested but was trying not to be just plain mean to either of them.

His older brother, my brother and I were talking near the door when he hid behind us and asked how to get them to stop it. We decided on a Snipe Hunt.

Since it was a lovely warm summer evening, we made it seem like a group effort and gathered some gunny sacks from an old shed, a few flashlights although the night was bright with moonlight and set off up the hill.

There was a nice little gully coming down the hill which the boys told the girls was a perfect place to set up their traps while the rest of us drove the snipes up the hill into their gunny sacks which they were to hold open across the little gully. We had disturbed some quail on our way up, and could hear the birds making little bird noises in the brush.

The girls were spaced just far enough apart that they wouldn’t be talking and figure this out too soon, but not so far apart to get scared and rush back down the hill right away. They could just see each other in the moonlight.

The rest of the evening went nicely, with everyone enjoying a quiet get-together. The boy’s Mom got home and she was so pleased to find us all behaving well with the lights all on, our dishes done and the place spotless as when she left.

While she was still in the kitchen, the two Snipe Hunters showed up at the door, not very happy with the rest of us. We managed to keep them fairly quiet, said a goodnight to the boys and their Mom and went home. It was a quiet ride.

The two girls weren’t quite so obvious in their pursuit of the young man after that. Nothing like a good Snipe Hunt to give someone time to think.

Improvise, darn it!

Charlie & Me, Sketch

I wake up at 2 am to a freezing cold house. What the heck? We just had fuel oil delivered and what can I do now?
I jump out of bed and check the lights. Yes, we still have power, so that isn’t the problem. I pull on a winter coat, some mittens, a heavy hat and head downstairs to see what is wrong with the furnace.
Two weeks ago, I took and passed a State of Alaska Boiler Operators test so according to them, I was a qualified Boiler Operator and our furnace is a hot water baseboard heater. I should be able to figure this out. I can do it.
I look at the large black lump in the corner of the basement. It doesn’t make a sound although at least the circulating pumps still have to rapidly cooling water moving through the pipes. If not for that, I would already have a worse problem as it is a balmy 56 degrees below zero outside.
I click the reset button which usually fixes everything. Nothing. I click it a few more times in frustration and because kicking a many hundred pound chunk of cooling iron is really hard on toes. Yes, that was my first attempt at repair. Quit laughing.
Finally desperation sets in. Yesterday was Sunday. My husband is hundreds of miles away working on the Slope. I don’t want to think about what a furnace repair man would charge to come out in this temperature at this time of day.
Finally the shivering gets bad enough and I am worried about the water pipes and baseboard water lines so I stop acting like an idiot and start thinking. I pull the burner unit out of the furnace. Yes, it leaves a good sized opening. I shine my light around the inside of the firebox. Just maybe there is hope.
I manage to drag a 100 pound propane bottle over to the furnace from the garage. I put the weed burner on the bottle and fire it off. After I adjust the flame down a bit, I stick the flame into the opening left into the firebox and find the balance center to keep it going without it flopping out on the floor and burning down the house. Yes, that would warm the house up, but there are limits.
I stay by the furnace for an hour or so, to make sure it really is going to work and the pipes have started feeling warm, both the lines from the furnace and the return lines. Soon I can even feel a bit of warmth seeping through all the layers of clothes I have piled on. My breath is no longer making a cloud in front of my face and my nose has thawed quite well.
I check the thermostat and the temperature has started inching up a bit. I gently lower the flame a bit more on the weed burner, I don’t want to end up making steam and blowing the house up, either.
I fasten the weed burner to the furnace with stovepipe wire and go back upstairs to bed. I don’t think I slept much as I really was worried I was either going to burn or blow the place up. I wait until 8 a.m. and call a furnace repair man someone had recommended to me.
As soon as he heard I was Charlie’s wife, he almost hung up on me. He thought I was the other one. Then he said I didn’t sound like ——-. I said no, my name is Rosalyn. Then he became friendly and asked how he could help.
I told him the furnace had stopped during the night and he immediately had visions of a frozen up house and the mess associated with that at the temperatures we were having.
He must have broken a few speed limits getting there and was surprised when he walked in and the house was not really cold, just a bit cooler than most people keep their homes.
When he saw the weed burner set up, he scratched his head and asked whatever made me think of that. Desperation, pure and simple.
He repaired the electrodes and the furnace worked fine with no frozen pipes at all. Charlie called that night to see how I was doing. It was my first winter by myself in this house. I told him about the furnace, a moment of silence then laughter. “I knew you could handle my kids. I never expected you to have to deal with something like this, also. Wait until I tell the guys about this one.”
Just one more reason why I loved him so much. He was always proud of me and let me know it.

Uncle Bill, Again

Uncle Bill

Uncle Bill spent all of WW II in Japanese prison camps. Having been eligible for discharge for quite a while before Pearl Harbor but not allowed to return home, he was not in a very good frame of mind when MacArthur left them all to their fate while he left them behind. His “I shall return” speech did nothing to endear him to Uncle Bill.
Uncle Bill claimed they provisioned the enemy by half starving our own troops for the weeks leading up to war by cutting rations while guarding the caves filled to overflowing with food. Any soldier caught stealing food was executed. Later, after they had fallen to the enemy, they had to carry all those supplies along on the “Death March” while still being killed for stealing any of it to eat.
He always said he would cheerfully execute MacArthur if he were ever given the chance. He claimed every soldier there could have been evacuated long before the start of hostilities.
Once he survived the “Death March” he was placed in assorted prison camps, each one closer to Japan, each one more brutal than the one before. He worked for a very short time in a plant making ammunition and bombs which the prisoners delighted in sabotaging in any small way they could.
His skull was fractured at least three times for sure by rifle butts during beatings. Fingers, toes and ribs were fractured regularly on all the prisoners as they could still work with such trivial injuries.
Finally he was in a prison camp near the city of Hiroshima. During the day, the prisoners shoveled gravel by hand into buckets. At meal times, they had to stand at attention in front of the commanding officer’s building and watch him eat his meal with his pair of carved ivory chopsticks. The man delighted in making the starved prisoners watch him eat.
At one point, Uncle Bill told him that when he (Uncle Bill) left the camp, those chopsticks would be going with him. He earned another beating for such a threat.
However, when the camp was liberated, Uncle Bill said he would be right with them. He returned a short time later with a pair of hand carved chopsticks in his pocket.

My Uncle Bill

Uncle Bill

The first time I saw him, he looked so sad and heartbroken, I knew it was my job to cheer him up. He was sitting in a section of the old porch that seldom was bothered by the sun. I was being dropped off for my Grandmother to babysit.
My Grandmother plunked me down on a step of the porch and saying something about having work to do, we could take care of each other, she left us there.
He eyed me warily. After all, what did he have in common with a lanky 4 year old girl? He had only recently been allowed to come home after recuperating many months in a military hospital after being liberated from a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Japan.
This tall young American soldier was a survivor of the Bataan Death March and many long years of atrocities and depravation. Whether it was his mouth that always had to say what he was thinking or that he towered over all his captors, they delighted in bringing him to his knees in one way or another. His skull had been cracked several times by rifle butts and he had numerous scars and healed bones from their careful handling. Being deemed incorrigible, he finally found himself imprisoned on the homeland of his captors, working in a gravel pit outside Hiroshima the day it was the target for the first atomic bomb dropped, ever.
Leading up to that day, he regarded the Japanese women as the only reason he didn’t die. The women were told to parade around outside the fence of the prison camp, taunting and teasing the prisoners which they did. But they also dropped small rice balls as close to the fence as they could get. These rice balls were taken from their own family rations and shared with the skeletal prisoners that were reduced to eating any bug or rat that they caught within the prison walls.
He held a lifelong hatred of the Japanese men and didn’t always differentiate between Japanese men and any other Oriental male.
However, on our first day of meeting, he was uneasy being left in charge of a 4 year old girl.
I don’t remember exactly what all we actually did that day, but when my Grandparents and my Mom returned late that afternoon, they found us the best of friends, sitting in the two rocking chairs in the kitchen, feet up on footstools, leaned back with our hands behind our heads in identical poses, smoking huge smelly cigars.

Family Fun

BrokenTop
Broken Top Mountain, near the Three Sisters Mountains where we camped

Mom probably had a right to be a little upset. She not only had her own 3 children but the neighbor’s 5 to look after up in a remote area of the Cascade mountain range in Oregon. She didn’t know how to drive so Dad dropped us all off up there and was supposed to be back in a couple of weeks to pick us up. We only had a small Jeep, so after stuffing all the camping gear, food and kids in it, there wasn’t much room for wiggling around. This was well before the lightweight tents and sleeping bags of today. Tents were heavy duty canvas, requiring heavy pipe poles to hold up. Anyone touching the side of the tent if it rained caused an instant leak. Now we were well into our third week on the mountain side with no grocery store in sight, now cash on hand to pay for it if there had been. After all, why would Mom need her purse out in the woods?
We had already done all the usual things we did out of sight of the tent and Mom.
Found the quicksand bog – check
Took turns jumping off the log into the quicksand – check
Saw who would chicken out and beg to be pulled out before the quicksand got completely up to their chin – check
Finally pulled the irritating one back out just before the quicksand covered the mouth – check
Found the old time log bear trap – check
Cleaned out the debris in it – check
Checked out the trigger device – check
Released the log door so the one that triggered it could escape – check
Tried to talk the irritating one into trying it – check
By this time, Mom was getting a little irritable, she had thrown in a 25 pound bag of split peas in the groceries and we were down to eating those, three times a day. We had picked every berry that we could find, tried to capture fish with our bare hands and chased a deer that wandered by but we couldn’t catch it. Still no sign of Dad.
I don’t know if the neighbors had noticed their children were missing yet or not or just were enjoying not having them around, but no one seemed to notice we were overdue.
Finally, Dad showed up. Things were very quiet and tense and he even took us to a café in Sisters, Oregon for a burger each which was unheard of. The several hundred mile long ride home was made in almost total silence. The atmosphere was so thick it could have been cut with a knife. My parents never argued or raised voices in front of us, but we all knew something wasn’t too kosher in the Jeep.
Nothing was ever said in my hearing, so I have no idea how that played out in private. The next year when we went for out annual camping trip, we smuggled a gun under the load.

Feeling like a Fool

 

Have you ever been doing something and knew you should be paying more attention, but since you had done it successfully many times before, you just ignored that little voice of reason niggling in the back of your mind?

Most of the time, it comes to naught, and another disaster or accident is averted through no thought nor action of our own.

For me, today was not one of those days. Today my inattention and taking a shortcut when I definitely know better caught up with me.

Before starting work on my grandson’s small house, I needed to build a new cart for my generator. The flimsy cart I have used for years was cracked and I could no longer bring the generator in the house during the day to be warm enough to start in the evening.

I took the casters off the old cart to reuse on the new one as they were sturdy and still in good condition. I cut a heavy duty piece of ¾ inch plywood to use as a base. Not thinking ahead to what I intended, I cut the whole piece off at once instead of cutting the thin strips I wanted along the sides to keep the generator from sliding off the base if I pulled too firmly on it.

My battery powered skilsaw has a faulty sticking blade guard and I usually pay better attention, but wanting this job done before the kids came out to help on the house, I rushed through cutting the strip of wood into smaller strips of wood.

The saw kicked back and feathered across the inside of three fingers of my left hand. Oh, shit. Instant mess.

My hand closed into a fist immediately to shield my eyes from what I knew would not be a pretty sight. The fact that no blood sprayed out and the entire finger was still on each space it was supposed to occupy did help a bit. No nausea indicated I had not hit bone.

As the cold air hit me when I stepped out the door, I immediately had to use the outhouse. Logistics of undoing jeans, pulling them down, wiping, pulling them back up, fastening them are better left unsaid.

I walked over to my daughter’s house and asked her if she had any band aids.

“Mom, what did you do now and do we need to get to town?”

I told her, “No, we didn’t need to go to town, I just needed to do some cleaning, looking and repairing, but I think band aids will do it, maybe some peroxide and some Bag Balm would be good, too.”

She found the band aids in the knife drawer (handy, that) while Paul got the peroxide. I opened my hand up and it looked nasty. I wiped it fairly clean around the affected areas and sprayed it down with peroxide. No pain from that, so it probably isn’t all that deep. I wiped up the mess and it was welling more blood out, but one good thing about minus 2 degree weather, it slows bleeding quite well.

Kara opened band aids, I glopped some Bag Balm on all three fingers, even though two are barely through surface skin, and put the band aids on. Two of the fingers only get one each, the index finger gets three band aids as it continues to look a bit icky and wells out more blood.

To keep from bending the finger too much until it closes up better, we duct tape the index finger to the middle finger on my left hand which makes wearing gloves out of the question. Now, through the decision of the 4 year old great grandson, I have glow in the dark Batman duct tape wrapped fingers.

We went back over to the cabin, I tacked the narrow strip down and finished cutting the strips I needed. Paul put the casters on the cart and we came down to put the generator on it.

It works perfectly.

When we finished for the day, I came home, made a cayenne capsule to help keep it from bleeding again and kept ice packs on it as I had done off and on all afternoon. A zip bag of snow makes a wonderful ice pack.

Weathertight, at last!!

YAY!!!! No more worries about working on a ladder on the metal roof. Today we finished with that part of the cabin project. Metal roof is on, all the screws in, the chimney is now installed after I cut out a hole in the floor and built a support for it. As we started insulating the ceiling, it began snowing. What timing. We finished insulating the ceiling and put up the foil faced foam board over the insulation over the stairwell. Good. We only had enough foamboard for that but at least I won’t have to worry that John, the friend that came out to help on the roofing, will be gone before we get more board. Since that was all going so well, the boys brought out the door my daughter had painted in her livingroom so it would dry, not just freeze. So, the roof is on and insulated, the door is installed and the building holds heat as we did start up a propane heater downstairs to dry the downstairs out from the rain and then the snow we had while building the 2nd floor.
Driving down to my house, I stopped and cut a load of wood from the logs I had dragged up a couple of months ago during a rare sunny day. I need to get on that so they are all gone before I have to plow. What a day.