Days of the Del Norte lumberjack

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By Thea Skinner

Triplicate staff writer

In Del Norte County's early days, it was small man vs. large tree - making the tools of the lumberjack trade an essential part of the job.

John Dolbeer invented the Dolbeer Donkey, a logging engine, in the 1880s. It was introduced at Salmon Creek in .

The first version was unable to pull logs along the skid of roads, so it was revised.

The updated version was one set of wheels that moved in front, turned by a cogged driving gear meshed with the inner rim of the wheels.

At the engine's tip front and several feet from the driving wheels was an axle turned by a small cog that meshed with the driving gear.

By 1888, more than 100 of the engines were used in Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

Fixed to a heavy bed or sled, the engine was used to clear the way of old stumps and logs, but its main purpose was to pull logs into the road for the ox team.

Lumberjacks began using cross-cut saws, common around the 1920s era, to tackle gigantic redwoods.

The boss of a lumber crew was referred to as a bull buck, who supervised other crew members such as fallers and buckers.

Buckers trimmed off the limbs and cut the logs into specific lengths for ease of handling and transportation.

A bull buck by the name of Ed Ronlund worked in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties. He began his lumberjack career in 1929 as a whistle punk.

As a whistle punk he signaled to crews handling a yarder, a machine used to move logs from one point to another, while using an electrical device known as a bug. In this position he earned 40 cents an hour.

In 1934, Ronlund cut timber for Hammond Lumber Company, a forerunner of Georgia Pacific. In this job he worked with another person cutting timber by hand and earning 45 cents per hour.

Two fallers would chop out a slab in the front of the tree and then saw the back, according to Ronlund.

Although the longest amount of time he worked on cutting down a tree was three days, in 1923 Hobbs Wall fell the andquot;granddaddyandquot; of Sequoias at its Camp number 12 on Mill Creek requiring seven days of sawing.

The tree Hobbs Wall felled measured 23 feet across the butt and 70 feet in circumference.

The two Hobbs Wall lumberjacks had to make a double undercut, the vertical measurement of which was 10 feet.

The tree that Ronlund fell was 15 feet in diameter, and a 16 foot saw was used.

Ronlund began using a drag saw, the forerunner of a chainsaw, in 1937. It weighed more than 200 pounds.

In this time period, lumberjacks would often work 8-10 hour days.

Modern times brought helicopters to the logging sites, which transported them one at a time.

The helicopters often carried crew members to and from the site.

Accidents were bound to occur at the logging sites. Ronlund sustained a broken ankle and an injured big toe. He also became hard of hearing.

Once, he was near the top of a tree and as the wind began to blow, a limb fell down just as he put a wrench back into his pocket. The limb ripped off the pocket of his clothing.

Reach Thea Skinner at tskinner@triplicate.com .

Glossary

?Bull buck: Person in charge of fallers and buckers

?Bucker: Person who trimmed off the limbs and cut the logs into specified lengths for ease of handling

?Donkey: The logging machine that pulled the logs from the woods to the landing; also called a yarder

?Donkey Doctor: Mechanic that kept the donkey in working order

?Faller: The logging process began with the faller, who cut down trees

?Timber Beast: Name given to anyone who worked in the woods

SOURCE: andquot;Jargon of the Timber Beast,andquot;

by Lola Moore, excerpted in Del Norte County Historical Society newsletter

About This Series

Del Norte County turns 150 this year. To

celebrate our county's

storied history, The Daily Triplicate will carry

articles about the past 150 years through the rest of 2007.

More Online

Read previously run

stories in this series at www.triplicate.com . Click andquot;150 Yearsandquot; in the left rail.

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