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

Bronze medals for Duncan bowlers at CTF provincials

Briana Wright and Amber Kelly make the podium

Andrea Rondeau column: The fight over school dress codes: I wore short shorts, and showed my midriff

I often wanted to look older than my years, and more sophisticated.

Sarah Simpson Column: Pink plants and procrastination

I’ve been sitting at my desk for roughly 10 minutes now…procrastinating. I’ll… Continue reading

Former Cap named collegiate all-star

Luke Santerno played two years in Cowichan

Piggies fall short but learn a lot from loss

Undermanned squad struggles against United

Sparks fly as SUV speeds down wrong side of Highway 1 trying to flee RCMP

Captured on video, the vehicle headed westbound against oncoming traffic before crashing

Coming up in Cowichan: World Water Day

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

Calgary captain has 3 points as Flames torch Canucks 3-1

Giordano leads way as Alberta side cracks 100-point plateau

Fire crews battle large blaze at Courtenay hostel

Courtenay Fire Chief Don Bardonnex said nobody was injured

1,300 cruise ship passengers rescued by helicopter amid storm off Norway’s coast

Rescue teams with helicopters and boats were sent to evacuate the cruise ship under extremely difficult circumstances

B.C. university to offer first graduate program on mindfulness in Canada

University of the Fraser Valley says the mostly-online program focuses on self-care and well being

Province announces $18.6 million for B.C. Search and Rescue

The funding, spread over three years, to pay for operations, equipment, and training

Late-season wave of the flu makes its round in B.C.

BC Centre for Disease Control reported 50 per cent jump in flu cases in first weeks of March

Tofino’s housing crisis causing some to seek shelter at the local hospital

Tofino’s housing crisis is pushing the town’s ‘hidden homeless’ population into the forefront.

Most Read