The Pacific Northwest Forum
Volume II, Number 1, Pages
This is the second in a series of legendary recollections of the old Northwest written in 1961 by
Lynn A. Hull, who had been a lumberjack for many years.
Building a Boat
You have heard of "fools jumping in where angels fear to tread," well I'm no angel as this letter will surely prove. There isn't much to do in the line of recreation in camp, especially if you're not a good talker, a good listener, or a good poker player. I am way down on the totem pole for all three; so I read quite a lot. But even reading can get you in trouble as I am fully aware of now.
This magazine I was reading had an advertisement in it, about boats - a do-it-yourself deal - send $12.98 in cash or money order and receive step by step plans which are so simple that even a 5 year old child could build his own boat and be the envy of all. I mulled this over for many days, then I made my big move.
Although the Owner had told me to coddle, cuddle, and not to meddle in the lives of Silent Bill and Windy Jack, I couldn't leave well enough alone. I had to meddle, and believe me, I sure paid for it in the end. But I have no one to blame but myself, as I had been warned. I just thought I was helping to build up the morale of the camp. Boat building would be right up Windy Jack's and Silent Bill's alley - anyway, it would occupy their time and get them out of my hair for a while.
So the big three, Silent Bill, Windy Jack and your dad, formed a corporation. Afterwards, Silent Bill brought over a jug and we sealed our pact, by Silent Bill taking a big snort. Windy Jack made a speech and voted himself President-Manager. He won because being the big wheel in our company he said he had to have 3 votes to each one of ours. In the same way he made me treasurer. I sealed our pact by taking a snort too - and that's how Windy Jack got all his deals over for himself. I couldn't get my breath back to even squeak out a "Nay," and Silent Bill was too busy with other things and wouldn't have answered anyway. All decisions forever after were made by Windy Jack. Under Jack's control everything rushed ahead in fine order. We were only three days in deciding the name of our shipyard. We voted our company's name to the Jack, B. and L. Co. The first business taken up was to draw funds from the treasury (my pocket) for a plywood board, some paint, and a couple of more bucks for incidentals. Right then I had a feeling that I should resign, commit suicide, or just flee the country. However, I have always been a loyal cuss - so I stayed.
Early next day a committee met with the Treasurer and informed him that he was to advance funds for the committee to go in to the courthouse to file the corporation papers, also to make a search of records as to who owned the land that we would use for the yard. There was quite an argument on the floor to squelch that proposal. I didn't care who owned the land. I didn't want to buy outright or have a 99-year lease. I just wanted them to get down there out of sight and build that 10-foot rowboat. You'd think by hearing Windy Jack talk, we were about to build another Queen Mary. What a fuss that bird could start up over nothing, but he sure was a thinker and talked about each and every thought that he had.
The day finally arrived when the site for the shipyard was decided on. The ways were to be two wooden saw horses. The plans for an office building were abandoned, and a small shack was to be built to hold tools, material, and Windy Jack's precious blueprints. There would not be a private secretary for Windy Jack either. Which was quite a blow to the President as he hated to lose prestige, but he finally cast his votes in favor - because if he didn't, I, as Treasurer, refused to advance funds necessary to put the company on the way to production.
Immediately after settling that question, a new one came from the floor - namely how many guards and watchdogs on a twenty-four hour basis were needed to protect this yard from sabotage. After another hour's debate I won that round too by using my former tactics of not advancing any money at all until Windy Jack conceded defeat. However, he voted against my proposal that the President, who had the most responsibility, put in his time being the guard and watchdog too. He won out by having the majority of votes. He explained his trust with this speech: "Me and my company have put all our faith and trust in our fellowmen, in their integrity and pride of being rich blooded, honest, and true Americans - and if we ever catch anybody messing around our yard, we'll beat the hell out of them!"
So we appropriated money for another board, some paint, and nails for a "Keep Out" sign. This was voted on and carried by the majority. Then I called for an adjournment and set one month away for the next meeting. It was seconded by Silent Bill (the only time he had the floor) and we adjourned. Praise the Lord! Another hour of that, and I would have gone nuts.
Now as our company was actually on a production basis, I could relax and take care of running the logging business without worrying about what Silent Bill and Windy Jack were doing. I knew they were going to be busy for at least a couple of months. I had advanced material and tools for their use in building and felt I could stay out of their way and hoped they would do the same for me. For a while I lost track of them.
About 3 weeks later I received a card requesting my presence in the launching of Jack, B. and L. Co.'s maiden ship and a special invitation to be a guest on the ship's initial trial run. This I accepted by signing an enclosed form letter composed by Windy Jack, which was supposed to protect the Company in case of some accident on the trial run. Oh yeah, it sure covered liability and looked very legal too.
The big day arrived promptly at 2:00 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon.
Everybody in camp was there for the big launching. Now this boat was a sight for sore eyes. There never was a boat with so much bunting and pennants flying, all in three colors red, white, and a faded blue. I recognized those strips of cloth. I knew that red was from an old dress one of the gals who had worked in the cookhouse had worn. The white came from the cook's apron, and the faded blue was from someone's cast off work shirt. But it surely was colorful - no ship ever launched by the Queen's Navy or the U.S. Navy could boast so many colored rags. In fact, the boat was barely visible for all the decorations. It was painted with boiler paint (a greasy black), which was donated by the logging company (even though they didn't know it). We voted them a hearty thanks for their cooperation and then proceeded with the ceremonies.
Bill had a jug covered with ribbon to bust over the bow and name the ship. But Windy Jack explained to all assembled that Silent Bill would only bump the bow with the jug - not break it. He had had a long hard day and needed what was left of its contents. It seems that Windy Jack had seen the play Uncle Tom's Cabin at some time or other and Liza had made a deep impression on him. The name of Liza was to be given the boat for the respect he, Windy Jack, felt for Liza, when she crossed the ice with all those hounds snapping at her rear end. He added that she was the fastest and surest thing he had ever seen on the water.
The boat began to ship water.
A long speech was made about all the loyal work and long hours of studying and guarding that he and Silent Bill had done. Then with a very slight bump of the jug and a big heave ho from the officers and crew, all three of us got that boat launched. Windy Jack, as President, took command of the ship. As Silent Bill and I were "elected" deck hands, we sat in the stern and away we went on our trial cruise. Out and down the river for a few hundred feet we floated. We were doing just fine until Windy Jack turned and started back against the current, which was pretty strong. The boat began to ship water and Windy Jack gave orders, "Man the pumps."
We didn't have any pumps, but before launching I had loaded my tackle box, 3 fish poles and two cans filled with worms. The labor of 2 solid hours of digging. By emptying those cans we would have something to bail with. So overboard went the worms. I didn't take time to say to those worms "God bless you, Women and children first." I just shook them out and went to bailing. Silent Bill, jug in one hand and empty can in the other, was bailing like mad too because by this time water was coming in every seam and we were slowly but surely foundering. Rowing hard, Windy Jack, made those oars look like a propeller on a plane as he tried to get closer to shore before abandoning ship.
Then I heard a loud splash, and someone took my hat off and placed it on the water. I last saw it going downstream at a rapid rate. Now we were getting closer to shore and water in the boat was over our feet, then all at once the bottom of the boat dropped off and we were standing in water up to our waists. The sides of the boat were bumping our shoulders. Windy Jack was yelling, "Abandon ship. All hands, Abandon ship." The next thing I saw was Windy Jack climbing out of the water onto the bank.
Windy Jack made those oars look like a propeller.
But Silent Bill was diving under the water, coming up, taking a big breath, and diving again. I thought I'd never seen a more conscientious man than Silent Bill - trying to find my rods and reels and that tackle box. I sure felt proud of him.
At that moment he came up again and there he stood with a broad smile on his face. Water was streaming off from him, and in his hand he held that danged beribboned jug of whiskey. He uncorked it, took a big shot, then waded ashore, leaving me still standing there.
Well, those two ungrateful bums sat on the bank while I stooped down under water feeling for the fishing gear. It was gone, but I was standing on that plywood bottom. I brought it and the sides over to the bank and dragged them high and dry. I was pooped. So I reached for Silent Bill's jug, had a big slug, and just sat there for a while until I got my breath back.
There he stood with a broad smile on his face.
There was one thing I wanted to know. "Bill, why in Hell did you put my hat on the water?" Silent Bill came back with, "Drop jug - had to mark spot. You stupid, huh?" Well, I had no answer to that. So to Windy Jack I said, "How many screws did you use in that bottom?"
"Eight - I saved you money. Those plans called for nigh onto a hundred, and I figured biler paint after it set would hold her."
We called a meeting of the Jack, B. and L. Co. and voted to disband right then and there. No dissenting votes were cast. Our ship building business was over, and I went for dry clothes.