The Pacific Northwest Forum
Volume 2, Number 4, Pages 6-12
Fall, 1977

Lumberjack Legends

Lynn A. Hull

Illustrations by Jon Herman

This is the fourth in a series of legendary recollections of the Northwest written in 1961 by Lynn A. Hull, who had been a lumberjack for many years. The stories, written in the form of letters to his son, take place in the 1920's and 30's.

A Third Deadbeat Arrives

Dear Son:

A few weeks after the spring opening of the camp we had another deadbeat to contend with, and he was by far the most useless of the three I now had. It was the owner himself who came to revive old times with Windy Jack and Silent Bill and also to soak his' hide in moonshiner mountain dew.

 

Windy Jack and the Owner talked, and Silent Bill and the Owner drank.

 

Before he got settled in the shack with his two cronies he told me that his wife knew where he was and that he had told her that the business of cruising a new stand of timber and an inspection of his holdings would keep him away from their fireside for maybe three weeks, but he would work like old billy be damned and try to get back in two. Oh, what have I done to have to suffer this, I says to myself.

Each evening Silent Bill and the owner would go for a stroll 4 miles up the river and back, each with an empty jug going and a full one returning.

Well, the first few days the three stayed pretty well together. They did have a lot in common - Windy Jack and the owner talked and Silent Bill and the owner drank. Now I never did see anyone who played both ends against the middle without eventually losing out someway, and the owner wasn't an exception. Anyway, it served him right for lying to his wife as he did.

Those three ate a lot, drank a lot, talked a lot, and smoked every box of cigars in camp and were down to chewing tobacco before the owner went home. Then they nearly wrecked the camp. Now this is what happened. First they held a big party and sent out invitations to the whole crew. During the party they gave presents to each and every man (shirts and sox from the commissary) and a week's vacation with pay and a present of $50.00 each to the three women in the cook house. The women were told to leave right away, and Windy Jack, Silent Bill, and the owner promised to cook in their absence.

So those lousy females - who knew that was liquor talking, not the owner - took off. Early the next morning at around 6 o'clock, the usual time for the breakfast gong, there was no gong just a lot of noise and activity in the kitchen. Everyone waited and waited. Finally about 7:30 the doors opened, and the owner - bleary eyed, red-faced and wearing one of the girls' aprons yelled, "Come and get it or we throw it to the hogs."

"Come get it, or we throw it to the hogs."

Believe me, if they had thrown it to the camp's hogs, those hogs would of thrown it right back. The fried eggs weren't recognizable as eggs except that occasionally one would see a yolk squinting out of a mess of broken egg shells and a brown crust. No one ate any of those - just looked and grinned a little. The bacon or what had been bacon was little strips of charcoal- it sure had been sterilized by fire, not many faces smiling now.

Then Windy Jack, who was the chef, stuck his head out of the kitchen and called his two waiters to give them what he called a gourmet's delight, "Windy Jack's Southern fried and cooked flapjacks." So we waited for that culinary delight, and My God, son, you should of seen them!

They were about the size of a dinner plate - flat on one side and rounded on the other and way past a golden color I would say a deep shade of black. They must of been quite heavy too as the two waiters could only carry about 6 each, and the owner's dog couldn't even pick up the one that fell on the floor.

By now there wasn't a man there smiling."

By now there wasn't a man there smiling or even looking like he ever had. All at once a big Swede picked up some of those cakes, stood on the table after kicking some dishes to the floor, and heaved them like a discus thrower through the serving window at our chef. He and his pals took off out the back door. Finally, some semblance of order settled on the crew after a near total wreck of the kitchen and dining hall. When I could speak and be heard, I told the men they were welcome to any food that they wanted - if they cooked it their self. I also hired 10 men at double pay to clean up the place, two more men with a bonus of $20.00 to catch our real cooks and drag them back from town, and I offered a special bonus to someone to bring word from town that the owner had to return immediately to his office. (I wouldn't pay that until he was gone, and his dog too.) I talked through the door to the owner and he said, "O.K. Bud, you do what's right. Bill and I are settling our nerves, now go and leave us alone." Then the women came back (not very happy), and the boss left with his dog (not very happy, either). I guess 1 was the only happy one in camp, but it won't last - I know it, as the crew has had a taste of power.

Dad

The Big Fight

Dear Son:

For months and months on end I heard Windy Jack talk and talk about his "widder" down on the Pen-in-Soola (Peninsula), but I always figured Windy Jack was just spouting off because whenever I tried to pin him down as to when he had last seen her and what she looked like, he always evaded me.

But I learned more about her when Windy Jack appeared one Sunday morning in camp the day before we opened for the season. The poor devil had not one black eye, but two - the blackest you ever saw. In fact, they were black from his bald head to below his cheek bones and his nose looked as if it had double joints in it. I knew someone had beat the living daylights out of him.

When I asked what happened, Windy Jack just pointed at his jaw and mumbled.

When I asked what had happened Windy Jack just pointed at his jaw and mumbled something - his face hurt so much he couldn't talk. "Finally," I said to myself, "Old Windy Jack has lost his wind, and I'll bet that hurts him a lot more than his head." But doggone it, I missed that voice of his blatting away, and I felt sorry for him - and myself too, as I was now going to have a long wait before he could tell me what happened.

But then I saw Silent Bill coming in to camp. So I knew, or thought I did, that I'd get the story from him. "What in the world ran over Windy?" I said, "Was it a truck, football team, or some other logging crew? I know it had to be several men to beat him up that badly, Huh? Come on man out with it and all of it too."

Silent Bill just stood there looking at me, and I could darn near hear the wheels grind in his head as he figured out how to tell me. After a long wait I got this - "One man - fight-Jack too fat - no duck." And then he started off for the bunkhouse. I finally got hold of myself and realized those eight words were the most I ever heard Silent Bill say at one time. So I was doomed to wait until Windy Jack was back in circulation again to hear a story on the fight.

Of course I knew, or thought I did, how Windy Jack once took on the whole crew from some other camp and all were in the hospitals in two towns as one wouldn't hold them. So I knew this must have been quite a fight. I waited - but not too long. After about three days of heavenly quiet Windy Jack came over to the office to tell me his tale of woe.

"I ought to slap your ratty face to a peak."

Seems as though Windy Jack and his Elsie had met in Portland and Windy Jack was squiring her around the city from beer joint to beer joint, on the West Side, North Side, and East Side. After they had gone around the East Side they decided to go back on the West Side as they faintly remembered passing by one joint and didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. They started back across the bridge in Elsie's car and that's when it happened.

Maybe I'd better let Windy Jack tell this in his own words: "It was like this, Boss, you know how a feller is when he's with his gal - by George, he's gonna be top dog in her eyes in anything - the strongest, the toughest, and best dern man she has ever seen. Well, we was acrossing Hawthorne bridge when another car with a couple of fellers in it came over in our lane and scraped our fender - not bad but it made a little noise, and so he stopped and climb out, and so did 1. He was a right smart looking lad of about 20 years, and he wasn't as big as you are oh, mebbe around 135 pounds or so. So I says, "Sonny, what do you think you air adoin. I oughta slap your ratty face to a peak!'

Then this little rascal talks right back to me in the most unpolite way you ever heard. "Pop, your car ain't hurt one little bit, and if you don't get back in that crate and get out of here, I'll see how much of that big fat belly of yours I can push back to your backbone.'

"Now I'd been telling Elsie all day how tough I was. So I just couldn't get out of that. But I sure wished I was far, far away. This little runt was looking bigger and bigger all the time. But I said, 'Sonny, wait 'till I take my false teeth out! Then he said, 'Never mind, Pop, I'll knock 'em out.' And he did too, and I woke up laying alongside that road and Boss, here I am. I lost Elsie and my teeth and about 12 hours of my life. I ain't never goin' back to town, and that's the truth, so help me God."

For once Windy Jack must have told the truth. His face was still so sore that he couldn't elaborate too much. But I'm waiting to hear this same story again in 6 months. I'll bet when he tells it then there will be a lot of men against him, and they'll end up laying around everywhere - maimed and broken.

Dad