The Pacific Northwest Forum
Volume IV, Number 3, Pages 27-30
This is the tenth 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 1930's.
Kiss Me (Ugh) Kate!
It's been a big day and a lot happened; we got in town last night from camp and early this morning Kate got us all up and issued orders to us and she expected those orders to be completed when she got back from town. The first was "Gimme some money, I have to get some food in this house." We pooled $40.00 and handed it to her - then, "Now you, Silent Bill, you git right out thar and get some wood split and git a big pile of it in the house and clean up that backyard too. Windy Jack, you git in that kitchen and clean it up - scrub the floors in the hall and kitchen, wash those dirty windows and anything else needs doin', and you Honey chile [to me] you go in the parlor and jest rest your weary bones, Kate will be back soon and take care of you."
"Honey chile - you...jest rest your bones."
My God, has she gone nuts - she acts like she's in love! God forbid - that would be too much. So she left for the stores, Silent Bill for the woodshed, Windy Jack for the kitchen and I just got so weak I had to sit down. After a few minutes Silent Bill came in the house with some wood and I heard Windy Jack talking so I went out to where they were and then from Windy Jack, "Now honey lamb you all jest go back and lay down, Bill will bring you all some magnolia blossoms for your parlor table, you'all mustn't tire your little old self," and Silent Bill, "Lam by Pie, we'uns will keer fer you," and both started laughing as I got to Hell away from there. Soon I heard wheels and here came Kate with two boys and the mailcart from the train depot loaded with groceries. She bossed and the two boys finally got the cart unloaded without my help. I offered to help and I got "You'all jest go back and rest." Before that female had fallen in love with me, that would of been, "Git to Hell out my kitchen you little runt!" But such is the strangeness of love - I wish she had of been like she was last winter. That Pappy of hers had gave her ideas - wonder if she is as nuts as her Pappy? By George! she has shown every symptom so far. I've got to find her a man and quick and a big lock for my door. I have no trust to place on her anymore. Dang a conniving female anyway. This afternoon we had our meeting with the owner and I was to bring Windy Jack and Silent Bill along so I had a chance to get away from Kate and think of how I would get out of this jam.
"I want you to meet my daughter Sarah's husband."
The owner had us in to his office and I could see that this would be a long affair as a box of cigars and a jug of moonshine were on his desk. The cigars were passed around and so was the jug and after lighting up and drinking up, the owner started in, "Boys I don't know what you know of the shape our company is in, but I will say it's pretty bad. We've got bills to pay - no money - we've got logs to sell and have sold lots of logs but for no money - and we can't continue logging as we have no money so you can see what I called you in for. To tell you this is only temporary and soon we'll be back in the chips - I'm not broke, not too broke that Jack and Bill won't get paid every month, but they will and this year I've decided that you as the foreman for us these many years will be paid while here in town the same as those two. The house is paid for and is rent free and is yours as long as you want to stay. I know you'll hear rumors and truth - some of it quite bad of different men and their companies - so that's why I wanted to tell you how we stand financially. I expect by the spring of '29 we will be going stronger than ever - things can't get any worse then they are, they have to get better - so enjoy yourselves and I'll be down to see how you get along and if you need any help or money feel free to come and see me, that means anyone of you - anytime." With that a door opened and in came a big fat young man wearing the thickest glasses I ever saw. "One more thing I want you to meet my daughter Sarah's husband - he's being trained by my wife and Sarah to run the company when I go over the divide. By George! he's going to have long whiskers before that happens. Well, so long and don't forget what I told you," and we went back to the house. We had heard tales of how company after company was closing down and many forever as they were being foreclosed on and must be filing bankruptcy. A few men couldn't face the world after their losing all, so they took one way out - by committing suicide. Of course we never had thought it could happen to our company, it was always someone else, but we knew by the tone of the owner's voice - this was serious. Silent Bill went out to the woodshed, picked up a jug of moonshine, and the three of us went into the parlor and not saying much but drinking a little more than we should - talked this over quietly, until Kate came to the door: "Git outta thar you bums, you cain't sit and drink in my parlor!" Then when Silent Bill got slowly to his feet and spoke these words I knew Kate would never bother me again, "Woman - you git back in that kitchen and By Goddies, don't ever dast speak to me or these two friends of mine again only to say thank you sir and what do you want sir and don't forget you are just a hired girl and don't forget that 'sir business.' Now git to Hell out of here." The longest and best talk I had ever heard Silent Bill say and I guess it was a surprise to Windy Jack as he sat there with a look of awe and admiration on his face long after Silent Bill had left with "I need lots of drinks," and then Windy Jack spoke, 'Tve known Bill all my life and that's the first time I ever saw him get mad and talk. Ain't he a hell on wheels," and as he went towards the door he was talking to hisself - "How that boy can talk - I just can't believe it." I had another drink and feeling brave now I started for the kitchen to find Kate, when I met her coming out of her room, suitcase in hand and her eyes just like her Pappy's (meanest things you ever saw) looking right through me and would kill if they could. She stopped but only long enough to say, "Runt - you tell those other two low down bums and that Silent Bill in particular and this goes for you too take this job and put it where it hurts and don't you'all dast to come up to Pappy's - I can use a 30-30 too." Well, there went my romance. Good!
"Now git to Hell out of here."