Another Winters Night

It was December and it had been slow in the low bedding department. A few of us were sitting around, drinking coffee in the driver’s room when around 2:30 pm the dispatcher came in, filled his coffee cup and said. “McConaghy, I want you to hook up to a low bed and go out to 42 on the Beaver road and move a skidder and two processors over to 74 kilometer on the North Fraser. They will be finished with the first machine, around 4:30.”

There had been a time in the not to distant past when a move like this would have been done during the day time, but with the advent of mechanical logging and the government of the time giving the loggers smaller cut blocks, we ended up doing the moves at night. This way the logging crew wouldn’t lose any production time. It was great for the loggers, but it meant we worked all night, by our selves, loading and moving these machines in the dark.

I hooked up and headed for the bush and by the time I got going, it had started to snow and with the temperature around freezing, the snowflakes were big and wet.

I chained up as soon as I hit the bush road and when I got to the block they were working on, the skidder was ready to go. The bed I had taken was a nice light trailer with a narrow gooseneck and no beaver tail. This wasn’t a problem with the skidder, a big grapple machine and it had chains on all four wheels, so I walked it up over the back of the trailer, on to the deck and tied it down.

When I left with the skidder, the snow flakes had increased in size to the about the size of postage stamps and it was about 4 Inches deep, so it was pretty heavy pulling. I had taken my mud flaps off the back of the truck and hung them on the bull board so the chains wouldn’t tear them off and the chains were throwing snow up onto the deck, past the narrow neck.

When I got to the new block, I backed the skidder off and headed back for the first processor. The snow was getting heavier and the flakes were getting bigger.

The snow had packed around the gooseneck and on the front of the deck, it was about 3 feet deep by the time I got back to the old cut block and I would have to shovel it off the deck before I could detach the goose neck and load the next machine. They were on steel tracks and the deck would have to be clean. About an hour and a half later, I had the deck clean and the machine loaded and it was just after midnight.

I went trucking through this snowstorm and by now the snow flaked seemed to be the size of briefcases. When I went to unload again at the new block I had to shovel the gooseneck again, so I could detach and get the Machine off.

It was around 6 in the morning, I was shoveling the deck off for the third time when the foreman pulled in and got out of his, nice warm pickup with a nice warm cup of coffee in his hand, after spending a night in his nice warm bed, cuddled up to his nice warm wife and said, “What have you been doing all night, sleeping?”

I was standing there with my shovel in my hand, cold, wet and tired and I started to lose my temper. I was so hot, I was standing in my own little bit of summer with the snow melting around me and with the shovel in my hands; he must have thought I was going to hit him with it. I told him what he could do with his equipment and all his operators that were waiting.

He stepped back a step or two, realizing he might have said the wrong thing and said, “There is a thermos full of coffee in the pickup, why don’t you go have a coffee. I’ll finish shoveling this off for you.” And then he helped me load.

When I got to the other side, his operator shoveled the deck for me and I unloaded. The foreman must have radioed him and told him I wasn’t in a very good mood.

When I got back to the office that morning, the dispatcher asked me if I could make another move that day. I don’t think he knew how close he came to getting told in no uncertain term, what he could do with his move and what I thought of his dubious parentage. When I got home that afternoon, my wife said, “You have to be out of your mind, working all night, in the bush by your self, loading and unloading equipment. What would have happened if you had fallen and hurt yourself?”

You know, she was right, I was over sixty years old so shortly after I quite low bedding and went on the highway, hauling fish. Thankfully you didn’t have to tie down those slippery little fish.