Thursday, May 19, 2011

We're All Auger Handles Now

If you have a half-hour to spend, the movie returns a dividend on your investment.

A logging river is in sight from my kitchen window. They haven't allowed the logs to float down the Androscoggin for half a century, so the trucks rattle by day and night on Route 2 instead, hard by the river. Some call this progress.

A long time ago, a  man with vision and verve tramped into the wilderness here, and decided to build a whole city out in the wilderness based on nothing but logs and the river. There is a big, granite shrine at the foot of the big falls -- the falls that caught his eye in the first place.

The shrine is to a politician famous for crying, not the founder of the town.

Partway through the film, they show the hobnailed boots used by the river drivers. I've been in the factory they refer to that made them. The factory itself is converted into shabby cubes filled with holistic healing mountebanks and tax accountants. Next door there's a moth-eaten museum dedicated to the work that used to happen there. You have to have a museum dedicated to work now so people won't confuse it with dinosaurs or pharoahs or cuneiform writing. We were the only people interested in the museum that day, and I know all about work.

There's a mordant tidbit of humor at 12:45

The green men -- which we sometimes call "auger handles" -- will work on the shore, while experts like the man with the vest on, Mr. Everett Scott of Bering, will work on the outside next to the stream.

"Auger handles." Oh, how Twain or Bierce would have loved that. Some auger handles at a university compiled this video from the original 1930 film, and read a script that was written to accompany it. Another bunch of auger handles watch it in some other shabby museum dedicated to work, I expect.

It occurs to me that we're pretty much all auger handles now. Standing on the shore, clueless and timid, waiting for someone --someone else, mind you -- to risk his hide out in the torrent while we stand on the shore and pretend to work, wait for lunch, and tell them they're doing it wrong once they're done and we've picked them clean.

The pretending to work isn't working so well anymore, is it? I'll pretend to work and you pretend to pay me never does. The Mr. Everett Scotts of the world are thin on the ground right now. They seem to have grown weary of dragging along dozens behind them like some undeserved Marley's chains; of being depended upon and excoriated and cheated at the same time; of being milked and kicked like a barnyard animal with a cruel master; and so have given up even trying to cadge anything useful from the mob of hands full of gimme and mouths full of much obliged lolling on the shore.

So we're all standing on the shore looking at the logs (a little) and each other (a lot) and wondering if maybe we should pass another law, or cadge another exaction from Mr. Scott -- dig up his corpse and go through his pockets one last time if we have to -- or just pass a law forbidding logs from public assembly to break up the log jams.

The meek didn't inherit the earth. The cowardly did.


Gary said...

Pithy and accurate.
We are sitting beside a precipice stuffing our faces yelling "Life's not fair," while the cliff edge collapses all around us.
Either we get to work building a safe place to sit or we will pitch into the abyss.
Problem is how to do this as an individual while our neighbors continue to pretend that "There ought to be a law" is the answer to all problems. I think that we will all go over the edge together regardless of our individual virtues of lack of same. Good luck for a soft landing!

Casey Klahn said...

My fore bearers did all of this. Logged monster timber (No. I said freaking monster timber. Pacific Northwest huge Hemlock, Spruce, Doug Fir and Red Cedar).

I remember going into the logging camps with my parents when I was a toddler, too. Those were the last camps in the lower 48.

Today I posted a picture of one of these logging rivers, BTW. Just thinking in a stream of consciousness here.

So, I'll just say that if I got a tenth of what my pappy and grandpappy had, I'll probably be okay. And, if you, kind reader, reacted with some kind of "poor trees" thoughts when you saw the timber in the video, then give yourself a huge kick in the rear.

All of this just from the first whiff of your post, Greg. Now, I'll go read it...

John Lien said...

What a great film! One thing I noticed is all the labor involved. I live in the middle of timber country in central VA. You would be amazed what three men $500,000 in equipment and a 200 gallons of diesel can do in a day. (My diesel and equipment estimates may be low). In general, not sure where this trend of more machines (and robots) and fewer actual workers is going to lead us. However, I would rather be here now than there then.

Casey Klahn said...

These were men so adept at gathering and producing, that we are living high on the fat from those days. Auger handles? That compliments today's subjects.

Back to making things for me.

Robin said...

You make me feel old. I remember logs piled up at the foot of that dam. I was always afraid for the men just walking across them like it was no big deal. The mill smelled a lot more powerful then, too. Fond memories. Thank you.

SippicanCottage said...

Hi Robin- Thanks for reading and commenting.

Anonymous said...

Great work (as usual)

"So we're all standing on the shore looking at the logs (a liitle)and each other (a lot) and wondering if maybe we should pass another law, or cadge another exaction from Mr. Scott..."

may want to change (a liitle) to (a little).

SippicanCottage said...

Thanks. Done.