Jack Merrick is this year's Pioneer Logger Award honoree. Here he is lying inside the face-cut of a tree near the Hoh River in 1960. Merrick family (Click on photo to enlarge)

Forks gets ready for Hickory Shirt/Heritage Days this week; Jack Merrick to receive Pioneer Logger Award

THERE IS NO official logger uniform.

However some men of the woods stand on the tradition: hickory shirts, rigging pants, boots and suspenders.

Some take this dress code very seriously.

Dennis Barker, my husband, has a nonconformity streak wider than on old-growth cedar stump.

He would wear bright Hawaiian shirts to his hook-tending job for a well-established logging company in Forks.

As testimony to the unwritten uniform code, he once received an immediate raise by promising his boss he wouldn’t wear the colorful shirts.

Bearing this in mind, it is no wonder that for decades Forks has celebrated its logging heritage with an annual celebration called Hickory Shirt/Heritage Days.

Christi Baron, editor of the Forks Forum weekly newspaper (a sister newspaper to Peninsula Daily News), is a West End history buff. She has been tirelessly keeping this event going for years — sometimes, it seems, single-handedly.

This year’s celebration begins Wednesday and bears the theme, “Echoes of Axes.”

Two elements of Hickory Shirt Days are the Pioneer Logger Award and the Old Timers’ Round Table discussion, both of which kick off this year’s event.

Jack Merrick, 87, will receive the Pioneer Logger Award at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday at the West End Business and Professional Association’s weekly meeting at the Rainforest Arts Center, 35 N. Forks. Ave.

This accolade recognizes lifetime contributions to the timber industry.

Merrick has been both a tree feller and a truck driver on the West End.

The roundtable discussion will also be at the Arts Center, as will many events.

Beginning at 3 p.m. Wednesday, authors, loggers and history buffs will gather to talk about logging’s glory days.

Jack Zaccardo and Larry Burtness both have visual presentations they will be sharing.

Zaccardo’s are from Burt Kellogg’s cache of historical logging photos. Burtness will be sharing slides relating to “Murphy’s Law” in the woods.

A crew also has been working for over a year to publish the Loggers’ Memorial 2015.

This companion book to the original Loggers’ Memorial, a type of yearbook that follows the code of honoring members of this industry who have passed away.

They have been added to the memorial since 1994.

The book will be for sale at various times and places throughout the celebration.

JoMarie Miller and Martha Paul have been the driving forces behind this book’s creation.

“We thought there would be no way we’d be ready, but everybody worked real hard to get the book done,” Miller said.

She credits Forks artist Vern Hestand with the vision and most of the illustrations.

Joyce Pagac of Olympic Graphic Arts in Forks has been finalizing the printing to send the pages to Seattle for binding.

Making a re-appearance this year is the Choker Setter’s Ball at the Rainforest Arts Center on Saturday night. This is a family dance that has fallen by the wayside in recent years.

The Rainforest Council for the Arts is sponsoring the dance along with the Forks Timber Museum and West End Business and Professional Association.

“There is precious little for kids to do around here,” said Sue Shane of the Arts Council.

She explained that while the admission is $5 per person or $12 for families, “nobody will be turned away for lack of pay.”

The dance will be a family-friendly affair beginning at 6 p.m., with dance instruction by Terry and Jane Heilman.

The Forkestra, the city’s community orchestra, will open with waltzes.

Then, members of Crescent Blue and Therapy Session play their bluegrass-rockabilly sets.

In keeping with the theme of the celebration, organizers are encouraging folks to dress the part all week, Shane said.

To that end, photographer Bob McIntyre will be taking $5 photos of people all gussied up in their hickory shirts and old-time clothes.

He will be at the dance Saturday and then Sunday at the Timber Museum, where there is free admission all five days of the event.

Every day from today through Sunday, the many contributors to Hickory Shirt Days have logging-themed events planned.

Included will be the annual Fish and Brew, Little Logger Contest, art show and sale, and a 1971 Paul Newman flick, “Sometimes a Great Notion,” one of the best darned logging movies ever made.

Call Baron at 360-374-3311 for more information about events, times and locations.

________

The author, Zorina Barker writes the West End Neighbor column for the Peninsula Daily News. She lives in the Sol Duc Valley with her husband, a logger, and two children she home-schools.

Submit items and ideas for the column to her at [email protected], or phone her at 360-327-3702.

West End Neighbor appears every other Tuesday.

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