THERE WERE GIANTS in the land. It’s been my privilege to know some of them.
Although Ted Woods was a short and wiry guy, his passing Aug. 20 at age 59 after a long battle with cancer left a giant hole in the community of people who live on the West End.
You could tell from the size of the crowd at the memorial service that was held for Ted that he meant an awful lot to the people of the rain forest.
The attendance was even more remarkable when you consider that the event was held up a remote logging road that took off from U.S. Highway 101 somewhere between the Hoh River and Kalaloch, with no signs marking the way.
I thought there might be just me and a couple of loggers to sit around and remember Ted, but I was wrong.
There was a whole lot of loggers, along with a bunch of hippies, rednecks, Mexicans, Native Americans, pioneers, old hippies, sons of pioneers, bikers, punks and just plain folks.
Most of us met Ted pretty much the same way.
We were broke down, in anything from a motorbike to a D9 Cat. Ted was a mechanic or more like a philosopher therapist mechanic.
He did more than just deal with mechanical difficulties of life. Ted tinkered with life’s eternal mysteries, to heal the engine and the driver and promote harmony in the community.
He had a shop along the highway where he performed this service.
One day, I met a guy in a campground who found a chain saw along the side of the highway.
It was a Stihl 066 with about a three-foot bar, which is pretty common in the woods.
It could have belonged to any number of loggers.
I took the saw to Ted.
He looked it over and pointed out the broken tooth on the chain where it hit the ground when it fell out of the crummy.
Then he smelled the sawdust that was stuck to the saw and told us who the owner was.
Another case closed.
Most of Ted’s jobs were tougher than that.
There was the log truck that dropped by late one night with a broken drive line.
Ted crawled under the truck, cut the drive line in half and welded another piece onto it.
This is a job that would normally require a machine shop because if you’re “off” even by the slightest hair, the drive line will wobble your rig to pieces.
The guy drove away without the slightest vibration.
Some of Ted’s rescues were out in the woods.
There was the story of the shake bolt truck with about four cords of wet cedar aboard that lost its brakes on top of Queets Ridge.
Ted showed up with a 4-wheel-drive pickup and hooked a strap from his front end to the rear of the truck and lowered it down the mountain.
Not all of Ted’s rescues were mechanical.
Ted adopted a pair of wildcats.
Being a jack of all trades kind of guy, he had his own do-it-yourself spay-neuter program.
By some coincidence, we both had tamed black wildcats and named them Shadow, so we hit it off.
Ted fixed my rig and didn’t want any money. He wanted to go fishing. That was Ted, he liked to barter.
The problem was he didn’t have any time to go fishing . . . until his illness.
Then we went out and he caught a big king salmon.
That was when Ted came up with one of the many “sayings” he was always famous for.
“Live like you are going to live forever. Fish like you are going to die tomorrow.”
Pat Neal is a North Olympic Peninsula fishing guide and humorist. His column appears Wednesdays.Pat can be reached at 360-683-9867 or [email protected], or see his blog at patnealwildlife.blogspot.com.