LABOR DAY WEEKEND was the last chance for many hard-working Americans to escape the rat race of the modern world, to enjoy nature in its most primitive form — all the while knowing that when the weekend was over, the hard-working Americans would have to slog back for another week in the trenches to celebrate labor.
That’s if you have a job.
Even if you are a lowly wilderness gossip columnist stuck with all the heavy lifting, raking the muck off the dirty linen to expose the seamy underbelly of an entrenched regime of autocratic plutocrats who manage our natural resources into economic extinction while getting elected year after year by the pathetic few voters who bother.
Give me a job that’s hard, dirty and dangerous with low pay and no future, and I’m there.
As a card-carrying member in good standing of the now-extinct Shingle Weavers’ Union, I know hard-working Americans.
The Shingle Weavers’ Union was formed in Washington state in the early 1900s in an attempt to make shingle mills with their 10-hour schedule six days a week a more survivable workplace.
Even a small shingle mill is a cross between a Medieval workshop and Dante’s “Inferno,” with the screaming shingle saws, howling metal conveyor belts, the constant pounding of heavy wood on metal and the ever-present prospect of maiming, amputation, hearing loss and red lung, a respiratory condition from breathing too much cedar dust.
The Shingle Weavers’ Union got us working six-hour days five times a week, a pension and payments for each part of the shingle weaver’s carcass that was sawed off.
Imagine making a living and supporting a family with only one member of the family working six hours a day.
The Shingle Weavers’ Union was being broken by the late 1970s, which was just about the time I became a member.
Then the Asian market for raw logs heated up. The local mills went broke. The Shingle Weavers’ Union disappeared.
Forty years later, and the logs are smaller but the Asian log market is heating up while our lumber mills are shutting down.
Very few hard-working Americans can make it on five six-hour days a week.
Many hard-working Americans are barely surviving while the “great American Dream” slips from their grasp.
Nowhere was this disparity of hopes, dreams and expectations more apparent than on the past Labor Day campout.
While the campers huddled in the mud of a rainforest shower waited for the breakfast buffet to appear, we were treated instead with another sad example of the hard-working American middle class sliding down the slippery slope.
Instead of crab eggs Benedict, biscuits and gravy, hot cakes, bacon and ham with a pitcher of Bloody Mary’s to wash it down, there was a meagerly breakfast scramble with some fruit slices and dry toast.
Sullenly, the campers sulked through breakfast with the sure knowledge that whoever complained about the food was the new camp cook.
If breakfast was a disappointment, dinner was another shocking example of the belt-tightening we must all endure.
Imagine a prime rib with no au jus sauce!
It was an outrage only to be exceeded by the dessert, a magnificent blackberry crisp served without whipped cream.
I tried to put on a brave front and shoveled down the blackberry crisp just to be polite.
While the menus were Spartan, the wine list nonexistent, all the hard-working Americans were packing.
Americans seems overrun with wild and crazy gunmen victimizing the public.
Today’s campers are ready for them, with everything from Glocks to trench guns.
Everyone was polite.
Nobody complained about the cooking.
Pat Neal is a fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.
He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal [email protected].