IT WAS THAT great American philosopher Buzz Martin, also known as “The Singing Logger,” who said, “There walks a logger, there walks a man.”
I can think of no greater tribute to my old friend Jim Anderson.
He logged and built roads in the high country as steep as the back side of God’s head, back when they cut old-growth timber. Not the toothpicks they harvest today.
No, these were real logs.
Jim told me about a spruce that was so big it wouldn’t fit on a log truck.
They had to buck the log into short sections and stand them on end on a low-boy trailer.
That must have been a thrill to meet on the road around Lake Crescent.
There were plenty of thrills logging in those days.
Just getting to work was half the job.
It was a two-hour-plus drive part-way in the dark to the upper drainages of the West End of the Olympic Peninsula.
Once he got to the job the real work started, packing dynamite and setting chokers behind a cat. That was a Caterpillar D9, a steel monstrosity that carved roads up the mountains.
It was a scene of many near-death experiences for Jim.
Like the time the D9 came rolling down the mountain straight at him when he was stuck in a hole in the downed timber.
He said you really do see your life flash before your eyes before you die.
Luckily, the cat stopped, which gave Jim the opportunity for many more near-death experiences before he quit the woods and went to work in a pulp mill.
But the pulp mill was not his true calling.
Jim was a hunter-gatherer in the tradition of our ancestors, when we relied on natural foods for our survival.
Where there was edible wild food to be had, Jim caught it, shot it or picked it.
Hunting with Jim could be an embarrassment.
Like the time he shot a running deer that I had missed when it was standing still.
Fishing with Jim on the Lyre River could be humiliating.
Jim would most likely already have a fish on the beach by the time I got to the fishing hole.
Sometimes, he caught both our limits before I got my gear put together.
It was like he only took me along to help pack the fish. Which was OK, I’d pack his fish any day.
Except for the day he caught 17 steelhead in Salt Creek. That would have been a problem, but he only kept two.
Jim was a witness to the destruction of the fisheries of the Olympic Peninsula.
He went to Peninsula College, attending the now-discontinued fisheries program.
It gave him a scientific perspective on the extinction of our salmon and how they could be restored.
More than that, Jim was a keen natural observer and a gifted writer.
Jim wrote his own obituary. In it he described our favorite fishing hole, Freshwater Bay. He said, “The sun is just beginning to peek above the water and the first rays of sunlight shine off the cliffs, birds and salmon are feeding on baitfish on the edge of the kelp beds. It is one of those days where you hook a King Salmon with each pass and you don’t want to stop. Just one more pass before you are called home.”
He’s home now.
And it’s like Buzz Martin said, “If you get to heaven, you’ll find more than one set of cork boot tracks on those streets of gold. There walks a logger. There walks a man.”
Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.
He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patnealwild [email protected].