Before my grandparents bought their place in Minnesota, it was originally a logging camp owned by the Gull Lake Lumber company. It was actually a thriving little community in the late 1890’s complete with its own narrow gauge railroad, general store and hotel. Logging camps in those days were pretty rough and tumble places because logging was dangerous work and the men who chose to work there were as tough as they come. I read a book about logging once and it described an era that sounded ridiculously hard and living conditions that were primitive at best. The loggers all slept in bunkhouses and ate in common dining halls so it was a communal lifestyle to say the least. The work started with first light and went straight through till dusk. Even in the middle of frigid Minnesota winters they worked just as hard and everything was done by hand. I remember one story about the camp boss who got so tired of hearing the men complain about the sub-zero temperatures that he banned thermometers altogether. In his mind, if they didn’t know how cold it was they wouldn’t care as much and the work still had to get done no matter how cold it felt. I like his way of thinking.
The closest I ever came to experiencing this line of work was in January of 1994. I was in Minneapolis calling on a customer and decided I needed to drive on up to our place just to see it in the winter. My Aunt Margaret had warned me not to come because the temperature hadn’t gotten above zero for more than a month that year. That just made me want to see it even more so I could brag about how I survived it. As I drove down the hill to the end of the plowed road I saw a truck parked at the bottom. As soon as I stopped my car, my Uncle Dick poked his head out of the frosted window and said, “What the heck are you doing here?” I told him I just wanted to see the place once when it was really a bad winter. He got out of his car and said, “Yah, it’s a perfect day for cutting trees, not too bad at all. Have you got time to help?” I flashed back to that day with my grandfather before I agreed to his request, “How many trees are you cutting?” I asked. “Oh, just one today and we already got it down on the lake so it’s mostly done already,” he replied. This seemed like a reasonable request so I said, “Sure, whatever you need.” (I really need to work on my negotiating skills.)
His one tree was about 60 feet tall with twin trunks. It was on the lake but it still needed to be cut up and taken off the lake so that’s what we did for the next 4 hours. It was just me and my uncle and his 70 something buddy, whose name I can’t recall. As we waded through hip-deep snow I mentioned that I wasn’t really dressed for this kind of work but he insisted that I would warm right up when we started working. My Uncle Dick must have read that same book about the camp boss and the thermometers because he was right as always. After an hour of hauling logs off the lake I was down to my thermal shirt, jeans and gloves in 15 degree heat sweating like a pig. I don’t think I have ever worked so hard. I had to keep reminding myself that leaving 2 old guys to finish this task might mean I never get to see them again so I kept at it until we were done. Dick just smiled and kept saying stuff like, “What a nice day” and “I can’t believe how much it warmed up.” He knew just what buttons of mine he needed to push to keep me going and of course he broke out the ice-cold beer when we finished. You haven’t really had cold beer until you just pick it out of a snow bank.
Here’s the lesson we can all learn from this story. Hot or cold, day or night, alone or with others, the work has to get done. Wasting time worrying about the conditions or the amount of work needing to get done doesn’t serve any useful purpose. Hard work is its own reward and I highly recommend it to everyone. You have no idea what you are capable of until you try. The sense of accomplishment that comes with blood, sweat and tears is the one thing no one can ever take away from you for the rest of your life. Pushing yourself beyond your obvious limits is a life-changing event that is worth the experience.
The world we live in today was built by men like my uncle, Dick McClintick. He worked every day of his life and never wasted a minute of his day. His willingness to put himself out there on a freezing January day made me want to help just so I could earn that beer I knew he had stashed somewhere. The only pay I got was his deepest appreciation, which was invaluable to me. It is still one of my fondest memories and I love telling this story to all who knew him. The great part is no one who knew him is ever surprised. They just nod along and say, “Yah, that’s Dick.” That is exactly how I want to be remembered when I’m gone. “Yah, that Guy, he was really a hard worker.”
©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.