Camp Cooks Had Rules!
By Lars Sanders
From 1938 in Minnesota, ’till 1957 In California, I stayed part of the time in logging camps and ate in the cook-house. There was one thing that was the same and very noticeable in each cook-house. and that was the attitude of the head cook.
I never did live or eat in camp that had a woman cook, so I can’t speak for them. However, all the men cooks that I knew let us know that we were there to eat our full and be gone as quick as possible. They did not want any unnecessary talk or laughing, just pass this or that, and that was it. If there was too much noise in the dining room, he would come in from the kitchen and tell us in no uncertain terms to knock it off, and much of the time he would have a rolling pin or meat cleaver in his hand. Most of the time the noise stopped, but once in awhile there was trouble!
In 1939 I was cutting timber with hand tools (before power saws) and was staying in a camp about 45 miles from home. Much too far to drive in those days, especially in the wintertime. Our neighbor, Don Cameron, worked there too, so I rode with him. He was old enough to be my grandfather, so I called him “gramps.” My dad had died when I was thirteen years old, so gramps had a lot to do with teaching me to file my saws and fall timber and make logs.
Also working in that camp was a big Swede, by the name of Ruben Anderson, and he weighed 270 pounds, and not a pound of fat on him. He had a good sense of humor, and we became good friends.
Another one of the cook’s rules, was that we sit at the same place at the table each meal. This was to avoid arguments and also hurry the meal. Ruben sat beside me to my left and gramps sat straight across the table from him.
One night at supper, we were having large bowls of vegetables and beef on the table for our main dish. I have always liked to chew on bones, and this night I had a big beef joint and I was chewing on the fat or gristle in the knuckle. My thumb slipped and part of the bone slapped me on the cheek. Under my breath I said “the son-of-a-bitch kicked me.” Ruben had a mouthful of cooked vegetables and he blew them across the table and they splattered on gramps from his belt to his eyes. Those who saw it, including me, broke into a laugh and soon the whole dining room was roaring. The cook appeared with a rolling pin in his hand and the place became quiet.
He said, “who started this?” Ruben didn’t want me to get in trouble so he stood up, tall and straight, all six foot four of him and said, “I did.” The cook turned, and without saying a word he went back into the kitchen.