by C. David Turnboo II
Well, here we are at the start of the thirtieth season of timber falling. I have managed to stay halfway healthy. I am still alive when twenty-six very good friends and fallers are not. Not to mention the lives lost in the logging cycle. I have not forgotten them and I use some of their gear every day. That way a piece of them is still going into the woods.
I like to tell people that I straight fell for most of my thirty years. I am lucky enough to have a sense and feel for this job. When you start in a strip or patch of timber, you have to know where to lay the trees correctly and without causing yourself headaches. If you’ve done any falling at all, you know what I’m talking about. Plumb bobbing is OK to find your lean on big timber, but it doesn’t matter, you still put the tree where it belongs, push, pull or jack it, that is called timber falling. You do not fall timber to the lean. Once in awhile you are lucky, and that is the best lay for the tree, but not very often. The guys who fall to the lean are always known as “last time around cutters”. They do not last long, if at all.
Timber Fallers is what we are called! I am very proud to be called one of those men. We are getting to be a smaller group every day. Times are going by and times are changing in logging. There are no more fallers and buckers, we are called single jackers and if you are not one, you are a faller buncher operator. (That is where you fall and buck up your trees). My family has a long line of loggers. My brother, Shawn Turnboo, who is a Timber Faller and climber, can run any equipment out there. Shawn is an all around logger. He takes after my granddad, Alvin Turnboo, or Bill, as we called him. Mike Carbine and Howard Nielsen are in my logging family, also.
As I said, I am proud to be called a Timber Faller. I could fall timber out of the chute, I guess. I would go out with my dad, Carl Turnboo, when he was falling timber for my granddad. Dad would fall a tree and start limbing it out. I would read the tree and mark it with a screwdriver, where to buck it into logs. When granddad saw that, he grabbed a double bit ax, walked up and stuck that ax into the log saying, “chop those marks, boy”. I was only six years old at the time. Boy, dad did not want me using that ax, but granddad would have no relative of his scratching log marks. That double bit ax is in my pickup to this day. So it began, after a lot of effort and dad’s help to get that ax out. Granddad had stuck it in the log with one arm. Granddad would tell you one time how to do something and you had better do it right. Granddad gave me my first chain saw at eleven years old. It was broke down, he said, “Fix it and it’s yours”. The starter rope was all that was wrong with one of Mr. Bradford’s Homelite chain saws.
Straight falling I have run all the falling saws in their day. The ones of my time were the Homelite, McCulloch and Stihl. Now with a 066 with a 36” bar, that is all you need to single jack. You can fall a pretty good size tree with a 6′ bar double cutting and blocking out, also. I have run and tried a lot of saws in my time. Stihls are the best at this time, in my opinion. I am proud to say I do all my business at Guy’s Saw Shop for Stihl chain saws. Guy and Cathy keep me falling. My dad, Carl, ran one of my saws to make a cut one time and the saw about sucked him into the log. He said, “bleep-bleep, boy, this thing can kill you”. I said, “Yes, dad, a lot faster that the saws of your time, so hold onto it”.
I have ran a lot of crews and contracted a lot as I am doing to this day. But now I do just what I can handle myself. Time is going by as I told you, timber fallers are dying. We are the old ones now. There is just a handful of fallers, true fallers, left that I have any respect for. There are some good young single jackers out there but very few. They were not around to fall the loadboy logs or big timber, which is not their fault. It was a different way to fall and buck big timber, a lot more on the line. We do not cut big trees much any more. A six-foot in diameter tree is a big tree now. That was not always the case. The CC crews can cut this stuff nowadays. The trees will still kill you though.
I am falling for LEI (Lowner Enterprises, Inc.) for Scott Bigelow at this time. The Bigelows are an old logging family, also. One of the best loggers left, in my opinion, I am working with one faller buncher, I fall out blue line, water courses and do the trees too big and on the ground what the machine cannot do. Logging outfits are going mechanical now. It is faster and better for the small diameter timber. You have to be a good faller to still have a job these days, or a cheap one. I want to be paid for my experience. I am honored that loggers still keep me working. I have told a few loggers my view on things a time or two. Logging is not the place for b.s.. People get hurt and lose their lives. We need to earn a decent wage to keep the veterans in this occupation. It is not called one of the most dangerous jobs in the country for nothing. I’ve seen it over and over. The old saying is right: “you get what you pay for”.
Like I was saying I have fell helicopter, yarder and cat ground. I have worked with some good men in my time and I plan on going to the end or till I make a mistake. I have no sons or wife, just Cierra Dawn, named for all the Sierra sunrises I’ve been lucky enough to see. Carly and Fallon are my little girls and I have my dog. I was blessed with girls and I love them all. I do not know if I could have had a boy in the falling end of logging—it is too dangerous! That is a question my brother will have to deal with as Shawn has two sons, the next generation. My wife left me. I do not understand it for I have been so close to getting hurt many times, falling trees in tough spots or that other fallers had hung up. I would get them down and smile and say “not today”. I was doing this to keep the jobs coming to me, making a living for my family.
(Editor’s Note: C. David Turnboo II resides in El Dorado County. His logging profession takes him all over the western side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.)