About Me

My photo
Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Happy Hour in Whitefish

Logger Bob Love, the real thing.


August, 6 -- Whitefish, Montana

It was our last day at Carl's cabin, because we were heading North to Alaska the next day.

We drove to Kalispell for supplies and to have a tire repaired,and then we pigged out on barbecue.

Food coma soon followed, and we headed home.

Carl had the foresight to save some of the meal for the ladies, who had been busy at the cabin, and this made our power-naps somehow excusable.

When we awoke the woods were rumbling. So we strolled over to watch Logger Bob sawing and munching piss firs with his machines.

Bob is the real thing. No lumbersexual wears pitch-stained pants, and smells like chain saw exhaust.

Carl hired Bob to thin the piss firs, "because they crowd out the larches and pines".

"They're as common as wood rats around here, and they stink like rats, too."

(Carl always abuses my favorite rodent in my presence.)

Yep, Piss firs. I hadn't heard of them either.

The colorful moniker comes from the subalpine fir's habit of releasing a stream of water when bored with a forester's auger. So says the Slang Dictionary. 

Break time in the pickup.
While we admired the machinery, Bob's dog Sparky hunted Montana's other native scoundrel, the bushy-tailed wood rat.  

Sparky knows where to find these handsome rodents, and how to flush them, and if he doesn't nail them on the run, he trees them and stands vigil till they come down and make a run for it. 

Our dogs Fred and Petey found Sparky to be a really neat guy, and joined him in the chase, but they just didn't get the waiting game under the tree.

Sparky stood vigil while
Petey and Fred wanted in.
Fred can't even catch a squirrel, and thinks the game ends when the squirrel goes up the tree.

So when Sparky treed a rat that afternoon our dogs drifted off and were soon looking wistfully into the cabin.

Before long it was happy hour, and a chance to chat with a real Montana logger.

We gathered on Carl's porch next to the beer cooler where Moose Drool and other brews greased the skids.

Soon we swapping stories about trees, timber, wood, land, and of course wildlife.

Old snags?  Bob knew of a big one used by bears as a hibernaculum.

I asked if he had ever seen a wolverine out here. 

I doubted he had, but I was wrong.

"I passed one on the shoulder of the road one morning.

"It had it's head up the butt-end of a road killed deer, and was within shooting range of any passing pickup. 

"So I walked it away from the road and called the game warden."

"The warden dragged the carcass up into the woods, and the wolverine survived a close call with civilization.

Salted into Bob's accounts was the name of Bud Moore.

Moore grew up in the Bitterroots, trapped and built cabins as a teenager, was a Marine during WW2, and worked for the Forest Service most of his life.

He was one of those rare individuals who "listened to the land and learned from it".

"Bud was like my brother, grandfather, father, mentor and best friend. It was like we'd known each other in previous lives, and reconnected.  We will again one day."
  
Moore was a toddler when writer Norman MacLean worked for the Forest Service, but their paths crossed decades later when MacLean needed a fact checker for his draft of A River Runs Through It.

In Bob's words . . .

"McLean didn't know Bud at the time, but since Bud knew the country and characters in the stories, he asked him to check the manuscript for facts.  In Bud's words, 'I took my red pencil to it and sent it back'.  The edits didn't go over well, but Maclean eventually agreed they were warranted."

"Bud was on the team that investigated the Mann Gulch fire, and was responsible for the Fire Fighter's standard safety rules, which are still in effect today."

"They are fashioned after the Marine Rules of Battle Conduct.  Bud had been in the Marines, and couldn't recall the rules to the letter, but he thought they'd be applicable to fire fighting."

"The team was meeting in DC, near some military facility.  Bud went out and found a Marine at a bus stop, and asked him to recite the rules.  He wrote them down, brought them back to the meeting, and they were adopted by the FS."

The Maclean-Moore relationship grew into one of mutual respect, and when Moore was writing The Lochsa Story he observed that "McLean took care of my inclination to put outdoor pursuits first, desk work last. Every time I dropped my pencil and looked at my fly rod, he would show up in some form or another."

I had one last question before Bob headed home.

"What's wrong with Sparky's paw?" (Sparky favored one paw. Was it a casualty of the chase?)

"Compound fracture", said Bob. "He broke his leg when he fell off a roof, trying to get deer fat I'd put up there for ravens.   

"Maybe I should have had it cut off. He wouldn't be in such pain, but he wouldn't be able to catch wood rats either." 

It was a happy hour I won't forget.


References
Cawelti, John.  www.press.uchicago.edu/books/maclean/maclean_cawelti.html
[an interesting excerpt about Maclean's analytical and critical compliment of a lecture Cawelti once gave at the University of Chicago -- from Cawelti's book, Norman Maclean: Of scholars, fishing, and the River]

Moore, Bud. 1996. The Lochsa Story, Land Ethics in the Bitterroot Mountains. Mountain Press Publishing Company, Missoula, Montana

Maclean, Norman. 1992. Young Men and Fire. University of Chicago Press, Chicago

8 comments:

Sue Ruff said...

I forwarded this to Norman Maclean's son John, a DC friend and neighbor.

Anonymous said...

I read your blog with great interest. We visited Whitefish in August this year. Fell in love with the area and couldn't care what the winter was like. So we went to a Realtor to see what was available and after looking at the low-end scale of the property available (close to $1 mil.) we decided to vacation at Kalispel next year in stead of buying. It is sure beautiful and pristine.

John R.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Thanks, Sue. Didn't someone say we know practically everyone through 5 or 6 people? I was surprised to learn I knew Norman Maclean through 2 people. Gotta read River Runs Through It again.

Thanks John. I'm lucky to have Cabin-Montanans Carl and Ginger for friends. Carl bought his place when folks like you and I weren't thinking ahead.

Anonymous said...

Hey Codger nice story and I know that you must have had a good time with old friends.
Did you set any camera traps out?
Terry

Camera Trap Codger said...

Stay tuned, Terry -- a did do a little camera trapping.

Woody Meristem said...

Liked your tale. Reminds me of a couple of friends here in Pennsylvania. One has lived in a log cabin with no power or running water for over 50 years; the other lives in what most people would think is a remote area and knows more about our elk than any other living person. Friends to cherish.

Camera Trap Codger said...

There's something to be said for basic living. I am almost finished with The Locksa Story, and it was worth the time reading. Now I have to go see that country again.

Chas Clifton said...

Dang, more stuff I should read.