Sept 28, 1978 Sense and Nonsense

“Why don’t we pick cones for the Forestry?” I suggested to a friend. “We could earn money in the great outdoors and have fun doing it!” The summer had been a cold wet one, and the day we went cone-picking was typical. In the wee hours of a gray morning we climbed into a mud-splattered van, similar to the ones they used to transport soldiers to battle in World War Two.

“Be sure and buckle your seat belts,” the other girls advised us.

We soon discovered that seat belts were not just a precaution in case of accident; they were a necessity if one wished to stay in their seat. The road was full of pot holes, the van had no shocks and our driver was in a hurry to get there. The other girls had breakfasted wisely on coffee and Gravol pills. I found myself speaking in a pleading manner to my logger’s breakfast of bacon and eggs. The 20-mile journey into the bush seemed endless. By the time we reached our destination, my complexion was an interesting shade of green.

The logging road where we stopped was a slimy gumbo of mud. We slipped, slithered and sloshed down the road to the cone-picking grounds. The cone trees were located in a dense swampy jungle on the lower side of an open logged off area. The underbrush was sopping wet and the thorn plants appropriately named “devil’s club” grew everywhere.

It was raining again so we donned our “garbage bag” vests. In our green plastic tunics, huge work boots and bright orange hard hats we were appropriately dressed for Halloween night. We found a fallen tree loaded with cones almost immediately. This was going to be a “piece of cake” we decided. We almost filled our small tote sacks with lovely green cones!

“Be sure and dig in the moss to pick up the buried cones as well”, the chief forester told us. “There is a shortage of cones this year.” His words were an understatement we realised later. We tumbled over windfalls, through swamps, and up thickly wooded hillsides, carefully inspecting every fallen tree we saw. The cones we found were mostly overripe or diseased.

After lunch we decided to separate. However I soon began to worry about my city reared friend. Suppose she was lost? My voice bubbled in my ears as I shouted her name over and over in the pouring rain. Finally I noticed her garbage bag clad form weaving through the trees only a short distance away. I took a short cut through a patch of devil’s club to join her.

“Why didn’t you answer me?” I yelled in a peevish manner. She removed her hard hat and yelled “What?” “I said, “Why didn’t you answer me. I thought you were lost!!”

“I think we’re both lost,” she replied. “Lost our minds – why else would we be standing here in the pouring rain, in a patch of thorn-bushes, shouting at each other!”

In the late afternoon I discovered I had lost my hard hat. I had not even felt it leave my head! I could see an orange object about 200 yards back through a melange of felled trees that lay pickup-stick fashion over a canyon. We had spent hours navigating through that mess!

“The Forestry would not miss one small ill-fitting hard hat,” I thought. “Yes they would!” whispered the ever present voice of my conscience. By the time I had climbed back to the road it was almost 5:00 o’clock and cone-counting time. Some of the girls had done quite well. My friend and I had picked less than half a sack a piece!

We spied a logger picking his way carefully down the muddy road. He had shed his work clothes for the day and was dressed in a snow white sweater and slacks. He took one look at us, did a double-take, lost his footing and fell full length in a sea of mud! We were too tired to laugh. However a certain sadistic instinct in both of us agreed that the incident had somehow made our day’s miserable efforts at cone-picking seem worthwhile!

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