Rhymes, Rants & Accolades from North Central BC

SAWMILL BUSH CAMP

[Circa 1979]  Sense and Nonsense

Last weekend we visited my daughter and her family who are spending the winter at a small sawmill camp. They are quite comfortable although they are living without electricity and other amenities of modern living.

The small sawmill and the surrounding camp brought back memories of the many such mini-villages which once dotted the bush country of Interior B.C. I spent the early years of my married life in some of these camps.

The first camp I ever lived in, I was employed as camp cook. The cookhouse had to be one of the more primitive of mans’ habitations. That winter was one of the coldest on record. One night despite repeated stoking of the airtight heater, the sack of potatoes which we had placed next to the stove, froze solid. All the canned goods froze as well. I had to decide which foods were safe to eat after thawing, and which foods to discard to the dump.

I have written some verses about that winter in camp back in the nineteen-fifties. I am sure there are many people with similar memories.

Do you remember the sawmill shacks,
With the smoke stains on the walls,
The cookhouse and the bunks in back,
Out where the sawdust falls
Rough lumber boxes built up on skids,
With tiny windows and tarpaper lids,
No fit home for gentlemen, women or kids.
Nobody knew the summer before,
When it’s forty below in a sawmill shack,
The spuds freeze on the floor!

The cook pounds on a cut-off saw,
It’s time for the men to roll,
To eat some grub with time to jaw,
‘Cause it’s thirty-nine below,
“This two-bit outfit is falling apart!”
“The boss is a man without any heart!”
“I can hardly wait ’til I can depart!”
Nobody knew the summer before,
When it’s forty below in a sawmill shack,
The spuds freeze on the floor!

The water cans were solid with ice,
And the coffee would not boil,
The cook said a word that wasn’t nice,
And found some diesel oil,
“We’ll fix that stove that will not go!
And make the wood in the airtight glow!
When the stovepipe’s red, we’ll add some snow!”
Nobody knew the summer before,
When it’s forty below in a sawmill shack,
The spuds freeze on the floor!

Payday today, but it’s been too cold,
Weeks since the sawmill ran,
Most of the men are in the hole,
They wish that they’d been canned.
Some fling their knives at the cookhouse wall,
And in the corner, the playing cards fall,
The cook brings coffee for them all.
Nobody knew the summer before,
When it’s forty below in a sawmill shack,
The spuds freeze on the floor!

 

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