Saturday, May 17, 2008

Canvas Water Bags.

How many people remember the old canvas water bags that were the mainstay of the logging woods operation?

When I worked in the woods we used to have canvas water bags that would hang from the back of the Cat canopy. Nothing tasted sweeter than fresh cool spring water from a canvas bag. We usually developed a spring in the woods operation where we were working, with a pipe that would trickle into a bucket that we could use to pour the bags full of water.

A well aged and sweet water bag was a precious item. They started out tasting like flax, which about like what a person would think that varnish would taste like. We would soak them in a running creek for about a week, then we would fill then with baking-soda and water and let then soak for another week, then we would flush them out a few times and start using them. Slowly the flax taste would fade away and it would become a valuable possession to the person that had it.

The canvas bag was preferred over the canteen because the bag stayed cool from the water that would seep through it and stay cool from the evaporation.

Working ten hour days in the woods would mean drinking at least a gallon a day. I’ve told people how much a hard working choker setter will drink in a days time and people don’t believe me, so I’ll just let it go as someone working a ten hour day in the summer sun drinks an unbelievable amount of water.

The water bag was hung right above the fuel tank on the Cat. It was the choker-setters job to fill the fuel tank, and he knew that getting even as much as a drop of fuel on the bag would bring the wrath of the whole crew down on him, no matter who’s bag it was, everyone would take a turn chewing him out. There is nothing more precious that fresh clean water to a woods crew, and trying to work your way around a ruined water bag was complicated.

Taking care of the bag was important!


Kym said...

I love your stories. The diesel in the water is right on target now with the Hacker Creek spill.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Kym, as you know, your diesel in the creek story is what inspired my thoughts on; "Don't Get Diesel On the Water Bag".

That is such a sad tale. We just threw away any bag that got diesel on it. I can't even imagine how anyone is going to clean-up 1000 gallons of diesel soaked into the ground and leaking out into the creek.

Anonymous said...

I'm raising my hand over here. I remember the canvas water bags. There was that nice canvas aroma when you took a drink.

Ahem, Ernie, do you remember when they used to "oil" the logging roads to keep the dust down? Remember the oil trucks making runs up and down the mountains?

They oiled our road every year for who knows how many years.

Anonymous said...

I remember the water bags and tin rain gear. May favorite story is when you told me there is different stuff goes in to the water bags besides baking soda. How about the time Bill put a box of powdered alum in Lloyd's water bag. I see Lloyd on occasion and we talk about the old days.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Eko, I had my own oil spreader.

I had a rubber impellor pump that could suck the underground oil tanks that the service station filled with their waste oil. They were glad to get rid of it, because they had to pay to have it pumped out. I would put the oil in 55 gallon barrels. I had a valve that would fit in the barrel, and it was attached to a four foot wide two inch pipe with a ¼ inch hole every half inch. When the oil was too thick or had too much transmission grease in it, we would thin it with diesel, and spread it on the roads.

They said that it was okay back then, because it biodegraded on the surface and most of the volatiles evaporated. It was well understood, even back then, that nothing was to run into a water course, or get into the underground, where it wouldn’t break down so readily.

I really think that most of what runs down Kym’s creek will evaporate or degrade before the summer is out, and it will be fine next year, but that soaked up dirt is what scares me. They will have to get rid of all the deep stuff or rotate and air it out. Maybe they could bring in a pavement maker and just roast the diesel out of it and put it right back. Who Knows, but I do know that I sure don’t like the taste of Diesel.

Jim the practical jokes that were played on each other in the woods is a post of it’s own. But, unfortunately, most of them couldn’t be talked about in polite company. Do you think that we could get away with it by using a rating system?

Anonymous said...

I love the old stories of our logging days. I found out in the 60's I couldn't live on unemployment and feed the bear dogs too. I have some stories that would be a "10" and good for polite company, however very few folks would understand now days.

One comes to mind as I write. The old rattle snake in a flour bag. I laugh whenever I think about it. Two bags, one with jerky in it and one for you. LOL

Robin Shelley said...

I have no idea why, but all this talk of water bags hangin' on Cats, etc. made me think of Beech Nut chewing tobacco. Somehow I associate that with equipment operators. Hmmmm.

Anonymous said...

Robin, the only people I ever saw use Beech Nut chewing tabacco were the girls in Laytontown.

Anonymous said..., there's a whole other story. And Bull Durham.

Robin Shelley said...

Oh, B.S., "anonymous"!
Go to bed!

Anon.R.mous said...

I wonder if they still make those bags. I know they also made the bags you'd place in front of the radiator in cars and pickups. To help keep them cool.

Cindy Seago said...

I remember those bags, my grandpa used to hang one from the tractor when he went to the field. I have a friend that works as a repair tech for a tractor dealership that was wanting one of them , any idea where i could get one for him.

Anonymous said...

Cindy, I found the old type water bags at
They are $52.00 now.
in 1969 I worked putting up hay all summer for $20.00, I went to town a and bought a $1.50 water bag and a 15cent Dells hamburger. The times they are a chang'n

Anonymous said...

I had an Uncle that kept a bag hanging from his radiator all the time. Nothing like fishing all day with him and drinking that cold well water out of the red dirt stained water bag. I asked him one day if he ever cleaned thew outside of the bag. He said, Heck no the water will probably go bad.
That was around fifty years ago.

sharon said...

I am interested in the material of the water bag. How does it do to avoid water leaking? If the material is only woven by flax duck or the material has got some kind of coating?

Anonymous said...

The weaving of the canvas makes it water proof. Some what similar to those old cotton umbrellas.

H Phun said...

I worked in a open pit mine in Death valley,we also had those canvas water bags,We used to cool down the radiator of our trucks by hanging them in front of the grill,then drove. Work good...even when it was 120 outside.Cool drink and radiator. Howard Phun

matthew said...

Hey Ernie! At first thanks for great reading about these traditional canvas water bags. I got one of these bags today. But there is one problem, i think there is mould or some type of fungi on it. How can i get rid of that?
I've been thinking about washing machine, but i don't want to destroy the bag.
What would you recommend?

Thanks for your reply!

Ernie Branscomb said...

We used to put a box of Arm and Hammer baking soda in them and soak and shake them for a few days. They have a terrible canvas taste at first. The soda soak helps, and rinsing it a lot helps. Eventually it will sweeten. That's why a good sweet aged bag was precious.

Woe be unto the choker setter that got diesel on the good aged water bag!

bmi off-road said...

Is there any way to repair a leaking water bag? Great stories.

MyShilohRanch said...

Thanks for the memories! Loved the desert bags, the fresh stream water tasted so good from them...and still remember the smell, feel and taste of the aluminum (I think) top too! The bag, the thermador swamp cooler and the the bug screen on the car all fascinated me. There were also stiff woven straw(?) seat pads with springs inside for air flow. High tech for the time. :D"

Asraf said...

Hi, thanks for this good information.. =) non woven bag

Writer's Workshop said...

I Think we hung those precious bags from the door handles of our old Chevy and can still see the water dripping from the canvas.

Anonymous said...


Yashwant Deora said...

I am a Canvas Tent Manufacturer and Exporter.

The canvas water bag was one of the oldest item, was used in hot weather conditions to cool the water faster. I remember 30 years back canvas water bag was in common use by the people working in the field or travelling on long distance.

Canvas Bag full of water can be hanged anywhere either in the Hot Sun or Outside the travelling Vehicle you will get the water cool naturally.

I have introduced back this Product to supply all around.

The things are just opposite in regular water camper and bottles, in which we have to put already cold water from refrigerator whereas in Canvas Water Bag cooling of normal water increases.

It is very cheap and easy to keep in packing's when not in use.

Anybody, who need Canvas water Bags may contact us.

My contact number is +91-9352545652 (Whatsapp No.)

Company:- Hemshri International - Camping Tents
Mobile App:-