Saturday, May 17, 2008

This one's for Cousin Jim.

My cousin Jim just reminded me of a story that I had almost forgotten about. Back in 1962 I was the youngest man on the woods crew, and the “Kid” was always the target of any practical jokes. Jim 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
Yeah, that was real funny. There's nothing quite as humorous as someone offering everybody on the landing a piece good old home smoked venison jerky. The stuff that everybody knows that I would kill for, then have the guy put it back in the Jeep without offering me some.
I didn’t know what to say: “Hey you forgot me”. Or “Um… Could I have some”. I was seriously and deeply pained that Bill hadn’t offered me any jerky, and my mouth was already watering for some. I remember just leaning back against the tree that I was sitting at while eating lunch. And just sitting there stunned, and trying to convince myself that loggers don’t cry.
Then he looks right at me and said; “Damn Ernie… didn’t you get any? I thought you were first”. Feeling instantly much better, as Bill jumped up, went back to the jeep and grabbed a white paper bag full of what I though was jerky. With a great big smile on my face as I dipped my hand in the bag to find a Damn dead, but still squirming, Rattle Snake. It’s head had been cut off but that didn’t make any difference to me. A snake is a snake.
About that time, Bill tipped the bag over so I could see in, and I damn near broke my arm getting my hand out of the bag. I remember feeling that damn snake still today. I remember not wanting to have anything to do with that hand with Rattle Snake Blood all over it. I rubbed it in the dust on the landing and was looking around for some water, when I came to my senses and realized that everybody on the landing was roaring with laughter. I said, “Good one Bill” then I went back to leaning against the tree and ate my sandwich dirt, snake blood and all. The rest of the day I had to put up with little snickers but at least I had the joy of making them wonder if they would eat a sandwich with snake blood all over it.
And the best part of the story is Bill gave me the rest of the bag of jerkey at quitting time. I was real careful to peak in first before I reached in the bag every time that I took out a piece, Like I thought that it would turn into a snake. You never really knew around Bill.


Robin Shelley said...

Couldn't you have just sent this to Jimmy via U.S. Mail? Why do you have to post it here where unsuspecting people with weak hearts such as myself get the shock of their lives when they log on? It makes me shudder just to see the picture... you can keep your darned friggin' snake!
If I don't sleep tonight, I'm gonna call Jimmy about 1 or 2 o'clock tomorrow morning & thank him for reminding you of this story, Ernie. And, if I can find your number, I might just call you, too!
Snakes! Bleech.

Anonymous said...

Robin, call Ernie. He will still be awake after being reminded of THE snake at Jewett Rock. I turn my phone off when I go to bed so I'm out till at least 4:30 am on my days off.

EkoVox said...

Hey, Did you ever play the game of "ringing the bell" with a rattlesnake? Perhaps Eel River Ernie has. When I was a Piss Fir Willy, we used to grab the shovel out of the truck when we came upon a rattlers. Then we would taunt the snake to get it to strike at the shovel head. Man, could a rattler ring the bell of a shovel. Then we would politely kill the snake and undoubtedly, someone would take it home and cook it up. Tastes just like chicken, they would say.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Robin, sorry about that. I feel just like you do about snakes, so I have to steel myself to be around one. Once I know what it is, and where it is, I do pretty good, but no matter how brave that tell myself that I am I still have to put up with my heart seizing up for about three beats, then come back pounding after seeing one. After that I’m a regular Joe Cool.

Jim is Cool Hand Luke when it comes to snakes. We were hunting up on Pratt mountain years ago, and we walked down through the little dry creek bed and he almost stepped on a Rattlesnake. He turns around and says watch out for the Rattlesnake like nothing had happened. I was glad for the warning.

While we’re telling stories, I got one that you will appreciate on Jim. Back when my uncle Ben in Laytonville was putting in a new furnace, Jim and I went down to help him. When we got all of our stuff together and started to crawl under the house, I stuck my head into the crawl hole and looked around with a flashlight for snakes. Wondering what I was doing Jim asked me. When I told him that I was looking for snakes he thought that was real funny. I had to put up with all kinds of ribbing about my “snake hunt”. Later in the morning I had crawled outside to get something, and I hear all this thumping scuffling and shuffling and here comes Jim as he dove through the crawl hole and is sitting on the lawn pale as a ghost. I asked him what was wrong and his reply was. “Did you know that there was spiders under there?”

After that we had each others back. He watched for snakes for me and I watched for spiders for him.

Kym said...

Ernie, Have you ever run across one in your birthday suit? My husband tells a story that isn't politically correct but cracks me up.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Eko, no I was never brave enough to play with a rattler. I always give then a wide berth. I always kill a rattlesnake around people. They have a nasty bite. So I’ve never “Rang-the-bell”. I saw a rattler crossing the road at Synvandale one time and I crossed over the road and ran over it, and it just kept on going. I jumped out of my truck and looked for something to kill it with and all that I could find was about a six foot long length of soft copper tube. I took a swing at it and darn near cut its head in two. I guess that I was excited!

We did try to fish one out from under a brush pile one time on Jewett Rock, where the jerky story took place. There were at least five or six snake tracks across the road every morning. Everybody would say “Well, we are safe today; it looks like all the snakes left last night”.

Anyway, we had this great big rattler cornered under the brush pile. We knew where it was because it would strike the stick that we were using so hard that it would just about knock the stick out of your hand. I got the thrill of being first to “Find” it. When it struck and bit that stick, it might as well have bit me. I came damn close to dying anyway. After that somebody else had to do the stick work. Everybody took turns poking a stick under the brush pile to see how hard it could strike, while I was in full Heeby-Geebies, while trying to find a safe place to stand, where I could se at least one-hundred yards in every direction.

The snake lived to tell his story, because we couldn’t get him to show himself… smart snake!

Ernie Branscomb said...

Kym, your snake story is hilarious. At least from my standpoint. (Not having a snake in my bedroom)

To those of you who have trouble opening Kym's story full screen, follow these instructions. And, they work for other things also.

Click on the post header, in this case it will say “This one is for cousin Jim”. Once you click on that header, it will open the comments at the bottom of the page, full size. Then click on Kym’s link and it will open her blogsite full size.

I know it’s complicated but nobody told me this stuff, I had to figure it out myself…. So you’re welcome!

Ben said...

i've told this story hundreds of times and probably on a blog somewhere but what the heck.
My old catskinner friend Tom Milligan was working for Morrison Jackson out at the coast somewhere around Spanish Flat. He was building road along the coastal bluff and had turned the dozer uphill to break away rock for the roadbed. Suddenly something he size of a basketball came over the top of the blade and landed in his lap. It was a ball of hibernating rattlesnakes. Tom said he didn't remember getting off the Cat but before he knew it he was about 30 yards down the road and the dozer was running up the hillside and sliding back down. He ran back and got control and he said he had no idea what happened to the snakes. I've always loved that story. Tom was a great storyteller and had one about the 64 flood that is a riot.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thanks Ben, Catskinners always seem to get into trouble. I've got a bunch of troubled Catskinner stories myself. But I have to roll them around in my head for awhile. Meantime you can tell us the '64 flood story...

Ernie Branscomb said...

I'll just put this here to remind me of a coulple of Catskinner stories... The stump...and the lizard.

Now i might not forget...

Kym said...

The hibernating snake story--Yikes! Once my husband and I found a nest of hibernating snakes in a rocky area. We carefully peeled back some rocks to look. There were two different kinds of snakes in there. I can't remember what two. I'll have to look at the old pics we have.

Anonymous said...

Poor old cat skinners my butt. I was setting chokers behind my uncle Everett and he was running a 14A D8 with a road blade on it. That darn thing had these diggers at the corners of the blade. Well, I was walking behind the cat in a cloud of dust so couldn't see a thing when uncle hit the bank a little and the next thing I knew I had more things to think about than dust. Has anybody ever been in a swarm of mad Yellow Jackets?
It was that day I decided I would be a catskinner.

Anonymous said...

Snakes and spiders. In Laytonville you could throw a tire on the ground and the next day have at least two black widows in there. Under uncle Ben's house there were at least 50 spiders and all were black widows. I rest my case.
I used to like snakes but when I moved to Alaska it was a comfort to be able to step over a log and not think anything snakes.
I had a rattler in a gallon jar in my bedroom and my mom knocked the jar over one day while cleaning. My dad said the snake had to go.

Anonymous said...

To Kym.
That is the best story I have read. Thank you.

Robin Shelley said...

Eko, I thought you were gonna say "ringing the bell" was leaving a snake on somebody's front porch, ringing the bell & running away... glad it wasn't that!
Thanks for the tip, Ernie. To be honest, I feel almost the same way about spiders as I do about snakes. Wish I was gonna be around to see Jimmy's reaction when he finds the surprise I planted in his pretty little white car last night. He really ought to lock that thing when he's in town... you never know what might crawl in there! Probably not Ann Coulter, though.

Ernie Branscomb said...

While we’ve somehow go onto “Catskinner spook stories”, I’ll tell one more.

Roy Goforth was one of the men that I worked for. He was a tall, lanky, beer bellied, old rodeo cowboy. We always wore aluminum hard hats that we called “tin hats”.

Roy ran the loader on the landing. It was 977 Caterpillar track layer. The machine had an electric-start pony-motor that started the main engine. The pony motor was hard to start when it got hot, so Roy would park the loader on a hill. The loader had a winch, so you could park the loader on a hill, and then put the winch in gear, and the winch brake would hold it there. Then when you wanted to start it you could just let it roll down the hill and bump start it. Usually the nose was pointed up the hill when it was parked.

Roy didn’t like lizards… That’s all that a woods crew needs to know to start worrying about how to pull a practical joke on you. One day Bill and Charlie caught a lizard. They took some clear fishing line and looped it behind the lizard’s shoulders and hung it from the canopy of the Cat loader, at about face level.

There is only one side that you can climb into a 977 because of all of the hydraulic controls on the right side. But with a winch attachment both sides are cluttered, and with the winch in gear, the lever is right in the path that you have to take to get in and out of the drivers seat.

Anyway, after lunch Roy tiredly wandered over and climbed onto the loader, worked his way through all the levers, sat down and reached forward to pull the throttle back. He heard some scratching on his tin hat and looked up to see what it was, and the lizard grabbed onto his face to try and run away. Roy simultaneously swatted at the lizard, lifted out of the Cat seat and jumped like a bull frog clear over the levers, and clear over the tracks, and hit the hillside rolling. He got up and walked straight to Bills truck and was scratching around under bills seat, looking for the gun that bill always kept there.

Bill had wisely left it home that day. But Bill and Charlie stayed in the woods that night. By the next day it was a little funnier, and by the end of the week it was hilarious. But, Bill and Charlie kept asking if Roy would have shot them if he had found the gun. His answer was; “You damn right, I would have. In fact I’m still considering it”. Roy had hung his holstered pistol on the gun rack it his truck that morning in plain sight for Bill And Charlie to see. There weren’t a hell of a lot of jokes on Roy after that.

Ben said...

Ernie, Thats a great story... I can feel the lizard grab him.
Tom Milligan and two friends were avoiding the downpour as the 64 flood came on. They were happily ensconsed at the bar in an Ave of the Giants tavern in old Weott. It was raining like hell and the road was covered with water. Pretty soon the water started coming in the front door. Didn't bother them a bit, they kept on drinking. After awhile it was getting kinda uncomfortable as the water was climbing the barstools an they had to sit on the bar. No big deal, it'll stop soon. Another Ole. Finally they realized that they had a problem so they packed all the beer upstairs and settled down to tip a few. Before long, the water was up the stairway and into the room and they were getting wet. Tom stuck his head out the window and flagged down a guy in a rowboat. Then they had a difficult decision. Whether to leave the beer behind as there was no room in the boat for the whole crowd plus a few cases. It was decided that the beer went first, They loaded the boat and off it went to terra firma, then came back for the boys. They were soaking wet but pleased that they had the biggest surviving stash of beer in Weott.
When I was a teenager in Pasadena, I had a friend who had a little business selling rattlesnakes to a guy called Snakey Joe. They were used to make anti venom. Pat would walk the fire roads in the mountains where the rattlers would sun themselves. He was terribly fast and could dive after an escaping snake and grab it with his bare hands. I swear it's true. Scared me to death, but he never missed. never got bit. The buzzing rattler went into heavy canvas bag that he had hanging from his belt. In his room at home, he had aquariums full of rattlers. The upside of this was that his mom wouldn't go near his room and we could sneak cigarettes and read Playboy magazines. It was great. Pat became a field naturalist for LA County.

Anonymous said...

Ben, that is two wonderful stories.
Send more.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I just lost your last post about Lloyd. Anyway it reminded me that one time your dad and I were going down a road on the old 3T 7 and the fallers had just finished up the spot we were in. We were about half way through when all these Black Hornets invaded us. Your dad stopped and put it in 5th gear and we were gone. Tracks were hitting the bottom of the fenders that day too. I think Caterpiller put the 5th gear in those 3T's in case you ran into bee's, no other reason to have to go that fast.

Anonymous said...

Maybe this is not a real cat-skinner story but I think about it from time to time. I was still a choker setter for Branscomb and Goforth working out of Piercy. That place had been logged since way back when so it was an all re-log show. There was this 16 foot butt cut that I had to use 3, 22' foot chokers to bridal the small end. It was a steep down hill haul back to the landing and side hill to boot. The 14-A was pulling and the 3T 7 was pushing. That log was so heavy that if it rolled off the skid road it would have taken the D-8 with it.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Anon 5:54

So who is this, are you a new poster?

I would have had one hand on the winch brake at all times. All set to release, it not hold it.

Those are the kind of logs that we had to crib load to get on the trucks. For some reason the truckers didn't like to load them on their trucks, but they were sure tickled when they got them to the mill. They got paid by the thousand.

Anonymous said...

That's just me, the anon 5:54.


kaivalya said...

As a reptile-lover, I've been trying to relocate snakes into my garden. I'd rather have snakes than moles and mice eating my dinner!

And I've got to give some props to rattlesnakes - they usually give you lots of warning before they attempt to bit you. A funny thing is happening in Texas were rattlesnake round-ups are popular; through the many years that rattlesnakes have been rounded up, it's easiest to catch the ones that like to rattle the most. Therefore, there are more and more rattlesnakes not inclined to rattle due to their genetic successfulness. So when I hear a rattle, I think of it as the snake letting me know it's there because it doesn't want to have to bite me.

The Humboldt Herpetological Society has been considering putting together a reptile response line for a while now. The idea is that you could call 24/7 to get advice or have snakes relocated from your property. I'm pretty sure that I would be the only Southern Humboldt contingency, but that's better than nothing. I guess we've just been a bit cynical about potential use. What do you think?