Monday, December 14, 2009

Everybody's got heroes.

Archie Brunkel and his truck.

We all have our heroes. Most people have at least one person that they look up to or admire. Somebody that taught them how to do something special, or taught them a special skill. Or somebody that did it better, or different, than anybody else. Somebody that really stands out and stands above the rest in our minds.

Most basketball fans will probably agree that Michael Jordan would be an all time stand out. He was and is many peoples hero. No matter what kind of foolishness that Tiger Woods did to his private life, I think that we would all agree that we have never seen a better golfer. Many people think that Barack Obama is their hero, he came riding out of Chicago on a tall white horse, ready to save us from the evil Bush administration.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that many of us have chosen personal heroes that many others might not agree with, but we stick with them through thick and thin. Some of us choose stock car racers, potato farmers, carpenters, and so forth, but most of us have somebody that stands out in our minds as their own personal heroes.

Most of my personal heroes have been loggers. I haven't helped ship a log to the sawmill since 1964, but I still think of myself as a logger.

Back in the '50s logging was a proud profession, so if you were a highly respected logger, you were the king of the hill. Most of the loggers were flat broke, but trying to break into the big time. Most of them knew many people that had made it big with very meager beginnings. They figured you had to be working hard enough to get your grubstake together if you were ever going to make it. So most of the loggers were trying to parlay their fortune with a good idea, negotiating a good price on a patch of timber, or get more logs to the mill than anybody else, and pull ahead of the debt game.

The people that made it, or showed the best potential were actually admired by the rest. They would say, “Well if old whozzie can make it, I'm surly not far behind”. They would be happy for the person that succeeded, and they would try that much harder to “make it” themselves.

Such a person was one of my, and many other loggers personal heroes. His name was Archie Brunkel. Loggers never got paid by the hour. They got paid by the thousand board feet of lumber that they moved to the mill. The only people that got paid by the hour were the Catskinner, choker setter, and the mechanic. Timber fallers and truck drivers were paid by the thousand. Most timber fallers parlayed their fortune by working hard, fast and long. Truck drivers made their fortune by making as many trips to the mill as they could. If they thought that it was an off-day for “The Gestapo” (CHP) they would haul an overloaded truck load of logs to the mill. Sometimes they would try to sneak a hugely overloaded truck down the highway. Most of the time they would succeed. Sadly, sometimes they lost all their profit in overload fines.

Some of the truckers were good mechanics, so they would build their logging trucks themselves out of what ever kind of salvage truck parts that they could find. If they didn't spend a lot on their trucks they made more profit. Sadly the old homemade trucks moved very slowly, or they broke down.

Now, my personal hero, Archie Brunkel had a plan. This was just after the World War Two, and many things were available military surplus. He was a cracker-jack mechanic and he knew every part that worked good on a truck, and every part that didn't. He knew that Mack Bogie rear-ends were the only rear axle differential that would hold up to high power and steep hills. They were thought of as bullet-proof by the loggers. He had an old truck that he put these rear ends in. He had a tough transmission, and here was his plan to get more logs to the mill. ---He would buy the biggest, most powerful motor that he could find, and put in his truck---. He went shopping for an Army Surplus motor. He found two military tank engines made in Cadillac Michigan. They were the biggest gas engines that I've ever seen. I only vaguely remember them. The one thing that I remember is that they had three 4 barrel carburetors across the top of the engine. He had two of the carburetor linkages disconnected and he ran it on just one carburetor, because he said that it would use too much gas and tear things up too bad.

The big engine was in a vee shape and stuck out both sides of the hood. He had a radiator off of a bulldozer. He always made more trips to the mill than anyone else, but he only fooled himself, because the extra money he made was used up in gasoline expenses. He only got two miles to the gallon.

I don't ever remember that truck going by without everybody on the street stopping and staring. No conversation took place until it was around the bend. There was not a muffler big enough for it, so he ran the exhaust through a big tank in the back. I think that it only made the truck louder. He went up the hills in the same gear that he did the flats.

The last I remenber the truck being used was when I was in high school in Miranda. When the truck went by, the windows shook so bad that we thought that they might break.

I don't know what ever happened to Archie, but he sold his truck to a fellow that ran into another truck with it. One of the engines that Archie bought is still in a shed in Briceland. I asked the owner if I could get a picture of it, and he said; “Sure, it might take a while to dig back to it, but I'll let you know when I do”. That was a while back.

Everybody's got to have their heroes, Archie Brunkel was one of mine.


Hank Sims said...


Anonymous said...

To think all these years I thought his last name was Bronco. I bet it was because the Okies didn't know how to pronouce his name right.


Dave said...

Good story Ernie. I could see it as part of a collection of short stories for a book.

Have you considered writing one?

Ernie Branscomb said...

Yep, he was.

Everybody had a nick-name back then, his was "Archie Bronco". Some of the other nick names ware; "Barstow" for Berchtold, "Boots" for the guy that wore the cowboy boots, the faller was called "Cracker-Ass" dad was called "Jelly Belly", the other was called "Nuke", for Newcomb, and the catskinner who was native American was clled "Big Smoke". For some reason I was called "The Kid".

I started this blog to try to hone my skills at writing, so far I seem to have lost ground. Maybe I should hire somebody to tell me what I should have said.

Anonymous said...

Ernie, I don't think you need to hone your skills, you are a great writer now. However I would rather you get that old un-used tank engine and build another go-cart or maybe a good pick-up truck.


Anonymous said...

Ernie, you are an excellent story teller. I came to same conclusion as Dave. Local history from the perspective of someone who lived it and can recall the stories experienced by those from an earlier generation is really captivating when told by someone with the story telling skills you possess. You remind me of my grandfather who was born in 1902 and the histories he would tell of times long past. I always thought that he should have put pen to paper.


Kay Lodahl said...

Perhaps you could put that old engine into an old refrigerator body? That's a visual!!
I love your writing skills.. You should write a book of memoirs. I have a book given to me by my grandmother, Frances Miller, titled "An Everyday History of Somewhere". Check it out. Has a lot of local history you might like and I am sure you can add to this...

Ben said...

I just had a conversation with Tom Culbert about the days when he was a kid and Redwood Drive was Highway 101. His dad would put the kids in the back seat of the car and park around the north side of Garberville. Tom says the fights would explode out of the bars into the street and continue until the waiting Highway Patrol would turn on their lights. If the pugilists didn't stop, the siren would come on and everyone would dust themselves off and go back in the bar. My granddaughter loved the story. She had no idea. She said: "Wow! it was the wild west!". I guess that time has become ancient history and the High Schoolers don't even know it happened. Somebody should write about it and you've given it a good start.

Anonymous said...

Ben, Ernie and I used to go down to see if we could see any of those fights behind the Blue Room. Lloyd padon told me that a lot of those fights over scale tickets.


Ben said...

Oregon... In those days, if you were in a bar and swore and there was a woman present, you had best make a quick, sincere apology and it still might not save you. I'm sure you remember. If you called someone a "character" it might be considered a deadly insult. If you wore a "French Cap" and walked in a bar where Bob Matthews was in attendance you had a real problem unless you could beat him. Few could. I often would hear someone turn to the guy sitting next to them and say: "I'm a mean M... F... and I don't mind dyin'." Ah, those were the days.

Ekovox said...

Lies....All Lies....just another case of oldtimer whimsy in an attempt to swindle the newcomers into thinking there was a different way of SoHum living before 1970. Ernie, you should be ashamed of yourself for telling such tall tales.

Loggers...what a crock. They were called Timberjacks and you know it.
And they all had pet oxen and danced like from a scene from "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers."

Ernie, I insist you take a peek at this site for more such tall tales of resource extraction that decimated the watersheds and habitat biodiversity in the ancient forests of the Cascadia ecosystem.

P.S. Given a choice are you a Peterbilt or Mack man?

Anonymous said...

Is that question just for Ernie, if not I put my vote in on Peterbilt. I remember when the cost of a good truck was sky high, such as a new Mack with trailer, ready to haul logs after fueling run about $28,000.


Ben said...

Eko... Everyone knows KW is the Rolls Royce of trucks.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget the Internationals and White Freightliners that were around, too.

Annonymoose said...

I think that your stories are great. Even great writers like James Jones ( a family friend) had editors that helped them refine their writing. There are several people in the local community that are good editors even if they don't have the stories to tell.
A collection of stories about local history would be a wonderful resource for the younger generations. keep it up

Ernie Branscomb said...

“They were called Timberjacks and you know it”

“resource extraction that decimated the watersheds and habitat biodiversity in the ancient forests of the Cascadia ecosystem.”

It just cracks me up to hear an Generational Native talking Newcomer. Sadly, everybody else is saying; “Whaaaa… the hey???”

As to a Peterbuilt or a Mack? Good question. There were some fine trucks back then, and as you know, everybody had a strong preference. But, you just gave me a tip for my next post. I was driving a Mack truck at 15 yrs old.

Anonymous said...

as a child growing up here, I fondly remember my dad with his pad and pencil figuring up his scale before even cleaning up for dinner or drinking his big pitcher of kool-aid my mom always had ready for him after a long hot, hard days work, he is now 80 and still going hard, guess the kool-aid didn't hurt him!

Ernie Branscomb said...

Most of the timber fallers that I knew wrote their log scale on their tin hat, when they got home they would fill out their Scale Ticket to turn into the book keeper.

Anonymous said...

As I remember the Mack trucks of the time I was talking about had Thermodyne engines. And I always thought a Kenworth and Peterbilt could have any combination of engines, trannies and rearends. So the only difference between a Pete and a Kenworth was the chassie so it was just window dressing.