Small Frye Episodes

Old Time Logging - Part Four

Leonard Lea Frazer

Mike hauls cedar poles to the siding, sets up a “gin pole” and masters the art of Pole Production.

My two big Clydes were happy to see me and were anxious to get back to work.

Since we had to get a car or so loaded and shipped in order to get an
Horse skidding poles to be loaded.
Horse skidding poles to be loaded.
Photo by Nels Dahlberg
advance on them so we could carry on we had to get all the poles skidded that had been cut so I had to get back to skidding in earnest. I took a contract from the Swedes to do their skidding on a percentage basis. I made a contract with them for one cent a foot for thirty foot poles, three cents a foot for longer ones. They were to skid them out of the woods onto my skid trail and I was to take them from there to the siding. They would make up my string in the woods and I'd take them down.


I found out I could skid all the way from ten to as high as twenty poles at a time with luck. I was not long in catching up on what was cut. When I had a car skidded they asked me if I knew how to set up a gin pole to load them on the car. I told them I didn't but I sure would take a try at it. Now I had to get someone that knew how to help me. I thought of my oldest brother, Charlie, and between him and me we set it up. What a job it was! Neither of us had ever done it before but Jim Burgoyne knew how and he helped us and showed us how to do the loading.

The gin pole was made out of a cull forty-foot cedar pole and had to be as straight as we could get it.

We dug a hole about twelve feet from the rails of the spur. It had to be two feet deep and big enough to hold the butt of the pole. Then I skidded the pole in and had the butt as close to the hole as I could get it. From the pole we had to put two 3/8 inch cables from the top and run them back into the bush to a tree, leaving them just long enough to let the pole come up and just lean over the railway spur right in the middle of the rails when we set it up. There was one more line that the bull block was tied to right at the top of the pole. Then, the line ran through a block and back down to the bottom to another snatch-block and back to the bull block again. Then, it had to go down to the snatch-block and a good length of line was necessary to hook onto and use as a cross haul out into the woods.

When all these lines were set up, we were ready to haul the pole up into the air. Now came the excitement! We had to see whether we had made the two main lines the right length or not. We had to get the two Swedes to help us to give the pole the first set-up off the ground. With all of us lifting we got the end up about five feet and set onto a try pole. This gave us a start. Then, I hooked Queen on, and Charlie stood and watched as the pole started to rise. Good old Queen took a strong pull - soon it was off the ground. Now we had to keep going and I prayed we had the lines the right length. If they were too short the pole would not go up high enough. If they were too long it would keep right on going across the main line of the railway not twenty feet from our spur, and also kill Queen and me. The two Swedes stood and held their breath. I kept right on and up came the gin pole. I saw the two lines getting tighter all the time until, at last, with a jerk, the gin pole snapped into place with the butt down in the hole dug for it. It was at a fair angle across our spur and I sighed with relief as I unhooked Queen. All we had to do was tighten up one line a bit and we were ready to load.

None of us had ever done any top-loading before, but someone had to try it, so we had a bit of a talk. A friend of mine had done some loading and knew how to go about it. We hired him to top-load for us.

I took on the job of setting the tongs. This consisted of hooking the huge timber tongs on the pole as they were skidded under the gin pole beside the car. The flat car had four stakes about six inches thick and eight feet long two stakes on each end, four on each side. These were to hold the poles on the car. When we started to load we only had what are called 'dummy' stakes about four feet long.

As we loaded up to the top of our short stakes they were taken out and the eight foot ones were put in. These were only on the side we were loading from. We would then wire the poles from one stake, on one side, to the opposite one on the far side.

My job with the tongs was to hook the logs so that when the pole started up the side, it would be balanced in such a way that, when it reached the car, it would be as well-balanced as I could get it. It would slide up the skid and swing over to the centre of the flat car. Then the top-loader would unhook the tongs and roll the pole into place and be ready for another one coming up the skids. I became fairly good at setting the tongs and this made it a lot easier for the top loader. Things went along very smoothly for the first car. We had it loaded and wired down by six that night and were very proud of our work for that day.

Loading Poles (Lempriere) Hansen and Dahlberg Operation.
Loading Poles (Lempriere) Hansen and Dahlberg Operation.
Photo by Nels Dahlberg

I continued working all that summer and learned a lot about cedar poles - how to make them, take them out and load them. When I quit that fall I had earned enough to buy the big team and to get a pole limit of my own. I could set up my own camp and I was away. I became a big shot contractor and made fairly good money for several years. Then, I got mixed up with my camp cook and married her. I found out she could spend money faster than I could make it, so I divorced her and started to ramble. First I was conscripted into the army and served for one year. Then, the company I had contracted my poles to decided to save me from that. They got me out of the army and made me go back to taking out more cedar poles and do some short logging. The boss got me a large cedar limit near Blue River and I logged for two more years. Then I quit the logging and went to work as an engineer for Canadian Bectchel locating pipelines right of ways. When we had the line located we would get sixteen men to help us survey it for the contractor who was to build the line. By the time it was located and surveyed, we would go back to where we started to survey. Then, we were promoted to inspectors to see that the line was built to specification. I generally got four years’ work out of each pipeline and I helped to build two large ones. I then went on with the same company to engineer the building of several compressor stations and pumping stations for the pipelines. I worked on them for many years and could still be there but I changed my mind. Or rather, one of the best women in the country, my wife Sadie, changed it for me. I am glad, as working on construction was too much of a drifting life and I knew I'd get nowhere. I am glad I quit.  So now, I'll sign off for some time as I'm not feeling very good and need a rest.

Old Time Logging - Part Four
Photo from Mike Frye

Here you may see a bit about loading cedar poles. This is one of my spurs for loading. You can see the stakes on the side of the car to hold the poles. My sister Ella is driving the cross haul horse that is the one that hauls the poles up on the car Olaf Rosberg is top loading. I'm hooking tongs. You may see me near the gin pole Joe Hodcroft is inspecting, Louise Knutson trimming. Note how the gin pole leans near the middle of the car, bull block on top and snatch block on bottom of pole near the horse, poles piled near the car.

Very sincerely,

Your friend, Mike Frye.