Charlie the horse was a pro!

From our October 2012 issue

By Mathew Wozniak – Grande Prairie, Alta.

Logging in the 1930s and ‘40s consisted of two men, a team of horses, a sleigh that had six-foot bunks (to replace the three-foot the sleigh came with), a crosscut saw, and a couple of axes.

There were miles of good timber so we could be choosy. We looked up a tree and if it had a bend or a large knot we left it. There were enough good ones from which to choose.

First we made a skidway from a large log with two across it up to where the sleigh stood. We cut down trees, limbed them, and cut them into 12, 14- or 16-foot lengths.

We had a horse named ‘Charlie’ that had been doing this for so long that when we hitched him to a log he stopped at the skidway. There we rolled the log up the skidway and onto the sleigh. About 10 average logs would be sawed into 1,000 square feet of lumber.

A day’s work would be about 15 logs delivered to the sawmill. We brought feed for the horses, made a fire, boiled tea, and had lunch – even if it was frozen!

In 1938 my father sold lumber to Cecil Bice for $8 a thousand square feet. The man would look at every board and if it had a bend or large knot, he’d leave it.

Commercial sawmills weren’t much different. They operated with crosscut saws and horses. They’d haul the lumber out to a highway, mostly in two-inch planks, and ‘dry pile’ it – which was a row of lumber and strips of wood to keep them apart to dry.

Sawmills at that time were powered by steam. They would cut the slabs into whatever length would fit into the boiler and dry pile them for next year’s fuel.