Thursday 11 February 2016

Far West Cedar Mill

    In 1977, we moved to McBride, BC.  I had been teaching school (3 years in a one room school & one year in a 2 room school), but we didn’t have a home of our own, having lived all those years in teacherages (houses provided by the school district for teachers).   We had been able to save a lot of money, and we bought a 5 acre hobby farm in McBride.
    For a couple of years, I tried to get a teaching job in McBride, but all I was able to do was be a substitute teacher.  So by 1979, we were beginning to run low on money, so I took a job at Far West Cedar, a mill where they manufactured cedar rail fencing.  I soon learned that the place was also called “Far West Finger Mill” because it was so dangerous and workers were always loosing fingers in accidents.   There were an outrageous amount of accidents during the 1 1/2 years I worked there.
    The photo above shows “splitting” one of the most dangerous jobs at the mill.  The worker has to hold the long piece of cedar on the machine, hit a lever with his leg, then a large vertical steel blade quickly moves toward the piece of cedar, and when it hits the end of the wood, the operator has to quickly let go of the wood before the blade gets to his hand.  In the photo, you can see the blade just above the guy’s wrist.
    I was pretty safety oriented and refused to do splitting.  My main job was to drill the holes in the fence posts.  That was relatively safe, but I was also required to bundle the finished fence posts with steel bands, and in 1980 I finally had my accident; while on top of a bundle tightening a steel band , the band broke throwing me off balance, and I fell 4 ft. (1.2 m.) to the cement floor, breaking my wrist.  I felt lucky that my accident left my body in one piece although damaged.  
    I spent several months recuperating on Workman’s Compensation.  Luckily, I didn’t have to go back to Far West.  By the time I had healed I was able to get a job working for the BC Forest Service drawing maps.  Although the money wasn’t as good, It was an amazingly civilized job, compared to Far West.  I remained working for the Forest Service for 23 years.

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