30 December 2005

New Caulk Boots and Panties

I was hired into the coastal forest industry just weeks before it started its collapse, a collapse now three decades long. One of the first things I was told by anybody who knew anything down there was, "We are running out of logs." There were about 1000 guys working in my first mill. They were from every corner of the world. The mill was in the south of Dope City. Dope City was a very cosmopolitan place even back then.

On my first day at work I got to work with an East Indian for the first time. White guys mostly did not call them that. They were Hindoos, Ragheads, Rugriders, Camel Jockeys, Diaperheads to most people. I never cared about the colour of a person's skin or whether or not they were born here or flew over here on a magic fucking carpet. Jesus loves the children, all the little children of the world and that shit.

Of course the fucker was lazy as a dog in the hot sun. Except it was February when I was hired. We were on the green chain and I was pulling 3/4 of the wood. When the foreman came around I asked him, "Is everybody in this place as lazy as this motherfucker?"

I had not been exposed to many East Indians back in Sliverville. When the first family of them moved into the neighbourhood we thought they were from Iraq. Isn't that where all the people with turbans come from? We did not know shit. The oldest kid in the family was put into elementary school with us even though he was 16. He is still probably the only elementary school kid to ever drive himself to school in Sliverville. He was awesome to have on your floor hockey team since he was twice as big as everybody else.

A couple of the other immigrant kids were the same age as me and my brother. I still see one of them at a restaurant in Sliverville he has worked at as long as I have been sawmilling. The other one was a decent kid but dumb as sack full of hammers. Everybody thought he was ok until junior high when he got visibly aroused wrestling somebody in gym class. After that he was nicknamed Boney Maroni. Another kid got caught jerking off in the school's video room. He got himself nicknamed Wacky.

The neighbourhood was not happy about these brown people moving in. The new arrivals had to defend their houses with grass hockey sticks and whatever else was handy. No wonder so many of them have guns these days. One time before school one of the guys I played road hockey with threw a rock that must have weighed 100 lbs. through a basement window of a family that lived near our junior high. Our junior high was known throughout all of Western Canada as the worst school around. To this day I have never seen a prison movie that made an institution look more violent and riddled with drugs than that school. Why anybody, nevermind non-white people, would move near it was incomprehensible. They may as well have moved next door to Charles Manson's family and waved their turbans in Charlie's stoned out face.

Luckily my low seniority had me moving from job to job constantly the first several months I was at the sawmill. Just before my 19th birthday I was told to head down to the boom on a Friday night. Someone had phoned in sick and they needed fresh meat. I was given a stinky old pair of caulk boots and life jacket and shown the ropes by the old Swedish chargehand. Turned out I had the size, agility and balance necessary for spinning around on logs without going for a swim too often. I was still weak but dragging around 200 lb. steel boom chains would fix that in a hurry.

I was surrounded by old loggers who had moved to town when they got married down there on the dirty river. All except for one East Indian guy who had survived all attempts to chase him off and a Jamaican guy known affectionately as You Black Bastard. The only other East Indian who had tried to work with the redneck motherfuckers on the boom had to leave because everybody said he stunk too bad. He must have been one smelly motherfucker to have his smell exceed that of the farting old loggers and the shit filled river. The guys were real proud of themselves for having chased him off. "Eddie," one of the old timers told me, "I got nothing against fucking Shit Skins but that cocksucker smelled like he was born out of his mother's ass and never had a bath since."

Pretty soon more young city kids like me were hired to replace the old loggers who were retiring. We had lots in common. Well mostly what we had in common was a love for contraband substances and drinking on the job.

The mill still had access to lots of big logs so we used to work as little as possible so we could stop for a drink and a smoke on the nightshift. There was no real supervision on the river at night so we did as we wanted. And we wanted to get fucking wasted most of the time. This was easy to do since every young long haired fucker the mill sent down to the boom was a drug dealer. Everything was cool until we started sinking boom boats and attacking each other with our caulk boots, axes and chain saws.

Dayshift was a little more normal. One of the old loggers was named Bernie. Bernie the tongue. He had a tongue like Gene Simmons from KISS. When he got real involved with his work driving the boom boat he would stick his tongue up over his lip and right up his nose. Bernie was real popular with the ladies.

Bernie thought he was pretty fucking tough too. He was a big old farm boy. One time he pissed off Perry, a Canadian who had volunteered to "go kill me some gooks" in Vietnam and returned in one piece. Perry had Bernie prone on the ground so fast I could not even see it and I was looking right at them when it happened. Perry was a good foot shorter than Bernie. If Bernie had attacked Perry with an axe he would have jammed it up Bernie's ass so far he could have reached it with his tongue.

I learned how to play cribbage in the boom shack. The old east europeans loved to play cards. And the Kal the East Indian was always happy to play a game if it was worth a dollar. Gambling caused a few of the fights down there. Some people have a hard time dealing with losing, especially if they are losing to "a stinking fucking Hindoo."

As if everybody was not getting wasted enough down there, the mill would lay us off for weeks at time so we could get really plastered. It was an ideal situation for a young punk like me.

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