|A Quiet Passion|
by Ralph Rice
The trees towering above us sway in the summer breeze. This hardwood
stand is mature and ready for harvest. The landowner and I walk among the trees,
selecting and marking them~red oaks, maples, basswood, some tulip poplars, and a
few cherry trees.Ralph
Rice's column "Reflections" appears regularly in Rural Heritage. This
column appeared in the
We select 42 trees to be cut. We review the locations of skidways and
landings. We discuss the estimated revenue and method of payment. We walk along
unhurried, asking and answering each other's questions. I am a horse logger. I
respect my horses, the landowner, and the land. I want to leave this woodlot
timbered, but not destroyed. We talk about the young trees and a few well-placed
old ones that will provide the seed for the next generations.
I am in this business because I enjoy it, both for the income it
provides and for the satisfaction. I like to walk in a woodlot I harvested a few
years previous. The impact I made then is barely visible by a few skidways,
trail-like roads that make a pleasant place to walk and enjoy nature. The deer
use them for highways. Grandpas use them to teach grandchildren history, like
about the building of theWilderness Road.
The once small young trees overhang the old skidways as they push for
the sky. Their growth is even yet competitive. The young ones grow straight and
tall without many branches as they create the new canopy. The old seed trees
will become the gems, when the next successive harvest begins.
My logging business is a part-time affair. It mixes well with my
farming operation and my off-farm job. I believe that when landowners become
more educated about the benefits of a well-managed woodlot, my sound business
practices will be in great demand.
It is not just about cutting down trees and selling them for profit.
It is not about how much footage I can get out in a day. I enjoy the romance. I
like the sounds of the squeaking harness and jingling trace chains. I like
having my senses filled with bird song and the smell of freshly cut wood. The
feeling of being a good steward makes my spirit soar. I work carefully and
steadily. I try to cut and skid 10,000 to 12,000 board feet per week, a meager
amount to a large-scale logger, but enough for me.
and I wander toward his house, a cup of coffee, and a more conversation. We sign
a contract reflecting our discussion, property lines, and liability. A fair
contract, firm handshake, and mutual respect seal the deal and end our meeting.
My dealings are square. I tell the truth and keep my word. I maintain
a running tally of the footage. The respect shown by my log buyers I attribute
to my honesty. I am not bragging, here, but stressing the importance of fair
dealing, in logging as in life.
I head out my new customer's driveway and toward home~thankful for the
work, a new friendship, and the opportunity to share the value of good horses.