Say Out of the bight
Every occupation has its jargon which you have to master. In logging, what you don't understand can kill you.
Especially if it is a "bight".
"Stay out of the bight." One cannot say this too many times. As my mother was saying goodbye to me as I
went out the door to the woods, she would say her goodbye, then she would say, "stay out of the bight".
- bight - any part of a running line between the blocks, the part that can cut you in half if you are standing
in it when the line tightens
- hard hat - you will need one of these, some rain gear, stanfields underwear, loose jeans, suspenders, a
workshirt, a lunch box, gloves to catch the jaggers, a whimsical smile, and a pair of...
- caulk boots - boots with short spikes in the sole, facing out, though somedays it feels like they are
facing in. The spikes give complete traction on logs. Except if the bark slides off. Pay attention to every
footstep. Rigging crews always uses leather boots, high tops for ankle support. There is a technique to
walking on logs with these, once mastered, you can run like blazes in them, and sometime do when you are
on a boom. These are deadweight if you fall in, so wear your damn life-jacket on the booms. Pronounced
"cork". Why, I don't know.
- caulk boots (rubber) - referred to as golf shoes when muckamucks wear them, though not when boat men wear them. Boat men are us.
- jaggers - splinters of steel wire that can come off any wire rope. Gloves catch nearly all of them. The rest, well, that
is what flesh is for.
- romeos - a kind of pull-on shoe favoured as the footwear of choice in a bunkhouse
- bunkhouse - Used to house the workers in a camp, these are now nicely insulated and heated and lighted
industrial trailers. A camp can be made on floats, or on dry land. These and a cookhouse and a drying room
and a shop and a generator and fuel, you are good to go.
- molly - a small loop made from a couple feet of strand of wire rope, used for locking pins in blocks. Blocks
have a pin to hold the shackle, and
the pin has a hole in it, to hold the pin. Nothing gets lost, no pin falls out, no block goes roque on a
moving line. All is well.
- Tommy Moore - a small block used for strawline, used all over the rigging, but especially used in wooden
by high riggers so tools and supplies could be lifted up the spar.
- jill poke - a moving log that get stuck so while yarding it pivots around the obstacle, and goes anywhere
physics takes it
- gyppo (or gypo) - independent logger or smallish logging operation but can also imply a substandard
operation, as in
"fuck this gypo outfit", a phrase sometimes heard just before "get me a bomber."
- bomber - airplane, sometimes the only way out of camp to town
- scab line - in high lead yarding, you can put a block on the haulback with a short scab line connecting it
to a barrel on the
the butt rigging, for extra lift, useful when yarding from higher ground
- bridle - special arrangement of chokers; some time a log was so large you would move it by itself, with
both chokers, with the hook in one into the bell of the other. Cedars with big butt swell were a typical use
case for this
technique. It was tempting to leave the log till you could get the small end on the next road, but
you could not leave it, because that risked running turns over it, and maybe breaking the most
valuable stick you were going to yard all day.
- choker - as a friend once described it, a large unbendable piece of wire a chokerman has to bend around a
log. Chokers in my world had a bell on the bight, and either a knob at each end for high-lead yarding, or a
eye and knob for cat
yarding. Chokers are of smaller diameter wire rope than the mainline. The intent is always that a choker
will break before a
mainline. Chokers were always larger diameter than haulback, so a yarding engieer has to be careful when
tightlining. Lengths varied
for purpose, cat yardign or high-lead or skidding. Yarding chokers I worked with were 30 feet long.
- dog cock - occassionally a choker pulls right through a log, tighening down into a real frigging mess with
the bell right on top of the knob. The chaser will replace the choker, and try for a few minutes to break
the dog cock. If it comes loose, the choker can be put right by putting that dog-cocked end into the butt
If the chaser cannot loosen it, out with the guillotine, off with knob and a few inches more, and put on a
New chokers come with press fit knobs, squeezed onto the cable at the factory to stay on. I never saw a knob
pull off, but
saw more than one line break. In the old days, choker knobs were filled with babbit metal to secure the
When I worked, we used line wedges inside the knob so that the knob self-tightened. Probably the second best
- guillotine - device used for cutting wire rope or necks. A round notch for the neck or bight, a blade of
hard steel mounted on
a vertical guideway, and in the case of wire rope, a sledge hammer to drive the plunger-mounted blade,
The guillotine adroitly used will cut everything that fits in the notch, eventually.
- butt rigging - a bunch of heavy metal tackle, that attaches the haulback to the mainline and provides the
rigging for attaching chokers
- barrel - swivel on butt rigging, from which you can hang a bull hook
- swivel - plain swivel on butt rigging, allows ropes to twist without damage
- bull hook - in yarding, the dangling down bit you hang a choker from; in cat operations, the hook at the end
of the cable on the winch
- passchain - chain used for high rigging, a hooker might ride this up the tower or spar or a-frame to fix a
problem in the blocks or sheaves
- strawline - mankind's greatest invention; this line is composed of lengths about 90 feet long, that are
linked to form whatever overall length you need. When changing a road, a hooker will use a length or two of
to move the haulback, and thus the whole road.
On initial setup of a yarding side, the strawline is fed through the two tailblocks and then hooked to the
haulback at the yarder.
Strawline then pulls the haulback through the tail blocks, to the yarder. Hook the mainline butt-rigging to
haulback, tightline the whole she-bang to clear any obstacles or brush on the lines, and your are logging.
To move a road, the hooker brings the haulback
back through both tailblocks, moves the tailblock and re threads the strawline through the tail blocks.
Yarder pulls strawline in, the road has moved a choker's width, mainline is hooked onto the haulback,
and you are logging again.
- haulback - high lead yarding is a loop of wire rope from the yarder, through two blocks, to the yarder.
Haulback is one side of this loop,
mainline is the other. Haulback was about 3/4 diameter of mainline. the idea is it breaks first.
- mainline - the yarding line, this one pulls all the weight of a turn of logs
- back end - end of the loop away from the yarder. This is where the tail blocks are, the end of the yarding
The Hooker sits here, smoking, surveying all the work being done below him, an Olympian figure.
Sometimes he descends amongst the rigging crew to impart wisdom.
- ax - the hooker has one of these, and a file, for notchng stumps for straps for tailblocks. These are
typically like a falling axe, very sharp, with a long double-bitted head. When well sharpened a notch
is done in two strokes, on at the top, then the bottom, and lever the notch wood out.
- tail block - block in the back end for the haulback, typically there are two of these, and they form the
current road. To change
road, they are moved in tandem so they are about 60 feet apart as the road moves across the cut block. The
hooker hangs these from
convenient, stable stumps, using a strap, with is just a length of wire rope with eyes on both ends.
Tailblock in hung from the
- Oregon block - total disparagement of all logging south of the border. An Oregon block is where a line is
run behind a stump
to pull the rigging in that direction. Best variant of this I ever saw was moving the mainline back to the
old road to
get a log that had slid back away from the current road. We hooked a choker to a stump above and on the same
side as the
errant stick, then slacked the line, and the rigging moved back in that direction to allow us to get a
choker on the runaway.
Much later, in university, I learned about physics and vector analyis. My hooker knew it.
Another variant is to link two or more chokers and go back to the old road to get the log. But, when you do
that you need
to pull the log back to the current road, then go unlink the chokers so the log is only on a single choker
- high lead - yarding with a tower or spar tree of any kind, including a-frames
- skyline - yarding with a back spar so a line can be hung from both spars. A carriage on the skyline allows
expensive, hard to set up, mostly done in the wooden spar days. Like when they logged Comox Valley, which
was flat, with
big Douglas fir spars every 1000 feet as far as the eye could see.
- tight line - variant of skyline, where a large cable is strung from a spar to a stiff-leg at the beach. This
line gives lift when logs are yarded downhill, but gravity does most the work.
- back spar - anchor at the back end for a skyline.
- A-frame - two big logs, lashed together to form an A, with a cross piece to hold the bull block and haulback
block. This was raised to near vertical, with fore and back guys, and always leaned forward and away, so it
would not fall on
the yarder if anything went worng.
These were typically set up on floats, with a stiff-leg, to allow logging right to the saltchuck.
- stiffleg - a few logs lashed together in side by side and end to end fashion to create
a single longer unit to hold, for example, an a-frame away from the shore. In that case, a
stiffleg was butted up on shore, and lashed at the other end to the float. The float was free to pivot
controlled by a couple of guy wires to stumps near the beach. Stiffleg were also used to hold the beach end
of a tightline.
- donkey - old yarding equipment, a set of winches and an engine, mounted typically on a wooden sleigh
steel spar - a mobile yarder; the package was built on a tank or tank retriever undercarriage, which was
On top on that chassis was mounted a set of winches and an engine for the rigging. Attached was a 90 foot
tower that could be
erected to vertical, held in place by 6 guys wires. The tower was partially lifted by a big hydraulic ram
(bull prick), and then
the guys wires were used to lift it to vertical. Should take aan hour or two hour from driving in to a
landing to being set up and ready
- bull block - mainline block at yarder end on rigging in an old school yarding set up. On a mobile yarder
there are two
sheaves build into the top of tower, one for haulback, one for mainline. A bull block might be three feet
- cook - most important person in camp; no food, no work
- bull cook - person who does the bunkhouse chores, bed making and laundry, sweeping, makes sure the dry room
is hot, dry.
- bull bucker - head of the falling crew
- widow maker - a tree with a dead top that falls backwards when the tree is falling, killing the faller; or
any tree harbouring
- snag - a dead tree, but can also be a hangup while yarding
- adverse - any part of a road where the logs are being pulled or moved up a hill by a cat, skidder or truck
- sidehill - a hillside, but with a little twist to it. A side hill implies logging on a slope that is not
running down to the
yarder, hence logs will want to follow gravity sideways.
- draw - a gulch, a declivity in the terrain that forces chokermen to climb down and out to set a turn
- swing - move logs to a different location, as in swing to the beach or a land sort, or where ever they go
- faller - person who puts the trees on their sides, and bucks them into logs
- standing timber - before the faller gets there
- felled and bucked - the faller's work is done, this is the area to be yarded; it is time to swing that wood
to the beach
- cherry-picking - yarding only the best logs, hoping yarding them over top will smash the pecker poles to
splinters. Very wasteful of
fibre. I have heard of this practice, but never did this myself, we loaded out everythng.
- clearcut - cut blocks where all the trees are felled and bucked down to whatever the forestry department
says is the
minimum diameter. Anything smaller diameter could be left. Interior and coast operations had different
regulations on this.
Clear cut would work if companies would limit the blocks to, say, 1000 feet on a
side, and log alternate patches, and come back a few years later and take the other blocks. Then the already
would have a chance to reseed, and restart. Even if just fireweed and alder started, those would hold soil,
a new viable forest would regenerate. By clear cutting very large patches, erosion is rampant, then the
millenium-old soil is gone,
and once verdant land is left almost as a debris-strewn desert. Fast profit trumps slow growth trees.
- weeds - anywhere in the bush, at any time, but mostly where you are right now; for a yarding crew, the
felled and bucked you are yarding
- side - a specific operation in the show, maybe a single spar tree or a cat-logging operation
- crew - everybody employed at an operation, or, just the guys on your side
- turn - all the logs currently being moved, by yarder or cat or skidder
- rigging crew - in a yarding operation, the workers in the weeds, hooking up turns of logs for yarding
- load - all the logs currently being moved by a truck
- hangup - when yarding, the turn can get stuck so the yarder cannot move it, and then the rigging slinger may
have to fight the . Usually involves running rigging back, using tightlines, or maybe going in and unhooking
In general, a hangup can be anything that slows down logging for any reason whatsoever.
- pecker pole - small diameter log
- claim - a tract of woods for logging
- show - a logging operation, can be just the part you are standing in, or the whole operation you work for
- road - in high lead yarding, the current path of the mainline for yarding, else, just a road
- chokerman - in a yarding crew, a junior labourer, hooks chokers onto logs, under direction of rigging
- rigging slinger - in a yarding crew, the person who controls communication with the engineer, using a bug or
a radio, tells the engineer
how to place the rigging, what to send out, picks the next turn for the rigging crew,
- hooktender - yarding crew, AKA hooker - overseer of a crew on a side
- hooktender - cat crew, labourer working with the cat operator; does all the work, while
the operator sits in his damned a/c cab, dry, warm, smiling.
- engineer - in a yarding crew, the operator of the yarder, operator of the loader would be loading engineer
- chaser - at any landing, this is the beast that unhooks the turn of logs, either from the skidder or
- boom man - there are a whole variety of job out on the booming grounds, one of which is to unload the
trucks, but the boom man who runs the unloader is NOT a chaser.
- boat man - could be a boom man, usually runs a utility tow boat for moving bags of logs or floats to move
- boomstick - large, uniformly long log that form the border of a boom or bag
- swifter - long log that is pulled on top of a boom to give it structure. It is chained to the end of two
this will form a section of the boom.
- boom chain - the boomstick have holes augured in each end, and a heavy chain with a loop and toggle
is used to link them together. The toggle swivels to fit through the hole, and then is locked in place
with a plug, driven in to ensure it does not faull out.
- booms - floating logs nicely set up in raft-like sections, enclosed by boomsticks, with swifters pulled on
to give lateral stablility.
Without the swifter, you have a ...
- bags - floating ogs enclosed by boomsticks, without swifters, easy way to tow a bunch of logs a short
distance to where
the barge can load them, or to a formal booming ground.
- log barges - big self-loading self-dumping barges that carry a couple or three million board feet of logs to
the mills, or to
a sorting ground where ti can be boomed by species or grade and moved to a mill. They have a couple of
cranes for loading logs
onto the barge, and typically flood the hull on one side to tilt the barge to gravity unload. They are towed
by big tugs.
- floats - rafts build on various dimension, used for moving equipment or fuel or powder over water
- powder man - road building usually involve blasting of rock, maybe stumps and debris. This is your man.
- powder monkey - assistant to powder man. May tend the drill as it bangs away at a rock, totes bags of Amex
and boxes of powder,
runs lengths of detonator cord, drill holes and fill holes as directed by powder man. Is not allowed, ever,
access to blasting caps, the detonators.
- cat skinner - operator of a cat (bulldozer), typically in a road building crew or a skidding crew. Cats
have to clear a landing for a spar, and in doing so will have to haul logs, maybe move earth. Cats are kind
Swiss Army knive, a good operator can do very neat things with them.
- landing - any place logs are moved to, a central location for further processing, for instance at a yarder
or at the beach
- cold deck - any pile of logs waiting for skidding or trucking to sort or beach
- super - superintendent - boss of the whole camp
- side rod - or push - woods foreman
When I worked, the communications between the rigging crew and the engineer was via radio bugs, worn by the
hooker and rigging slinger, that controlled an air horn at the yarder.
There might be an app for it now.
Prior to the radio bug, there was a whistlepunk, who had a contact switch that he could close against a
spring. The bug was
hard-wired to an air horn at the yarder. The whistle punk would watch the rigging crew for hand signals to
whistle to send to the yarder. Safe? You bet. Nothing could go wrong as long as the whistlepunk had good eyes,
the whistle cord was properly fixed, the battery was fully charged.
There was a code of whistles, long and shorts and pauses, that told the yarding engineer what the rigging
crew wanted done with the lines.
Everybody in the woods had to know these, because it would tell what lines were going to be moving.
- one short: stop all moving lines, right now!
- two short - gap - two short: haulback full speed
- long - gap - two short - gap - two short: haulback slow speed
- three short: mainline full speed
- long - gap - three short: mainline slow speed
- three short - gap - two short: tightline and mainline full speed, this implied some breaking on the
haulback drum, to tighten
the lines to give lift
- long - gap - three short - gap - two short: tightline and mainline slow speed, this implied some
breaking on the haulback drum, to tighten
the lines to give lift
- long - gap - two short - gap - three short: tightline and haulback slow speed, this implied some
breaking on the mainline drum, to tighten
the lines to give lift
- and a whole set of strawline codes when working with haulback and strawline
The long blast preceeding any other sequence always implied slow speed on any moving lines. Often, rigging
crews needed to do this to position
the butt rigging while setting chokers. And, still, some of us survived. An engineer could move the rigging
by inches, maintaining
line tensions. Or, else people would die.
There were whistle codes for fire, for an accident, to send out a length of strawline, to add or remove a
choker from the butt rigging.
And, if worse came to worse, shut down the yarder and yell back and forth, but that was too gypo for words.
Shave and a haircut was the quitting whistle, blown by the engineer.
Otherwise, it rarely did the engineer have to whistle, unless he needed to do some maintenace.
If drum brakes were feeling loose, or wet, he might run the lines a bit to dry them, or stop everythng,
the bands, and test the lines. There was a signal he could send to the rigging crew, and we would take a
And, the most famous whistle, one very long, tapered at the end, to send out a marlin spike
Chinook words used daily
For best results, have all three ingredients. OK with any two.
- hooch - strong drink or other mood shifters
- klooch - female
- gramaphone - entertainment
- saltchuck - tidal water
- skookum - strong
- musatchi - ornery
- tyee - head man of anything, biggest fish in any pond, also a very old brand of yarder
- muckamuck - some asshole in an office in Vancouver sending out orders, telling us how to do our jobs
- mowich - deer
† Actually, I know where they go, I worked in a Hammond Cedar Mill and Scott Paper in New West, so I have
seen what happens.
It is an interesting language, with plenty of variations from Oregon, Washington, B.C. and Alaska.
Californians sort of log, but not really, do they? I will have to find a stable collection and host it myself, I
guess, as every thing I link
to disappears in a week or a year. Chinook terms alway
add pepper to the lingo.
"Stay out of the bight.".