Editor’s Note: This story, about George Helvey, is story number two in a series to be featured here in the Forks Forum and that later will appear in a new book soon to be published by Duane Miles called “Even if it kills ‘em.”
By Duane Miles
For the Forks Forum
This story begins in the early 1970s. George had just arrived stateside from Vietnam where he was soon honorably discharged from Army service. Back into the life of a civilian, he wasted no time in putting on ‘cork’ boots again. On this Naselle area job site for Weyerhaeuser Timber Corp he would be working alongside his brother Joe.
On this crew, Joe was the riggingslinger (crew leader) with George and Gary Magnussen, a former school pal of George’s, being the two chokersetters under his supervision. This supervision was particularly challenging for Joe on this site in regard to the safety of these chokermen. The reason for this begins with the fact that this logging unit was located on very steep terrain.
Such terrain always requires a heightened awareness of what might be dislodged above as turns are pulled to the landing. However, this particular logging site was even more hazardous than just steepness. For it was in the heart of a large windfall patch. Therefore, on almost every turn, one or more of those rootwads (from those windfalls) would come crashing down the hillside, putting this crew in jeopardy of being smashed at any time.
In desperation, Joe devised a plan to protect both his crew and himself while still getting the logging assignment done. So, as this crew worked their way down the hill from turn to turn, Joe had picked out various large white fir stumps to hide behind along the way.
Such stumps were rare here; each one was used for as long as possible in that logging process. Therefore as the three men hid behind the only stump available for the next several turns, on one particular roadline, they each cringed while rootwad after rootwad sought them out as they cart wheeled all around them with each turn. In fact, at one point, George prematurely raised his head, only to have another object hit his hard hat sharply. He didn’t make that mistake again.
Finally, when those stump sanctuaries were no longer available, they had to again hide in plain sight of those threatening rootwads . However, being again so exposed to danger was simply too much for that third member of that crew, George’s longtime friend.
For it was soon clear that this fellow, being fresh to this phase of logging on this very day had seen enough. Without saying a word, he now made a break for the landing, wisely making a wide semicircle around any danger above. Later during lunch break, it was reported that this fellow had caught a ride to town with the very next loaded log truck driver. (The very next day, this buddy was seen driving a logging truck. When George later was able to talk to him, Gary related that just a month earlier he had witnessed the rigging death of a fellow logger. With that, one can’t blame him for seeking a safer job.)
Though they remained in this abnormally dangerous situation for some time longer, both George and Joe avoided any possible mishaps with courage, skill, cunning and fleetness of foot; one born from experience, and the other three from upbringing, youth and genetics (which prompts the catch phrase: “You don’t see that every day”).