I recently enjoyed reading Lonnie Archibald’s “Old Trucks and Gear Jammers: The Lives and Times of Olympic Peninsula Logging Truck Drivers.” While I won’t attempt a gratuitous review, I do wish to offer a few comments.
I can’t help contrasting Lonnie’s informal style with that of Gary Peterson and Glynda Schaad’s. Their polished prose reminds me of Mark Twain’s remark: “The writings of others might be described as wine; mine are more like water and everyone drinks water.” Lonnie’s are more like the latter and I suspect he writes with tongue in cheek to match the raw and unvarnished dialogue of his driver-raconteurs.
While most of us are content to let time pass us by, Lonnie sees stories waiting to be told and he labors to bring them to life, thus preserving another piece of history.
I was pleased to see among the drivers the names of old friends and former students. I had heard tales about some of the others, including Joe Daman’s tempestuous relationship with his tin hat.
It was a little surprising to read about 14- and 15-year-old boys driving trucks during World War II, though my brother drove a school bus for a while when he was 17. Did drivers actually walk beside their underpowered trucks as they were inching up Elwha hill at two or three miles an hour?
When CBs were first introduced it became safer to drive on tortuous mountain roads because drivers could report their location to each other. Of course, CBs enabled drivers to tell each other where the law might be lurking and when weigh stations were open.
The book is replete with interesting photos. I found one of Huling’s shingle mill where I nearly lost an arm in a freak accident. Another photo revealed that the 101 Bogachiel bridge was dedicated to Russ Barker. I remember Russ as an avid outdoorsman and a talented writer, who could have given local journalist Duane Miles a run for his money.
The men featured in the book were and are a special breed representing the logging industry, the heart, and soul of life on the west coast of the peninsula. The old growth may be gone, but trees will continue to grow where soil and climate are ideal and loggers and truck drivers will continue to ply their trade, albeit on a reduced scale.