Monday, February 01, 2016

Waving goodbye to a piece of Americana — the lumberjack

In the snowy woods of northern New England and other forested parts of the country, the lumberjack is an endangered species. As markets for forest products change and high-tech machinery replaces chain saws, which themselves replaced the ax, a generations-old way of life is disappearing, one that historically saw fathers pass on to their sons their love and knowledge of the woods and the independence that came from working for oneself. Ken Davis feels this keenly as he reaches retirement age after a half-century career with no one to pass the torch to. Davis once employed 19 people full-time to cut the wood, haul it and then truck it, sometimes to his log yard, other times directly to the now-disappearing mills across Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and upstate New York that would turn it into lumber or process it into paper. He now employs seven, and has no sons. His daughter and son-in-law tried it for a while, but they didn’t keep at it. “I’ve got the sawdust in my veins, and they don’t make a dialysis machine to get it out, so I’m still here,” Davis said recently at his log yard in Hardwick, Vt., part of an especially rural region Vermonters call the Northeast Kingdom. None of Davis’s employees are showing interest in taking over his business. It’s the same story across the region, said Michael Snyder, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation. “It’s dangerous, it’s hard to make a living and everybody hates you,” Snyder said of logging. “Who’s signing up for that?”...more

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