'SAWMILLING IN THE SHADOW OF THE DEVILS TOWER'

Oregon Jay

Courtesy of Jay Marsh, P.O. Box 371, Klamath Falls, Oregon Jay standing at the planer.

Jay Marsh

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P. O. Box 371, Klamath Falls, Oregon

During the fall of 1927 Smith & Wright, contractors, from Thermopolis, Wyoming took the contract of finishing a steel bridge at Devils Tower, Monument, across Belk Fourshe River. Since many of the timbers needed for the supporting of the steel girders and cross flooring were as long as 34 ft., it required a 3 head block carriage sawmill.

There was but one mill the county that had 3 head blocks that were available and it was an old American No. 3 Friction Feed and Drive. A couple, of fellows by name of Kenedy and Christianson bought the old sawmill and took the contract for furnishing the 5 thousand feet of lumber for the bridge. They hired me to pull the mill with my Case 10-30 steamer. I also had a 25 x 75 Port Huron just over the hill north, but it needed repairs. Kenedy had had no experience but Christianson, his partner, had a little experience on a No. 2 American mill just prior to their buying the No. 3 American. They were operating this mill for a neighbor. John Anraud and I were firing his Nichols-Shepard 110 for them prior to taking the bridge contract.

The No. 3 American needed lots of reconditioning, including the saw should have been hammered. The friction feed cross shaft was worn down below center, almost a inch causing the paper friction pulleys to burn and cut out sometimes before sawing a thousand feet of lumber. I tried to tell Kenedy that was the reason for the pulleys going out.

I had worked for 10 years (winters) with sawmills, doing everything but handle sawyers lever, but after Kenedy's 'what do you know about a sawmill?' I went off and left them sweat it out. Dut to the short runs and shut downs we did not average 500 ft. a day and the contractors were in a turmoil. My bosses, to save face, had shifted the blame to me, claiming their shortcomings were due to lack of power. Surmising that this had been restorted to by the sour look on the bridge contractor's face while I was at the Post Office, I asked him about it and upon being told Kenedy had made that assertion I told Smith & Wright to come on over and investigate for themselves. In a few days Smith dropped over just as the boys had put on another paper pulley and he gave me the 'go ahead signal' and by Christianson, exercising great skill in not crowding things, they made the longest run since we had been there of a few minutes over one hour.

We were working on big logs 32 or 34 ft. long and 6 to 18 in dimension, I believe, and Smith was tallying the feet per hour. He came to me at the end of the hour saying we had sawed a few feet over 600 that hour and at that rate they should saw 5,000 feet a day. Yes, I told him. That was very true but this was the longest continuous run we had ever made and the saw was right then beginning to head and they would have to shut down. Which they did just as soon as Smith dropped around the first bend in the back trail, but not until I had reminded him that he had heard the Case pop valve open at every cut of the saw and the reverse lever was hooked up 2 notches just as he saw it then and there, going through without any slow down through long logs and which with that hook-up was putting out but about 70 percent of its power or less really! Sure, Christianson could have given me a bad time, if he had a mind to, and made it look like the picture Kenedy had stated. Christianson, however, had considerable amount of principle, although I believe he hoped by going slow his saw and friction pulley might hold out until he could get my steam. My engine popped through entire run. He only would have had to shove the friction pulley over to the rim of the drive disc and a hundred horse engine would have stopped dead in its tracks before the governor would have had a chance to adjust itself to that load. Once the bosses, while rushing the jug, walked right through the mill yard 'fishing and hunting in Alaska' and never realized where they were till they had walked up canyon on skid road until they found themselves up against a tree.

After we finely finished the bridge timber, and I'm satisfied we cut over 100 thousand to get it, the boys sold their No. 3 American to Miller Brothers of Casper, Wyoming. I sold Millers my Port Huron. It was quite a contrast between those saw mill men of Casper and my boys, since Miller's were experts. Taking that old mill, rebabbitting all the shafts and hammering the saw, they sawed between 300 and 450 thousand feet, using same paper pulleys that Kenedy and Christianson had left.

George Weaver, whose property we did the bridge timber cutting on had bought the surplus lumber from the bad cuts made in getting required bridge quota. Mr. Weaver made a deal with me to hook my little Case on to a planer he had to plane the timber and lumber he got. I was amazed at the little power it took to pull a planer, thinking these 6 x 14 x 18 and 32 and 34 foot footers might pull harder than the 56 inch mill saw, but found it took next to nothing in power. Hooking the reverse up just on side of the center notch the engine still wanted to run away so I put a block in the reverse notch, shoving the lever half way into the center notch. Of course the center notch would have stopped the engine, but the lever was so near center the exhaust was extinct or sounding more like a generator turning over or a triple compound.