A SPECIALIZED SAWMILL


| January/February 1981



Mill and yard

106 South Elm Street, Newkirk, Oklahoma 74647

Immediately after the United States entered World War II my brother, Dewey and I secured orders for walnut gun-stock blanks for our Army. What we call a 'blank' is a piece of wood, hand sawn to a rough outline of the gun-stock for which it is intended. The machines used have 36' to 40' wheels, with saws 1/2''to 1' in width. We had been operating our mill at Harrison, Arkansas for several years, cutting hardwood timber into various sizes and shapes; so we had part of the machinery needed.

At that time the U.S. Army engineers were busy destroying fine 'Bottom Land' with dams. They were telling us great stories about the stupendous amounts of power they were going to produce; but, the real reason was to furnish jobs for half-educated engineers. At this time only about 15% of the electric power used in this country is generated by water power.

A view of the mill and yard. Carl Erwin is at the back of the truck measuring the logs. Elmer Stuart, the truck driver, is at the left. A load of logs like those, brought about $180.00 in 1942. They would bring at least ten times that much now in the paper money we are using. Two J. I. Case steam traction engines were turning the saws.

However, this is getting off the  subject. On the Bottom Land they were destroying in Arkansas, there was a lot of good walnut timber, and the rifles for our men were to have  walnut stocks. A rich doctor, who was quite a bird hunter, and had a fine walnut stock on his shot gun, asked me: 'Why do they have to have walnut for an army rifle?' I replied a bit sharply: 'Because, we don't have anything better.' Actually this is true. Walnut will hold its shape and size better than most any other wood under all conditions of temperature and humidity. They had also tested plastic stocks. These were ready to fall off the gun after one trip to the firing range. They couldn't stand the heat and the heavy recoil. Also, nothing feels better than a piece of wood; if you have to handle it, either hot or cold.

During the time that I was operating our mill at Harrison, Dewey, the other member of the firm, was running our mill at Cotter,  Arkansas, getting walnut timber from the River Bottom Land that the U. S. engineers were making into a fishing lake.