R. D. 4, Savannah, Missouri
AS LIKE VERY MUCH to read the articles that other men write I
thought I would put in my nickels worth. I will give it the name of
Saw Mill Characters I have met.
First the one who probably had a college degree as he could tell
you at the first glance and feet of travel at the rim, tension and
everything else. Like the feet and speed of every belt and pounds
of pull it would deliver or what strain any size of shaft would
stand. He had a new outfit and mostly sawed soft wood. One old mill
man I knew always had a name for every kind of a mill man, such as
if the man frequently adjusted the guide, he called his a guide pin
sawyar. If he frequently changed teeth he was a New Tooth Sawyer.
So we will call this man a New Tooth Sawyer.
Well a fellow brought him a large frozen black oak to be sawed.
Was he surprised when he found he could not saw it, at least until
he got an old mill man to straighten him out.
Then there were two other men. One we will call uncle George and
the other uncle Hutch. Both men were from the Old School. One had
missed the school house entirely, the other had a little book
learning and both knew their saws. The one that missed the road to
the school house claimed he was born in a saw pit and cut his teeth
on a cant hook but just the same could saw good lumber. He could
not measure up the feet he sawed but could guess within a few feet.
It wan always so many hundred or thousand, which ever it happened
to be, and 85 ft. I remember once he sawed a lot of bridge lumber
for the county. He said it was 30 thousand and 85 ft. The Highway
Engineer measured it up and the sawyer was so near correct the
Engineer never changed the figures and never knew the difference
for a long time.
The other old fellow we call uncle George had a swedge that
looked like the one Columbus had and an old file and old claw
hammer but when he had finished filing and swedging his old saw
would sing straight through any log. I used to help him some, set
ratchets. He would always say ‘set it at 12 and two of them
little marks the other side’ or ‘set it at 15 and one of
them little marks this side’ Meaning, of course, of an inch. It
was always right.
Another funny one was a very good mill man whose saw got so it
wobbled and would not run a straight line regardless of how it was
filed. Well, a fellow told him there was no need to send it off but
to take it up the country about 20 miles to an old mill man and he
would straighten it out for him. So the man said out of curiosity
he thought he would. After arriving at the old fellows place he had
a very strong desire to turn around and go home. He thought maybe
he would just buy a new saw anyway and he would see what the old
fellow would do to it.
The old man told him to bring the saw out to the wood pile. He
looked around and picked out a chunk of wood with a square end had
an old hammer with a piece of lath for a handle. Then he picked and
picked and sighted turned the saw over a half dozen times or more
and picked some more here and there on it. Finally the old fellows
face lit up and he said, ‘I think she will be all right
now.’ The man thought he would hate to pay him for what he did
but hated to hurt his feelings so he asked him, ‘What do I owe
you?’ The old fellow said, ‘Not a penny, glad to help you
out’. So the man thought, I am just out the trip. So he took
the saw home. Next morning before crating it to send away he
thought, I will just try it for curiosity. He put it on the
mandrel, got up steam, started it up to full speed and could not
tell it was running by looking at it edgewise. He thought, it does
run nice, maybe I should try it. He rolled on a big oak and she
came out straight on the line. So he said, ‘I am going back and
make that old man take some pay or kick his pants.’
All the old fellows I knew could run a 54 inch, 10 gauge solid
tooth saw in frozen timber without any trouble. You. don’t find
them every day in the week, yet some could hardly write their name.
They were good old fellows who learned the hard way and they were
always glad to help anyone without pay.
Let’s hear from some more saw mill men.