A column G. George Ostrom picked out from March, 1973.
During World War II, there was what we used to call a “manpower” shortage in these here parts.
A great hunk of the work force either went in the Army or out to the coast to make “the big money” in defense plants. That left us kids and the older folks to handle things and I was one of many high school boys who lied about our age and went to work for the Forest Service.
We did all sorts of things such as repairing telephone lines, roadwork, fire suppression and manning lookouts, but the work I liked best was the trail maintenance.
For the backcountry trail work, we set up spike camps and sometimes there were only two men to a camp and other times up to six. We lived in tents, did our own cookin’ and washed in a creek once a week, whether we needed it or not. We worked like a horse and generally smelled like one.
With this background experience, you can see why I set right back on my hind legs and pondered the irony of time when I read last week that they were goin’ to sexually integrate the park’s trail crews. The fantastic logistics problems were the first to get my interest.
There will have to be two tents, and I assume someone will want a mirror. There may have to be some open toed logger boots and of course out behind camp, his and hers “logs.”
As I remember trail crew work, it often involved sawing logs up to three feet in diameter and removing same from trail with a pry pole. I also recall that both of these invigorating activities usually involved a certain amount of muscle.
At this point, some people might be assuming they are reading words from a chauvinistic male. I don’t know for sure what a chauvinistic male is, but if it is a guy who thinks wimmin’ can’t “do it all” on a trail crew, you are right.
The average woman I personally know could hold up her end (figuratively speaking) on my trail crew about as easily as I could qualify as a lead fan dancer in the Follies.
Because most men still are influenced by the inherent chivalry in our upbringing, I think trail crew language will have to undergo some cleansing action. Let’s say we have just spent three back-breaking hours sawing, wedging and prying a huge old wind-downed spruce from across the trail.
We’ve had to do some blocking and make six extra cuts because the downhill end of the tree hung up and put the log in a bind. We’ve had to chop the saw out of the log twice. Now we’ve got the job done and are just getting ready to move along to the next problem. The uphill bank suddenly caves in and the top 100 feet of log slides down the hill 30 feet and we’ve got to start all over.
We’re going to say, “Oh gosh! Look what the darn thing did.”
Sure, I’m making a little fun of the wimmin on trail crews, but if I wasn’t happily married, heavily mortgaged, and overly mature, you can bet your last can of Dinty Moore beef stew I’d be the first guy to volunteer to build a better switchback over Boulder Pass with some curvy kitten.
Nominations are now open for “Trailmate of the Month.”