In the forests along Hood Canal
where he died 75 years ago, he could have been little else, for
a timber cruiser is the woodsman who ranges out ahead of a
logging crew to select and mark the trees to be harvested.
His grave marker was crafted in red
cedar using cuts more typical of a pocket knife than fancy
carving tools. Of fine design and workmanship, it must have
literally taken “a month of Sundays” for a logger of that era to
fashion, and in itself is a remarkable epitaph to a friend.
Originally coated with whitewash and pine tar to imitate marble,
Father found it planted in our woodlands some decades ago, deep
in a forest hollow.
Ever since we’ve puzzled over the
dog’s early death, over who and why someone would bury him so
far from civilization, and with beautiful vistas of snow-capped
mountains and beaver ponds brimming with life so close, why in
such an unremarkable spot.
It wasn’t until a recent thinning
operation knocked down the thick undergrowth there that I was
confident I knew the answers.
I don’t know who Cruiser’s master
was, but he probably worked for the McCormick Logging Company,
harvesting this forest for the first time during that period,
based out of nearby Camp Union. He may have been a Scandinavian
who moved West with McCormick and other men of his trade from
I suspect he was a tree faller… and a faller from the
back-breaking days of long-handled falling axes, springboards to
raise the fallers above thick root buttresses, ”misery whip”
crosscut saws, and the steam-powered winches on skids called
“donkeys” that moved the logs. You can still see the ruts in the
ground and cable damage on the trees where a McCormick donkey
was positioned next to the overgrown roadbed of their
Shay-locomotive logging railway, just a middling walk from
I hope that our faller and I would
have been friends, and my friend doesn’t mind I cleaned off the
old whitewash and tar to apply the best varnish I could obtain.
I hope when this gentleman looks down from heaven, he approves
of the simple stand I made to protect his craftsmanship from the
weather. After all, I did make sure it got back to where he
placed it in 1936...
...where our faller buried his
beloved Cruiser next to the tree that killed him.