excerpts from

Three Years
on the
Nowhere Road

The Dickey River People

After working in the shake mill for a couple or three months, Mitch decided at some point that it was time for a change of scenery and joined the Dickey River People as a tree-planter. They were a loosely-organized group of young long-haired men and women under contract with the Forest Service to plant Douglass Fir seedlings (several inches tall) on rough clear-cut slopes along the Dickey River north of Forks. It was grueling "stoop-labor," on very rough ground choked with stumps and treacherous logging debris known as "slash," probably because it was easy to slash open a leg or worse on the spear-like shards if you stumbled and fell into a pile of it.

Tree planters worked under miserable winter conditions, often in cold rain or sleet, for long hours each day. Like loggers they never wore rain gear but worked soaking wet in woolen long johns. They camped out on the land where they were working, a fortunate few in hand-built cedar campers on pickup trucks, but most of them in tents-- although I met two hardy young men who simply threw some visqueen over a bush each night and crawled under it.

It was a hard, unforgiving life. You had to be young and fit and disciplined enough to plant several hundred trees each day-- day in and day out. You carried a big sack of seedlings over your shoulder and used an ancient digging tool known as a hoedad. You drove the blade of the hoedad into the ground, used it as a lever to widen the hole, dropped in a seedling, then "heeled it in."

Once a tract was planted, the group would land another contract, pull up stakes and move gypsy-fashion to the new area. They were wilderness junkies, addicted to a life as far from the city as possible. In the spring, many of them would use the money they had earned to travel to Alaska where they would spend the summer camping in beautiful remote places. Then they would be back in the autumn, set for another winter of grueling work with their tree-sacks and hoedads. After joining them, Mitch lasted about three weeks. Later he would join a gyppo logging outfit as a choker-setter which, while far more strenuous and dangerous, he preferred to the miserable drudgery of tree planting.

More excerpts from
Three Years on the Nowhere Road
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Off to the wilderness

A bus from the Twilight Zone

I am picked up, then dumped

On a dark, deserted highway,
the kindness of a stranger

My first ride in a logging truck

Forks, logging capitol of the world

To a camp on the Calawah

Job Interview

Up before dawn, a logger’s breakfast

My first day at the mill

A dip in the river

Working deck at the mill,
and I almost lose a hand

To a new camp, further downriver

Robert Lee:
the old logger who lived in a box

The Dickey River People

When a barrel stove becomes a cannon

Alone at last

At the outfitters

On Christmas Day, I am flooded out

At the mill, I am promoted to splitter

Encounter with a sasquatch?

A scene out of Dr. Zhivago

I settle in for a solitary winter

Hanshan, the mad hermit poet

Hiking the coastline with a tomcat

A night on a seastack

I join an encampment of friends
on a tributary of the Hoh

Calling at the country estate
of Robert Lee, Esq.

Visiting around the Peninsula
in Robert Lee's 2-gear sedan

A visit to a Makah family on Neah Bay

These opening chapters represent
about 20% of the entire book,
which I hope to release
later this winter.

BJ Omanson
Nov 2021