The Obvious Death Traps That Came With Toiling in a Sawmill Essay
Sawmill work is hard work . . .
A wiser string of words have never been said by man or beast. In early times one did not “work” in a sawmill. One “toiled” in a sawmill from daybreak to sunset–six days a week. And unless you are never had to “toil’ in a sawmill, this is going to be very confusing to you.
The sawmill when founded, sounded uptown and gave a lot of small communities a hint of pride for having the first real factory in existence. That was before other lumber barons started a sawmill of their own. Before you knew it, everywhere you could toss a slab, you would hit a sawmill. The look of so many sawmills was deceiving. It looked like “harnessed progress” sitting in one place, but what the photo didn’t show was the near-inhumane treatment the hands of a sawmill endured to feed their families.
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I mean that to the sawmill employee, working in a sawmill compared to staring at a sweaty mule’s butt all day long was nothing short of a miracle from Heaven. “I work in a sawmill!” boasts “Huck,” a newly-hired sawmill employees in his 20’s talking to his friend, “Zack,” who sadly, was still plowing his mule planting crops and having to have his wife and kids help him harvest the crop in the fall.
Not “Huck.” Before long, those 20-hour days in all sorts of weather became natural. “Huck,’ when will you be home? We have supper with my parents tonight.” “Huck’s” wife reminds him as he leaves for another day of hard-labor in the sawmill for the unheard of price of “ten cents” a day. You can see why “Huck” is strutting with pride in his overalls. He was given a raise last week from a “nickel” to a “dime.”
“Oh, honey. I’d say around seven,” he says as he mounts his horse to take him to work up in the heavily-wooded area where he and his family live.
As “Huck” rides out of sight, his sweet wife, “Maxine,” looks out her kitchen window and sighs, “Ohh, that ‘Huck.’ He loves his work so much. I just hope that this prosperity doesn’t make him have a cold heart and look down on others who do not have it this good.”
Foolish, foolish woman. So blessed and so blind. Please tell me why she and others like her did not see
The Obvious Death Traps That Came With Toiling in a Sawmill
SAWDUST — in the eye can cause horrible pain and sometimes blindness. There was no safety equipment in these days. What a bunch of tough guys who worked the sawmills.
NO VENTILATION — except Mother Nature’s breezes to keep the sawmill employees from burning up. Men. Real men, ran the sawmills. But a person could have health complications from not getting clean, cool air.
INDIGESTION — was present with the sawmill employees for they were not allowed a “lunch hour.” They had what they could get from greedy sawmill owners to “wolf down” their meager fixings.
CURSINGS — by sawmill bosses was present most all of the time. But in these raw days of sawmill work, no one knew a thing about how one can cause another serious psychological damage from cursing him day in and day out. This explains why sawmill workers had short lives.
SERIOUS CUTS –from the huge blades that sliced rough timber as easily as a switchblade through a Hefty bag filled with water I know caused numerous serious cuts and many deaths. So why didn’t the sawmill owners think to put a guard on those blades? Well, greed has its own direction.
FIST-FIGHTS — among poorly-paid sawmill workers led to many men getting fired and having no way, but farming, to feed their huge families. But once a man went from the cornfield to the hazardous sawmill and then back to the cornfield was a terrible downfall. And these sad situations led to many men suffering from clinical depression that they not only hid but didn’t know how to describe this dark feeling.
MOONSHINE — during working hours surely caused some near-death accidents, and death, to those who took a few swigs of homemade whiskey while the boss man was not looking in order to cope with the harsh treatment that came with working in a sawmill.
FIRES — sometimes caused by over-heated motors that turned the blade saws did hurt a lot men, but also damaged the sawmill to the extent of having to shut it down to order blades to just keep it going.
DISGRUNTLED EMPLOYEES — who got some “pay back,” on a short-tempered boss for firing him for goofing off on company time would sometimes come back with a double-barrel shotgun to regain his manly pride. My guess is that some good-hearted sawmill employee would try to stop the angry ex-employee with the shotgun from doing any serious harm would take a barrel of shot trying to be a peacemaker.
LOG SPILLS — were rare, but a dangerous reality. Sometimes a man driving a team of mules pulling a wagon loaded-down with huge logs would get in too much of a hurry and spill the logs onto anything and anyone who was in the way. It was always something dangerous when you worked in a sawmill.
PRETTY WOMEN — who were in fact, wives of the sawmill owners who grew lonely at home and would drive their carriages to the sawmill to see their husbands, or the “secret lover” there whom she fancied. Seeing the sight of a pretty woman would distract the men working at he sawmill and cause serious accidents, even bloodshed caused by the jealous bosses.
RUN-AWAY OXEN — or mules who were sometimes frightened by a loud noise made by the lumber falling against other pieces of lumber would cause the sawmill employees or wagon driver serious injuries and sometimes put them out of work permanently.
But with all things being equal, at least sawmill work was not as bad as working for once-owner of New York Palace Motel, Leona Hemsley.