Monday, 16 August 2010 10:11


Written by  A.J. Neumann, D.V.M.
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Several years ago I taught students who attended a Wildlife Art Class, which was held in an appropriate setting at the Methodist Church camp located on the upper reaches of the Boulder River south of Big Timber, Montana. These classes were held once and sometimes twice a year, usually the end of May and again in August. At the school it was my privilege to meet many aspiring wildlife artists, both young and old, as well as the instructors. Some of the latter were very famous in the wildlife art field.

I made good friends there over the course of years of teaching. Among them was a very interesting individual named Jim Clark. Jim was a semi-retired Forest Consultant from Hinton, Alberta, Canada. While at the school we would get together, every evening, with one or two other friends and just have a good time visiting and telling stories.

I found out that Jim had participated in the last big horse logging operation in Canada which was conducted for the purpose of producing pulp wood. He was instrumental in the day-to-day running of the operation. I would listen to him talk and admired his ability to recount the facts and figures associated with it.

Jim rarely missed a class and I asked him upon several occasions to write a story about the operation. Several years ago he finally wrote me a letter, in which he discussed the logging operation, the last big one in Canada.

My good friend Jim is gone now. I cannot call him on the phone and just visit and laugh at his stories and listen to his sage advice which was often very accurate and fitting for the day. Sometime ago I chanced upon his letter and I thought it would be very informative to publish it in The Draft Horse Journal, especially in the Work Horse issue. This letter will give you an insight into a business in which the draft horse was a major partner as well as a look at a vanished way of life.

I've promised in the past to write you a small story about our horse logging here at Hinton when we began logging operations in 1956 and ended the horse use in 1968. Here goes ...

Our pulp mill was designed to produce 285,700 tons per year of BLEACHED KRAFT PULP. It was the first kraft mill to produce pulp from lodgepole pine and white spruce in the world with a continuous production system with a Kaymr digester.

The wood furnished to this mill was harvested from a FOREST MANAGEMENT AREA (FMA) of 3,000 square miles granted by the Alberta government to the Company (NORTHWESTERN PULP & POWER Ltd.) which was a partnership of St. Regis Corporation of New York and North Canadian Oils of Calgary, Alberta. The Company was responsible for all infrastructure development of the FMA including roads, logging and delivery of wood as well as regeneration of the cutover (logged) areas with a new forest. In the first 25 years of logging, the Company had cut 225,000 acres of land and had regenerated 225,000 acres of new forest. (There is an allowance of seven years between year of cut and year that the new forest has grown to 6-7 feet in height.

We started logging in 1956 to begin building an inventory of wood for mill startup in February 1957. We began building camps for the logging crews in 1956 with Camp No. 1 located on the extreme west end of our FMA and developed 10 camps by about 1960. These ten camps accommodated 500 men, plus or minus. Each camp was operated by a contractor who produced about 25,000 cords per year. (A cord of wood was a ricked cord of dimension 8 feet x 8 feet x 4 feet–containing 85 cubic feet of wood inside bark). The government allowed a 2-inch trim allowance on the 8-foot long wood in a rick to account for wood loss when the wood was debarked in drum barkers that rotated and tumbled the wood; a minor point but of advantage by about 5% when the government stumpage was paid by the Company.

The logging year started generally in late September and ended in March; it's what was called winter logging when we took advantage of the cold weather to build roads cheaply with frost penetration. Wood trucking started about January 1 on a 24-hour day basis, except Sunday.

Horse logging required that wood be skidded from the stump area where the tree was cut 300 feet maximum to the road piledown area; this was the average distance you could expect a horse to skid wood on an 8-hour daily work basis. It meant the horses walked 300 feet from the road piledown area to the tree-cutting face where the logger hooked up the singletree chain to the tree to be skidded to the piledown area. Sometimes the two-man logging team would work with one man handling the horse including the tree hookup, the skidding, unhook and horse control back to the cutting face. The delivered trees at the piledown area were section-cut into 8-foot lengths and hand-piled by the two men into cord ricks or continuous piles; these continuous piles would continue for 100 feet, 500 feet and sometimes half a mile, where the forest density was heavy. Sometimes one team member would be absent so the operation for the day was a one-man, one-horse show.

Daily work started about 6 a.m. wake-up with the gut hammer ring, breakfast and lunch-bucket makeup by each man at 7 a.m. The barn boss, in the meantime, would have the horses harnessed and waiting for the two-man team; some men insisted they harness THEIR HORSE, MAY OR JOE OR KNOTHEAD as they knew what was best.

The horses were stabled in a barn overnight at the campsite. Sometimes the barns were distant from the camp because of circumstances of maybe a short-duration need in a small cutting area. Often the barn boss would spend his nights at these isolated stable areas for short periods. The horses were important to the loggers and to the barn boss who mothered them as if he owned them all; tended their heaves and sneezes, lathered their cuts, sore feet or shoe replacements and hoof trimming.

There were on average 500 horses among the ten camps. We bought them from reliable suppliers throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan, all draft horses, and we paid $500 to $700 per horse. Deliveries were made on telephone advisement by the seller to which camp he would deliver X number of horses on what date. We, as buyers, were always suspect of deliveries made at night; the next morning they were carefully scrutinized for quality; accept or reject. It was a game that sometimes got dicey. Horses that eventually needed pensioned were sold at a low price per pound to horse meat buyers who produced pet foods. The odd contractor would sell the cripples to some small logging jobber who produced wood from his private land; in a few days the jobber would be at my office complaining about his expensive dead horse. I'd arrange repayment and advise the sneaky contractor of his debit for the horse, to his account. FUN.

The barns we used were twofold; some were wood construction, portable barns of good quality that we moved to needed places. The material list for the barns was as follows:

• 12 pieces 6" x 6" x 8' timber, rough
• 1000 fbm — 2" x 10"
• 1000 fbm — 3" x 10" (for stall flooring)
• 600 fbm — 1" random width, rough
• 1000 fbm — 2" x 4" x 16', rough
• 45 sheets rough exterior 4' x 8' x 3/8" plywood
• 6 rolls 55 lb weight black roofing paper

These barns cost about $5,000 for material and labour in 1960. We also made barns from dryer felt which was a discard item from the pulp machine in the pulp mill. A timber framework was made in the bush (near water) and the dryer felt was draped over the framework for roofs and walls. When a move was made, the dryer felt was pulled and rolled for transport by truck. Cost for these barns was low as only labour was involved: say about $1,000.
Arlo, here's some item costs from 1960 which I've kept; they're all relative–to 1998???

• 5/16" sheet plywood = $3.17/sheet
• 5/8" sheet plywood =  $8.10/sheet
• 2" steel butt hinges = $1.37/pair
• 8 ton hydraulic jack = $33/each
• Fencing staples = $.25/lb

Horse Expenses
Maintenance per horse per day = $1.50
500 horses per day during non-logging period (April-September) = 183 days x $1.50 x 500 horses = $137,259
This item was always a problem because we realistically had inadequate pasturage to accommodate horses.
BLACK HARNESS OIL = $1.40/gallon
#3 H.D. Hames = $6.30/pair (from Quebec)
5/15" x 12' Hercules steel
skid chains 3/8" round slide hook one end = $6.78/each
Harness Set (Kenway Saddle, Calgary) = $50
Single Pinery Harness consisting of
• two 3" traces pinery style c/w hooks          & dees
• two 3/4" heavy trace billets
• two 36x0 butt chains
• two 5" plain heavy team pad c/w         1-3/4" billets
• two 1-1/4" heavy hame straps
• 1-1/2" backstrap, 1-1/2" hip strap
• crupper
• tail piece & snap
Collars (Kenway Saddle, Calgary) = $16.90
Singletrees, steel (Herb's Welding, local) = $10.25/each
Horseshoe nail hammer, No. 28 (RJ Welch) = $3.95
16" rasp = $2.25
farrier knife = $1.50
#8  3/8" to 1" copper rivets = $.87/box
No. 12 H.D. Hames = $7/pair
Hoof nipper, No. 311, 14" = $3.05

The cost of operating our camps' kitchens in 1961/1962 may be of some interest to you from a horse logging operation. THE FIGURES ARE FOR A TOTAL COST PER MAN-DAY/WORKER BASIS. Three camps are portrayed as follows:

  Camp 33 Camp 29 Camp 23
Provisions: $1.582 $1.447 $1.544
Maint./Supp. .047 .050 .047
Laundry .045 .016 .028
Kitchen/Bullcook Labour $1.285 $1.198 $1.031
Unemployment Insurance coverage $.016 $.011 $.007
Total per Man-day $2.975 $2.772 $2.670

These costs, Arlo, are all-inclusive of operating a labour camp to feed and house and heat 50 men on average, plus the kitchen and maintenance staff (bullcook, cook, flunkey, barnboss, campclerk) to produce say 25,000 cords of wood or 2,125,000 cubic feet or 21,250 cunits of wood. The total cost of operating camps for 500 men for 183 logging days amounted to $2,551,935 for ten camps. CHEAP-CHEAP-CHEAP! At the time of 1960, our wood was costing $18.50 per cord delivered to our wood yard.

Best regards to you & Mary,

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