Center for Columbia River History


The Pacific Northwest Logging Community, 1920 - 1998


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Women and Timber

Oral History narrator: Tawney Perry

Date of interview: October 13, 1998

Indexed/partial transcription by D. Sutphen, 12-4-98

Notes: Interviewer Debra Sutphen. Interviewer's questions are bolded. Indicated quotes are not always precisely quoted here.

003--Did you come from a family that logged? Her husband is a logger. (I accidentally erased about 4 seconds from the tape here) He was a dairy worker, and his dad moved to Forks, and they followed because his family got into the logging business, and they did too. He's been a logger for 15 years, and they've been married for 15 years. Was it a real switch going from being married to a dairy man to being married to a logger? "Not for me, but for him. He's much happier--he found his nitch--he loves the woods, always been a hunter, being in the woods is his play time too. He can run equipment, and that's his talent. "This is his thing--he can run equipment--that's his talent--that's what he likes to do and he's happy doing it, which makes us all happy (laughs)."

015--He runs the shovel, which loads logs onto the truck. Went from that to running the processor-the new thing--pulls the trees in and cuts them off. It makes it more economical--more efficient.

023--Was there anything different from him than other guys? "Not as far as logging goes--he's a hard working man and he's happy so that makes us all happy."

027--What time does he go to work in the morning? "It depends--right now it's nice because he goes at five. He works two hours away. It's getting close to winter and it's dark, so they can't start until 7 anyway. But in the summertime sometimes he has to hoot owl, that's when it's too hot out so they have to leave the woods at a certain time, for fire danger, and sometimes we have to get up at 2:30 in the morning, and he leaves at 3--it just depends. It's always different, it always changes--." Do you get up with him? "Yeah, I get up before he goes and get him off--that's just me (laughs) . . .I get up before he does and make him lunch and coffee and stuff . . . "

Does he usually come home every day? "There's only been a few times . . .once or twice . . . that he's been gone and stayed away, but he doesn't like that at all, he'd rather stay home. " Do most loggers do that? Come home every night? "Yeah, most of them will make the trip. Most of them." Then she describes the relationship between her and Norma and Bob Corbett.

044--What's a typical day like for you? "There is no such thing as a typical day--just like everybody else--get Joe off to work and the kids off to school, and then depending on whether I go clean for somebody or stay home and clean . . .(she goes into new houses and cleans up before people move in) it just depends--sometimes I get to do what I want, which isn't very often (laughs) but usually there's stuff to do around here."

050--Do you take care of things like books and all the house stuff--repairs and etc.? "Oh yeah, I like to do that stuff . . . that's something I like to do . . oh yeah, I chop the wood, I do a lot of the things like that. But I do that because Joe's had two back operations and he shouldn't be doing that--he'll do it every once in a while but I don't like him to do it." How old are you and Joe? She's 33 and he's 36.

057--"We had a leak in the bathroom back there and we had to take the whole thing apart and I did alot of it--Joe helped me with the plumbing because I'm not a plumber, but I hung sheet rock--I like to do that stuff."

061--They've lived in the place they're in for nine years (a house near Graham, WA--just outside of Puyallup). Before that they lived first in Ording, then Forks, then Rochester. When you moved did you move because of the jobs? "Yeah. We've been all over the place."

068--Over the years that you've been married to Joe has the logging industry changed in the way that you have to deal with it? "Yes. When he first got into it we lived in Forks, and there was a lot of work there, and then the whole thing with the spotted owl came in, and that kind of shut down. (Got married in 1983). And then he was real funny at first--when he's out of a job he has to find work now--he gets real antsy, and he worries alot about that. He still does, but nearly as bad. When we moved to Forks his family owned the company, and he had an uncle that was embezzling the tax dollars, but before we even found that out he had a back injury, and he had back surgery, and was out of work anyway at the time that this was all happening. And when he recovered he got a job with Corbett, and moved to Rochester where his dad had already moved to, and then we moved here."

When he hurt his back did he do it on the job? He had back problems on the job but a chiropractor got him . . . that was no good and they went to lawyers and couldn't prove anything so that didn't do any good. He had disc problems.--092

101--Is your husband out of work--does that happen periodically? "Oh all the time. It's VERY seasonal--it's very seasonal work and you can get shut down 'cause there's too much snow, you can get shut down 'cause it's too hot, you can get shut down 'cause the log market goes down, it's very seasonal, very up and down, it's hard to make it." Has it been like that since you all were married? "It was better before--it's getting harder now and there's a lot of has beens--a lot of loggers that aren't in logging anymore. We know a lot of them--loggers who've been injured and retrained, we know a lot of them, family and friends--and they just got different jobs."

112--So if he's out of work and is here what's that like for you? "It depends--it he can go hunting he has a good time while he's off. If he's here pacing the floors I don't like it--it's hard to deal with." "It ruins your whole schedule--you lose that schedule, the typical day--everything's 'ok, whatever,'--dinner's practically stopped because you munch, and then there's no sense cooking a big dinner--fend for yourself. You lose the routine. Living on unemployment is kind of hard to do--but you do, you scrape by." And you work, right? "Part time--I wouldn't even consider it a job--it's there, but it's nothing to brag about--it doesn't even pay for hardly nothin'--dinner--we can go out to dinner." Have you worked throughout? "No, I raised the kids. This is a new thing for me." They have two kids--now 14 and 11. "They're teenagers--they're good girls."

136--How about friends--when your husband is gone do you get together with other women? "Oh, I've never been one to get on the phone and gab--I'm not one of these people that go over and have coffee--I do my own thing--and we do dothat stuff on the weekends--get together and play cards, but no, I don't usually do that." Do you socialize with other loggers? "Yeah, like Ray and Denise (neighbors, Joe's boss)--we'll go over to their house for dinner, and we have a big Christmas party and that's fun, they're good friends, but we don't hang out all the time."

147--In an emergency who do you call? "My mom lives down the road--my sister lives up the road--I've got friends in Ording galore--Ray and Denise live right over here. It depends on the emergency and what it is?" Are most of them loggers? "My family--no--the people in Ording--no--construction workers, Ray and Denise are about the only ones we hang out with in logging. The people that we had as friends that lived down in South Prairie that were into logging he got injured and retrained and he lives in Idaho now. Reese's cousin was a logger in Forks, and he got retrained and is in the prison system now --he's a correctional officer-and he lives in Spokane, so they're not even close to here anymore."

162--Seems like there aren't that many people left in logging these days. "No, I don;t think there is, but I know it's hard when Joe's out of work--he can get more opportunities for jobs because he can run equipment, but when the logging goes dead because of the log prices or whatever nobody works, nobody in logging works. So it depends on who you talk to.

169--When you talk to other people about logging how do you do that? "I never really socialize with people I don't know--so I don't have to say, 'well, my husband's a logger." "The people we know understand--but it's not a big--he goes to work every day, it's a job--it's just like anybody else's job--it's not like this big prestigious thing, or lower class thing, either way. It's just a job."

180--What about the danger? "Well, you just live with it. You don't worry about it, you just go and you know what can happen." Has he been hurt? "Oh yeah. Oh yeah. The second back injury he slipped on the shovel when he was climbing the shovel. He got hit with a log before that--if he hadn't had the instincts he has--I trust his instincts a lot, becuase he heard something behind him and took off running. As he was diving under the shovel the log hit him in the arm, and knocked him way under the shovel. When they bring the logs in it kind of snapped, and flew through the air and got him. And if he hadn't had that instinct and started running he would have gotten hit in the head, and . . . .gone, or worse. So I trust his instincts--I know not to worry because it doesn't help--something happens it happens." Do you know other loggers who've been killed or hurt really badly? "Nope, no, I'm fortunate that I've never had that experience--that would be hard to take."--196

203--How is being married to a logger different from the experience of other women not related to a logger? "I don't know how it's different, because it's just our life. There's no community of loggers anymore--it's not a big tight like it used to be. I'm sure it used to be that way but it isn't any more. It's just we live our lives and we do our jobs and it's just like the family anymore. Women have to work, the family's getting more dispersed--it's not the same thing any more. So it's kind of hard to put that into words." There's probably a lot of women who couldn't or wouldn't do what you do. "We never really think about it." What about getting up at 2am? "A lot of them don't--I'm a morning person anyway, so when he's up I'm up. I've always been a morning person. He's not, so if I don't get up he doesn't hear the alarm." When they have to get up at 2:30 am the go to bed around 7:30-8pm--depending on the time of year. In the winter time she'll fall asleep on the couch at 6. Just depends on the time of year--summer's she's outside until 8-9.

228--Did you ever go out in the woods with your husband and see what he does? "Sure. I've been up there on the weekends--he's got to do something and he'll run his shovel, I haven't seen him run the processor yet, but I've seen him run his other stuff." Norma Corbett said she doesn't like going out to watch her husband work--scary. "Oh, I have no problem--no--it doesn't bother me. Especially when we lived in Forks there's nothing else to do but go in the woods--so we used to drive and go watch for animals and stuff-so when we go up there it's just a day when we're out in the woods and he's doing his thing and we're watching him or watching the squirrels go by or whatever."

240--He loves the woods--do you? "I like the woods--I don't love' em like he does, but I like to go up--just last Sunday we drove out in the woods, didn't see much but we had a good time." "It's hard to find a place you can go in anymore--it's terrible. The big gates are there no matter if it's forest service--a lot of it is people go out and dump their garbage--people don't respect the woods and they go out and do whatever. So that's hard on our family, because we had to drive a long ways to get out in the woods."

255--What's the best part of being married to a logger? "Being married to a logger-that's a hard question. You could ask me the best part of being married, but the logger part doesn't really fit in. NO. It's the same thing about being married anywhere--the commitment, the friendship, the camaraderie--it's not necessarily connected to being married to a logger, but the best part about being married to a logger is that he's happy--he's happy with what he's doing, and that makes us all happy. When he had to take other jobs that he hated, oh, that was a terrible time for all of us--it was miserable. Because he wasn't happy he'd come home in a bad mood, and it was a miserable time. He ran equipment for a construction outfit, and it just wasn't what he wanted to do--he wasn't happy." That's funny though, because he'd still be outside . . . "Yeah, but that's dirt work--he's pushing dirt, and he was not happy. He didn't have the friends he had--he knows all these guys, whether he likes 'em or not he knows them, and he can talk to 'em because he knows them and works with them and there's a certain amount of looking out for each other."

276--Are they good guys? Joe doesn't go out and get drunk--they have a couple of beers here and there--she'll go out and have one with them--"he might come home late on Friday night, they sit up there and shoot the breeze--that's no big deal, as long as he lets me know so I don't worry. Because if he's not home past a certain point then you start to worry."

If something happened to him would someone let you know? "It depends on what happens. Lie when he got hit with a log Ray was going to call me and Joe said 'don't call her, she'll just worry,' so they went and stopped at the bar and had a drink and some nachos, and then came home. So I wasn't --it was getting late, so I was worried because of the lateness--but he was right, if he would have called me . . . but if something major happened Ray would call me or someone would call me, and then I'd have to meet them somewhere, at the hospital or whatever. But something like that, where he's not hurt seriously, they'll get a hold of me if they need to."

298--So what's the worst part about being married to a logger? "The seasonal thing--being out of work, it's hard--you can never count on next month--you can plan it, but you can't--something could happen--you know you can't plan on next month. I feel pretty secure as far as his job because Ray does a real good job at keeping them busy when he can, as far as that goes I know there will be a job, I feel secure in the fact that he will get a job because he needs to work, I'm never worried about paying bills or eating, but it's an on again off again thing, but it's been that way."

317--Even though logging has changed a lot over the years, it's still a pretty unique occupation--it's a traditional occupation. Do you feel that you and your family are unique in any way because you're connected to the logging industry. "No, not at all. There's no, 'look at me I'm special thing at all,'--I felt more like that when I lived at home and my dad was a fire fighter. There was something special about your dad being a fire fighter, especially when he came and taught the CPR classes. But I don't have any of that with Joe's occupation. No--it's just another job--he's happy doing it so we're all happy."

333- Do the various criticisms of logging bother you? "Yeah, yeah, it bothers Joe a lot too. It bothers him a lot. And the hound hunting--that bothers him. He feels like the whole world is against him. He doesn't understand how people can't understand that it's a necessity. And we do replant the trees and we do the best we can at keeping the environment well off." What do you think of the two sides (environmentalists and forest service management)? "I'm in the middle--this is our livelihood--this is his occupation--this is how we make it. And people need wood, they need paper products--where do they think it's going to come from? And on the other side, they want the loggers to do their job, and they push, they want the logs out now, and push, and then 'oh, stop,' the log market went down. You know? So it's a no win situation. I don't think people understand the whole thing. I don't know where to go from here--it's just one of those things--the choices that you make."

358-- What about retraining? "I don't know if Joe would or not if he had the opportunity. He loves what he does, but he goes back and forth on this issue--I need to get out of this--how far can you go, and how long before they stop logging all together? The log market goes down and up and down and up and the environmentalists keep pushing to stop it all together. With the spotted owl thing--everything they can try to stop it they try to stop it. And I just wonder where they're going to get the paper to run their computers--I don't know, I don't know."

380--Has logging shaped your identity? How you live your life--how you perceive yourself, how others perceive you. Has logging shaped that? "Probably, probably. Whether I know it or not, probably--everything counts, everything you do in your life makes a difference, basically. It certainly made a difference in where we lived and the friends we made and how many time we moved--we moved 11 times in the first five years we were married. You get good at packing--once i moved--while Joe was at work--I moved us from one side of Rochester to the other, in my car--back and forth, back and forth . . . but yeah, I'm sure it has. I don't know how I'd be if I hadn't married a logger. I was terribly, terribly shy--painfully shy. I didn't call on people to make appointments--and look at me now (laughs)--it's just totally, totally opposite. I've gotten a lot more independent--I don't know if it's because Joe's gone all the time logging, or if it's because of our friends, or if its because I've grown up finally, or what it is. But I just finally came out of it.

414--If you had boys instead of girls would you want them to be loggers? "Would I want them to be loggers? I would want them to do what they want to be happy. I would want them to choose something that makes them happy." What if your girls wanted to log? "I think it would be hard for the,. I really do. The loggers world is a man's world--you can be a feminist all you want, but I don't know any woman who wants to go out there and do that kind of living with those guys cussing around like that. (Laughs) It's hard work." "I don't know any woman that would want to try. I just don't think they'd want to."

434--Do you think that you deserve recognition for the success of your family? Do you think that you've played an important role in keeping your family going? "Oh sure, oh sure--every woman deserves that, every man deserves that. But as far as being a logger's wife--I think women think differently now, but I'm kind of an old fashioned wife--but I go where Joe goes. I don't have a career to stand next to and have my job in Seattle or wherever to be, so I just go where Joe goes and we do what we can do." It sounds like he would have had a hard time without you. "Oh, I don't know--I think that a bachelor would be perfect for the woods--as long as they've got somebody to pound on the door and get them up in the morning. There's a lot of kids doing this--that go out there in the woods--I don't know how long they last but they're single and they make it. I think he'd make it--but as far as getting a family going, sure--we all play our parts."

484--What do you think is most important for people to know about people like you and your life being married to a logger? "I think that you need to talk to somebody who's a lot older than I am. It's really easy now--I mean we've got washers and dryers--they've got big, heavy equipment out there now--I mean, it's not like they got mules pulling the logs any more, so I don't feel any specialness about our lives--it's just our lives, we live em' and we go where the jobs are. Joe would love to go to Idaho if he could find a job there, which he can't-there's not enough work there for anybody--we live our daily lives here and do what we can."

517--Norma Corbett said that the hardest thing was the clothes--washing all those clothes all the time. "Oh, it's no big deal--it's just dirty clothes--if he worked in construction he'd have concrete all over them. It's just a normal thing for hard working out there in the woods or the weather kind of guy--it's not suits and ties." What about the moving? "I kind of liked that--I kind of miss that--it was a good spring cleaning--and you had a new environment all the time--that was kind of fun for me, something new and exciting all the time." "When friends of mine need to move they call me."

548--Any last words that you think is important that you want people to know about being married to a logger? "We're just like everybody else--we're just trying to make a living, and pay the bills, and feed the kids and do the best we can and do what's right. We're basically honest, hardworking people, and do what we can do."

562--What will you be doing ten years down the road? "Hopefully, collecting lottery winnings. Hopefully in ten years Joe would eventually like to move to Idaho--in ten years the girls should be in school and doing their thing, and he'd like to move to Idaho, and I'd like to have a little woodshop, and he'd like to be doing his thing--hunting and logging." Do you work with wood? "Oh yeah, when I can afford it. Married to a logger and I can't afford the lumber. Yeah, I like to do that. I don't have the tools, but I just do what I can do. I like to do stuff like that. I just scrounge up wood." She built an entertainment center, and the chicken coop outside--she took me to see the coop--the entertainment center is in her living room. "We had a lot of leftover lumber, so one day I said 'Joe, I'm going to build a chicken coop, where do you want me to build it?' And he said, 'I don't care,' so I built the chicken coop, and it must weigh 500 pounds, and then we had to move it over there. It took me all day to move it.'

610--end of tape

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