Center for Columbia River History

WOMEN AND TIMBER

The Pacific Northwest Logging Community, 1920 - 1998

Introduction

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Women and Timber

Oral History narrator: Theresa Ziegler, Joyce Ziegler

Date of interview: Dec. 9, 1998

Indexed/partial transcription by D. Sutphen, 2-13-98

Notes: Interviewer Debra Sutphen. Indicated quotes are not precisely quoted here. T = Theresa; J = Joyce

004--Interviewer talks a bit about her background, chit chats.

009--How are you connected to the logging industry? T--Her husband was a timber faller for forty years, "and he loved it." "We didn't have electricity and running water for such a long time and my friends got married and moved to town and had all these nice things and I wanted him to change jobs--NO WAY would he--he liked to be working in the woods." They lived in Underwood--he was born there and she moved there at age 6, from Portland. They were married twelve years before they had lights and water and a bathroom--she had all her five children by that time.

J--Jimmy, her husband, was logging right after he got out of high school and they were going together by that time. For several years he was a regular logger--bull-bucker, faller, now he's a timber cruiser. He's planted, cut, cruised trees. She's lived in a variety of places--went to high school there in White Salmon, where she met her husband. He went in the Navy and she went to beauty school then when he got out of service they were married. He'd worked in the woods as a bucker three years when a tree fell on him and injured him.

044--What has it been like for each of you being married to a logger? T--"Like I say, we had to carry our water--it was different--no electricity, wood stove, you carried wood, and all those things, and I had a garden and had strawberries, and we had a cow and we sold milk and butter and my husband would always milk the cow before he went to work in the morning even when it was hoot owl and he had to get up at 3 o'clock he'd still milk the cow. And I didn't know how--I just couldn't get any milk out of her. If he wasn't there my dad would come and milk the cow."

056--What was a typical day like for you? T--"Well, I got up and fixed his breakfast and fixed his lunch while he was out milking the cow . . . it was cooked cereal and pancakes and bacon and eggs -- he ate a lot of food, and he ate big lunches too--when he was younger he had eight slices of bread, you know, that was four big sandwiches, and it was crammed so full, I don't know--I'd put the pie in the bottom--I had a little container I'd put the pie in and one of his friends in the woods said well, his wife would put the pie on top, but I didn't want him to eat it first (laughed)--maybe he did anyway." J--"He was not a big man, either." J--"No, but then later on he had four slices--I don't think he ever had just two . . . and one always had to be peanut butter and jelly. And the other, you know, I'd want him to have meat, or tuna fish, pickles, cookies, whatever I had, you know, he ate a lot. And coffee. Everything centered around when dad left for work and when he came home. You know, and he always after supper he always went out and worked because we had a farm so he'd go out and build fences, and do whatever had to be done--he worked 'till dark and then he'd come in. For a while, about the time her (Joyce's) husband was born we had an orchard that my parents had and he decided he wanted to plant pear trees there and he did that. Lot of times he'd stop there and work and after the kids had eaten I'd put his dinner in the oven and he'd eat it when he got home, and milk the cow. And it would be almost dark or it would be dark." Without electricity, she "had a gas washing machine, eventually, after I got off the wash board, and you know you kick that to start it, and some days I couldn't get it started, I think it flooded, it was terrible, those wash days, I'd be sitting there crying--have to carry all that water and heat it on the stove." She and Jimmy married in 1935--she graduated from high school in June--he was 23 and she was 18--1 year later they had their first child (of 5). "I was busy. But boy, every day, you know, I'd worry that maybe he wouldn't come home, and I'd always say, 'take good care of yourself,' and it was good to see him come home, and there were a few times when he came home and he was absolutely green--somebody had gotten hurt or killed, and a lot of times they would use his pickup to take people to White Salmon, or whatever."

105--Did he (Theresa's husband Jimmy) ever get hurt? T--"No, he sawed into his knee once and it was so small and it didn't seem like it was anything but he was off work almost a month with that. And later on he chopped off his finger at home--he was working at night at home--and the doctor sewed it--part of it was hanging--they sewed it back on and put a steel rod in it . . . . "

119--Joyce remembered her husband going into the woods right out of the service in June 1966 (he left the service in February and got hurt on June 13, 1966). J-- "We had been trying to have a baby for three years--we'd been married for three years, almost, before I got pregnant, and I was pregnant at the time, and he got hurt on a Monday, (Teresa chimed in here) June 13, and they said he would be out of work for six months, he was back to work in six weeks, but he was not back out in the woods at that point. He went to work for Pacific Power and Light Co. in Portland." She continues--talking about how they'd not given Jim a physical when he returned to work, he was eventually laid off, went back (to White Salmon), went to college in Pullman, worked for various outfits, eventually became bull buck for Broughton's until they closed. Continues to trace her husband's work record to the present. Eventually she launches into a discussion geared to people's misunderstanding of the timber industry.

179--What do you think about the environmental issues surrounding the logging industry? T--"All the time that my husband worked in the woods the wages weren't that good. They weren't like they are now. And when her husband . . .that's a whole new book. Because it was really hard for us. When my youngest one was in the third grade I went back to work, so that I could like pay our insurances that always came due in the fall and Christmas was coming and so everything I earned went towards that because it was hard, you know, to buy five new pairs of shoes at once on a loggers wages, which it was at that time, it seems, when he quit he got $5.90 an hour, which compared to what they got later was not very much. In the wintertime they drew unemployment because of the snow but I liked having him home. I always enjoyed that when he was home, and we saw more of him because he wasn't working clear 'round the clock." How long did those off times last? "They were supposed to be looking for work and on Tues. or Mon. or whatever day there were supposed to go sign up for unemployment and they were supposed to tell them how many jobs they had tried to find during the week, and he was a logger--there was nobody working in the wintertime--they would get kind of upset with you if you didn't find a job or didn't look. I think he lied and said, 'I looked and couldn't find anything.'"

210--What work did you (Theresa) do? T--" To begin with I packed fruit, and then I worked in the cannery after a while because that's hard work packin' fruit, and you try and get a hundred or more boxes every day, (she was paid by the box when packing fruit) and I was paid by the hour in the cannery, but I didn't make as much money, and also one year I worked in the office at Underwood Fruit, when I decided I'd go back to the warehouse and I'd signed up to pack fruit and she put me in the office, which was ok, except I really wasn't trained for that, and then I had an office job, I was the receptionist at the hospital, for more than a year, and I went back to the cannery, and then we sold our place, and then I didn't have to work anymore." How did you do that--raising five kids and working? T--"It was hard, it was really hard, and I had my parents too, and later on they were both in the nursing home, and like people talk about different times and I can't really remember because I'd go see my folks every day and I'd go to work at the cannery and I'd work from 3 to sometimes 3 in the morning. They would take the apples or pears out of cold storage and we'd have to work until they'd use them up and sometimes they'd take too many out and we'd have to work overtime and I'd come home and it would almost be time for my husband to go hoot owling and I'd just lay on the davenport until the alarm went off and get up and fix his breakfast and lunch and it was hard. And I was so busy, I guess this was what life was and you did it."

240--Was life as hard for you Joyce? "Well, when he first started before he got hurt he was making the same wages as his dad was but when he came back and took over the bull buck job he would have a little time off in the winter when he worked at Broughton's but he was on a salary so it wasn't the same as Reno . . . " She goes on to tell about the times her husband was off--but generally he was on salary and the off times weren't very long so things weren't nearly as difficult. Her husband is a workaholic, so Joyce said. They ended up with two children. She got up and made breakfast too, as did his dad, but didn't eat nearly as much breakfast or lunch.

273--When you were working did you all have a group of women friends that you mixed with socially? T--"Oh yeah, we had a telephone finally, but they weren't always loggers. We had a lot of fun at different times--they used to give showers for every little thing in those days, for a while we had come as you are in the morning--we'd invite people for coffee and they'd have to come as they were, which was cute." J--"Her sister in law lived close to her and her husband was a logger too and they spent time together." T--"Yeah, we were together a lot, and we'd eat dinner together at the drop of a hat, come and eat with us, so we did that every week I think we ate at each other's house, which was a nice change. You know they didn't work, sometimes, from the end of November and sometimes they didn't get back to work until the end of March or first of April and all this time you're on unemployment . . . it seems like you got ninety dollars every other week." Interviewer talks. "Well, we had a real good grocery man and he would carry us from the time Reno would be laid off whenever it was and maybe by the end of July we'd have him paid up. And it would be clear sailing until he got laid off again, and I think that was before unemployment. I think when he was getting unemployment I was working."

319--Did you experience the hardship of being laid off Joyce? "We were never laid as loggers off because Jimmy got hurt before we went into the winter and then when he went back into the woods he was a boss and he had time off then but he was on salary. We have been really lucky he has made really good money and we have two children and Gina went to business school and our oldest son went to Cheney and we've just been really fortunate."

329--T--"I darned a lot of socks and patched a lot of overalls. I had three boys and my husband in the woods you know they'd tear their clothes there more too so they wore patches. My mother used to help me. In those days you didn't have this wash and wear stuff. Everything had to be ironed. And with kids in school and wearing a clean shirt every day and clean dresses and blouses. That ironing was always staring me in the face." It doesn't sound like you got much sleep in those days. T--"I was really busy, yeah, when I had one I thought gosh, how do people ever manage with more than one child. Took me all day, and when I had five it was the same thing."

344--Theresa canned (T--"There was a lot of canning") and they hunted and raised and butchered pigs, and had a cow and would raise and butcher the calf. T--"I canned meat--but that was before we had a deep freeze."

352--Tell me about Jimmy (Joyce's husband, Theresa's son) being hurt. (Note that this event was obviously of central importance to Joyce but also to Theresa). J--"Well, it's kind of amazing because the day that it happened I came to town to pay his life insurance, and to pay our bills. I think our payday was the tenth of every month (T--"Yeah, the tenth of every month and you always ran out before the end of the month.") and this was the thirteeneth when he got hurt and we'd had company over the weekend and I came into town and I was pregnant and in shorts and a smock and I came into town to pay our bills and I heard the ambulance go out and it kind of gave me a funny feeling, but I didn't linger on it, but I remembered being in town and heard the ambulance go. And I went home and started to get out stuff for dinner, and at that time we were living in Jim's older brother's basement, they had built a basement and lived in it a few years before they built a top on the house so when we got out of the service they said we could live in the basement until we got our own place. And it was a two bedroom, really nice little place, but we didn't have a phone. The phone would ring in our place but it was their phone, and Carol would answer it and if it was for us she'd holler down the stairs and I'd pick it up. Well, she came down the stairs and knocked on the door and she said that Jim had been hurt that a branch had hit him and that she'd take me to the hospital. So I had got all this food out leftover from the weekend and I just left it on the cupboard and I left. And she took me up to the hospital and dropped me off and I went in and he was lying on the x-ray table with nothing on him but a sheet. He looked really bad. And when I got there the hospital told me a branch had hit him, but a tree had fallen on him. And he had scrapes all over his face and on his chest--you could see where he was scraped up--he looked really bad. And he looked up and he could hardly talk and he just said, 'no sweat.' And then they came in and told me I had to leave and took me to a room down the hall where they told me he would be so I was in this room down the hall . . . .and then my brother-in-law came in and talked to me a while, and then my mom and dad came . . . and then they decided they were taking him to Portland, and Theresa was at work in the cannery so they went over to get her . . . and they let me ride in the ambulance with Jimmy but I was in the front seat and we took off for Portland and he almost died in the ambulance twice. The tree had fallen across his chest and the guy had cut it loose and when he cut it loose his air all went out of him and Jimmy said that he started to holler but the guy was older and he'd been running a power saw for years so he couldn't hear real well. And he thought he'd killed him, and he ran off saying, 'I killed him, I killed him.' Well, he got somebody and came back and they got the tree off him and loaded him in the back of a pickup and started bringing him out, but they did call the ambulance. And they got halfway out and they had to stop, it was hurting too bad, he couldn't . . . ribs had broken off in the front and back and they were puncturing his liver and lungs. So they stopped and waited and when the ambulance got there they told this guy that he needed something for the pain--everyone said he was out of his head, but he wasn't--he told them he wanted morphine (because of his past Navy experience) . . . .so they got him to the hospital and we went to Portland . . . . he was in surgery a really long time . . . .they said maybe he would make it through the night. After they came out of surgery the doctor stood there rubbing the bottom of Jim's feet. You can't touch Jim's feet . . . he is so ticklish on his feet . . . and the guy stood there running his thumb up and down the bottom of Jim's feet telling me that he's gonna be ok, and when he was doing that I knew he wasn't gonna be ok if he was just laying there like that. They said he had a ruptured liver and lung, bones broken off in the front and in the back. They took out a portion of his liver. They didn't take all the bones out--he still has bones floating around in there, I'm sure. He was scraped from his chin down his chest. But they said they'd just keep watch on him and maybe he'd make it and maybe he wouldn't. That was early Tuesday morning when he came out of surgery and he didn't wake up until Thursday afternoon.

472--Did you ever think anything like that would happen to him? J--"No. I never figured anything would happen to him. Reno (T's husband) had worked out there and Jimmy was really careful and I know people can get hurt anything they're doing but he doesn't leave the house now without telling me he loves me every morning and I tell him I love him. And I say a prayer every day when he drives up the driveway, "please bring him safe back to me and keep me safe for him while he's gone." He was back to work within six weeks of the accident and they said it would be 6 months. Interviewer asked how he did that, and Theresa replied, "barely." He was, according to Joyce, in the best physical shape of his life before he got hurt--23 years old, 6'4", he probably weighed 225, huge arms, in amazing shape. That was the one thing Jim had going for him. When he got out of the hospital he weighed only about 145. Joyce had a baby coming in three months. T--"He had to get well."

517--What went through your mind, Joyce, when your sister-in-law told you what had happened to Jimmy? J--"Well, I think at that point I wasn't that afraid--I was worried--but they had said a branch, and Jimmy was so big, and he was in such good shape, and I thought, well, if a branch hit him what could a branch do to him." She said that she wished they had told her what had really happened to him because it was terrifying when she got to the hospital and saw him laying there looking so horrible with blood coming out of the side of his mouth. "That's when it was bad, because they didn't let me know he was bleeding internally. They should have let me know it was more than a branch had hit him. It was something you don't want anybody you know to have to go through it."

542--Theresa, you were working when you found out about Jimmy? T--"She said I was working at the cannery but on June the 13th I was working at the Five and Dime, I was a clerk at the store. Jay called me from the hospital and asked me if I knew Jimmy had been hurt and I said no and she said maybe you'd like to come down to the hospital and I said is Reno there and she said no and I went home and he was driving the tractor and I don't know what he was doing driving the tractor on June the 13th. Anyway, I ran up there and said, "what happened to Jimmy?" And he was as white as a sheet. When he had got off from work the boss had handed him his (Jimmy's) boots (Theresa begins to choke up here) and the thing I'd always dreaded finally happened, it was terrible (she breaks down in tears here.) We both went back we went together to the hospital and by that time they were loading him into the ambulance and OJ said she didn't think he would make it to Portland." (Theresa breaks down here and can't continue--interviewer stops the tape for a few minutes.)

578--Joyce related how that morning after Jimmy had left for work she had wondered what she would do if he were ever lost on the job. Theresa is still unable to talk. Interviewer remarks that if Jimmy went back to work in 6 weeks with those kinds of injuries he must be stubborn. "You don't know the Zeigler men," remarked Theresa. "That's putting it mildly."

607--end of side one

609--T--"If they were killed, we had a buckboard van, and they used to drive it to work" and they'd load injured workers into it when her husband worked in the woods. Did you all know people who had been killed in the woods? "Friends, people that worked with him, and you know that was really hard for him." Theresa always worried--"every day I'd pray that he'd come home safe and nothing would happen, and nothing did, until Jimmy."

639--Joyce talked more about the circumstances surrounding Jimmy's accident. Theresa recalled a story her husband told her--"Where they're falling a lot of trees, he saw one fellow get killed because a tree fell across this log and he was standing on the other end of the log that it fell on and it went up in the air and came down so hard that it killed him. That fellow had two little kids, just a young fellow."

656--J--"They all know how to fall trees well, the Zieglers. They can look at a tree and tell you where to cut it to make it go where they want it to land. I don't like . . . him and his brother do a lot of tree falling for people around buildings . . . I don't like to be around them--I don't like to hear the saw running and I don't like to hear the tree fall, but they can fall 'em and lay 'em right out across the yard and miss the house and miss fence and miss the barn and put it right where they want it to go."

665--Did either of you go out and watch your husbands work? T--"My husband did a little logging on part of our property and the kids and I watched." J--"I watched Jim fall trees around home but I never went out on the job with him except when he was cruising." T--"he fell trees all around our house--I didn't go out with him."

679--When you look back on the years how much has logging shaped your lives? T--"Well, if adversity makes you stronger . . . laughs . . . it must build character, huh?" It sounds like you had a hard life (to Theresa). "But it was a good life. I lost him four years ago, to a heart attack." J--"He was out cutting wood." He had retired when he was almost 58. His shoulder hurt him so bad. T--"It was good to have him home. I wonder about these people that worry about when their husbands retire they're going to be under foot all the time. I liked having him home, and he knew it. Then he was close to 70, and he took up golfing, and got to be an avid golfer. But he always kept up the yard and mowed the lawn and kept up the gardening." Do you think you were more independent than someone who lived in Portland because you were married to a logger? "Well I had to do more things than my sister. She lived in Portland and her husband worked for Meyer and Frank, and she had two children, oh yes. She didn't do a lot of canning and stuff like that. In fact I don't think she would have eaten canned meat." We talked about canned meat, and Theresa talked about canning fish.

717--Joyce, how has logging shaped your life? "It's probably strengthened my faith more than anything else, because I could have lost him and I didn't." Interviewer commented that maybe it has made Joyce and her husband closer. T--"He was laid off for almost three years--he quit--and he wasn't working and he couldn't seem to find a job, and I never once heard her say, 'why don't you go find a job!' I think I would have." Joyce said he was about burned out searching for wood for his company. Joyce talked about how they prayed a lot about things, and mentioned her faith several times in the remaining conversation. She described how Jimmy got burned out trying to find timber for his company.

745--Best and worst thing about being in a relationship with a logger? T--"Never once did I hear him complain about the job or anybody he was working with he happily went to work every day and came home the same way. It was what he wanted to do, and I think that's important when people can have a job they really like, and he had to work because he had a lot of mouths to feed, and he seemed to enjoy it. I think that's the best part--that he enjoyed what he did. He enjoyed being out there. The worst part, for me, was the low wages--that's hard when you've got a family--when he was home in the wintertime we'd remodel the house--we had so many kids we had to build more rooms, he was good at it, and painted the house. Now I paint the other way." (She has oil paintings that she's done all over her house. Very nice things.)

774--Joyce, what was for you the worst and best? "The worst was, of course, when Jim got hurt. And the best is he likes what he is doing also, and he's very good at what he does. His goal when he went back to work was to somehow get the community--not this community but probably the Portland community--to be aware that they don't really understand what loggers are about--they think they're stripping everything--if they stopped and thought they would realize that's not what loggers do . . . " She continues to talk about how most people misunderstand loggers as rapers of the land, about how people misunderstand what old growth is, etc.

807--Joyce talks about mismanagement of forested lands in the west.

814--Do you appreciate nature more because your husbands were loggers? J--"I probably appreciate trees more because I know how important they are to our livelihood." T--"When they're not working then they go for rides out in the woods, and this is that kind of a tree and this is that kind of a tree . . . and that's this kind of bush and that kind of bush, and this is where I got a deer and where I got an elk . . . " Joyce describes her husband's proficiency as a cruiser.

830--Do you think that being part of the logging industry makes you unique? J--"I don't know if it's a uniqueness but sometimes I definitely do feel different. Sometimes you can be with a group of people and just one word will be said about logging, and these people are just like bulls with a red flag or something . . .and you can't cut trees because then they won't grow back again. It's irritating." T--"I never even thought about being unique about anything--just keep plugging along. That was our livelihood and you just took it for granted and you just do the best with what you've got."

851--Theresa said that the wild man logger image never applied to her husband. "He always came home." She said she knew there were men who stopped at the tavern first on the way home from work but her husband wasn't one.

861--If you were put into a room full of women related to loggers would you feel connected to them? T--"Probably. I think so, probably. At least we'd all know where we came from, wouldn't we." J--"Yeah."

869--Interviewer talked about the similarity of experiences among women related to loggers. Theresa talked about lay offs in towns near Randle and Packwood (she has a daughter up there).

901--T--"All three of my sons logged at one time or another with their dad." She goes on to describe how one son had something happen to him and came home.

915--If either of you had a choice would you want your sons logging? No from both, but Theresa said, "but then that's what their dad did, he liked it so much, I think that's probably why they all did it for a while anyway." Theresa goes on to talk about him and his work.

951--Did you take care of the finances? T--"I did, until he retired, and then I was so glad to turn everything over to him, because he was always trying to figure out if we were going to make it . . . and then when he died I had to take it back and that was the hardest thing for me, and it seems like there's so much more now." She goes on to talk about the difficulties of keeping track of finances.

974--Joyce did you want your son to log? "Not really, but he wasn't falling when he was out there, and he was just doing it for short periods of time during the summer, and it was good money for him when they were going to school. I didn't tell him he couldn't do it--it wouldn't have done any good anyway." T--"It seems like you worry more about your kids." Joyce talks bout how he was left-handed and it was more difficult for left-handers.

994--Do you think that women should have some kind of historical recognition for what they did as the wives/mothers of loggers? T--"Absolutely. Absolutely." J--"I think there are a lot of stressful jobs, but logging is a stressful one. You can get killed crossing the street--there's always danger in a lot of jobs, but it is one of the worst jobs you can have as far as danger goes." We talked a bit about other dangerous jobs, and the dangers of working in the woods.

1028--"That's why it strengthens you faith (the danger)."

1039--Last words? T--"Can't be a sissy." J--"I would just--they don't want to cut themselves out of job--they don't want to strip the land." T--"Most people don't have a clue, do they?" What do you mean by 'can't be a sissy?' T--"You just tell 'em goodbye every day and it might be goodbye." J--"Have to be strong enough to let 'em go do the job they love so much every day."

1069--Both women said they have strong faith (both are Catholic) and have throughout their marriages. Both felt that you have to.

1085--Joyce talked about how glad she is that her husband got to do what he wanted. I asked Theresa if she wished her husband had done something else and she replied, "No, I don't have any regrets. Maybe I'm a better person for what I went through. I just wish he weren't gone."

1121--Interviewer talks about other interviews done, about similarities between stories, other matters. Theresa talked about taking care of her elderly parents, and watching her youngest child's kids in between taking care of her parents and going to work.

Tape continues to run as we chit chat.

1207--END OF INTERVIEW

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