Chapter 5, Logs to Lumber, "One of the Most Dangerous Jobs There Is"
During an early conversation with Floyd, he told me, “I never
went to high school. I went into the logging camps when I was 16.” And he went on to say, it was the best
education he ever had. Using double-bitted axes literally sharp enough to shave
with, he learned the old fashioned logging trade at a time when it was all done
by hand and with horses and oxen – long before there were chain saws, bulldozers
and skidders. He lived in camps with tough veteran loggers plying a trade rich
in history, tradition and hazard.
He and a crew worked long hours in all weather, in every season at a demanding and dangerous job, and he loved every minute of it. He took care of the draft animals at first and then, with hard-earned skills, graduated to a place among the elite group of cutters who felled the trees.
Back from the War in 1945, he returned to logging and then built a sawmill on his farm: “We bought everything secondhand and rebuilt it.” Now he and his grown sons operate a “real professional mill” that Floyd is proud of. On one side of the mill are piles of logs from his own tree farm and other loggers, and on the other side are a couple of acres of the lumber the mill produces. Gathered around the mill are the other Van Alstyne enterprises: the sugar house which produces maple syrup in the spring, and the pasture for their herd of beef cattle.