Saturday, August 18, 2007

Red Necks and Sawdust

A long time ago when I was young and impatient, I wanted a car. In my family there was no magic birthday that called the car fairy to drop something in the drive, just 'cause I was another day older and deeper in debt. The alternative was to go to work, again. I already had a job, and because I didn't have a life, a second job seemed to be just the ticket.

I was a dumb ass.

I talked to the boys down at the local saw mill and started in the mornings at 0700 and worked for the princely sum of $1.35 an hour, until about 1430, when I walked a couple of miles to the cotton mill for my full time job.

Some of the boys, weren't actually boys. They were hard case red neck,old time, backwoods, white trash. If they were sober, they would be on time and ready to work. They were always paid on Friday and broke on Monday. They were pretty reliable actually.

One of the lower tiered individuals was a red neck's red neck. In the months I worked there, I never saw him wear shirt or shoes. As far as I know, he never bathed, I didn't know because I saw the signs and stayed upwind. He was tanned as brown as a nut. He was also the only human I've ever seen off bare at a saw mill wearing only khaki pants, no shirt, no shoes, no gloves. Think how far and how fast a six foot saw blade can throw pine sap and splinters.

The saw blade I mentioned is six feet in diameter and has hand set tungsten carbide teeth. That means the teeth are about an inch in length and held in place with a half moon cam the same size.

The average sawyer knows he is paid by how much he can saw in a day. He doesn't care about much except slabs and boards coming off the mill, and saw dust piling up somewhere.

Most mills will not accept trees if they come from a house lot. There is just to much chance a sprog has driven nails into a tree. Chance? It's almost a certainty. I've probably driven a keg or two of nails into trees myself. What do you think a nail struck by a carbide sawtooth about 4000 times a second will do?

Sparks come to mind.

Then the teeth get loose. Then they fly out,,,,,at about 450fps.

Our hero was working under the shelter that covers the mill, and occasionally he would hear a sound like a hornet near his head. He thought nothing of it. I can't imagine how he expected a hornet could be heard over the scream of the blade as it chewed through logs. Soon enough one of the "hornets" impacted an overhead board and our hero heard a "whop" and looked up to see the tooth embedded in the lumber.

The boy turned as pale as a sheet and sat down. I don't blame him. That's pretty close to dieing. He was gone for the next several days drowning his sorrows I expect.

Or perhaps getting his nerve back.

No comments: