Behind Closed Doors of a Skidder: Part One of Eight – July/August

As I’m sure everyone’s noticed, I’ve been on hiatus from this blog.

This winter has been a massive blur and it’s been hard to find a quiet place to focus for long enough, running on three hours of sleep a night. So I’ve left it. UNTIL NOW.  When my story left off I believe I was just tying together the ends of Germany.

Which leaves us with a lot of ground to cover.

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July/August:

After arriving home back in Canada I went through a very rough period in my life. I had zero direction and was waiting for B to get back to me on when we might be going back to work. This seemed to be taking forever and I was spending a lot of time at home for days at a time..

knitting a sock,

taking it apart,

knitting it again – better,

taking it apart again, better.

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I don’t know how many times I did this, but amidst that I was open to being kidnapped by friends for drunken abductions where they might have tried to convince me things were going to be okay, ending mostly in me throwing up by the end of the night – and disgustingly chain-smoking. 

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One night on being kidnapped, I ended up at a bonfire at a friend’s house. This was actually a nice setting as I hadn’t seen that friend or his family in a long time. At some point in the night this guy showed up that I seemed to take to quickly. He seemed charismatic and was really good with my friends two kids. I thought that was pretty great. I don’t even think I drank at all that night (for once, though in honesty I think it’s part to blame on a massive hangover from the night before) and I thought that he was the bees knees. A few days later I hopped in with him to go for his daily rounds – though three years younger than me he drove a logging truck. Getting into the logging industry had been something on my to-do for ages so I thought that was pretty great. The logging adventure was all that and a bag of chips. I thought this guy was genuinely funny, confident and very country.

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This adventure was exactly what I needed at that time and was very opposite of Germany. It was an insight into the logging industry that I so admired and was something within my means. I confessed to this stranger about my lost ramblings of being back in Canada without a purpose. He thought I would have made a great logging truck driver, then anyway.  On this logging adventure I had seen all of B’s vehicles out in the bush heading north though to me he had told me that there wasn’t any work yet. To say the least I was a little let down. I was beyond ready to pour myself into work and for whatever reason B seemed to not want me back, which looking back was a big point in my “Accessory vs Asset” lesson in life which I’ll come back to later. The biggest part about this whole estranged relationship with this younger than me truck driving guy that I’m so grateful for now, was one point that he made clear to me.

” You know you don’t have to work there..You could work anywhere.”

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Why I couldn’t see that before it was said is beyond me.

He had listed off a small group of local logging companies and one of the first ones jumped out at me. “I could work for them, I really like that family and all of those people.” I had easily responded.

This relationship with this guy did not last long and ended in me not hearing from him ever again (read: ghosted). From time to all the time however I do receive dirty looks from that young whipper snapper. What I did get from the whole thing that stuck the most was that insight into the fact that I could have some value to a company even if it meant not working for B.

Shortly after that relationship ended, I walked, old red cloth shoes hardly holding together at the seams, into the shop of that company that I thought I might like to work for. My resume, I thought, was pretty nice. It was a sunny summer day and apart from my tree-planter appearance I thought I might stand a chance. I truly had nothing to lose.

I walked in and my face felt warm and I feigned confidence as I handed my resume over to who would now be my boss. He looked over my resume and without hesitating said that they would need a skidderman at the end of August if I was interested. I was thrilled. I was (and am) so grateful that finally I had the opportunity to get my foot in the door of the logging industry I had wanted to be a part of so badly.

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Getting back to that accessory vs asset.

Accessory: contributing to or aiding an activity or process in a minor way; subsidiary or supplementary.

Working with B I was an accessory.

I wasn’t worth much, but was nice to have around I suppose. A part of me does wish I had the chance to come back for another season and I will never forget the good times B and I had, or the lessons I learned.

Asset: A useful or desirable thing or object, having value.

To be an asset meant to be given the same expectations as everyone else in this new company.  I wasn’t treated any better or easier because I was a woman, and if anything most of the time I was actually treated worse, and I appreciated it. When treated like a man, or given masculine titles, especially in the bush – I feel most respected. I don’t know where this came from or why, but looking at the opposite; being called skidderwoman, or skiddergirl.. is enough to make my blood boil. It’s not in relation to anything else in my life, if I’m home, or in town, or traveling, I certainly am fully, a woman. For whatever reason in the bush I am not, rather I do not like to be treated as such or talked down to. I know this dabbles a lot into feminism and wanting to be treated equally, but in the logging world there is a lot of work to be done in that department yet.

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The end of August seemed like a long time away from where I was and my company kept me on to do small jobs around the shop before it was time to hop into a machine. It was mostly hard physical labor and by the time I did step into a machine I was in better shape then I’ve ever been in. My skin was dark from many hours in the sun and my hair was bleached blonde from the sun. Having work again meant I couldn’t linger around home depressed anymore, and I selflessly poured myself into every small job. I watched the men that frequented the shop and noted their nice clothes, new trucks and how confident they were.  A rumor floating around the shop made its was back to me and my first taste of threatened men left a sharp taste in my mouth.

I was the new shop slut.

Over the next several months this would only be the tip of the iceberg of rude comments and remarks that would make their way to me. Though I will make very clear: The rude comments and remarks did not come from the people that worked for the same company, but others that had heard about me or that I ran into whilst on the road or in my machine. I found out much later that my co-workers actually did look out for me quite a bit behind the scenes. The logging industry, as I quickly learned isn’t one that takes kindly to new comers, nonetheless a woman.

I didn’t have a clue at this time at the kinds of things that were in store for me.

What I did know, was that giving up, was not an option.

My time spent at the cabin grew less and less. Apart from spending times with my dogs, I didn’t want to be there, I couldn’t work on the projects that surrounded me there and I had a hard time with accepting or loving myself anymore.

And then the inevitable happened; Layla fell in love.

I was so happy for her and yet hurting for myself. This sorry for myself attitude I took out on myself with work. If I could turn my brain off and just focus (a bit obsessively) on the tasks at hand I thought I might be able to pull through into something else. We were drifting slightly apart, her telling me the chocolate sweet details of this new relationship, and me seeing it unfold. I just couldn’t relate to that kind of dreamy romance – though it was an absolute pleasure to watch bloom. This new fella came to the cabin to see her and they were absolutely adorable. I really liked this guy for the way he treated her, and he looked at her like she was some kind of wild magic. Which she is.  I couldn’t look at the way they glowed at each other without feeling dew eyed magic sparking between them.

And then I was introduced through work, to Dangles.

We’ve grown up in the same small town together so I definitely knew of him – and didn’t like him in the slightest. I thought he was a low life, ignorant scum bag, rude little 20-year-old piece of shit. Looking back – that says more about me then what I thought of him.

He came through the shop one day and we walked by each other staring each other down. 

Days later he came into the shop again, and convinced me that I had to ask to start skidding that Saturday. He basically forced me up the stairs into the office where panic made my heart pound at feeling myself being moved into a new chapter of my life.

Walking up those stairs – was the the beginning of transition, leaving behind my old self (not all at once but being metaphorically pushed) and being forced into being someone deeply rooted and strong.

I nervously asked my boss if I could, maybe, possibly skid this weekend, and that Dangles was going to and could I? Dangles stood hesitantly outside the door, listening in.

He said Yes.

The next morning I was picked up from the shop by another skidderman at 3:00am. I was nervous and shaky but at the same time I forced courage and chain-smoked while we listened to the most gangsta of gangsta rap and made our way out to the bush. I couldn’t have been any more out of place. I was awkward, dumb and blonde. My ego came to the surface and instead of humbling down to focus and learn from Dangles and the other skidderman – that I would be taking over for, I felt that because I was older than them both that I could learn this quickly and that I would be better than them. Age defies knowledge and experience..  doesn’t it. Doesn’t it?

On the radio Dangles tried to give me pointers and at one point parked next to me and yelled to me that I had to hit it hard, “BALLS TO THE WALL!”. I was struggling. I was skidding in a John Deere 848 and was trying hard to get used to actually giving it enough fuel to make the d-clutch worthwhile, as well as was struggling at remembering functions, nonetheless running more than one at once. I had a hard time with judging where to drop my drags when I came up to the deck and really struggled hard with my skidderman/deckerman etiquette. At one point I got stuck and Dangles had to hop in with me to attempt to show me how to use my drag to push myself out. I was absolutely clueless as to what I was getting into. Thankfully for me that day he had patience. At the end of the day I was completely exhausted. Jumping into things is something I’ve always done and in my opinion the best way to learn. This time though, I felt completely in over my head. What the fuck was I doing here. “Doesn’t it suck?” Dangles asked at the end of the day. “Yes” I feebly answered. This was going to be so much harder to learn then I imagined. At the end I asked him to take my picture with the skidder. At the time I had thought I would look good in it and it was basically more of an ego feed, looking back on them I see pure ignorance. We drove back to town together and I listened in as the two talked. I felt like I must be one hundred years old listening in on their conversation. Not just that but my taste in music as time had gone on had somehow turned into crap. What the hell were we listening to right now?!

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“Throw up gang signs!!”

The following Monday I was picked up at the shop by Dangles. I was officially taking over for the other skidderman. This time however, right from the moment I jumped into the truck, I remember thinking, “This is it.  This is the official beginning”. As we raced down a busy logging highway and onto even busier bush roads I felt much more comfortable this time. Not that I was comfortable with what we were about to do, but for the first time in a very long time I felt like I could completely trust someone. That doesn’t mean that we got along, or that anything was sparking between us but just that I could see that we were equally as fucked up as the other. Our relationship then and now, can be compared to that of a brother/sister duo. We have had huge fallouts and some massive, impossible fights. We can hate each other with a passion and then in a moment we can calm down and get along again. We can tell each other anything and I have never been able to laugh so uncontrollably around anyone.  I am so grateful that he made his way into my life to teach me more than I ever thought I could learn from a 20-year-old scum bag.

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“Walking to a new block, Dangles turns to face me to flash me the double finger”

One of the first lessons I learned from him was the magical art, of not giving a flying fuck. To be passionate about your work and to never stop improving. But to not give a fuck about other peoples opinions of you. Dangles – In every sense of the word, is extremely and unacceptably, unapoligetic. He says and does whatever he wants.. and doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him or his brutal honesty.  I had never noticed before how much I had let other peoples expectations or their opinions of me weigh me down. From the moment I started logging I simultaneously became shunned by most woman in town (Loggergirl – Slut) as well as most men (Loggergirl – Slut). I would mention something about it and then end with “but whatever, I don’t care.”

“Obviously you do,” he would simply point out.

He was right. I had a hard time trying to figure out why people had me so misunderstood, and in the end – it doesn’t matter. If my life is too different for others to grasp and I’m being labeled as whatever: It. Doesn’t. Matter.

Dangles decked for me while I learned to skid and sometimes someone else would deck and we would both skid together. All day he would point out or ask why I was doing things in a certain way, or give me different situations and tell me what I should do in them. There is so many things that he said then, that I still hear now when I skid.

“Work with structure”

“Make things easier for yourself, not for others.”

“Why are you making things so hard for yourself?!”

“Take pride in your work, Be passionate about your decks.”

But it wasn’t always constructive, which was actually just as inspiring.

“That’s why women don’t belong in the bush.”

“Yeah well, you don’t know anything because your trash.”

“WHY DO YOU KEEP DROPPING DRAGS THERE ..  FUCK!”

I think I speak for many when I say that there is a level of frustration and anger that will bring anyone to tears. Trying to learn how to skid with this strictness that left absolutely zero tolerance for error was emotionally and physically exhausting. Even if we did have a great day working together, by the end of it when it came time to grease for whatever reason I could never get my grease gun to actually work properly. I would ask him for help and nearly every time he would tell me to figure it out. Just that small frustration of not being able to master that stupid grease gun was enough for an overtired greenhorn to fall apart.  I don’t know if anyone’s ever seen me cry more in my life. There were points that were so overwhelming and hard that I couldn’t do anything but mentally shut down and cry. It was in these moments that either he would continue to push me through whatever was going on (steep ground, mechanical problems, pushing myself through mud using my drags, navigating through bad bunching, and doubling up) no matter how visibly upset or rundown I was – perseverance.

Or, he would stop pushing and pause to step in. These moments were my ultimate favorite to learn from him. He would hop into the skidder with me and 1. Help me face my fear of rolling the skidder by showing me what the skidder was actually capable of, and what it wasn’t and 2. break. things. down.

Then what would have begun as a complete meltdown would be broken down into bite size pieces that I could grasp,  put together and then fucking slay at.

All of this was and is absolutely and completely unorthodox.

This blog is not meant to bash him in anyway.

If I had been paired up to learn from anyone else I don’t think I could have learned as well or as thoroughly as I did from him. He didn’t want anything from me other then for me to learn as strictly as he had. Never ever did he treat me any differently then a man. He didn’t pussyfoot around my feelings or frustrations because I was no longer an accessory. If I was stubborn, hard headed and nurturing a big ego – he would be the first to call me on my bullshit. One specific moment that was a huge point in the transition I was going through, was a huge slap in the face.

Metaphorically.

Dangles was frustrated with me one day and the point he stated was that I wasn’t going any farther in learning unless I started listening to and respecting him. Instantly I remembered my young teenage self telling my Dad that because he wouldn’t ever listen or respect me that I would never respect him. I surrendered to that comment in that moment. I couldn’t believe that was even something that came up for me again. He had my absolute full attention and respect after that, and once again he was right. Just because he was six years younger than me didn’t mean I had the right to be ignorant. He had three more years of experience then me, not to mention a natural talent – he was really, really good.  From then on I did learn so much more and much more easily. I was letting go of my ego and because of that I became more stronger than I had ever thought capable.

Recently I heard a podcast on “Guys We F*cked” where a trans woman was featured as a guest: Kate Bornstein. She’s an author of many books, one of which being, “Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws”. Where she shares personal and off-beat methods of survival in a cruel world. A guide to staying alive and thinking outside the box. The idea of the book, or what I took from it was “Instead of killing yourself, have you tried: ______” which includes things like, have you tried an eating disorder? have you tried hard drugs? This left me thinking about what I was doing with my life; Instead of killing myself, I became obsessed with logging.

One thing Dangles did say at the end of almost everyday was, “Don’t quit. Just don’t quit whatever you do.”

Quitting was not an option for me. I would have rather died. I was hooked on logging.

Growing up I had always felt like I had a lot of expectation on me in regards to what was acceptable and what wasn’t. Logging, especially in the way that I was learning – was completely “unacceptable”.

But in this unacceptableness I found liberty, and that was only the beginning.

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– Cassandra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Behind Closed Doors of a Skidder: Part One of Eight – July/August

  1. Well, I am quite proud of you for your willingness to overcome your ego, see the good in others, listen and learn, not give a rat’s ass what others think of you, and NEVER, EVER give up – on yourself or whatever challenge you are faced with! You are truly learning who you really are and, along the way, becoming – One. Badass. Woman!

  2. All that you have been willing to do, observe, and change in your life is very difficult. It’s fucking hard… but life is that way all through the journey… and yet the difficulty is what catapults you to greater realizations for and about yourself. Pivotal people in our lives come in all sorts of packages and we can choose to find the gift in them and roll with it, or reject them. The opportunity to listen and learn will return again and again until we are ready to take it on. You are tougher and stronger than most people your age… and you are resilient. The respect issue really spoke to me here… people today could learn a lot from practicing respect. I loved the way you wrote this, Cassandra. Gut stuff.

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