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Emil Getschmann Recalls Good Ol' Days in Woods
Logging these days is a Sunday-school picnic compared to the days when Emil Getschmann
worked in the woods. Getschmann began his career amid
the Northwest's towering cedar, fir and spruce when
he was 8 years old; he retired 11 years ago and is
Beginning his career as a "bull-cook flunkie"
in a horse-team operation on the Stilaguamish
River, he worked his way up to "whistle punk" on a
steam-donkey crew. Bull-cook funkies made $10 a month.
"Been in the woods since I was knee high to
a cross cut saw," says Getschmann, who has
since worked every job in the woods at least once.
He recalls the days of logging competitions usually held on holidays or sometimes just for
show, and he gained renown in the early 1920s when
he won the Disston Saw log-bucking competition.
The tree was a 40-inch in diameter second log, "harder than a bone," and Getschmann made the
cut in 5 minutes. "I could have done it in four
minutes flat if the tree had been green," he said.
Governor Hartley gave him a cup and $50. That was the start of his competition career, which
lasted until he decided it wasn't worth the strain on
his muscles and lungs about six contests later. He
is listed among the first official logbucking champs
in the state.
"Even for a person in good shape, it takes
more out of you than you can get back in a
month," Getschmann says _ and that's if you don't smoke
or drink. He recalls Eldred Loop who sawed a
54-inch log which won him a $75 prize. "They took him
to the doctor that afternoon and it took him six
months to recover," said Getschmann.
Falling a tree is a two-man job but log bucking
is not. "You get that seven-foot saw all to yourself,"
he says, adding that there is also a knack to getting
a good cut.
Getschmann recalls the days he worked from 8 to 10 hours when a common tree was eight feet in
The biggest he remembers was 15 feet, 7 inches. Five feet is big now, he says. Chokers in those
days were 1 1/4 inches in diameter; they are 7/8
The men in the business were made for the trees they toppled. "Then a man was nothing more than
an animal," Getschmann says. He recalls the old
bosses such as "Few Clothes Swanson" and "Baloney
Bill Ironguard" the euphemisms of course weren't
really so delicate.
"Few Clothes would buy a pair of overalls in
the spring, and by fall they'd be falling off
him," Getschmann says.
Even though the business has been mechanized, Getschmann says the most important advances
have been made in the area of safety. "In those days, if
a man happened to get in the way and get killed,
someone would drag him off to the side until
quitting time, and then take him into town."
Logging was a temporary job in one place. "If
a guy liked the job, sometimes he'd stay as long as
two months, but two or three week was common,"
Usually when a man would leave a job, he'd go
to town, let off steam and go back out on another
job. Getschmann recalls some dances in town where
the festivities were disrupted by an average of two
or three fights.
Getschmann came to the Valley in 1927 to cut timber on contract for Preston Mill.