Flash Back Fridays
BUILDING THE BARN: 1977 A story by David Boulding
The barn was built for the same reason the Haig Brown and the outdoor centre were built. Jim wanted a maintenance shop. His plans for a shop on the far northern side of the property were changed by the fire in May 1973 and the Haig Brown building soon after construction began morphed in an accommodation building.
The barn was going to be different.
It began as a residence for Adrian Koeleman the mechanic. Originally there were to be eight-foot foundation walls as the building’s basement was to be Adrian’s residence, but when Jim found out the cost of cement it was decided they would be much shorter.
The government had a program called NEEDS which was designed to give employment to those workers had had no more UIC (Unemployment Insurance, now referred to as EI) eligibility. Local Campbell River businesses could apply for various NEED grants, and get work at UIC rates and the weeks on the program were counted as “insurable weeks” for purposes of claiming more UIC. Jim applied for a grant and employed over 75 people through this program, a few of which were Vietnamese fishermen.
Jim had a vague plan to create his own hydro power. He wanted to take the water from Baikie ‘s swamp up beside Percy Dewar’s land and run it over the hill down 900 feet to the lake and install a pelton wheel and make his own electricity.
There were two swamps. The south swamp (Baikie’s) drained towards the lodge; the north swamp drained into Cedar Lake. The two swamps were separated by a rise in land of about 5 feet in elevation. The plan was to clean out a path about 20 feet wide between the swamps and later bring in an excavator to dig a channel so we could redirect the all water in the swamps and the water in Billy Baikie Lake towards the lodge.
The Vietnamese were meticulous. The boss of the “trail building” project was Percy Dewar. Percy marked the trees that needed to be cut, and I knocked them down and bucked them into carry size logs, because these fishermen were prohibited from using chain saws. This rule was dreamed up by the government lackey in Campbell River who seemed to take sadistic pleasure in making the project difficult for Jim.
Jim eventually put me in charge of the project, and this bean-counter/ administrator became my problem. Sometimes the fellow would call me on the radiophone and specifically prohibit me from buying something in town or stop me from having a carpenter do a specific task because it was not in the original application. When I described these calls to Jim, Jim walked away in silence.
Life went on, and eventually Percy and the hard-working Vietnamese finished the swamp project, leaving a path about 25 feet wide from one swamp to another. Sadly, we never did finish this electrical hydro generation project. The later hastily planned hydro project was based out of Cedar Lake, and required purchasing land, building a powerhouse four miles away, and setting up four miles of hydro poles; not in Jim’s original plan.
The real action of the NEEDS Project was building the barn. In addition to the Vietnamese workers, there were a number of unemployed log builders from Quadra Island and some talented out-of-work carpenters from Campbell River.
John Gregg, a former Lodgie, was contracted to build a new stone genny shed just below the barn. The building had church like windows which John had to fill with rocks when the budget said “no windows!
Jim and I did the log salvage work. I have great pleasure listening to people talk about log salvage because while we never stole any logs off a passing logging truck, it was only because they did not slow down enough for Jim and I to get close enough.
To her credit, the lovely Myrna never asked too many questions about the original location or ownership of these logs. There was much Jim did not tell Myrna, and Myrna did not ask too many penetrating questions because she knew Jim had larceny in his soul. Wallace Baikie, on the other hand, was often apoplectic at Jim “borrowing” logs. Once he dug up a road we were using by hand with a shovel. This 74 year old logger armed with a garden spade dug a trench big enough to prohibit the Fargo from going down the road behind the bog. It took Jim Nelson and me about two hours of shoveling to fill in the trench so we could keep on driving behind the bog.
Perhaps the greatest story of the Canadian military helping the lodge was that summer during the NEEDS project. I had some logs in the boat basin I could not move. (These logs were over six feet in diameter at the butt. I have pictures of me standing beside one butt and the log peaks over my head!) That spring the army was doing some mountain transport training behind the Lodge towards Percy’s house. The instructors would take the big six wheel drive transport trucks and get them stuck deep in the mud off the side of a logging road, and then they would stand back with stop watches while their troops got them back on the road. The men were staying in the government campsite near the bridge, but came to the High Bracer lounge for the odd beer or four.
The major in charge struck up a warm friendship with Jim. His sergeant major was a 25 year veteran of army transport, and one day he offered to show me his driving skills in an army jeep.
After that demonstration of insanity, I mentioned I had some big logs in the water which I could not move. My truck was not big enough to get deep enough into the water to get them.
Promptly he said, “Ask the Major.”
Jim went out onto the balcony with the Major– now called Major Mike by all of us, and after some discussion Major Mike stood up on the balcony and yelled, “Sergeant Major….. Move that man’s logs!” These monster logs formed the raw stock for the beams of the barn and we used an old school bus with a huge rack on top to move lumber around. The carpenters always said: “you cannot buy lumber like this in town!”
We often had trouble with those leaving taking Lodge belongings with them. I learned to check the vehicles every day around quitting time, and eventually we used the bus to transport people ourselves.
We lost three chain saws, an anvil, the new snow chains for the CASE backhoe as well as other various tools. Sadly one thief nearly lost his life. I hired a young man with thalidomide damaged arms, thinking he would be grateful for the job. I planned to have him pick up trash around the project. That task required only one arm and having a designated picker upper would let others work more efficiently. Things started to disappear, but I was a slow learner. It never crossed my naïve mind that a one-armed man would steal.
A pub owner from town called Jim and said that a one-armed fellow was selling a Mercury outboard in his pub and the barkeep was sure he worked for Strathcona. I raced to his house. There, plain as day, was our outboard motor. Clearly he could not lift the motor himself.
His last day of work was almost his last day alive. Jim Hagel (the cat operator) had sold a bush blade to another logger and had 1800 dollars in cash in the glove box of his truck. The one armed man took the cash. Hagel and I had a brief chat when Hagel reported the missing money. The 40 year old logger raced over to where the crew was getting ready to drive home asked the kid for the money back. The kid foolishly denied it. Jim, having been in logging camps for 20 years, quickly impressed on the little rat that he was moments from death. The Catskinner picked up the 90 pounds of black tee shirt and shook loose his 1800 dollars.
The whole episode was over in one minute and the cretin was on the ground struggling to breathe. His employment was terminated with cause and this time there was no argument from the government man.
I noted after that demonstration of logger justice that the theft problem abated to almost nothing.
The barn has fine points that many miss. The wooden pegs that hold together the fancy joints and support braces are made from yew wood. I found a yew tree near Cedar Lake, and some of the young women I hired for were given pieces of yew wood one foot long and knives with the instructions to whittle the square bits into round pegs. The log builders then inserted these hard wooden pegs into the joints to ensure that they would never move.
Another wonderful thing is that the beams cut by Clark Monroe were done so well, and so cleanly, that they still look good today.