"After awhile you got to see that until logging stopped completely, for some people it was never going to be enough.”
DescriptionHere is an interview with John Porritt about being a logger in Hayfork, CA during the fall of the timber industry.
A small community of about 2500 in Trinity County, Hayfork is a former logging town that was thrown into economic and social turmoil following the collapse of the timber industry in the early 90s. At the time Hayfork’s community, economy, and culture was tightly wed to logging; it was a place where the work was celebrated and people lived and logged alongside hundreds of other logging families.
What happens when your work is the fabric of your community, of your culture, of your life, and then you lose it? This is what happened to Hayfork when the environmental movement crushed the logging industry, taking away the livelihood of thousands of people for whom work and way of life were one and the same. It’s a story that is forgotten and also common: throughout the Pacific Northwest there are hundreds of former logging communities like Hayfork who lost their livelihoods in the wake of the environmental movement and were left behind in the upheaval of economic collapse.
John Porritt was born in England and moved to Trinity County in 1974. He’s been a logger for three decades. He began learning the trade back in England when he was a kid, taught by his father who was a timber faller during the second World War.
In Hayfork people still refer to him as “English John,” a name given because of his English roots and his accent. At 72, Porritt is retired and does part time arborist work for additional dispensable income.
Porritt, who also commuted for work for periods of time as the industry declined, thinks that necessary and positive results came from regulation, but also says that force and complications of the environmental movement left timber workers feeling pushed out.
“There was so little use and such a lot of waste before, a lot of the new restrictions have been good, but what was happening was the environmentalists would want something and we would take a step back and say okay, and then they would step forward and want something more, and we’d do it,” he says, “And there was no end to it. After awhile you got to see that until logging stopped completely, for some people it was never going to be enough.”
This interview is part of the Rural Stories Project. Find the whole story at www.ruralstoriesproject.com.