“It’s fun, dangerous, exciting,” Russell says of why he’s kept logging all these years.

Recorded November 7, 2017 Archived November 7, 2017 02:23 minutes
Id: APP361628


Here is an interview with Dale Russell 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.

Dale Russell, 69 years old, has lived in Hayfork since 1950. He met his wife there, and until retiring a few years ago he had worked as a logger his whole life. He stayed in town after the last mill closed, weathering the rampant job loss first through commuting for work, like many, and later when he secured a job doing sustainable logging with a local nonprofit, The Watershed Research and Training Center.

“It’s fun, dangerous, exciting,” Russell says of why he’s kept logging all these years.

Russell remembers the hey day of logging as times that were rowdy, describing a work hard, play hard lifestyle where many spent days in the woods doing dangerous physical work, and nights and weekends in the local bars.

“I couldn’t hardly wait til the weekend,” he says, “hell Monday mornings were pretty terrible. I can remember there was times when some of us couldn’t even remember getting there. Some of us would be hanging out of the rig (truck) throwin’ up on the way to work.”

Russell looks back on that time fondly, and seems less angry than some about the larger economic and political forces that led to it’s eventual end. Of the stressful period where work was uncertain and he was commuting for hours making ends meet, Russell is accepting.

“You had to do what you had to do, it was the only job you had. There wasn’t nothing else here.”

This interview is part of the Rural Stories Project. Find the whole story at www.ruralstoriesproject.com.


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