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The Graveyard Stomach or the Tofu Turd

Story ID:7922
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Dillon Montana USA
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OurEcho Preface This post deals with a mature theme or contains explicit language. While the post is not extremely violent or pornographic, it does contain language or explore a subject matter that may offend some readers. If you do not wish to view posts that deal with mature themes, please exit this post.
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Chuck Dishno

If I offend anyone who reads this please acccept my appology.

The Graveyard Stomach or the Tofu Turd
By Chuck Dishno

This is a continuation of my life as a logger.

The last story I wrote about this is titled, “Fire in the Hole or Dog-Gone,” It was about my first year falling timber with my Pop.

As I said in the last story, the main reason I wanted the job was to get enough money to buy a decent used car. But after the summer ended and I was about to head back to Bly, I changed my mind and spent most of my earnings on photograph equipment. My reasoning was that I already had a perfectly good, 1928 Model A Ford, albeit had no heater and the breaks only worked on the right rear. Mounting a large funnel behind the exhaust manifold and running a hose from it thru the firewall into the cab solved the heating problem. I didn’t worry about carbon monoxide since there were so many holes in the cab, it would all leak out. Girls had not entered my life with only ducks, geese, and fish on my agenda.

My second season as a logger started as soon as school was out and I could take the train to Fresno where Mom and Pop met me on a Saturday.

Monday morning, Mom got me up at about 4:30, fed Pop and I a large breakfast consisting or heaps of pancakes, bacon and eggs. While we consumed this, she finished packing our lunch pails. These were the old fashioned pails that were black with the rounded top to hold the thermos bottle. In my case, Mom, packed the top so full of baloney, cheese and tuna sandwiches that there was no room for the thermos. The bottom also had cans of Vienna sausages, hard boiled eggs, fruit and dessert, and usually a big piece of pie or cake. I had to carry my thermos full of milk separately. Mom sure knew how to feed a growing boy.

We drove to the logging camp where we took a covered truck, called the “Candy Wagon” because of the striped canvas top. The candy wagon would take the various crews to their work places such as the landing, where the logs would be loaded onto trucks, the choker setting and skid crew whose job was to hook onto the logs and skid them to the landing. It was there I learned a lot of colorful new words. Nothing like the current TV series, The Ax Men, where almost every other word is bleeped and no one was mad at each other.

Once the falling crews were dropped at their current site we gathered our tools from the day before and start the day’s work. My Pop’s crew was one of several on this same site. I was anxious to see if the same loggers were still on Pop’s crew.

I was pleased to see that the old crew had come back. The only one I didn’t know was a new guy named Henry Rojas. Henry was a nice man and really the only Mexican I had ever met. We hit it off right away. He had a great sense of humor and fit right in with mine. Since we were both low on the totem pole, we worked together. I taught him what I had learned the last season and he began to teach me Spanish.

A few days after I started back to work, Pop introduced us to a new fellow named Harold. He was a Seventh Adventist Preacher and taught school in a one-room school down in the valley. Harold wanted a few months work to supplement his teaching salary in a one-room school with anywhere from 18 to 25 students. He said that these kids usually came from 3 or 4 families. It was tough teaching all grades, but he seemed to enjoy it. I really think he welcomed the chance to get away though and be with a bunch of loggers. He hadn't much experience in logging but was willing to learn, as were Henry and myself.

Harold was a big strapping guy who loved fun and was the practical joker in the crew. We tried to retaliate in kind but he usually got the best of us.

Every thing went well until lunchtime, that first day. When the whistle on the landing blew signaling lunchtime, all worked stopped. Pop said that when the whistle blew, if someone was in the middle of an axe swing he just left the axe hanging in the air until the break was over.

I took only a few minutes for our falling crew to gather around in a circle. The snap of lunch pails began to open and when I opened mine, I was amazed at how much Mom had packed into that metal container. Henry had lots in his too but poor Harold had only a couple of sandwiches and a bottle of tea. I offered him one of my boloney sandwiches but he looked aghast. It was then that I found out Harold was a true vegetarian and would never eat meat, poultry, eggs or any dairy products. I had never met a vegetarian before and thought everyone ate beef. Coming from cattle country and ranches I never considered anything else. I had no problem with Harold though until he started giving us a bad time chastising us on what we were eating. In retrospect, 6 baloney sandwiches, a piece of chicken and a can of Vienna sausages might have been a bit of overkill. It sure looked better than what Harold was offering. He said his burgers were made of soy something and he had other things he called tofu.

My friend, Henry, brought all into perspective when Harold, in disgust, said, “I don’t see how you can stand to make a graveyard out of your stomach.” Henry who was eating a couple of meat tacos and an enchilada or two replied, “Well I would rather make a graveyard in my stomach than a compost heap.” This broke everyone up including Harold. After that he began to lighten up a bit but would eye me gobbling down my fare and muttering something under his breath.

Henry, the joker, started talking to me about how many times Harold would grab a piece of paper and disappear into the woods. We knew where he was going but this got Henry to wondering what a tofu turd looked like. Henry suggested that we follow him keeping out of sight to satisfy our curiosity. We tried this several times but to no avail. Pop knew what was going on and would holler, “Hey, you guys get back to work and quit following Harold.” I guess Pop had no sense of adventure or curiosity and we soon gave up on the elusive tofu turd.

This all happened early in the summer and soon all was forgotten, and except for lunchtime when Harold still stared a we “meat-eaters” shaking his head in disgust.

The rest of the summer went off without incident and too soon it was time to go back to school. For me it was to finish my last 3 years of high school and for Harold it was back to his one-room school with his 20 or more charges. As it was an Adventist school I am certain most of the kids were vegetarian too.

The summer ended too soon for me and ended with me swinging my super sharp axe thru a small limb and slicing into my boot and big toe. This happened about 8:30 am and I tried to ignore it but about 30 minutes later, the blood was running out the cut in my boot. I took off the boot to show Pop. He wanted to take me to Dinuba to see a doctor since the bone was showing thru the cut. Henry took one look at it and said he could fix a cut like that and had done so many times. We all trusted Henry and he cleaned the wound as best as he could with water then broke open a balsam blister on a nearby fir tree. The balsam blisters held about a teaspoon of pure turpentine. It was very sticky and he packed the cut with it. He then scraped away the pine needle duff on the ground and covered the balsam with good clean dirt. I then put on my sock and boot. He said to leave the wound alone for a few days and it would heal just fine.

I stayed the rest of the day not doing too much. About 4 pm Pop decided to take me home. As this was my last day and a Friday, I said goodbye to the rest of the crew and hoped to see them next summer. Pop and I got a ride to his car and we headed back to our cabin where Mom met us at the door. Mom wasn’t too concerned about the cut and plans were made to take me to Fresno the next morning to catch the train to Klamath Falls.

I had made quite a bit of money that summer didn’t want to part with some of it for something as trivia as train ticket. Mom insisted though and made me buy one anyway. I had a couple of hours before train time, so we said our goodbyes and Mom and Pop headed back to the woods.

After they left, I got to thinking about the money I spent on the train ticket and promptly got a refund. I then walked a few blocks to highway 99 and soon I had hitched a ride north. It took me several rides to finally get to Klamath Falls but I beat the train by at least 12 hours. At Klamath Falls, I walked about a mile to highway 66 and soon a friend from Bly saw me, picked me up, and 2 hours later I was home. The wound in my big toe had leaked a little but I cleaned it up and put on a clean sock. It never did get infected and today there is no sign of a scar. Henry sure knew what he was doing.

That was my last summer working for Pop for a few years until I graduated and attended Reedley College. Then I worked a couple more summers and eventually gave it up for good. Pop was getting older and I knew I didn’t want to make a career of logging.

I never did get a car until I was in my second year of college, but my decision to buy the photographic equipment was a great one and I made quite a bit of extra money taking pictures..

I really enjoyed those years as a logger. I learned many things such as the value of hard work and how to get along with others. I also increased my vocabulary quite a bit, both good and bad.

Pop lived another 10 years but cancer eventually took its dreadful toll on this wonderful man. Pop had taught me many things, and left me with fond memories, many which I have written about.

I love you, Pop, and look forward when we will meet again. Maybe this time we will find that elusive tofu turd.

Your Chum