IV. Glossary of Logging Terms

The timber industry, like many professions, has a vocabulary that is unique and vibrant. Students of the industry might find these terms useful.

Block—A pulley.

Board foot—A unit of wood that is a foot square and an inch thick. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the construction of a typical 2000-square-foot single-family home requires about 13,800 board feet of lumber.

Boom tender—Loggers who work on the water at the log dump or log pond sorting logs and assembling them into rafts for shipment or processing. The job requires the boom tender to walk on the floating logs, moving dexterously from one to another. Also called a boom poke or a boom cat.

Bucker—This is a logger who bucks trees, that is, cuts them into manageable lengths after they have been felled by the faller. To buck can also mean to pull, as on a cable.

Bull cook—Logging camp assistant, often handles a variety of small duties, including maintaining the bunkhouses, making the beds, and insuring that the camp has adequate firewood.

Butt-rigging—This is the assortment of cables, rings, and knobs that attaches the choker to the mainline. It is maybe named such because it the rigging is attached to the butt of the log (the widest part of the cut tree).

Chaser—The person who removes the chokers from the logs at the landing.

Choker—A short piece of cable wrapped around one or more logs so that they can be hauled to a landing and loaded.

Choker-setter—The person who attaches the chokers to the log.

Cold-deck—A pile of stored logs, often around the base of a spar-tree.

Donkey—A machine, originally steam-powered, that pulls the lines used in yarding and loading lumber at the cut site; it is a type of yarder. Depending on its use, it might also be called a skidder, loader, roader, or flyer.

Donkey puncher—The person who runs the donkey.

Faller—The logger responsible for cutting the tree down (felling the tree).

Groundlead yarding—A method of moving logs by dragging them horizontally across the ground, usually on skidroads, using horizontal rigging pulled, initially, by teams of animals (typically oxen, sometimes horses) and, later, by steam-power donkeys. It was the typical method of yarding logs until about 1910, when high-lead yarding became the standard. (The “lead” in “groundlead” is pronounced like “leed.”)

Guy lines—The unmoving cables used to support and steady the spar-tree.

Hashers—Cookhouse servers, usually women. Also called Queens.

Haulback—Once a log has been dragged out of the woods, the mainline with the butt-rigging must be hauled back into the woods and attached to another tree. The haulback is the cable that performs this function.

Highball—Fast moving; also the signal to start reeling in the mainline, often very quickly.

High-lead yarding—A method of yarding in which cut logs were dragged to the landing by a series of cables and blocks suspended in the air from one or more spar-trees and powered by steam, diesel, or gasoline engines. A more efficient and much faster method of moving fallen timber, high-lead yarding became the standard way to move logs early in the twentieth century. It was also called, “overhead,” “aerial,” “airplane,” or “flying machine” logging. (The “lead” in “high-lead” is pronounced like “leed.”)

High rigger—A logger who specializes in climbing and trimming a spar-tree and then attaching the cable guys, rigging blocks and lines to it. Also “head rigger.”

Hooktender—The boss of the rigging crew.

Landing—The place where the logs are dragged for loading.

LineSteel cable, also known as “wire rope.”

Log dump—A body of water—usually a lake or bay—where logs are dumped to either be sorted and stored for use in a nearby lumber mill or to be assembled into log rafts and towed to distant mills for processing.

Mainline—The heavy cable that is wound up on the drums of the donkey or yarder in order to pull the logs from where they were cut to where they can be loaded.

Peavey—A spiked pole with a hinged tong that is used in moving logs; often used to help break log jams or to sort the timber at a log dump.

Rigging crew—The workers who set up and handle the working lines at a logging site. It is different than the “rig-up crew” which is responsible for rigging the spar trees.

Scale—The number of board-feet of lumber a log contains.

Scaler—A person who calculates the scale of a log in order to determine its value.

Skidroad—A road, usually made out of small logs placed parallel to each other at intervals (like railroad ties), that larger, marketable logs are dragged (“skidded”) along to the landing.

Skidder—Originally a donkey engine rigged to drag logs along the skidroad. Now, a kind of tractor, either with tires or tracked, used to move logs either to a landing or around a yard.

Snoose—Snuff, a strong-flavored chewing tobacco. Its use was common throughout the lumber camps in the Pacific Northwest.

Spar-tree—A tall tree that is trimmed of all branches, topped, then rigged with guy lines and blocks, and used as a derrick to yard logs, moving them from where they were felled to a landing where they can be loaded for shipment to the mill.

Springboard—A tapered wooden plank with a piece of angled iron attached to the wide end. Placed into slots cut into the butt of large trees, springboards allowed fallers to get above the sap-laden bases of the trees to a point where they could more easily cut through the trunk using a combination of axes and long flexible saws called “misery whips” or “Swedish fiddles.”

Strawline—A small, light cable, often used for hauling gear or riggers to the top of a spar tree. Also called a “jack line.

Stumpage—The value of standing timber, usually the price a timber contractor will pay a landowner in order log the land. Stumpage often is estimated by the acre or board foot.

Timber cruiser—A person who specializes in surveying a stand of timber and estimating how many board feet of marketable lumber it contains.

Turn—A load of logs.

Whistlepunk—The worker, often young and unskilled, responsible for relaying instructions between the remote worksite and the landing. Before the advent of radio, whistlepunks directed the donkey punchers using a series of whistle blasts actuated by pulling a thin cable.

Widowmakers—Broken limbs shaken loose by fallers. These heavy branches, falling without warning, can kill a logger.

Yard or Yard out—A verb that means to drag a log out of the forest to a landing for shipment to a mill.

Yarder—A machine used to move logs from one point to another. It can be the stationary machine that powers the mainline or a mobile piece of equipment, like a tractor, that hauls logs around.

Sources: Earl Roberge, Timber Country (Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1973), Andrew Mason Prouty, More Deadly than War! Pacific Coast Logging, 1827-1981 (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1985). D. D. Strite, How to Become a Logger: A Complete Treatise in Six Lessons (Portland, Oregon: The Timberman, 1924) and McCulloch, Walter Fraser, Woods Words: A Comprehensive Dictionary of Loggers Terms. (Portland: Oregon Historical Society, 1958).

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