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Everyone knows Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl, and maybe even Ranger Rick Raccoon, but there are many other forest and forestry-related fictional characters that long ago fell by the wayside. Peeling Back the Bark‘s series on “Forgotten Characters from Forest History” continues with Part 18, in which we examine Rusty Scrapiron.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of Keep Oregon Green, a statewide fire prevention program formed in May 1941 by Oregon Governor Charles Sprague and 250 state leaders who sought to replicate a similar program started in Washington the previous year. The purpose of Keep Oregon Green was to get the general public to embrace forest fire prevention, and in the decades that followed a massive publicity effort blanketed the state. One key component of the Keep Green campaign was the artwork found on posters, illustrations in various publications, and other promotional items. In Oregon, the artist behind much of this was Hugh Hayes.

Keep Oregon Green cartoon by Hugh Hayes

A 1949 Keep Oregon Green cartoon by Hugh Hayes.

Hugh John Hayes Jr. dedicated his life’s work to Oregon’s forests. He worked with the Civilian Conservation Corps in eastern Oregon after high school, and then as a draftsman with the Oregon State Board of Forestry in Salem. Following service with the U.S. Army during World War II he worked for the Oregon State Department of Forestry from 1945 until his retirement in 1976. Throughout his long career Hayes drew countless illustrations, cartoons, maps, posters, architectural plans, field guides, and much more.

Hugh Hayes cartoon 1948

Hugh Hayes cartoon for The Forest Log from January 1948.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Hayes provided regular illustrations for The Forest Log, a monthly publication of the Oregon State Board of Forestry. Most of his illustrations for The Forest Log had a Keep Oregon Green tie-in or other general fire prevention message. In the May 1950 issue he debuted a new character: “Rusty Scrapiron.” Rusty made his entrance to the world in the final panel of Hayes’s May 1950 strip, literally being pulled into the frame by a reckless smoker who had unknowingly started a forest fire.

Rusty Scrapiron May 1950

Final panel of Rusty Scrapiron debut comic, May 1950 (click image to view full strip).

Rusty Scrapiron was a ranger and fire warden who battled careless hunters and other nuisances in defense of Oregon’s woods. Rusty’s adventures and humorous hijinks usually carried some sort of fire prevention message (even in a strip where he becomes a substitute baseball announcer, he is seen putting up a Keep Oregon Green sign in the first frame). Often he would be seen heroically battling wildfires, though with a touch of humor. At least one strip, however, dispensed with jokes altogether just to carry a fire warning about power saws.

Rusty’s character traits also seemed to deviate from strip to strip. While he usually outsmarted troublemakers, occasionally he was portrayed as dimwitted (like once mistaking his own pipe smoke for a fire). He also seemed to be somewhat short-tempered: strips sometimes ended in violence with Rusty knocking out careless smokers or pummeling men who dare denigrate his profession. Through it all though, Rusty’s heart was always in the right place as he adamantly and unapologetically defended Oregon’s forests.

Rusty Scrapiron

The strip appeared monthly for nearly two years in The Forest Log, ending its run in March 1952 for unknown reasons. But Hayes’s work continued. He still provided periodic illustrations for The Forest Log and his influence over fire prevention efforts in the state endured for decades. Hayes is probably best known for the Keep Oregon Green place mat he created in 1959. This detailed, illustrated map documenting the history and culture of Oregon was widely distributed for use in restaurants throughout the state. Following his initial “retirement” in 1976, Hayes continued to do contract work for the Department of Forestry through 1993, including an illustration for the department’s 75th anniversary featured on the cover of Forest Log in 1986 (the inside cover included a photo of Hayes at work and a brief look back at his career).

Hayes passed away in 2013 at the age of 98, but his legacy lives on with the still active Keep Oregon Green organization. His Rusty Scrapiron creation – like other forgotten forestry characters – lives on here at the Forest History Society. Below are some of our favorite Rusty Scrapiron classic comic strips.

Rusty Scrapiron September 1950

Rusty Scrapiron strip, September 1950 (click image to enlarge)

Rusty Scrapiron Nov 1950

Rusty Scrapiron strip, November 1950 (click image to enlarge)

Rusty Scrapiron Jan 1951

Rusty Scrapiron strip, January 1951 (click image to enlarge)

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Below is an extended version of a review of Jack Ward Thomas’s new set of books originally written for the Journal of Forestry by FHS historian Jamie Lewis. All three books were published in 2015 by the Boone and Crockett Club and each retails for $24.95.

Forks in the Trail: A Conservationist’s Trek to the Pinnacles of Natural Resource Leadership, foreword by Char Miller

Wilderness Journals: Wandering the High Lonesome, foreword by John Maclean

Hunting Around the World: Fair Chase Pursuits from Backcountry Wilderness to the Scottish Highlands, foreword by Robert Model

 

Jack Ward Thomas served as chief from 1994-1996. (FHS Photo)

Jack Ward Thomas served as Forest Service chief from 1993-1996. (FHS Photo)

“My idea of heaven would be to, simply, do it all over again.” Jack Ward Thomas, a wildlife biologist who concluded thirty years with the U.S. Forest Service by serving as chief from 1993 to 1996, closes the author’s acknowledgements at the end of each of his three books with that line. After reading the accounts of his career and hunting trips drawn from journals written over a sixty-five year period, I have little doubt about why he feels that way. I feel similarly about the books, in particular Forks in the Trail and Wilderness Journals in their entirety and parts of Hunting Around the World. When I finished, I wanted to read them again.

In all three, Thomas makes you feel as if you are there with him—and at times, that you want to be there with him—whether deep in the snow hunting elk or recording the day’s events in his journal by fire light. You sympathize over the loss of his first wife Meg and then his long-time hunting companion and mentor Bill Brown, the long-time regional director of the Northwest Region of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, who helped Thomas better understand the emotional and political values of wilderness areas. Thomas is open and honest about these losses and the impact of the ravages of time and hard work on his body and how it affects each new venture into the wilderness. (Older readers will be able to relate; younger ones should take heed!) Each book, in its own way, is an elegy to an outdoorsman’s life well lived and an ode to some beautiful places. Thomas has no regrets that he has hung up his gun because of age and infirmities; he has his memories to look back upon, and now so do we.

Each book is designed to stand alone, but I suggest reading Forks in the Trail first because it covers from childhood through his second retirement and provides the framework and background to better understand events in the other books. It is for all intents and purposes his memoir (which can be rounded out with Journals of a Forest Service Chief, published in 2004 by the Forest History Society). Forks in the Trail—Thomas’s phrase for turning points in his life—covers his childhood in Texas during the Great Depression to the “pinnacles of natural resource leadership”—his appointment as Forest Service chief and then his time as the Boone and Crockett Professor of Wildlife Conservation at the University of Montana.

JWT_FitRStarting with Forks will introduce you to deepen the reader’s understanding of why his packhorse trips with Brown into “the High Lonesome” backcountry area—the Eagle Cap and Hells Canyon Wilderness Areas in eastern Oregon—that are the focus of much of Wilderness Journals brought him such joy and unleashed the naturalist-poet inside. Furthermore, in Forks Thomas helpfully explains and discusses the historical background or significance of a fork in the trail, such as a law or policy change, when necessary. The forewords and prefaces of Wilderness Journals and Hunting lack enough information or context for deeply understanding his heartfelt meditations on the beauty provided by federal natural resource management or the night sky in Alaska, or his distaste towards those who pay to hunt on game farms. The other two books supplement and complement Forks, and a few journal entries are split up between books depending on the topics. Each has entries several pages long, though they never feel like they are dragging on for several pages. Most all are a delight to read. Each book ends with an epilogue that offers his reflections on the journal entries and where he is now in his thought process.

JTW_WJWilderness Journals covers a narrow but pivotal time in Thomas’s life, from 1986 to 1999, when he found himself in thick of the northern spotted owl controversy and then reluctantly serving as Forest Service chief. The High Lonesome became a refuge from the pressures of work, a place to both recreate and “re-create” himself. On several occasions, he recorded the benefits of time spent in the wilderness. One in particular, written while he was chief, captures the feeling and offers a strong defense for maintaining protected wilderness areas, something Thomas strived to do while chief.

It seems a shame that now [the] most common meaning of the word is to “have fun.” The original meaning, the one that appeals most to me, was to create anew, to refresh strength and spirit. For me, there was no other “re-creational” experience that could match a retreat into the wilderness…. Having an experience that fosters re-creation of purpose, zeal, and faith is much more than simply having a good time. For people like me, it is a necessity. Without periodic re-creation, there is danger of diminished spirit, purpose, confidence, belief, and effectiveness.(188)

Wilderness Journals includes two appendices that are journal entries from his time as chief that don’t quite fit in with the main text but make nice additions. They were written around the thirtieth anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act of 1964. On two occasions he attempted to improve the agency’s wilderness management efforts by announcing his intention of turning the Frank Church–River of No Return Wilderness Area into a single management entity, complete with a supervisor of equal rank to a forest supervisor. He wanted to show that wilderness areas were equal to that of multiple-use landscapes. “Thwarted” by Idaho’s congressional delegation and possibly members of his own staff who perhaps didn’t want to lose power, he concluded, “It is well to remember that changes in the status quo will be resisted and that ‘turf wars’ are with us always.”(260)

JWT_HuntingHunting Around World covers from 1986 to his last hunting trip in 2004 in Scotland; the entries on Scotland are the highlight of this book as he waxes poetic about the breathtaking Highlands countryside and falls in love with it. (Bob Model, who contributes the book’s foreword, hosted Thomas on his Scotland trips.) As someone who had studied the ecology of elk for much of his career, Thomas was excited about observing Scotland’s red deer, a member of the same species but a different subspecies. The contrast between hunting styles and rituals is quite interesting—one dresses in a “shooting suit” of tweed and wool when going “a-stalking” in Scotland, for example, and traditionally carries a walking stick to help traverse the uneven terrain. He also hunted in Argentina, Alaska, and other places, and some entries are from his trips into the High Lonesome. So one learns a good deal about the different cultures and attitudes about hunting as seen through Thomas’s eyes. His entries about hunting on game farms and hunting preserves versus a fair chase pursuit offer much to think about on that subject. (more…)

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Here in the Alvin J. Huss Archives you’ll find numerous stories of foresters and loggers from years past. Even among these legends, though, some figures still stand just a bit taller. As we continue to dig through the vinyl collection at FHS we find a set of records by one such figure: the one and only Buzz Martin. At ease both in the woods with a chainsaw and on the stage with a guitar, Buzz Martin was a unique and legendary figure among loggers during the 1960s and 1970s. During a time of lumber industry decline Buzz Martin was able to find success as a country music singer. Known as “The Singing Logger,” he wrote emotional, personal, and humorous tunes about the working logger. Martin ultimately released six albums, and while his singing career was relatively short his music presents a unique audio snapshot of logging work of this era.

Buzz Martin

Buzz Martin at work in the woods.

Buzz Martin was born in Coon Hollow, Oregon, in 1928. As a kid he began to lose his eyesight and at thirteen was sent to the Oregon School for the Blind. It was during this time that Martin began to play the guitar. He received a corneal transplant and regained his sight while at the school, but tragedy immediately struck again—both his parents died prematurely. Martin was then sent to live with his sister and her husband, a musician and amateur instrument-maker named Bill Woosley. They lived in Five Rivers, a tiny community at the midway point between the Willamette Valley and the Oregon Coast. Martin was encouraged by his sister to sing.

Martin entered the logging world as a whistle punk at eighteen, operating a loud, steam-powered whistle used by loggers to communicate with each other. He quickly ascended up the logging jobs ladder, from cutting timber to high climbing. He began singing to his fellow loggers as camp entertainment in his twenties. After landing a meeting with Buddy Simmons, music director at radio station KRDR in Gresham, Oregon, Martin was able to cut his first record, Where There Walks a Logger, There Walks a Man. His 1968 debut on Ripcord Records was followed by subsequent logger classics like A Logger Finds an Opening and The Old Time Logger, A Vanishing Breed of Man.

Buzz Martin cover

Martin’s biggest hit was probably the song “Butterin’ Up Biscuit” which he actually played in person for his hero Johnny Cash backstage after one of Cash’s concerts in Oregon in 1969. This led to Martin eventually appearing on The Johnny Cash Show on ABC in 1971. This may have been the peak of Martin’s career though. Unable to find mainstream success, he refocused on logging work, moving to Alaska in 1979. Unfortunately tragedy struck again. In 1983 he died in a freak accident in the Alaska woods while scouting out a hunting trip.

Buzz Martin records

A selection of Buzz Martin records available at FHS.

Martin’s final resting place is at Lone Oak Cemetery in Stayton, Oregon. His headstone is inscribed with a pine tree and title: “The Singing Logger.” Martin’s music lives on and is well worth a listen. His catalog is available online via Amazon and iTunes. Enjoy a short clip from one of his songs below.

Buzz Martin

Audio clip from “Hoot Owlin Again” – by Buzz Martin off his album Where There Walks a Logger There Walks a Man:

**This blog post draws from “Out of the Woods” by Casey Jarman, which appeared in The Believer (July/August 2013).

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Here at Peeling Back the Bark World Headquarters we occasionally like to get our fingers a little dusty by digging through the vinyl record collection in the FHS archives. Our collection may be modest, but it’s full of vintage forest-related audio treasures. One of our favorite items from the collection is undoubtedly the self-titled album from Lausmann’s Lousy Loggers Band. Everyone who sees the album gets a kick out the band’s name as well as the photos inside the record sleeve. But who were these guys?

Lousy Loggers Band album cover

The Lousy Loggers were a band made up of members all with connections to forest industries. Here’s how the group was described by the Western Conservation Journal: “The story of the barkclad bards who keep the loggers dancing is an inspiring example of men dedicated to a rewarding purpose. Each Lousy Logger earns his bread in a job related to bringing in the trees. Each donates his time and pays his entire expenses — instruments, travel, convention board and room; everything. As a group, they give and ask nothing back except that their friends, the loggers, swing their partners.”

The band was led by the legendary Anton “Tony” Lausmann (1889-1978), founder of KOGAP Lumber Industries in Medford, Oregon. Lausmann was certainly a character. He could easily be spotted by either the ever-present cigar in his mouth, or the concertina in his hands — and oftentimes with both at the same time.  In addition to founding KOGAP, Lausmann’s long forest industry career included serving as director of the Oregon Forestry Center, the Industrial Forestry Association, and the National Lumber Manufacturers Association. But what brought him the most joy (and fame) was his concertina — or “squeeze-box” — which he was said to have carried with him just about everywhere since he was a kid.

Tony Lausmann

It was Lausmann’s commitment to carrying his concertina that led to the Lousy Loggers name. In 1958 he was on a voyage by ship to Hawaii with a group of Shriners. Asked to entertain the passengers with his concertina, Lausmann was eventually joined by other “musicians” on board playing the harmonica, tin cans, and other improvised instruments. A fellow passenger asked what the name of the group was, and another one of the Shriners yelled out “Lausmann’s Lousy Loggers.” The name stuck.

Lousy Loggers Band

That same year Lausmann was invited to play at the Pacific Logging Congress Annual Convention. He recruited some forest industry musician friends and the official Lousy Loggers Band was born. Following a successful debut at the 1958 Pacific Logging Congress, the group performed for much of the next two decades at various conferences and conventions, mainly in the Pacific Northwest. The band recorded their one and only album in 1972. At the time of this recording, the band included Lowell Jones on the keys; Gene Pickett on trumpet and trombone; three men on sax and clarinet — Clifton Crothers, Bill Preuss, and Vince Bousquet; Jack Bennett on drums; Dave Totton on bass; and Rex Stevens on vibes. Other past members of the group included Howard Smith, Jim Bigelow, Stu Norton, Clyde Lees, Ed Pease, Phil English, Gene Duysen, and Tony’s son Jerry Lausmann.

Lausmann's Lousy Loggers

The group officially disbanded in 1976 and Tony Lausmann passed away two years later. In his obituary he was remembered as “best known and revered for his leadership in organizing the west coast’s well known and popular Lausmann’s Lousy Loggers Band.” For a sampling of the group’s work, enjoy the audio slideshow below created by librarian extraordinaire Jason Howard. And for more on the unique character that was Tony Lausmann, we recommend the book Swivel-Chair Logger: The Life and Work of Anton A. “Tony” Lausmann, which can be found in the FHS Library.

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On this date in 1940, Washington Governor Clarence D. Martin issued an influential proclamation appealing for the positive action by all of Washington’s citizens in the prevention of wildfires.  This public proclamation would directly lead to the creation of the Keep Washington Green Association, an organization whose model was eventually copied by states throughout the country.

KWGlogo2_thMartin’s address came at a crucial time in the history of Washington and Oregon’s forests.  An increase in destructive forest fires in the Pacific Northwest during the early 20th century had culminated in the Tillamook Burns of the 1930s, a series of fires which destroyed massive amounts of the region’s timber.  These catastrophic fires led to great concern among foresters and forest industry leaders, including former U.S. Forest Service chief William B. Greeley, who at the time served as head of the West Coast Lumbermen’s Association.  Greeley publicly called for improved logging practices and more organized fire suppression.  His continued championing of these issues eventually led directly to Washington Governor Martin’s public proclamation of May 31, 1940.

KWGlogo3_thAlong with his address urging the public to embrace forest fire prevention, Governor Martin also called for a public meeting in Olympia five days later to further address the issues at hand.  At this meeting an organization was formed to create publicity campaigns promoting forest fire prevention.  Roderick Olzendam, public relations director for Weyerhaeuser Timber Company and originator of such slogans as “Timber is a Crop” and “Tree Farm,” proposed the new organization be named Keep Washington Green.  As the new organization began implementing forest fire prevention advertising campaigns and radio programs in Washington, the idea quickly began to spread.  In May 1941 Oregon Governor Charles Sprague called together 250 state leaders in Portland to replicate the program, forming a Keep Oregon Green Association.

Keep Oregon Green sticker

An early Keep Oregon Green promotional item.

Both state organizations undertook increasingly larger projects and campaigns to spread the word about forest fire prevention to the public.  Grassroots community-focused plans were established, as well as the production of dramatic radio presentations, newspaper features, and various promotional items.

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