Throughout most of my teenage years I worked for a local business that was started by my Great Uncle. It was one of the larger employers in the town for many years. The company was diverse and had a grocery store, a feedlot, a hardware department and building supplies along with a complete mill, a kiln and sash and a molding/box factory. I was privileged to be asked, after working there for most of my teenage years in various departments, to come join the company as part of the office staff in accounts receivable. I hammered away on a 24 column posting machine, looked after customers and delivered pay packets to employees when the paymaster was busy, which was most of the time it seemed. Maybe he (a cousin) just wanted me to do all the walking. Part of the training I underwent was to go with the management up into the deep woods where the timber for our mill was cut and learn the lay of the land, how the timber was surveyed and measured for board foot capacity for harvest, while it was still standing.
Back in those days the cutting was done with resource management methods. Though there was the use of tree-farmers that did tear up wide trails through the woodlots, but selective cutting was done. The business had two mills at that time. There was one old diesel mill by a huge mill pond on site and a new total electric mill that was the envy of this end of the province. (I remember going to visit another mill up country to see how it was set up before Long Lake Lumber installed a new diesel electric mill with a 600 volt landline backup in the late 80’s. The company, Ohio Electric Ltd., of which I was partner along with Peter Covey, wired that particular mill when it was built… I nearly froze my feet off that New Years doing temporary set up of the diesel-electric generator all alone at 15 below zero.) But at the early stages of my life being in the woodlot with the management was so educational and I learned a lot.
To see a huge pine, hemlock or fir fallen and readied for transport to the mill, was something I will never forget. It perhaps was what kick-started my deeper love for the forest and its resource management. I had watched log trucks taking the product to the mill as a child and while on hunting trips with Dad saw old mill camps, logging roads and stumps among the regrowth of new generation of forest. Out of the stumps of hardwood grew new growth that would become the hardwood forest of the future. Among the stumps of new softwood cuts, there sprang up new young firs and birch trees. But most amazing of all were the huge stands of hemlock, which made an enormous canopy over the ground below; usually nearby a stream or river. Nothing could match those experiences at that point in life.
The mill turned out so many products over the years. My favourite spot was the sash and molding factory. The men who worked there showed me so many things and were always accommodating when I asked all them questions… perhaps seeing my genuine interest in what they did and how everything worked. Both Russ MacKay and Lester Harris became close friends and were so helpful in developing an understanding of machines and product. Russ coached me on tools and made me my first wooden mallet to use with my new purchase of top quality chisels that he recommended when I started woodworking as a hobby, while still employed at Woodworkers. I was like a sponge, soaking up information and storing it away for future use… and it all came in handy through the following years. I was amazed at how easily wood ran through the sawyer’s main saw, the re-saws and planners and were later formed into windows, doors and moldings that left the shops almost as fast as they could be produced. A once tall standing tree, fallen, transported, sawn, shaped and now rising again as something beautiful again, gave me a deep sense of pride that I was part of it all.
But it all ground to a stop one day when my cousin fell ill and the then president suddenly died of a heart attack, all in a short span of time. All of us younger men who would have naturally fallen into management positions lost our jobs one by one and new management and owners took over. The mill was closed, dismantled and a new future loomed on the horizon for the business. I felt sad, perhaps in terms of cast down… fallen like the trees that were mere product that could be used and then reused for something else. The work ethic back then, was that you stuck with your job and did your best, but times had changed and change being as it was, called for more drastic adjustments to life and plans for the future for myself and my family.
To rise again is to see life, not in terms of just new adventures or experiences, but how we visualize who we are and what we can accomplish. Sometimes it is a complete make-over or re-establishment of priorities, or maybe even a comeback from a disastrous mishap. We all have something that at one point or another, changes the master plan; that kicks our stumps (our supports) out from underneath of us. It is then that ready or not decisions have to be made and contingencies caused to kick in. These “what if” plans ,known as contingencies, are not important to the youth of most generations, but dreamers, on the other hand, are full of ideas, plans and contingencies that can be kicked in whenever needed or as an opportunity arises. Fortunately, I am in that category… a dreamer, thinker and planner. Well, … maybe fortunately. The fortune comes in that I have a wonderful helpmate wife who can plan for the day in other ways, unless catastrophic misfortune hits and it has in our lifetimes.
I was listening to two old worship songs that we used to sing in our quartet years ago. One we sang at the Blackwood Brother’s All Night Camp and Hymn Sing back in the late 80’s. Yes… Ok… so I am getting long in the tooth (old)… get over it!!!! The first was “Rise Again” and the other was “A Song to Sing at Midnight” which we sang in the competition in Pennsylvania. These two songs, as I listened to them again early this morning, bring me peace. There have been a pile of mid-nights when I needed a song while the prevailing darkness of need and sorrow filled my mind and heart. And the other “Rise Again” is a reminder that no matter the situation now… there will be better days ahead…. If not tomorrow or the following days, they will come eventually in this life or most importantly, the next for sure.
We make so much of temporary setbacks. If trees could feel, I am sure they would say, “Now I am lost!” But, whether bound for the fire to keep somebody warm, as newsprint carrying words to the world, or as building materials to provide shelter, comfort and joy to someone… they for the most part rise again… even from the roots of their fallen tops, or their seeds scattered years before. We are after all temporary for the most part. I said in one offering some time ago that after 2 generations we become unknowns to the family that follows. But we are affected by change; mostly by the bad. That is when we feel most vulnerable, most at risk and afraid. But how we handle the change becomes our legacy to family, friends and to the world out there that is watching, listening and sometimes waiting … and not always for further falls, but for the rising again to better and more productive times, that might enhance their lives as well.
Take heart my dear readers. God is not finished with us yet. When Dallas Holm sings “Rise Again” we can feel the sense of hope that it gives to those who are looking, waiting and praying for relief and release to a better day and Christ gives us that answer. You may be sitting on the edge right now, you may be facing harsh realities that were never expected or planned for, or you may be so worn and weary worrying, that reality is no longer an apparent issue, but don’t lose hope… Someone is holding on to you. First and foremost it is God and secondly it is those who know you and pray for you and who love you…. Now that is worth rising again for.
May you be blessed this day and if I know your need I will pray with you, for you and on behalf of those needs that are weighing you down. May that help to give you a different perspective, as you walk on or near the edge. After all, it may help your perspective on life look different from there, knowing that someone cares … for you!