Installment Number One:
In an alternate universe a man named Waylen Jones exists. In this universe, the trees in the West haven’t been chopped down. The trees in the East are still blowing in the wind. The Boreal forest is as strong as it was 5,000 years ago. Global warming hasn’t yet begun, due to the vast amount of trees still populating the earth, as well as the lack of wood burnt and Co2 released during the industrial revolution, which still happened, just differently. This world, where all the earth’s forests still exist, is only possible due to the seemingly impossible scenario where the axe and the saw were never invented. All other modern-day technology exists. But up until 2008, the saw and axe have been absent among that list. Finally, after breakthrough research performed at Duke University birthed the axe and saw, for the first time in human history, wood now has a use. Welcome to the world of Waylen Jones. Real life lumberjack and modern day Paul Bunion.
The splitting terror of 100,000 tons of pine was sweet, sweet music to the ears of the men holding the 18-foot long cross-cut saw blade. The man with the missing pinky finger shook his head approvingly as he wiped a bead of sweat from his brow. Both were dressed for the harsh elements of the forest in Northern North Dakota in early spring. This meant thick leather boots, heavy pants held up with suspenders, and, of course, red and black plaid jackets. Between the two of them, an entire morning had been spent hiking through thick forest brush, chopping massive grooves in the outer layer of their cellulose-clad victim, and then hours of brutal, taxing, back and forth pulling on the saw until the 12-foot thick diameter tree finally began to groan and crack. Both men now stood back a safe distance as the tree came thundering to the ground, smashing limbs from other trees as it came. Smashing entire other trees as it came. They stood in awe, despite witnessing the same sight a thousand times before, as it slowly made its way to the ground. It shook the earth as it made contact. One of the men had captured the magnificent felling on his iphone and, within minutes, posted it to facebook. Waylen Jones’ status read “just made a big-ass tree my bitch!”
Waylen and his co-worker, Paul, knew the real work was yet to come. De-limbing the behemoth and segmenting the trunk into pull-able sections would eat up the rest of the afternoon and the next two days. Then the oxen teams would be brought in to pull all the dead, hacked-up wood out of the woods and to the river, where, as everyone knows, the seal team would push the logs upstream for miles upon miles to the wood mill. This was by far the most time-consuming and costly of the logging processes. The funds spent on training fully-grown adult male sea lions to push the giant logs upstream for 200 hundred miles, let alone the great quantities of mackerel needed to fuel the 2,000 pound animals, was astronomical. But demand for wood products was so great that the cost didn’t matter. The demand was so great, in fact, that no one bothered to find ways to stream line anything in the logging process. This was the way it had always been (since 2008 at least) and this was the way it would always be. Change wasn’t necessary.
From the mill, the wood would be cut up and processed into manageable-sized pieces and trucked out to wherever it was needed to make greeting cards, McDonalds coffee cups, and (one of the newest paper inventions)–annoying pamphlets and magazines inserted into people’s mailboxes to get them to buy things they didn’t know they wanted or needed. It was a thrilling new enterprise and Waylen Jones found himself right in the middle of it. He had always thought of himself as an ambitious man, but nothing had quite caught his attention enough to spark the killer drive he now had. He’d grown up in a small, northern town in the state of New York, gone to community college for a year and a half, then dropped out to manage the family business when his father passed away. Unfortunately, the family business was put out of business a few years later when the invention of paper made Jones’ Stone and Tile Chisel Work obsolete. So Waylen set off out West and eventually found himself where he stood today: sweating and panting at the base of an enormously thick piece of wood. In this universe, a ‘woody’ was not an innuendo for an erection, since no one had given trees or wood a second thought up until just a few years ago.
Waylen scratched at the saw dust in his black beard for a moment as he and Paul took a moment of silent rest while the dust and leaves settled around the fallen pine. It would be a long time till quitin’ time. Yes sir. They had a long afternoon ahead of them. And another long day after that. And another long day after that, and so on. The life of a logger isn’t an easy one. Waylen found that out a long time ago. Men died young out here. And the women too (mainly from seal bights–women were the best at training the sea lions). Yes sir, it was a dangerous time to be out in the untamed wilderness. But it was the only life Waylen Jones knew anymore. And the only life he wanted. Because Waylen Jones was a lumberjack. He worked all day and slept all night. And, you know what? He was OK…he was ok.