HomeHistoryUncertaintySacrificeServiceSo What?Hard QuestionsFor TeachersResponsesLinks


Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4 | Page 5 | Back to Work Page

As Gordon Dyck says, “snagging was a completely new experience for us prairie fellows.”


“We always worked in teams of two. Our tools were a six or seven foot [1.8 – 2.1 m] crosscut saw and a flask of diesel fuel to lubricate the saw if there was a problem with pitch. Each of us had a falling axe which was kept razor sharp. First, we always tired to determine which way the tree wanted to fall, for if we were wrong, trouble was sure to follow. To force a tree to go contrary to its inclinations was almost impossible with our limited tools. It could have been done with a hammer and wedges, but these were heavy and seldom carried.” [ASP, 61]


Although each CO took the necessary precautions, mishaps were inevitable. Waldo Lepp remembers an unusual incident.


“We prairie boys found out that BC trees were taller than our prairie poplar. Bill Zacharias from Rosthern and John Andres of Ontario felled a tree 230 feet [70 m] in length. It was a short snag one day that nearly flattened a lunch kit that had been left on a stump too close to the felling area. It was supposed to be more visible at lunch time. I do not think there was much left of the lunch. Naturally the rest of us shared with the wiser victim, from lunch boxes still intact.” [ASM, 298-299]


Stacks of logs cut by COs Aron Peters standing with axes Blacksmith shop in Banff National Park


The COs came across all sorts of trees.


“Our tree falling consisted in cutting trees that had been left behind following a fire. Some of the larger trees had been left untouched by the fire. Some of these were beautiful trees of six foot [1.8 m] diameter. Our cutting was all done with hand drawn cross-cut saws. It would take nearly half a day to fall some of the big ones. I recall a snag of about thirty feet [9 m] in height that I and another boy cut through. It was an irregular cedar measuring eleven feet by fifteen feet [3.3 by 4.5 m]. We cut it through, but no manner of wedges could topple it. I suppose it is still standing there on the stump. There was a forestry report in a newspaper that credited our boys and those in other camps with setting records for falling in those days. Those who were sincere worked as unto the Lord.” [ASM, 281-283]


Carrying logs at Riding Mountain National Park Cutting a snag Cutting down a huge snag

Officials measured productivity by measuring how many square feet the COs cut.


“The stumps of the trees felled by the men had to be scaled (measured) and in this manner records were kept of the amount of work done by each set of fallers.” [ASM, 210-218]


Dave Ratzlaff set a record for the number of square feet cut in one day.


“The cutting was very hard work, at times coupled with competition as to who could cut the most footage per day. Dave, large and strong, had a partner Ed Enns, who was a good match. Early one day they set up with their lunches and the adrenaline flowing, to give their bodies the ultimate test. They sawed 240 square feet [22 square metres] of surface cut, the highest figure on record at camp. Dave remembered the constant battle with pitch, the sticky substance oozing from tree wounds, in the sawing process.” [ASP, 150]


This record amazed the COs in other camps. The easy-going attitude of the COs hid the fact that clearing snags was a dangerous job. In 1943, two men died as a result of a rotten snag.


Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4 | Page 5 | Back to Work Page

Top | Home | History | Uncertainty | Sacrifice | Service | So What? | Hard Questions | For Teachers | Respond | Links | Search | About This Site