Appalachia Logging Pap

The Smell of Loggers

The smell of logging and sawdust papaw was a logger

The smell of wood cutting hangs heavy in the air around our house. Every time I go out to the backyard to feed the chickens or work in the garden I smell Papaw Wade. Sounds sort of strange right? Actually, since he’s been gone for well over 20 years it even seems strange to type it.

Papaw Wade was a logger. Oh he had other pursuits too-he was a farmer for many years and he was a Baptist Preacher. But Papaw was primarily a logger.

I’m not sure there’s anything that smells as good as just cut timber. The sweet smell of sawdust mixes in with the earthy smell of freshly upturned dirt and disturbed decaying leaves. And if you happen to be cutting pine trees, then you’ve got the smell of Christmas thrown on top of all that other goodness.

Even before Papaw passed away the smell of wood cutting made me think of him. In high school I worked at McDonalds. Whenever a logger came through the drive-through I’d slide back the glass window and inhale the scent of home and comfort.

The strong feelings I have connected to the smell of timber cutting and Papaw Wade are reinforced by the fact that when I was a little girl Pap was a logger too. I remember climbing in his and Papaw’s lap when they come in from work. I’d play with the sawdust where it had gathered in little piles in the folds of their clothing.

I’m going to talk about cutting wood this week so stick around for the story of how the Blind Pig Family finally said goodbye to their worrisome white pines, a logging vocabulary test, and a few other related articles. I’m hoping to share a video of our biggest tree falling as well as let you hear Pap tell a story from his logging days.



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  • Reply
    Rev. Rose Marie "RB" Redmond
    October 14, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    I know what you’re saying here. Our Dad cut a lot of wood. Both our Brothers did and still do too. But it was the smell of a lumber mill on the side of a road we took down to our hunting camp in the Pennsylvania hills that I remember smelling just wonderful the most.
    Our Dad called cutting wood for a fire, “the wood that warms twice” (the body heat you get as you cut the wood and then the warmth of the fire when you burn it). LOL
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Yecedrah Higman
    October 13, 2015 at 10:51 pm

    My husband was a logger all his life. He and his two brothers logged woods all over Arkansas. He is retired now and I miss the smell if wood shavings he brought home everyday. It always seems to smell better in the fall doesn’t it? My grandfather Earl Brewer was a logger until a load of logs fell on him and broke his leg. It did so much damage he was never able to walk properly again. He and grandma left the woods and moved to town.

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    October 13, 2015 at 10:24 pm

    How timely! We are sawing lumber this week- as the lady who sweeps up all that sawdust that comes in, I think I’m entitled to the “we”. Mitchell might disagree 😉

  • Reply
    October 13, 2015 at 7:42 pm

    One of our Pastors was a Logger, when one of his men were sick or couldn’t show up for work his Wife would run the chainsaw and stay in the woods all day just like the men..He actually said she could run the saw as good as any man.. I know what your thinking, but she was a nice looking Lady and to see her on Sunday you wouldn’t think she was a Logging Lady.. Got a lot of respect for Loggers, gotta relative that has Logged all their lives.. If you want a taste of hard, Hot, Long days in the Summer, Cold days in the Winter, follow a Logger around..

  • Reply
    George Pettie
    October 13, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    Ah, yes, we are twice warmed, first by the work of cutting the wood, and then by the heat from burning it. I have fond memories of swinging the maul at the woodpile, and of the smells of fresh split firewood wafting up to join the odor of woodsmoke drifting over from the house chimney–the pungent resinous pine, the faintly sweet cherry, the slightly sour poplar and the strong musty oak.
    For me, the trick of felling timber was to carefully cut the notch and then the hinge cut, in order to drop the tree just where I wanted it to fall.

  • Reply
    Chuck Howell
    October 13, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    My Dad was a logger in what is now The Great Smokey Mountain National Park in the Twenties. My Mother taught school at Oconnoluftee till 1928 when they eloped for West Virginia where I was born. I have so many “Sawmill” & “Sawdust” stories I don’t know where to start. I will share more. Chuck

  • Reply
    October 13, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    Hi Tipper,My grandpa had a saw rigid up on his truck in 30s and early 40s,he and my dad would go to peoples homes and cut their wood.I don’t recall the truck,grandpa died in 1946 when I was 6.I do remember the doll grandma made me filled with saw dust.Thanks for another memory.God Bless.Jean

  • Reply
    October 13, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    You’re my kind of Mountain Girl. I
    love folks looking back (still
    can’t spell remenisk) at how things use to be.
    This morning I gouged a huge hornet or jacket nest from underneath my porch. Two of my grandgirls were scared to death and stayed inside till I showed them what it looked
    like. They just smiled and were
    so amazed at the 6 layers, once
    the outer housing was removed.
    Both had their cameras, taking
    pictures like crazy. I had poured
    raw gas on it a couple months ago
    but they got to see how the larvie babies were hatched. They
    were so amazed! …Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 13, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    I’m like you. I have sawdust in my blood too. In fact just last evening I unpacked a brand new Husqvarna 440e and sent some sawdust flying. I had a birthday just a few days ago and I always buy me something I “need” for my birthday. This year it is a new chainsaw. I was out til black dark “working” with it.
    My Daddy and Grandfather Ammons were both woodsmen. Daddy was a farmer in the general sense but he was a tree farmer too, one of only a handful in Swain County. He belonged to an organization called the American Tree Farm System. For every tree he felled, he replanted at least one. I figured out one time that he had planted at least 10,000 white pines. The sad part of it is, he didn’t live long enough to reap the harvest of his labors.
    The ritual of buying my ownself a birthday present goes back to when I was working. The company gave us a day off with pay on our birthday. I would always work and get an extra days pay. Since it wasn’t figured into the family budget, I could spend it on whatever I wanted. I am retired now but I draw a pension from the company so they can still pay for my birthday presents.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    October 13, 2015 at 11:42 am

    I believe logging embeds itself in our genes. My paternal grandfather and his brother were cutting the large American Chestnuts for Tan Bark and Acid Wood when a large tree kick back and killed him. This occurred in 1928 when my father was five years old however as soon as he was old enough to pull a Cross-Cut saw dad went to work for ten cents an hour to help his mother raise two younger brothers. As I was growing up we heated with wood so I learned early to pull a Cross-Cut myself. I can remember my dad telling me if I was going to ride my end of the saw I needed to put a saddle on it. We did all our logging with a Cross-Cut as we couldn’t afford a Chainsaw. When I started raising my family we still heated with wood but I had purchased a Chainsaw but I still spent most Saturdays cutting and splitting wood with my trusty Ames Axe Eye Mall. I also cut and split Locust Stakes for my use and for sale. I still love cutting timber even though I pay for it with aches and pains. I love the smell of most woods but even though Red Oaks have a distinctive smell that has earned it a nickname which I won’t mention here as most “Old Timers” are aware of it since it is descriptive odor will stick with anyone who has cut and sawn them. This odor still brings back pleasant memories of the days I spent with my dad cutting them. Another memory I treasure is cutting Pine for lumber with a Cross-Cut and carrying a Coke bottle of Kerosene with a cotton wick in my back pocket to keep the resin off the blade to prevent it from binding. Our children don’t remember the “Good Old Days” and don’t believe us when we tell them about them. When I hear the older generation speak of the “Good Old Days” I know they have a selective memory and generally are being nostalgic for their younger bodies.

  • Reply
    October 13, 2015 at 11:32 am

    I never thought that the smell of fresh cut trees could be so compelling. And, I didn’t think that each tree type might have its own smell. Cedar was the only one I remember knowing the smell of. I think I am going to learn some good stuff this week.

  • Reply
    October 13, 2015 at 11:11 am

    Ahhh the memories that come rushing back! In an earlier post this week I told of my dad being a sawmiller and logger. When I was very small we lived in Ark. and there was a big sawmill in town and my dad had 5 brothers and 1 sister and at times all five boys worked at the sawmill or logged. Grandma would cook a huge breakfast consisting of fried chicken, etc. and when they left for the mill, she would clean the dishes and start dinner and have it on the table when the noon whistle blew!
    They tell a story about me when I was about three. Daddy came home from work and I asked where he had been and he answered that he had been working in the woods all day. I asked, ” did you see a bear?” He said, “yes.” Then I said, “Well did you kick his hiney?”
    We have old pictures of the sawmill and all the kids gathered around the sawmill camps because they would move it around and they had their own school. An older cousin would teach the smaller children. Sweet folks.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    October 13, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Not all woods are created equal in terms of smell. Red oak is my favorite.
    At least for the person doing the work, the best time for smelling, though, is not when you’re sawing – at least if you’re using a chain saw. The engine exhaust fumes more than counteract the wood smell. But when you’re splitting it (by hand), there’s none of the 2-cycle gas smell.
    It’s been more than a quarter century since we heated our house with wood, but smells have a long memory. I’m pretty sure I could pick out red and white oak, hickory, poplar and sourwood (and of course pine and cedar) just from the smell.

  • Reply
    Pinnacle creek
    October 13, 2015 at 9:45 am

    My Grandfather was also a foreman logger, and I am told he worked back in the day for $1.00 a day to feed twelve children. Mom remembers him bringing home rattlers from snakes they killed in the mountains with copperheads also being plentiful. They would put them in their guitar to achieve better sound–probably folklore.
    He finally had to retire when age and a loss of one eye forced him from work. He carved a home out of the wilderness of Pinnacle Creek as he still had young children. Never was a home happier, and this tall rough man was so gentle with his children and grandchildren. With so many children, some were my age. He once had to spank me and one of the younger ones for fighting, and I would have sworn he used a feather.
    Tipper, we have some memories in common. Certain smells or sights can bring forth the sweet memories even when a busy day has us knee deep in the rat race. It is great when children have good parents, but unique grandparents are a little extra special gift from God.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    October 13, 2015 at 9:16 am

    Tipper: I had a hard time with your post this morning! My daddy worked in the Ritter Saw Mill in Hayesville. Never a day past that I didn’t long for his return from work! Waiting out in the pasture, he always managed to to pick me up and carry me to the house. OH THE SMELL of the sawdust still lingers!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    October 13, 2015 at 9:07 am

    I need all the logging education I can get before the loggers start cutting 2,700 trees here on the farm this weekend. My uncle was a logger before power saws and high value lumber. He still managed to raise his big family doing the backbreaking job. Can’t wait to smell the sawdust that will be hanging around here for several months to come.

  • Reply
    Roy Pipes
    October 13, 2015 at 8:52 am

    TIPPER, For several years we heated with a fireplace insert. I know the smell of cutting wood. I have a video of my grandson, then about eight, splitting firewood. He is now 28, but I would bet he still remembers being a woodsman.

  • Reply
    Joe penland
    October 13, 2015 at 8:36 am

    Sounds like it is going to be a great week!

  • Reply
    October 13, 2015 at 7:39 am

    I’m a little too old to be heavily involved but I still like to watch. I can hear some logging being done near my house and find it hard not to go take a look especially when I hear a big tree fall.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 13, 2015 at 6:47 am

    It was something to see as the guys cut trees at my house before they went to cut your trees. It hard work but exciting too.
    I’m looking forward to the coming stories!

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