Branded Logs

Tales of Vashon

“Hey! Look what i found!” , Sean yelled out ..

“Ok… coming!” , i said, looking up from the edge of the log pile at  Portage beach.

Sean and i had been beachcombing.  Sean had decided to build a carport for his sort of new Toyota which he had just acquired after finally wearing out the twenty year old Toyota he had gotten from me. We were looking for some nice 6 inch or so cedar drift so we could put something together to accommodate the used, but nice metal roofing he seen on ‘Vashon All’ or the local freecycle site.

I clambered up over the jumble of logs and saw immediately what drew Seans attention..

“This is an old boomchain and here is the real treasure!”.  Sean pointed at a big round of log a bit further up and he showed me a much weathered side where he had cleared enough such that we could see distinct markings.  We both knew this was an old log brand that someone had cut off the end of a log to prevent identification.

A Boom-chain is used to tie the log raft corners together and was about four feet of chain with a ring on one end and a log toggle on the other. Many years ago some of the more ambitious ‘log ranchers’ would let a corner of a log raft loose and drag out a few logs which they later sold to the mills.  Most log ranchers merely waited for the natural course of storms and accidents to take place and kept an eye out for loose logs which they then ‘salvaged’ and accumulated and sold to small local mills.. All beach areas had a few people that found this a way to augment seasonal jobs, fishing or other endeavors that made a living.

Well before Sean and I were born, there were actual ‘log pirates’ who made off with whole rafts of logs, but the development of the “Log Patrol” pretty well stopped this large scale theft after 1929 , and mostly just loose logs were ‘repurposed’ or salvaged in the late forties and fifties.  All of us who lived in Islands knew someone who could supply a nice few sticks that a small mill could cut up. The price was always affordable. At one time you could easily find a round with a brand on almost any beach.  My grandfather used a ‘Simpson’ brand for a chopping block for years.

I was telling John about the log branding we did in Ferry County years ago.  If I left wood by the side of the road after filling the truck, I always branded the log with my initials.  I can’t say that I started the practice; maybe I had seen someone else do it.  Honor among thieves always demanded that we respect someone else’s efforts to get their wood to the road. One day I was whacking up a log and branded several rounds I couldn’t get on the truck.  When I came back the next day to get my wood, each log was painted with the letters USFS.  I was on the wrong property again.

The old blacksmith on the hill outside town invited me in for a drink.  His son wanted to show me a piece of wood he brought up from the basement.  It had most of my initials on it.  Not much I could say; except I can’t remember his name.

“Sean can’t remember his name..  But I can!  Gwynn Mason.. He and his brother Marvin ‘Marvelous’ Mason were wood pirates of the highest sense of honour!  They would only ‘misappropriate ‘wood in order to give it away to those in need.”