Logging is in Dennis Marsh’s blood. So it was no surprise that, fresh out of high school, a young Marsh took up work in the back country.
“I started in the woods in 1988 as a chokerman, at the bottom,” says Marsh. “I worked my way to yarding and loading of timber.”
For 10 years he worked on steel spars, grapple yarders, skyline yarders and ran machinery.
In 1997 he was trained as a faller, a job he had wanted from a young age.
“It’s something that’s hard to get into, you have to be persistent to find someone to take you on and train you to do the job,” says Marsh.
Growing up in Sayward, the son of a logger, Marsh always wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.
His dad started in the forest industry in 1965, working in MacMillan Bloedel Camp at Menzie’s Bay with close to 500 men. Before that, his grandfather was a faller.
His uncle, a log-loader operator, is still at it at the age of 61.
“He tried to retire a couple of times but he can’t do it because he loves the job so much,” says Marsh, who understands the feeling.
“I love the physical aspect of the job but more than anything I love being with a crew of guys,” says Marsh.
As a faller with Blue Thunder Contracting, Marsh is out in the woods for six and a half hours a day, cutting timber. The chain saws he uses are powerful enough that a tree trunk three feet in diameter can be cut down in about one minute. Once the tree is on the ground, the log is cut to the length the purchasing company requires.
As a working supervisor, Marsh is responsible for a crew of workers and keeping them as safe as possible.
“It’s a very dangerous job, you have to be very mentally and physically prepared,” says Marsh. “There’s definitely been times where I’ve been nervous, but not so much now. I’ve been a faller for 14 years. The first few years were challenging, when I was still learning the job.”
Marsh has been fortunate he has never suffered any serious injuries throughout his career but has twisted his knee, which required surgery.
Still, although he’s up at 4:30 a.m. and it takes an hour and a half to get into the bush he still enjoys what he’s doing. And he knows it could be worse. Back when his grandfather was logging, the chain saws were so heavy it took two men to pack and carry them.
“They used chain saws in the ’40s and ’50s but they were very heavy back then,” says Marsh. “They didn’t have the technology we have now and they didn’t realize you could get a lot of horse power out of a small machine.
“Logging now is a lot more faster and efficient.”
It’s also safer.
“Safety is the most important part of logging now,” says Marsh. “Before, the important thing was getting the wood onto the beach.”
He is also fortunate that he doesn’t have to spend a lot of time away from home.
For the past two years he hasn’t had to go away to camp, instead working close to town. Before that he spent a lot of time outside of Port Hardy or Tofino, away from home for 10 days at a time.
Still, for Marsh the sacrifices are worth the reward as he is continues on in an industry that has meant so much to his family.
- Good Timber: Songs and Stories of the Western Logger celebrates the golden age of logging in the Pacific Northwest opens at the Tidemark Theatre Tuesday.
Performances are approximately 90 minutes long and are suitable for adults, youth and children aged 8 and up.
Dates and times:
July 5 Tue. 8 p.m.
July 6 Wed. 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.
July 7 Thu. 8 p.m.
July 8 Fri. 8 p.m.
July 9 Sat. 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.
Order Tickets Online: $27 Admission $22 Members $17 Students