The Logging Comics of Bus Griffiths

Bus Griffiths wanted to be a cartoonist. In 1930 he had a short stint as catalogue artist for Massey-Harris, then, for the rest of the decade, he worked as a logger in one small show after another. In 1940 he went back to drawing for Maple Leaf Publishing, one of the Canadian comic book publishers that sprang up with newsprint restrictions. He did a strip called “Now You’re Logging” and also worked up an eight-page comic on logging for the B.C. government. With the end of the War, Bus hauled his corks out of the closet and went back into the bush. He quit logging in 1971 at the age of fifty-eight and began working a salmon boat. He used his free time to study painting and began producing pictures of logging as it had once been practiced in British Columbia. The Provicial Museum became interested and encouraged Bus to document  the work he had followed for almost forty years. The result was the book Now You’re Logging.

Now You’re Logging follows two guys working in the forest industry in the 1930s. It has a rudimentary storyline but mainly the book shows loggers at work. A logging show is set up and we follow it from hightopping the spar tree, falling, bucking, setting chokers, and working the donkey engine. What’s a bucker? That’s the guy that cuts up the fallen timber into usable logs. Here’s a bucker’s tools as compared to a faller’s:

The bucker and his tools. Click to embiggen.

And here’s how to handle those tools:

There’s lots of other tips of the trade: when high-topping, stop to loosen your spurs before dropping the top, otherwise you won’t be able to get out of the way quickly if the tree splits ; use haywire to sort your log dogs when setting up a boom, it saves having to haul up the line every time you need one.  Now You’re Logging is an encyclopedia of techniques that started to die when chainsaws came in. Along the way there’s other bits of history: how trucks came to replace trains as log haulers, and a look at an old Chinese shakebolt plant. And there’s this:

Elsewhere a logger says that “I’m not always proud of what we’re doing to the country, but I can’t think of any kind of work I’d rather do — to me it’s more a way of life than a job!” This kind of conflicted thinking is part of a working man’s life. And the destruction of logging creates the heady aroma of near-poetry as a logger notices “the sharp smell of the freshly cut logs, the smell of the bruised bark and sapwood, but strongest of all was the pleasantly pungent odor of crushed fir needles, warmed by the sun…” and “…it makes you think of Christmas an’ old friends.”

These are great comics that are now pretty much out of print. You can get a used copy of the original hardcover of Now You’re Logging at ABE for $50-65, depending on the exchange rate, which is not too bad considering it cost $25 new in 1978. Raincoast Chronicles printed some of the comics which are available in one of the Raincoast Chronicles reprint collections. Meanwhile you can check out the B.C. Forest Discovery website for a bunch of pages with single-panels colored and sometimes animated.

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