Page 12 - 2021 Summer
P. 12

By: John thatcher, plS


                               To Build a Fire






                                                      with Apologies to Jack London



        About the Author:
        John Thatcher is a retired Professional Land Surveyor living on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington since October 2019. He spends his
        time exploring his new digs by bicycle and motorcycle, visiting lavender farms, monitoring the shipping on the Strait of Juan de Fuca,
        snuggling with his “buddy boy” cat Thor and recounting his surveying adventures back in the day. Some non-essential details may be
        imagined for literary effect.





           pring was close, it was March, there was hope, we were   This adventure took place circa 1980, and since the proj-
        Scold. It was one of those days in the northern hemi-  ect was closer to hayfork than Weaverville, the Gold Ridge
        sphere in mid-March when, had the sun been able to shine  Motel in hayfork is where we lodged. I always liked staying
        through the scudding clouds for any decent length of time,  in hayfork. In addition to the beautiful and isolated loca-
        we would have felt the radiant warmth. But the shy, tenta-  tion, I enjoyed our breakfast waitress at the local eatery. On
        tive cloud openings were only teasing us. It was, however,  the surface she treated everybody, denizens and strang-
        warm enough to melt last night’s snow that had accumu-  ers alike, as if they were her own teenagers in need of a
        lated on the higher limbs of the conifers just enough to  stern disciplinarian, all the while managing to exude an air
        assure the drippings were half snow and half water. We  of motherly love. Another perk I came to enjoy in hayfork
        were a survey crew of three, McCrae, Peterson and myself,  was the rock band that played at the local watering hole
        tasked that day with brushing out a P-line for a logging   on weekends. The lead guitarist was the high school mu-
        road, and we were doing all right until lunch time. despite   sic teacher and not too much older than we were. By their
        the irony that you never can stay dry in the woods wearing   looks, the drummer and the bass player were probably
        raingear, the physical effort of constantly moving while   teacher’s students. They played a lot of dylan, Van Morri-
        brushing line with chainsaws and machetes kept us not-  son, The doors, Loggins & Messina and other popular mu-
        so-cold. I have always thought that raingear in the woods   sic of the time. Rockin’ out in hayfork.
        is more about breaking the wind than keeping me dry.
                                                                 The  morning  of the day in  question began  typically
          Beautiful country – the Trinity national Forest in north-  enough. It was Sunday (in a previous essay, I described the
        ern California.  drive State Route 299 thirty-seven miles   legendary “ten-four” work schedule, making Sunday the
        west out of Redding, passing Whiskeytown Lake at about   First day of Thursday). We had enjoyed the above described
        ten miles, until you get to an intersection called douglas   band and a few beers the previous evening, and so getting
        City. You hang a left and follow  highway 3 up over the   going the morning after was a bit of an extra effort. After
        summit at deerlick Springs Road (I will leave to the reader’s   paying “mom” for breakfast and sack lunches, we loaded up
        imagination how some vandal had altered the sign), then   the chainsaws and machetes and drove out to the job.
        wind your way down into Mountain Valley and the town of
        hayfork, population 2,368 at the 2010 census. Before white   That kind of work in cold and drizzly early Spring weath-
        man, the village and the native American tribe who lived  er is not as bad as it might sound to someone imagining
        in the area were called nor’el Pom. hayfork took its name  or remembering it from an inside desk job, where the cof-
        from the hayfields near the South Fork Trinity River.  fee and donut station is just a few steps away. The con-

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