Caught by the River

Spare Time

13th April 2011

by Willy Vlautin.

At four thirty in the morning the logging trucks start going by my house. It’s dark out, generally raining, and they bang down the road using Jake brakes which are usually illegal but we’re outside the city so they use them. A Jake brake lets out compressed air in the cylinders and slows the trucks without using brakes, but it’s loud, like punching a hole in a muffler.
The trucks go back and forth to logging operations a few miles up the road from my place. They clear cut acres of second and third growth forests. It’s all Douglas Fir and the trucks take them thirty miles to a different operation in Longview, Washington and drop them off.
I began going outside and taking snapshots of the loaded down trucks, and I began following them up these isolated logging roads to find where they were logging. There are mazes of old and new logging roads that pass through second and third growth forests and it’s hard to know which way they go unless you follow them. With the rain and mist and fog it’s like driving through a different world. It’s great beauty next to great devastation. It’s nature and man together. These aren’t gyppo logging operations, these are big outfits on land they own and have been replanting and logging for years. A clear cut is as ugly as a slaughterhouse, but as was said in ‘Sometimes A Great Notion’,
“Neat work you guys do up here,” said Leland Stamper (About clear cuts and logging)
“Well Leland,” replies Hank Stamper, “all you got to do is find something else for mommy to wipe her little baby’s butt with and all this neat work is out of business.”

It’s a haunting thing to watch the destruction of a forest but then there are cities and suburbs and malls and strip malls and baby carriages and doll houses and decks and houses and buildings and lofts and cottages and desks and shelves and bookcases and books.
I was on top of a ridge, it was cold and windy and raining and foggy. I was sitting in my truck waiting for a Jake brake to give me warning to get out and get my camera ready. Then I hear it and so I get out, but the logging truck pulls over and the guy rolls down the window and I go over to him.
“What you doing?” he asks me. He’s not smiling and he doesn’t know me and doesn’t like me already.
“I’m taking pictures of logging trucks.”
“I don’t know really,” I said.
“Who you with?”
“I just like taking pictures of logging trucks.”
He shakes his head and the whole top of his fat body sloshes around with it. He knows I’m the dumbest guy that’s ever landed. He drives off. They’re all worried I hate them, that I’m some sort of eco-terrorist, but I’m just a guy driving around logging roads so I can get lost and then find my way back and take a few snapshots along the way.

Willy Vlautin will be playing songs and telling stories on the Caught by the River at stage at Port Eliot festival on July 22nd.