Dale Russell, 69 years old, has lived in Hayfork since 1950. He met his wife there, and until retiring a few years ago he had worked as a logger his whole life. He stayed in town after the last mill closed, weathering the rampant job loss first through commuting for work, like many, and later when he secured a job doing sustainable logging with a local nonprofit, The Watershed Research and Training Center.
“It’s fun, dangerous, exciting,” Russell says of why he’s kept logging all these years.
Russell remembers the hey day of logging as times that were rowdy, describing a work hard, play hard lifestyle where many spent days in the woods doing dangerous physical work, and nights and weekends in the local bars.
“I couldn’t hardly wait til the weekend,” he says, “hell Monday mornings were pretty terrible. I can remember there was times when some of us couldn’t even remember getting there. Some of us would be hanging out of the rig (truck) throwin’ up on the way to work.”
Russell Remembers a Culture of Rowdiness and Heavy Drinking
Russell looks back on that time fondly, and seems less angry than some about the larger economic and political forces that led to it’s eventual end. Of the stressful period where work was uncertain and he was commuting for hours making ends meet, Russell is accepting.
“You had to do what you had to do, it was the only job you had. There wasn’t nothing else here.”