"Mountain Memories" Page 14
Trees had to be cut with only axes and crosscut saws. Before the railroad was built in the mountains, the trees were all dumped into the river and men had to ride the logs down the churning white water that was filled with huge rocks. To try to keep the logs from lodging in the rocks and stopping the flow of other logs coming behind, they had special tools with which to handle the logs. It was very dangerous work. If their foot happened to slip from the logs and they fell into the river they would be crushed.
Then the railroad was to be laid and more men were hired to make and lay crossties. The long shining rails began to wind up the mountainsides. The peace and quiet of the forest was ended. And the wild animals were no more, for a monster more powerful than them all had come to invade their wilderness with a growl that shook the very mountainsides and a scream that echoed through every valley. Now only the ring of the axes and saws could be heard, accompanied by the crashing of falling trees and the warning call of "high timber!"
Horses were used to pull the logs from the forest to where they could be loaded on the train. There were skids where the logs were slid down the mountainside, and on each side were trenches called "jay holes" for the protection of the animals in case the logs came loose or went faster than the animals could move. They were trained (by experience) to quickly jump aside when the loggers yelled "Jay hole!" In the early days of the lumber company they used some steers, but they were slow and not as quick to move when the jay hole call was made. Many a poor steer came into the camp after a day's work with bloody feet and legs.
Lots of families lived in the lumber camps but train cars were also provided for living quarters. These were called "shanty cars," and were strung up and down the railroad, usually very close to the tracks. It was very dangerous, but these people lived with danger every day. It was not unusual for a train heavily loaded with logs to derail and roll down on cabins and cars, killing the occupants.
Sometimes the cars became uncoupled and rushed with high speed back down the rails. When they came to the sharp curves, so numerous in these mountain railroads, they were unable to make them at such speed and the cars leaped high in the air then crashed down the mountainside, leaving families screaming for their dead loved ones.
When they were children, Joe Miller and his sister Lula were sleeping in a bedroom while their parents held church services in another room of their home, when suddenly logs from a derailed car came rolling down the hillside and crashed into the house