15 September, 2012

Special Feature:: #Spotlight on Scaling Tall Timber by Dave Folsom

*** SPECIAL FEATURE - September'12 ***

Recently injured in a vehicular crash that killed his girlfriend, a young forester is assigned to a new job in a remote area of northwestern Montana.  He is befriended by an alcoholic logging truck driver, whose efforts to move both into recovery helped in no small way by two women who guide them.  Centered on the western logging industry, the story focuses on events that bring sudden change to an ideologically resistant area and the men’s unwilling involvement.  Upon arriving, he confronts his hard-driving boss rebelliously, but soon learns that finding what he's looking for will require a major effort on his part. The locals, a hard-working, hard-living, idiosyncratic lot take on the task of educating their new co-worker in ways he could never have imagined. Learning lessons that teach him about surviving the horrific he finds himself melding into the eclectic area when changing times force the locals to rely on his assistance.  Just as he becomes attached to his new surroundings and the quirky inhabitants, new technology threatens his job followed by news of a hydroelectric dam construction effort planned a short way downstream that will destroy the valley.

An Excerpt


I drove with creeping dread riding the seat next to me.  Horne had saddled me with whether the Therriault brothers lived or died on the company books.  The stories I'd heard made me visualize the two as bridge-lurking trolls.  Known county-wide as the meanest, orneriest, wood-chopping sons-of-bitches alive, no one questioned their reputation.  Bar talk, lubricated by homemade liquor, embellished the stories with each telling.  Frenchy was the oldest by twelve minutes.  Porky came next and manhood left the twins difficult to tell apart, until the youngest got his nose smashed by a hardwood chair and earned his nickname.  Porky's nose fell victim to a bar fight in Troy, a fight that left it flat and broad.  Frenchy promptly threw the chair-holder through the building's front plate glass window and into street.  According to legend, after he and Porky finished wading through the other patrons, only the walls were left standing. 
Neither man had a neck.  Their bodies started at their chins and followed a long curve that ended at toe level.  Both weighed close to three hundred, poundage that rippled solid muscle and little fat.  Coal black hair covered both heads and chins and their dark round cheeks bulged with Copenhagen.  They wore black and red checkered wool shirts summer and winter, open in front from chin to belly exposing a forest of black chest hair between red suspenders and tin pants.  The Therriault brothers lived to wrestle the rough and tumble kind that sometimes turned into a free-for-all.  Frenchy's reputation as county arm breaking champion went unchallenged except by tourists and he regularly won beer by the case holding a Homelite 990 chainsaw one-handed at arms length to the count of ten.
The twins owned an old Koehring double-drum cable log loader, with a serial number under ten, which had once been red.  Most of the faring had long ago disappeared and the engine compartment and operator cab doors hung lopsided from single rusted hinges.  It moved forward and backward on rock-worn tracks with half the grouser pads missing.  The rest of their equipment consisted of three Allis Chalmers HD-20 skid cats of the same vintage as the old Koehring, a grease-encrusted army surplus cable-dozer equipped TD-14 dozer, still painted olive drab, and a service truck built from a made over school bus.  That any of their equipment ran, much less moved logs, bordered on a miracle.
I drove into the landing just before noon.  The Koehring stood idle and the landing had not a log in sight.  It looked as if they hadn't turned a wheel in days.  I wondered, for a moment, if anyone was around, yet there were several pickups parked in a group.  I stepped out of my company rig, listened for dozer noise, heard none, and stood looking over the deserted woods landing.  The old Koehring looked like a rode-hard horse, bone-weary, head down tired, and grave-ready.  It sat like an abandoned hulk, boom in the dirt and cables slack.  The army surplus TD-14 rested beside the school bus service truck.  The engine covers lay on the ground and the left-hand track served as a worktable for dozer parts.  Wrenches and big sockets were scattered over the hood.  I found the crew, behind a pile of dozed-up brush, on the far side of the landing, eating lunch.
There were six of them, a hard-looking, careless bunch dressed similarly in wool shirts, suspenders and black jeans.  I approached apprehensively, wanting to put my best foot forward.
"How's it going?" I said, innocently.
"Is one of you Frenchy Therriault?"  I tried again, trying to guess which of the lounging loggers fit the description I'd heard.  All seemed to.
More silence.
"My name's Scott Jackson.  Company sent me up because John Davis is sick.  I'd like to look over your operation."
 None of the six looked at me or in any way acknowledged my presence.  Was I invisible?  Their disregard for me was complete and I felt shunned.  It was a standoff and I stood minutes waiting for them to give up on the game.  From my vantage point it wasn't hard to pick out the twins.  It also wasn't hard to distinguish Porky from the crowd.  Everything I'd heard was true.  They both looked intimidating even in daylight.
 One man finally moved, yawned and stretched massive arms skyward.  "Say boss, I don't feel much like working this afternoon.  Think I'll take me a little nap," he said.
"Hell of an idea," said another.  "I'm sleepy as hell." 
"Okay," I said, "funs over, I can take a joke.  How about we look over the job?"
The six loggers filled the air with their exaggerated snoring, eyes closed and hard hats pulled low.  Frenchy and Porky lay in the duff like a couple of abandoned oil barrels, their massive chests heaving with nasal somnolence.  I would have accomplished more beating a dead horse.  No one said a single word.  I walked away shaking my head. 
I spent two hours climbing dusty skid trails looking for high stumps, careless breakage and skipped areas.  Gypo loggers were notorious for ignoring patches of thin stumpage, opting instead for areas where the trees were larger.  After the first hour, I'd found only an occasional missed log, mostly small, one or two oversized tops and a half dozen stumps that wouldn't strictly pass the height requirement.  I had expected worse and started to look seriously thinking maybe I'd missed something.  Twice I walked down to where I could see the six loggers.  No one had moved.  I couldn't believe they were still pretending sleep.
Therriault Logging left little that I could find to complain about.  Ranked from one to ten, the job rated at least an eight and probably a nine, not bad for a gypo crew.  There wasn't enough scale left to worry about.  In all, they'd done a fairly decent job.  It was hard to imagine how, with their trash equipment, they could reach even a five.  Gypo loggers, the term coming from the fact they worked independently under a contract that paid for production and nothing else.  Most everyone in the industry except overhead was paid by the piece, but the gypos were a mixed lot, usually under-financed and could only afford sub-standard, worn-out equipment.  As a group they were generally fun-loving, hard-working and a close knit bunch.  Therriault Logging was no exception.
Finally satisfied, I walked back to the landing where the Therriault twins and their crew feigned sleep.  I selected a spot fifteen feet or so from the group, folded myself down, tipped my hardhat forward, stretched out and closed my eyes.  Two could play this game.  The hot fall afternoon sun beat down on us and the smell of conifer pitch floated on the breeze.  Pine squirrels scolded us and a rotting limb poked me in the back.  An hour went by.
In spite of myself, I dozed, lulled by the forest sounds and the rare mountain air.  Occasionally I peeked out from under the bill of my aluminum lid.  Still, no one moved.  I determined to wait them out.
Finally one of them said something.  "You smell something?"
I cracked one eye open and scoped the group.  Was this a taste of victory?  The pretense of sleep abandoned, they sat leaning against cull logs staring at me stretched out across from them.  An older member, missing three fingers, tapped the bottom of a Skoal can, lifted the lid and scooped out tobacco with his thumb and the remaining forefinger.  Both went into his mouth along with the tobacco wad.  He stuffed it between his cheek and gum.  Skoal crumbs fell mixing with dark chest hair and sawdust.  He didn't bother to brush it off.
Another sawdust and duff covered logger with a Rasputin beard agreed:  "Sure do, its close too."
"Maybe it's a polecat.  Smells like one," said a third.
They spent time discussing my ancestry, my appearance and my male abilities without referring to me directly.  They all wore high-heeled boots common to woods work, some with the little steel spikes in the soles that they pronounced "corks" and was spelled "caulks."  Their clothes were heavy and tough-made, able to withstand constant abuse.  Beards wore long and untrimmed kept faces warm in winter.  Snuff cans wore circles in shirt pockets and grease from wiped hands decorated black pants.  Their work was physical in a way only hard labor can be, sweat-raising and dangerous.  Accidents were common, frequently crippling and occasionally deadly.
I finally tired of their game and since it didn't appear they would relent, I got up to leave.  "Okay," I said, starting to walk away, "you win, I'm leaving."
Faster than I would have believed someone that big could move, the Rasputin-bearded one, the one I'd guessed to be Frenchy Therriault, jumped in front of me blocking my exit.
"Now what's yer hurry?  We was just getting acquainted.  You ain't passed the test yet."
"Test?" I said with gut-wrenching premonition.
"The test to see what yer made of.  I'm Frenchy Therriault and I'm gonna be the referee.  We want everything to be fair and square."  Frenchy turned to the crew, facing a group smelling blood and eyes twinkling in anticipation.  "Killer, how much you weigh?"
I feared that the stout man who answered earned his nickname honestly.  Cold steel blue eyes stared at me from behind a heavy blond beard.  His sly smile let me know that he'd thoroughly enjoy rearranging my body parts.  His wool shirt exposed a powerful chest covered with sweat and sawdust.  I had a wild impulse to run.
"Two-ten," Killer said, getting to his feet in preparation for battle.  He stood inches shorter than my six-foot-four, but I doubted it would matter.  His long upper body sat on short stubby legs that would have made him look dwarf-like if he hadn't been so big.  Somehow, I didn't think my college wrestling experience would help.  It seemed unlikely that "Killer" had heard of the Marquis of Queensberry.  Or cared.
"Here's the rules," Frenchy declared as if reading my mind.  "There ain't any.  All you got to do is put Killer down best two out of three.  Should be easy.  I'm sure you've read how in a book somewhere."
Verbal intimidation, I decided, hopefully, when Killer began to circle, arms low, his fingers beckoning, calling me in a guttural voice, "Come to me, scaler-kid."  His eyes sparkled, enjoying himself, a wide grin exposing snuff-stained teeth.  The crowd around us hooted and the bets ran two to one on the first fall.  I wasn't the favorite.  Out of the corner of my eye I could see Frenchy gathering money.
I circled also, imitating Killer's ape-like stance, the reference to my age ringing in my ears.  I wondered: if I could land one good punch in his beer-swollen belly, would it be over?  While I debated, Killer stepped inside like lightening and cuffed me open-handed alongside the head.  His playful rap rang bells and danced stars, but I didn't go down.  Amazed by his quickness, I single-mindedly followed him back jabbing for his gut.  My punch was carefully planned and artfully executed.  It started out low, arcing upward at Killer's ample middle.  It fell inches short.  Killer stepped back, waltzing on the slippery duff artfully, surprisingly light-footed given his bulk.  My mighty blow only grazed his side and while I was off balance, his left jab exploded on my nose.
Anyone who has ever been in a serious fight knows that pain has one of three possible effects.  You land face down eating dirt and there's no possible way to get up; or, instinctive rage overrides the pain and you keep getting up while your opponent beats the shit out of you; or, you overpower your opponent with the fury of your attack.  Here, it was a combination of the last two.  Killer did an admirable job of rearranging my face before I finally took him down.  I couldn't remember his hitting me.  In a flurry of swinging blows, we both fell, with me landing hard on his upper body with my knees digging into his armpits and fistfuls of his long blond hair in both hands.  I tried to pound his head into the soft duff while dripping nose blood onto his face.  Killer was laughing when hard hands pulled me to my feet, fists swinging.
"Take it easy, Scaler-kid, you passed the test,"  Frenchy said into my ear, holding me from behind in an iron hammer lock. 
"Lemme go!" I growled, my breath coming in short, shallow gasps like a cornered animal, wild-eyed and challenging.  Adrenalin-filled, I was ready to take them all on or die in the attempt. 
"Bring out the brew," Frenchy yelled, releasing me cautiously.  Someone handed me an open mason jar.  I put it to my bruised mouth and tipped a swallow expecting water.  I got instead clear 'shine that set fire to my split lip and blazed a path down my raw throat.  My heart raced like a dog-run hare.  Choking on white lightning, I tensed when Killer walked up to me.
Holding out his hand and his unmarked face grinning, my opponent said, "Nice try, Scaler-kid."  I took his hand still suspicious.  The others cheered, patting us both on the back.
"I guess you've earned the right to say yer piece," Frenchy said.
I swallowed hard, letting my heart calm down before I said, "I walked over your cutting unit and couldn't find much.  I just wanted to tell you that."   I ran my tongue along my teeth.  Only two were loose.  I tasted salty blood every time I swallowed.  "Watch your stumps; there are some high ones up on top."  I couldn't resist the chance to get in a lick.
"There you are! Scaler-kid says we're doin' a good job!" French yelled to the group and they all cheered.  "How 'bout that?"
I was fairly sure Frenchy Therriault didn't give a damn if I approved his work or not.  "My name's Jackson, Scott Jackson." I said.  My stomach felt sick and I swallowed hard.
"Scaler-kid," Frenchy said his voice fatherly and patronizing, "you come see us anytime.  We'll be glad to give you the test again."  He had a big sweaty arm over my shoulder guiding me toward my pickup.  "I'd watch myself, be I you.  You fall like that again and you could hurt yourself."  I wiped my mouth with my hand and the back of my wrist turned dark red.  I could hear snickering in the background.  The logger crew had followed us.  When I was in the truck, Frenchy leaned on the door and stuck his bushy head in the window.  "You got guts, kid, I gotta give you that.  Be smart and stick to scaling."
I drove away, my pride smarting almost as bad as my nose.  At the bridge over Sutton Creek, I parked the pickup off the road, walked to the water and washed off most of the blood.  I removed my torn shirt and soaked it in the icy spring water.  The cold compress finally stopped my bleeding nose while I sat on the creek bank wondering if I'd made any progress.  Something told me that, despite my sore face, our next meeting would be easier.  They would wait to see if I had the sand to come back.  It was a small victory, but one I savored.  It puzzled me that it mattered so much.
The moon climbed over the timbered ridge behind me before I left the creek.  I'd licked my wounds and convinced myself that I'd done what had to be done.  During the drive back up the moonlit road to Sutton's Landing, I thought about that dark night on the Seeley Lake Road.  I saw the headlights and remembered the noise again.  It surprised me that there seemed a new cushion in my head, one that softened the pain.  The lights weren't as bright and the noise lessened.  I wondered what she would have thought of me, wounded and bloody, like a returning gladiator, and I knew she wouldn't have ever seen me that way.  I wouldn't have forced the issue before, never have cared enough to put myself at risk.

I debated over whether to drive directly to Rita's.  I wanted to see her, tell her what had happened.  Most of all, I needed someone to listen.  I stopped at the bunkhouse first and cleaned up.  When I looked in the cracked shower room mirror the face staring back startled me.  Did I know this person?  My left eye had swollen half shut and promised a dandy shiner.  My nose and both cheeks were puffy and bruised.  The split on my upper lip carried dried blood.  Killer did fine work.  I washed gently and changed shirts.
"What happened to you?"  Rita said.  Her hand rose to her mouth when she saw me standing in the dim light of her front porch.
"Nothing serious," I said.  "One of Frenchy Therriault's boys gave me some serious lessons in ruff and tumble fighting."
"Come in and let me look."  She held the door for me and I stepped into the warm living room.  Rita guided me back into the kitchen.  Under the soft light of the kitchen, she held my abused chin in one hand and looked me over.  "They did a good job," she said matter-of-factly.  "Sit down and I'll clean you up."  She went into the back of the house and came back with hydrogen peroxide and iodine.  With gentle hands she dabbed and clucked and doctored.  It was almost worth the fight.
"What brought this on?" Rita asked.
"Horne sent me up Sutton Creek.  John Davis turned up sick and I'm the new temporary woods boss.  I think I got a lesson in logger protocol."
"Kind of a rough lesson."
"Maybe, but unless I'm wrong, I'd never be able to work with those guys unless I took it.  They're probably taking odds on whether I'll show up again."
"They are that way.  I've been around loggers all my life.  If you can live through their hazing you'll probably never have trouble with them again."  She peered into my face and studied her medical work.  "Doesn't look like there's anything fatal here."
"Thank you, nurse, for those sympathetic words of wisdom."
"Hey, feel lucky they didn't break your nose."
"I am, believe me."
I noticed Jake standing in the kitchen doorway, dressed in a T-shirt and pajama bottoms.  He stared knowingly, probably wondering if I'd gotten the license number of the truck that hit me.  "How come your face looks so funny?" he said.
"I had a disagreement with another guy."
"Does he look as bad as you?"  Eight-year-olds always cut straight to the point.
"Nope," I said. "I let him off easy."
Jake grinned at me.  "That's what I figured."
"Jake, you get to bed.  We have to go into town early tomorrow, you know." his mother said.
 "Goodnight," he said and scurried away.
"I've got a couple of beers, if you want to sit on the porch a while."
I agreed quickly and Rita rescued two bottles of Highlander out of the Frigidaire.  I noticed lately she kept some on hand.  Either she liked me to come around or I was drinking too much.  I hoped it was the former.  We moved out onto the porch under Northern Lights dancing in long colored streaks waving from the horizon up into the night sky.  The stars seemed intensified by the aurora borealis.  Rita wore a long blue denim skirt that hid her feet when she sat on the porch steps.  She hugged her knees and rested her chin on them.  Her white blouse and tied-back hair gave her a farm-girl look in the dim light.
"I'm sorry they did that to you,"
"Don't be.  I'll live."
"Actually, there's something almost child-like about them.  I really think they were playing a game, like an initiation.  It was like dueling with a bunch of grizzly cubs."
"What's the point?  You can't be one of them."
"I don't want to be one of them.  I just want them to accept me the way I am.  I'm company and nothing will change that, but I need to work with them.  I can't be good at my job unless I can."
"I suppose you're right, but I'm not thrilled with them hurting you."
"Me neither."
"Well, be careful."
"I will."  I changed the subject.  "Have you heard anything about the dam?"
"No."  Her head came up off her knees and she looked at me curious.  Her quiet eyes embarrassed me and I was glad she couldn't see me in the dark.  The words that spilled from my mouth surprised even me.  The proposed dam construction hadn't, until lately, been foremost on my mind.  It seemed strange, but the lives of the people around me seemed strangely intertwined by the dam rumors and I found myself, however unwillingly, caught by the same rope.  I drank long on the icy cold beer surrounded by the shadowy night, glimmering starlight, an understanding silence between us, and a mind full of new thoughts. 
"Listen," I said finally, "why don't I come around Sunday and do some things for you.  You know, little maintenance jobs that need doing.  I'm a pretty fair carpenter, passable plumber and I've done a little wiring and lived through it."  I stomped the rotting wood under my foot.  "Maybe we can fix these stairs."
Rita looked at me for a long time before answering.  I couldn't see her eyes or read her face.  Her hand reached over and burned hotly on my knee.  "You don't have to do that."
"I know, but I want too.  What else have I got to do?  Buy me a six-pack and I'll be your slave for the day."  I tried to make light, my mind concentrating on her intimate touch.
"That's probably all you'll be worth if that eye closes any more." 
"Don't knock it, my rates are cheap.  You can't expect more from a half-blind man."
"I'll agree only if you let me cook you dinner."
"I'd do almost anything to avoid my own cooking."
We sat in another silence for a moment or two and I felt strangely content listening to the sounds surrounding the house.  The moon had risen and peeked though thin larch tops.  Coyotes sang forlornly in the distance, yipping high pitched cries that rode on the dark.  Their lonesome melody reverberated in the narrow river canyon several times before dying out.  I saw Rita shiver.
"Cold?" I asked.
"Just coyotes," I said.
"I know, but they give me an eerie feeling, like something bad is going to happen."
"It won't, I promise."
"I just don't like them."  She slid across the wooden porch next to me and I put my arm around her tight.  She laid her head on my shoulder and her silky hair smelled faintly of wood smoke and shampoo.  Her lips brushed my cheek and left a hot spot on my bruised face.  She felt comfortable nestled in my arms, a fact I found disconcerting.  These were feelings I thought I'd lost.
"You know, you put up a pretty good front, but I think, deep underneath you are a pretty nice guy."  Rita whispered the words and I tightened my grip.
"Got you fooled, don't I."
I finished the beer and left her there sitting on the porch waving to me in the dark, watching me disappear into the shadows.
I walked down the road instead of taking the trail back to the bunkhouse.  Underneath, I felt as though I was running away, trying to escape the woman on the porch.  I realized that I'd been holding her at arms length, not thinking about how I felt and taking her for granted.  I could still feel the touch of her gentle kiss lingering among the cuts and bruises on my battered face.  It helped me sort out the day and I walked the road though crisscrossed tree shadows kicking small stones.  Like Daniel, I'd picked a thorn.  I hadn't tamed the lion, but then he hadn't eaten me either.
I almost convinced myself that night that it was possible to inject myself on the locals and make a difference.  Then, standing in the dark road wrapped in my thoughts, I saw it, and I knew there were changes coming that I couldn't stop.  It looked out of place in the moonlight.  An obviously man-made feature where nature ruled.  The brutal wide stripe, like a death band, girdled a three foot pine.  I dropped off the road into thick dogwood and mountain maple for a closer look.  The axe had left cut marks in white wood, cutting through thick corky bark and skinning the cambium layer five inches wide.  Bright yellow paint colored the cut all the way around the tree.  They'd begun to mark the high water line.
"Damn," I said, and no one answered. 

Book Trailer

Lesser Known Facts about Finding Jennifer:
1. Many of my readers guess that I am Scott Jackson in the book.  Some of them are right.
2. The area depicted in the story was flooded by a large dam construction in 1970
3. The moose story is true.

So, I got ask Scott Jackson the same 'This or That' Questions that Charlie Draper had answered last week. If you have missed that out - you can check it Here.

Fact or Fiction?
I never lie.  This story is the absolute truth especially about the moose.
 Book or Movies?
No moose were harmed during the writing of this book.
Shakespeare or Dickens?
I like Dickens.  Shakespeare is too hard to read under a Coleman lantern
Jack Sparrow or Mad Hatter?
Who is Jack Sparrow?  Most loggers have to be a little mad to work in the industry
Ocean or mountains?
Mountains are the best.
Forest or Beach?
There is something quiet and peaceful about being alone in the forest.
iPod or Mp3 Player?
What’s an iPod or Mp-what?
Desktop or Laptop?
My desktop is usually cluttered with scale tickets and the butt of a log truck driver, neither one of which I’d want on my lap.
Baked or Fried? 
Anything I can’t fry isn’t worth eating.
Shaken or Stirred?
You never shake a moonshine jug.  It stirs up the sediment.

Oh Well! Even though those weren't the answers I was looking for, I think I like Scott Jackson. Don't you?

Now for the most amazing news! The Giveaway! Mr.Folsom has very kindly agreed to a Very Special Giveaway. This month there's going to be 2 very lucky winners.
 First winner in US only a signed copy of winner's choice any of Dave Folsom's books in trade paperback.  Second winner choice of ebook copy of any of  Dave Folsom's books - gifted through amazon in kindle or smashwords in other formats. 
So,what are you waiting for??? Go Enter NOW!!

1. There's only two compulsory entry to qualify for this Giveaway. 
2. If the compulsory entries are not completed properly, additional entries of that person will not count.
3. The Giveaway is open to US for Trade Paperback & Internationally for Ebook.
4. I will select the winner through Random.org on 30th September and will send an e-mail. They have to reply with their mailing address/e-mail id within 48 hours, or I will select another winner.
5. Please do not leave your e-mail id in the comment section.

Open Internationally

US Only

1 comment:

  1. A great post and nice feature!

    This probably doesn't relate much to your site but I wonder if you can do a feature post on the site, ReadWave?

    I would be very grateful if you could get back to me on my blog (the link is there if you click my name) or by email: submissions@readwave.com