At the start of 1912, Roy was 26 years old. He’d yet to meet a girl he cared enough about to marry. Not that there was much chance of meeting a girl in a logging camp.
From time to time, he’d attended the dances the camp held. A dancer he was not. The legs, which kept him out of harm’s way in the woods, turned to mush when he tried to dance.
He’d learned to read the sounds of the woods. Every ping, chug or whistle he heard meant something different. He’d grown accustomed to the steady sawing sound the buckers made cutting limbs from the giant trees into logs that would fit on trains. Daily he experienced the shattering sounds of mighty trees as they fell to the ground.
Besides the logging, he ran a raspberry field on some of his father’s acreage. It was a small operation; one he could manage himself with the help of a few hired pickers at harvest.
He’d toyed with the idea of buying enough land to raise berries full time. But that meant taking out a mortgage and giving up the nest egg he’d saved. He’d spent his childhood being poor, he loathed the thought of borrowing money. He wanted to be debt free. So, he stuck to logging.
Now it was a Friday in late February, it was time to get his raspberry field in order for the coming growing season.
“Timber,” yelled Roy as he leaped from his springboard.
Together he and his falling partner, Gus, watched as a tree let out one last groan, creak, and snap before it fell in a thunderous roar. It had taken them all day to topple the immense tree, but together they had gotten it done.
Gus tugged on his end of their twelve-foot crosscut saw, “bet the lumber from that one is enough to build an entire house.”
“You’re probably right,” nodded Roy. “What do you say we take this saw over to the dentist shack and head for camp.”
On the way Roy, chuckled to himself as he remembered his first day logging. He’d thought the dentist shack meant a real dentist, not someone who sharpened the blades on their saws. It hadn’t taken him long to learn that loggers had a language all their own. Now he now spoke it as well as any of them.
At the shack, he and Gus heaved the saw onto the counter. Come Monday morning its teeth would once again be razor sharp, like a hungry piranha ready to munch way its way through any tree it encountered.
“You still fixing to go home tonight?” asked Gus, as they headed for the crummy, a train car, which took the men to and from the bunkhouses to the woods.
“Can’t put if off any longer,” said Roy. “Sure you don’t want to come along and help me prune?”
Gus adjusted his spectacles. “I reckon I’ll stay put and rest. Give my regards to folks. Tell them again how much I appreciated spending the holidays with them. Sure made this orphan feel less lonesome.”
“Guess, I’d rest too, if I could,” said Roy, as the crummy jerked to a stop near the bunkhouses. “I’d better hurry if I’m going to catch the last train into town tonight.”
At the bunkhouse he washed and changed into clean clothes. Finished, he glanced at his pocket watch.
“Time for me to go,” he said to Gus. “See you Sunday night.”
The next morning Roy awakened to sun streaming through the bedroom window of his parent’s house. One eye cocked open, he squinted at the clock. “6:30 already,” he mumbled, “I’d better get a move on, I meant to be up earlier.”
He donned a clean pair of overhauls and a plaid shirt and ventured downstairs to the kitchen where his mother poured him a cup of coffee and set it on the table. “It’s nice to have you home. I miss the days when all my boys lived here. Your father is already off making deliveries. He said to tell you he left the pruning shears you need on the back porch.”
“Thanks,” said Roy, sitting down to drink the coffee. “I should’ve been off earlier, too. I really hadn’t meant to sleep so long.”
His mother buttered a piece of bread. “Did I tell you new folks have moved into the rental next door.”
“No, Tell me more.”
His mother swallowed, “They’re the nicest family, I hope they stay. They’re some relation to your friend Justin Phillips and the Henry’s. The last folks barely moved in and they left.”
“You, don’t say.” Roy gulped his coffee and scooted his chair back. “Sorry I can’t dawdle over a breakfast. I’ve got a lot of work to do before I head back to Nagrom tomorrow.”
He grabbed his jacket and hat and opened the back door. “See you at supper.”
He hunkered his chin down inside his jacket to ward off the morning chill, as he headed toward his berry field. The morning sun had risen above the foothills surrounding the valley, bathing them in a pale pink. High above rose the majestic peak of Mt. Rainer.
Roy stood at the head of his field and gazed at the view. Today Mt. Rainer looked as though it was holding court over the entire valley. I’ll never tire of this view, he thought. Sure beats flat, dusty Oklahoma. I can’t believe it’s been 11 years since we left there. Mother and Father are right, time flies. I best stop my gawking and get to work though, or I’ll never get done.
Several hours later, engrossed in his work, a voice startled him.
“Hello, you must be one of the Caple’s sons.”
Roy looked up from where he knelt on the ground. A tall, bald-headed man extended his hand to shake. “Name’s Alex, Phillips. And which son might you be?”
“I’m Roy, the middle son. Mother mentioned you’d move next door. She said you’re related you to my friend Justin.”
“He’s my nephew. My brother John, his dad, lives across the Narrows in Tacoma. I have a brother Herbert and Hue here in town, though.”
Roy set his pruner down. “I’m acquainted with both of them. Mother mentioned you’re also related to the Henry’s.”
Alex nodded, “We’re shirt-tail relatives. And I have two daughters and a son. Hazel, my middle one goes to school with your sister, Lida. And I mustn’t forget my wife, Mattie. Speaking of her, I’d better scoot on home or she’ll have me in the doghouse. Hope to see you again soon.”
“Might be awhile,” said Roy, “nowadays I spend more time in logging camps than home.”
He seems nice enough thought Roy as he got back to work. When the sun dropped low in the western sky, he stopped and surveyed what his work. Content with what he’d accomplished, he picked up his tools and headed for home. As he approached the house, he noticed his sister Lida stood in front with a knot of people.
He took his hat off as he passed them and bade them a “good-day.”
Lida ran over and tugged on his arm, “Wait, I want to introduce you to our new neighbors.”
She held onto his hand and led him back to the group. “This is my brother Roy.”
She pointed to a dark-haired girl with an enormous bow pinned in back. “This is Hazel, she goes to school with me.”
A freckle faced red-headed boy peeked out from behind her.
“That’s Daniel,” Lida said, “he’s kind of shy and eight.”
She pointed to a tall, young woman on her right. “And this is their big sister.”
Roy found he couldn’t take his eyes off of her. Something about her dark hair and eyes the color of melted chocolate captivated him.
She put her hand out to shake. “How do you do, I’m Mae.”
He reached out to take her hand, then noticed how filthy his was. Swiftly he dropped it to his side. “I’m sorry I’m really not dressed for socializing. I’ve spent the day working in my raspberry field.”
She smiled at him, revealing enchanting dimples. “It’s okay, it’s nice to meet you just the same.”
He waved his hand goodbye, “Nice to meet you, too.”
Great, he thought. Some impression I must have made in these mucky clothes. He opened the back door and stepped into the kitchen.
His Mother looked up from something she stirred on the stove. “Roy, take those muddy boots off before you take another step.”
“Sorry, Mother, I forgot I wasn’t at camp.”
He balanced on one leg and the other and shook off his boots. He headed to the sink to wash. The delicious smell of cooking vegetables and beef filled the air. “Mmm, something smells wonderful,” he said as he grabbed a bar of handmade soap and lathered his hands. “What’s for dinner?”
“Beef stew,” she said, “and because I know how much you love them – biscuits. You’ve just enough time to change into clean clothes before it’s done.”
Roy chuckled. “They aren’t that bad, are they? But I’ll change.”
“Please do,” she said, swatting the air behind him. “And don’t you get smart with me.”
Upstairs, he slid his feet into a clean pair of trousers and thought about the girl he’d just met. I sure wish I weren’t headed back to Nagrom tomorrow; I think I’d like to get to know her.
Monday afternoon found Roy and Gus standing on springboards falling another tree. Hitting a patch of sap, they stopped to clean their saw.
Gus grabbed the bottle of oil they always kept handy. While he cleaned his side of the saw, he said, “You aren’t very talkative today. I’ve barely heard a word out of you since you got back last night. You’ve got a dreamy, faraway look in your eye. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear you’d met a girl.”
“I have,” said Roy, reaching for the oil to clean his side of the saw.
“What!” said Gus, “Are you serious?”
“I am, and I’ll be darned if I can’t get her out of my mind.”
“Tell me about her, is she a looker?”
Roy let out a whistle, “I’d say so, tallish, slender, dark hair and the most enchanting brown eyes. Trouble is, I met her while I had my muddy work clothes on, I don’t thing I made much of an impression.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” said Gus. “Surely she’s seen men in work clothes before. Did you talk to her much, how old is she?”
“Well, really we didn’t talk, just a glad to meet you. As far as age goes, I’d say twenty.”
“Will you see her again?”
“I spect so her family moved into the vacant house next door.”
Gus gave his side of the saw a pull, “Sounds to me like you and I need to plan an outing to Puyallup soon.”
Roy gave his side of the saw a push. “Mother’s birthday is next month maybe I will go then.”