Monday, August 13, 2007


For three summers, I was a treeplanter. It was a hard job. Probably the hardest.

When you’re little, the schools fill you with the idea that pioneers had it tough, that the work never ended, and no one ever got rich doing it. The proper response was to show admiration and be grateful that we didn’t have so many chores to do. I’m not sure why teachers and parents fill kids with stories of how rough things used to be. Why do lessons taught to kids have to be fraught with so much guilt?

The fact is treeplanting is probably at least as hard as being a pioneer in terms of pure physical labour, not to mention similar mental anguish.

A planter of trees, at least during my time, was only paid for the number of trees put into the ground. The average for the time when this photo was taken was about 12 cents per tree, more if the terrain was especially difficult. Then there was the 25$ per day for camp and food costs. Then you had the amount owed on the gear you had to purchase from the company and whatever your tent and boots (at least 2 pair per season) for the year cost.

You only got paid if you planted the precious trees correctly each time. And there was always a company man/woman walking around making sure you did it right, or you started again... this time no money made, since you had already put the trees in the ground. They also had a habit of making sure you wore your hard hat, despite the fact that in your average clear cut, there aren’t actually any trees standing.

Payday was generally more stressful as the reality of your work was played out for you on a piece of paper, ironically made by the trees that you just replaced. Some people came out of a season owing the company.

Add the bugs (mostly blackflies and mosquitos, but also wasps, deer flies and other strange bitey ones), the bears (which leads to inevitable bear mace can explosions) and no escape from the rain, sun and hail... and that is about as hardcore a job as one can find in Canada.

One day this cool cat I worked with was sitting on the ground. He stared back at me. Since he was a rookie and looking pretty sad, I asked him if he was alright. He replied, "You know, if someone on the street came up to me, dropped a dime in front of me, and all I had to do was pick it up and put it in my pocket, I wouldn't do it."

His logic was impeccable. The saddest part as he left the job for good was that it was another week until black fly season
Hence this picture of an old friend who is rolling a joint at the top of a hill, trying not to let the wind catch our communal stash of precious marijuana.


French Panic said...

I am dumb, and here is why: when I saw this picture on your computer and glanced at it (briefly), I thought it was a picture of some random poor person from your trip to Nepal.

I am so perceptive.

Pamplemousse said...

the mountains are way bigger in Nepal.

Michael said...

Apex baby! When we got suspended in 2005 I went to work for 5 days on a crew out of Hinton. Any romantic visions that my brain had conjured up were crushed within the first bag.