When the new spar tree at McLean Mill National Historic Site was finally raised on Sunday, it was nothing new for supervisor Jack James. James is an oldtime logger who has worked his way up, down and around the forestry business for 50 years. Now as a volunteer he runs the steam donkey demonstration at McLean Mill.
James has raised “too many of these things in my lifetime. I was a high rigger at one time and all I did was raise trees,” he says.
While the method of raising the new tree was filed solidly in James’ memory, the same could not be said for most of the other volunteers, who had never done this before. James patiently schooled them in the traditional method of raising wooden spar trees, which were replaced in the 1960s by steel spars. The whole process on Sunday was captured on video as well as in still photos, so we don’t lose this amazing hands-on wisdom.
People like James—who has a rich knowledge of the way things were done half a century ago—are becoming scarce. While there are better and more modern methods to log now (helicopter logging has replaced the need for wooden or steel spars), it is important to remember our roots.
There are still people around who lived through the age of steam, the electric motor and other critical developments of the past century. The last 100 years can arguably be identified as the most important in terms of mankind’s development (for better or worse); who is going to teach our children about these accomplishments if we don’t celebrate them?