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Chapter 16 - Big George and the Scab

It seems to me that Big George told me that it happened up in Portland on the skidroad, but I won't vouch for the exact spot, but dad gum it, he told me anyway, so I will try and set it down. Also, Big George and I were lapping up a beer or two up in Aberdeen on the Harbor when he told me.

"Dang it," he says, "I was just about broke, down to about three shackles, it was snowing and raining, and no jobs on the boards, and I had just begun to" Some big Hoosier grabs George from behind and spins him around at this point and George says, "well, I'll be damned; Tanker Jack!" Then he introduces me to Jack so I jerk a nod in his direction as he looks like timber, and just to be polite, I says,

"Hi Tanker, how's the stem end of your gizzard?"

Big George cuts in and says, "What's on your mind Tanker, as if I didn't know?"

"Now George," says the Tank, "are you gonna set 'em up just for old time sake?"

"OK Jack, but just one because I ain't too flush at the moment." George yells at the bartender, "give Tank a beer."

George says to me, "come on Pop, lets go down the bar a ways and git away from Tanker on account of when the old fool gets a drink or two he generally gits noisy as hell, and we just might wind up in the bucket for ten days."

"So, we move down the bar a ways so George can tell me what he started to when old Tanker cut in.

"Well, it was up to Portland that I was and no jobs on the boards. I was just beginning to think that I hadn't ought to have quit my last job, but on the other hand I had enough of that damned job."

Another interruption now, as the bartender bangs a glass down on the bar and hollers, "All right Tanker, you are flat gonna have to cut down on your language a bit as there are ladies in here."

Old Tanker hollers back, "what the hell barkeep, them ain't ladies, them's lumberjacks wives!" Everybody gets a kick out of that, even the ladies, so the barkeep subsides and says,

"OK, jack but watch it a little or out you go."

"Well George," I says, "Just where in hell was we at when all this foolishness started?"

"Well, I was going to tell you why I quit that job. In the first place it was nonunion, payed under the scale, ran 9 hours straight time, a windshield broken out of the damned Ape Wagon, and what with a thirty mile ride they liked to freeze us to death."

"Just a Goddam minute George, what in tophet is an `Ape Wagon'? I ain't never heard of the like of that in my time in the timber. Of course I quit the brush in 1935 and they ain't no tellin' what you young bucks do these days."

"Poor old Pop," says George, "you sure are behind the times a bit. Well, the Ape Wagon is what you guys called a `Crummy' and it's just a station wagon that we ride to work in. We call it an Ape Wagon because we are just 'trained apes' or `brush apes', hence Ape Wagon. Now, do you get the drift or do I have to snow again? Then, too, I had other troubles. I had taken a hell of a dislike to the cat skinner, as that log hungry son-of-a-bitch of a gyppo was really on us to get out the logs. I blew a gasket one day and flat told the ink slinger to mix me up a hike, and I proceeds to get the hell away from there."

"Well George," I says, "How come you didn't organize a union local there and GET some conditions? Dammitt, that's the trouble with you guys, you try to FIND conditions instead of MAKING them!"

"Damn it Pop, we TRIED to organize a union but the guys are disgusted on account of the two unions fighting each other, instead of the boss, so there wasn't but a few of us tried. When they turned down the union deal I made up my mind to slope. As usual, I'm broke after a few days on the skidroad so I mosey around town keeping the eyes and ears open for a job on the rigging, bucking, falling, or what have you. Figured I might as well have a beer or two, so I enter a bar and squeeze in between a few gents who look like timber and I orders up a beer. He begins telling me how he had been working for an outfit down in California that was on strike, so I begins to think, here I am buying beer for a dad gummed scab! I fixed him right up though! I waited till he tipped the bottle up for a snort, then I gave him the edge of my hand right on his throat, and he goes down on the floor gasping for breath! I knowed I was bull bait then, so I took off up the street to another bar. This bar has a sort of cubby hole coffee joint right in the front part of the bar, so I gets a cup and waits.

"Sure enough, here comes Mr. Scab, and just as soon as he pokes his beak into the joint, I floors him with a clip on the jaw, and I take off again. Then I goes into another bar and this time I go away down to the back end. Pretty soon Mr. Scab comes in there TOO. Boy he sure is a durable bastard! He comes in and starts walking down towards the back end looking at everyone till he gets right by me and then the barkeep says, "what'll it be friend" I figures now's my chance so I clout him over the head with the bottle and down he goes, this time for the count, I betcha!

"Well, I hurried to get out of there, but a couple bulls came in and held me up long enough to find out I was the guilty guy, so I draws ten days in the bucket. Anyway when I gets out the weather is better, so I did manage to get back to work. Only thing I regret is that I didn't make some man tracks on that damned scab when he was down!