Visiting the sawmill

Posted 2/2/20

The first time I remember visiting a sawmill was when I was 11 years old. My mom had told my dad that if he ever wanted eggs for breakfast, we would have to clean out the chicken pen. Apparently, she …

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Visiting the sawmill

Posted

The first time I remember visiting a sawmill was when I was 11 years old. My mom had told my dad that if he ever wanted eggs for breakfast, we would have to clean out the chicken pen. Apparently, she wasn’t fond of wading through the stinky stuff. That Saturday morning, my dad looked at me and said, "Let’s go to the sawmill."

I thought we would take the '57 Buick Roadmaster, but he stepped into the backyard where he kept the ancient Chevy truck parked. It hadn’t been cranked in months, but Dad had strung an extension cord out the kitchen window and hooked it to a battery charger that he kept in the old truck.

The engine groaned and whirled a few times before springing to life. We left the engine idling while we fetched two shovels from the shed and tossed them into the rusty bed of the truck.

We took the backroads since the truck hadn’t had a tag on it since Eisenhower was in the White House. 

Somewhere down close to the Flat Creek Community, we pulled into a sawmill owned by a friend of my dad’s. The owner wasn’t there, but Dad pulled a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer from behind the seat and left it near the makeshift office. Payments for goods and services were a little different back then.

Looking around, I was amazed. There were chains, gears, belts, and a saw that was as big as a rear tire on a tractor. Also, there was a mountain of sawdust. 

Dad backed the idling Chevy up close to the edge of the sawdust, and we started shoveling. In less than an hour, the bed of the truck was so full that it couldn’t hold another shovel-full of sawdust.

He rolled a Prince Albert cigarette and leaned against the tailgate to rest a moment. I took the opportunity to go sawdust diving. It should be an Olympic sport. 

By the time we headed back toward Sloss Hollow, I had sawdust in my pockets, my hair, in my underwear and “other” places.

You may wonder what started me down this sawmill path, so here’s the deal.

One of the first things I’ve learned as a beekeeper is that beehives are expensive. I’ve bought several locally and a few online. It didn’t take a rocket surgeon to understand that if I wanted to expand my apiary, I’d need to learn how to build some of the parts myself. 

My bee-buddy Ricky Grace told me about Rustic Lodge Sawmill in Cullman. He said that If I bought the wood, he would show me how to build the beehives. “Nuff said.” 

After lunch today, I headed out to the sawmill. It didn’t take long to see that this sawmill wasn’t like the ones of my youth. The equipment was more sophisticated, but the sounds and smells were the same. The biggest difference was there was no mountain of sawdust. I’m guessing that the new equipment has a way to capture the sawdust and haul it away from the yard.

It only took a few minutes to load my lumber and head back to Empire. I checked on the drive home to see if I had any sawdust in my pocket. I didn’t.

Tomorrow, I’ll learn to take sawmill lumber and build things that will house bees and help save the planet.

Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book, "Life Goes On," is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at rick@rickwatson-writer.com.