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Chapter 20 - Tranquilizers

'Short Log Gabriel' and yours truly had just unloaded off a manifest freight train in the yards at Eugene, Oregon along about June f 1957. She was going a pretty good clatter, and when we unloaded old Short Log had to go and stub his tow on the end of a tie on the roadbed, In the first place he is kinda short coupled and sway backed, like one of them percheron horses, and his feet ain't able to keep up, so he comes a cropper.

Well, old Short Log, he ain't like most loggers, not him. He is sort of a genteel type, so about all he does is to dig the ground in dirt and rocks out of his mangled hands; feels himself over a bit for broken bones and says to me, "Jumpin' Christ Pop! I must be getting' more old and stove than what you are."

"I agree, Short Log, on account of you won't lay off the stupid juice, so what do you expect? Hell man, you are about as graceful as a bull elephant out in the brush! And what's more, if you had behaved yourself on that rafting job up on the Columbia River, why chances are we could still be working instead of out here on the bum!"

"Hold up there a goddam minute Pop. You know damn well they went to strapping the loads and they fired the whole bunch of rafters there just two days after we left, as they don't NEED 'em any more."

"Just the same," I says, "if you hadn't come to work drunk that day and fell in the river, we could have been still working as they MIGHT have transferred us some place else."

"Like WHERE?" says old Short Log, "when they are strapping the loads now all over!"

"And another thing Short Log. You wasn't satisfied just falling in, you had to go and sing one of them damn Wobbly songs and I could hear you clear up on the other raft, 'Work and pray, live on hay, you'll get pie in the sky when you die."

"About the time you hit the second chorus, here comes old Andy, and you know damn well that he is a preacher in his spare time, and he don't go for that. You also should have knowed them Oklahoma Nationals and them second growth Swedes don't go along with that either! It did kinda tickle me when you told old Andy, 'All right Andy, you can take this here pike pole and shove it, and if you can't do it, just stoop over and by God I'll do it for you!'"

"Anyhow," says old Short Log, "being as how we are down here in Eugene, let's go on over town and talk to some of the natives and get lined up on the job situation."

"OK, I says, but I kinda got my doubts on account of we are going into another Hoover Boom[1] and this one ain't gonna be a damn bit funny."

"Well Pop, maybe you are right and I only hope that if we are gonna have one she will be a little dandy, and then maybe we can DO something about it. By cripes Pop, do you see what I see? Most of these burners are cold."

"That's what I been telling you; we are going into another Hoover Boom and the lumber market is shot now, and that's only the start."

"Hold it," says old Short Log, "there's a hell of a smoke coming from over behind that old dead burner, so let's amble over a look. Goddlemighty! They must be sawin', lumber like crazy from the looks of that smoke. Black smoke would mean pine, but they don't have pine in this country." We get a bit closer and see a long low factory building all painted white and there is a lot of smoke coming from a tall brick chimney.

Old Short Log says, "Pop, that sure as hell ain't a silver factory, so just what in hell is it anyway?"

"I dunno Short Log, but here comes one of the slaves out so we can ask him." The guy is all dressed in white, so he sure as hell ain't a lumberjack, that's for sure.

He gets close enough to where we can talk to him, and Short Log says, "Hi Mack! Just what in hell goes on in that building you just came out of?"

"Kinda behind the times ain't you buster? That there is the Drowzy Dawn Tranquilizer company, and it just so happens that my name ain't Mack, and this factory runs three shifts, but they are full handed, so no need to ask for a job."

Well, old Short Log is a kind of a dumbell so he asks the guy, "Just what is them tranquilizers you are roaring about? Are they some kind of new teleyphone crossarms, or what?"

"Hell no", says the Jerk, "they are a new kind of pill you take to make you go to sleep."

"That wouldn't worry you any would it Short Log, as you can always rustle a jug and then you don't give a damn whether you sleep or not."

"Well Pop," says old Short Log, "Just what do you do if you can't go off to sleep, or does it bother you any?"

"Sure it does, and I remember once when the mill I was workin' in had cut down to three days a week, and I couldn't make my car payment, rent, and the like, and I just flat could not sleep for worrying about it. One guy on the job says, 'why don't you count sheep?' Well sir, I tried that one night so I sort of dreamed up a corral and had the sheep jumping over a fence, and I counted them as they jumped. It worked pretty well until it seemed one of 'em got stuck between the two top poles of the corral and went to blatting his fool head off. That done it! I got wide awake, and mad at the whole deal, so mebbe we do need some pills."

"Now then," says 'Mack'. "You guys are sure old enough to realize that if the working class owned the means of production you wouldn't need to worry about all these things."

"There you go Short Log! That is exactly what we preached back in the rip snorting days of the IWW back in 1914 but they wasn't enough guys would join to make it stick. Now they got this new fangled Comynist deal, and whilst it don't seem to get very far over here, it's flat goin' to town in the rest of the world."

"Well Pop," says old Short Log, what do we do now?"

"Why don't just go on over town, look at the employment boards and if there's nothing there, let's head back to Portland on the soup line, sleep at the "Sally" and get busy on trying to set up unemployed organization."

"Guess that's about all there is too do, Pop, so then we catch the night manifest back to Portland and try to get these stiffs organized."


[1] A Drepression.