Saturday, February 6, 2010

barber chair and weather trivia

A friend's 10 year-old son asked me the other day if I knew what a barber chair was. I was instantly transported back 15 years to another planet, and another age in time. No, I wasn't a hair stylist . . . I was a logger.

If you google "barber chair," you'll get a couple hundred thousand hits, mostly about those chairs the hair cutters use. If you add "logging" to the search, you'll get about half the hits, and most of them will refer to the botched felling phenomenon that has injured or killed many loggers, and scared the wits out of countless more. I speak from experience . . . at least the scared out of your wits part.

When a tree is notched improperly, or it's very cold and the tree is frozen, or it's under tension, or the logger is napping on his feet, the tree can split up the middle instead of breaking at the hinge. The butt rockets into the air and becomes a flailing, rocking, smashingly dangerous weapon. Click here for a picture of an innocent looking barber chair. Don't be deceived. It can fly as high as ten or 12 feet, and roll backwards, forwards, or sideways, and take out any hapless logger in range. Sometimes it leaves a wedge-shaped piece of wood on the stump that supposedly looks like the back of a barber chair. It also ruins a perfectly good log.

The young fellow who wanted to know about barber chairs offered me a number of helpful suggestions on what to do if the mishap occurred. I listened patiently, then gave him some good advice . . . advice that I followed myself a few times, and which I now offer you. If you ever encounter an imminent barber chair, run like a bat out of hell. Or a scared little girl. Or whatever analogy you want to use. Just run fast.

There. You've had your Useless Logging Trivia update. I was going to blather on about the uniqueness of each trade's terminology, and launch into a discourse on firefighting words and phrases, but I will spare you. Firefighter terminology is about as fascinating as an exegetical study of Biblical genealogies. Join a fire department if you want to know about the lingo.

At the risk of awakening the weather gremlins and jinxing our mild temperatures, I'm going to once again make fun of the Farmer's Almanac's forecast of a bitterly cold and dry winter. My counter prediction of balmy weather (based on a a skillful blend of wishful thinking and optimism) is being vindicated on a daily basis.

We did have a few weeks of -30 temperatures, but that was in early January, so it doesn't count (don't bother asking why - I make the rules on this blog). The east coast is getting all of our foul weather this year. In fairness, the Farmer's Almanac did predict a nasty snowfall in mid-February for that region.

I could get all apologetic and offer insincere condolences to the folks buried in snow, but I'm not going to. Hey, no one from Tahiti or Toronto (sorry Andrew) feels sorry for the Upsalanians when we get nailed by the Arctic Tasmanian Devil. For those of us who choose to dance with a northern climate, we must certainly expect to pay the winter weather piper upon occasion.

As a firefighter, I'm thankful that the piper is playing a moderate tune this year. Now if we can just get him to do something about those blasted blackflies in May . . .

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