KBEE’S Chapter 4 – The Lumber Mill

by Suzanne Hauser and C Howard Diaz


The next day the children boarded the bus for a trip to the mill. Heather didn’t want to join them, but camp rules kept her from staying behind.  Her dislike for Jonny grew, even though they did not find the compass in Jonny’s things.

The mill turned out to be an awesome place.  It really was a huge wood factory like Counselor Barry had said, Heather thought.  It had it’s own lake where they kept the cut down trees until they could be milled or sawed into boards.  The foreman explained this was to make more room for storage, and also the water helped to reduce the risk of fire.  If the logs were just left on the ground, one spark could cause millions of dollars in damage.

“What are all those rings on the inside of the log?” One of the children asked.

“The rings are made as the tree ages,” Dr. Whitley explained.  “Count the number of rings, and that tells us how old the tree is.”

“This one here,” said the foreman, “is about fifty years old.”

“Wood is a wonderful thing.  Like snowflakes, no two pieces of wood are exactly the same.  Even within the same kind of tree,” the foreman explained.

“How many kinds of trees are there?’ Jason asked.

“There are hundreds of different kinds of trees,” answered the foremen, “but we use only about 40 of those for products nowadays.  We divide the timber in to two types, softwoods and hardwoods.  Softwoods are coniferous trees, or trees with needle type leaves, like a Christmas tree.  This wood is easy to work with because it’s soft.  Hardwood, for the most part, is wood that comes from trees that have broad leaves, like oak or a walnut tree.  This type of wood is much harder than pine and denser.”

“Are hardwood trees harder to cut since they’re so hard?” a child asked.

“Very good,” the foreman exclaimed.  “Soft and hardwoods are different in texture and weight.  This makes a difference when you’re using them to make products.  On the other hand, while a tree is growing, both woods support the tree and its leaves and branches.  Sap runs through the wood, like blood in our bodies, and brings nutrients to all parts of the tree.  When a tree is growing, inside it’s very wet from sap.  When a tree is cut, the sap evaporates and is replaced by air.  We call this process seasoning.  After a tree is seasoned, the wood is much lighter because of all the air inside.  Because wood is so light, it’s easier to work with than, say, stone or iron.  But until the 19th century, all work that was done to wood hand to be done by hand.  This made a difference in the types of wood cut and worked with.  But after the industrial revolution, machines were used to saw logs and plane, or make wood flat, and give them a fine finish.  And this could be done much more quickly in a factory or a mill.”

“What about the machines we see here?” Jason asked.

“The machines we use for going into the forest and cutting harvesting trees are really quite new, well, in the last hundred years.  When my grandfather worked at this mill, they only had manpower to cut down trees.  It was not easy.  And here at the mill, there was no electricity.  The power there was came from the watermill.  It took a lot more time and a lot more work to make wood ready to be used.  Today, we can get a lot more wood from each tree because of the processes we use.  Let’s go over to the stripper and I’ll show you how we get the bark off the trunk of the tree,”

The group walked over to the hydro presses and watched as great streams of water stripped the bark right off the trunk.

Next the foreman showed the children how they debark the tree with the hydro presses.  Heather and Jason watched as the water stripped the log clean.

“Man,” Jason said, “I thought firemen had a lot of water pressure.  This is amazing.”

“I wouldn’t want to be hit by that stream,” Heather agreed.              “The bark will be sent to the pulping bin, where it will be made into wood pulp to be used in paper manufacturing, mulch and other products,” the foreman explained.

“That’s awesome,” Jason said as they moved to watch the saw make rectangle sheets out of round logs.  “I never thought about two-by-fours coming from round trees.  I gotta write my dad about this.”

They moved from the huge saw to the glueing station where the smaller pieces of wood were wedged and glued together to make long boards.

On the bus back to camp, Dr. Whitley went over what they had seen during the afternoon.  The children were very excited.  “Now you see how the loggers make full use of the trees they harvest.  No part of the tree is wasted.  Boards are sent all over the country to be used in building.  As the foreman said, pulp is sent to paper factories, fertilizer plants, and all sorts of industries where they will be used in making products we use everyday.”

Heather felt better visiting the mill and joking with Jason again. She was glad she didn’t have to spend time in a small  group with Jonny.  Unfortunately, her luck didn’t hold out.  The next day the children got into their groups to play a new game, Natures Alphabet.  The children sat in  a circle around a teacher as she explained the rules.

“Everyone get out your journal,” the teacher instructed. “Now list the alphabet A-Z down the left side of a sheet.  You’re going to go hiking today and explore the environment for yourselves.   Throughout the day, as you see different bushes, bird, bugs, trees, whatever, write down the name of the species next to the letter in the alphabet that it starts with.  Hopefully, by the end of the day your list will be complete.  There are bagged lunches on the back table, pick one up as you go out and put it in your nap sack. We’ll get together again this afternoon and see what you’ve come up with.”

Heather was still mad about losing her compass.  She felt in her heart that Jonny was responsible, but since she could not prove it, there was no reason to make a big scene.  Heather decided to enjoy the hike and the company of Maria and Rey Lin and try to ignore Jonny altogether.

Two of the boys from Jason’s tent had the flu and a third had hurt his ankle.  This left only the five, Heather, Rey Lin, Maria, Jason and Jonny to do the exploring.  The kids were having a great time finding all sorts of neat plants and animals to list in their journals.  When they got too many kinds for a single letter, they used the languages they knew.

When they came upon a patch of mushrooms, they listed it under M and then under H for hongos, the Spanish word.  Rey Lin said in Bankok, the Thai word is et, so they listed it under E.  Jonny said American Indians called them tontanos, but no one really believed her.  Jason suggested F for fungus; just like a boy, Heather thought.

It was dark and cool under the trees of the forest.  Some trees measured up to 8 feet around and reached over 100 feet high.  “This must be some of that old growth area we were talking about the other day,” Jason noted.  “These trees are so huge, they must be a thousand years old.”

“They’re old, but I don’t think trees can live to be a thousand,” Heather said.

“Your wrong, Heather,” Jonny had to point out.  “Some trees like redwoods can live to be several thousand years old.  That’s why a lot of people don’t like them to be cut down.  But they grow pretty fast once they’re planted.”

The children sat down under one of the larger trees to rest and eat their snack.

“You know,” Jonny continued, “in some wilderness areas and preserves, you’re not even allowed to eat.  Rangers are afraid the animals will get used to people feeding them or picking up scraps that they’ll forget how to gather food for themselves.”

“I’m glad we don’t have those rules here,” Jason bit into a large red apple. “I’m starving.  It’s been a long time since lunch.”

“Well, don’t worry,” Heather said sarcastically, “if we didn’t have food, I’m sure Jonny could whip us up some bark soup or something.”

“Cut it out Heather. Your just jealous because Jonny knows more about the woods than you.” Jason snapped.

Rey Lin broke in, “Hey you guys, I haven’t seen another hiker for hours.  Don’t you think we should head back?”

“It is getting sort of late,” admitted Jason.  The group stood up and picked up their packs.

“Which way do we go?” asked Maria.  The children looked at one another then settled their focus on Jonny.  No one uttered a word, but they new they were lost.

Chapter 5 –  Finding a Way Home


You city kids are classic.  A few hours on a hike in the wilderness and you’re already lost,” Jonny laughed.

Jonny laughed. “You guys are classic, a few hours on a hike and you’re already lost.”

Heather was angry at Jonny for acting so mean, but she knew Jonny was right, they were lost.

“So maybe we are lost, but if you’re so smart, why don’t you show us the way back?” Heather challenged.

“Well maybe I will, but what will you do for me?” Jonny responded.

The other four whispered to each other then Heather said, “You lead us back, and we’ll do all your camp chores tonight. OK?”

Jonny looked amused.  “Camp chores for one meal, split between the four of you?  Well, that’s a start, but Heather, I want you to do something special.”

“Special, Jonny. What do you have in mind?” Heather was annoyed.

“I want you to apologize for saying I stole your stupid compass.  You made me look bad in front of the counselors and now they’re always watching me.  When we get back I want you to make a formal apology.”

“No way, I know you stole my compass.  I don’t know where you hid it, and maybe I can’t prove it, but I’m not going to apologize, especially in front of everyone.”  Heather folded her arms for emphasis.

Jonny sat down on a stump.  “I guess you guys can find your own way back then,” she whined.

“Come on Heather.  You don’t know that Jonny took your compass. Just say your sorry and let’s go.  It’s getting darker by the minute.”  Jason was worried.

Heather resented Jason protecting Jonny.  But it was getting dark and she had no idea which way they had come.  She hesitated then grumbled, “Ok, fine. I’m sorry. Are you satisfied?”

“That’s fine for now, but when we get back,” Jonny started.

“Fine, fine, whatever. Let’s just go.” Heather finished.

“Follow me.” Jonny lead them for a few miles through thick foliage.

“Shouldn’t we have hit a trail by now?” Jason asked her.

Jonny responded slowly, “I’m, uh, taking a short cut.  You want to be back before it gets totally dark don’t you?”

Jonny headed out again and the rest of the group followed.  She headed in one direction then turned and turned again.  Darkness was falling and the group followed very closely on her trail.  When Jonny suddenly stopped, the rest bumped right into her.

“Give me a break. Do you have to follow so close?  You’re messing with my directions. Give me some room,” Jonny bellowed.

The four moved back, but not too far, they looked at Jonny closely, afraid she would leave them behind.

“Jonny,” Heather asked.  “You don’t seem too sure of yourself anymore.  Are you sure this is the right way?”

“Jonny, are you sure this is the right way,” Jonny barked.  “Of course I’m sure, or would little miss smarty pants like to lead for awhile?” Jonny sneered.

Jonny turned in a circle more than once.  She climbed a tree to look around.  Heather had a bad feeling that Jonny was lost too.

“Does this look familiar to anyone,” Heather asked.  Everyone shook their heads including Jonny.

“I could swear if we headed back toward that ridge, we would end up on that meadow where we ate lunch, follow it to the other side, down the slope, and be on the edge of camp.” Jonny said.

Looking ahead they could see a clearing, but it was not the meadow.

“That must be one of those clear cut areas we talked about.  It looks so sad,” Heather observed. “All around are these huge beautiful trees and over there they’ve just been killed.  I don’t think I like clear cutting.”

“I don’t like clear cutting,” whined Jonny.  “Get real Heather, you saw the mill yesterday and what they do with the wood.  I’m sure even in Hollywood they use wood.  They even use it in the name.” Jonny laughed at her own joke.

“I suppose,” Heather admitted. “But it looks so bare, kind of like a graveyard.”

“Please don’t talk about graves,” Maria was getting scared.  “I just want to get back.”

Jason ran ahead to the clearing.  “Hurry up you guys, it looks like the fog is rolling in.” When he approached the stumps, he shouted. “Hey, look at these little trees.  They’re all over the place.”    The children looked at all the seedlings.  They were so thin, they couldn’t be seen from very far away.  But once among them, there were thousands. “This must be what the loggers planted,” Heather concluded. Trying to cheer Maria up, she added  “I guess it doesn’t look like a graveyard after all.”

“Yeah, it looks more like a nursery,” Maria added.

Heather looked up as the sky was slowly disappearing behind a layer of fog.

“We should stay here.  We’re never going to find the trail in the fog.  In my survival book it says you should stay put.  Some one will come looking for us.”

“But it’s getting cold, and we don’t have any food,” Jason said.

“Jonny,” Rey Lin suggested.  “Maybe when the fog lifts you could follow the stars like your grandmother taught you.”

Jonny shot her a hateful look. “Maybe you can shut up so I can think,” she snapped.  “I’m not lost, you know,” Jonny said. “But with this fog, maybe Heather’s right.”

“I can’t believe that we finally agree on something.” Heather felt better.

Then more to herself than to anyone Jonny muttered, “I know when we left the camp, we went north.  Then we headed off to the hill on the left, which means we headed west.”                                      They moved together and formed a circle to keep warm. With the sun down and the fog blocking the moon, darkness shrouded them like a vail.

It seemed like hours passed.  The fog did not lift.  “They’re never going to find us down here like this,” Jason commented.  “We need to make some noise so if anyone is looking, they’ll know which direction to go.”

The group started to yell and shout, but soon tired.

“This is hopeless,” Heather said.  “We’re going to have to try and hike out.  I only wish I hadn’t lost my compass.  At least then we’d know which way we should head.”

At this, Jonny lifted her head from her knees.  Her eyes met Heather’s then quickly moved away.  Heather noticed Jonny’s hand was playing with something in her jacket pocket, and when she saw a  flash of guilt in Jonny’s eyes, she new she was right.  Heather stood up and stood over where Jonny was sitting.  “Jonny, do you have my compass in your pocket?” Heather accused.

Jonny slowly stood up and pulled the compass out.  “I was going to give it back before we went home.”  She held the compass out for Heather to grab.

“Jonny, how could you? You knew how important that thing was to her,” Jason asked.

“She deserved it with her rich Hollywood attitude.  Besides, if I hadn’t  taken it we might not have had it now.”  Jonny said.  She was trying to defend her actions.

“Thanks Jason,” Heather said studying the compass, “but it doesn’t really matter now.  At least now we have the compass and if Jonny’s directions were right, we should head this way.” Heather pointed to the far side of the clearing.

Almost running, the group picked up their packs and headed in that direction.  Soon they came upon a logging road and followed it until they reached the mill they had visited the day before.

“How did you kids get so far from camp,” the foreman asked them.

“I don’t know,” Heather answered. “I’m just glad we found you.”

The children were quiet while the foreman called the camp and drove them back.  The counselors met the truck and moved the children in to the lodge where dinner was already finished.

“We were so worried about you kids,” Counselor Megan told them.  “Dr. Whitley, Barry and some others are out looking for you.  We reached them on the radio so they should be back soon.” Looking at Heather and Jonny, she said, “I could have guessed it was you two.  You’ve caused nothing but problems this whole week.”

“We didn’t mean to get lost,” Jason started to defend the girls.  But Jonny cut him off.

“Your right, I haven’t been very nice.” And then to Heather, she said, “I’m sorry about your compass.  It was a mean thing to do.”

“Let’s just forget about the compass.  I’m just glad that we made it back here safely.  Tomorrow is our last day so lets make the most of it.”

Dr. Whitley and the others returned and the evenings events went as scheduled.  Each group made up a skit about their favorite part of the camp.  Heather, Jonny, Jason, Maria and Rey Lin made theirs around finding the mill and the foreman driving them back to camp.

Jonny stopped Heather the next day before she boarded the bus to the airport.  “I meant what I said last night; I am really sorry I stole your compass.  It’s just that I don’t really have a grandmother and I was jealous yours gave you something so nice.”

“I kind of figured that,” Heather said.  Then she handed Jonny a package wrapped in toilet tissue topped with a pine cone as a bow.

“What’s this?” Jonny asked.

Heather boarded the bus while Jonny unwrapped the present.  Inside was the compass.


The end.