Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Brush cat

This book might be about a bunch of guys living on the other side of the country, guys who say 'bawk' instead of 'bark', but the narrative fits Southeast Alaska just as well. Brush Cat: on trees, the wood economy, and the most dangerous job in America is about the loggers who supply us with the raw material for pencils, books, toilet paper, business cards, Chinese to-go boxes and IKEA assemble-it-yourself side tables.
Jack McEnany has lived in rural New Hampshire for twenty years, and he has compressed two decades of living around - and talking to - loggers into a really interesting book about the current state of small-scale timber operators. In fact, these operators are even smaller-scale than many Alaskan loggers.
The loggers in McEnany's book work one- or two-man operations clearing land for development, cleaning up after blowdown and working small private sales. These die-hards are adapting to changing timber supply, shifting demands due to changes in building technology, and public perceptions about the timber industry. They do so with a combination of determination, flexibility and 4-letter words.
If you're an old-timer in Southeast, then this book will spark quite a few memories. If you're new to Alaska, then this isn't a bad way to get a feel for an industry and a way of life that has been a major part of Ketchikan's history.

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