The Mill: A Winter Pastoral (1)

3 February 1971

MacMillan Bloedel Powell River Pulp and Paper Mill 1971Fred took me on a tour around the mill today. It has the beauty of a great beast. I lost myself in the sensuous energy of its throb and thrust and spin. Afterwards I went to personnel. The lady said the waiting list for jobs is so long she wouldn’t add my name. No one’s been hired in months and layoffs are expected.

G3 Grinder Room Powell River Mill 1971I saw Bob inside. No wonder he always looks so philosophical. He was standing on a platform, lifting heavy chunks of wood from a skid, the chopped refuse of the sawmill, and stuffing them into one of six small steam-spewing mouths that go crunch as they close, surrounded by a hundred men on a hundred other platforms on the floor of a dark drafty hangar, all doing the same thing, their faces looking forlorn and trapped, and yet resigned to playing that subhuman role for eight hours a day in return for eight free hours (at wierdly varying times) and eight more hours of peaceful sleep. Is that a bargain price to pay? Unemployed, with a wife six months pregnant, I envy them.

Pipes and Tanks Powell River Mill 1971

I drive back to the farm alone and search for a small project to lessen my sense of uselessness: building a ladder for a fire escape from the bedroom window. Jan announces dinner as I finish putting the tools away and I sit down without washing hands to a garlicky cheese casserole, yoghurt grown on the mantle and cauliflower salad from a head scavenged out of the dumpster in back of Super-Valu. After dinner we bring out the cash book and check book and savings book. We total our expenses since arriving here and categorize them: Land payments, Food, Insurance, Maintenance, Clothing, Automotive. Minimum $450, maximum $550 per month. With no work our savings and loans run out in six months.


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