Authors: Thomas A Watson,Michael L Rider
THOMAS A WATSON
MICHAEL L RIDER
Copyright © AUGUST 22, 2016
THOMAS A WATSON
MICHAEL L RIDER
A-POC PRESS LLC
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
This book is a work of fiction. People places, events, and situations are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or historical events, is purely coincidental.
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Let me start by saying I lost a great friend and mentor. His name was Michael L. Rider, but to me he was Mr. Mike. To others, he was known as ‘Dirty Shirt’. I met Mr. Mike four years ago and knew instantly, he was a person who had my respect and admiration. I didn’t know why at the time, but would later learn he was beyond knowledgeable in many fields and what he didn’t know, he would learn rather quickly. But in his heart, Mr. Mike was a logger.
When I met him for the first time, I told him ‘You are a brother.’ He considered what I’d said with a weird look and said ‘Well, you don’t even know me how can you tell?’ At the time, I couldn’t answer, but I can now, Mr. Mike, you were a good person. When you gave your word, you always followed through and you didn’t give your word lightly like many today do.
Mr. Mike was a logger through and through. Walking through the woods or driving down a road, he would look at the trees with a longing. Even in his sixties, Mr. Mike was an awesome logger. He taught this Louisiana boy so many things about logging it is unreal, and he barely scratched the surface in the four years we were buddies.
Another of Mr. Mike’s habits was, he loved to read. Needless to say, when he found out I was an author, he wanted to read my books and told me they were great. So great in fact, Mr. Mike learned how to use a Kindle. Something he had adamantly refused to do before; learn any computer-like device. That alone made me proud of my work.
When we would sit down and talk, he would ask me about my characters and stories. And I found out that first year, he’d always wanted to write a book. In his youth, he even took writing classes in college. In reality, it didn’t surprise me much that he wanted to write a book. He had a book he put out on Brain Tanning along with several short stories.
The only thing that held him back: Mr. Mike couldn’t type but had tried to learn several times. Using his two index fingers, he said the best he could do was a few words a minute. Once when he came down to the house while I was writing (He just walked in my house. I told Mr. Mike, a brother doesn’t need to knock and I would be offended if he did.)
I had my headphones on and this was before my thumb injury, pounding away on the keyboard at three thousand words an hour. He stood back watching the cursor zip across the screen till ‘Buddy’ my Chihuahua, jumped in my lap telling me I had company. I took off my headphones and Mr. Mike grinned.
“Tom, you type faster than I can think,” he said shaking his head. He looked behind me at the stack of wore out keyboards and laughed. “Now I understand how you wear the things out, never heard of that before.”
That was the second year I had known Mr. Mike, and I left ‘Blue Plague’ for a while and sat with Mr. Mike who wanted to leave me alone, seeing I was stopping my writing to talk. This was the first time I talked with Mr. Mike about writing a book with him. Seeing how excited he got, I knew if nothing else, we would write the book together.
I told him of an idea about the story and he loved it, since it was based on a logger. At that time, I was buried under in projects and now looking back, I wish I had stopped all of them and started the book that day.
Over that year when we would talk, usually after he came and showed me how to use his ‘Man’ chainsaw on a tree, about the book outlining the story. Until you see a real logger, or faller, as they call their job, you won’t understand.
That first year, this Louisiana boy had got his chainsaw, trapped in another tree. When I first moved on the mountain, I had a Poulan chainsaw which sucked but that’s what we used in Louisiana, our trees are tiny and you don’t cut down that damn many. When Mr. Mike looked at the chainsaw, he said that was my first problem and I needed to go orange.
That day, I took my Poulan back and bought my first Husqvarna. I can tell you now; I will never use another chainsaw. Those damn things will run forever and you’re not yanking on that stupid cord for half the day. Seeing how Mr. Mike always wore a wood cutters hardhat, Husqvarna of course, Tommy bought one as well.
It was a few days later and I got my Husky trapped in a tree as me and my son, Nick, were clearing a spot to build on. Ashamed and hanging my head low, I walked down to Mr. Mike’s and once again asked for his help. Like I said, being a logger and hearing a tree needed cut down, Mr. Mike went to his arsenal of chainsaws, grabbed one, then grabbed his hatchet and wedges, and threw them on the four-wheeler.
“Come on and get on,” he said with a big grin. That was the day I understood how much he enjoyed being a logger and that was the day that for ‘Tom’, what Mr. Mike called me, real lessons started.
Shit, I never knew the cuts on trees had names, much less there was more than one. “You need to quit using a conventional undercut,” he said seeing my chainsaw trapped. “You waste too much lumber.” My son and I just looked at Mr. Mike with blank stares.
A conventional cut is where you cut straight into a tree about a third of the way then bring your chainsaw down cutting at an angle to meet the straight cut forming a wedge. This is what I was taught as the only way to cut down a tree, I didn’t even know the cut had a name. To me, it was cutting down a tree.
“You need to use Humboldt cuts since you’re going to throw these logs on the mill you ordered,” Mr. Mike said pulling his chainsaw off the four-wheeler. Still with blank stares, Nick and I just looked at him wondering what he was talking about. Nick had been taught by me like I had been taught by my dad and papaw.
When Mr. Mike turned and saw the blank faces, he laughed his ass off. After he stopped laughing, he called me and Nick over and explained the different cuts and I learned there is an open faced cut. I haven’t used that one and he was going to teach me that one this year. So that is one cut, Tom will avoid because Mr. Mike didn’t teach it to me.
It took Mr. Mike like thirty seconds to get my chainsaw out and drop the tree Nick and I had been working on for like two hours. Yes, we had another chainsaw, but the tree refused to let me have the other one back. “What other trees you want down?” he asked turning around, flipping up the face shield on his hardhat and we pointed at the marked trees in the draw we were clearing.
I shit you not, Mr. Mike dropped sixteen massive trees in twenty minutes, well they were massive to us, Mr. Mike called them sticks. A thirty-inch diameter tree down south is freaking big, up here, it’s a stick. When Mr. Mike showed us pictures of logging sites he worked on, where the trees were measured in feet, not inches, I finally understood, our trees were little.
He jumped on the felled trees and delimbed and sectioned them out. As he was doing that, Nick glanced at me, “Dad, Mr. Mike is a master. Maybe we should kneel or something,” he said in complete awe. “The trees should just fall down on their own when they see him coming.”
“Yeah, he wields that chainsaw like a samurai,” I mumbled watching what Mr. Mike accomplished in minutes what I had laid out over two days for Nick and me to do.
Now I have some big trees on the mountain, but I thought when a tree got so big, you left the damn thing alone. Mr. Mike laughed his ass off for several minutes when I told him that. Those trees are still on this mountain because I didn’t need to clear them but I can tell you, Mr. Mike put the logging bug in my blood. I look at one of the Ponderosa Pines that’s about sixty inches in diameter and want to grab my chainsaw and drop it.
If Mr. Mike heard someone needed to chop down a tree, he would grab his saw and jump on the four-wheeler. Usually with Tommy following along behind him, just to watch a master at work. Until you see a master logger, you won’t understand. I swear it’s like poetry in motion watching someone fall trees where they want them to go. I don’t care which way the tree leaned, Mr. Mike could put it anywhere.
Did Mr. Mike watch those logging shows on TV? Yes. Most of the time, he laughed or yelled at them that they were doing it wrong.
When my mill arrived and I put it together, Mr. Mike came down and showed me how to make lumber. Yes, when he came down I was reading a book on how to do it. In ten minutes, he had me cutting two by twelves.
I can say, Mr. Mike got plenty of laughs from this Louisiana family. Let me tell you, in the mountains, you get snow. And for all you people in the south, snow is heavy. I learned this, trying to plow the road and getting the crap off my roof the first winter here. Next winter, my roofs looked like a sharp triangle, you can’t walk on the things the slope are so steep. But the snow slides off now and Mr. Mike showed me how to build a roof. Mine still don’t look like his, but they work.
Two years ago, we had a bad winter and there was just nowhere to push the snow, so I asked Mr. Mike if he would take me to town so I could use his truck to get a snow blower. Being Mr. Mike, he grabbed his shoes right then, I’d wanted to go the next day.
When we got back on the mountain, he helped me unload it and went inside to load the wood stove since we had been gone a few hours. Walking back to the shop, he found this Louisiana boy sitting down in the snow by his brand new snow blower, reading the instructions.
I really thought he was going to wet his pants he was laughing so hard. “Tom, what are you doing, it’s put together,” he cackled wiping his eyes.
Halfway through the instructions, I looked up, wondering why he was laughing so hard. “Mr. Mike, I’ve only seen snow blowers on TV. I don’t know how they work or how to use one.”
Oh man, did he think that was funny, that part of the country didn’t know how to use a snow blower. He walked over, taking the instructions away and showed me how to work the snow blower. I could tell you stories like this and fill an entire book on them.
It was September 2015, when I went to Mr. Mike and said it was time for us to do this book. I still had projects out and new ones in the works, but seeing how excited he would get just talking out the story, I paused them. In reality, I wasn’t planning to work on this book until the end of 2016. I thank God now that I changed that.
Working with Mr. Mike on this book, he was happier than when he was cutting down trees and let me tell you, that was something. Everybody on the mountain, all ten of us, would talk about how much he was enjoying this.
I’m completely off the grid and use generators to power everything and I write in the late afternoon and all through the night, till my thumb can’t take anymore. Mr. Mike would walk out on his porch through the day till he heard the generator crank up and knew I was awake. He would go and grab the phone, calling me up and telling about new ideas, since he went to sleep around nine and woke up at sunrise.
One thing I taught him was, keep a notepad near and gave him a stack of them and man, did he take that to heart. We would have regular pow-wows as the book took shape. As I would write, I would print the story out and he would go through it making notes. It was our story and it took a bit, but he finally would say ‘Gene wouldn’t do that’ getting into the characters.
In December, the story really took off and I couldn’t print off the story fast enough because I found out a printer uses some serious power. When I would print, my seven-thousand-watt generator would groan to support it.
So I took my tablet down to Mr. Mike and this is how excited he was about this book. Mr. Mike learned how to use a computer to keep up with the story. We would talk about what direction the story would take and how, then I would go and write. Now he didn’t type, bless his heart, typing is one thing Mr. Mike couldn’t do, but I damn sure can.
Mr. Mike lived with Susan and she would tell everyone, she would hear him wake up during the night upstairs. He would turn on the light and she could hear him rustling paper and knew he was writing away on the story. After a few minutes, he would quit and turn off the light only to get up a few hours later and write some more.
When we first started, I told Mr. Mike he was going to be a co-author and listed on the book and he would say “Nah, I just want to help write a book.”
This very nearly became an argument. I told Mr. Mike if he didn’t want his name on it, he could use a pseudonym, but he just wanted to help. It was only when I told Mr. Mike I was going to call Tina and tell her he was being difficult that Mr. Mike gave in and wore a huge grin. Mr. Mike loved his Tina and even threatened to spank her when he taught her how to drive our bulldozer. Tina didn’t want to wear the hardhat. Mr. Mike told her if he ever saw her driving the dozer without the hardhat, she was getting a spanking on the spot.
She didn’t listen to me, but Tina damn sure listened to Mr. Mike. Tina would put the hardhat on just to climb up and turn it on, letting the engine warm up. So not wanting Tina mad at him, Mr. Mike agreed to have his name on the book and his enjoyment grew. Mr. Mike told me later he did want his name on the book but didn’t want me to be offended since I was an author. That was one time I actually, almost, got mad at him.
He asked if he could give copies to some of his friends. “Mr. Mike, it’s our book, you can do what you want,” I told him and he ‘was going to make a list’ he said, but I haven’t found it.
It was a pure accident that took Mr. Mike, and an accident that could’ve only happened to him. January 28, 2016, is the day Montana lost most of the happiness for me. Montana was my dream state to live in, but it doesn’t hold that quality to me anymore.
To all my fans
, I hope you enjoy this book. Until Mr. Mike passed, this was one of my most enjoyable books to write and it was because of how excited Mr. Mike was about it. That this Louisiana boy could do something for him as a buddy made me really proud. I loved the characters and the story, but Mr. Mike helped me breathe life into them. He would laugh as I incorporated parts of his life events into the story.