The Army’s Timber Industry Union

It is difficult to look back at the old-timers in Trego and not realize how much influence the International Workers of the World (IWW – the wobblies) had on the area.  In the early sixties, terms like “the Wobbly Johnson place” still were part of the directions.  The old airport wasn’t recognizable as an airport . . . if I have the story right, Billy Lloyd flew his loads of whiskey south past Trego to get past the busybodies at the Canadian line during prohibition.

Trego’s labor strife precipitated the timber strike that shut down the woods in 1917 – but the stories never told of any IWW success in getting the 8 hour day, or hot showers, or any of their demands.  I’m not an historian, so I never researched it, until I ran across the term “Spruce Rifle.”  That was worth researching – and I was lucky in timing (a lot of research includes the element of luck – Pasteur phrased it “Fortune favors the prepared mind.”)

In this presentation Ian McCollum tells of the “Spruce Gun” – some 1,800 Winchester 94 carbines in 30-30 that were issued to a special group of soldiers during World War I – The Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen.  The Wobblies basically shut down portions of the timber industry – with the Loyal Legion, the army created its own union, detailing about 28,000 soldiers with lumber, logging and rail experience to the timber companies – where they received both their military pay and company pay for logging and lumber work.  The army union also got the 8 hour day – and I begin to understand how the IWW couldn’t compete with the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen.  Wiki has an article giving more coverage.

Years ago, I had a chance to buy a Spruce Gun – I recall the US marking on the gun – but to me it was just another model 94, not particularly unique, and the story wasn’t offered along with the gun. Now I have the story, but the opportunity is long past.

The Loyal Legion operated more near the west coast – spruce was the species.  The Spruce division of the Army Signal Corps existed to provide material for the World War I airplanes – it is a bit hard to realize that, when that war ended, it was only 15 years after Wilbur and Orville’s first flight.  What would grow into the Air Force was a part of the Signal Corps.  And the conflict between the Army’s union and the IWW – epitomized by 200 US marked Winchester carbines – changed the logging industry.


School Started on the First

It’s that time of the year again. Classes at Trego School started on Wednesday, September 1st. The Back to School BBQ will be held on Friday, September 10th.

School enrollment at the start of the school year is nearing 30 students. With a fourth classroom teacher hired, class size averages about 7 students per class (7.25 to be more precise).

The district was able to use part of the district’s ESSR (covid relief funds) to fund the hiring of that fourth teacher, a decision made to help keep class sizes small. While classrooms are still multi-grade, most classrooms hold only two grades.

The official count for this year’s enrollment isn’t actually in- for funding purposes, the count happens only twice a year. The first is in October. If enrollment reaches thirty, the amount of funding the school receives will increase.

Looking at the broader trend, we last discussed Trego School enrollment back in January.

Data as of January 2021

This year’s start of 29 is a bit lower than January’s 31. Not a steep decline, but the trend merits watching.

Community, Recipes

Back to School Bread

This versatile classic frequently receives compliments. It can be made into rolls and bread-sticks. With a little cornmeal it becomes pizza dough.

It also serves as the foundation of Lunch in a Bun, a popular menu item at Trego School. For lunch in a bun, each bun has a filling. Sometimes, it is taco meat and cheese. At other times, they are filled with pepperoni, ham and cheese, then served with marinara sauce.

These numbers in this recipe are reduced to result in a smaller amount of bread than is produced in the school kitchen.

Single Rise Dough

2 Tbsp. Active Dry Yeast
3 Tbsp. Sugar
3 tsp. Salt
1 cup Water
1 cup Warm Milk
1/3 cup Oil
2 Eggs
6-6 & 1/2 cups Flour or Bread Flour

  1. Decide on which mixing method you would like to use
    • If dissolving yeast in warm water, use a water temperature of 110 degrees
    • If mixing the yeast right in with the dry ingredients, use a water temperature of 115-120 degrees
  2. Mix as much flour as possible in using a mixer. Work the remaining flour in by hand and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic
  3. After mixing and kneading process is complete, let dough rest for 10 minutes
  4. Scale into proper size units (bread loaves, sandwich buns, dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls, etc.
  5. Mold your dough into the shapes you will be making. Pan into the proper sized pans.
  6. Proof the dough units until almost double in bulk. When touched gently, a unit that is fully proofed will full out the dent slowly.
  7. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes for loaves and approximately 15-20 minutes for dinner rolls and smaller units.


Bears know that the apples are ready…

It’s time to pick apples – at least according to the local wildlife. This weekend, we happened upon an adult black bear and her cubs munching on the apples down by the Trego railroad crossing in the wee morning hours.

Bears aren’t too picky about ripeness. Like many mammals, they’re attracted to the smell of fermentation – (the smell indicates a fruit has the highest calorie content it’s going to get). As apples get ripe (and then overripe) they become even better bear attractants.

Can bears become inebriated? Certainly! Glacier Park had a number of incidents back in the 80’s. Several railroad spills released thousands of tons of barley and corn. Buried by cleanup efforts, much of the grain fermented anaerobically, producing high volumes of alcohol. Upon emerging in the spring, bears promptly dug up the fermented mash, wish predictable consequences.

While unattended grain can ferment well, fruit left to its own devices rarely produces enough alcohol to have an effect on large mammals. Bears may be in your apple trees in the near future, but at least you won’t have to worry about them being drunk and disorderly. Not from that, anyway.

Community, Patches' Pieces, Wildlife

Patches Pieces

Eventually, all critters travel the driveway. Sometimes the game cam even catches them. A daytime appearance of the coyote on the driveway is unusual.  He is traveling the driveway most nights. All sorts of deer use the pond and driveway. I am not sure why it always seems to surprise me that skunks climb stairs.  The game cam caught one on the bridge step. For the last several days a blue heron has been hunting frogs in the pond.  So far no bear sightings on the game cam. But as the apples ripen, I expect we will see them around.

Community, Meteorology

Blessed Rain

It isn’t perfect, but it is improving.  My alfalfa seedlings are recovering from the long dry spell – on the other hand the deer are discovering them and trying to graze them down.  NOAA shows this map for soil moisture:

This next map shows precipitation during August – again, it isn’t perfect, but coming out of a drought it shows us on the fringe of recovery – far ahead of southeast Washington down through most of Oregon and California.

It may be too early to say that we dodged the bullet for another month or so – but at least the recent precipitation has moved us to a place where we can dodge. At least the long-term predictions are pretty much back to normal probabilities of precipitation:

Community, Meteorology

Lightning Strikes and Power Outages

Can lightning cause power outages?

As it turns out, lightning doesn’t even have to strike a power pole or knock over a tree to cause a power outage. The build up of charge nearby can actually cause power surges -no contact necessary.

Additionally, lightning gives off electromagnetic radiation. The phenomenon itself is called “sferic“, and it means you might notice static on the AM radio frequencies around the time of a strike.

That said, outages are more likely to be due to tree branches hitting power-lines than an actual lightening strike; Power-lines are often in the position of being the most attractive thing around for a lightening strike, and that is considered in their design.

What brought all this to mind?

It was a dark and stormy night. Well, it was a bit after midnight on what had just become Saturday morning. Heavy Rain. A flash. A house-shaking kaboom. The power suddenly out. It seems to have been the start of an outage on the section of power-line that goes up along Griffin Road. Lincoln Electric had everything back up and running later on Saturday.

Speaking of outages, though- there’s a planned one this week (11 PM Wednesday ’til 5AM Thursday) for everyone served by Lincoln Electric. Another overnight maintenance outage, courtesy of Bonneville Power Administration, since they need to replace structures damaged by gunshots (They’d love to have more information about that- call the BPA Hotline if you have any).

Community, Demography

4% Growth for County 57

The 2020 Census numbers have been released, and we’re looking at data we can begin to use.  I’m hoping to get the data at a school district level later on – but for now, we have county level data, CCD level data, and Census tract level data.

First – Lincoln County’s population dropped by a tenth of a percent.  Second, the population in the Libby CCD dropped by 1.2% (now 9,772), population in the Troy CCD dropped by 3.9% now 3,435), and population in the Eureka CCD increased by 4.0% (now 6,470).   North County is now officially 89 residents less than a third of the county’s population.  3,435 of the people represented by the Troy Commissioner reside in the Troy CCD, while 3,124 reside in the Libby CCD.  This is a trend worth watching.

Housing data is available at the county level – and it may give us some insight on rentals in the area.  Housing units in Lincoln County decreased by 4.0% – occupied housing units increased by 0.5%, and unoccupied housing units decreased by 19.6%. 

In County 57 – the Eureka CCD – housing unit numbers are:

 2020 #2020 %2010 #2010 %Change
Total Housing Units3,716 3,771 -1.5%

All these statistics are in comparison with the 2010 Census. 

It’s going to be fun as future releases will show even more usable data.

Community, Meteorology

Thinking About Smoke

As I went for the allergy meds this morning, I thought of Wylie Osler.  For those who never had the opportunity to know Wylie, I can only wish that I had a record of all his stories – Wylie saw the humor in most everything he encountered. 

Wylie had asthma – and his story about smoke was that he was the only person in Montana who had a prescription, written by Dr. Schroeder, to leave his home on Dickey Lake and spend the weekend in an airconditioned motel in Spokane.  I misremember if the story grew out of a disagreement on tax preparation or what – but it was a time when air conditioning was not common in the valley.  Our normal way to keep a house cool was opening windows at night.  While the technique let us escape the heat, it didn’t allow us to escape the smoke.

My own asthma was never as severe as Wylie’s – at the worst, all I’ve had to do is sit down and concentrate on breathing calmly to keep it under control.  As a youngster, I had a benzedrine inhaler.  It was a wonderful thing – sniff through it and nasal congestion disappeared.  Up until I turned 10.  My otc inhaler that gave me normal breathing was banned by the FDA in 1959 – but I was a kid, and didn’t notice the ban until it quit working a couple years later.  It seems the FDA was protecting me because some folks were taking the inhalers apart, soaking the strip of benzedrine treated paper, and squeezing the amphetamine out.  It’s kind of the first time I learned that government intervention may be in someone’s best interest, but not mine.  From my early teen years until my early thirties my susceptibility to allergens of all sorts increased – that, and a shoulder injury brought me a 1-Y draft classification . . . I think it translates to “the nation will be really desperate before we need this guy.”  In my thirties, the new wonder was a steroid shot for asthma – it was great, but I needed too many.  My physicians stopped that, and called for desensitization shots.  Somehow, I still think of that 39 cent inhaler that brought me such easy breathing . . . and the politicians who took it away.  It was such an easy and affordable solution.

My experience with relatively mild asthma gives a little perspective into the challenges that led to Wylie’s prescription for a weekend in an airconditioned motel away from the valley – and I suspect we have neighbors today who have even less physical ability to cope with the smoke.