lumber 2

I absolutely LOVE research.  I had a blast digging into the history of Sierra Mountain lumber camps for the setting of my July Harlequin western recently titled THE GUNSLINGER’S BRIDE.  I had an interest in logging camps long before I ever started writing.  There’s quite a few old camp towns and even an old working logging camp railroad in our area.  Every year we take our boys for a train ride through the tall timbers and glean new tidbits on the lives of the men who felled those giant trees–a hard and hazardous occupation. 

The lumberjack lifestyle required two sets of clothes – a set of work cloths he put on in the morning and a set of dry clothes he put on in the evening, because no matter the time of year, a logger always came in from the job dripping wet. He was either wet with sweat, rain, snow–or a combination of all three.  Timber crews were a rough-and-tumble lot and employed crew foreman’s called bull heads — men with fists heavy-hitting enough to enforce strict sets of rules every man was expected to follow for their safety and the safety of others. A slip of an ax or the wrong move with a saw blade could easily lead to a man’s death, as he’d often bleed out before any kind of medical attention could be sought.  Check out the picture below–see the planks of wood these tree-fellers are standing on? 


These thin, springy platforms were shimmed into the trees, sometimes ten to fifteen feet or MORE up a tree, creating a precarious perch as fellers swung axes, chopping away at the trunk.  Many a timberman fell to their deaths, giving these planks the nickname “widow-makers“.

Most lumber camp crews were made up largely of immigrant workers–vagabonds and scamps as many were called, men without any real roots and lumber camps offered something other jobs didn’t — loggers could always count on a warm dry bed and a hot hearty meal after a grueling day of work.  Mealtime was the main event in any camp.  It was often said that a lumber camp was only as good as its chef.  A meager crew was a sure sign of a bad cook.  If a logger didn’t like the food, he’d move on to the next camp.

Logging 1

With camps scattered all over the Sierra’s, camps competed with one another by trying to hire the best chefs, often recruiting well-known chefs from San Francisco and other major cities.  While the men were well fed and could eat until they were full, meal-time also had strict sets of rules–usually requiring the men have assigned seating, and no talking allowed–this allowed for faster service, and the last thing a man wanted was to tick off the cook and get tossed from the cook house.

As often happens, much of the research absorbed during the planning stages of a book doesn’t make it into the final version.  Juniper and Lily seemed far too busy chasing bandits all over the mountain to really stop and smell the wood chips.  While readers will get a glimpse into the life of a timberman,  there wasn’t a ton of room to detail all the goings-on of a lumber camp that I find fascinating.  But research is never wasted—and who knows, maybe there will be a lumberjack hero in my future.  Although, for now, I have moved on from the Sierra’s and am knee-deep in research and snowdrift from the Wyoming blizzard of 1886  🙂

To celebrate the arrival of my author copies for my third western (woohoo), one of today’s comment MAVERICKposters will win a copy of MAVERICK WILD!

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65 thoughts on “T-I-I-I-M-B-E-R!!!”

  1. Hi Stacey,
    although I’m no writer, only an avid reader I appreciate your researches and when I find something interesting in your books I do a little research myself. I love to find out more about people or things that happened back then, thanks to you!!

  2. Wow Stacey. That is interesting. And I thought Widowmaker was Pecos Bill’s horse! LOL Just teasing of course. Shew…I just can’t imagine how hard that life was, and look at the size of those logs! Wow!

    Can’t wait to read Maverick Wild and The Gunslinger’s Bride. I’m eagerly anticipating the release of both.

  3. Wow, how interesting, Stacey. I never realized that a lumberjack’s job was quite so dangerous. I love to learn new things. Thanks for sharing your research with us.

    Congrats on getting your author copies of MAVERICK WILD! 🙂

  4. What a fascinating and interesting post. I enjoy learning about the research involved. Congrats. on the release of Maverick Wild.

  5. Very interesting research. I did not know that. Thanks for sharing the great information and the pictures. I can’t wait to read Maverick Wild. I loved Mustang Wild.

  6. Very cool photos. There is one hanging in a restaurant here in town that shows early lumberjacks standing around the base of a tree and it took four men with arms outstretched to go around it.

    Here in WV logging is still one of the best industries around, and still just as dangerous. I loved reading about the old days of timberjacks, it does make ideas bloom.

  7. I love the research part of being a historical writer! I always have a ton of research that never makes it into the book, but having the knowledge, I believe, is what creates the authenticity of the story.

    Great pics and info, Stacey! I’ve been thinking about a story set in an Oregon Lumber camp. Just haven’t had the time to research and really get down to thinking about it. Too many other books ahead of it.

  8. Stacey – Great post on loggers! I find that research fascinating too. I once read that the entire landscape in Lake Tahoe area was downed to build tunnels for the mines in Virginia City. Miles and miles of underground tunnels. I agree, research is never wasted. It sort of stays with you – eventually you’ll find a place for it in another story.

  9. I enjoy research too! And when ever I go somewhere new that has a historic background I have to find out all of the information I can! It is just fascinating how much history can even be in where you live! And the photos and artifacts make the history come even more alive. Thank you for sharing!

  10. Good morning, Eva! You know, I am the same way–it’s been fun to see that this trait has passed on to my oldest son. He’ll come home talking about some historical figure they touched on in history and the next thing I know he has checked out a stack of books on that person 😉

    Thanks so much for your post 🙂

  11. LOL! You are right about the horse, Taryn 😉 I wonder if Pecos Bill had logging in his background *g* In one of my logging books there’s a picture of a redwood stump that was so wide, they had the whole crew and their families pose for a picture–100 people are standing on the stump!! CRAZY HUGE! With a tree that big, the widow-makers started high up, and they cut the tree down in a few sections. Crazy 😉

    Thanks for stopping in, Taryn!

  12. Love the photos, Stacey. A picture can get my imagination going like nothing else. You’re writing a snow story! I love books that are set in the winter with snow. There’s just something about it. My mother will watch ANY movie if it has snow. Must be in the genes.

    Strange because most everything I have in the works is set in the blazing desert heat. I have one snow story in progress. And it’s the one that keeps calling to me while I’m working on something else.

    Lovely post. :o)

  13. This is very interesting I didn’t know their job was so dangerous. I would be worried everyday if I was married to a lumber jack. Loved all the information about it.
    I am so happy about your books Can’t wait to get Maverick Wild.. Hint Hint LOL

  14. THANKS Teresa! I sure hope MAVERICK pleases — gotta say, that cover was even better in person 😉 When the books arrived yesterday, I felt like the abominable snowman in those Bug’s Bunny cartoons—I just wanted to hold it and squeeze it and hug it *ggg*

  15. Hi Crystal B! I’m happy to share highlights I wanted to squeeze into the book 😉 My one challange of writing for Harlequin Historical is that I tend to be long winded *lol* and have cut about 80 pages off each finished manuscript, and it’s usually the garnishing of Stacey-deems-interesting factoids that are the first to go 😉

    I’m so glad you enjoyed MUSTANG WILD! Thank you for your post 🙂

  16. Hi Minna! How neat!! You know, music was the evening pulse of many camps–many having their own bands–or jamberees *g* with guitars, harmonicas, the spoons, washboards and saw blades, among other musical instruments. A saw blade can truly be an incredible musical instrument and makes a wide range of eerily beautiful sounds 🙂 One of our favorite rock groups, Korn, has an acoustic CD and they use a saw blade in a few of the songs, and it gives me chills every time, I just love it 🙂

  17. WOW, Charlene, I didn’t know that about Tahoe! Miners, railroaders and loggers really shaped the face of this nation and bridged our world.

    Do y’all have a Tahoe Joe’s restaurant in your neck of the woods?? It is my favorite place to eat–they have an old, rustic feel, and their Railroad-Camp shrimp is the bomb 😉 Can you tell I haven’t eaten breakfast yet? *ggg*

  18. Hi Kathleen! It is true what they say about photos being worth a thousand words. And to actually visit those places and touch a part of history–awe inspiring 🙂

    Thanks for posting!

  19. Stacey, I think the best part of writing is the research. Little tidbits that others might overlook always add depth and realism to our stories. And like you said we may not use a whole lot of what we find, but there’s an underlying sense of it being there that’s hard to explain. I love when I have one of those Oh-my-God moments that comes when I run across one of my character’s names in the actual historical account. That makes goosebumps raise. It’s happened to me quite a bit, believe it or not.

    Great post! 🙂

  20. Hmmm, I wouldn’t mind the guy on the cover of “Maverick Wild” coming home (to me of coarse) “wet with sweat, rain or snow” (as your research states) coming home to change in that 2nd outfit…because, of course the I wouldn’t be able to have that 2nd outfit ready. Too bad for him…I just don’t know what he’d wear!


  21. Awesome post on the loggers – I love all that information and research about those days. Forget the Scots and the Regencies … give me the American West any time! I totally loved both Mustang Wild and Bride of Shadow Canyon. Can’t wait to get my hands on your next two – Maverick Wild and The Gunslinger’s Bride! I want to read Chance’s story and Juniper’s story!

  22. Great post, Stacey! I love learning anything new about historical times and my education is/was certainly lacking in terms of lumberjacks. 😉 Can’t wait to read Maverick and Gunslinger’s Bride. You’re the best!!

  23. I love research and heartily agree. We find so much treasured information while researching our books but rarely get the chance to use it. Thanks for shedding light on the logging industry. Great blog post and awesome pictures.

    Congratulations on your new book deal too! 😉

  24. Stacey,
    I love the pic of the ‘fellars’ standing on the planks in the tree. Research is tedious, but I love it, too. There is soooo much to learn and I want to write a story about everything new I read. 😉
    Congratulations on your four-book deal! YOu must really be beside yourself!

  25. Hey Devon! I love snow-set stories too – all that cold is extra incentive to snuggle up with a cowboy *g* But I love those dusty desert westerns too — good place to find some shade with a cowboy 😉

  26. Wow that is really interesting, Stacey. I can’t wait to read your new book. It sounds like a great read. Congratulations!

  27. Yeah, I can’t wait to read it either…the cover is absolutely perfect! It’s bound to get plenty of readers just by that picture alone!

    Too bad it can’t make my Christmas list, I have to hope for a gift card since all of us have to wait for Jan 1st!

  28. My Gramdmother cooked in a logging camp in the hills of Oregon. She passed away in 1969, but I can still hear her telling her stories.

  29. Great blog. How’d you know I needed info on lumber camps??? Can’t wait to get my copy of The Gunslingers Bride to put next to my other Stacey Kayne books.

  30. Yep, what Amellia said! What a treasure, Estella. We come from a colorful family tree and I miss all the stories…my mom’s parents running from the dust out of Oaklahom….and my dad’s family running from the Pinkerton out of Tennessee 😉 The good ol’ days *g*

  31. Wow, I love all the comments! I’m off to pick up my boys but will be back in a bit for more chatting and then to draw a MAVERICK winner.

    Thanks so much to everyone for stopping in today!

  32. As always, I learned something interesting and I loved the pictures. Living in the south where most big trees aren’t very big, I’m always amazed by pictures of men carrying an ax standing next to house-sized trees. How they ever felled them and then moved them and used them. Absolutely amazing what a rough and tumble man can do with muscle.

    I can’t wait for this book!

  33. Fascinating research! I’m not a writer but I can get lost when doing research – where did those hours go…?

  34. Hi Stacey!! Wow I love the covers they have been giving you. Its just that the feel of reading westerns are so much a comfort read for me! Meaning that when I have the tough days with pain, its so refreshing to read westerns and get so lost into them. I too always wanted to live in the country! I did for a while when I was younger. Did you live around the country growing up or now Stacy? If that was asked already ignore me. I’m just coming back from being off a while due to health so I have lots to catch up here 🙂 Big hello all!

  35. How interesting….. I can get lost in research on almost any subject. Wouldn’t you love to hear all those stories from the camps! The pictures are great.
    Congratulations on your new book contract.

  36. Hi Cathie! Great to see you here 🙂 I love westerns for the same exact reason–nothing can pull me so completely as tales of the west.

    I’ve lived in the country most my life–of the twelve times we moved during my childhood, I believe four of those houses were in town. I’ve lived in the country all of my adult life — ten miles from the nearest town, which has three stoplights *g* Fourty miles from a town with all the fixin’s 🙂 I do enjoy the quiet open pace.

  37. Hi Kimberly! Thank you for the congrats–I am elated 🙂

    Hi Anne! Thank you for your post!

    Thank you, Stefanie! My books arrived just in time…and sure didn’t last long *lol* Now I’ll have to wait until January 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by, Ruth!!

    Hi Caitlin! Great to see you here! Caitlin should have her copy of MAVERICK by Monday–which she won from my newsletter contest 😉

    Thanks, Amellia! So far only my hubby has complained about the cover of MAVERICK — he didn’t think it was fair that Skylar’s shirt was buttoned on MUSTANG, and Chance’s shirt is open on MAVERICK 😉 I hope you get gift cards in your stocking *g*

  38. Thank you, Emma!!

    So glad I could be helpful, Marlene!! Thank you for stopping in and posting 🙂 If you’re looking for books, THE WHISTLES BLOW NO MORE is awesome! Full of pictures and great facts on railroad logging in the Sierras.

    Hi’ya, Pigtails! I love old pics too 🙂 I wish I could have found one showing a number of men standing on those planks, halfway up a giant redwood–gave me chills!! Thanks for posting!!

  39. I know I’m late on here, but I wanted to comment. A few hours ago at a sawmill I watched a huge forklift type machine – I have no idea what it’s called – lift 8 large tree-truck-sized logs from a flat bed truck and carry them to a new location. One log fell off and rolled to the side. Imagine the damage it could have done if someone had been in the way.

    Your first picture is just amazing. What a feat that must have been to stack those huge logs so high and live to pose for the picture with only man and animal power! Fascinating research.

  40. Hi Mildred!

    Isn’t that picture incredible? Kind of like looking some of those Utah landscapes–so amazing it doesn’t seem possible–there’s a lot to be said for sheer rugged strength and determination 🙂

    Thank you for your post!!

  41. Hi Stacey,
    I was invited to this site by Karen Kay. What an awsome site it is. I enjoyed your blog and am excited to find the books. You have a new reader here… ty!

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