Saturday, July 27, 2013


Wikipedia Commons, Whipsaw
The teeth of a whipsaw (more frequently used in a sawpit than up on trestles like this) were in ripsaw fashion, i.e. they only bit on the the downstroke. Made it a bit easier on the topman. But God, imagine how sore a day of sawing planks would have made you! According to Wikipedia, these guys were probably up in the Klondike in the 1890s. I wonder how long it took to saw a plank? And how often the planks and logs came down on the pitman?

I was going to post about feeling raw, and the word "whipsawed" occurred to me, followed closely the the realization that I've been using the word all my life with no clear and distinct understanding of what a whipsaw was. So I looked it up. And after looking at this picture for a while, I've decided my own troubles and labors are not very burdensome, after all.

And turn no more aside to brood
Upon love's bitter mystery:
For Fergus rules the brazen cars
And rules the shadows of the wood
And the white breast of the dim sea
And all disheveled, wandering stars.

But still, you know, the wind comes walking up from the river, and the little cemetery stands on the hillside, five blocks to the northeast of us, and the cat comes in for dinner in the evening.

Today we worked on the boat dolly a bit, and I got a trade-massage from the fabulous Neva. Martha went to a birthday dinner, and I stayed home, and now suddenly the day is over. A cool breeze coming in the window, and the streetlights coming on: the sky a shadowy, fading turquoise.

A moment of panic and wanting to binge, but Martha had the car (& I don't drive the truck), and the nearest store is ten blocks away, and by the time I'd walked most of the way there I'd talked myself down. The panic is a funny thing. I'd let all day go by between my modest breakfast and my dinner. I tell myself a story sometimes, which I'm pretty sure is not true, but which I find useful: the only time our ancestors made themselves refrain from eating (goes the story), it was because the tigers were down by the fruit trees, or maybe because the alpha male was down there in a crappy mood. So what we're programmed to do, when it finally does seem safe to eat, is to chow down for real, get it while the getting's good. It feels like that. Quick, quick, eat before the tigers get back, before the Alpha catches on!

I told myself this story as I walked, and then I just turned around and walked back home and made myself a sandwich. Even though I had just eaten: I was still a thousand calories shy for the day, after all. And now the panic has gone away, and Martha is back. And night is falling. The passing of the day is still mysterious, though.

I close my eyelids and feel the midday sun still wounding them. Tender, a little swollen. The sun and I, despite our detente of recent years, will never really be friends.

Good night. I think that's all for now.


christopher said...

I don't believe it's that easy to guide the saw either. You lose your job screwing up the plank by an out of square cut. There is probably some kind of mechanical guide to firm up the guideline whether it's a hand cut or not. And the reason to mechanize the whole thing is to save wood which is the same as maximizing profit. As distinct from today when the object is to stop the wage drain on profit, in those days mechanization of process aimed more at a standardized product. Wages were not yet the big issue. The top man and pit man as you show them have to act in close cooperation for the cut to work.

Zhoen said...

Have you ever been checked for an anxiety disorder? Your relationship to food, from this description, may fall into that category. More than just mindless availability and sedentary lifestyle sort of thing.

Dale said...

Christopher - yes, sawing straight must have been an art. And you'd be at the mercy of your partner, the whole time. One of you screws up you both screw up.

Dale said...

Zhoen, I've wondered from time to time. I'm not sure how one would get checked: I'm sure that if I went to a some mental health folks and inquired, I could find somebody who would diagnose me with an anxiety disorder, but I don't know how much that would mean. I know that ordinarily I strike people as calm and unflappable, for what that may be worth. I had a counselor once who thought I was somewhere in between depression and an anxiety disorder, but most of my symptoms miraculously disappeared when I quit my job at IBM :-)

Zhoen said...

Oh, there are online tests, get a sense for yourself. For self-dianosing sorts like us, with mild cases, probably the best way. Then find self-treatments... . Finding a decent counselor can be quite a bother. But understanding my own anxiety means I do better at handling it - because I have a clue what it is I'm trying to handle.

Dale said...

Oh, I've done that! They put me (where I end up so often with these sorts of tests!) at the far end of "normal."

Anonymous said...

I was under the impression that all Western style (as opposed to Japanese) saws only cut on the forward stroke. I learned that ripsaws are meant to cut along the grain, as opposed to cross-cut saws, which cut across the grain.
Don't you just hate it when you get all worked up over your problems, and then find out that the person you are complaining to has it so much worse, and is still trying to help you?

Dale said...

John, I think you're right: I was going by that Wikipedia article, which seemed to imply that the directionality was peculiar to whipsaws. So much for my deep saw lore! :-)

Kristen Burkholder said...

I love your writing Dale.

larissa said...

That's the one poem Martin recalls having committed to memory. He says it sometimes, just because he can. It was so good to see it here.

And umm, yes, Dale. Since you and I are similar, I'll save you the dime.You will find someone to say you have an anxiety disorder. And IBS that will go away when you quit IBM. Or some such. The advice for what to do about it is worth a very small co-pay. Something like, put a little stop sign in your mind. <3