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Maras to be honored as 2003 Bull of the Woods
While the award of All-Around Logger at this weekend's Buckley Log Show will go to the logger with the most points scored in his events, the title can easily go to 2003 Bull of the Woods P.J. Maras.
That's because Maras, 87, while he may not be competing in this year's log show, did every aspect of logging in his career. He was laborer, an owner-operator, and spent 20 years demonstrating and selling an innovative rubber-tired skidder for Plateau logger and friend Dwight Garrett.
Maras began his logging career in 1933, when he was 17, with family friend Fred Davis, whom he and his brother and sister went to live with when they were orphaned the year before.
"Back in those days all the kids worked, you know," Maras said.
He said in those days everybody went to the woods when they needed work, so logging was an obvious career choice.
"It was in the big Depression years, you know, and there was nothing else to do," Maras said. "It was a matter of survival."
Although he and Davis began their own logging company, Davis & Maras Logging, in 1933, he and Davis first took jobs as laborers for other logging companies. Their first job was peeling bark off old-growth Douglas firs for fish-trap piling in February at Vaughn, Wash. The next year he and Davis financed their logging operation picking huckleberries and cutting Christmas trees.
Maras said when he started out as a laborer, he could do all the various logging jobs. He would often begin a day working the machines, maybe driving a donkey skidder, before going to set chokers while somebody else drove the donkey, or he would go top the trees.
"We did everything," he said, adding logging became more specialized over the years, and is very specialized now, with machines and computers doing a lot of the precision work.
Maras said driving logging trucks was no less demanding - or dangerous.
"In those days the trucks had no power and no breaks," he said. "You had to drive it like you were riding a bicycle."
Logging trucks, he said, have improved greatly over the years, and the trucks have a lot of power these days.
"But they don't know what they've got," he said.
In the earlier days, before chainsaws and other technological improvements, logging also meant getting creative, looking for new and more efficient ways to log.
In 1935, Maras and Davis began high-lead logging with a steam wood-fired, compound geared yarder. Davis said he and Maras soon converted it to burn oil using old car engines. It took six 40-gallon barrels, at $1.40 per barrel to yard 22 truck loads per day. Maras' brother Spike, who was 14 at the time, had joined the logging operation, firing the yarder.
Logging was not without its hazards, however. In addition to the physical hazards associated with the job, logging was also somewhat of a hazard socially.
Maras said the first time he went "walking" with his future wife Edna, she told him she would never marry a logger - she came from a family of loggers and knew what the logging lifestyle was like. Maras managed to overcome her reservations, however, and in 1939 they were married. She was his "first wife," he said, "and I've still got her."
After working jobs all over the state, Maras and his family moved to Buckley in 1950, when Maras and Davis were working full time running their business as owner and operators, and he and his family lived in the same house in Buckley for 30 years.
Those years were good years for logging, Maras said, despite witnessing the hardship and physical danger. In 1952 Maras sustained his only serious logging injury when he disjointed his knee. The next year, Davis, his friend, mentor and co-owner was killed on the job on Grass Mountain out of Cumberland.
"That was tough," he said. "That was one of the toughest things I've had to go through. That was harder than my father's death."
Maras, however, continued running Davis and Maras in the ensuing years, with his brother Spike. At one point in time, working in Buckley, Maras and his brother worked 10 and 12 hour days overseeing more than 50 men.
Maras said the most difficult thing about logging came when he was overseeing those 50 men - dealing with personnel matter.
"Just keeping the peace," he said. "That was the hardest thing."
In 1959 Maras stopped logging seriously and in 1960 began working with Garrett. Maras logged more than two million feet of timber as a "proving ground," testing Garrett's first "Garrett Tree Farmer," a rubber-tired logging tractor, the first of its kind.
"People from all over the world came to watch me use that thing," Maras said, chuckling.
After that Maras went on the road demonstrating, selling and delivering the Garret Tree Farmer, and Maras said he greatly appreciates his time spent working with Garrett, as well as the support and backing Garrett offered Maras throughout the years. Maras retired from logging altogether in 1982.
Maras said the thing he liked best about logging was the action and being productive. He said he saw and learned a lot in his logging years, and sometimes contemplates writing a biography, but says "I'm too busy."
But this weekend he'll revisit his logging days indirectly, sitting behind the wheel of a Garrett rubber-tired skidder, driving in the Log Show parade before being honored as the Bull of the Woods.
"It should be fun," he said.
Jessica Keller can be reached at email@example.com