May 10 2008
Yesterday I started a new phase of this job: training greeners. This contract has a dozen rookies out of thirty planters, and yesterday I took them out into a fill plant for some planting boot camp. I've done this for so many years, it's easy to forget how hard it was when I started, how awkward the shovel felt in my hand and how confusing it was to try to work the block effectively.
I first went out treeplanting when I was fifteen year old, to a contract in 100 Mile House in central BC. On my first day I planted 250 trees, unable to believe that some people could actually love this job. 250 trees at 22 cents each isn't exactly a windfall. But I loved the lifestyle from the beginning, sleeping in a tent and being outdoors and sharing your daily activities with a tribe of people who quickly become your friends. I didn't break 1000 trees in one day until my second summer contract, this time near Whitecourt Alberta, and didn't break 2000 trees a day until my third at age seventeen in Clearwater, BC. My personal best was 4400 in one day, on the same contract near Whitecourt about five years later. On the second day out here in Merritt this year I planted 3000 trees in the furrows, priced at 13 cents per tree. It's good pay for good work, once you get the hang of it.
Now the greeners are out there figuring it out stroke by stroke, how to read the ground, find the plantable spots, identify the good naturals and space off of them, and of course how to get those trees into the ground quickly, while still maintaining quality. Some of them pick it up easily, a few of them planting 700-800 already on their second day. For the others who are still struggling with it, I remind them of how I started out, and show them the techniques again.
Now it's late, most of the camp is already in bed, and my truck is loaded with boxes of fir and pine trees, ready for the drive to work in the morning. Tomorrow training is officially ended and the rookies will be integrated into the crews of experienced planters, myself included. Give them water wings, teach them a few strokes, and get them to jump in the pool. Some will achieve fluid motion, while others will flounder. But you don't have to become a professional to appreciate the experience.
I'm having fun out here, I have to admit.