22 Men

While visiting the R.B. McLean Mill National Historical Site, the last remaining commercial scale steam powered sawmill in North America, I had the opportunity to speak with one of the volunteers who keeps the place going and operates the mill for museum visitors.

He’d worked all over the island in the logging business, but got his start on the dreaded Greenchain at this mill. The Greenchain was the mechanism that pulled the cut lumber into the sorting yard where the entry level workers, usually local teenagers, were responsible for pulling it off the line and stacking it into its proper position.

He told of long days of freezing rain, blistering summer heat, and blowing winter snow all spent struggling to keep up with the output of the sawmill, whose relentless log carriage never stopped, the song of the blades never ceased, and the cruel Greenchain continued to rumble, hour after hour, day after day, week after week.

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