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Gone, But not Forgotten: Stumps

Harriet Baskas
10/31/2005

Loggers have been at work in Pacific Northwest forests since the mid 1800s. And now, by various estimates, 75 to 95% of the original old growth trees here have been cut down. But some of the giant stumps left behind are now community artifacts. Harriet Baskas explains in part four of our series.

EACH MONDAY, THERE'S A WORK PARTY AT THE STILLAGUAMISH VALLEY PIONEER MUSEUM IN ARLINGTON. WASHINGTON. VOLUNTEERS TIDY UP THE LOGGING GEAR EXHIBIT, THEY TEST THE MODEL RAILROAD, AND THEY WIND UP THE OLD VICTROLA.

AND, LIKE 92 YEAR-OLD HELEN STARR, THEY REMINISCE ABOUT THE OLD DAYS.

STARR: "I remember when my dad would take me hiking in the woods he would say 'now those three trees could make so many houses.' He was a lumberman. People don't realize there were trees like that that to be begin with."

BUT THERE WERE. TREES SO BIG AND SO NUMEROUS THAT PACIFIC NORTHWEST HISTORIAN ROBERT FICKEN DOESN'T EVEN VENTURE A COUNT.

FICKEN: "I just prefer to say there was a hell of a lot of timber and it was more than people could possibly use when they started to use it hahaha…"

THOSE OLD GROWTH TREES WERE OFTEN HUNDREDS OF FEET TALL WITH GNARLED BASES THAT FICKEN SAYS PRESENTED A CHALLENGE TO EARLY LOGGERS ARMED WITH ONLY HAND SAWS AND AXES.

FICKEN: "Loggers would have to go above the ground sometimes as much as 10 feet to find a flat surface to do their work. And they created a flat surface by cutting these holes in the side of the tree & sticking boards in and they would stand on the boards and cut the tree down."

THE GIANT LOGS WERE HAULED AWAY. THE GIANT STUMPS? LEFT BEHIND TO ROT. IF YOU HIKE, YOU'LL COME ACROSS SOME IN THE WOODS, BUT IN ARLINGTON TWO HUGE STUMPS ARE COMMUNITY SOUVENIRS.

A STUMP HOUSE SITS IN FRONT OF THE STILLAGUAMISH VALLEY PIONEER MUSEUM. IT'S 18 FEET ACROSS AND 20 FEET HIGH, WITH A WIDE DOORWAY, A ROOF, AND AN UPPER LEVEL ENCLOSED IN CLEAR PLASTIC.

YOST: "No one's going to pick that up and carry it very far."

85 YEAR OLD MUSEUM VOLUNTEER HARRY YOST SAYS THE STUMP HAS BEEN AT THIS SPOT SINCE 1935 - SERVING AS EVERYTHING FROM A STORAGE SHED TO A STAGE.

YOST: "And there used to be a platform up above and there was steps you could go up into it & the politicians would yak out through the side. And then the governors used to come up and yak yak. I remember hearing them."

FOLKS IN ARLINGTON ARE PROUD OF THE STUMP HOUSE, BUT YOST SAYS THE TOWN HAS ANOTHER STUMP THAT'S EVEN BIGGER.

YOST: "It's all the way from one side to the other- a hoot and a holler across you know…"

THIS STUMP IS ACTUALLY ABOUT 20 FEET WIDE AND 25 FEET TALL AND IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR MOTORISTS LIKE DOROTHY KEAN TO IGNORE AT THE SMOKEY POINT REST AREA ON INTERSTATE 5 - ABOUT FIVE MILES NORTH OF MARYSVILLE.

KEAN: "I'm from east Texas. We have cedar trees, but not this big!"

THERE'S AN ARCHWAY IN THIS CEDAR STUMP BIG ENOUGH TO DRIVE A CAR THROUGH. AND IN 1939 NORWAY'S CROWN PRINCE OLAV AND PRINCESS MARTHA HAD THEIR PICTURE TAKEN DOING JUST THAT. THESE DAYS, THOUGH, THE STUMP IS A WALK-THROUGH ATTRACTION THAT'S HAD ITS SHARE OF VANDALISM AND DECAY. IT'S BEEN SET ON FIRE, CUT IN HALF, PUT BACK TOGETHER, AND MOVED SEVERAL TIMES. ALL WORTH IT, SAY HARRY YOST, BECAUSE IT'S AN IRREPLACEABLE IF UNUSUAL LINK TO THE REGION'S PAST.

YOST: "It's Washington. Western Washington Red cedar. The younger generation will never see one like this. If you don't keep it, why it's gone. "

GONE - BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. HARRIET BASKAS, KUOW NEWS.

01.22.18

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