Evelyn Gray of Ragland Road was interviewed for my newspaper column in December of 2000 when she was 83 years old. She lost her battle with cancer a few years later.
Evelyn spent years as a lumber contractor in the Northwest, hiring and firing roughnecks while buying and selling some of the best cedar timber in the world.
The energetic, blue-eyed woman told me that she thought her life experiences would have made a good script for a Hollywood movie. This is her story:
Let’s see. The whole story. I hardly know where to start.
I have pictures of me working; I was getting out cedar, shipping it back East for shingles.
I have pictures of me and my big power saw, and me splitting blocks into 24-inches long and 2 inches wide. You could make two shingles out of each one…
Power saw was heavy. It had a 52-inch blade.
A man brought me a brand-new saw, still in the box. I had a horse and a sled that I used to get the cedar out of the woods. You couldn’t get a truck down over the hill; it took the horse and sled and pulled it out…
I didn’t even have a saw when I started. I was a sub-contractor, but a man who had the contract was making whiskey. He pawned his own saw and left us without anything to work with.
A man told us we’d have another job before dark. We got the contract for the cedar. The logs were in a pond; they’d been in there for 55 years, but they made the prettiest shingles you ever saw.
I took my horse into the pond and sawed the cedar logs; then I’d hook my horse to it and pull it out. Dozens of people in Virginia tried to get it, but the company wouldn’t let them have it. The logs were 40 feet long in the pond; they had given it to the board of education in Seattle. Anybody who got the cedar out had to pay them first. They gave us the contract, and I worked that job for ever so long.
Lord yes, the saw would cut.
People were good to you out there.
My husband got his back broke and he was laid up in Seattle for four years.
I worked the timber industry myself. I had an old man to ride back and forth with me in the truck while I was hauling in case I had a flat.
I was born at Cranberry, near where the bottling plant is today: January 16, 1917. I’m 83 now.
I had good parents; I had a wonderful father; he was a coal miner. He got pneumonia at 39 and died. You had nothing to treat it with back then. My father died on the ninth day after he got sick.
My mother died at 76.
I was married and had one son. He died in March of last year.
My husband got hit with a log in the chest, right over his heart, broke his back. But he died with a tumor where the log had struck him…
He never did recover; his back hurt him till the day he died…
They even used platinum and silver, but it didn’t help.
I come back here and my husband died here…
I was married three times but I outlived all of them.
I had cancer but I think I’m cured. I went through torment, taking those treatments, but I’m OK now. I raise me a little garden, and I try to keep a clean house to live in.
I love to sew, raise a garden, take care of flowers.
I have a few tomatoes set out and some beans coming up.
I can them and give them away.
I like to help people when I can. When I’m gone, everything I own will go to the St. Jude’s Hospital. I love little children, and it breaks my heart to see them suffering…
I walk around some in the yard, but I lie down when I get tired…
Lord yes, I worked hard, but when you look back on it, all work is pretty, least that’s what my parents told me…
Top o’ the morning!