(This story was first published in the Feb.6, 2014 edition of the Vermont Standard.)
‘I Love Being Out In The Woods’
By Katy Savage, Standard Staff
READING — David Goodhouse has been susceptible to a lot of injuries over the past two decades — he’s broken six ribs and a finger, crushed a shoulder blade and has had a chainsaw cut into his right arm.
He’s broken two front teeth and his neck after a tree fell on his back out in the woods 20 years ago.
But Goodhouse is a logger. And injuries are just part of the job.
Goodhouse has owned the logging business Rolling Meadows Farm for about 25 years, ever since the economy turned in the late 1980s and he was looking for a way to support himself.
“It’s a tough business,” he said.
But anyone who does the job knows the risks — and most of them don’t slow down because of it. Logging consistently ranks among the most dangerous jobs in the country. In 2012, 62 loggers were killed while working, making it the most dangerous profession in the country, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics‘ National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.
But right now, Goodhouse, 51, of Reading, is injury-free and working on a project on the West Hartford-Pomfret town line for landowners that have property in current use, the state’s tax incentive program that requires landowners to have a longterm forest management plan.
On Monday, one of Goodhouse’s employees, Floyd Allen was sitting in a large machine that cuts and measures the circumference of the logs. The machine has a head that rotates and cuts wood like a chainsaw, only 10 times the speed.
Allen can cut down 20-foot logs in less than one minute.
“It’s pretty amazing what they can do,” Goodhouse said.
The inside of the forest where Allen was working was strewn with brush, logs and stumps and looked “like a bomb went off.” But that’s what Goodhouse was going for.
“That helps the forest,” he said.
The mixed brush and fallen timber helps create a wildlife habitat and aids the regeneration of the forest. But the aftermath of logging is sometimes upsetting to landowners.
“Some people don’t understand what logging is,” Goodhouse said.
Logging is different than how it was when Goodhouse started — when he was 14 and chainsaws were becoming popular.
When Goodhouse was growing up, almost everyone at that time talked about becoming a logger. The jobs were on a smaller scale and there were far more people cutting trees. Also, the regulations for transporting wood weren’t as strict.
“If you have one little thing wrong you’re getting stopped,” Goodhouse said.
Goodhouse has been cutting trees since elementary school. He built a log cabin with his classmates in fifth or sixth grade and cut wood with a hatchet on his neighbor’s property. Goodhouse works just about every day of the week. He and his crew start as early as 4 a.m. and don’t get done until dark. A lazy day for him is sleeping until 7 a.m. He shapes the forest, cutting down dead pine trees so young trees have enough sunlight to grow larger.
“You’re trying to open this up for that ash tree,” he said on Monday, pointing to a tree out in front of him on a logging road that Goodhouse wouldn’t be cutting down. “You want that tree to grow.”
Goodhouse’s had large piles of logs that would total about $5,000 worth of lumber. Usually, he tries to generate $3,000 worth of logs a day.
“We’re a little off this year,” he said.
Some of his wood will go to mills in other states (New Hampshire, Maine), countries (Canada) or other towns in Vermont (Rutland and Hartland) to be turned into paper, firewood and posts.
“It’s all different places,” he said.
He’s learned from spending time out in the woods. He knows every type of tree and what the trees pressure points are — where they bend and snap and how they are going to fall to the ground.
But there are still risks. One of Goodhouse’s employees recently broke his leg after a tree fell on him.
Goodhouse has had five concussions. Or is it six? He’s lost count.
“I’ve been beat up,” he said. “That’s why my wife doesn’t really want me to cut anymore. I’m lucky to be here, actually.”
Goodhouse’s wife Susan says she tries not to worry until her husband is late for dinner — his main meal.
“It’s a little scary,” she said. “I try to keep him healthy and out of harm’s way.”
Despite the danger, Goodhouse hasn’t stopped.
He walked along the logging roads on Monday, pointing to brush and stumps to each side of the path.
There was a smell of maple trees and sawdust in the air and fresh deer tracks in the snow where animals had come to eat the brush. Goodhouse was about to spend all day in a bulldozer, making a new logging trail.
“I love being out in the woods,” he said.
David Goodhouse stands by his logs at a landing on the West Hartford-Pomfret town line. He’s owned a logging business for 25 years.
Katy Savage Photo