Sunday, April 26, 2015

April 26, 2015; Samish Iron Works

This unassuming building surrounded by water was the world headquarters of the Samish Iron Works.  On this date, probably in the winter of 1975 the Samish Slough had flooded thanks to heavy rains, a quick mountain snow melt and an untimely high tide.  Fortunately, the water came up fast, and left fast.

On a normal day, the lot now covered with water, would instead be occupied with farm implements in need of repair, a pick-up truck or two, (farmers watching their equipment getting repaired), and a few neighbors just stopping by to see what's up.

A man named Clifford Wright owned this building.  You would never guess by looking at it, but this was also the workshop of a man who was nothing shy of a mechanical genius.  The complex physics and chemistry of heating and cooling metal alloys to bring their twisted damage back into true line came natural to Cliff.  Torch in hand, he'd heat a wedge here, let it cool, a line there, let it cool, and smaller wedge just right there.  It was amazing to see thick bars of steel slowly move without so much of a swing of a hammer.

How to straighten steel with a torch?  "That's just common knowledge," as Cliff would say.

Two side dump wagons were produced from that little shop along with a hydraulic push gate manure spreader.  Silage choppers were rebuilt here, dump beds on trucks built, and PTO shafts by the hundreds were straightened and repaired.

Sounds like a full time job, does it not?  It was and it wasn't. To be sure Cliff had more business than he needed, and it all was done between about 8AM and 3PM during the week.  You see, Cliff had a full time job, working swing shift as a welder for the Skagit Corporation, building logging towers and components for off shore drilling rigs.

Saturdays work might start a little early, but would usually wind down around 4 for "social hour."  In those days, Cornfield Whiskey was Cliff's drink of choice.  More than once I started milking right after "social hour" and really didn't come around to noticing anything until about half way through the second string of cows.

This past Friday evening a group of us gathered here at Cliff's shop for one last "social hour."  Cliff passed away earlier this month and everyone close it him thought it fitting that we honor his memory with whiskey and bullshit.

And oh how the stories and spirits flowed late into the night, just as Cliff would have wanted.


Lon Lasher said...

The "old" workers are rapidly falling by the wayside, never to be replaced. It is our loss, to be sure.

Bryce Lee said...

The children of our children will not have the hands-on skills that Cliff had. The industry that supported such enterprise has both changed and disappeared. The new John Deere tractors for example, are often as complicated as
that new pick me up truck sitting in the drive, to
maintain and/or repair.