The sawmill at Potlatch had a large log pond on the town side of the property. The pond was used to simplify the transportation of the logs from storage to the sawmill hoist which loaded the logs to the saws. The pond helped clean the logs of dirt which might damage the saws. Logs in the pond did not split because they never dried out. The pond also provided a ready supply of fire fighting water.
When you’re a young boy the sawmill pond is a great place to explore and watch the activities at the sawmill. One of my trips to the sawmill pond resulted in a whipping that has never been forgotten.
Myself and several friends were exploring around the edges of the pond away from the sawmill activities. We found a homemade raft of small logs laced together with rope and scraps of wire. The raft was about six feet wide and eight feet long. The poles used to propel the raft were laying on top of it. The raft could handle two or three people before becoming partially submerged and getting your feet wet. We played on it while it was tied to the brush along the bank, but knew better than to launch it on the pond when the sawmill was running. There were very few days when the sawmill didn’t operate.
Two of us got together on a day when the mill didn’t operate to take a ride on the raft. We headed for the pond in the late afternoon when everything was quiet. Off we went on our great adventure. We untied the raft and worked it out into water deep enough for it to float before climbing on top of it. As we moved around on the raft different areas would be submerged just below the water. Our feet stayed wet. If you’ve never had the pleasure of cruising on a homemade raft, you can’t appreciate what it takes to propel it where you want to go. We spun a lot of circles and never did get proficient in making it go straight. For a couple hours the raft was the only thing in our world. We worked our way back and forth on the pond. When finished, we put the raft exactly where we had found it.
My arrival at home was met by my extremely unhappy dad. Little known to me, he had driven past the pond and saw us on the raft. What could I say with my pant legs wet to the knees. One minute you’re a big working man on the pond…….the next you’re a little Tom Sawyer never to raft again.