A Logging Accident in Sweden, 1948

Note from Editor/Daughter: This story, from my dad’s journal of memories, tells of his journey to Sweden on his Harley where he worked for some months logging on an estate. 

In the spring of 1948 I headed north on my Harley to join my brother Knud in a forest camp in Dalsland, Sweden.

It was a cold trip. About halfway into the 600 km trip I ran into frost and snow and ended up running alongside the bike with the motor idling. It took me just over 24 hours to get there.

As I neared the camp at midmorning I hit a little glacier that had formed across the road. The bike slid out from under me and down the hill ending up on a frozen lake. I was so exhausted I just left it there and walked the rest of the way.

After a good day and night’s sleep I went back to the lake and retrieved the motorbike.

Pavel playing with the farmer Erik's children

Pavel playing with the farmer Erik’s children

The Dalsland logging camp held at most ten men but the hires were constantly coming and going. We all worked on a section of land owned by a local farmer whose family had grown trees for centuries.Dad's Painting of Logging Timber in Sweden, 1947Once Erik the farmer took me into a part of the forest to show me trees that his great grandfather had selected and trained. They were Baltic pine, a type of pine with very thin bark almost like that of Arbutus. They had been used for ship’s masts in the era of sailing ships but were no longer needed in this time of steel ships. Neither did Erik want to cut them down as they were a feast for the eye, tall and straight and perfectly round with very little taper.

In the forest we were logging, trees to be cut had been marked and it was as if it was a continual thinning process, nothing ever had to be planted. We cut mature trees, scrubby trees for firewood and left some for seeding. Varieties included Baltic Pine, Spruce and Birch. Even though it was a private forest it was regulated as to what could be cut and the government forester would come every so often to mark felled trees for bucking with wood selected for lumber, furniture, pulp and firewood.

The farmer Erik with a load of power poles

The farmer Erik with a load of power poles

Came April I was on a steep slope felling trees. The melting snow had made it treacherous and an accident had to happen.

I slipped on an icy patch, let go of my axe and grabbed at a branch. The axe fell right on my ankle, cutting through the boot and three tendons. I tied the bootlace around my leg to stop the bleeding and humped it back to camp on a crutch cut from a tree.

Luckily Erik the farmer was nearby and went immediately for his horse and sleigh, driving me to the highway where a taxi was waiting.

I was sewn up at the Amal Hospital and after a few days moved to a large old mansion to recuperate. There were a dozen patients there, two of them with the same kind of injury as I had, obviously a very common accident.

There were three nurses doing the nursing and other chores. I stayed there for thirty days until I was off the crutches. It seems to me that the small hospitals in them days had better care of their patients than the big hospitals of today.

When I got back to camp it was warm and sunny, the snow was gone and the broadleaf trees were at their finest. It felt like paradise and I decided to go for a trip on my Harley as it was warm enough to sleep under a tree at night with just a blanket.

So off I went to Norway as the border was not far away. Soon after crossing the border I was flagged down by a girl who wanted a ride. She told me just about everybody in Norway had their holidays at the same time for a three-week holiday. On the road I saw cars picking up as many happy hictchhikers as they could carry.

I drove over a bridge with a swift flowing river underneath it. Even though it was melt water it was crystal clear and I could clearly see everything some 30 feet down on the bottom.

I had a haircut in Oslo and then went on to Lillehammer where a festival was taking place that day. From there I went on to Bergen and then across the country to Sweden where I continued north, eventually reaching the treeless northern part. I wasn’t sure if I had reached the tundra or if the very hot summer had dried it out so it looked like the tundra.

It was here I observed part of the Swedish army at war games. I watched them from a hill for a while and was impressed by the spirit of the soldiers. From there I went back to the forest camp but by then it just too hot for logging. Plus I soon was the only one left in the camp so I decided to go looking for a more tolerable job.

3 responses to “A Logging Accident in Sweden, 1948

  1. This reminds me of my grandfather who also ran a logging company in Northern California gold country in the 50’s-90’s. We used to go out to jobs with him and his crews and we saw the logging trucks/equipment/implements all the time. It seems like forever ago but anytime I see logging topics it makes me think of him and his business and career fondly. Thank you for bringing me back.

    Also the matter-of-fact response to significant injury is the same attitude which he had. I am pretty sure he would have just taken an aspirin and wrapped an oil soaked cloth around a hand if he had cut his own fingers off. It was a different time when people were TOUGH!


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