The Timber Workers

"What mark did Mr Moke give you?" asked Ben.

"I got an A," said Jenny. "What did you get?"

"I got an A too," said Ben, smiling broadly.

Ben showed Jenny his worksheet. He was pleased with his mark.

"Mr Moke was pleased with all of us," said Jenny.

"Yes, even Mandy stayed awake all day and answered all of the questions," said Ben.

"It was a bit scary when Rando tried to get out of the bus to go swimming, wasn't it?" said Jenny.

"Yes, but we all would have liked to be in the water at the beach wouldn't we? The waves looked just so good. Did you think they would look so good?" said Ben.

"No, they were beautiful, even better than at the beaches near Perth City. The trees were good because they were huge, not like the ones growing in the parks at home, but the waves were just so beautiful. How long did Mr Moke say it would be before we could go swimming in them?" said Jenny.

"He wasn't exactly sure, but he thought another hundred years, or perhaps two hundred," said Ben.

"Don't you just hate those people who thought blowing up other people with nuclear bombs was a good idea," said Jenny, with a cross look on her face.

'Yes," said Ben, "but my Uncle Scott has been swimming in them. Aunty Joan has too. But they don't care that it will kill them. They just say that they're old enough to enjoy life, and if it kills them a bit sooner that's too bad."

"Well, I don't want to die just yet," said Jenny.

"No, neither do I but they are both old and my cousins can look after themselves," said Ben.

Old to Ben meant anyone over twenty years old, but his aunt and uncle were in their fifties. They were timber workers in the lower south west of the continent, farther from the cities than the timber workers from the cities worked.

"Did Mr Moke take marks off Rando for trying to get out of the bus?" asked Jenny.

"No, but he said that he would have to be very good on the trip today or he wouldn't be allowed on any more trips," said Ben.

"Rando loves sport. Have you seen him skiing?" asked Jenny.

"Yes. I went skiing with him and his brother Kenny last month. He is very good. Kenny was just as good. I enjoyed myself but I'm not as good as they are. It was Kenny's birthday."

"How old is Kenny?" asked Jenny.

"He's fourteen. He was born in 2132. It was his birthday on September the fourteenth," said Ben.

"Aunty Lena says the York Town Sports Department staff have bets on how many hours they will stay there when they go skiing. One day they were there for five and a half hours," said Jenny.

"Yes, I can believe that. I ended up leaving them to it and going home. After three hours I was worn out," said Ben.

"Anyway, I am sure he will be good today. He wouldn't want to miss out on any of Mr Moke's trips. They are just so good and well organised," said Jenny.

The bus was rising up into the foothills. It was a long vehicle. The engine ran on hydrogen, as did the engines of all transport vehicles. It had three layers of metal skin to make sure the people in it were safe in case of an accident. Not that there was much chance of an accident. The few vehicles on the road all had computer controlled radar safety devices that made sure the driver had time to take action to avoid an accident. If he didn't, the bus computer did. The air filters made sure that the harmful radioactive dust in the air outside the bus didn't get in to affect the passengers. Emergency oxygen tanks could last fifteen hours with a bus full of people. This was more than enough time for a breakdown vehicle to rescue them.

It was October, and the wildflowers were out along the sides of the road. They could see kangaroo paws, smoke bush and catspaws through the windows. They knew all the flowers because they were grown in the gardens in their city. They looked better in amongst the trees and undergrowth. A kangaroo hopped across the road in front of the bus. Ben stood up for a better look. Jenny did too. Everyone stood up.

"I thought Mr Moke said all the animals had died," said Ben.

"No, he said most did," said Jenny, "and that there are a lot less now."

Ben pointed out the window at the flowers.

"Isn't the Blue Leschenaultia absolutely beautiful," said Ben. "I would love to be able to take a bunch of it home for Mum."

The sides of the road were a continuous line of blue flowers. A pretty light blue. It went on forever.

"This certainly is the best time of the year to be up here to see wildflowers," said Jenny.

"Yes," said Ben. "It's no wonder the State of Western Australia used to be called the Wildflower State."

"I hope we do get to go north next year to see the carpets of Everlastings," said Jenny.

"Yes, the photos we've seen of them look just beautiful. Can you imagine a carpet of flowers going for miles and miles and miles in all directions?" said Ben.

The units of length were metres and kilometres, but the old units of miles just sounded better than saying kilometres, ks or clicks.

"Look," said Jenny, "there's the town." Ben looked out the window.

Boddington came into view. The quarters to house the workers were closest to them. The timber mill was furthest away. Open worker transport vehicles moved along the roads. An occasional worker could be seen in his orange self-contained protective suit. Those returning from work were going into spray tunnels. The water washed off any dust that was on their suits. The dust was dangerous. It was radioactive. A lot less radioactive than right after the bombs had exploded but still a danger. When it got into your lungs it caused lung cancer. Timber workers were paid a lot of money. Accidents could happen, and they did. A lot of the timber workers were older people, who felt they had fewer years to lose if they had an accident and died.

The bus drove into the front of the Administration Building. High pressure jets of water washed off any dust that was on the bus. The outer doors opened and it passed into the entrance chamber. The outer doors closed and the inner ones opened. It drove forward and pulled up at the steps of the building. A guide got in the bus.

"Good morning. I'm Bill Dorn," he said.

"Good morning, Bill," said Mr Moke. "I'm Dan Moke, and this is my wife Molly. Do you want to say a few words to the children?"

"Good morning, children," said Bill. "I'm your guide for your trip to our town. I will take you into our demonstration hall to see what we do. Stay together as we go there. People are working and you should be quiet so you don't disturb them."

Bill got out of the bus. Mr and Mrs Moke and the children joined him. They then followed him through the building. They entered a large room set up to show them how the trees of the forest were selected, cut down, removed and transformed into timber. There was a model sawmill where they could press buttons to see the effect of each section of it on toy logs.

There were real logs. Some were not cut up at all. Others had been through the saws once. Still others showed what happened until there was just a stack of sawn timber.

Holographic images showed timber fellers at work chopping the trees down. These life size three-dimensional images were accompanied by the sounds of the men working.

The machines used in cutting down, hauling and sawing up the trees were on display. They had lots of labels on them to say how they worked. There were chain saws, axes, circular saws, band saws, bulldozers and trucks. The demonstration hall was a large place.

"Timber is very expensive," said Bill, "but people love things made from wood. While oil is used to make the plastic from which most things are made, everyone loves wooden furniture and objects. The Jarrah forests near Perth City are one of the reasons the city has grown so much. Around the world areas of good forest had decreased a lot before the war. As you know, the forests near Perth City and in all of Australia had been managed well and at the time of the war were amongst the best in the world."

Bill took them through the display and showed them it all. He answered their questions until eventually they were ready to leave.

"We have a shop here where you can buy souvenirs of your visit," said Bill. "We will go there now and then get on the bus."

At the shop Ben and Jenny drooled over the wooden chairs, cupboards, beds and other furniture in the shop. All the prices were much more than they could pay. However they did find some smaller objects they could afford.

"I'll have a jarrah ruler, please," said Ben. "How much is that?"

The sign said $4.50 but Ben hadn't noticed.

"That will be four dollars fifty, please," said the shop assistant.

"Thank you. What are you getting Jenny?" asked Ben.

"The Desk Mate looks good," said Jenny. "I think I'll get one for Mum."

It was a piece of jarrah wood with holes and slots to keep pens and pencils neat on your desk. The price on it said $12.40.

"Can I have a Desk Mate, please?" asked Jenny.

"Certainly. That will be twelve dollars forty, please," said the shop assistant.

"Here you are," said Jenny.

"Thank you. Do you want it wrapped?" asked the shop assistant. "We can gift wrap your purchases if you like."

"Yes, please," said Jenny.

The shop assistant wrapped the gift in pretty paper covered in pictures of trees and handed it to Jenny.

"There you go. Enjoy your visit," said the shop assistant.

"Thank you," said Jenny. "See you."

"Goodbye," said the shop assistant.

Mr Moke came along to see if they were ready to leave. They were. As everyone else was also ready, Bill Dorn took them back to the bus.

"You can ask any more questions you think of as we drive out to the logging site to see trees being cut down. You can drive out now, thanks driver," said Bill.

The bus left the Administration Building and drove through the town.

Along the road it passed trucks hauling logs to the sawmill. A bulldozer came into view. It was hauling a log to a ramp to push it onto a truck. Cameras clicked as the students stood up to take photographs.

The bus stopped along a narrow track through the forest. A man in an orange self-contained protective suit with a chain saw was waiting for them. He put on his earmuffs and started the saw. He made two cuts in one side of the tree. With his axe he knocked the wedge of wood out of the way. He now moved around to the other side of the tree and made a sloping cut above the wedge. When he was almost through there was a loud crack and the remaining wood snapped and the tree toppled away from him. It fell slowly at first and then with a rush, knocking branches off the trees in its path.

Everyone watched the man at work from the windows of the bus and cheered when the tree landed.

A bulldozer came clattering up as the man chopped the limbs off the trunk. It hitched up the log and started dragging it away. The bus followed the dragging tree for a distance until they reached the road to the sawmill that they then turned into.

The reached the sawmill and watched other logs being put through the saws by the men in their orange suits. They watched as large logs became lengths of timber. The boards were then stacked in the open to dry out. There were a great number of stacks.

They had seen the process to the end.

They dropped Bill Dorn back at the Administrative Building. The drive home was uneventful, with most of them sleeping.