Dick Sproge - legendary axeman of the karri country
Dick Sproge in the crown of the Diamond Tree, 50 m from the ground, in 1941
Although he died in 1957, I never met Dick Sproge. Our times in the karri country of Western Australia simply did not overlap. But I often feel as if I knew him. His name was always spoken with awe in the timber towns of the south-west when I lived down there, and by my older forestry colleagues, many of whom had known or worked with him. And I spent a lot of time in the tops of the karri trees that had been pegged and topped by Sproge to become fire lookouts. As I climbed these extraordinary trees, I could see the marks of his axe, where he had severed massive limbs, and as I grasped the wooden pegs he had himself driven into the tree. I would touch them reverently, as if this almost brought me into physical contact with the famous man.
The reason for this reverence, as is well known (at least in the circles in which I move), is that Dick Sproge was the first man to scale to the top of giant karri trees. He was the inspiration for the development of the treetop fire lookouts, those icons of the karri forest, and he actually built four of them.
Despite this fame, he is a hard man to describe. Physically we know that he was a man of medium height, powerful and heavily built, but surprisingly nimble. As to his personality, no adjective seems to do him justice. The word “daredevil” was often used in accounts of his exploits, but to me this is not just an understatement, but is in every sense inappropriate. He was also called “eccentric” and I suppose he was in a way, in the sense that he was a most unusual man. But it seems to me that his extraordinary feats were not done to impress or show off, but for prosaic and practical reasons – it was a job that needed to be done, to help resolve a problem or to create a something useful, indeed valuable; he was a man who could do it, and so he did it.
Nevertheless, his exploits demanded the sort of calm courage, and physical strength and endurance that is beyond the imagination of most people, and his treetop axework still chills the spine of an observer – even those who see it today only in a faded black and white photograph.
Sproge stands on the top of a karri tree he has pegged and decapitated.
I class Dick Sproge as one of the most remarkable characters in Western Australian rural history, and I consider that he performed feats that nobody could repeat today. Strangely, his name is scarcely known outside the big timber country of the south-west and is fast becoming forgotten. Even back in the day his exploits came to be overshadowed by those of the more flamboyant George Reynolds, his protégé and successor as tree pegger and lookout builder. No memorial to Dick Sproge graces the main street of Manjimup or Pemberton, and the remains of some of his most wonderful work, like the two Gardner Trees and the Big Tree fire lookout, are derelict, abandoned in the bush, without even a signpost, forgotten even by local historians and departmental staff.
Why is it important to ensure that the memory of Dick Sproge survives?
To understand the significance of the man and his deeds, it is first necessary to understand another matter altogether: the history of bushfire management in the karri country, and the extraordinary story of the development of the karri tree fire lookouts. Dick Sproge played a critical role in this story, probably the most critical; he uniquely provided both the inspiration and the execution.
Forest management (by which I mean the planned conservation and protection of our native forests) began in WA in the years immediately after World War 1. A Forests Act was proclaimed, a forestry agency created, and trained foresters appointed. They inherited a forest estate that had been exploited with no thought for the future. Protection, especially of regrowth forests, from bushfires was a high priority, and to do this, a fire detection system was required. This took the form of lookouts constructed on high points, from which observers could scan the forest and report fire outbreaks, allowing the fires to be controlled. The first fire lookout towers were built in the early 1920s in the northern jarrah forest, and over the next ten years the system was gradually extended south, eventually encompassing all of the forest north of the Blackwood River.
The karri country of the deep south presented a different landscape and new difficulties. There were few high points across the region, and these tended to be covered with enormous trees. A wooden tower exceeding 75 m (250 feet) in height would be needed to see over them, and although bush carpenters of the day built some magnificent timber lookout towers, a 250-foot-tall tower was beyond the technology of the time.
But, cometh the hour, cometh the man ... or in this case, two men. One of these was Dick Sproge, an immigrant timber faller who had demonstrated that he could construct a ladderway to the top of a 70m tall tree and prune off the topmost branches. The other was Donald Stewart, a young forestry officer, who made the leap of imagination that connected Sproge’s exploits to the idea of constructing a fire spotting lookout actually atop a giant tree.
In a fascinating paper on the development of fire lookout trees in the karri forest (published in the Australian Forestry journal of 1942), Stewart paid tribute to Sproge as his inspiration. He wrote:
After observing the feats of an eccentric axeman, who had made a hobby of climbing karri trees and lopping their crowns, the writer, in 1936, conceived the idea of constructing lookouts in suitable trees.
Brought to fruition in the late 1930s and the 1940s, this concept effectively solved the fire detection challenge for the karri forest [Footnote 1].
I have often thought about Dick Sproge. Little is known about the man, his history or his personality, and almost nothing has been written about him beyond his arboreal exploits. But luckily my friend Frank Collins is not only a good bloke but is also Dick Sproge’s grandson. Frank has researched his family history and provided me with a wealth of biographical material.
Sproge’s early life
Ringold Sproge was born in Latvia on 29/11/1889. His father was Latvian and his mother Russian, or perhaps Ukrainian (the records are not clear on this). Ringold (who is the Richard “Dick” Sproge of this story) had one brother Paul. Ringold was well educated, financially savvy and worked in a bank. He was fluent in Latvian, Russian and German.
Both Ringold and Paul left Latvia as young men; we no longer know why. Perhaps it was nothing more than a spirit of adventure, although Paul was a confirmed pacifist, and wanted to avoid national service in the army at a time when war with Germany seemed imminent. Ringold ended up in Australia where he anglicised his name to Richard (later shortened to Dick as Australians always did). Paul also came to Australia (having changed his name to Fred Rebell). Paul/Fred lived for a while in Western Australia, but kept moving, spent two years in San Francisco, but was deported back to Latvia. He later came back to Australia, living and dying in New South Wales [Footnote 2].
Family legend has it that when still a schoolboy Ringold enjoyed climbing to the tops of tall pine trees, the famous Baltic pines of Latvia, demonstrating at a young age an incredible head for heights. Not only that, but he would leap from the treetops onto the down slope of a nearby sand dune, make a sliding landing and coast to the bottom. The word “daredevil” does seem appropriate here.
Dick (as we shall call him henceforth in this story) arrived in Australia in 1909, at the age of 20. He spent a year or two in rural areas in the eastern states but was unimpressed by what he later referred to as the “grinding poverty” of the early settlers in the farming districts, where he observed children dressed in flour bags. Moving to WA he heard about the big timber mills opening up in the karri country, moved to Jardee and got a job as a tree faller with Millars Timber and Trading company. These were the days in which fallers worked as pairs, and felled the great trees with axes and crosscut saws. As far as we know, Dick had had no experience in the timber industry in Latvia, but we do know he was clever and tough, and he would have soon understood that fallers were the “kings” of the bush. Presumably he had no trouble picking up the skills of an axeman and tree faller. In any case, when the new State Sawmills opened up at Pemberton in 1912, he applied for and was able to secure a job with them as a faller.
By then, Sproge had already arranged, through his family in Latvia, to get married. His wife, Claudia Kochanovsky, was Ukrainian, and a classic “mail order bride”. She came out to Australia without ever meeting or having had any contact whatsoever with her future husband. They were married in Bridgetown in 1911.
The newly married couple lived initially at Jardee but then moved to a mill house in Pemberton. Dick was rarely home. In those days, timber workers either camped in humpies, or lived in a crude boarding house in the bush close to the areas where logging was in progress. It was a six-day working week, so it would only have been on Saturday nights and Sundays that he was at home … and even rarely on Sundays, as we shall see below. Claudia, in a foreign land and at first speaking almost no English, must have led a lonely life.
As a faller for the Pemberton mill in the 1920s and 30s, Dick would have worked in the Big Brook and Treen Brook State forests, two of our most famous regrowth forests today. He would have worked to the sound of the ring of axes, the bellowing of bullocks and the wail of the steam locomotive, and he would have become intimate with every nuance of the great karri trees that he felled and cut into logs.
It is when he was working at Treen Brook that we get our first glimpse of Sproge and of his tree climbing exploits. In a wonderful letter to the Collins family (grandchildren of Sproge), written in 1997 when its author was 84, Charles Lawrence recalled:
Between 1923 and '34, my parents occupied a block on what was known as Group 2. If you travel the Vasse Road out of Pemberton, our block was the first on the left after passing Treen Brook.
It was about 1929, perhaps late that year that we began to deliver milk to the men who were camped along the [logging railway] near Treen Brook, and Dick Sproge and Mr. De Langraft became two of our customers. As young boys, my brother and I carried the milk in buckets that were covered with cloth.
Both of these men eventually became guests at our house on alternate Sundays. My mother was a good cook, and loved to serve up roast dinners - I am sure that both men appreciated her efforts. They always came on separate days of course, although they worked well together, different religious views kept them apart socially.
It was either 1931 or '32 that Dick asked my parents if I could be allowed to assist him with a job. He had to remove a large branch that was overhanging the railway. It was somewhere in the region of the top of Thompson's Hill.
When I arrived on the job in the early morning, Dick was already there. I remember the tools he was going to use - an auger, a long length of rope and dozens of tapered wooden pegs that were long and strong enough to support a man's weight. Also, he had a bag, which was large enough to hold the wooden pegs.
Dick then began to bore the first hole, then hammered in a peg which he sat astride to repeat the process. As he got higher and higher, each time he used up the pegs, it was my job to place about five or six in the bag which he would then haul up and continue on his way upward. I don't think that time has interfered with my judgement of the height of the branch he wanted to remove, and I would say it was in the region of 150 feet. When Dick had reached the base of the branch, he began to bore the last hole. He let down the bag and called to me to put in a small metal box which contained part of a stick of gelignite, a detonator, a length of fuse and some plugging material.
My father had used gelignite several times when clearing large trees, so I would not have been unduly worried ordinarily. But to see someone casually ramming the stuff into a branch at that height and then lighting the fuse - I was no more than twelve years of age at that time - almost frightened the life out of me. Having lit the fuse, he calmly climbed to the base of the tree and stepped behind it. Barely had he done so when the explosion occurred - the branch missed the rail line by yards.
Needless to say, word got around about this feat. But in fact, it was not Sproge’s first exploit. Earlier he had been asked to help with a similar problem in the bush – a tall karri tree which was leaning across the bush railway line. It could not be felled without doing substantial damage, and as it had a slight lean, there was a serious concern that it would come down of its own accord, especially after the bush had been opened up by logging operations. Dick undertook to climb the tree and cut off the crown. This would fall harmlessly to the ground, removing the hazard, and allowing the “stump” to be safely felled at a later date.
An eye-witness account was given in The Western Mail, 9th February 1928:
Pemberton people witnessed a feat of axemanship and daring the other Sunday never before attempted in Western Australia. Dick Sproge, a faller on the State Sawmills concession at Pemberton lopped the crown of a Karri tree off below the first limb at a point about 40 metres above the ground. Sproge spent Saturday afternoon providing access to the point at which he intended to chop by driving pegs into the trunk at about every 30 inches. Then he built a staging from which to work, by driving longer pegs into the trunk and lashing light boards to them. Sunday morning he spent ‘scarfing’ the tree, or putting in the belly cut. This is a chop into the trunk on the side to which it is intended fall the tree. At 2 pm on Sunday Sproge, amid the clicking of scores of cameras, swung himself onto his ladder and climbed nimbly to his narrow platform 115 feet above the ground.
A few moments of inspection and adjustments and the rhythmic strokes of his axe fell on an almost profound silence below. Several hundreds of eyes stared up.
For forty minutes Sproge’s axe swung. Then came a crack. “She’s going!” someone called. But it was only a preliminary shudder. It required another ten minutes chopping before the familiar rendering noise of the falling tree announced that the man had succeeded. For noticeable seconds the tree top toppled before it wrenched itself clear and crashed to the ground crushing a sturdy casuarina tree below like straw. As the strain was removed the trunk of the tree whipped viciously, describing an arc of fully 2 metres before slowly swinging to a trembling rest. Sproge, with commendable caution, had roped himself securely to the trunk.
A few moments later he was on the ground, shaking hands with acquaintances and accepting the plaudits of the crowd. Several hardy spirits, including two girls (sisters) climbed the trunk after the event.
The three photographs below show key moments in this exploit:
Sproge on his platform, chopping:
2. The scarf completed, Sproge is reclimbing the tree to back it down:
3. The crown goes, and Sproge clings to the jerking trunk
There is an interesting comment on the above article by Kevin Coate in his excellent book Forestry through the Fifties. Kevin writes that six of the several hundred eyes staring up that day belonged to his father-in-law Norman Smith, and his two sisters from Nannup. It was Norman’s sisters who climbed the tree, as mentioned in the Western Mail article.
The tree lookouts
There are records of at least two other karri trees having been pegged and topped by Sproge in the same manner as described above. I think at least one of these must have been witnessed by forester Don Stewart, at that time the Regional Superintendent for the karri forest region. As already mentioned, one of Stewart’s keen ambitions was to develop an effective system of bushfire detection for the forest under his jurisdiction, but he had been thwarted by an inability to find suitable high points on which a lookout tower could be built.
In addition to watching Sproge at work, Stewart had worked for a while in the Dryandra forest, where in 1930, Western Australia’s first fire lookout tree had been constructed. This was on a powderbark tree on a high ironstone ridge at Lol Gray and was only about 10 metres in height – but Stewart had climbed it and had admired the panoramic view across the landscape it provided. Surely, he thought, the same principle would apply with a karri tree, if only there was a means of getting to the top and constructing a lookout cabin or crow’s nest? It was Sproge who provided the answer.
Over the next few years, under Stewart’s direction, Sproge was the key man in the construction of five lookout trees:
Big Tree (1939): at Channybearup, south of Manjimup;
Pemberton Tree (1939): a few steps from the front veranda of the forestry office;
Gardner Tree Number One (1941): south-west of Pemberton;
Diamond Tree (1941), south-west of Manjimup; and
Gardner Tree Number Two (1943): just up the hill from the Gardner Tree No 1;
I always think that the photograph of Sproge at work on Gardner Tree No 2 is probably the most dramatic of all the astonishing images of him at work. In the left-hand picture below, the ladderway has been completed as far as the first limbs, and Sproge can just be seen standing in the tree fork at the top of the ladder, about to commence lopping a huge limb. The picture on the right is taken later when the pegging and lopping is completed and the cabin under construction. The amazing thing to me is how he pegged his way out along several of the limbs (away from the tree trunk) before cutting them off. No doubt this was to minimise the risk of a falling limb damaging the ladderway – a significant risk, as we will see in a moment [Footnote 3].
Underscoring the difficulty of standing on the limb of a tree 50 metres or more above ground and swinging a sharp axe with the necessary power and precision to chop through solid hardwood, is the fact that the upper sections of these tall trees are constantly in motion. As anyone knows who has climbed a tall fire lookout tree, they sway about even on a relatively calm day, and on a gusty, windy day, the top can sway three or four metres from side to side and will jerk about in response to wind gusts. The tree also reacts to the one of its great limbs being severed by lashing backwards and forwards as its age-old balance is upset. Sproge (who wore no safety belt) would drive his axe firmly into the tree trunk just as his final cut went through and the limb fell away, to provide a hand-hold.
The technique for the construction of the tree lookouts was as follows:
1. Having selected the tree (a story I will gloss over for now), a ladderway of wooden pegs would be built up the trunk of the tree. To make climbing easier, Stewart decided that the steps would mount in a spiral rather than vertically as Sproge had done earlier. Each wooden peg was slightly offset, but still 30 inches (about 75 cm) apart. Sitting on one peg with his feet wrapped around the one below, he would use an augur to bore a hole in the trunk, draw up a peg on a thin line, and hammer it home … and so on, up and around the bole of the tree.
2. Reaching the limbs of the crown, he would progressively chop these off, leaving the uppermost stubs into which a lookout cabin would be bolted.
3. Stewart (or one of his staff) would then climb the tree, take measurements and angles, and make a blueprint of the arrangement of the branches, which would then be used in the design of the cabin bearers.
4. Using a winch, the heavy wooden bearers would be lifted to the top of the tree and bolted into place. The cabin, having been prefabricated on the ground would then be hoisted up in pieces and nailed together. This was done by a forestry or contract carpenter. Sproge’s work was done once the pegging and lopping was complete.
5. Later, when all the other work had been completed, an intermediate galvanised steel peg was driven in between each of the wooden pegs, to make climbing easier. Then, a second set of pegs was inserted behind the first set and all the pegs wired together to form a "cage" around the climber.
6. The lookouts were linked to each-other and to district HQ by forestry telephone [Footnote 4], and a small hut constructed at the foot of the tree as the towerman’s residence.
The photograph that heads this story shows Sproge in the crown of the Diamond Tree preparing to start the axework (he had been brought out of semi-retirement for this job, by which I mean that he was no longer working as a tree faller at that time – the ladderway had been put in by George Reynolds). The photo below shows the final ‘masterpiece of bush engineering’ that eventuated.
Diamond Tree had presented forester Stewart with a special problem – it was just not quite high enough to provide good visibility to the east. So it was decided to build a short wooden tower on top of the tree crown itself.
During the construction of Diamond Tree, a famous incident occurred, as told in the following report by Manjimup journalist Reg Monkhouse, later published in The West Australian newspaper:
“…..a few years ago I managed to climb [Diamond Tree and observe] veteran axeman Mr. Richard Sproge, lop the branches preparatory to the 30-feet high tower being built.
The tree had been pegged some days previously by Mr. George Reynolds, of the Forestry Department's staff. His was a painstaking job, working up and boring holes in a gradual spiral fashion, to facilitate climbing. Into the holes were inserted the rounded end of squared powellised karri pegs about 30 inches apart. Because the galvanised spike had not been driven in between each wooden peg, [a friend of mine] predicted a physical strain not previously experienced in the gymnasium or on the playing field; and for a week after the climb I had reason to believe him.
But in ignorance, an amateur photographer will do much for his picture. So I scaled the laborious 150-feet stairway to where Dick was soon to commence his work of defoliating the tree. Here he was: moving about with the ease of a house painter atop a pair of small steps, and I recall his smile of amusement as he looked at me with my arms wrapped about a good solid limb.
Down below the forestry truck looked like a toy model. Over the other side of the main road, a farm building from which smoke curled sluggishly seemed a miniature doll's house. These things I noticed while I waited for Dick to check on his safety precautions, preparatory to lopping off the boughs.
Instead of the thick rope I imagined such axemen to have ready around their middle in case of emergency, Dick nonchalantly slipped a strand of sash cord through the adjuster loop at the back of his trousers; more, I should say, for moral support, than for physical safety. Then, straddling a piece of pipe sunk into the limb, he leaned out and the rhythmic blows of his axe disturbed the still morning air.
It seemed a matter of seconds before he had a huge bough spiralling to earth to land with a resounding crash and to set up a cloud of dust. My first and only close-up of this famed aerial axeman confounded all my theories; he made the job look so ridiculously easy.
Having got my photographs up there, I descended in the few minutes’ grace given while Dick shifted the scene of his precarious lopping to the other side of the tree top.
The next few boughs tumbled to earth whilst I gazed upwards from a safe distance. Then the breeze that had freshened toward midday tipped one huge limb in, and its mad rush to earth stripped a dozen pegs from the winding staircase with that irritating noise of a small boy dragging his rule along a picket fence.
It happened like a flash, and there was Dick, quite unruffled, isolated 150 feet above ground and a 36 foot gap in the pegs. Dick's only contact with us was the slender rope hoist used to pull small bits of timber up for the foothold that was just taking shape. We on the ground felt bewildered and helpless and all knew that the next move was up to the unfortunate axeman. George Reynolds was there and had seen the pegs ripped off. Had he started immediately to rebore, it would have taken the best part of the day to bridge the gap.
However, in some miraculous fashion, Dick managed to lower himself on that slender rope hoist, while I photographed and secretly hoped that the picture I took would not be Exhibit 'A' at a coroner's inquest. [Later] as I sat beside Dick, and he lunched on cheese sandwiches, he made light of the episode, despite the fact that he was a big man and the cord on which he had lowered himself would not, in my opinion, have held the equivalent weight of a family weekend joint….
I have not been able to find any record of the payment made to Sproge for his work on fire lookout construction, but I doubt it would have been munificent. The Forests Department was a very frugal organization in those days, and Donald Stewart was well-known as one of the most frugal of its officers. I can imagine that Sproge was simply paid some sort of day-rate for his work, based on the Award for forest workmen at the time with perhaps a small bonus as “danger money”.
Sproge was 53 years old at the time of the incident on Diamond Tree recounted above, and had long retired from his “day job” as a faller. However, he was a shrewd investor with a strong business ethic, and had purchased town blocks in Manjimup, and also a slab of former farmland just south of the town (adjacent to the appropriately-named Chopping Street). This he subdivided and developed as a residential area. Thenceforth he became more of a land investor and developer than a timber man, also buying and subdividing land at Cannington, at that time an outlying area near Perth.
The blocks at Manjimup were known at the time as “Sprogetown”. On it he pegged and topped two smallish karri trees, just to keep his hand in, as it were, and it was said that he liked to climb them on a sunny afternoon, to get away from it all. The remnants of one of these could still be seen at the back of the carpark of the Kingsley Motel when I stayed there several years ago.
One of the reasons Sproge gave up falling was that he had been injured in a bush accident. The story became legendary after Sproge limped into the Pemberton hospital one day, saying that he had “gashed himself” with his axe. In his hand he carried three of his toes, and he asked Dr Abbott to sew them back on. Unfortunately, this sort of microsurgery had not yet been perfected. However, the wounds were stitched up … and Sproge was back at work a week or two later.
We also know that he was a decisive man, good in an emergency. Charles Lawrence, recalling his youth at Treen Brook in the 1930s has written:
…Mr Sproge and I were on our way from Pemberton in a horse drawn cart. We were almost at the camp near Treen Brook, and parallel with the railway - the road was located differently in those days - when I heard the noise of an approaching train. The horse I was driving was not accustomed to any mechanical device, especially noisy steam engines. I told Dick that when the train got closer, this horse was going to bolt. He took little notice until the animal began to show signs of panic. It was then that he jumped from the cart and grabbed the horse by both ears, keeping its head tucked firmly between his arms — the horse could hardly move. After the noise had abated, Dick calmed the horse with a few comforting sounds and a pat on the neck and we went on our way.
However, Sproge was (according to his grandson Frank Collins) a stubborn, outspoken and rather aloof man. It is not surprising that the marriage with Claudia was not a happy one, and for most of it they lived separate lives. The estrangement was not helped when tragically, their son Harry, a pilot in the RAAF, was lost during World War 2.
The Sproge family in 1933. Jennie Sproge (third from the left) married Jim Collins and was the mother of my mate Frank Collins
Dick Sproge died in Cannington, in the field, while working to improve the drainage on a block of land he was developing. He was aged only 68, and his passing was unremarked.
But he left behind him a legacy (the fire lookout system in the karri forest) and a legend (a man of breath-taking, almost audacious courage and physical prowess). I honour him as one of the most remarkable men in Western Australian bush history.
The top of Gardner Tree snapped off during Cyclone Alby in April 1978, although the tree had long been condemned beforehand, the dead wood at the top being infested with termites. The remains of the old tree, its wooden pegs in place spiralling up the trunk, still stands today, long ago and shamefully abandoned in the bush. I visited it a couple of years ago – with difficulty, as the access track is overgrown, and the surrounding bush has not seen a fire for at least seventy years and is thick and impenetrable. On the ground near the foot of the tree I found the remnants of the cabin, some tangled telephone wire and bits and pieces of the topmost limbs of the tree, brought down in the cyclone. Still clearly visible on the fallen timber were the marks of Dick Sproge’s axe and, probably for the last time, I felt the ghostly presence of the great man.
The top 50-feet of Gardner Tree, at about the time I worked up there as fire watcher in 1960. Dick Sproge’s axework still evident on every limb.
1. The full story of the concept and construction of the karri tree lookouts is told in my book Diamond Tree – a masterpiece of bush engineering. Copies can be purchased at the Manjimup Newsagency.
2. Paul Sproge (who assumed the name Fred Rebell) shared his brother’s adventurous spirit. He sailed a tiny, open yacht across the Pacific, later writing a book about his experiences called Escape to the Sea. Early in the book he writes about Western Australia and includes a photograph of Dick Sproge at work, with the caption “A Western Australian feller chopping off a karri treetop” but does not mention that the axeman is his brother or give any other detail. The Collins family (Sproge descendants) has a copy of this rare book, which I have read and one day might write about – it would make a sensational story in its own right.
Dick Sproge’s brother Paul (Fred Rebell) in the 14-foot open sailing dinghy in which he sailed from Sydney to San Francisco.
3. I worked up Gardner tree as lookoutman in the summer of 1960/61. It was the hardest of all the tree lookouts to climb and was also considered the most dangerous. By my time the top 50-feet or so of the tree had died, and the pegs had become loose and treacherous. This tree not only swayed through an amplitude of several metres, it gyrated. There was an old saying amongst Gardner Tree lookoutmen in those days: when you eventually climb through the trapdoor into the cabin and shut the lid, a feeling of security comes over you – it is false security, but this is better than none. No local forestry workers would go up the tree, so the job of Gardner Tree lookoutman was always given to a forestry student on university vacation work experience – like me.
4. The story of the forestry telephones and how they were constructed and worked is told elsewhere in these chronicles. See Bush communication: a note on early forestry telephone and wireless systems in WA in this website: www.forestleaves.blog