The 25 foot U-Haul truck on a dirt road in the middle of the Mark Twain National Forest looked really out of place. But it was the three extra feet of huge pine logs sticking out the back that really caught my attention.
The driver of the truck turned out to be Doug Stephens, a Director for Recreation Solutions, a historical restoration company from Colorado that works with the U. S. Forest Service. Doug had been brought in to coordinate this PIT project and explained that he had to drive the logs in from Colorado due to the difficulty of finding suitable length lumber in Missouri. Needless to say, I was impressed. I don’t think I realized until this point the scope and level of this project.
My next introduction was with Keri Hicks and Bruce Gibson, both are Forest Service Archaeologist and the leads for the project. I had communicated with both of them by e-mail, but it was a pleasure to finally meet them face to face. Keri started the morning with introductions of the staff and a short mandatory safety lecture. She then had all the volunteers introduce and give a little information about themselves. Listening, I was impressed by where everyone was from. Many of us were from Missouri, but others came from as far away as South Carolina, Colorado & Wyoming.
Keri mentioned that many of the volunteers knew each other and had worked together on the Sinking Creek Fire Tower PIT project in 2008. And from what I could tell, I was one of the three PIT “rookies.”
Then it was Doug’s turn to lay out our plan of attack for the week. He calmly explained that we were going to jack up the cabin, notch the logs, replace the floor, remove the graffiti, replace some siding, secure the roof tin, move large rocks for footings, replace the porch boards, move the 28 foot logs into place by hand, replace the sill logs, control the national debt, bring about world peace and have fun…all in the next five days with about a dozen volunteers, 1 pet dog & a cat. On the outside I was all smiles…on the inside I was thinking “This is Missouri – You are going to have to Show-Me.”
After the logs were unloaded from the U-Haul, it was time to stabilize the cabin in preparation for removing the flooring and floor joist (logs).
The joist logs were removed from the cabin and notching was begun on the new sill logs. Even though we used some modern power tools along with hand tools, I quickly developed a new appreciation for the amount of work it took to build these log cabins.
After the removal of the floor logs, it was decided that a lot of the accumulated dirt under the cabin would need to be removed to make way for the new sills and foundation rocks. As the dirt was removed it was sifted and the artifacts were collected for further research. A couple of the interesting finds were a plate that was marked R. N. Allmon (a possible relative) and a medicinal bottle containing Foley’s Honey & Tar…sounds like it will either kill you or cure you.
The project was moving along faster than I could have anticipated. Like a bunch of worker ants, everyone was moving, working in unison with no need for prompting or supervision. The thing I was most impressed with was the level of self motivation that I saw. Most of the time, someone was there to help you before you could even ask. If you asked for a hammer…you could expect that two or three people would hand you one. I must say it was refreshing, to work in such an environment with such a motivated workforce. I’m here to report that volunteerism is alive an well in America….