Louis Audet has heard the stories on the radio about lumber prices hitting exorbitant heights, but he doesn’t pay them much mind. If he needs wood for the cabin he is building for his wife on their 150-acre property near Hearst, Ont., he just goes out and cuts it himself.
“Prices are nuts,” said the 63-year-old lumberjack. “We will probably be working more, because the demand is there, and we may be longer in the bush, but the prices don’t bother me.”
Audet dropped out of high school in 1978 to work in the bush. He was young and eager to make money. Back then, an aspiring lumberjack with a strong work ethic, and an even stronger back, could clear $100 a day felling trees in Hearst’s boreal forest.
The massive swath of land, twice the size of Prince Edward Island, has been the lifeblood of this predominantly French-speaking community, located about 1,000 kilometres north of Toronto, for nearly a century.
In Audet’s early years, the work was dangerous. Trees could unexpectedly split, shift sideways or pop into the air. Accidents were not uncommon, although a broken hand was the worst he ever suffered. Men worked in pairs, cooked grilled cheese sandwiches on wood stoves, smoked cigarettes and slept well at night.