Ray Bird

Golden Moments: Bird flew in from prairies and never looked back

Ray Bird grew up on a farm near Saskatoon, but the prairies weren’t for him and he moved to Golden in 1965 to work in the logging industry.

Ray Bird grew up on a farm near Saskatoon, but the prairies weren’t for him and he moved to Golden in 1965 to work in the logging industry.

He worked in a variety of positions before eventually becoming a faller.

“Then we got up on the ridge with 8 feet of snow and I thought, ‘what the heck did I get myself into?’,” Bird laughed. “Even with snowshoes on you sank down about 4 feet.”

Nevertheless, Bird continued to work in logging up until his retirement at age 60, and a lengthy career in the industry doesn’t come without its fair share of excitement.

Bird would frequently be enlisted to battle forest fires as part of his job, as was customary at the time. It was an aspect of the job that Bird enjoyed immensely.

“Those were exciting, very exciting…it was great,” he said.

One experience was especially harrowing for Bird, after he spent the day battling a large fire from the ground.

“We got caught and they forgot about us. It was getting dark and we were wondering if we had to stay out there all night,” he recalled.

“We didn’t have nothing and we were soaking wet…there was thunder and lightning and the clouds were coming in down low.”

Thankfully, a helicopter pilot returned for Bird and his group just before dark, and they were quickly brought back to camp.

Despite being stranded in the wilderness, Bird didn’t feel nervous while waiting for rescue.

“Oh not me, we were still warm enough with the fires right there, but we were soaked,” he said.

In a separate incident, Bird was driving with his co-workers to work along a backcountry road when a wolverine jumped onto the outside of their tire.

“He was chewing it…I thought ‘you stupid little brute.’ Finally he let go and he took off up the bank,” Bird grinned.

Outside of work, Bird has taken full advantage of the recreational opportunities that the Columbia Valley offers. Golden’s surroundings were a big attractant for him when he moved here in the ‘60s.

“I’ve always loved to hunt, there are elk here, whitetail, anything you want,” Bird said. “(I’ve also enjoyed) mountain climbing, I’ve done lots of that. It’s beautiful, whereas the prairies are so flat.”

Bird learned to hunt when he was just 14 years old and it’s an activity he continues to enjoy today, although now he sticks to hunting along forest service roads rather than heading deep into the bush.

As a result of his many years breathing in dusty air while working as a logger, Bird developed a case of pulmonary fibrosis, a scarring of his lung tissues. The disease has prevented him from doing many of the things he enjoys, and could one day lead him to move to Cranbrook for medical reasons.

For now, Bird continues to enjoy living in Golden and is a member at the Trinity Lutheran Church.

“You’ve gotta be around good people,” Bird said.

“There’s lots of friendly people (at the church).”

 

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