Where’s your job on the best and worst list of 2014?
The absolute worst job of any in North America? A lumberjack. CareerCast.com just rated it dead last in desirability out of 200 different vocations. I grew up and lived in the great Pacific Northwest for nearly 30 years. It was the land of lumberjacks, at least during the heyday of the timber industry. As a kid, lumberjacking was certainly never last on my list of what I wanted to be. I used to go to the county fair and loved watching them compete in competitions. You know, the fastest to saw or chop a log, climb up and down a pole, or balance on a spinning log in a pool of water.
“Hey dude, just trippin’ out”
Later, as a young reporter covering, at the time, Oregon’s biggest industry, I got a taste of how dangerous logging (they don’t really call it lumberjacking anymore) could be. Dodging heavy machinery, felling giant trees and wielding chainsaws is dirty work, and extremely risky. And it doesn’t help when environmental terrorists oppose what you do, and even try to kill you. I covered countless protests by a group called Earth First! and their efforts to stop logging in Oregon. Their members would chain themselves to trees or set up camp in the branches 100 feet up. More than once I would race to some remote spot in the forest where one of these radicals was holed up, halting a multi-million dollar timber operation. Here’s how many of my interviews would go:
- Me: (shouting to a protestor 100 feet straight up) “What are you doing up there?”
- Protester: “Hey dude, just trippin’ out.”
- Me: “You do know you’re holding up a big tree clearing operation.”
- Protester: “Bummer isn’t it?”
- Me: “Why?”
- Protester: “Don’t really know. Guess I’m just tired of them raping Mother Earth. How would you like it if they did that to your mother?” (I’m not making this up)
- Me: “How long do you plan on staying up there?”
- Protester: “As long as it takes.” (They usually came down as soon as reporters left)
- Me: (ready to get out of there) “Gotta go. What’s your name?”
- Protester: “Ima”
- Me: “Ima what?”
- Protester: “Ima Wood.”
- Me: “Watch that first step,” I would mumble.
- Protester: “What?”
- Me: “I said have a nice day. Dude.”
- Protester: “Gnarly!”
Those were the mis-guided, but harmless ones. Then there were the dangerous ones. Many a time, they would secretly drive a spike into one of the big trees that was to be felled. The tree would be taken to a mill to be cut into lumber. There, one of the big saws would occasionally find that hidden spike and kick back into one of the workers. It wouldn’t be a pretty sight. Logging (lumberjacking) is a dangerous job.
Breaking news: Broadcasting near the bottom
Not surprisingly, math and sciences dominate the top of the list. The top job on this year’s list is mathematician. I’m not a math whiz or a lumberjack. Curious, I looked for my profession among the 200. I made a mistake and started at #1 and moved down the list. I would’ve saved a lot of time starting at the other end. Broadcasting is in the bottom five, at #196. Gnarly dude!