From PA. to Washington
Brooke Zellner and Aaron Wargula were so excited to learn about the lumbering industry from Mike Potter, a logger from Washington. The fourth grade students from Nancy Jones's and John Bachert's classes made the folk tale characters of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox as part of their study of the lumbering industry. NANCY JONES/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Vampires love Forks, Washington. If you're a Twilight fan, Forks is a place where one can visit special locations mentioned in the popular books by Stephanie Meyer.
But for Nancy Jones, Forks is a place where her new friends, Mike and Anne Potter make their home.
Nancy and her husband met the Potters in Jackson Hole, Wyoming last summer while having a lunch of buffalo and elk burgers. Nancy, a fourth grade teacher at West Penn Elementary, learned that Mike worked in the lumbering industry in Washington. He and his wife came from families of loggers. His grandfather was a logger in the olden days when logs were moved by rivers and trees were fallen with axes.
So the wheels began turning, and Mrs. Jones was planning for an unlikely connection with her students and her friends across the miles.
In the fall, Mrs. Jones's fourth graders read the story Marven of the Great North Woods about a young boy named Marven Lasky who was sent to a lumbering camp to work back in 1918. It was then that Mrs. Jones told her students about her friend that was a present day lumberjack.
The children wrote letters to Mike asking all kinds of questions about the logging industry today. What kinds of trees do you cut? How tall are the trees? What do you use to cut the trees? But the most popular question was Do you like flapjacks?
On a cold winter day, the inquisitive writers received answers to their questions when a big envelope arrived at the New Ringgold area school. "I like flapjacks, remarked Mike, "but I prefer eggs and bacon for breakfast."
Mike, along with the help of his wife, Anne, responded to all of the students' questions. The correspondence was amazing - a lengthy letter along with on the job pictures that told a story of the many steps of lumbering trees from planting to shipping logs to factories.
"The children were impressed with all of the information they received," said their teacher. "They learned so much about the fascinating lumbering industry both past and present."
"The mountains are so steep," said Bradley Clemson.
Trace Hermany said, "They can cut two acres of trees an hour with huge chainsaws!"
"I learned the Legend of the Douglas Fir from Mike, and then I found three fir cones in my backyard," said Joan Muscolini.
After studying all of the facts Mike sent to West Penn School, the children decided they wanted to write back to their new friends. They made books called Fun Things to Do in Pennsylvania so if the Potters ever decide to venture East, they'll know about some of the children's favorite places to visit.
The children seemed to enjoy their new found friendship with the Potters who live near Olympic National Park on the west coast of the United States. The children learned that the lumbering industry has changed due to automation, technology, and regulations that are put in place to protect workers and the endangered species and their habitats.
But one thing is still true; lumbering is a very dangerous profession for both short and tall loggers. When asked if all loggers are tall, Mike laughed, "I know lots of short guys, and they can crawl through the brush and under logs better than bigger guys like me. I'm 6-1."
Fascinated by the most famous logger of yore, Paul Bunyan, a curious student wondered if Mike ever met Paul Bunyan. "No, I have not met him, but Anne, my wife, says she met him when she was a little girl-I don't believe her!"
None of the West Penn Elementary fourth graders have ever met Paul Bunyan, but through letters to and from a very special couple, they now have new friends, their favorite lumberjack, Mike, and his wife Anne.