By Christi Baron
West End Neighbor columnist
Peninsula Daily News
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In the arena of awards, it must be the hardest one to give out.
Recipients have proclaimed each year that they didn't do anything special, that they don't want a fuss, and then they finally succumb but with conditions regarding appearances and parades.
This year's reluctant honoree is Dale Raben.
In 1936, when Raben was 9, his family left their home in South Dakota for the town of Monroe, about 30 miles northeast of Seattle.
His father had been a farmer there and once in Monroe opened up a house-painting business.
Raben went on to graduate from Monroe High School in 1947. His first job in the timber industry was clearing right-of-way for Bonneville's power lines over the Cascades.
His tool was a double-bit axe.
He remembers thinking when the first axe went dull he would get a break, but quickly learned the boss had a fresh, sharp axe to hand him and was told to get back to work.
The job lasted about six months.
Raben soon found temporary employment for a few months working on a little project in Seattle called the Alaska Way Viaduct, then another spending a few months working on dam projects in Skagit County, which was union pay at $1.83 an hour.
In 1950, Raben joined the Air Force and ended up in Tripoli, in northern Africa.
Returning home, Raben went to work in the woods for good.
While still living in Monroe and marrying his wife, Pat, in 1955, Raben found himself traveling to a job near Port Angeles, cutting right-of-way for a road that would later take tens of thousands of people up to Hurricane Ridge.
Raben continued to travel for work as a timber cutter when a friend, Walt Tovey, told him of a cutting job in Forks.
Raben came to Forks to check it out, and when he discovered it could last five years, he decided to move the family.
“I had two weeks to find a house, and it was raining like hell,” Raben recalled.
Once the family, which included his wife and their three children — Leslie, Julie and Mark — arrived at the rental home Raben finally had found, Pat was shocked to find the kitchen cupboards painted purple and the inside walls were red.
A few years later they built their own home a few blocks away.
Around 1977, Raben left timber-cutting and purchased a shake mill out near Snider.
A year later, he purchased a shake and shingle mill south of Forks from Bing Smith.
At DR Cedar, they ran two shake saws and two shingle saws, employing 15 people.
The business was good, and his son Mark joined him in the company in 1986.
The business weathered the ups and downs of prices and the northern spotted owl, and Raben sold the mill in 2002.
Raben says he really loved working in the woods and still loves the smell of cedar.
He minces no words when he describes his affection for Forks.
“I could win the Mega [Millions Lottery] and Powerball, and I would still live here. I love it here.”
Now retired, Raben's hobbies are fishing and firewood-cutting, two well-known West End pastimes.
But the firewood cutting is more of an obsession, quite prevalent with most Pioneer Logger Award winners.
“You can never have enough firewood,” Raben said.
“There are a lot of good men on that list, and I am honored to receive the Pioneer Logger Award.”
Christi Baron is a longtime West End resident.
Her column, West End Neighbor, appears on the Peninsula Daily News' Commentary page every other Tuesday. Her next column will appear Oct. 8.
Phone her at 360-374-5412, ext. 236, or 360-374-2244 with items for the column. Or email her at email@example.com.
This year's Hickory Shirt/ Heritage Days runs from this Wednesday, Sept. 25 (when Dale Raben will receive his award) through Saturday, Oct. 5.
All its events are in Forks. They are listed on the poster below.
This annual event is sponsored by the West End Business and Professional Association.
(To see poster, your browser must be Flash-enabled. To see it on your full screen, click on button at the far right in the panel just below the poster.
(If you use an iPad or other non-Flash device, to see the poster go to http://tinyurl.com/facebookhickory at the Peninsula Daily News' Facebook page.)