Loggers across the country harvest thousands of acres of forest a year. The work is physically demanding and can be dangerous, with logging consistently listed as the most dangerous job in America. Workers risk serious injury not only from falling out of trees, but also because they often work in locations far away from hospitals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a decline in the number of workers in the profession because of the aging workforce and physicality of the job, but the need for logging-equipment operators will remain.
For The Atlantic’s series of interviews with American workers, I spoke with Carlson about being a third-generation logger and why he enjoys his work so much. The interview that follows has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Bourree Lam: What do you do for work and how long have you been doing it?
Chuck Carlson: I'm a logging contractor and skidder operator. As a logging contractor, I meet the sawmill and the forest service and then set up for my crew to go into [the forest] and work. As a skidder operator, I drive the machine that drags the trees up through the landing where the trucks can load them.
I'm a third-generation logger. I was working with my dad at a very young age, cutting trees for Custer Sawmill, and I fell in love with logging. When I was 7 years old, I wanted to be a skidder operator. I’ve been doing it ever since, operating the skidder for 36 years and a logging contractor for 31 years in South Dakota and Wyoming. I like operating the equipment and being on different types of ground. It just gives you a variety of what you're doing.