This Silence Was Not Golden

This morning, while commenting on one of Kellie Elmore’s wonderful poems, Red Wine and Norah Jones, I was inspired to write the one you’re about to read. In my poem, I mention a friend from back in my logging days in the great northwest near Mount Rainier.

This Silence Was Not Golden 

I was on the porch

The old wood swing

Creaked as it gently swayed

In a hot south wind


No workin’ in the woods

On those kinda days

Fire danger and all that

Worked for me


I was four beers in

Two to go

And Hank Jr. was croonin

‘Bout bein’ whiskey bent


Billy Staub’s chainsaw

Was whinin’ somewhere

Out back of the house

An angry steady sound


Dale’s old hound dog

Came up and laid at my feet

I thought to shoo him

But let him be


My leg was itchin’

Something fierce

No way to scratch it

Through the dang cast


Hank stopped singin’

A tree crashed

Then Billy’s chainsaw

Sputtered and died


The old dog raised his head, listening

Knowing, this silence was not golden

The breeze sighed; went still

Somehow I knew… Billy was gone


Billy Staub was small in stature, but tough as nails, and had a heart as big as an old-growth fir tree. He had his faults, and one of them may have been partially responsible for his death, but he was a good man and a good friend.

I left the woods after a big tree fell on me, breaking my leg so badly it required two operations, and about two years in and out of casts. Billy was killed not long after my accident, when a big tree he was felling took an unexpected turn and landed on him. He was probably high when it happened, because he usually was. When the big tree hit my leg, I saw it coming and ran like crazy trying to get out of its way; I imagine when Billy saw the big tree coming at him, he probably just grinned and looked at it with those ever-droopy eyes of his and said, “Huh… would ya look at that…”


Copyright © C. Mashburn 2012


  1. Sherry Mashburn said

    I can see the porch, feel the hot breeze . . . I am there. Great job of visualization, Charlie!

  2. Mary said

    Sad happening; good poem~! (Sometimes a person just KNOWS that something bad happened…and the silence definitely CAN be a sign.)

    • I’ve had a few instances in my life, where the sudden silence spoke volumes. Not a good feeling.
      Thanks for the visit and comment, Mary!

  3. Talk about shock value! The ending made me gasp! Holyyy…! Charles, you have this way with words that is so smooth. I can actually sit quiet and hear you (or the voice I have given you) reading these words. I LOVE that about reading you! And not to mention the plain and simple fact that you are brilliant and I can never compete! =)

    P.S… I love me some Hank Jr! WoooHoo!

    • Oh, PUH-SHAW!! Can’t compete! Don’t try to kid a kidder! You’re the master, I’m the grasshopper.
      But, thank you, Kellie! Your awesomely kind words make my day!
      Oh, and the voice, kind of Hank Jr./Elvis combo. I think you’d like it. HAW HAW HAW!! Probly more like a Barney Fife/Gomer Pile!
      Thanks, again, Kellie!

  4. terri0729 said

    And somehow I knew that was going to end like that 😦 Sad story, great poem Charlie!!

    • Yep, it was sad. I lost three of my friends to logging accidents; tough way to make a living.
      Thanks for the compliment!

  5. Good News said

    Liked your post Charlie.. Very good .. Blessings.. Bro Pat.

  6. well that just stung my eyes….mid poem I almost started commenting to you about Billy..then I read the rest and felt like I just lost my own neighbor

    • I could write a pretty good book about those few years of my life. They were hard as hell, but fun, too. If you’ve heard any wild stories about loggers, they’re probably true.
      Thanks for the great comment, Michael. Your kind words are always a blessing.

      • i have a winemaker friend in Australia who was a woodcutter in Scotland..he said it was hard like nothing ever was before or since

      • I wrote, and posted, some stories about my logging days last year; one was about how I got started, and culminated with breaking my leg. I have so many more that I need to write. The fights, the drinking, the near misses with accidents, and just the hell it was to work there some days. But, I wouldn’t trade those days for anything; what a tremendous life experience.
        Here’s the story, if you have time to read it:
        Thanks again, Michael!

      • the link is not here Charles I want to read this 🙂

      • Emailed it to you. I’ve been having trouble putting links in my comment replies. I have no idea why; operator error, no doubt!

      • i will look for it sir

      • Sorry about the link problem!

      • no worries 🙂

  7. Charles, this reminds me of Harvey Fierstein in “Independence Day,” stuck in traffic as aliens attack… a car come careening through the air, heading for his windshield, and he simply says, “Oh, crap.”

    Sorry Billy went the way of all non-tree-dodging stoners, but there are worse ways to go, I guess. You must have gone through hell with your leg, and trying to avoid a tree falling on you must have seemed like an infuriating maze… glad you’re here to tell the tale, and here’s one I think you will like. Amy

    • Actually, there was no maze; it waas merely a furious clawing my way up the side of a steep mountainside as fast as I could. If I hadn’t looked back at the last instant, I might have gotten clear. DOH! It was an ordeal, but there were some funny stories that came out of it, too. And, yes, It’s good to be here to tell the tales!
      Thanks for stopping by, Amy!

  8. A wonderfully told tale that I’ll keep and revisit in my mind. We fell trees at camp and it drives me nuts because I know it is dangerous. Many of our friends are quite skilled at it BUT I always fear they have become too comfortable with their skill. So far, no accidents…I keep an eye on that!

    • There is nothing more dangerous than one who becomes comfortable with danger. Felling trees–even small ones–is very dangerous. They are much heavier than we think, and one little mistake can result in big problems. Do keep an eye on them!
      I’m glad you enjoyed the poem and story. That’s not exactly the way it happened, but close. I took advantage of my poetic license to romanticize it a bit.

  9. Oh wow. That really punched me in the end. Well done.

    • Yep, this one has a roundhouse to the heart there at the end.
      Thanks for stopping by, Sonia! I always enjoy your visits and comments1

  10. Reblogged this on Marbles In My Pocket ~ The Official Blog of Charles L. Mashburn ~ Poems, Short Stories, and random thoughts from the author of "Be Still… and know that I am God" and commented:

    A true and tragic story from my logging days of yore. (That means it happened a long long time ago.)

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