Jennifer runs the bander, securing stacks of lumber with metal bands. The stacks must be even and bound tight. This requires some gymnastics to make sure the stacks look perfect. She works in her mom, Karin’s shadow – literally. Mom’s stacker is perched much like a bird’s nest – right above her daughter’s bander.
Building each other up…
Jennifer has worked in the mill for three years and loves it. “This isn’t hard once you learn it,” she says flashing a winning smile. It is clear she comes from an ethic of hard work and is proud of it.
This gal is all for a path that gives women more independence and security. She is enthusiastic about the role of women in mills and sees mill work as a positive, empowering career.
“Women in this mill work as hard as the men and do as much as the men – we hold our own. I would recruit more women if I could,” says Jennifer.
Ladies, get your resumes in order.
Karin has worked in the mill a total of fifteen years. She has left several times – but she keeps coming back.
Mill mom and queen of her domain…
Karin’s daughter Jennifer refers to her mom as the “mom of the mill.” “She’s feisty – she taught me how to do this job,” Jennifer tells me. Proudly she adds, “She knows which boards to move before they ever get to me.”
It is easy to see why Karin’s reputation precedes her – in the time I spent with her up in her crow’s nest – she never stopped moving. This is her domain and she will tell you so, “This is my place, I love being up here.”
A lady and her machine…
Karin describes how much the care and feeding of the equipment is a part of the job. “Your machine must function smoothly so that the next station can do their job. People are depending on it; production flow depends on it.”
“This is your machine, you have to take care of it – oil, lube, and clean. A line will break and you will be covered in oil. You will have to fix it. You are going to get dirty – it is part of the job.”
This gal and her stacker have a synergy – to watch her work, is a bit like watching a musician play an instrument. She tells me the machine can be finicky – but that she and it have an “agreement.” Clearly, she keeps up her part of the bargain.
Weaving the work…
As with all my interviews, I asked Karin what advice she has for women considering work in a non-traditional setting. “Well,” she says dryly, “it’s not for someone that’s worried about breaking a nail.” She doesn’t say it, but every fiber of Karin conveys that she derives a great deal of satisfaction – in being very good at what she does.
I leave Karin in her own corner of the universe – working her magic, weaving a stacking tune – composed of the rhythmic whirs, clicks, clatters, and hums…
Author’s Note: I am looking for more women to interview who work in trade and non-traditional roles. If you or someone you know would like to talk with me you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org – Attention: Women’s Work.
All photos – copyright Julia Petersen, 2019