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The Dart: Logging leaves memories

Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Natchez resident J.L. Mayberry laughs while recalling a story from his years working as a logger in Mississippi and Louisiana.
Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Natchez resident J.L. Mayberry laughs while recalling a story from his years working as a logger in Mississippi and Louisiana.

NATCHEZ — If there’s one thing J.L. Mayberry knows, it’s trees.

When The Dart found Mayberry on Watkins Street Thursday, he was watching the weather to prepare for the coming days.

And if the weather is right, Mayberry may be doing a little log work.

“I have been in the woods working and farming my whole life,” he said.

Mayberry’s career in logging started young. His father started a pulpwood operation when the paper mill opened, and Mayberry soon found himself entangled in the family business.

“You were just a kid, but those old folks would have you lifting logs out of those fields,” he said.

As time went on, he kept working for his father and eventually took over the business when his father died. After a while, he decided to sell out and just go to work for other people, logging across the region.

It was during those years that he actually got a letter of commendation from the government saying he was the best logger who had worked in federal forests.

“The government has a lot of little seedlings that they have planted, and they don’t want those pulled up when you take out the big trees,” Mayberry said. “You have to be real careful.”

Logging carefully meant not only watching out for smaller trees, but making sure the environment wasn’t otherwise negatively impacted, he said.

“If we had a tree that fell in a creek, they didn’t want you to just top it and leave it,” Mayberry said. “Back then they would tell us that the trees had an acid in them that if you leave them in the water it will kill all the fish in the creek.”

But in the end, being a good logger just meant keeping a good work ethic, he said.

“I always tried to do what I knew I was supposed to do,” he said.

Now, Mayberry is 80. After his nine children were grown and he no longer had so many mouths to feed, he decided to sell his logging equipment and work by the day as needed. He’ll still run a log loader from time to time.

He’s got no reason to quit, he said.

“All those people who lived out there and worked out in the fields, we’re all still alive,” Mayberry said. “The people who worked in the (logging) offices, they’re all dead.”

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