“All able-bodied males who share the name Hawkes or are married to a Hawkes parented by J. Robert and Brenda F. Hawkes and are 12 years of age and older are hereby duly notified of the Fifth-Annual, Four-Times-Never-Before-Held Work Weekend. Please be advised of the following schedule – arrival 10/09/14, work 10/10 – 10/11, return home 10/12. Be prepared to work 8 hours each of the workdays. Respectfully, Your Dad.”
Before Grandpa Hawkes established workdays at his West Fork cabin, our extended family would arrive for reunions ready to relax and enjoy family time. But out of necessity, Grandpa had “To-Do lists” in hand and would put the men to work as often as possible. We all wanted to help, but often found it hard to balance the chores with the fun.
So a few years ago, one of the brothers proposed a concentrated work weekend for the guys. They would thin trees, cut wood, clear dead fall and other necessary projects that required power equipment and a lot of sweat labor. That way, when the families arrived for summer fun, we could all enjoy ourselves feeling satisfied that we had contributed to the maintenance required to keep up a vacation home.
Last week, all the men from seven families gathered at the cabin for another productive work weekend. Some traveled up to eight hours to be there, but Granny was waiting with gourmet food to spoil them when they arrived. The incredible food, the dirt, the power tools, the late night laughs and manly movies with popcorn and gourmet rootbeer made it a perfect time for male bonding and memory making.
Most of the work is continued efforts to recover from the wildfires of 2000 that blazed across their 42-acre ranch and bordering forest service land. Over the last 14 years, they have continually harvested burned timber as well as planted almost 4,000 seedlings to replace the trees that were lost. This year, they needed to thin some of the volunteer starts as well as take down some fencing that the elk have torn down. They also installed a culvert and created a short access road to the air strip that’s used to land family aircraft’s.
As might be expected when brothers and power tools are mixed, the chances of being maimed or injured skyrocket. This year, the boys only had two accidental collisions with chainsaws. My husband was standing behind his brother, when he swung the chainsaw backwards and accidentally grazed my husband’s leg. Not that we don’t own chainsaw pants to prevent potential accidents, but of course, no one was actually wearing them. A little stunned at the time, my husband sat down and pulled up his doubled pant legs to find only a small scratch, “Clean living!” was his answer to the divine protection he received in a potentially dangerous situation. His other brother wasn’t so lucky. The chainsaw grabbed a bit more skin and Grandpa had to administer stitches, without any anesthetic, on the kitchen floor.
All in all, the weekend was a grand success. They all returned to their families invigorated by time working in the crisp air of Montana’s Bitterroot mountains and only gained a few pounds in the process.