Three years ago forester Craig Thomas of Stevensville, Montana, was close to death as the result of an horrific accident that occurred when he was bucked from a horse at the outset of a hunting trip and little did he realize then that hed end up writing a book about restoring his own health, his way-of-life and outlining an insightful commentary on his own profession in the wake of that incident.
He has, however, and the result is a 224-age book titled Regurgitations of a Montana Woodsman in which he writes on such topics as his accident and the efforts to rehabilitate his body and continue as an active outdoorsman and woodsman, about his close-knit family, some of his outdoor experiences, and a number of humorous episodes from his days of working as a forester. The book, published by Stoneydale Press of Stevensville, is a collection of reminisce, humor and hard-hitting commentary on the state of the wood products industry in Montana all intended to demonstrate the triumph of the human spirit as well as the joy of living with the fact of having to cope with circumstances beyond ones control.
Thomas book chronicles his personal journey since he came to Montana from the Midwest to attend the School of Forestry at the University of Montana in the late 1960's and subsequently launched into a life-long career as a Montana woodsman. Chapters in his book cover a variety of his experiences as a forester working not only for large timber corporations in western Montana but also for himself once he went into business on his own. Among the more significant chapters deal with Thomas analysis and recommendations as to where the wood products industry should look to strengthen its future in the coming years. He has, as he outlines in the book, personally attended more than 543 public and professional meetings involving forestry and several of the more illuminating chapters in the book deal with changes the author has made in his own understanding of the issues, and potential solutions, over the years.
Like most people in his profession, Thomas has led a fast-paced live over the years and had difficulty, at first, coping with the aftermath of his accident mainly the long, tedious hours of laying in a hospital bed, in traction, waiting over months of time for his body to heal. Then he recalled a piece of advice hed heard many times: Nobody gets in the situations you do, Thomas. Youve got to write a book about this stuff. He set out to write that book.
He found, however, that writing wasnt that easy, though he had a reputation for being an oral storyteller. So, I started and it took me six weeks to write the first four pages, he said. It was sobering to learn the difficulty involved with getting the proper words to the paper, and I must apologize to all the writers I had accused of living a soft life with a cushy writing job. My book is one of the most difficult projects I have ever undertaken.
Thomas said several writer friends took him under their wing and helped, mainly by prodding him to keep at the project. They were patient with my dumb questions, he said. Two of those writer-friends played a part in the production of the book. They are noted environmental writer Peter Stark of Missoula, whose article on a forestry project on his own land titled Log It To Save It that was originally published in Outside Magazine is included in the book, and a Foreword written by Stevensville author and public-policy commentator Dale A. Burk, who called Thomas story insightful and uplifting.
Regurgitations of a Montana Woodsman was issued in 6x9-inch softcover format. It contains 224 pages, numerous illustrations and photographs including a 16-page full color photo section. The book retails for $25, includes S&H in the US and is available at many bookstores, gift shops and other outlets as well as direct from:
Craig Thomas at 4189 Ember Lane, Stevensville, MT 59870 Email - email@example.com Phone 406-363-8742
Comments About Regurgitations of a Montana Forester . . . .
Craig Thomas is a one of a kind woodsman and his regurgitations in this delightful almost autobiography are...believe it or not... true Having known and worked closely with Craig for nearly 40 years, I can attest to an embellished level of truth! The Trials and Tribulations of Craig's personal experiences provides great inspiration and "Can Do" attitude in the face of our own challenges and hardships. Gordy Sanders, Pyramid Lumber Company
Funny, eccentric, and fascinating first-hand look at Montana's forests and the people (on both sides of the "timber wars") who love them. Veteran forester and entrepreneur Craig Thomas writes with headlong energy, wry humor, and rare insight. Craig Rawlings, Publisher, TimberBuySell.com
Foresters are a unique group of individuals. We are often defined by a combination of education and work experiences and we are alike in many ways, but different in others. There is one main personality ingredient that binds us together, and it is the main reason most of us majored in Forestry in college. We share a love of the outdoors, especially trees. Craig Thomas has had the opportunity to use his professional skills as a Forester as well as his skills as a logger, and this book shares the hard work, long hours and sometimes hilarious experiences along the way. Veto J. "Sonny" LaSalle, Retired Forest Supervisor, USDA Forest Service
Craig Thomas is a great storyteller, although I have often thought he should conclude some of his writings with the question, So, Did You Hear What I Meant, or Just What I Said? His approach to writing is witty, blunt, and most importantly, filled with personal experiences; the last of which provides credibility for his been-there-done-that meanderings. Thomas is more than a forester. He is a dedicated professional ... and his boots in the dirt experiences combined with a great sense of humor allow him to both entertain and tutor in a distinctive style. Those of us who feel neglected if Mr. Thomas forgets to take us to the woodshed for something we did or did not say or did or did not do are thrilled that he has committed some of his unique storytelling to paper. Keith Olson, President, Montana Logging Association
Forester explores forest, life in new book by WILL MOSS - RavalliRepublic
STEVENSVILLE - Through his years of experience as a forester and an outdoorsman, Craig Thomas has amassed a wealth of knowledge and observations on life in Montana’s timber lands and beyond.
But as a man who has been constantly on-the-go - Thomas admits to only sleeping four to five hours a night for most of his life - he’s never had much time to stop and share his accrued insights.
And while it’s tough to call a shattered pelvis, broken back and months of painful recovery a blessing in disguise, it’s easy to be grateful that such trauma could result in a true work of humor, honesty, grit and reflection.
In his new, semi-autobiographical book “Regurgitations of a Montana Woodsman,” (published by Stoneydale Press in Stevensville) Thomas uses his time recovering from a horrific accident (Thomas was bucked from a horse while preparing for a hunting trip) to pen a reflective memoir that attempts to identify, analyze and - hopefully - offer resolution to some of the issues that have confronted our forests and the voices on both sides of the debate over the last 40 years.
Interspersed throughout Thomas’ writings on the management and restoration of our forest lands are rare and often humorous insights into the life and work of a Montana woodsman from how to properly drift a work truck around a dirt switchback to the proper care and maintenance of a Nelson paint gun.
“There’s a whole group of very interesting forester/logger guys that nobody knows about,” Thomas said in a recent interview, “and what I found is that my ideas were an accumulation of [theirs] ...
“When I worked for a large corporation I went around to 120 different loggers and I checked on their quality of work - that was my job in the company - and a lot of them are really, really sharp guys but they are hidden from society because they’re out in the woods. So, I’m trying to get a little bit about them out there.”
Thomas also shares more intimate pieces from his life including his relationship with the love of his life “Boots” (his affectionate nickname for his wife Lynnet) and the trials, tribulations and revelations of his life-threatening 2006 accident and lengthy recovery.
One chapter in particular (titled “My Broken Ass”) discusses in depth Thomas’ ordeal from beginning to end.
“I was not going to write this chapter, but when I went to [the publisher] he said ‘Go home and write the chapter. People don’t understand about their guts falling out, how bad it hurt and this kind of thing.’ There are a lot of people who talk about pain, well ... when your pelvis and the end of your back look like it’s been run over by a semi in the X-ray, you get an idea of what pain is like. It’s a whole new ... It takes it to a new level,” Thomas said.
It was not an easy subject for Thomas to confront as he explains at the beginning of the chapter.
“This chapter has some ugly and embarrassing parts, but if by reading this it will make only one of you act more safely and avoid even a single accident, then it’s worth it.”
Central to Thomas’ book is the concept of honest and patient communication and its importance in helping all parties involved in forest issues understand each other.
Thomas attributes his own education on the subject to a Forest Service employee who helped him change his own approach in dealing with non-foresters while on a project in Missoula’s PatteeCanyon.
“The main point here is brought forth by a temporary, Forest Service district ranger - a young woman who is a communicator,” Thomas said. “I began to see the failing that I have had - and many other in the forestry profession - we can not communicate.”
But, it seems, Thomas has since worked to address that realization as he communicates vividly with readers the frustrations of dealing with “Morons, Obstructionists, Wannabees and Other Idiots” (the title of Chapter 13), the satisfaction of watching successful forest management and restoration curb wildfire, his experiences with and support of biomass fuels, his adventures in saving the Lost Trail Ski Area from the fires of 2000 and other entertaining subjects.
His interest in biomass fuels takes an especially prominent place in the book through his five-chapter exploration of the topic and his suggestion that Montana take an active role in developing and efficiently utilizing the technology.
“Montana is one of the only states that would be able to produce - at our current consumption level and at our current population base - 140 percent of our own energy without damaging the forest,” Thomas said.
Central to his support is the role that biomass harvesting can play in maintaining healthy, natural forests.
“There is no reason for us to not service our forest and leave larger trees,” he said. “That historically has not occurred .... The biomass can be utilized as an investment in the forest by removing the dense over-populated trees and [leaving] the one that you consider to be the best - and they’re a lot of different definitions of that - but you need to space the trees out so they have enough to drink and enough to eat. It’s very simple actually: the tree can’t move around. We’re mobile, the tree is stuck to the piece of earth that it has got. So the biomass would offer a real solution to that.”
Thomas points to a childhood experience with a botched timber harvest on his family’s Illinois farm as the spark that ignited his interest in forestry.
“These creeps cut down all of the largest trees, drove over and mutilated much of the nice smaller timber, pushed slash, unwanted logs and trimmings into our creek, built roads all over, and in general did a horrible job,” he writes in the book’s introduction. “I have never forgotten this event, and I figured if this was the way loggers worked then the industry needed some help and maybe I could do that.”
And while readers will most likely find Thomas’ book entertaining, thought-provoking and informative, the primary motivation for his work, he said, was to express his gratitude to all those who helped him make it through the first hours of his accident and the trying months that followed.
“It is a thank you to my friends who helped me.”
“Regurgitations of a Montana Woodsman” is available for purchase for $20 at Chapter One Bookstore in Hamilton and other local book retailers.
Craig E. Thomas will appear at a presentation and book signing event at Chapter One on April 30 at
Thursday, April 30, 7 p.m.: Forester Craig Thomas will read from and talk about "Regurgitations of a Montana Woodsman."
Thomas has been a forester for decades, and has amassed a wealth of stories in that time. (You can read more about him in this Ravalli Republic article). He'd never given a thought to writing them down, though, until he suffered a terrible accident a couple years ago, suffering numerous potentially fatal injuries when he was bucked from a horse.
He thought he was writing a book about himself when he started writing those stories down, but through the process he discovered that what he was really writing about was the community that rallied to help him, the community that he'd been living in for years without fully appreciating it.
Of course, there are plenty of humorous anecdotes about loggers, foresters, and other woodsworkers, and affectionate nods to his wife, Boots. There's also a firm sense of his own environmental ethic, stemming from years on the job, observing good loggers and bad.
Come hear some of Craig's stories, and you'll soon realize, as the book's cover says, this is just the tip of it--there's plenty more where these came from!
Phone 406-777-3041 4189 Ember Lane Stevensville Montana 59870