Terrace Books, an imprint of The University of Wisconsin Press

Memoir / Labor


Notes from a Post-Boom Mill
Raymond Goodwin

Terrace Books

"Goodwin's clever characterizations of his solidly Midwestern, blue-collar sawmill mates are as vivid as the plaid shirts they sport. And his vignettes of sawmill politics, pranks, and passions bring the long-silent saws buzzing back to life. This entertaining work chronicles the decline of a once proud industry and the scrappy survivors it left in its sawdust trail."—Library Journal

A Michigan Notable Book
•Outstanding Book, American Association of School Libraries
•Best Books for General Audiences, Public Library Association

When Raymond Goodwin started work at a Michigan sawmill in 1979, the glory days of lumbering were long gone. But the industry still had a faded glow that, for a while, held him there. In Sawdusted Goodwin wipes the dust off his memories of the rundown, nonunion mill where he toiled for twenty months as a two-time college dropout. Spare, evocative character sketches bring to life the personalities of his fellow millworkers —their raucous pranks, ribbing, complaints about wages and weather, macho posturing, failed romances, and fantasies of escape.

The result is a mostly funny, sometimes heartbreaking portrait of life in the lumbering industry a century after its heyday. Amidst the intermittent anger and resignation of poorly paid lumbermen in the Great Lakes hinterlands, Goodwin reveals moments of vulnerability, generosity, and pride in craftsmanship. It is a world familiar, in its basic outlines, to anyone who has ever done manual labor.

At the heart of the book is a coming-of-age story about Goodwin's relationship with his older brother Randy —a heavy drinker, chain smoker, and expert sawyer. Gruff but kind, Randy tutors Raymond in the ways of the blue-collar world even as he struggles with the demons that mask his own melancholy.

"He was tall, gangly, and forever grinning one of those grins you give a double take because the first glance hasn't told you whether the grinner is daft or dangerous. Our friend the Cat was not daft, but, not altogether purposely, he may have been dangerous. The Cat was six foot four and 210 rangy pounds, the wrong size for instability." —excerpt from Sawdusted

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"All-night bonfires, heavy drinking, and barroom brawls are what the reader may remember about Goodwin’s cast of characters, but his depiction of life in a declining Michigan sawmill town reflects a keen insight into people, passion, and survival in the Midwest."
—Jeremy W. Kilar, author of Michigan’s Lumbertowns: Lumbermen and Laborers in Saginaw, Bay City, and Muskegon, 1870–1905

Author Raymond GoodmanRaymond Goodwin went back to college after his stint in lumbering. As a manager of human resources at Central Michigan University, he now helps a new generation of young people find work.

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The cover of Sawdusted shows a view inside a sawmill, large blades, and a yellow hard hat.

May 2010

LC: 2009041309 HD
180 pp.    5 1/2 x 8 1/2

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Cloth $22.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-23570-3
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"Goodwin gets the wrong side of the tracks right in this rare, rich glimpse of working-class lives in the Upper Midwest's industrialized backwoods. A painstaking and painful yet poetic and inspiring mill-hand's chronicle of hell-raising and hard work."—James P. Leary, author of So Ole Says to Lena: Folk Humor of the Upper Midwest


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