By Clark Williams,
How do you say "lucky dogs" in French?
We were lucky dogs ... with a French connection ... but we didnt know how to communicate our undeserved good fortune to our French guests in their language. So we just said "welcome" (bienvenu in French) to seven French guests who visited Armstrong in October 2000 and invited us to be their guides to local sawmills.
Neither Don Grey, Armstrongs territory manager with responsibility for sales & service in Europe as well as for Oregon and Washington, nor I know more than a couple of hundred words and phrases in French. But we knew our guests would enjoy the warm hospitality of western saw filers and appreciate the opportunity to share information with these innovative saw experts. We also knew from experience that when saw filers get together face to face (vis a vis) they quickly break down any language barriers.
Luc Batard, one of Frances finest saw experts, is Armstrongs stocking distributor for Western Europe. He teaches saw maintenance techniques to saw filers in France, Switzerland, Spain and Germany. His company motto "A fast saw is a good saw" could be the motto of most American sawmillers, too.
The "Batard Brigade" was the nickname we applied to our visitors collectively because "brigade" means an organized band of workers or soldiers in both French and English. In one week the Brigade traveled 1250 miles (2000 Kilometers) to visit seven sawmills, one laminated beam plant, and two National Parks.
Along the way we met dozens of filers who generously showed us through their mills while explaining their saw maintenance techniques. We shared meals in lodges, at peoples homes, in cars while driving, at one of the worlds largest picnic tables in a city park, and in the cold and dark outside a gas station that had just closed for the evening. We drove through forests, through rain, through snow (and once had to drive around a volcano because the road was closed due to an early snowstorm).
The following schedule had to be modified nearly every day. None of the American saw filers spoke French, even though some, like Mike Neveau of Willamettes Dallas sawmill, have a French ancestry. Only three of the French sawmillers spoke more than a smattering of English. Yet the American saw filers and their French guests still managed to have long, productive, and enthusiastic conversations.
October 9 13, 2000
The members of the "Batard Brigade" were: