'School marm' of the forest

My brother recently commented that he was unable to locate the reason why a double-topped tree was called a school marm in logger/forestry parlance. We were wondering whether the Since You Asked team, possibly led by a certain Selma alum, could sleuth out this information.

— Randy and Craig C., sons of an Illinois Valley logger

You brothers pose a question that many people have been tempted to ask but never mustered up the courage to throw out there.

However, the persnickety alumnus to whom you referred wants us to point out that he hailed from Kerby, not Selma. We don't want to quibble with him because he's the only former logger in the SYA bunch. But we are left wondering whether there's bad blood between Kerbyites and Selmaites. Perhaps some things are better not to know.

Now, back to the school marm.

Our man from Kerby informs us the old logging term has humorous roots, albeit a bit risque.

He tells us you need to remember that school marms back in the day, rightly or wrongly, were perceived as priggish old maids.

Always looking for humor in their difficult job, loggers were quick to notice that the inverted crotch of a forked tree resembled a school marm in bloomers, he says. This was after the tree was cut down and the fork trimmed into a log, he adds.

"Sometimes, when the lighting is just right, they are kind of cute in a woodsy way," he tells us. "Particularly those madrones ..."

Poor fellow. We are a wee bit concerned he may have bumped his head once too often during those logging days.

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