Che Cedar Chopper
WALTER J. CARTWRIGHT
HE IS AN INTERESTING INDIVIDUAL, THIS CEDAR CUTTER OF
central Texas and, strangely, his story has never been
told,"' commented a popular writer. And, almost un-
noticed by the rapidly moving modern world around them, men
in the cedar brakes of the Texas hill country and in the valleys of
the Colorado and the Brazos rivers still cut cedar fence posts for
A cedar chopper is an independent contractor, paid for his
product and not for his labor, according to a tax court decision,
which exempted cedar yard owners from keeping withholding tax
records on the money paid to choppers. The decision seems valid,
for a cedar chopper does work for himself rather than a "boss."
He usually collects for a load of posts soon after it is unloaded,
sorted, stacked, and counted in a cedar yard. The social security
of a cedar chopper is not credit in Washington or in a local bank,
but the knowledge that there is cedar waiting in the brake. He
knows that if he needs a given sum he can go out early the next
day and be in by noon with cedar for which he collects "cash
money." The work day can be lengthened or shortened according
to the need. He does not wait in line at an employment bureau
or for payday. He must ask no one's permission to stop work early
or even to loaf on the job. If he decides to cut in another brake
and sell to another yard, no one knows with certainty what has
happened to him. Such independence makes it difficult for anyone
to keep records on cedar choppers. No. government agency at-
tempts to do so.2
Many cedar choppers of the i 960's were once charcoal burners
or were descendants of that equally hardy group. Both "cedar
chopper" and "charcoal burner" are common terms for rustic
1Hart Stilwell, "The White Invasion," True: The Man's Magazine, XXXI, 51.
2Doyle Rouse to W. J. C., interview. Rouse owns a "yard" near Caddo, Texas.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 70, July 1966 - April, 1967. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101199/. Accessed January 30, 2015.