A Mule Logging Legacy
By Laurie Abbott
The Wayne Weekly
Kentucky lost a treasure when Glen West passed away less than a month ago. He was born in Pine Knot on Saint Patrick’s Day in 1960, living to be 62 and left behind his wife, two children and five grandchildren.
Over his life, West had the opportunity to live what some would consider a normal modern life, but instead he chose to live off the land, farming and creating what he needed and teaching his children to do the same. He was dedicated to logging and using his mules to help preserve the environment.
At the end of his journey, he wanted the Mennonites to create a casket out of cedar. This was done and he was taken to the West Family Cemetery by his mules for burial.
West’s daughter, Jess Coffey shared that, “Dad made friends everywhere he went; he never met a stranger.” He often visited the Casey County Mennonites settlement over the years. West went to harness and buggy shops and feed stores, because they were living the simple lifestyle he loved, and they had useful products for the life he lived.
They became family friends; Coffey went on to say that her dad got to see one of the cedar caskets the Mennonites made and he loved them. He stated several times after finding out he had cancer that he wanted one and even talked to the person who made them, but did not get to purchase one before he passed.
Upon learning of her father’s passing, the Mennonite man knew that West’s wishes were to have one, so he told her brother to come pick it up at no charge, in honor of West.
Coffey said, “He was a very private, country person, kinda backwards.” She said, “He was born in a midwife’s house,” and added, “I don’t know if he had electricity growing up.” Coffey told of him being raised with nine siblings and his dad was sick a lot, so he and his brother had to go to work.
That was why, she said, “He started logging at fifteen.” Her father had a ninth grade education, but that did not stop him from providing for his family and taking care of them. West went to work in Illinois at a sawmill, that was where he met his wife, Brenda. Later, back in Kentucky, they got married. He worked cutting paper wood and they were able to buy their first house by the time Coffey was three years old. After being together all those years, Brenda still says, “He was an amazing cowboy, plowboy, logger and a man to be missed.”
Glen’s daughter continued, “He definitely wanted to make life good for his family, but he didn’t want everything handed to us, he wanted us to work for it.” West was conscious of the way people’s lives had changed over the years. “He knew that people were getting more dependent in modern times,” she said, “he wanted us to know how to take care of ourselves.”
“I feel like I had a very happy, peaceful childhood because things were simple,” Coffey said. “He worked really hard to make everything good for us,” Coffey said, “He always made sure he took us to church; he made sure that was a priority.”
West tried his best to prepare his children for life. “He wanted us to know how to live off the land, but he also wanted to make sure we knew life wasn’t all bad,” Coffey said, explaining that her dad made sure they “still remembered to enjoy life.”
“We always farmed and grew our own vegetables,” she said, “and when you got done, you could have all the fun you wanted.” She told of him using his mules for fun. They went wagon riding and site seeing and he loved to trade pocketknives. Coffey reminisced saying, “Malachi, my son, would say papaw taught him to work hard, but to enjoy it while he did it,” she said.
Logging and mule trading was something that West passed down to his sons and grandsons, keeping it in the family. He handed down his trade and traditions to his son, Terry West, who has his own company. West Logging is now being passed down to his sons, Nathaniel and Samuel West. Coffey’s son, Malachi took interest in the farming part rather than logging. He tends the fields by himself now at 13.
“Dad would go back and forth, log with equipment then with mules, he rarely ever used a tractor,” she said, “The mules always did less damage to the land.” Coffey explained, “They were always more safe for the environment.” “Mules are funner to use,” Malachi said. West’s granddaughter, Kaylee, said, “I love what papaw taught me about horses and how to take care of them.”
For his 50th birthday, West’s wife and daughter planned a surprise. “We planned an old-fashioned plowing with a bunch of his friends,” Coffey said. “He decided to make that a tradition,” she said, “Every year he had a plow day.”
West was very proud of his wife and his daughter and their abilities. “He always wanted us to make homemade food,” Coffey said. “He’d tell mom after one of her good home cooked meals, “that sure was larapin” which means very or exceedingly,” she said, “He loved his simple meals, especially pinto beans, corn bread, fried taters, and greens.”
West had 47 years of experience in logging and had worked with mules his whole life. Even though he had only a ninth grade education, he was asked to work for Berea College. West did work with them from 2014 to 2016 doing some logging.
Right before he got sick, he was asked by the college to sign a contract and offered the position of Horse Program Forest Technician by Berea College, but did not get to accept it because of the cancer. Coffey said, “They wanted students to observe and learn how to take care of livestock and farm from him.”
Berea College realized how resourceful it would be to have someone harvest their timber for their own programs and to use on campus to build with. “They realized they could use their own resources,” she said, “They used some of their own timber to build dorms.”
Coffey said, “I’ve had several people at the college tell me he left an impression on them about logging and mules.” Coffey stated there was a picture of her dad’s mules hung up at the college.
The West family even received letters from the Senate of the Commonwealth of Kentucky paying tribute to the memory of West, signed by President of the KY Senate, Robert Stivers and a member of the KY Senate, Rick Girdler.