What were the job description of a rubber smoke house manager in those days?
1. Must be able to paddle a small prahu to bring in a stray log to the shore when it was sighted.
2. Must be able to saw the logs and get them ready for burning in the furnace, below the smoke house.
3. Must be able to look after the burning coals for a week, to ensure the rubber sheets are well smoked.
4. Must be able to manage the hanging of the rubber sheets properly and systematically on the racks before the smoking session.
5. Must be able to check the temperature of the furnace and be on the alert 24 hours during the smoking period.
6. Must be able to handle the individual rubber tappers and their rubber sheets before, during and after the smoking period. He must have the trust of the rubber tappers who have sent their rubber sheets to him for smoking.
7. Must be able to load the rubber sheets onto the motor launch when the rubber sheets have cooled down and "baled"
8. Must be able to keep a simple account of the fees collected for smoking and disburse the amount properly after the sale of rubber sheets (the money will be collected from the middleman,rubber exporting company, Hock Chiong, of Sibu.)
To supplement the income my third aunt tapped rubber, reared farm animals, planted vegetables and rice. In this way they managed to send their children to school (Chung Cheng and Catholic High School).
As a niece enjoying holidays with grandma and uncle and aunty, one of the best memories I had was the way he would paddle quickly to get a stray log in the Rajang river. Others who owned smoke houses would also be on the look out for stay logs floating in the river.
Hence his skill in paddling a boat was well known. The log belonged to the first man to reach it . So it was really a kind of Olympic paddling for my uncle.
After hooking the log with an iron hook ,usually after much hammering, he would pull the log to the river side near the smoke house. A very primitive winch with wire ropes would bring the log up,usually at high tide so that the log would slip easily on shore. The log would thus dry out for a few days under the sun.
Just before the smoking period my uncle would sew the log into three portions right on the ground floor of the smoke house. Once it was time to start the furnace for the smoking session, the sew portions would be rolled into the furnace for burning. Usually he placed two pieces of the log at the bottom and one piece over the two parallel portions. As the fire burned, he had to tend to the burning coals. It was a very very hot kind of job!!
|This was how he would saw a log using a Two Men Saw or two handled Saw. But he had a special way of operating this kind of saw all by himself.|
|It was my uncle's job to arrange the rubber sheets for smoking like this.|
Photo from http://jeciwuv.exblog.jp/i1
|My aunt Nguk Leng and my cousins would be rolling out rubber sheets every day (if it was not raining) using rubber mangling machines like this.|
Photo from http://jedrzejmajewski.wordpress.com/sarawak/bengoh-valley-bamboo-bridges/
Have you ever seen a Rubber Coupon like this?
It is always good to remember my late Third Uncle who remains in our memories as one of the best relatives we had. He made excellent baos for our supper during the holidays and he would buy us some Pok Chui or aerated water whenever he could afford it.