Our First 10 Years

Because this one job was to a turnkey stage of completion it kept us busy most of the winter and spring of 1980. His house was an authentic lodge style home that featured a large stone fireplace, antler fixtures, barn board wall coverings and a bear skin rug. I liked the cannon that sat on his fireplace mantel, and apparently could really fire a cannon ball. We got along great with David and he let us show his home to every potential customer that came around. He had no idea how important it was to us starting out and making a go of it.

To this day his home is still a center piece in our brochure and advertising. On one of our trips to look at jobsites and meet potential customers, we made a connection with the Georgia Pacific log sorting and chip plant in Chemult. We were authorized to mark house logs with spray paint and pick them out with a self-loading log truck before they were chipped and sent overseas. We were getting some good logs, being able to high grade from their vast log yard. It was also the first time we bought logs by the ton. “That’ll be twenty five tons to go, please. Paper or plastic sir?” We just didn’t have the money to get any kind of log inventory and stock up. Our yard in Jacksonville was behind a big hill and the sun never hit it all winter long. Believe me, it was frozen tundra each and every day and we were freezing our butts off. Most mornings our sawmill would be completely frozen and covered with icicles. Brian had spent a summer in Antarctica building a weather station, so he could relate. There, they couldn’t turn off any of the trucks or machinery, because it would freeze and be unable to start again. I was at the controls of the sawmill one morning, and I swear it was on the last log, when the old Wacusha engine just started to purr and revved up like she never had before. I figured we finally got most of the carbon burned off the valves. Wrong diagnosis. Right then a rod blew through the crankcase, oil was blowing out everywhere, and then it became still. It was quite a death dance for the old girl. “I was impressed.”

We were still selling a few log home packages to keep the four of us busy with Randy and Joe helping out when they could. Our problem was that we had an office in town and our log yard over ten miles away. Plus, we had no exposure to the general public other then the log-sided stove showroom and it wasn’t what we really offered. Plus, I was determined not to spend another winter in those near arctic conditions communicating with the leopard seals and penguins. On one of our deliveries to a jobsite in Shady Cove we noticed that Cedartown Lumber was going out of business. We stopped in and found out that the owner’s policy of just taking the top board off of each unit of lumber was not being adhered to. There were signs everywhere in his yard about no high grading the lumber and picking through every piece. You can’t blame them; we all do it at the lumber yard. Anyway, it was driving him crazy and he had enough. We got the owner of the property’s name and gave her a call that night.

Pearl was in her seventies and was a self made woman. She had bragged to me once about starting with a thousand dollar investment in the stock market, in the sixties, and now had just passed one million dollars. She lived like a bag lady and was convinced that the next Great Depression was just around the corner. Pearl lived in an old house down the highway about a mile away that you would swear was vacant. But, she was wonderful to us and wanted our little company to make it. Pearl didn’t ever listen to a stock broker’s recommendation, but researched every company’s earnings to debt ratio and future profitability. At the investment broker’s main office none of the girls would get up to help her, thinking she was a homeless person. But, one girl would always stop from her wire transfer duties and help her out. Pearl could be kind of tough with me, until she found out I had married that girl. I was in with her from then on and could do no wrong. I remember Tricia and I going over to her house one Christmas Eve, both of us weaving through the paths around bags of newspaper and boxes of rocks. Her paranoia about the next economic downturn kept her from having any friends around. She was a packrat and convinced that she would need some of this stuff before long, when the #/*! hit the fan.