Our First 10 Years

Her property was ten acres and was an old turkey ranch years ago, now it was zoned industrial. Only two of the acres were rocked and the rest was a muddy quagmire. The ground was called White City sticky, which was black clay that nothing grew in and rock fill disappeared into. On the county records it showed she purchased it in 1951 for a whopping $110.00. Pretty useless ground for farming, but great for making log homes. The two acres were level ground, but more important, right on the main highway with something like twenty thousand cars going by a day. “Noisy, but busy.” Our work was cut out for us because we had to move our operation and set everything up. We improved our sawmill by purchasing a used diesel truck engine and built a shed roof over it. Our notching line and peeling racks also were covered, preparing us for the next rainy winter. Better wet, than frozen like the Jacksonville property.

We all decided that we needed a new office and showroom to showcase what we were doing. Our old office was history as Dennis was gone and it had been rented to an off road truck parts business. Pearl had agreed to a five year lease, adjusted for inflation, with the agreement that the new showroom would not be a permanent fixture and could be moved in the future. I don’t think she thought we’d last the first year. But, I was out to prove her wrong. “She must have got a copy of our future profitability and earnings report.” We picked a small home design called The Wilderness and modified it to have a cantilevered balcony, both gable and shed dormers and a steep chalet roof line. It totaled 1128 square feet and was a good looking log cabin. Little did we know of the excitement we had stirred up when we started stacking logs. There were TV crews and newspaper reporters all taking pictures and interviewing us. “I can’t lie, we loved all the attention.” The biggest problem was that none of us were getting any work done on the new showroom because of all the interruptions from the drive by traffic. You’ll never know how many old timers lived nearby, with too much time on their hands. They all had to tell us about how they or their father’s used to do it, and how we should be doing it. There was always boasting about peeling with spuds and chinking with moss and mortar. “Yep, used to walk barefoot five miles to school with a twenty foot log on my shoulder. You youngsters, you’re all a bunch of pussies.” At least we were making a statement in the area and creating a lot of interest in log homes. And, were all working real hard.

The challenging part was to set up the log yard, build the new office and continue to make kits to put money in the bank… to buy more logs. We knew we had to replace our tractor. Every time we loaded a home for delivery we had to rent a forklift for the day and most of the time the tractor was too clumsy or too slow. One morning a customer came in to say he was heading in to town to get us a cashier’s check for a home deposit. He said he would be back in a couple of hours because he needed to get a second check for a tractor he was buying. I asked what kind of tractor and he pointed to ours, but wanted a backhoe attachment with a quick release. Well, ours came with one but we never used it. I put on my best salesman’s hat and threw in our post-hole attachment to close the deal. He returned that afternoon with two checks and the one for the log home was payment in full. And, I didn’t even offer him a 5% discount. We must have looked trustworthy, or hungry. We locked the gate and took the rest of the day off. There must have been a lot of sawdust in the air that day. “Ribs anyone?”

These were the kind of things that happened the first two years that kept the ball rolling and everything moving in the right direction. Looking back, it was those small amounts of money coming in at just the right time that kept us all emotionally in check. We used the tractor money as a down payment on a Case front end loader that could unload log trucks, move heavy units and load semi-trucks. And of course we bought more logs, which we now regarded as our savings account. The new showroom was completed and had a sales office for myself, one for our designer, a kitchen and a great room. Ron had worked for a successful architect in town as an apprentice and did our plans on the side for extra money. He’s moved in, so we’re trying to keep him busy with plans and renderings for our next brochure. Ron was our age and excited to be part of our team. He was good at understanding log homes from the ground up and putting the extra details in our blueprints. He learned a lot in the beginning from some of his, or our mistakes, and learned to never let it happen twice. None of the other designers in our area knew anything about log home construction, so it was up to us to learn it and deal with all the building departments on the West coast. One of the mistakes I remember that I made, came from purchasing house logs from one of our logging friends. He had a contract to remove four loads of logs from the Diamond Lake campground, so they could expand the area and make room for more boaters and fishermen.