During the early 1980’s we had three of our guys jump ship and start their own log home companies. Two of them were cordial departures with each building a couple of homes, then flicking it in. The third was ruthless. Len’s plan was to learn everything we knew and to copy it. He had already bought an old circle sawmill like ours. “His first mistake.” And was setting up a log yard about twenty miles away on his property. He had the nerve to drive all the way to Portland and convince two of our customers to be dealers for him. Everyone would be rich. Len had photo-copied all of our home plans in our brochure and hired an artist to draw him slightly different renderings. All of our standard details and floor plans were copied and his photo albums were pictures of our homes. He lectured me one day, that none of our plans were copywrited and to try to sue him, go ahead and try. “Can you spell… One arrogant ice hole?”
Len went so far as to include the same materials package, word for word, as in our price list. He just made sure all of his models were around a hundred dollars less, each. Then, he approached the three of us with this offer. We could stay in business if we gave him 50% of Homestead, otherwise we would be out on the streets, within the year. He even coaxed five of our guys from our log yard to mutiny, promising them each, if they stuck it out with him the first year. They’d all be making $100,000.00 a year. He matched the eight bucks an hour we were paying them, until then. All we ever heard about was how we were going down, and soon. The final touch was a billboard he rented about three hundred yards from our office directing them to his Log Cabin Shop. I felt like our Navy did during the attack at Pearl Harbor, totally blind-sided and betrayed. Luckily, he treated his customers and employees about the same as he treated us. He held an open house at his yard only to have it picketed by disgruntled customers, driving his buyer’s away. We put up with a lot of negative things said about us for another five years, and then he flicked it in, too. Tom and I have always tried to take the high road and to promote log homes, and not put anyone or any company down. I’d always tell people to go check them out and see what different things we do and to compare the kit, apples to apples, and dollars to dollars. I was never bitter about the guys leaving us, I mean it was a hundred thousand dollars! Most of them came back, looking for their job back.
South of Eureka on the Northern California Coast is the small retirement community of Fortuna. As I arrived for a five day supervision, to get the wall logs up, I was surprised to see the jobsite was in a subdivision of upper end homes. Each one was on a half acre lot. Tom and I have gotten pretty used to driving up long, washboard gravel driveways to house pads cut in to the hillside, miles from nowhere. That is very typical of a rural log home site. It was familiar though, that with three helpers we had to hand pack each and every log 40 yards to the sub floor, up on the scaffolding, then up on the wall. After five days of this extreme workout, I was completely done and ready for some rest. Lee, the owner, asked me if I’d like to go flying with him in the morning before I drove home to Medford. “Why not? He seemed like a good guy.” When we arrived at the local airfield I got to see what we were flying in. It was a vintage WWII Navy airplane. A trainer that had two seats, one behind the cockpit. It looked brand new, but was completely reconditioned. Even though Lee was in his seventies he still flew in half a dozen air shows around the West, and this was his pride and joy. During the war he was the leader of a task force in the Pacific that hunted Japanese submarines. These airplanes intercepted the subs from triangulation buoys and spotted them from the air. Then, they sent in PT Boats and Destroyers to do the dirty work of using depth charges and to take them out. They were very successful and helped win the war in the Pacific. Lee was a pleasure to be around and had some great stories about the Pacific conflict.
As he fired this beast up on the runway, I started to have second thoughts. The noise and vibration was more like revving up a hotrod or dragster, not like any plane I’ve been in. As he punched the throttle and let off the brakes my head shot backwards and we were airborne instantly. So much for us taxiing down the runway and getting cleared for takeoff. “Please put your seat in the upright position, sir.” I swear we had just taken off from an aircraft carrier. Well, we buzzed his log home so I could get some pictures, than proceeded to fly some of his maneuvers he did at the shows. I was told to watch the horizon, through some old headphones, and then instantly we were flying upside down. I think he enjoyed flying this way or just possibly hearing me scream like a little girl. We did this a few more times and then headed straight up. Finally he began to pull back on the joystick and we did the biggest loop you’ve ever seen. I don’t know the exact terminology for some of these tricks, but they were a little more intense than the Eggbeater ride at our County Fair. And I usually get sick on that one, but not this day. It was quite an experience and I could see the adrenaline rush you can have from flying something like this. Thanks to Lee and all the brave men of my father’s generation for what they did to preserve our freedom. They’re a tough bunch and a lot of them died fighting for what they believed in. “What a day we had together!”