We’d been packing logs on free supervisions for so long that we were determined to find an alternative before our backs went out. Few of our customers wanted to spend the thousand dollars on a boom truck rental for the first week of stacking wall logs. Typically, we rented a sign truck for a day, with an operator, to hang the roof system. But, the wall logs and second floor joists went up by hand. Most laborers were making about six dollars an hour, so it didn’t pencil out. Tom and I came up with an idea for a portable crane that would break down and fit in the back of a pickup truck. It rolled around on the sub floor, had a telescoping boom and an electric winch to lift each log. It was slow but did the job without any lifting. The down side was that you were constantly running over power cords and the many obstacles in building a home. It was heavy, but so were the logs and you really didn’t want this thing to tip over. Once we bought our first boom truck, an old line truck, we never looked back and never took this contraption to another job. We loaned it out a few times to home owners where time wasn’t an issue. It’s now rusting away in a warehouse somewhere in our logyard.
The Jackson County Expo is where everything is held in Southern Oregon. That’s where you’ll see the county fair, the rodeo, concerts, livestock awards, bazaars and every car and RV show in the valley. They put on a big home and garden show each year that showcased many of the businesses in our area and called it the Expo. KOBI TV contacted us one summer about assembling a log home inside the main arena building as the main attraction. We had to pay for our space and it wasn’t cheap. They gave us a forty eight hour window to erect an 1800 square foot model that was already pre-sold up to Washington State. We worked like dogs in three, eight hour shifts, around the clock until the doors opened Thursday morning for a four day show. I think almost everyone at Homestead worked on this home at some point. Our crew put “Extreme Home Makeover” to shame. I remember working most of the shifts and especially operating our old boom truck in the building. I couldn’t quite get my depth perception of how close the end of the crane jib was to the building’s fifty foot ceilings. I know, because I left so many black marks on the white insulation that you couldn’t count them all. Nobody noticed them but me, but I’m sure they’re still there. I also kinked my neck so bad from looking up for so long that I couldn’t move my head for a week without turning my entire body.
Honestly, I don’t remember much of the show when it opened. I know I was there the whole time, but probably sleep walking and babbling on incoherently. “My wife says, what’s new?” We gave up completing the tile roof and dormers, but I heard it looked great, all furnished and decorated. A local cabinet shop, furniture dealer and floor covering store chipped in with display products to finish it all off. I’m not sure how many thousand people went through our house and checked it out, but it was a lot. We were all proud of what we had accomplished and a lot of our friends came by to cheer us on. Unfortunately, disassembling all the materials and trucking it back to our yard took almost as long, and of course had to be completed immediately after the show. That next week we all came to the same conclusion. “Never again, for only four friggin days!”
In the mid 1980’s we were corresponding with an importer from Japan to send log cabins over there. Harumi had lived in the SF Bay area, but was back in Tokyo with a successful antiques business. Her store was full of Japanese antiques, with Samurai swords, murals and lots of really old antiquities. “How do you say extremely expensive stuff in Japanese?” She was fluent in both languages and had contacted us about a quote for sending four log cabin kits to Japan, two of them as model homes. Japan’s economy was thriving against our weak US dollar and they had money to burn. The trend was that city people were moving to the country and wanted weekend cabins away from the mega-city called Tokyo. Most Japanese loved our western movies and culture and log cabins seemed to express that way of living. And to them they were inexpensive, even with the shipping costs half way around the world.
Harumi and one of her friends, who was also getting a model, traveled the Northwest visiting four or five log home manufacturers. The style of log they were interested in was a three-sided profile, flat to the inside in Pine or Cedar. Homestead had an arrangement with a Cedar, log sorting yard about a half mile down the road. So we picked the biggest and straightest logs they had and had produced a few Cedar kits over the years. The day our guests arrived, Shane and I picked them up at the airport and toured around six different homes and our facility. Our log inventory in our yard was trivial, but what we could afford at the time. Now, Medford was a hub of activity in lumber and plywood manufacturing. Well over a dozen sawmills were operating, most with three shifts sending products nationwide and overseas. As we were driving by one of the largest sawmills with decked logs stacked forty feet high and as far as the eye could see, Shane blurted out jokingly… “This is where we keep our extra logs.” I almost choked as both of our Japanese guests responded,… “Ahh So, very good.” We couldn’t help it that they couldn’t take a joke or know that he was just kidding.