Our First 10 Years

Hammered? A big motivator for all hard working log home builders is food and drink. “Right?” After finishing a kit or loading a container we always took the crew out for a free lunch, usually pizza or burgers. Even today, we barbecue every Wednesday during the summer to keep them all in good spirits and to think twice before taking that roofing job. Back then, our local Sizzler Steak House used to run an… ”All you can eat” beef rib lunch. If you’ve ever been there you know they cater to senior citizens and rather large people, not fat, you know, just large. We thought we’d make this day extra special by sneaking in a bottle of cheap bourbon, because… well…during our first few years, some days ended after lunch. After about ten plates of ribs and way too many off colored 7-Ups I was told we were completely out of control and needed to leave. Sizzler’s bouncer came over in his walker to try to calm us down or remove us as we chanted “More Ribs! More Ribs!”. It was one in the afternoon while we continued banging fists, glasses and plates to much more celebrating and banter. Finally we left, or were thrown out. I can’t remember. “Bounced from a Sizzler, that’s a first, and a moment to tell our kids about, and be proud of.”

Those first three homes kept us busy all summer and through the fall. With nothing to look forward to in log homes, we figured we’d go back into the woodstove sales or go get regular jobs. Unfortunately, Dennis had replaced us with his wife and brother from Seattle and they were all living like Al Pacino in “Scarface.” The worst part is that between the three of them they couldn’t sell a stove and the installation. Somehow, they didn’t understand how to treat people friendly or give a fireplace tool set away to close a sale on a complete system. Schrader was also having a major problem with their aluminum stove doors, as almost every unit experienced warping to where the doors wouldn’t close tightly. The owners were constantly either replacing the doors or trying to pop them back into place. Unfortunately, they would pop right back out once they got hot. I could see that Dennis and his wife were going sideways fast. They would eventually close all five stores and go bankrupt within the next twelve months. What a lesson of how to run a business that was for us. They lost everything they had and moved back home to Seattle.

Luckily for us, I sold a home a couple of days later and we were back in the log yard and back to work. This owner wanted us to build it on his site, not just make a kit, but a turn-key. David was in his fifties and came in driving an old VW Bug. He said he would be back in on Monday with a deposit. “Sure, don’t hold my breath.” When he handed me his business card it read that he was the C.E.O. of Bear Creek Corporation, which is the largest fruit grower and packing house for pears and fruit in Southern Oregon. Their Harry and David division sells thousands of gift boxes through mail order catalogs worldwide. “The guy’s rich.” When he came back in on Monday I asked him what was the deal with him driving that old VW. He said that it was for employee morale and drives it to work each day. Meanwhile, up at his home sits two Mercedes and a giant motor home. The diesel pusher even had video cameras to back up and park, but his wife still managed to back it into a tree. They lived in a huge house in Newport Beach California and had their own yacht docked nearby. This was to be their log getaway cabin on his 5000 acre cattle ranch in Southern Oregon. I remember how he would smoke cigarettes all morning, than switch to cigars in the afternoon, inhaling that smoke, too. It was another good lesson of living a long life. “Don’t inhale cigars all afternoon.”