November December, 2004





Dabco Loggingís 50 years are based on great partnerships and solid machinery

By Barbara Coyner

Working on Potlatch ground near Headquarters, Idaho, the Link Belt loader, Thunderbird yarder and crew member Karl Olson all work together in a tight spot.

Itís been 51 years since brothers Dick and Bob Christopherson and their friend Axel Kludt blended their first names to create Dabco ó cementing a logging partnership that now reaches into the next generation. These days, cousins Rick and Tim Christopherson carry on the family traditions for the Kamiah, Idaho-based enterprise. Establishing their own partnership in 1985, the two have kept other vital partnerships intact, accounting for much of Dabcoís success. For example, thereís the long-standing partnership with Potlatch Corporation, which goes back to Dabcoís first year in business. Another critical partnership was forged as Bill Maki of Maki Manufacturing sold them their first carriages, which keep two Dabco yarder sides running smoothly on Potlatch Corporation forestlands.

Five Decades and Still Going
"Weíre 51 years old this year and it hasnít always been clear sailing by any means," says Tim. "Iím not sure what the secret is, and we mightíve walked away from all this several times. Some of the credit has to go to Potlatch Corporation, and also to having a good crew. Thatís what it takes." With a crew of about 18, plus a varying number of contract sawyers and truckers, Dabco cuts between 12 and 14 million board feet yearly for Potlatch, and occasionally takes on some private work. Last year, the company fulfilled contracts for Clearwater Forest Industry of Kooskia, as well. "Weíre primarily line skidding," says Tim. "Thatís our forte. We ran three Cat sides until 1997, then took all the equipment to auction and sold it, because we werenít doing as well as we could. We needed to find a niche." Through thick and thin, Potlatch Corporation has called on Dabco, and the focusing on line machines proved to be a good choice, given the steep terrain on the companyís timberlands. The timber giant recently gained notoriety as the only corporation of its kind to gain "green certification" from both the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Forest Stewardship Council, so it selects its loggers with care. "There has to be a real trust between us and Potlatch," Tim notes, adding that Potlatch generally lets its sawyers choose which trees to cut, and expects them to practice good forestry.

The Maki II carriage in action.

A Toss of the Coin
Interestingly enough, the loyalty oath between Potlatch and Dabco extends back to the late Ď60s and early Ď70s, when Tim and his family did a stint in Colombia, South America for the corporation. "We flipped a coin as to which of our families would go," Rick jokes of the random choice that kept his father Dick and the family stateside, while Bob and Timís branch of the Christopherson clan headed south of the border. "It was a pretty primitive operation there, and they floated everything on water," Tim recalls. "It was quite an experience." Part of what keeps the Dabco magic going is the good-natured partnership between Rick and Tim. Generally, Rick watches the long line yarder side, while Tim tends to the medium side. Tim also handles shop truck duties, most of the finance and insurance, much of the snow plowing, and also a bit of political involvement. (He recently served as Associated Logging Contractors President.) Rick prefers operating machinery, but can pitch in on other chores as necessary. Both negotiate their own contracts for their respective sides. "We ask permission to cross each otherís line," Rick explains, agreeing that itís a flexible partnership, one that works very well. "Weíre pretty open with each other." Another important part of Dabco Inc. is the Office Manager of 19 years, Marsha Godwin, who fills in the gaps.

The Switch to Line Machines
Switching to line machines tested the second-generation partnershipís pocketbook immediately when Rick and Tim took a leap of faith and bought the new Thunderbird TMY50, a tower yarder, in 1985. "We went way in debt on that machine," Tim remembers, noting that theyíve rebuilt the motor three times since then, and also rebuilt the transmission once. "Itís one of the most dependable machines weíve ever owned." Teaming up with the Thunderbird is a 4300 Quantum Link Belt, which recently received a new set of tracks and a new motor. "Our loaders get worked hard," says Tim, noting that they use the larger Link Belt because thereís no swing on the line machine. Yarder operator Michael Snyder explains, "This machine doesnít swing. Itís stationary, and thatís why itís so productive. Thereís a lot of time lost swinging over and picking up lines. We just pick up our lines and go back after another load." Dabcoís other side runs a home-built yarder referred to as the "Super 30," a converted crane devised in 1973. A 2800 Quantum Link Belt performs the loader chores, and the company picked up a Koering 6644 from Potlatch years ago to fill in as a spare. "You can either have payments or parts bills," Tim says of the company philosophy of making things last as long as possible.

The Dabco partnership: Rick (left) and
Tim Christopherson

center on the carriages built by Bill Maki of Maki Manufacturing in Pierce, Idaho. "The carriages up our production and save us money," says Rick. "Billís shop is 20 minutes away and he bends over backwards for us. He keeps us running, and the carriages can skid around corners." Tim adds that the German-made diesel motors are extremely durable. The Maki II carriage boasts a 14-hp diesel and weighs in at 2200 pounds for the basic unit. With a load capacity of 18,000 pounds, it handles 3/4 inch to 1 1/8 inch skyline, and 9/16 to 3/4 inch skid line. The slack puller stats include a line pull of 300 feet per minute (low) and 500 feet per minute (high). The two-speed power shift is made to shift on the fly, and thereís a remote start and stop feature. The big selling point for the Christophersons, however, is the "swivel top for cornering" option. "If the intermediate support is rigged properly, itíll go around corners," Tim says of the unique feature. "The line is run much like a ski lift cable goes through towers," says Rick, picking up the conversation to explain the feature that enables his crew to yard without necessarily running the line in a straight path. "The flexibility of the carriage is a huge advantage in a number of instances."

Solid Partnerships
Serving as something of a research and development arm for Maki, the company benefits from Billís knowhow and 56 years of experience. "Weíve been friends and consumers for 20 years," Tim says of the association. Despite his remote north central Idaho location, Maki is no backyard tinkerer. Producing five sizes of carriages, heís got products running in places such as New Zealand, Chile and China. On a recent visit to his backwoods shop, he and associates Don Tews (28 years with Maki) and Mark Ward (15 years with Maki) were finetuning a hydrostatic drive carriage bound for New Zealand. Maki pointed out that the new piece would have fewer moving parts and infinite speeds. "Our work is customer driven," he says of his research and manufacturing enterprise. With loads of white fir, red fir, larch, cedar and poles sorted and ready for shipment to area mills at Lewiston, Weippe, Kooskia, Kamiah and Knokolville, Tim and Rick Christopherson know the value of their longstanding association with Potlatch.

Going to the source of the Maki carriage. Pictured left to right are Mark Ward, Bill Maki and Don Tews, in front of a new carriage being built for a customer in New Zealand.

Unlike other logging contractors, they donít bid their jobs or hunt high and low for timber. And Potlatch also invests time and money into their contractors with their emphasis on safety and safety training that is a condition of employment when working for the company. They also know they donít have to argue over who does what, because they have their fathersí example to show them how to get along. And when they need cutting edge equipment strategies, they know Bill Maki is just down the road.


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This page was last updated on Wednesday, December 29, 2004