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.
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
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
The Maki II carriage in
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
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."
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
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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