By Andrea Watts
With over 40 years of working in the Mossy Rock-Winlock area of Southwest Washington, there aren’t many hills that the Lyons family hasn’t logged.
“We’ve been pretty fortunate to [have] spent 30 years in this area,” says Brad, while driving out to the first of several jobsites where his crews are working. When the road crests a hill to reveal a view that encompasses an expansive network of hillsides that are still tree-covered or in the greening-up period, he remarks, “We’re so spoiled working here.”
All in the Family
As owners of Buck’s Logging, brothers Brad, Bart, and Brent represent the fourth generation of the Lyons family out in the woods; Brent’s son Bryce is now the fifth generation.
“We’ve done it for 40 years, and we get along great,” Brad explains when asked how the brothers find the balance between friendship and business. “We each got our thing we do.”
Brad handles the supervisor responsibilities and keeps the guys in wood, while Brent oversees the tower sides, and Bart and his wife Sherry and daughter Bristen manage the rock quarry that is also owned by the company. Brad’s wife Lori and daughter Erin manage the administration side of the businesses.
The brothers entered the logging industry by following in their father’s footsteps. “I remember going out and working with Dad,” Brad says. “We made sure he didn’t leave the house without us.” Bart and Brad were 18 when they started driving the logging trucks. When their father transitioned the company to his sons, they kept the company name, Buck’s Logging, which was their dad’s nickname; his first name was Willard. Their uncles also worked out in the woods, often on the very same hills that Brad and Brent are now working on. Brad recalls recently taking his uncle out to a jobsite on Rayonier land, and the uncle remarked, “Looks just the same.”
As is the case for many logging companies, at Buck’s Logging, the nearly 60 employees who work out in the woods, in the shop, and in the office are regarded as family. When passing by crewmen on the jobsite, Brad often has a personal anecdote to share: Russ Boggs, one of the shovel loggers, is the comedian of the group and can make up songs on the spot; and as the outfit’s mechanic, Colton Talley keeps all the equipment maintained — woe to the crewman who returns with a scratch on the equipment.
Many of the crew have spent decades in the industry and although they leave Buck’s Logging to explore other opportunities, they often invariably return. Pat Bowen, who has three or four tours of duty on Brad’s crew and now runs one of the Doosan 300s, explains why he enjoys working with Buck’s Logging. “It’s fun here; we all get along.”
When it comes to jobs, Brad says, “I like to think we got all the tools in our toolbox to do any job — two to three loads or 100 acres.”
On average, they haul 50 loads a day, and they primarily work for Port Blakely and Green Diamond, along with Jorgensen Timber, but they will also take smaller family landowner jobs. “We’ll log anything that pays to log,” Brad explains.
Of their relationship with Port Blakely, Brad is pleased to be one of their contractors. Between the good roads, being on top of the riparian management zones, and identifying the leave trees, he regards them as a “top-notch outfit.”
Their jobs mainly entail clearcutting, or making good habitat as Brad calls it, along with some thinning. His crew includes hand cutters but he will also contract work to TNB Mechanical Tree Felling, the father and son team of Tony White and David. “Everyone will tell you he’s one of the best around,” Brad says.
Careers for the Crew
With their crew of 54 men, Brad can easily run four sides, and today there are two shovel sides and two yarders running at full capacity. Although he recognizes which pairings of crewmembers work best, Brad will allow crew to try their hand at different jobs if they’re interested.
“We try to make it so people can move up in the ranks,” Brad says, and Brent adds, “We are trying to get it so it’s more of a career than a job.” As an example, Jake Lyons had been a former driver but is now working in a processor, and Brad credits him with “getting pretty versatile.”
In line with creating career opportunities at Buck’s Logging, but also to entice younger folks to join the profession, the company offers generous wages and healthcare and retirement benefits. Brad is also willing to explore different ways of doing business if it improves worker satisfaction and safety.
Recently the company started paying truck drivers by the hour instead of a percentage, which increases safety on the road and reduces competition for loads. The company also frequently invests in new equipment. “When we buy a new piece of equipment, it shows our commitment to being here for the long term — shows the young folks we’ll be here,” says Brad.
The Right Piece for the Job
On jobsites there is a gamut of equipment manufacturers featured: a pairing of John Deere 3754D and 2954D; a Madill 071 paired with a Link-Belt 290 and Kolbelco 290; and a pair of Doosan 300s, one of which is outfitted with a Southstar processing head. Of the Kobelcos, Brad says they have treated him pretty good, and for his Doosan purchase, Brad worked with Randy Harris and Bob Payton at Feenaughty Machinery in Portland, Oregon.
The employees appreciate the new equipment. “It makes you take pride in your work,” says Kyle McKunne. He’s been in the industry for 25 years, and the reason he chose to work for Buck’s Logging is, “I didn’t just want to work for somebody. I heard good things [about Buck’s Logging].”
Not only does Buck’s Logging invest in its equipment, the brothers also invest in their employees. Brad proudly shares that they have six master loggers, one of which is Bryce, and they have a master logger on every job. Of the training, Brad says it helps the men understand what’s going on because the “days of playing dumb are gone.” And the company also vigorously promotes safety, which is evident when every crewman steps out of the cab — they’re all wearing hard hats — and there are end-of-the-month safety meetings that also function as dinner parties.
“Around here, safety is a priority,” Brad says. “It makes you slow down and do it right.”
As part of the safety culture, the company enrolled in the Washington State Labor & Industries Logger Safety Initiative Program during the first quarter of 2014, and they are now in Tier 3.
Gary Hines, one of the drivers who has worked with Brad for 10 of his 31 years in the business, appreciates Brad’s emphasis on safety and encouraging employees to create safe working conditions. While hauling logs when the sap is running, Hines attaches a fiddle string, something he considers “real simple insurance” to keep the logs from slipping in case of an accident. Brad adds, “Hines is the first guy I’ve seen do that.”
As the manager and supervisor, Brad sees his job as “making sure everyone is working.” And with the crew he has, supervising isn’t that difficult, he says. “I’m really lucky to have the crew I got. These guys will be around for 30 years.”
Brad admits it was difficult to transition from being in the cab to being a supervisor, and he credits good role models for teaching him how to develop a management style, particularly Jim Sabin, who used to own H&S Logging, and still comes out to help even at 70 years old.
Although Brad doesn’t expect to retire soon, he is already developing the company’s succession plan. Bryce, Erin, and Whylo are being trained to take over the business, and together they already have 34 years in the industry.
“I think they’re looking forward to it,” Brent says, of his son, niece, and nephew eventually taking over the business.
As for the crew, they appreciate being kept busy and working in a workplace where coworkers are friends. “It’s been one of the friendliest places I’ve worked at,” says Mike Hadaller. “We have a lot of fun getting the job done.”
On the Cover
Photo taken by Andrea Watts of the Buck’s Logging operation.
Preparing for the Future and Adapting to the Times
With over 40 years in Southwest Washington, there aren’t many hills this family hasn’t logged.
Going Strong for Three Decades
Kurk Erickson came into the profession with his barn boots on.
New T-Winch Rocking the Steep Slopes
Recently delivered from Austria, EcoForst’s T-Winch is putting on a show across the steep slopes of Western Oregon’s Coast Range.
Taking Care of Your Rubber Track
Tips to help your company maintain and protect rubber track.
Firebreak Column — Mopping Up
Across the nation, more than 28,000 people were fighting wildfires at the peak. Now the nation deals with the aftermath.
Tech Review — Feller Bunchers
A review of the industry’s top feller bunchers.
Tooke to Take Charge