By Rick Stedman
Roughly 8,000 men and women work in Idaho’s forest products industry. Mason Logging in Rathdrum, Idaho, has been part of that mix since 1979 when Ron Mason started the company. Ron’s four sons — Pat, Ron Jr., Jim, and Jerry — never wanted to do anything else but work as loggers.
Given the inherent danger of this industry, tragedy sometimes rears its ugly head, as it did last November. Jerry, who runs Mason Logging , explained, “We lost my oldest brother Pat in an accident, and it really affected our family as well as the entire close-knit logging community.”
Stunned by the news of Edwin “Pat” Mason’s passing, family and friends quickly rallied to hold a memorial. “The outpouring of feelings and emotion was overwhelming,” recalled Jerry. “It was a fitting tribute to my brother who meant a great deal to this community.”
Pat had spent endless hours of time in the woods since his teens, and he loaded log trucks in the area for more than 30 years. In addition to working for the family business for a number of years, he most recently worked for Shane Campbell Trucking. Though he was serious about his profession, Pat was also a joker at heart.
Jerry shared that the log truck parade that took place in Pat’s honor was filled more with laughter than tears. The parade, which included Pat’s ashes sitting in an urn on the front seat of the lead vehicle, paraded through the streets and small towns in and around Blanchard where he lived. The parade procession stretched more than a mile, and most didn’t want it to end. But life goes on, and the parade eventually ended, though the cherished memories of Pat Mason will live on forever.
Mason Logging is now in its third generation as a family-owned business serving northeast Washington State and Idaho’s panhandle, known affectionately as the Inland Northwest. Jerry shared that loggers are characteristically optimists. “We wouldn’t be loggers otherwise. We like our future prospects and hope to pass a good business along to our kids,” he said. Jerry’s nephews are the most recent generation to enter the family business.
Though college kids throughout the country celebrate spring break during late winter, “spring break up” holds a different meaning for those in the logging industry. During those months of spring break up, there is plenty of time to take care of important issues like performing much-needed maintenance and other equipment repairs. Though it seems like down time, spring break up allows loggers to take necessary training like CPR classes. For Jerry, it is also a time to take care of many customers during the tax season. He is also an enrolled agent (EA), a profession similar to a certified public accountant. He studied at North Idaho College and today serves a variety of clients, especially during spring break up.
Jerry explained that an EA is a federally authorized tax practitioner who can provide tax advice and file tax returns for individuals, partnerships, corporations, estates, trusts, and other entities with tax-reporting requirements. If need be, he can also represent taxpayers before the IRS on matters ranging from collections to IRS audits and appeals.
Cat538 Field Follow
With tax season winding down about the same time spring break up ends, it’s back to the forests and the job of logging. One project that Mason Logging has been involved in over the last several months is field testing the next generation Cat 538 from Caterpillar. This state-of-the-art forest machine comes with all the bells and whistles, such as a new electrohydraulic control system with 10 percent greater swing torque and 12 percent increased travel speed than the 2020 model. In addition the cab is 25 percent larger with 50 percent greater overall visibility than the previous 538, says Clay Young of Western States Equipment Company, representing the Cat 538 and other forest machines.
Clay, who worked as a logger for 15 years, serves as a forestry application specialist conducting forestry machine demonstrations and operator training during new machine deliveries like the Cat 538. He summarized Mason Logging’s field follow testing.
“Mason Logging has a long history as a Western States customer. They have shared some good feedback during the 538 field follow period. Mason Logging operators have already made a few suggested changes that we’ve already incorporated. That’s one of the main focus areas with a field follow, basically to let the operator pick the new machine apart and suggest changes that we can easily incorporate before the machine goes into full production.”
Mason Logging’s versatility in the field was another factor in selecting them for the field follow. “They split time processing logs roadside and out in the brush,” said Clay. “The timber sizes also varied between large heavy trees on one job, then smaller single stem on the next. This offers great data and shows the Cat 538’s versatile range when working on different sites. The information is also used by our engineers to better understand how forces on structure change in different applications.”
Mason Logging will continue its Cat 538 field follow for a few more months, providing their expertise to Western States Equipment Company. In the meantime, the company will continue offering its stellar services to the community for decades to come.
In addition to participating in field testing, Mason Logging continues to ensure that all staff members are properly trained and certified. “We make sure that all of our loggers attend and receive Logger Education to Advance Professionalism (LEAP), which is a program to strengthen loggers’ ability to interpret and apply timber harvest prescriptions and regulations,” said Jerry.
In this program, logging operators will be better able to communicate with landowners, foresters, and other natural resource professionals, enabling them to operate more efficiently and protect environmental values more effectively. Participants learn about and discuss fundamental concepts and terminology related to forest ecology, silviculture, streamside/riparian zone ecology, and water quality issues. To date, more than 1,800 Idaho loggers have participated in LEAP training.
Mason Logging has made great strides and had an important impact over the last 40 years. It will be interesting to see where they go from here.
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