Self-Sufficiency is a Key for Eastern Oregon Logger

by | Apr 11, 2024 | 2024, Harvesting, March/April 2024, TimberWest Magazine

PRAIRIE CITY, OREGON –  Tim Rude, owner of Rude Logging, has done almost every kind of logging, from shovel logging to tethered logging. He started with a chainsaw and a skidder and has done just about everything except helicopter logging. It’s this versatility and ability to adapt with the times that has kept him busy for the last 25 years.

Rude grew up in Grant County and has lived there most of his life. His company is located in Prairie City, which is in a remote area of east-central Oregon.

Rude Logging is fairly self-sufficient for the most part. “I know many logging companies that depend on dealers and their mechanics, and other outside people to keep their business running,” said Rude. “Where we live, we’re isolated, and that is not an option.”

Rude Logging has to be ready to tackle anything in order to keep working. They are set up to handle just about any kind of breakdown, from machine work to in-framing truck engines.

Tim Rude invested in this Kobelco and Tractionline winch tethering system in 2022, purchasing it from Feenaughty Machinery. He added the Tractionline system to increase production on steep terrain.

“Keeping a great crew is very important,” said Rude. “We have several employees that have been with us for many years. Many are like family to us. Trying to keep morale up and treating them well has helped us stay strong in this day and age.”

The company’s fleet of equipment includes three Tigercat feller bunchers: models LX-830E, LS-855E, and LX830D. For tethering machines working on steep terrain the company has a Tractionline winch system on a Kobelco 350LC-10 excavator.

Getting the wood to the landing is done with three Cat 525 grapple skidders and three Cat track skidders. Processing is done with two Link-Belt machines (4040 and LX240) and a 2954D John Deere swing machine, all matched with Waratah heads. The company also has three loaders for handling, sorting, and stacking logs and loading trucks: two Link-Belt 210 loaders and a Link-Belt 4040. Rude Logging also is equipped with an assortment of road-building equipment: Kobelco, Link-Belt, and Kubota excavators and two Cat motor graders. The company has five log trucks and five lowboy trailers.

John Deere 2954D swing machine processes trees being brought to the landing by a Cat 527 track skidder. Rude Logging has three Cat track skidders and three grapple skidders.

Overall, the equipment consists of newer models. Rude added two of the Tigercat feller bunchers (the LX-830E with a hot saw and the LS-855E with a felling head) last year; they replaced an older feller buncher. He bought the Tigercat machines from the Triad Machinery dealership in Prineville, which is about 20-plus miles east of Bend.

He’s become a believer in Tigercat. “The main thing is the reliability and low down time with the machine,” said Rude. “The company will go beyond ordinary measures to stand behind their product.”

He also invested in the Kobelco and Tractionline winch tethering system in 2022, purchasing it from Feenaughty Machinery. Rude added the Tractionline equipment to increase production on steep terrain.

He once worked around another logging contractor who had two Tractionline winch systems. “I was impressed by the technology,” he said. “It was operator friendly, and the two-line system seemed to be potentially safer.

Derrick Hough, a sales rep for Feenaughty, said Rude thought the winch system to tether equipment on steep ground “could be fruitful.” Rude purchased a Kobelco-Tractionline combination that Feenaughty had in stock.

From left, Aimee and Tim Rude, and their daughter, Jozie. Aimee is a partner in the business and office manager.

“He’s a forward-thinking, production-based guy,” said Hough. “Hard-working son of a gun. Always been fair and honest with me.”

“Aimee, his wife, has been outstanding to work with as well,” he added. “Tim and Aimee are as good as they come – in my book.”

Rude bases his selection of equipment on the track record of each brand, the dealer relationship, and their availability. Due to his company’s isolated location, strong support from a dealer is an extremely important factor in his decisions about equipment.

Rude Logging has 25 employees, including five truck drivers, two office workers, and a mechanic. The company operates several crews, with each crew consisting of four to six workers.

Rude Logging works primarily in eastern Oregon and southern Washington. The company does mostly thinning although it does some clear cut final harvests in western Oregon. The company usually operates 2-3 crews, each one working on a separate job.

Rude buys standing timber. Most jobs are federal timber sales, performing select cuts or thinning. Slash is left onsite and burned by the U.S. Forest Service on most sales. Rude occasionally buys timber on private land, but it is getting harder to find.

Jobs vary in size from 40-60 acres to several thousand acres. Currently most of the wood being produced is saw logs. “The amount of pulp/fiber logs varies on the market,” noted Rude. Some federal timber sales require harvesting some pulp, usually 10-20 percent. “Most private jobs, it does not pay to remove it.”

There are three national forests in the region: the Malheur, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman. At the time Rude talked with TimberWest, the new Tigercat LX830E was working on a federal timber sale, harvesting Douglas fir, white fir, and Ponderosa pine. Logs from the job were being hauled to mills for Woodgrain Inc., Boise Cascade, and Prairie Wood Products. The job will involve some steep slope logging in the future.

Depending on the job, the average haul is 75 to 100 miles to a mill. In addition to the five company trucks, Rude relies on 8-10 contract truckers to deliver logs to mills.

After graduating from high school Rude worked for an uncle who had a logging business. Then he earned a two year degree in welding and worked as a mechanic for another logging company. Just three years later – 25 years ago – he started his own company with a used skidder he bought from a retired logger and a chainsaw. He hired a couple of men and operated as a small business for a couple of years. He met and married Aimee, now his partner in the business and the office manager, and a year later won a big contract with a major timber company in western Oregon. The company grew from four men to 30 employees.

When the recession hit in 2008-09, Rude focused on working in eastern Oregon. Initially forced to downsize somewhat, the company quickly staffed up to about two dozen-plus employees.

In current market conditions, the best prices are for Douglas fir, which Rude supplies to a Boise Cascade plywood mill. Ponderosa pine and white fir aren’t in high demand, and neither is pulp.

Like other logging contractors, Rude is battling rising costs from inflation. “Whether it’s inflation or lack of availability, the price of everything has gone up,” he said, “so our daily costs have increased.”

Rude Logging was the recipient of a merit award from the Oregon Department of Forestry in 2023 for its work on a steep slope site. The company used tethered logging operations while protecting a fish-bearing stream.

“In challenging harvesting sites, they have shown extraordinary care and diligence to protect resources and meet landowner objectives,” Josh Barnard, the department’s forest resources division chief, said in announcing the award. “We’re proud to recognize the community spirit and leadership these operators have shown.

Rude and his wife run the business together. She has managed the company’s office for 20 years. She is a member of Oregon Women in Timber and also is a volunteer and executive board member of a local nonprofit organization. They have a 24-year-old daughter, Jozie, who is in the Army National Guard.

Rude’s father, Robbie, worked in the mill industry most of his life. He even .worked for Rude briefly when mills slowed down.

Rude keeps a pretty full schedule. He checks on jobs, prepares bids, reviews contracts. He also purchases parts and helps with or oversees equipment repairs.

Rude is on the executive board of Associated Oregon Loggers and also serves on the Grant County natural resource advisory committee. “We try to support where we are from,” he said. “In this small community we feel like it is very important.” Rude said.

Dawn Killough

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