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Tom Kellogg, logger, trucker, excavator

Interviewed at his home in Shokan, New York, January 5, 2008

Born: 1963 in Hartford, Connecticut


“Wisdom doesn’t come from the lowest depths we may descend to or the darkest moments we have and will know; it comes from the fall. And when we can look on ourselves and act without arrogance, no matter our material gain, we can be wise. If we can look past the disappointment and the failures and understand why and how they happened, we can be wise.”

— Joseph M. Marshall, III in “Walking With Grandfather.” Sounds True, 2005, p.113


“To attain knowledge, add things everyday; to obtain wisdom, remove things everyday.”

— Lau Tsu



I grew up in Connecticut. My Dad was a manufacturing engineer. We came up here in ’67 to work in the Rotron factory. I was about 5 years old and, of course, there was nothing up here but a fan making factory and a bunch of woods! It was like the boonies, it was just… it was scary. We didn’t know anybody. You know, the people were nice but they kept to themselves. We eventually made friends with everybody, and they were all great people.


I started out 8, 10 years old working on a farm in the summer time. Got introduced to machinery, and got to run the stuff by the time I was 10, 12 years old. It was actually Burt Liefeld, the guy that’s now our town supervisor. He had a regular working farm: cows, pigs, chickens, the whole 9 yards. He was a salesman and he did this gentleman’s farm thing. He was, still is, a real easygoing guy.


His son and I grew up together, and we were always with the tractors, the bulldozer, chainsaw, and stuff like that. We were little kids, 10, 12 years old riding out through the woods with the bulldozer with no cab. We’d be looking up at the trees going, “Oooo! Don’t hit a dead one ‘cause that’s going to land on us!” We had some really good experiences.


It’s not like we had free reign of stuff. When we screwed up he’d get pissed at us. You know he’d kick us in the ass — he’s a big man, he’s a good-sized man — and our feet would come right off the ground! (laughs) But, like 2 minutes after that, it was over. He never brought it up again. If he was pissed at something he took it out right there, and then that’s it and you didn’t do it again. That kind of thing stuck with me. I always respected him for that. You learn; everybody makes mistakes.


When I got older I worked on Al Fox’s farm over in Olivebridge. He had a big dairy farm, probably 90 head. Milking cows, that’s a full-time job, man. I’d ride my bike 4 or 5 miles to the farm. I’d be there 5, 6 o’clock in the morning, clean up all the crap in the calf barn, and then I’d help with milking in the big barn. By then it was 10:30, 11 o’clock and we were out raking or bailing hay. It was good “work ethic” stuff, that’s really all there was around here.


I decided at a young age that I didn’t really like school. It was just boring. I liked it, but… it seemed like if there was one person in the class who didn’t understand what the teacher said, he’d just keep saying the same thing until the guy in the back got it. Well, he ain’t going to get it: he’s been out in the pits smoking pot all day. “It ain’t going to get to him there, sport!” So I would just kind of doze off and think about other things. I just kind of fumbled through school.


I made it to graduation. My parents were very much of the feeling, “You’ve got to graduate, and that’s what it is. Whatever you want to be — if you want to be a garbage man, you can be a garbage man — but you’re going to have your diploma.”


My Dad being an engineer, that didn’t interest me. I respected him for it, but he was in a suit and tie every day. I’d watch him get all dressed up and I’d go, “Oh, Jesus, I don’t want to do that. That just isn’t my cup of tea.” It was cool work, but as you had to have 4 or 5 years of college, and then work through various different shops, I wouldn’t be to his position for another 10 years. You know? I wanted to get right out there and get my feet dirty.




When were you thinking about this, as a kid?



It’s just like 17, 18. High school’s coming to an end, and what do I want to do with life? I want to kinda apply myself to machinery. So I decided, well, I’m young and full of energy, so I’m going into the logging business.


I went to work for a local logger running a skidder. It was kind of screwy situation because he was a trucker too. He trucked logs and wood for other people in the morning, and wouldn’t be back until noon. So what do I do while he’s not around?


We’d try to set it up so that a whole bunch of trees were cut and topped, and all I had to do was go in with the skidder and pull them out. He wouldn’t leave me a chain saw; I couldn’t use his saw alone. I had to trim whatever ones he missed with and ax! (laughs) Like, Jesus, Davy Crockett with an ax! The thing was sharp as could be: I’d rather have the saw!


Eventually I went out and bought a saw, but didn’t really tell him about it. I kept it in the woods. He’d be, “How’d you get them all trimmed, I don’t see any ax marks?” And I said, “Man, you did a good job yesterday. You got every limb.” That worked for about a week, and finally he figured out. He started seeing empty oil and chain cans.


I worked for him for a couple of years, but he led a kind of screwy life. He’d go out and buy a brand new pickup while they were repossessing his car, or they were shutting the electric off in his house. There was always this chaos, and it was always, “Gee, I don’t have any money to pay you this week. As soon as I get caught up on my payments I’ll get square.” And it just never happened. It was fine because I was living home: what were my bills? But after a while I started to feel I already bought my education here, I’ve got to move on.


Then I worked for large logging company in the area, and that guy did some volume. He probably did 75,000 board feet a week, I mean a lot of wood. I was working with a crew of guys, there was two skidders, and I ran a forwarder. You know the skidders pull them to a landing in the woods, and the guy chops them up into log lengths, and he loads them on a big woods truck, and then you carry them out. It keeps the wood all nice and neat and clean. It’s a big thing in the logging business, because dirt and saws don’t get along.


I worked for him for about a year, and then decided to go out and buy my own equipment. I started out with an old farm tractor I bought for $1,000 from a guy I knew. At that time the Gypsy Moths had hit around here really bad, and there was a lot of standing dead trees. I was comfortable with tractors, I was used to looking up and watching the trees wiggle from the old days! I knew if one of them babies hits you, you’re going to lay here. I was very cautious. I did really well with that thing.


I had a guy working with me, and the two of us cut, split, and delivered two cords a day, every day, 7 days a week, unless it rained. You know, we wouldn’t do it in the rain because that’s slippery, nasty shit. I eventually saved up enough money to buy my own skidder, and went into the logging business.


My parents had money but I just… what can I say. They would always cover me if I needed money, but I always had to pay it back. It wasn’t a free ride, which I respected. If I needed $100 on Monday for fuel, or parts, or something, I’d have the money by Friday to pay them back; it was no problem. Don’t think they’re going to buy my parts, just endless, you know.


It teaches you discipline, it teaches you to save, and to think ahead about what if something breaks. So if I’ve got this $1,500 check, then I ought to take half of it and put it away because, when something breaks, I’ll have the money to cover it. I got so that I’m… really methodical about that.


I’d always buy stuff so that when times get tough I’d have the parts to keep going. That’s a big part in business, thinking about that. You can’t just keep wadding it all in the bank. You might look out at the 50 grand you saved up: “Aw, I’ll buy a new pickup.” But as soon as you buy a new pickup the boom breaks off the excavator… and now you’ve got the new pickup. So learning that taught me a lot, actually, by having that little leash on me money-wise.


I had a couple of different employees, and it just got to be too much. Workman’s Comp was $42 per hundred of payroll, so for every hundred I would give… let’s say I give you $400… it would be $168 for Workman’s Comp. So now I’m paying $568 for a guy who gets $400 a week, so he’s not really inspired.


It just got that the overhead was so big. I had guys trucking my logs, and paying ahead for wood lots, and taking lesser grade lots to keep the guys busy. I did it to get through, but with all the effort I was putting in — working 6, 7 days a week — I was just keeping up.


It was a good experience, I learned a lot about people in that business, because there’s all different kinds of people in the wood business. There’s some real “characters” (laughs) — I don’t know how to put that so you don’t have to edit it! I learned a lot about people in that business.




You mean there are more odd-balls in the wood business than in contracting?



You know, a lot of real shysters. All different kinds. You ain’t seen nothing ‘till you go try to sell your wood lot! See what kind of people come up to you, giving you a promise!


I’d cruise a wood lot — cruising is when you go through and estimate how much wood is on a lot. All right, say there’s $10,000 worth of wood on it, right? I’ll offer you $10,000, with $5,000 to start, and then half way through I’ll give you the other 5,000 so you’re not waiting to the end, when you’ve got no wood left. It was all honest and good intentioned stuff.


Well, one of these other wood lot guys would come along and say, “Oh, no. There’s 15 thousand dollars of wood on that lot and I’ll give you 10% right now!” And they’d start cutting, and they’d start with the big ones. You know a lot of land owners want to get as much as they can: “Oh yeah! This guy’s the best! He’s going to give me $15,000, and that’s a better deal!”


So they’d give them 10%, and guy would go through and cut all the big ones first: go around the whole 50 acres. The first couple loads were the Big Dukes, you know? The next load smaller, then next ones smaller still. Well, when it comes time to the last payment there’s no wood left on the land.


So the landowners goes, “Hey, where’s my money?” “Aw Jezz. I’ll get it to you! Next week we’re going to square up!” And as a property owner they didn’t foresee this guy cutting all the big trees. They don’t know the scam. They just figure, “Oh, look at all that hard work! He’s cutting all them trees. Look at the size of them! Oh, they’re beauties!”


Let’s say the guy might have ended up getting $5,000 for the whole lot. Here I’d truly paid him $10,000, and he was more attracted to the guy that promised him $15,000, but gave him $5,000. And that’s what you’re up against in that business: it’s who ever has the best line of shit. The handshake and the honest man, that don’t mean nothing in that business.


So I learned a lot of lessons through that. It was really good experience. I never would have seen that. I could have been buying an education when I was 50, but I was doing it in my 20’s. It taught me a lot about people. I got to say, that was a good time.


Man, I struggled. Financially I was just hanging on. Just paying the electric bill. The cable-vision guy would go up the pole and shut it off, and I’d have the check for him at the bottom, and he’d go up and turn it back on. I had to pay him to go up, go down, and back up again. I had to pay him twice! It’s just what I had to do. I was just barely making it.


My equipment was all paid for after a couple of years. Finally, I said, “Ah, shit. I’ve had enough of this.” There was just too many headaches. That’s when I got into the construction business.


I went to work for a company down in Kingston, and I’m still very good friends with him, but he was kind of a… how can I say it… he’d give you just enough rope to hang yourself. You wanted to watch what you said. If you said that you could run this piece of equipment and you want more money, well, the first time you screwed up he’d make it known to everybody: “There’s my good operator, he’s the best! Now look: he’s got fiber optics hanging off the excavator. Now that’s going to cost me! That’s coming out of your check!”


I had a heads-up about this guy, so I went to work for him just as a shoveler, a laborer at $6/hour. I had already run all this equipment, and I could do just as well as anybody, but I didn’t want to start out saying, “Oh, yeah, I’m better than anybody you got!”


I started out by getting a feel for everybody. He was a young guy too, and a couple of his top operators were guys he went to high school with. They were a bunch of jack-asses, I hate to say it like that, but one guy who ran the backhoe wore velour shirts all the time. That let you know he was the machine operator and he wasn’t going to get in the ditch. White velour shirt: “Grease my bucket…” Do this, do that. He was just an idiot.


And the other guy, he just kept digging until he got stuff on the end of the teeth: water mains, sewer mains! (laughs) But he must have had some scoop on the boss because the boss never said nothing to him.


I moved the machines around, and he could see that I was really smooth on things. I asked him if I could start coming in on Sundays to practice on the equipment on my own time. Just to get the feel for things.


It was funny. I found out later that he had this back entrance, and he’d be up there watching me with his little binoculars to see how I’d do — he told me this afterwards. And I’d be just… just throwing sand in the air, and trying to catch it before it hits the ground; all kinds of stuff!


I was very finessy. I’m very finessy with the machines. I would always try to do my best. I’d dig a ditch in the sand bank, like from here to your car, pick a point on the bucket that I knew was a certain depth, and then walk back with a ruler to see how level I kept it. I would be within a couple of inches, and that’s how you dig a water main: you’ve got to be at a certain height. You dig a sewer main and it’s got to have a certain slope. And that’s how I would practice. And he watched all that. I went from $6 to $15 an hour within a couple months!


He did a lot of scream’in and yell’in, and I don’t take well to the scream’in and yell’in thing. I mean I loved the guy, I get along with him great, but don’t scream and yell on the job around other people, because I’m going scream and yell back.


This guy wasn’t the kind of guy you could scream and yell back to, he’d go, “You can’t talk to me like that!” “Yeah, well watch this: I’m going back to cutting logs.” “You leave, and you ain’t ever coming back!” “You got it, that’s why I’m leaving.”


And then he’d call me up in, like, 2 days, when I was out in a little wood lot somewhere, and he’d say, “Did you calm down yet?” “Did I calm down! How about did you calm down!” (laughs) He’s say, “I really need you.” So I’d go back. I did that maybe three, four times and… I didn’t think I was getting anywhere… I didn’t think I was going any farther with him, at that point.


I had an opportunity to work for this local company that moved road recycling equipment. I got hired as a low-bed operator to move the equipment around. I think I got a $5 raise right off the bat, so I’m up like 19, 20 dollars to start.


My wife was pregnant with our first child, and the benefits were really good, with 3 or 4 months off in the winter so that I could go and do wood and logging, it was just a nice mix. I stayed there for damn near 10 years. But at the same time, kids are 9, 10 years old, and I was missing them growing up, ‘cause I was out running this low-bed 80, 90 hours a week. Yeah, man: the money; it was all prevailing wage. My wife was home with 2 kids, the bills. You know: you’ve got to make hay while it’s shining.


That company covered 5 states, doing roads and stuff. We’d be in Boston one day, the next day I’d be moving equipment down to New Jersey, and then out to Pennsylvania, and then back. We were all over the place. It was a good gig.


By Wednesday I’d have 40-some hours and, man, I’d run that truck damn near round the clock. I had a $1,500 expense account, American Express: “Anything you want, just get a receipt for it.”


I had the best radio money could by in that truck. I’d put the windows down, crank that radio up; I could go 24 hours, baby! Wind blowing and the music playing. (laughs) I could really stay awake, stay awake, stay awake. Maybe I’d go three, four days, and then I’d have to crash and grab 8 hours of sleep.




Jesus, I don’t know how you could do that.



Oh man: go, go, go. I really loved it. I loved that job.


So it was getting… the New York State D.O.T. (Department of Transportation) was getting to change some rules on trucks. And all these different log books: on duty, off duty. All this about how much sleep you’re supposed to have, all this stuff was changed to a Federal regulation.


New York State was starting to crack down on all this, so I had a couple of different log books. I showed one when I had 8 hours off, and another had 8 hours on and 8 hours off, and my real log book was like 36 hours on! I think when I left there I was making $22, $24 an hour, plus overtime: time and a half. It was just racking up.


We bought our house; we bought everything. Kaily was 8 years old, Evan was 6, full-time in school. You know, you’ve got a wife and 2 kids at home, and that takes a lot of money. The kids want this, they want that. They had a good childhood.


I was starting to get a little annoyed with these truck rules. Each state had their own different set of rules, so you’d come into Massachusetts and you’d have to pencil whip your log book this way, back up your mileage that way, and then you’d go to Connecticut and it would be another thing. All this paperwork and shit, and then moving all this equipment.


I had a list this long of equipment to move my Wednesday, let’s say, and shit, I’m spending half of my time writing out what I did today, and what I think I’m going to do tomorrow. I just want to get it done, you know? So I was getting a little frustrated with trucks.


I got down on the Throgs Neck Bridge in Long Island, and all the loads were over-dimensional: they were over 8’6”, they were over-weight, so the state regulations are dawn to dusk as the time you’re allowed to move. But inside the 5 boroughs of New York City, you had to be from 10pm to 6am. So how do you do that! Unless you make it a two day thing!


I knew a guy that worked on the Thruway, and I’d give him 20, 40 dollars out of my expense account — give him some cash now and again — and he’d give me a permit to run down the Thruway. Who’s going to bother you at 4 o’clock in the morning ‘cause you’re 10’ wide? Take the flags off so the cops don’t see it when they go by. They don’t know. So that’s how I did it. I did it like that for years, the whole time.


So I get down to the Throgs Neck bridge and it’s 10 minutes after 6. There was an accident on the Cross Bronx and I was held up maybe 20 minutes. I used to say to myself, when I was a little late like that, that I’d get all the way to the left lane. Then, if the lady gives me any shit, what am I going to do? There are six more lanes over there, are they going to stop all these cars? No, she’d just say, “You don’t do this again.” “Yes ma’am! Yes, OK!”


Well I’ll be God-damned: I pull into this left lane after this accident thing, and there’s a Bridge Authority cop in the booth with this lady. I don’t know if it’s his girl friend or something, right? And he says, “Let me see your permit for that. How wide is it?” “10 feet.” “Let me see your permit.”


So I show him my permit. He must have never looked at permit because he was looking at it for like 10 minutes. “It says here you’re supposed to be across this bridge by 6 o’clock.” He said, “I’m going to go out there and stop all that traffic, you back out of this booth, and you wait until 10 am.” So he puts his orange rain coat on, and his light, and he’s stopping traffic, and I’m thinking, “The first car that hits him, I’m outa here! I’m not sitting around for this act to be my fault!” (laughs)


I’ll be God-damned if that guy didn’t stop all those 7, 8 lanes of traffic, 100’ back. I backed out, went over there and parked in this area, and waited until 10 o’clock. Lincoln, I never saw that man again, not another cop. About 10 o’clock I went through the nearest toll booth, no ticket, no incident, no nothing. And I thought to myself, “This is a warning to get out of this business.” It probably would have been a $1,000 fine for crossing that bridge out of hours, or whatever.


So I got thinking about it, and with missing the kids growing up, and these hours, and I already made all my money, and stuff like that: it’s time for change. The next thing you know I quit doing that and I went to work for this Delroot contractor in Saugerties, running equipment.


Delroot was really good, too, it’s just that he had a bunch of real characters working for him, and I just couldn’t take the nonsense. Everybody… you know they were all Big Operators. They’d run the machines right out of fuel and then call me up on my phone — because I’ve got a truck that’s a mechanic’s truck — and they’d say, “Go get me some fuel. I ran my machine out of fuel.” “What’s wrong, the gauge don’t work?” “No, the gauge works. I just got no way to get fuel!” “Well, you better find a way to get fuel, because if you think I’m bringing fuel to you down in Poughkeepsie ‘cause you ran it out, you’re going to have a long day!” (laughs) And they had a long wait, I’ll tell you that!


It just got so that it was full of all that nonsense. So finally I just went out on my own. And about a year after I did that, I met you!




That’s all it was!?



That’s it!




I didn’t know you were such a greenhorn.



Yeah, well, I don’t know about “green” — I had all this experience behind me — I was just riding somebody else’s horse.




You’d already bought your equipment, and you’ve got a lot of it too: two excavators, and trucks…



Yeah, I saved my money. All those 80, 90 hour weeks? I didn’t have time to go hang out in the pubs or do vacations and stuff. I just put it in the bank thinking that some day… and that some day came around, and it worked out great.


I’m very happy at this point. I’m 45 and doing well. Not quite to the point of being able to pick and choose my jobs. I’ve got to keep steady work, but I won’t do silly stuff, only stuff I enjoy. It’s been a really good run. I can’t complain at all.




I thought you’d been independent for 10 years or something. I’d heard about you from my friend Tim, and the way he said it, it sounded like you were a local fixture of some kind.



Actually, I was still working for Delroot when I did Tim’s job, I was working nights. That’s how I got to meet him. Small world, huh?




All this work has been local. Did you get Delroot to help you get jobs at some point?



No, nope. Everything’s word of mouth. Through the years when I worked for these different companies I always had an old backhoe. And all the kids that I grew up with in school, when they were buying their houses — like when I was buying my house — we didn’t have a lot of extra money. You’d buy a house and fix it up as you went.


Their septic would go bad, or their well line would go bad, and I’d go dig it for them and just ask for fuel money. Well, 10, 12 years later these people are all putting additions on their houses and who are they calling? They’re calling me because I’d helped them when they had nothing, now they all got something, so it worked out great.


The best business is word of mouth. That’s why you don’t burn a bridge with anybody. If I gave you price for something — Win, Lose, or Draw — you make it right. If there’s an extra thing, then you explain it. If the guy’s not happy, you make it right, because a happy customer is the guy who passes your name on to the next guy.


You’ve got to know what you’re doing bid-wise. I can’t tell you that I’ll do it for $5,000, and it turns in to a $40,000 job, and I’m hitting you up for the extra 35. It don’t work like that! You’ve got to explain what this is going to cost up to this point, and this point, and this point, and the total is X amount of dollars. It comes with experience and time. I saw it through all these different contractors, and I took it all in as I was doing it for them.




Were you doing it for them? You must have been hungry to learn about that. Most guys wouldn’t know what was going on in the office, would they?



I was very hungry to learn. I didn’t do the actual giving the bid. Let’s say this McMann who I worked for in Kingston, he would give a bid, and as the job was going on he’d say, “Tommy, we’ve got to put in this 1,000 feet of sewer main, there’s two man holes and they cost this much, and the pipe is this much, and the stone is that much, and I only gave a bid for $60,000, and we’ve got $45,000 worth of material. We’ve got $15,000 to make here, so let’s do it as cost effective as we can.”


He would explain all that to me. If he didn’t explain it, then I would have asked. You couldn’t come out and say, “Hey, how much you expect to make on this!” But you could say, “How much does all this cost material-wise and stuff?” And he would take the time and explain it to me. It’s not like I was taking his information to another contractor in Kingston, I just wanted to know so I could be as efficient as I could on the job.




So what are you doing now?



Just on my own, you know: house sites and road jobs, and all kinds of electrical jobs. I like those mini-excavators, they’re nice, they’re quick and easy, you’re in and out of a job, nice and neat, and on to the next one.


The big machine, like I had at your place, that’s almost got to stay with the job from the beginning to the end because to move it is such an expense. The thing is 11 and a half feet wide and almost 30 tons. You don’t just tippy toe around with that thing. You’ve got to pay somebody $300 every time to move it, so you’re better to just leave it on the job; finish the job.


This is what makes me a little different from a lot of the guys: they buy the next size smaller machine and they’ve got to work the hell out of it to get the job done. Then they throw it on their trailer and move to the next one. I’d saved my money and I’d bought this bigger machine — bought and paid for — and I just can leave it on a site and do the whole job with that one machine.


Every job’s different. I like to stay where I can do the job myself, maybe have somebody help me if I need it. I pretty much work just as one person.




I’d think it was dangerous working alone with these big machines. You ever had any bad accidents?



Nothing. Everybody has mistakes and shit happen, but nothing that really destroyed things. I’ve had end-dumps where you’re riding along and, you know, you’ve got 30, 40 tons of mud on the back and you’re going through some place where you’ve pulled a stump, and it rained and it was filled with water, but you leveled it all back out and forgot the hole was there, and it just goes — whump! — and now it’s stuck there. It’s not flipped, but it just won’t back up, won’t go forward.


You’ve got to go call one of your buddies, and get your cable with the big excavator and say, “When I beep the horn it’s in reverse, and you back up… but stop before you hit the big yellow machine behind you!” (laughs) Then you make a road around it, or whatever. Shit happens, that’s just part of the business.




You do seem to work by yourself more than most people.



I get frustrated with some of the people in the construction business. Like I was telling you with bringing the dump truck in: 50 times he never parks in the same spot. “Come on, we’ve been doing this for a week and a half? That’s 300 loads you’ve backed up and you ain’t hit the same spot twice!” How hard is it to back the truck up in the same spot?


And there’s a lot of that in the construction business. Unfortunately you’ve got a lot of guys that are hard workers but they quit school, or had some bad breaks, or heavy drinkers, or for whatever reason they’re running construction equipment because that’s what they can do. Some guys are great guys, and some guys are real jack-asses.




Do you want to stay at this level, working on jobs you can do by yourself?



I like it here. I have no headaches. I look forward to wintertime. When things slow down I work in my garage. I like to weld and do all kinds of creative projects. Fix different things, you know it breaks it up. After doing it for so long, it’s just dirt and rocks. It doesn’t matter where you are, it doesn’t matter what the site is, or how different it looks… it gets real repetitious.


At the end of the year, when that stuff’s all done, it’s nice to unwind. My garage is right in my backyard, the heat’s on, and I just walk out there and start welding, tinkering, fabricating or whatever I want to do. It breaks it up nice for me.




You have a whole machine shop back there? Do you have a lathe and a milling machine?



I just purchased a lathe. I got the cutoff saws and stuff like that. I’m not some master fabricator, but I’ve been around a lot of it. I could be.


My Dad was a machinist and he worked in a lot of manufacturing shops. My Grandfather was like a super master machinist. He worked for a company over in East Hartford called Bitterroot, and he could make a clock like nothing. He grew up through the 20s and 30s when everything was cut and filed by hand; you didn’t just put it in the CNC machine and say, “OK, I want a clock!”


I remember my Dad saying that my Grandpa had the patience of a saint, and my Dad had half of what he had, and I got half of what my Dad had! (laughs) I just weld it together, grind it off, and call it good, you know? “Come on, it’s a plow for a tractor, what’s the difference if it’s off 3 degrees?”




Your kids are 17 and 15, what do you say to kids this age? You know better than I do: what are they looking at?



You’ve just got to take the time. It’s just like I’ve told you from the beginning: I really enjoyed that farming and logging. Whatever you decide to do in the beginning, make sure you’re happy with it. Don’t just listen to Mom and Dad. Oh, man, you can make $300,000 a year as a lawyer, and you’ll dread every day you’re doing it.


All this workforce stuff that’s out there, all this equipment stuff, a lot of people aren’t interested in it. But somebody’s got to run all that stuff. They need the workforce for it, so it’s going to be a lucrative thing, as I see it.


So like my son, I’m trying to push him to do that. He has about as much interest in school as I did: he’s fumbling his way through ‘cause it’s boring, and the kids in the back still don’t get it! If I can start him out when he’s 18 making $50 an hour with a machine. And he’s good at it; he’s not banging it off your house, or hitting the car and the house… but he didn’t mean it! (laughs)


These little machines, he’s on them constantly, and that’s good. You don’t see many 15-year olds that can do that. I’d trust him working right next to me. He’s doesn’t have the foresight like I have, but I think that comes with experience. Taking the dirt and swinging it to the right instead of the left because you’re going to have to move to the left, and if the dirt’s on the left then you’ll have to move it again. But if you swing it to the right to start with, then it’s out of your way for step two!


I’m showing him all that, and he’s really interested. He likes the mechanic end of things, and hopefully he’ll take it and run with it.


No matter what job, even some of the nastiest, crappiest days, you know, always try to grab the most out of it. On days when every bucket of dirt is sloppy mud, it’s like, “Ah, shit.” It’s not going to go back together the way that you’re taking it apart. “Well, how can we do it the best? What if we stack these rocks here, and put the mud behind it, and everything stabilizes when it dries out.” You come back in two hours and it looks like you were never there, you know? All the jobs are different, even after all the years it’s still a challenge.


Take the time and think about what you really want to be, and when you decide what you want to be, pursue it with all you’ve got. Be the best that you can be. Of course if you’re a kid, then there’s all kinds of room for change.


Just always stay focused, Lincoln, always. That would be my advice, whatever you decide to do, stay focused. There are opportunities out there. Anything you want to do.