“A Good Life”
E&G LOGGING INC
by Mike Crouse
Living in and surrounded by the forests in Northern California has been a perfect match for Neal Gould and his family the past several decades, and dating back to at least the early 70s when his father, Delbert began cutting timber as a profession.
“ Dad started falling timber for a few years,” he explained, “then went to the county for a while but was starving at that, so returned to falling timber, and it was from the timber falling he got together with Eades (a cousin of some sorts), but they’d known each other forever.”
“Lenny Eades and Delbert (Neal’s father) Delbert partnered up in 1976, and started falling timber together,” Gould explained. “After a few years they bought some equipment: a small John Deere skidder, and an old track loader, and they started logging,” as well. “At that point they incorporated and became E&G Logging, Inc. around 1978.”
The second of Gould’s offspring, Neal joined sister Stacie (three years older), in Mill City’s (CA) hospital in April of 1970, although they made their home in nearby Lookout. As many kids raised in a forest setting, Neal’s source of recreation, and some income came from learning logging alongside his father during the occasional weekend, breaks and summers. “I’d started logging when I was about 13 years old,” Gould explained adding that, “... me and Lenny’s son Scott would bump knots. Back then it was a kick. And when we were off for summer break we’d probably be out camping (at the logging site) and logging, so we’d work and play all summer long. It was a kick!”
As they grew, and learned, they were encouraged to do more. “We started skidding pretty young too,” he smiled then explained that, “...Dad and Lenny would kind of do the falling, we’d skid and bump up the logs.”
Joining the crew
Following high school graduation, Gould went to work full time for E&G Logging, and not too surprisingly found out he liked it a lot though he explained, “...there were times (he wanted to try other options). I took off a few winters to do other things but realized it’s what I wanted and I came back full time.” He had considered college, but he explained, “I looked at college as partying a lot, and dad said if I wanted to do that I could pay for it myself,” which dampened his enthusiasm, then he smiled adding, “I figured working in logging may be a better option.”
At that that point E&G was all conventional logging. “Primarily we were a one-side company, depending on the year. Some years we had enough equipment that we could operate two sides, but in reality, most the time, we were either a one big conventional logging side or two smaller sides.” At that point they had three or four skidders, loaders, chasers, and their own cutting crew so they’d have “...as many as 15 guys. I was mainly falling timber then,” Gould explained.
In 1995, E&G made the leap into mechanization with the purchase of a 1995 445 Timbco hydro-buncher with a Quadco 22-inch hot saw, which Neal Gould operated. “The break-in was interesting,” he smiled, explaining coordinating cutting being in the right position and releasing when intended, took a few days to master. “I couldn’t catch a tree,’ he laughed but managed to adjust in very short order. After the initial break-in all went very well with that machine, which they ran nearly a dozen years. “That machine lasted longer than any of them.” They upgraded feller bunchers as needed, using the same Quadco hot saw in addition to using a bar saw as well mostly during the summer months.
They also added a stroke delimber about the same time, and with the added equipment they were running two sides full-time, (Delbert) Gould running the mechanical side, and his partner, Eades operating the conventional side.
In 2001, the partnership ended with the retirement of Lenny Eades. “At the point they separated,” Gould explained, “dad bought out everything he needed to run a single mechanical side and Lenny sold the remainder,” and they retained the E&G Logging, Inc. name. “We kept the mechanical side going and a few of the guys from Lenny’s crew as well.” The crew has averaged from seven to 10 people since that point in time.
Changing the guard
With 2006 on the horizon, the Gould’s put into effect an ownership transition plan that, “...was thought out so we both could win and do well,” Gould explained. They’d learned a lot about planning from when Eades retired and was bought out. “Lots of talking with financial people and tax people and trying to figure it out,” but time well spent. “The contract was over about eight years. “This year is my last payment,” he explained.
Updating machinery is an ongoing venture, and the first piece Gould purchased was a John Deere 2054 loader in 2006, “...to sort, load, and deck,” replacing an older machine.
E&G had used stroke delimbers for several years, then in 2006, purchased their first dangle head processor at auction: “...a John Deere 2054 carrier with a Waratah 622 processor.” That was first used on a salvage logging job shortly after purchased, “and we discovered they ran far more efficiently than we thought they would,” once it was being used regularly, to the point where, “... we were running it all the time.” They kept the stroker as well, but “...preferred running the Waratah.”
At that point, they used the stroke delimber, “...when we’re in big, heavy limbed pine, 28-32 inch, big limby stuff,” Gould explained adding, “...it kept the hand bucking down, we could use the stroker on the bigger pieces, (because) the Waratah was the 622, (and could handle up to a 22” maximum). I was the one that had to deal with the bigger trees by hand, so I had a vested interested in finding a better way to handle that wood.”
Next up: replacing their older skidders in ‘08. “They were due (for upgrades) and were costing a lot in upkeep, and it was getting harder to get parts,” Gould explained. “So in ‘08 we upgraded to the John Deere 648H grapple skidder... more skidding power for all the newer equipment we had,” and they had an enclosed cab “...a big improvement for the operator!”
“There was less wrenching and a lot more logging,” he explained. “
The 648H performed so well they bought a second, almost identical JD 648H in 2010. “When we bought the first new skidder,” Gould explained, they were a bit skeptical of their cost/benefit ratio, Gould said, “... but in seeing how much improvement it had in our production it made a lot more sense.”
They’ve worked with the Pape’ Redding dealership for decades. “They’re good about keeping my stuff going.”
Gould replaced their feller buncher in 2011 with a Komatsu/Valmet 430 feller buncher, attaching their older Quadco 22 hot saw as the primary felling head.
Both of their processors, the stroke delimber and the Waratah 622 were due for replacement by 2012, and Gould explained his 622 operator, “... felt we should stay with the dangle heads vs. the stroker,” and they were debating on which to replace. “So do we want to update to new stroker or a new processor,” he recalled, ... and he convinced me if we update that it should be to a dangle head not the stroker. So we traded the stroker, the older 622 processor, and the feller/buncher, and bought the new Waratah 623C dangle head processor,” with a John Deere 2454 carrier. “It’s bigger (than the 622), it could handle a larger array of wood... it handles 80% of the wood we have, so generally a small percentage (is oversized) and we’d have to handle that by hand anyhow.”
E&G added their newest shovel a few months ago, a John Deere 2514 with a Pierce grapple. “It’s small enough you can put that on a low bed without a pilot car to move it,” explained Gould, “with a high and wide undercarriage, so it’s not too over width to move down the highway!!” They just put it to work on the present job they were on. “It’s basically the 2054 updated, more width of the undercarriage and a few improvements. It’s working out well. And at the end of the day it’s easier to move for sure!”
E&G has a seven-man crew including Gould, “...and water truck driver who is laid off right now.” He explained that California state law demands dust abatement. “Once we start logging in the spring we’re running the water truck. If you don’t water the roads, they’ll deteriorate.”
“I feel really fortunate with the crew right now,” Gould said with a smile. “Good people, good guys who’ve stuck around all this time. We’re blessed to have such a good group of guys, all good hands.”
Gould added finding new crew remains a challenge. “When you really notice it is when you start trying to pick up new guys and fit them into the mix.” He then smiled adding, “....you discover the guys are even better than what we’d thought.”
In addition to pay, E&G offers a medical plan (which they’ve had a number of years), and a 401(k) plan they match “...up to four (4%) percent a year.”
They operate the majority of the year said Gould. “We push hard to put in a 10-month season. Some years we get all that and some, and in others we only get nine months. Generally that’s a weather thing or a mill thing.”
They’ve had trucks before but just for low boying their own equipment in the past, Gould said, the exception being their water truck. Their log trucking is through various contractors. “Burney Transportation, Donnie Allison and his brothers, has done that (their low boy hauling) for a long time.”
A good future
The balance of a strong, versatile, largely cross-trained crew, and up to date equipment keeps the E&G Logging team humming nicely. “We’re very balanced presently,” Gould explained, who takes justifiable pride in running a good company, “...and having maintaining a decent life.”
Neal and his wife Jenna were married in 2003. “She’s the bookkeeper/secretary/everything, including all the nuts and bolts (of the operation),” Gould explained with a smile, adding that she’d “... taken that over from mom about ‘07, after mom worked with her in ‘06 to prepare (for the change-over).”
Neal has a 14 year old son, Dillon, by his first wife. They live in the same community, “...and he’s doing great.” His stepson, Bencody works for the company.
Besides logging, “...we have a ski boat and we love to go out on Lake Britton (just past Burney Falls) when we can. We play with the family.”
This past year Gould said, “...we bought a new home so we spend a lot of time around our place, working on the house.” They also like to get away on a vacation annually as well, “when we can.”
They have five or six company vehicles in addition to all the iron.
At present Gould said, “...it’s going well. The past five years have been questionable. This past year we’re healing up. If we can stay like this I think we can stay alive,” he said with a smile.
He explained they work mostly “...for Sierra Pacific on their fee land out of Redding, it’s about 99% of our work.”
“The possibility of getting rich here is not very good,” he explained with a smile then added, “... but having a good life is all I care about.” In addition to quality logging, and a top notch crew, its apparent he’s achieving that goal.