"I Don't Micromanage Them"

Southside Enterprises, Inc.
Trout Lake, Washington

Love of the land and the promise of a better opportunity are what brought the Schmid family from Switzerland directly to Trout Lake, Washington before the end of the 1800s. “There’d been white settlers in Trout Lake for a dozen years before my family got there. They immigrated probably around 1895,” Bruce Schmid explained. His grandfather (one of 14 children) was born on the Trout Lake homestead in 1899, and raised on the family’s original 160-acre homestead they made into a dairy farm.

Schmid’s grandfather joined the family business as well, raising a family of five, including Schmid’s father Leonard born in 1926, who in time also became a dairy farmer, a business much of the family continues in to this day. It was the growth of that business that inadvertently brought the next generation into logging. 

Born in 1951, Bruce Schmid was the middle of five offspring, and grew up working on the dairy farm as well from when he was small, as did his siblings. “The farm is where we learned our work ethic, Schmid explained. “Having a large family dad needed to expand the dairy herd to support the family.” In pursuit of that, “... he bought another neighbor’s herd,” which he financed from, “... logging some of the timber off the family farm. Those logs all went to another community member who had a saw mill, and sawed the boards that built the larger barn to support (and house) the cows.” Schmid, who was 13-14 at the time (‘64 or so), his brothers and father learned the fundamentals of falling and skidding timber on that project, which he discovered they enjoyed and could make some reasonable money doing..

More logging

Interestingly enough, it was another dairy farmer who gave Schmid and his brother the opportunity to continue logging. Jim Dodge, a neighboring farmer’s son, was in the midst of taking over his father’s dairy farm and “... he decided to go into the logging business,” as well, Schmid explained. Dodge had purchased the timber from a neighbor’s farm, “...knowing my brother and I knew how to skid logs and with that started skidding logs with the crawler after school. I might have been 16 or 17 then in the late 60s,” he explained.

“I’m a member of his fan club,” Schmid was quick to point out. “We’ve known him all our lives. His family was all dairy farmers too originally out of Trout Lake.” Richard Dodge Logging is the first of Dodge’s enterprises. “He has a bunch of other companies too, all started from scratch.”

A career path

By high school graduation in ‘69, Schmid had a host of skills and work habits garnered from his youth he used to make a living. “In ‘68 I’d worked for the DNR Fire crew three or four months,” then finished school and, “...worked at the (Broughton Lumber Co.) sawmill for nine months one winter until the snow was deep enough,” he laughed then explained that he left that job to, “...snowmobile that winter in ‘69.”

That spring he again returned to logging before landing a road construction job on the Mt. Hood forest. “They’d just finished building Hwy. 35 and were looking to punch through another,” he explained, and with the job became acquainted with the federal “prevailing wage” rule. “I was 19 at the time and knocking down over $1,000 bucks a week for building highway at federal ‘prevailing wage’ in addition I was logging too,” very good money for that span of time. “My mom was amazed,” and from the ensuing conversation his father noted, ‘...he can buy his own farm,’ so I did, buying 25-acres on the farm I still own today.”

Road construction slowed around ‘71. “My little brother was working on a logging job, and guy he was working for had a fleet of log trucks but no driver.” Sensing an opportunity, “...a week later I bought one of those trucks,” a red and white International 4300, “...and I became a log trucker.” His brother bought a blue and white Mack log truck from that fleet as well.

Part of business is maintenance. “In the course of buying parts we became acquainted with the DSU truck salesman, and I decided to buy a new 1973 Peterbilt,” Schmid explained. “They flew me to their San Jose Factory, toured the factory, went back to Portland took it to Peerless for log gear.” He converted the International to a dump truck and sold it.

His brother bought a new truck as well, “... and we ran them together until ‘77,” said Schmid. At that point the opportunity presented itself, “...to sell them for what we bought them for,” and sold them. His brother went to eastern Washington to farm, and Schmid returned to road construction.

Circumstances changed dramatically when their father died from a heart attack in 1982, and Schmid returned home to run the farm where this could all have ended except for one of life’s unpredictable turns presented itself in ‘87.

Back to the woods

“I need some help,” the conversation began with a fellow he’d known for some while who came into the farm’s driveway one day. “I asked what he wanted from me,” and he explained he’d secured a logging job, but he had no money and no machinery. “I told him I was busy farming, but if he’d come get me from two to three p.m. I’d ride out and look at his logging job,” which turned out to be something Schmid could handle. While he could secure some timber cutters what was needed was the right equipment.

“I went to Portland the next day to see what could be done,” Schmid recalled. “I had cash, experience, and a lot of friends who had both also, so went down Columbia Blvd. and was unsuccessful everywhere,” finding anyone who would sell and finance equipment to an unknown entity, “... and as I left the last door and ran into a guy who said, ‘You look disgusted.’” Of course by that point Schmid was. “And the guy asked him if I could do a favor.”

He explained, “I rent machinery and I’d rented a loader to a guy up in Trout Lake,” and the guy had vanished, “...and don’t know where the machine is.” Then the proposition: “If you find it, I’ll give you the first month rent free.” The man was Fred Fullerton, sales manager for Halton Caterpillar. “He handed me his card, and I went for it, and three hours later we found the Cat 229 log loader before it was dark.”
“I was in the logging business again,” Schmid explained with a smile. “I subcontracted with the original guy.”

While Schmid had logged he noted, “...we knew nothing about shovel logging,” which he remedied that, “... spending a few days watching how other loggers did it, the returned home and went to work,” applying what they’d learned from watching and, “learning as we went.” There was no doubt they had the right machine for the job in the Cat 229 shovel logger. “That machine was unbelievable, but so was the wood we were in,” Schmid said smiling. “It was beautiful wood, in a good setting, just unbelievable. We made good money (as well) but that’s why I was there.”

From that start, Schmid was enjoying and making good money at the business, and explained, “...wasn’t very long before logging took precedence over the farming,” and ran the business as Southside Enterprises. “We had one ground based side that entire time,” over the next several years Schmid explained, “and added some iron in between,” which included a Cat D6D, a Valmet F66 rubber tired skidder (... bought as a line machine but converted it to a grapple’92), which they replaced in ‘96 with a Cat 518 wheel skidder. “Later I traded the 518 for a year-old ‘97 Cat D5H with a swinging grapple,” Schmid said. “It had a joy stick to operate it and a foot- peddle to operate the swing grapple.” They traded that model off later for D5H with an enclosed cab that was almost new, “...a very versatile machine, which we still have it today.”

Yarder logging

Schmid continued as a ground based operation until 1994 when they made the next leap into tower logging. “In ‘94 we had a large job in Randle, and needed that yarder for it,” Schmid explained adding, “I’m not intimidated by them. I’d been around towers in the 70s.” He purchased a ‘72 or so Edco Wildcat (or Mustang, he wasn’t sure) with a 70-ft. tower mounted on an Autocar truck frame. “It’s a high lead machine, not a triple-drummer,” he noted, adding he still owns the tower. While last used in 2007, “...... and it would still work today with batteries and some tinkering.” Schmid hired an experienced operator, even though he could run it himself, but at that time he’d still work in the brush, and did so until 2004. “We’d both yarder and ground base log the same timber sale at the same time,” he explained, depending on the setting and the best efficiency with two methods.

They used the Edco a number of years, or would rent a different tower to fit any given job over the next several years.

Finally in 2009 Schmid found a ‘94 Thunderbird TMY40, that could handle their future jobs and, “...I got it at a very good price. It’s versatile, way more versatile than the Edco and I had work for it.” The TMY40 came with an Eaglet (carriage) as part of the deal, Schmid explained, “...and we sent it to Eagle had it reconditioned, tuned it up.” The Eagle was bullet proof til a few weeks ago when they dropped it to find the only rock in the landing’s vicinity (of course) and is waiting for radio equipment for repairs long enough Schmid said he had to remove his accounts hand, put on his logger hat, and found an Acme 24 carriage so they could continue logging. “It’s hydraulic drive and an excellent carriage, a good one.”

The tower side typically runs with a seven man crew, “...sometimes eight with a hand faller,” Schmid said.

The ground side has a crew of four, one for each of the machines including a Cat 517 grapple, their new Doosan DX225LL with Pierce designed boom and grapple shovel, a Cat 322B with Pierce 3345 Deliminator (owned by his son-in-law Cory Ransier), and their Valmet 445 feller buncher with Quadco 22 hot saw.

In addition, Schmid runs three to six hand fallers, “...depending on the size of the wood,” he explained. He has three hand fallers working full time at present.

Operations have fluctuated over the economic downturn of the past few years from tower and tractor sides to ground skidding only.
From early last year and continuing this season, they’ve been running both sides including subcontracting a second tower (with Eric Wisti, see May 2013 Loggers World). “He’s sub-contracted with me since March when he’s available,” Schmid explained.

“I use owner operators in the log trucks,” Schmid explained adding, “...individuals not a fleet. We use around five independents some have hauled for us over 20 years.”

“We do all of our own wrenching, at least the bulk of it,” Schmid noted. “When we need him we used a home town guy, Dave Meyer Heavy Equipment Repair. He owns a 2-ton shop truck he operates out of that mobile shop. He does anything we need and he can do a lot.”
Their typical work week for the ground crew is four 9-hour shifts with an 8-hour Friday, for 44-hours a week, except for the loader operator, who’s schedule depends on demands at the time.

The crew is a good blend of veterans and younger. “A couple have been with me over 20 years,” Schmid explained. “They come and go as needed (If you need us fine, if not that’s fine). The average employee we have is around seven years with the company. I have a good crew on the yarder. These guys will work at other places but will come back; they’d rather work for me. I don’t micromanage them. They fill out the time card, goes to the bookkeeper who monitors, and they’re paid. I see none of it, only checking out if something needs checking.”

Negotiating

“I am not the cheap or expensive guy,” Schmid explained on negotiating pricing. “I work the middle.” Were he just a ground based logger, “...I’d be ready to retire,” but with the towers in the equipment mix, “they’re a bargaining tool, also a money maker if you’re good at your end of the negotiating. You try to stay at tower based price. (not at tractor price and hope to negotiate your tower price up). You start at the tower price and try to resist negotiating down,” he’s learned. “I can lay the numbers out and prove I need what I want,” Schmid emphasized. “I do my homework before I go in there,” then noted even with all of that, “... we all fall on our face at times.”

In the past decade plus has been frustrating as well. “The USFS work, where the rules are always changing between the job start and when it’s finished, are really tough, because of the political constraints ((i.e. can only go to work on certain days, certain times, small windows to complete the job, etc.).” Yet in spite of that they’ve managed. While its challenging for contracts, its even more of a concern for the mills depending on predictable volume. “The mills have to go a long distance for other sales (due to Forest Service constraints) so they end up traveling further to have committed volume to run this mill. It’s a vicious circle.”

The future

Up until 25 years ago it was all business for Schmid until he married his bride Wendy Campbell, whose parents he’d long known through business a number of years. Her mother, Faye was county clerk who he knew from the logging business. “I went to the court house, would take care of tickets, and been logging all that time. After a lengthy friendship, then courtship, “I told Wendy ‘if you’re half the gal your mother is I think I’m going to marry you,’ and I did!” They have two grown offspring.

Schmid still enjoys the day to day operations and operating equipment as needed, but looks to “back off by the time I’m 65,” and “drift to the back end of it, but I don’t mind it today,” he said smiling. “The bookkeeper wants to retire at the end of the year, so I need to spend more time on the book work.”

Recreation consists of farming on the side. “We run 15-20 cows and my wife has 10 horses,” though they did sell all of the pigs they’d raised a number of years, “...so now its just cows and horses.”

In the past year they’ve found another diversion. “The one reality show we watch is Gold Fever,” Schmid explained. “A year ago my wife bought me this whole kit for recreational gold panning, and a GPA (Gold Prospectors Association) membership, and we started going to some of the gold shows. Then we went on one of their outings, 160 or so of us showed up. We never met a stranger. You do this common dig, they show you what to do, and you come home with the gold you dug out of the ground, a whole week of it!” He then added, “...we’re going to return a couple times a year, joined the Washington group, and go out with them. We may only get four to five outings a year but that’s what we’re going to work on. We have a truck and a 5th wheel RV, take our stuff and have a grand time.” 

“When I started out I didn’t have any hired men,” Schmid recalled then smiled adding, “... now I couldn’t do it without my crew, and in a small community, the crew is part of the family. You feel the joy, the pain, weddings, births, all of it.

“I don’t have to work for a living,” Schmid noted. “I can go park it. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again. He then added, “... the natural instinct is to work rather than sit,” which he continues doing, but in noting the experiences of the past several years he added, “But we won’t work and lose money.” 

by Mike Crouse