Persistant Quality R&T Logging of Oregon • Philomath, Oregon
The Cook family migrated to Oregon from Ohio sometime during the late 20s. “Dad (Lawrence) was born in Ohio,” Tom Cook explained. “I have no idea what dad did before coming to Oregon. His father left when dad was seven or eight years old, and during the Great Depression. Dad and a sister were taken in by a family named Flemming,” noting that times were very tough, families knew each other, “they were all raised, knew each other... nobody got adopted.” Flemming worked in the woods and the sawmills, he explained. “The guy who raised him had worked in the woods and done a bit of everything, and they’d cut firewood,” Cook explained, which served as his introduction into the woods.
Following high school graduation in the late 30s, Cook worked for a while at a Mill down in Siletz, and around 19 he started working with Small and Daniels Logging (out of Blodget) driving log truck before heading off to the Navy and World War II.
Cook returned to Oregon after the service and worked with his mother’s father (Marvin Clark) logging and milling those logs on Clark’s small wood mill. “They’d log to the mill, then mill the wood,” he explained, with the day’s work being dictated by the prevailing weather, until the markets tanked, “...and they got out of the mill.”
Cook continued logging for others including, “...Triple T (Thompson Timber Co.), cutting timber for Rex Clemens, and later worked for Small and Daniels who loaded for Thompson Timber another two to three years.” He then spent another few years working “... for the Underhills,” as well.
By the mid-50s he broke out on his own logging with George Miller for a number of years, later buying Miller out and forming L.B. Cook Logging Company, which some years later as his sons were old enough became L.B. Cook and Son Logging in ‘65 then L.B. Cook & Sons Logging Company when they incorporated in ‘71.
The next generation
Of the five offspring (three boys and two girls) Tom, born in 1950, was the youngest of the brood, next to his brother Dale, “... he’s a year, a month and a day older than me,” he laughed recalling “we were always the little boys.”
They went entirely through school in Eddyville, with Tom graduating in 1968. While he’d worked in the woods with his dad and brothers while growing up, typical of many at that age, “I had no idea,” what he wanted to do. “I enjoyed the work but was looking to do something else. I didn’t think I wanted to be a logger.”
He loved racing motorcycles at the time and had designs on a motorcycle tour of Europe with his sister and her husband, but that point in time and his being 19 the draft Lottery was going on, “and my number was pretty low.” With the strong possibility being drafted looming on the horizon, Cook went down to see the local Army Recruiter, “...who convinced me to join.”
“I went to asphalt paving, operations and maintenance school, part of the Army Engineers Group,” Cooke explained, “and then didn’t do any of that but that’s what I was trained for,” he said with a smile. “I served a tour in Vietnam,” and got out during the downsizing in February of ‘73, returning to Eddyville enrolling in Linn-Benton Community College, “just for something to do.”
When the weather began improving in March, “I decided I should be outdoors,” and he went to work in the woods for his father’s company, L.B. Cook Logging in 1975, earning his spurs and learning the business over the next several years.
Forming R&J Logging
In April of ‘82, Cook left what had become DTL Logging, and with a friend of his from high school, Ron McNeely formed R&T Logging with as he described it, “...not a lot of money.” Cook got a skidder from his dad at DTL, “... and Ron brought a pickup, so with a skidder, a couple chainsaws, and a pickup we were in business logging.”
DTL had two sides operating at that time and Cook had worked on DTL’s Thompson Timber Co. side, and when they started R&T “...kinda took over that side.”
By November, “it was too wet for us to ground skid so we both went to work for another company, and when April came we went back (and the site dried out) we went back to skidding for Thompson. The following winter we were the rigging crew for DTL,” he explained.
Their third year of operations they contracted for North Side Lumber Co. and were out on their own. “It was lean but we made some money,” Cook explained. They then picked up another job with a farmer, “...cutting his million ft. side... a good sized project for us and it paid. We fell it, bucked and yarded it.”
They ran a two-man show a few more years before hiring a third man, “...just looking for more production, which worked out,” Cook said.
Around ‘90 they added a small truck mounted three-guyline Skagit BU20, which enabled them to log year round (even though they’d managed that ground skidding before).
While working for WTD a portion of the yarder ground they were logging was more than the BU20 was really up to, “...so we rented a tower from his brothers at DTL that was just sitting, a BU30 that had a Detroit diesel 471 for power and six guylines. We could log further, pulling bigger turns, and getting more wood with less effort!”
By ‘92 Thompson Timber told them they needed a bigger yarder, which led to their buying a West Coast Falcon Yarder (which is similar to a Madill 071), and a good move for them. Also that year Raymond Borton, a long time crew member, first joined the company.
In ‘94, McNeely sold his interest to Cook who became sole owner, who then decided to sell the yarder, logging with a skidder and a crawler and worked by himself for a span of time, then shifted focus to thinning, hiring a small crew and continuing in that fashion until 2002, working both for Thompson and a number of private landowners. Cook would admit he was slow to modernize the operations, and didn’t own their own loader until 2000, in part due to his brother Dale’s owning a truck mounted Barko 275, which he used to load the R&T logs himself. In 2000 R&T purchased a used 907 Kobelco loader with 2,300 hours on it. “It was a good thing for us,” Cook explained, and we started doing some shovel logging then as well.”
The Madill 071
Two changes came into play in 2002 for R&T: First the purchase of a Madill 071 yarder and Cook’s son Matt joining the crew.
The larger workhorse Madill 071 was needed for the larger timber they had in front of them to log. “We bought it used out of Amboy (Washington),” Cook explained. “I figured it was the right machine for the job and I’d been around ‘071’s before,” working for DTL, in addition to tower logging before.
Matt’s joining the crew not only brought new blood into the operation, but also his interest in modernizing and mechanizing the operations. Cook’s wife and business partner Rose chimed in, “Matt modernized us, a darned good thing!” She added, “The most he brought to the company was going to more modern methods, and pushing to do that,” a position father Tom agrees with.
Matt Cook was raised around his parent’s business and had worked in the summers logging from when he was a high school freshman.
When they bought their first delimber, a used Danzco, Matt built the trailer they used to move it with while still in high school.
They continued updating machinery and finally in 2006, at Matt’s insistence because he could see additional work they could get by having a high production processor, they purchased an ‘03 Link-Belt 210 with a new LogMax 7000 dangle head processor. “The agreement,” Cook explained, “was if we bought one, Matt would run it,” which he has. “It made a very big difference: from 8-10 loads to 18-19 loads a day with the processor.” Tom then smiled and added, “...what I noticed more than anything was we needed to find more jobs.” Persistence in pursuit does pay off.
Persistence in changing times
As the overall lumber market slowed around ‘07, Thompson Timber, who they’d worked with for many years went to bidding for each job. “We looked at what the bids were doing for us,” Cook explained, “and decided we were just wearing our equipment out at those prices,” a further incentive to change priorities and find other jobs. “We had a base of people we’d logged for over the years, steady clients, private land owners,” and expanded upon that base.
Then in 2011, they took their first job with Starker Forests, Inc. “We’d been talking with them off and on since ‘08,” Cook explained, “and had been to their office several times and said we were available. They’d completed an inventory and looked to hire another logger, keep their small operations emphasis on higher quality. They are very conscious of a logger’s reputation and operations, and we fit their profile. We (the family) had known them and had worked for them in the ‘70s with DTL, and they gave us our first job in 2011. Six months later we got our second job there, and since that point they’ve kept us pretty busy.”
Today’s company remains committed to the quality logging they’ve built their reputation on, primarily a single tower logging side. Their equipment gives them good versatility for the forests they work in including the Madill 071 with an Acme 28 carriage; a 330 Kobelco yoder (since 2010) with an Acme 10 carriage; a Cat 324D with Waratah 622B dangle head processor (purchased in June 2013; A cat 325 loader used on their landing and for some shovel logging; a 14C Fiat Allis crawler; a John Deere 650G crawler with winch; and a John Deere 648E skidder with swing grapple.
They have a versatile crew of five, “Matt, Raymond (Borton) and Craig (Borton),” Cook noted, “can do almost anything.” They work a five day week, “...for the most part, whatever it takes at times.” J&T covers health insurance for employee and spouse, and pay a bonus, “...on profitable years.”
They contract their timber cutting with Turner Contract Cutting (Jeff Turner out of Blodget), and Smallwood Logging (David Smallwood out of Tidwater) when they need a buncher.
They utilize three contract truckers primarily including Watkins, Richard Reynolds, Dale Cook and “... Henrie does all our mule train work.”
Cook and his wife Rose were married in 1976 and have three grown offspring: Kendall (35) who lives in Lake Oswego, Nicole (34) a busy housewife in Albany, and youngest son Matt who’s logged full time for the company since 2004, after completing his associates degree.
Certainly the future of the company leans on the youngest son’s intense interest in the progressive logging he’s helped bring the company forward to. He and father Tom have a close working relationship and respect for one another.
Tom laughed noting he enjoyed the business and working with Matt into the future, “...as long as I’m not in his way, I’ll work!”
Matt recognizes the greatest obstacle looking into the future is common to every logger, “...finding employees we can work with,” as time moves on. But for now, the future looks very bright indeed.