Steady Hand: DTL Logging

Article by Mike Crouse

There’s a strong historic bond to the land and logging in the Cook family, as Larry Cook, owner of DTL Logging Company explained “The ground we were logging on today had belonged to my great uncle (so probably belonged to my great grandfather at one time).

And the adjacent land had been owned by family... my brother Dale and I own it now,” he noted with a smile. The Cooks have logged this ground before.

“My dad (Lawrence) was born in Ohio,” he 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. The families knew each other, “they were all raised, knew each other... nobody got adopted,” but the lived there.

“My mother was born in Corvallis (OR). She and dad grew up knowing each other.” They were married and shortly after his dad joined the Navy during World War II, “...and I was born while he was overseas in 1945. Spent almost his entire time on a destroyer (USS Flint he thinks), and didn’t see me ‘til I was nine months old.”

“The guy who raised him had worked in the woods and done a bit of everything, and they’d cut firewood,” Cook explained, adding with a smile, “so dad knew how to hold one end of a misery whip. When they came to a snag that was ready to go, and if the snag split good, they’d use that for firewood. Dad made money doing that through high school. After graduation, Lawrence Cook had worked in a mill down in Siletz for a while before heading off to war, “... and that’s all the experience he’d had.”

Cook returned to Oregon after the service, “... and went to work for Tripple 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, who owned the property we were adjacent to on the logging job.”

Partnership

By the mid-50s Cook was a journeyman logger who struck out on his own, establishing a partnership with a cousin’s husband, George Miller (who’d retired from the Army and was 20 years Cook’s senior). “They bought a tandem-axle logging truck, and rented a crawler from Bud Underhill and went to logging,” Cook explained.

Their first year went well enough, they purchased a brand new Cletrac crawler, “...it had a drum and a blade,” said Cook. “Dad did the yarding, they hired a guy to cut, and his partner, Miller, drove the truck.

The partnership ended around ‘57 or ‘59 when “...a peaker came off the truck (there were no safety straps on the load at that time),” Cook explained, “broke Miller’s leg and finished his logging career,” and the partnership. “Dad bought the log truck from his partner, and an International TD9, and continued the logging company as L.B. Cook Logging Company.

The next generation

Lawrence’s oldest son, Larry Cook, graduated from high school in 1963, enrolling at Oregon State the following fall. “Came home from Christmas break and dad had a call from Bruce Starker and he wanted us to do some logging,” on the Starker forests, said Cook.

The Starker forest lands were established by TJ Starker, who Cook explained, “... graduated from the very first foresty class out of Oregon State completed his advanced degree at Michigan, then taught at OSU (OAC at the time) for 23 years, all the time buying forest land as he went. During those challenging years in history, “people who could buy land did... Starker’s bought a little land like that as well.” Today’s holdings include some 90,000 acres of forest land in Benton, Lane, Lincoln, Linn and Polk Counties, and have earned a reputation they proudly display on their web site: “We grow forests, not just trees.”

“Dad and Bruce (Starker, son of TJ) were about the same age, 43 or so at the time. So after the first of the year in 1964, dad started logging for Starker Forests,” Cook said. It’s a relationship that’s endured to this day.

“I was in school at the time,” Cook explained, “and worked during breaks and during the summers. When I decided I’d get married, he told me he’d take me in as a partner, but that when my brothers graduated, they’d be partners too.” Fair enough!

What’s in a name

Recognizing the change, the company’s name became L.B. Cook and Son Logging Company in 1965. “When the brothers graduated it again was changed to L.B. Cook & Sons Logging Company.” When all the brothers became part of the company in 1971, they incorporated, changing the name again to DTL Logging Company, Inc., “...for Dale, Tom, and Larry,” Cook explained then added, “we just put one “L” down, although it was Larry (the son) and Lawrence (dad). It was a name that’d fit for the legal purposes,” he laughed.

They remained a ground skidding operation a number of years, running a single side most of that time, both adding and upgrading equipment over time.

Second side

When the opportunity presented to start a second side working for Thompson Timber Company in 1972, Cook explained “...we split the manpower we had so Dale and I logged for Starker, while Dad and Tom logged for Thompson Timber. We had several John Deere 540A skidders, later adding a 540D and a pair of 640 skidders (one for each side), and we hired other crew to work for us over time as well, all line skidding.”

“In 1978 we bought a new Kenworth log truck,” Cook explained, “... and brother Dale drove that.” About that same time they sold their log truck with the self-loader, “... and with proceeds from that we bought a small United rubber mounted shovel (from Ross Murray),” which was easier to move with greater versatility, later selling that for a larger shovel on tracks.

Tom Cook split off from the brothers, partnering with Ron McNeely in 1980 to form R & T Logging, with Tom’s youngest son joining that partnership as well. At that point Lawrence rejoined DTL’s Starker side.

In 1982, the day after Valentines Day, “... dad passed away,” unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 61. “It was a big surprise to us, “Cook recalled, “but we were a corporation, and we had insurance that paid off. Dad had some good advice, and bought the insurance. It allowed the company to go on as a corporation,” and they had a plan, “... it was written down that if someone passes away, the (surviving) spouse is paid off, and the rest of the company goes on.

Their father had prepared well for such an inevitability, and similarly had passed on “...a lot of wisdom,” Cook said with a smile, recalling one such conversation: “”Now son, this is the way it goes: we work, we get paid, we pay the men, we pay our bills, and if there’s money left over we get paid, but you have to pay all our bills, that includes the government. It was a good bit of wisdom,” one, which they’ve always held to.
“We bought mom out, and Dale and I went on.”

Yarder logging

Roughly a year prior they’d purchased a West Coast yarder with a 50-ft. A-Frame tube, cook explained. “We could put that tube in the air and walk about anywhere. It was powered with a 671 Detroit. The line speed was fast, because we had a 3-spd transmission.”

“Dad had worked with yarders before. Plus he knew a lot of people (with yarders) and had watched their operations, so we learned as well (by doing), trying not to repeat mistakes of the past a second time.”

In the early 80s, they started a second ground based side with a shovel, crawler and skidder, eventually buying another small yarder, which “...came when business was slow and we needed some other business on the outside,” Cook explained. “I’d run strictly the Starker sides, Dale ran the smaller yarder. It was a home made thing but a serious yarder with six guy lines, truck mounted, with a Detroit in it, and 3-spd transmission with a 1-inch or 7/8ths mainline. It wouldn’t yard as big a turn as an 071, but it would pull a decent sized turn. Dale liked to stay within 1,100-1,200 ft. to tail hold. He’d pick up blow down, thinnings and right of way.”

The slow down of the 80s had DTL looking for additional work outside. “The majority of what we’ve always done was private,” Cook emphasized, “not state or federal sales.” Still Dale’s side in particular was having less and less to do, which ultimately brought the company back to a single side.

“Before Dale stopped his logging side, we’d sold the company log truck and got out of the trucking side entirely. Just before Mt. St. Helens blew in 1980, Dale had purchased his own logging truck, forming D&S Trucking. “His wife (Sue) drove the truck until the truck was paid off,” Cook explained. “It gave us an extra truck as well. Ultimately Dale went to driving that truck himself and after a few years left logging, for the trucking. He hauls for DTL sometimes and for others as well. He does a little bit of everything.”

Mechanization

As occurred for many loggers, the change in timber size persuaded DTL to automate, thus in 1997 they purchased a John Deere 653 carrier and paired it with a Rotne dangle head processor. “It would do a 24-inch log,” Cook explained. Starker had changed from broadcast burning and this was part of the answer. “We went from logging big stuff to logging 45 year old and up, tree length, drag the tree in,” which worked pretty well “but just labored that unit a lot.” Even with the work load, they put 12,000 hours on the first Rotne, replacing that first processor in 2005 with a JD230 processor with another Rotne, which also produced for 12,000 hours. “The JD230 had more H.P. and larger oil capacity, so it would do a little bigger without working so hard,” Cook said.

In the past year they were again working on larger trees, “Starker would have us on larger trees, some of which were very big... the little processors wouldn’t do that, so we bought a 300 Kobelco with a Log Max 12000. And now... we don’t run into too many we can’t pull up to and whack a log off of. Different people told us they’d had good luck with LogMax,” which has proven to be their experience as well. “It will grab a hold of one that’s 36 inches on the butt.”

“It’s worked out very well,” Cook emphasized. “We haven’t had much trouble with it, just little things. The operator is a lot of the deal on that. He does a good job, and is able to fix most of the minor things. My son and I feel we’re fortunate to have this operator.”

Changing towers

They’ve upgraded towers over the years both to update and take advantage of the newer towers capabilities. The original West Coast was replaced in ‘83 with a used Madil 071, which was capable of holding some of the larger turns with some of the old growth stands they were in at the time. “It performed,” Cook said smiling, and did so up until this year.

“In 1995 we sent the 071 to Kalama to have it gone through from a new motor down to the frame, everything. It cost a lot but it was in top shape,” Cook said. In this past year, “...it was time for that again. They gave us a price, but couldn’t come up with any (tank) tracks, and we looked to go another route expecting it to cost a lot more (to rebuild the 071), so we sold it,” looking to replace it the following winter when they again needed a tower.

This past fall they purchased a Thunderbird TY50 from Mike Crowley Equipment, and took delivery in early November. It’s self-propelled, “...so we don’t have to have a lowboy to haul it,” Cook explained, and “...it has a LOT more line speed.”

”It’s a 1985 manufactured, four guy line machine, and he noted compared to the older Madill, “...a lot of the components are outside the frame, so easier to get a hold of and work on. We’ve been pleased.”

They pair the tower with an Acme 28 motorized carriage. “We’ve had it about six years,” Cook explained. “This is the second Acme carriage we’ve had; the first was an Acme 22. They are tough.” Service is important on any machinery, and Cook noted, “...it doesn’t take long for them to service us... they hop right on it.”

When they need lowboying, “...we’ve used a number of them,” of late they’ve used Randy Haley out of Lebanon, but also, “...Casey Hull, Weist... whoever and whatever you can get.”

Jay Mulberry Contract Cutting, LLC. Out of Eddyville, does all of their cutting, both mechanical and hand falling. For trucking they use contract haulers Mike Brown, and Danny Allen.

In addition to the logging, they also hold timberlands. “Right after we’d incorporated ‘til 80-81, up ‘til that time we’d purchased different parcels of property,” Cook said. “Each of us (the three bros) has one of those parcels.”

The future

DTL Logging Co., Inc. has a solid crew with a good group of veterans in all the key positions. Cook’s son Larry, suffered a setback some years ago in an accident that kept him from the business a couple of years, and put him in the shovel full time. “The machines does most of the work,” Cook explained, “... his head and brain work fine, and he comes to work everyday... its what he wants to do.” They’re staged to carry on the family tradition for many years to come.