Whatever Comes Long

Dave “Squeezer” Nelson, 64, took his first ride in a logging truck when he was just four years old, sitting in the passenger seat of an Autocar alongside his dad Don Nelson. Grandpa owned a sawmill in Beaver, Oregon, and so Squeezer was around the timber industry all the time growing up.

“I was either hauling lumber with my grandfather or logs with my dad,” he says. “When I got out of high school, I set about setting chokers and learning the hard way that it wasn’t any fun being out in the rain. I had found me a truck driving job, and so I went to work hauling logs for Mel Remington over on the coast; I also drove for Jerry Larrabee, out of Forest Grove, and Harry Welder, out of Stayton. I ended up in Newport and hauled logs for Braxling.”

Nelson started out “just haulin’ logs” with a 1974 Western Star in the late 1970s-early 1980s, living in Cloverdale, over on the Oregon Coast. When the work started dwindling, he moved east to the John Day - Baker area and hauled for a local logger there until again, the logging dried up, at which time he switched to hauling rock with a belly dump. The mid-1980s, saw logging pick back up, and so Nelson changed gears again, adding a second truck, hauling logs until up into the mid-90s. For a number of years, Nelson’s trucks worked for B&S Stafford, a company from Prineville that was logging around Prairie City.

“Guys kept telling me that I could do better,” Squeezer says of why he initially became an owner-operator. “I don’t know if I did any better, but I sure as heck got a yard full of headaches now!”
“If you didn’t like it, you’d find out real quickly,” he adds. “You’ve got to have the will to do it, and if you don’t, there’s no sense in being in it.”

If you’re curious what the name BAR stands for, it’s really quite simple. Nelson bought the company back in 1978 when you still needed rock and log authority to haul around the state. BAR stood for then owner, Beverly Ann Rupert.

Today, Squeezer is joined in business by his sons Tim and Dave.

Tim, 34, returned to the family business full-time after working in the admissions office at Eastern Oregon University. “I was sitting in an office surrounded by four walls, and I wasn’t enjoying it after a while,” he says. “The real reason that I left a good paying, state government, college educated job to essentially drive a log truck was the opportunity to do it with my dad.
“This has been in my blood since way back when I was still in diapers. This is a lifestyle choice, and you’ve got to be dedicated to the trucks and the equipment - sometimes that meant sacrifices on your personal time, and sure there have been times when I’ve gotten a little mad when I wanted to hang out with my friends or go chase a gal, but we still come back to the job on Monday knowing that we’re going to do whatever we’ve got to do to make this happen.”

Dave “Walking Eagle” Nelson, 41, got into belly dumping originally for JC Compton, and has been driving since then, hauling rock and equipment for Tidewater Contractors, driving chip truck for Iron Triangle, eventually joining his dad and brother. You’ll have to ask Dave to explain the origins of his nickname.
“There’s nothing we don’t own that I can’t run,” Dave says. He’s the man at the wheel of the mule train, hauling short logs for Watterson Logging.

“I’m just trying to carry on dad’s legacy in the log trucking,” he says. “There’s not too many places in the state where when you throw dad’s name out there, somebody doesn’t know him. There’s a lot of the old guys who’ll ask, ‘Does squeezer still own that outfit? Well, tell him Hi for me!’”

“Dad is a very knowledgeable man and there’s not much on these older trucks that he can’t fix. He’s given me a lot of advice and passed on a lot of shortcuts and tricks about how to simplify things. He’s taught us about trucking, that you drive it like you own it; you depend on your truck to go to work the next day, and if you break it, you’re not going to be working.”

“Back when dad was hauling logs, you never saw a mule train. We’ve adapted to the needs of the customers. It’s challenging at times to be able to read the industry and anticipate what changes are coming. We’ve accumulated over the years, and we’ve got a trailer for pretty much anything that you can haul.”

These days, BAR Trucking hauls just about anything - logs, sawdust, rocks and equipment, and also grinding hog fuel in the woods. Their equipment list consists of a Peterson Pacific 4710 Horizontal Grinder, 690 excavators with heal rack and grapples, Cat 973 track loader and a Cat 966 with a rollout bucket. On the trucking side, they run four Kenworths - a 1979 longhood, 1980 B-model, 1989 B-model, and 1998 L-model.

“It’s definitely a necessity in order to stay in business over here on the eastern side of the state where the opportunities for work are a lot narrower than they are on the west side,” Tim says.

“You have to diversify and go with what comes along versus over there you can haul logs or rock or whatever year-round,” Squeezer adds. During the spring break up season, which typically lasts from February to late May, the Nelson’s stay busy working on equipment, moving equipment and occasional grinding jobs. “Whatever comes along,” squeezer says.

The Nelsons got into grinding hog fuel in 1986, supplying fuel for the D.R. Johnson Lumber Co. co-gen plant in Prairie City. The mid-90s brought a fuel problem and nobody in the area would go out and do anything with the slash material. “One day they were scratching their head and said, ‘We’ll take all the hog fuel you can make if you’d go to doing it,” Squeezer recalls. “Logs were getting slimmer all the time and the work was looking like it wasn’t there, so we went and bought an old 22-inch Morbark chipper and then upgraded to a 2400 Peterson grinder.”

The grinder allowed them to more than double their output. Along with that, was the ability to make use of all the material, and get a better yield out of the landings, rather than having to pick through the brush piles to get the smaller stems. “With the grinder, it was guts feathers and all,” says Tim.
Grinding was a good venture until the Forest Service decided the slash was theirs to sell and the co-gen plant ceased operations. Yep, just as Nelsons had invested in a new Peterson 4710 horizontal grinder. “We’ve got a really big remote-control TOY now,” remarks Squeezer.

“The opportunities are few and far between for grinding now,” adds Tim, “but little jobs keep popping up here and there. We just knuckle down and truck as hard as we can, and then when the grinding opportunities are there we work that. We keep crossing our fingers that the grinder is getting paid for, but we’re getting there.”

The Nelsons are lucky to have a good name in the timber industry, and when things have been tough going, they’ve been blessed to have supportive and understanding suppliers and friends. “It’s those kinds of people that help us keep going,” Tim says. “The work seems to come in cycles, and you have your ups and downs, but you try and maintain through all of it and hope you’re here the next year.”

Despite the struggles, Squeezer says what’s made BAR Trucking successful over the last three decades is a combination of a love for the job and a determination to meet the challenges head on.

“It all comes down to one little deal in life,” Squeezer states. “If you want to be independent and make something of yourself, you’ve got to create your own destiny. When you want to do something bad enough, and you want to succeed at it, you either stick with it or you give it up and go do something else.”

By now you’re probably wondering where Dave Nelson got the nickname Squeezer. The story goes something like this. When Dave was growing up, he and his brothers all were given nicknames by their dad - Steve was “Muskrat”, Chris was “Weasel”, Andy was “Rabbit”, and Dave was “Beaver” - all animals that they had trapped during the wintertime. Beaver stuck with Dave as he grew up, and when he moved to eastern Oregon with his hot-rod A-model Kenworth and word got around that he was “putting the squeeze” on everybody, so they started calling him “Beaver Squeezer.” That was too much to say over the CB radio, so somebody shorted it to simply “Squeezer,” and that’s what it’s been since.

“Well, there’s a little more to that story,” says Squeezer. “The wife went and had ‘Beaver Squeezer’ put on a bug deflector for the hood of the truck. The girls in town would stop and look at that, and I had to really sit back and laugh. Trust me . . . that day it came off and it never went back on.”

BAR Trucking, Inc.
John Day, Oregon

by Darin Burt