December/January, 2002

 

 

 

 

BEST of BOTH WORLDS

Medici Logging keeps a foot in the past but an eye to the future

On the day before the Paul Bunyan Logging Show in
Westwood, Calif., the Medici Logging sides operate
as usual, but the lunchtime banter is about tomorrow's
events. "You'd better practice a little with that axe
before you turn it loose in public!" "I could win that Jackand-
Jill easy if I could just find me a good Jill!"
It's light-hearted fun, and the logging company encourages
their interest. Medici Logging sponsors the show,
brings in the logs, sets up the registration booth, provides
runners...and invites personnel to compete in as many
events as they want. 

Jack Medici, president of the company,
likes to see his workers show their skill and it helps keep the
community's logging heritage alive. He signs up for several
of the events himself, and his daughter and sister sign up as
well. The audience loves the good-natured competition.
The town of Westwood lies between Susanville and
Chester, not far from Lassen National Park. It was started
by the Walker family, who brought the Red River Company
in to log the dense forests just before World War I. For 30
years Westwood was well-known for its large mill and even
larger sawdust mountain. Loggers transplanted from the
Upper Midwest brought with them tales of Paul Bunyan
and Babe, his blue ox. In 1990 Westwood added a logging
show to their Paul Bunyan Mountain and Blues Festival.
And the Medici name has always been prominent at the
show.

Jack Medici, President of Medici Logging, prepares a sawlog for the logging show competition.


As a matter of fact, the Medici name has been linked
with Westwood since 1944, when Roger Medici Sr. arrived.
He built a reputation as a catskinner who could build a dirt
road as smooth as a highway. His son Roger Medici Jr., past
president of the company, attended the local school and
worked his way into business with his dad. He remembers
the time of tight finances, when a $262 income tax return
was parlayed into a log truck. From this rather humble
beginning, Medici Trucking emerged in 1965. 

Josh Chopp on the single cut.

They started salvage logging in the late 1960s, when a log truck was traded for a loader. In the early 1980s they turned to "green logging," working primarily for Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI).
Medici Logging was incorporated in 1987 and was soon on
its way to a high-year volume of 35 million board feet.
Today Roger Medici Jr. has entered what he calls "partial
retirement." He's gradually turning the reins (and the worries!)
over to his son Jack. Jack is a good example of the new
breed of loggers-calm, quiet, cautious, smart, and politically
active. He's on the Board of Directors for the American
Loggers' Council, and is serving his second year as
President of the Associated California Loggers. "It's
definitely an honor to be chosen by my fellow loggers
to represent them," says Jack. "The first year I
mostly listened. This year I know more what is
going on and I'm more comfortable giving my
input."


That's an understatement. Jack has several definite
target areas he's working on: to develop
money for the industry; to clarify and implement a
reasonable master logger certification
in keeping with the Sustainable
Forestry Initiative; and to provide a
vocal lobby in Washington, D.C., to
speed up the process of environmental
analysis after a fire - before the wood
has a chance to deteriorate.
His father chafes at the way decision
makers have plodded through
post-burn analysis while forest timber
becomes less and less salvageable:
"There's enough wood left over in one
of our local fires to build a bedroom
for every kid in Northern California.
The Forest Service is going to let it rot.
That's a terrible waste." Roger has
had experience in salvage logging:
"You almost have to salvage it within a
year after the fire unless you have
some big stuff over 20-25 inches,
which might last for 18 months. If the
bugs don't get it, the sun dries it out
and it splits."

Jay Woods loads a Sierra Pacific log tuck with the 625 Prentice loader.


Roger adds that there are plenty of
unavoidable handicaps when you salvage
timber after a fire: "The dust and
ash gets in everything; in places you
have to change air cleaners a couple of
times a day. In summer it's a real
problem keeping the roads wet down.
Then there's the danger of working
around very brittle wood. Sometimes
it sounds like a rifle range when the
wood snaps and cracks. I've had guys
get cut pretty bad by the snapping of
brittle limbs."


That's a good reason why the
Medicis prefer green logging for SPI,
whose "leave-marked-tree" thinning
process works for the logging operation
and for the healthy regrowth of
the forest. Roger points with pride to
a tract of SPI land they thinned three
years ago: "It's clean. You don't see
any dead snags or fuel ladders. A fire
will go along the ground and stop
when it hits the creek, without those
raging out-of-control high fires."
Currently Medici Logging is operating
three sides. White fir is the predominant
species, followed by ponderosa
pine, Douglas fir, sugar pine
and some cedar, with a little scrub or
black oak thrown in for good measure.
A typical area is the "West Dusty," ten
miles west of Chester between
Domingo Springs and Lassen National
Park boundaries. SPI bought the sale
and contracted the Medicis to log and
chip after the leave-tree crew had left
their marks. The tight spacing of 15
foot (more or less) works well for the
dominant white fir and helps reduce
fire danger.

The Prentice log loader at the West Dusty Side

Jim Oxford, formerly a Forest
Service employee in charge of timber
sales, runs the show. "We're working
here with a prescribed diameter limit
- the yellow leave-tree mark says that
we cut nothing over 29.9 inches, and
sometimes not over 17.9 inches. It's a
four-year thinning sale, and we've got
some good equipment and operators
here." The equipment here consists
largely of Timbco shears, a 410
Prentice, and a 229 CAT loader. A 650
Dresser delimber cleans up the good
logs, and the 410E Prentice loader
jockeys them into decks or onto
trucks. The skidders are CAT 518s
and one John Deere 648G. A 966 frontend
loader feeds the Morbark 6036
chipper-a chipper that Oxford says has
been real dependable. "But," he jokes,
"we all know that the term mechanical
logging just means that you should
have a mechanic on site at all times."
Chips and logs are hauled out by
Medici and SPI trucks, with an occasional
gypo contracted if needed.
Chips and the larger logs go to the SPI
mill in Susanville. Smaller logs go to
the SPI mills in Burney or Quincy.
A second side, run by Jim Oxford's
brother Chuck, is known as the Paiute
Sale. This is a clear cut area, with
occasional islands of trees left standing.
These "habitat resource centers"
break up the clear cut look and provide
shelter and resting places for
animals and birds. Because the
under-story in this tract was stunted,
the plan is to start over with newly
planted trees.

A fleet of skidders at the West Dusty side: one John Deere and several CATs.

Morbark chipper at West Dusty side.

Gene Atkinson runs the portable Wood-Mizer sawmill.


Here again are Timbco shears but
this time a Pierce delimber with a
Thunderbird undercarriage. Skidders
are again CAT 528s and 518s. The
Prentice 625 shovel loader is a heavyduty
workhorse, what Chuck Oxford
refers to as an all-around excellent
machine. It's operated by Jay Woods,
himself a heavy duty contender and
dark horse favorite for the men's axe
throw. Because the Susanville mill is
only ten miles away, some trucks average
5-6 loads per day. It is not unusual
for Woods to load 15 trucks in a given
day. Everett Spencer, SPI truck driver,
is fascinated with Woods' comfortable
ease with the loader: "Yeah, he's good.
He sets those logs just where he wants
them, and if they don't look quite
right, he gives them a little nudge and
they fall politely into place."
Back in Westwood, Gene Atkinson
runs a portable sawmill behind the
Medici Logging office. It's a Wood-
Mizer Mill, where he cuts specialty lumber
like 1 x 6 cedar pieces for fencing or
19-foot-long Douglas fir pieces used to
extend the sides of a lowboy. Near the
mill is a Wood-Mizer edger where
Atkinson can cut boards from three to
twelve inches wide-for on-site special
projects that always need attention.
Inside the office, Jack's sister Lisa
Schleich balances the books, answers
the phone, checks an employee's
schedule, and greets visitors. 

Rick Evans of Evergreen Resources in Susanville, in the stock saw competition.

She's no newcomer to the business; as a kid she
helped her grandpa grease the logging
trucks. Now, she's the official vice
president of the company, and yes, she
wields a mean axe at the logging
show. But she would rather discuss
the good results she's had with the
local high school's job shadowing program.
Through it, several juniors and
seniors help with office work and in
the shop. If they work out well during
the first year, Lisa is more than willing
to hire them. "They help us out a lot,"
she says, "and they are often incredibly
capable with the computers." The
same is true for Jack's 17-year-old
daughter Shannon, whose hands fly
over the computer keyboard.


What's in store for Medici Logging?
Roger remains cautiously optimistic:
"There's still a future for logging, but
our role isn't easy. We have to keep
educating people in the metropolitan
areas that if they need lumber, it's got
to come from somewhere. We've got
to show that a forest can be harvested
and that it will regrow. As loggers, we
have to be willing to make the
mechanical adjustments. We aren't
cutting four-foot diameter logs any
more. Specialized machinery like the
delimbers make sense. The specs are
set for us. We either conform or we are
out of business." As he speaks, his son
Jack cleans up another log and hauls it
to the park for tomorrow's "traditional"
competition. From the historical past
to the progressive future, the Medici's
are proud to model their commitment
to the logging industry.

Jack Medici, third generation Medici logger and current president of Medici Logging.

Lisa Schleich, third generation Medici and vice president of Medici Logging.

Shannon Medici, fourth generation Medici, daughter of President Jack Medici

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This page was last updated on Tuesday, September 28, 2004