January and February 2006
 

 

 

 

Mixing It Up

Dean L. Rowan, Inc., stays productive by cutting across three states and thinking outside the box.

By Diane Mettler

 

Dean Rowan has a home in Idaho, but spends most nights sleeping in hotels or his RV trailer. It’s a lifestyle he’s chosen and built from the ground up — a contract cutting business spread out over three states, Washington, Oregon and Idaho, cutting approximately 64 million board feet a year.

“The main reason is, we have two saws and we cut seven days a week,” says Dean. “It takes a lot of volume to keep up with it. And a lot of these guys we cut for move around. It’s worked out that I have to go to get them.”

Rowan's contract cutting handles jobs across three states. Dean and his crew travel throughout Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

Dean’s grandfather was a logger, and his father is a logger “in the process of retiring” and still running a log yard in Idaho. Dean followed in their footsteps and logged his entire adult life. But in the last few years he’s focused solely on contract cutting.

“Economically, it just seemed to make more sense to do one specialized thing really well and very aggressively, so you can pull every dollar out of it that is to be made,” says Dean. “I’m real guilty of doing too many things not well instead of concentrating on one or two things and doing them well. I really wanted to pour my heart and soul into this and create good customer base and get it to work smoothly before I turned my attention to some other things.”

Jim Wark of Pape Machinery in
Kelso, Wash., and Dean Rowan
watch the Tigercat feller buncher
and its heel rack and grapple in
action.

 

New Terrains

Transition from logging to cutting has been good for Dean. He enjoys the work, being in new places and meeting new people. The people he finds are often more challenging than the trees. “You interact with all kinds of personalities and see the total spectrum. You start a new job and you have to know right off what they want out of us,” he says. “It’s not any different than any other business, except that loggers are pretty tough sometimes. They don’t wear their emotions out on their cuff.”

 

Creating a Traveling Team

Rowan employs 10 men, including a father/son felling team, who all must share in the nomadic lifestyle, living their lives on the road and in the woods. “They have to be independently minded, good thinkers and able to handle a lot on their own,” says Dean. “I spend most of my time going back and forth between their two jobs and they’re working on their own.”

It’s a lot to ask and not everyone is cut out for it. Dean says it’s taken a while for him to read a man to see if it was going to be a good fit. “Right now I have a good pool of guys. We have three guys running two machines, seven days a week, so they alternate.

Normally they will work 10 days and be off for five. So they get a real nice weekend at home. We pay them well. I don’t think there are a lot of people paying as much as we are, but we demand quite a bit out of them. And they truly are a part of making this work for me.”

This hardworking team primarily operates two Tigercat feller bunchers— an LX830 and L830 — each with a Tigercat 24” hotsaw head. Dean likes 830’s, especially the fact that they can climb steeper slopes because of a longer track frame and wider stance. The other equipment that rounds out his operation includes an equipment log loader and a Kobleco wheel loader, a Wagner Log stacker and four logging trucks.

 

A Novel Approach

But it was the versatility of the feller bunchers and some steep slope logging that had Dean thinking outside the box earlier this year. He was working for a logger that was harvesting on intense inclines. “He said ‘If you can cut, we can log it,’” recalls Dean. “But after we got it cut, contractor was concerned about being able to get the steep ground logged.”

The idea was so unique that neither of the men had seen it before, but it seemed like it could work — attach a grapple and heel rack onto the 830. Dean turned to Jim Wark, a sales rep at Papé Equipment who had sold him the feller bunchers.

“He really helped kick off the project,” explains Dean. “He found us a Young heel rack and 52” grapple taken from a 210 excavator shovel logger. I picked it up in Longview at the Papé shop. I had a guy in Longview help me retrofit it. We started at 2 o’clock in the afternoon and worked until 2 a.m. I drove up [to Enumclaw] and put it on at daylight.”

It was an odd combination, but it did the job. It did it so well that Dean continues to use thecombination from time to time when necessary.

Rowan selected the Tigercat 830s because they can climb steeper slopes,
due to their longer track frame and wider stance.

 

Unique to the Core

The grapple/feller buncher and the nomadic lifestyle aren’t the only things that make Dean stand out from your average logger. He’s tall, sports a grey ponytail and rides up on his enormous red motorcycle (custom-fit with a car engine), so you’re going to find it hard to miss him. But he’s a logger through and through, and you know he really loves trees when he says things like:“It’s harder on my soul to cut trees on the east side, because it takes so long for them to come back.” He’s a logger who also believes the country could benefit from a little common sense when it comes to the forest. Like being realistic about what being a real environmentalist is.

“Everyone loves wood for one reason or another. So we’re going to get it from some place,” he says. “If you are really concerned about the environment, the U.S. probably has the most stringent rules I know of. But we’re importing from countries that don’t have the rules. So if you were really environmentally minded you’d ease it up a bit, and quit fighting it so hard. Then maybe our product could be grown and used right here.”

But until there is a meeting of the minds, Dean just feels fortunate to be living a life that takes him to new places and into the woods every day. “I had aspirations of being retired at 35. I went past that and thought, why not just have fun.” And that’s just what he’s doing.

 

 

TW

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This page was last updated on Friday, June 16, 2006