Staying Ahead of the Game
take on unique jobs
The Timbco 445 EXL with
the 24-inch Intermittent
Saw Quadco Head.
By Kurt Glaeseman
A new generation of loggers is
making a resounding impact in
the forests above Council,
Idaho. Brothers Joe and Mark Mahon
are part of the new breed — smart, energetic,
dedicated, ambitious, and entirely
open to new technology and new
ideas. They are college-educated, one
with a degree in mechanical engineering
and the other in forest management,
yet they are quick to give credit
where it is due — to their father Tom.
"Logging with Dad has been fun
and an honor," says Joe. "I’ll never get
tired of hearing the old logging stories." But Joe and Mark are creating
their own logging history, with new harvest plans, new hauling challenges,
and new machinery like stroke delimbers
and tong throwers. Their Timbco
445EXL with a Quadco head still
makes father Tom grin with approval.
When he was a young logger, no one
was debating the advantages of a 24-versus 29-inch intermittent saw.
Getting Their Start
Tom Mahon grew up in a logging
family in eastern Oregon. His dad was
killed in a logging accident in 1959, and
soon thereafter Tom joined the U.S.
Navy. When he got out, he stopped in
Council, Idaho to visit a logging uncle,
who immediately got him a job with a
Boise Cascade brush crew. In 1969 Tom
bought his own log truck and then a
Cat so he could pick up small timber sales.
He recognized the efficiency of skyline
work and bought his own yarder, a Skagit
Sons Joe and Mark remember a childhood
where logging was the big thing in
the community. Council had its own
sawmill and everyone had a family member
working either in the mill or in the
woods or on a truck. "We used to play with
our little Cats and trucks," remembers Joe."Dad would cut us limbs for ‘logs’ and
we’d join our friends with their toys to
build our own roads and logging sides. At
recess, when a log truck went by, we all
had to see who it was."
At the age of 13 the boys "went to the
woods" to work with their dad. They
started out as chasers, unhooking chokers,
but gradually worked up to more responsible
positions. "That’s what we did all summer," says Joe. "We paid for our college
with money we’d made logging in the summer.
And at Christmas breaks we’d be out
logging with Dad." Both went to the University
of Idaho at Moscow, and it was here
that Joe remembers standing up in defense
of loggers. "There weren’t a lot of environmentalists
then at the U. of I., which was
pretty much an agriculture and engineering
and forestry school, but I couldn’t keep
quiet when I did hear unwarranted criticism
of the profession that had kept my
Father Tom Mahom (blue coveralls), Rene van der Merve,
Valmet Product Manager with Modern Machinery in Spokane
and Operator Joe Mahon (beige jacket).
In for the Long Haul
Joe always knew the Mahons were in
logging for the long run, and he understands
the necessity of staying current with
changes in processes and machinery. Mark
sits on the boards of several logging organizations,
and all three like going to the logging
conferences to see what is new. "We get
a lot of new ideas, and it’s up to us to absorb
them and see what applies to our operation,"
says Joe. "We have to keep our eyes
open. It’s dangerous to fall into a fixed
mind-set and keep doing things in the same
old way. I keep reminding myself that we
have to work smarter, not harder!"
Gearing Up to Handle the More Difficult Jobs
With the Forest Service gradually offering
new contracts and companies like Boise
Cascade writing modern harvest plans, the
Mahons want to be able to comply with
sometimes unusual and often tighter prescriptions.
At the Lightning Ridge Tract, the
plan calls for the removal of over-mature
white fir, Doug fir and Ponderosa pine, with
some small clearcuts in designated areas.
The Mahons had been looking at the specs
for a 29-inch Quadco head, but unfortunately
it hadn’t quite cleared the factory assembly
line yet. Modern Machinery in
Spokane came to the rescue: Could it loan
the Mahons a 24-inch Quadco head so they
could keep cutting through December, at
which time the bigger 29-inch head would
be available? The Mahons jumped at the
Joe loves operating the combination Timbco
445 EXL with the Quadco head. "One of
the biggest things," he asserts, "is that it’s
easy on the operator’s body. You sit back
and appreciate how good it gets around."
Joe had previously run a bar saw, and he
had to re-tune his eye to what the new saw
could cut. "This area is tough because the
trees are so big, but I did my homework on
this head. I never thought a hot saw would
work, but I like being able to grab a tree and
know I can cut right through it…and I’m no
longer spending my nights filing chains.
The profit comes for us in December and
January, when the bar saw got clogged with
snow. With this Quadco head I can keep cutting."
Staying in the
Joe speaks comfortably
efficiency and history of
the Mahon machinery.
He’s interested in the
nuts-and-bolts construction— the more he
knows, the less downtime
there will be if
there’s a problem. He
cites their good track
record with a Denharco
delimber, which has
over 8000 hours on it
and very little downtime."The support
team," he says, "is exceptional
about helping us,
working us through a problem on the
phone. We’re a long way from everybody,
and we do the majority of our
own mechanical work. We have to rely
on information by phone — we can’t
afford the time to have a service truck
sent out if the problem is something we
can fix ourselves."
One thing Joe would like distributors
to concentrate on is a modern,
streamlined documentation system. It
would make it easier for him to troubleshoot
if he could combine good
guides with telephone support. "With
our new and sophisticated machinery,"
he says, "we need a master troubleshooting
chart. We’re talking about
a huge screen with detailed diagrams.
It’s the manufacturer’s responsibility
to get me as educated as possible so
that I can talk intelligently when I
make the ‘Help!’ phone call."
The Mahons don’t shy away from
the complexities of computers and
electronic systems. The Mahons are
forced to shut down for two to three
months in late winter, so they spend
the time repairing, overhauling and
getting acquainted with their machinery.
Joe admits he enjoys the challenge
of figuring out what went wrong when
he’s in the winter shop. But that enjoyment
quickly turns to frustration when
he’s up on the mountain and stands to
lose up to $3000 a day. "When that
happens," he laughs, "I want everything
on the Net available to me…and
The Mahons are optimistic about
the future of logging in their part of
Idaho. They’ve seen the closure of
many mills, but the land still keeps
producing trees. If there’s one snag in
their operation, it’s getting the logs
hauled to distant mills. "We just don’t
have enough trucks in circulation
around here," explains Joe. "It’s not unusual
for us to be 60 to 70 loads behind.
There’s certainly room in this country
for more dependable log truckers."
Both Tom and Joe are quick to
praise their crew, many of whom have
been with the Mahons for years. Like
other operators, they see definite
trends in the workforce. Most of their
crew are in their 30s and 40s, men who
did not grow up with computers but
do have a good work ethic. "They can
learn the computers," maintains Joe,"much faster than a young, computer savvy
kid can develop good work
habits. We’ve got a real good crew.
They’re professionals. You don’t have
to babysit them."
Babysit? Joe laughs. He takes his
turn with his own kids, a six-year-old
boy and a three-year-old girl. "Dad
opened up a lot of doors for Mark and
me. People would say, ‘Those are
Tom’s boys. Give ‘em a chance!’ I remember
how we were when we were
kids. Already my two want to come
out to the woods with me. They sit in
the seat with me and ‘drive’ the stroke
delimber or the loader. Logging is definitely
part of their lives."
It appears that Mahon Logging has
a clear-sighted, multifaceted, hands-on
approach to preserving the best of a
profession in perpetual transition.
service is temporarily unavailable