By Troy Treasure
Anyone who depends on heavy machinery for a living knows the inevitable equipment breakdown is going to occur.
Brian Scott of Shelbyville was cutting timber last week in Marion County northeast of Philadelphia. After taking down a white oak tree and cutting a log, Scott tied the wood to a John Deere 440B skidder and began ascent on a not-insignificant grade in the forest.
On a sunny but very windy Thursday, everything appeared to be going well. Then … the machine developed a hydraulic oil leak.
Scott’s workday came to a halt well before 2 p.m., but no outward disgust was displayed. The vibe seemed to be “been there, done that.”
For professional purposes, Scott prefers being called a timber harvester. He explained why.
“The hardest thing to overcome in this business is the name ‘logger’,” he said. “There are so many people that cut timber out here that are crooked and just flat steal timber from landowners. I try to use the term harvester to get away from the logger stereotype.”
Scott also cautioned people to be open-minded about the logging-themed television program “Ax Men” on History, formerly known as The History Channel. Dramatic license is sometimes in effect. His wife, Mandy, watched the show and became uneasy about her husband’s safety.
“She’s not as concerned as much now after I brought her to the woods and showed her what I do compared to what she sees on the TV,” he said.
Scott’s been involved in his current profession since 1993, but has operated as a one-man harvester for the past three years.
“I enjoy being in the timber. I enjoy seeing stuff that’s out here in the woods,” he said. “There aren’t a whole lot of people who desire to do this work anymore.”
Scott indicated he seeks the most mature timber, not necessarily the best, allowing future development.
“In the Amazon (rainforest), they go in and clear-cut it, then we have to replant. By harvesting mature trees and letting Mother Nature regenerate the forest, we never lose what we had,” he said. “Part of being a responsible timber harvester is to do the best for the forest so that landowners have a future crop.”
Scott harvests timber of various varieties. One of the most valuable is white oak due to its impermeability. The wood is used to make staves for whiskey barrels. Other blocking logs consisting of different types of timber can be put to a multiplicity of uses, including pallets and railroad ties.
Some people who dislike math tend to stay away from the subject, if they can. Scott indicated those skills are a requisite for timber harvesting.
“One thing I’ve been trying to tell my step-son, you’ve got to learn math because everything I do out here is math. Geometry and physics, every bit of it,” he said. “Geometry, I’ve got to set up my notches and hinges in my trees to get them to fall so they don’t mash this really nice walnut sapling.
“Physics are what actually happens to get this tree to fall over, how to figure how much weight is out here to get it to go there, or does it need to go over there,” he continued. “So, paying attention in school and learning the math and understanding the physics is important to get the job done.”
Scott said his step-son has expressed an interest in timber harvesting. If such an allure were to develop further, a working partnership might develop in the future.
When contacted by a reporter Friday morning, Scott was going about repairing the log skidder.
He sounded in good spirits. Resoluteness is required.