Two log hauling semi trucks rumbled south along Neosho Boulevard as I walked by Arvest Bank the other morning. The weather was warm but the skies were cloudy as I continued along Wildcat Boulevard thinking about our local wood industries.
Fifteen minutes later, as I reached my southern range, I noticed the two logging trucks were parked in the Auto Zone parking lot. I was sure they weren’t waiting for auto parts, but that the loggers were in McDonalds tanking up for a hard days work in the woods.
For some reason, I always pictured in my mind that loggers would eat steak, three or four eggs over easy, American fried potatoes, and several pieces of honey and butter covered toast for a hearty breakfast. But times change. Today, they probably eat a cheese McMuffin and have their pancakes on a Styrofoam tray.
I was left wondering if anyone has the statistics on what effect the wood industry has on the economy of Newton and McDonald counties. There are the regular loggers and sawmills, plus the pallet builders, railroad tie cutters, mulch makers, the chip mill, and Missouri Walnut.
Have you noticed the commentator in the current Henry rifle commercials on television mentioning the wood for the Henry rifle stocks comes from Missouri? Is it Newton and McDonald County black walnut?
Newton and McDonald County rank in the top five Missouri counties for agricultural products sold each year. Are wood products considered an agricultural product? If not, where do these two counties rank on wood product sales?
Some of our local sawmills also recut wood from old buildings. “Used before wood” has an appeal to many people, as it gives a rustic look that cannot be duplicated. Some of our mills even have the machinery to make tongue and groove flooring.
Personally, I have a special appreciation for lumbermen. My maternal grandfather worked as a logger in the pine woods of northern Minnesota. He was a Swede who migrated first to Canada and then down into northern Minnesota where he worked in the woods.
A logging accident crushed his leg so he had to quit that profession. He then moved to southern Minnesota where he had some distant relatives. Although he limped a bit, he went to work on a farm and eventually had a farm of his own. When he was still a bachelor, he lived in the local hotel. There he fell in love with the cook’s helper and they became my grandpa and grandma.
Take a walk, be thankful for wood-related jobs and products that are helping our local economies, use those signal lights, and see what you notice while passing along Wildcat Boulevard.
Russell Hively writes a weekly column for the Daily News.