BTB 42: LOWLAND LOGGING

Dopson is a well-known name around the Tigercat factories. Charlie and Timmy Dopson are partners of Dopson Timber LLC and their enthusiasm and loyalty to the Tigercat brand is undeniable.

– Samantha Paul, Tigercat marketing

Hard work and faith in the Lord are vital to the Dopson logging operations. Based out of Valdosta, GA, Dopson Timber LLC runs three harvesting crews. The Tigercat equipment line-up is impressive with fifteen machines: two 250D loaders, one 250 loader, two 860 series track feller bunchers, one 845C track feller buncher, two S860 series shovel loggers, one 726D drive-to-tree feller buncher, a 635E six-wheel skidder, a 630E and a 630C grapple skidder, a C640 clambunk skidder and two 234 loaders.

One of the three Dopson crews. (L-R) Billy Robertson (skidder operator), Henry Brown aka Pine Cone (loader operator), Pedro Zarraga (truck driver), Charlie Dopson, Timmy Dopson, Glynn Lambert (loader operator), Jimmy Watkins (Tidewater sales specialist), Don Snively (Tigercat district manager).

One of the three Dopson crews. (L-R) Billy Robertson (skidder operator), Henry Brown aka Pine Cone (loader operator), Pedro Zarraga (truck driver), Charlie Dopson, Timmy Dopson, Glynn Lambert (loader operator), Jimmy Watkins (Tidewater sales specialist), Don Snively (Tigercat district manager).

The Dopsons are swamp loggers. Until very recently, they hadn’t cut a dry tract in over six years. Typically they are shovel logging in the swamps using their new 860C feller buncher equipped with a 5702 felling saw to fell and build the log mat. The S860C shovel logger reaches to each side of the mat to retrieve all the felled timber, loading the C640 clambunk. Usually they won’t need to use all three skidders at the same time. They will run the 635E and the clambunk or the newer 630E and the 635E. They keep the older 2006 630C as a back up.

How it started

Charlie and Timmy were born into logging. Charlie is Timmy’s uncle and they are ten years apart in age. Charlie’s parents (Timmy’s grandparents) raised Timmy. Charlie was the youngest son and Timmy was the oldest grandson so they spent a lot of time together and grew up like close brothers. As a fourth generation logger, Timmy began working in the woods when he was sixteen-years-old with Charlie, Charlie’s father and grandfather. Charlie’s father would pick them up from the bus and take them to the woods. When they were in high school, they would log any chance they could.

The equipment is the best but it is the people at Tigercat and that personal touch you don’t get anywhere else.

– Timmy Dopson

Ten years ago in 2006, Charlie and Timmy broke out on their own to start a new logging venture with a Tigercat 240 loader, a Tigercat 845B feller buncher and a John Deere skidder. “The Tigercats held up bar none,” says Charlie. “When you get it out here in the woods for the first year, everything works good. But if you want something that is going to hold up for close to ten years, it’s only Tigercat equipment that will hold up.” Timmy adds, “Our 630C has over 20,000 hours on it and it is still dragging wood. Our 250 loader from 2005 has over 25,000 hours on it and it keeps up with the newer models.”

2014 Tigercat 635E skidder dragging a full load to the landing.

2014 Tigercat 635E skidder dragging a full load to the landing.

Dopson Timber purchases equipment from Tidewater sales specialist Jimmy Watkins, who has been with Tidewater Equipment since 1989 and actually sold Charlie’s father his fi rst piece of Tigercat equipment, a 726B feller buncher. “I feel like I am part of the family and reckon I am part Dopson,” says Jimmy.

“Tidewater is very good to us,” says Charlie. “They treat us good. They do everything they can to help us when we need them. I am not sure about other parts of the country, but down here in Georgia Tigercat is very well represented.”

Company growth

Dopson Timber has grown substantially over the last ten years, now with twenty people on the payroll including sixteen operators, two truck drivers, a mechanic and secretary. Up until March, Timmy operated the feller buncher and Charlie operated the loader. Timmy now operates the newest 250D they received six weeks ago and Charlie manages the crews.

Their most recent purchase, a 2016 860C feller buncher with 5702 felling saw, cutting in a hardwood swamp. Machine operated by Daniel Roberts.

Their most recent purchase, a 2016 860C feller buncher with 5702 felling saw,
cutting in a hardwood swamp. Machine operated by Daniel Roberts.

Timmy really likes the look and feel of the new 250D cab and all the additional storage compartments. “The electric joysticks take a little bit to get used to but they don’t get hot and you don’t need to worry about any hydraulic oil leaks,” explains Timmy.

Charlie ran a loader for most of his career. As the company continued to grow, he was finding it difficult to manage three crews and operate at the same time but he wishes he could be back on the loader most days. Charlie’s cousin and his father-in-law do the trucking. Charlie’s wife, Belinda, plays a big role in the business by managing all the administrative work.

“Timmy and I aren’t great businessmen but we know how to log and the good Lord has blessed us,” says Charlie.

“When we first started we probably loaded 35 to 40 loads per week with one skidder, loader and feller buncher.” Now, when they are cutting hardwood in the swamp they push out 25 loads per day. Pine sites can be closer to 30 loads per day or 100-150 loads per week. They try to put 28-30 tons of wood on each truck. All their hardwood goes to Beasley Forest Products based in Hazlehurst, GA, the largest hardwood sawmill in the US.

Part of the Tigercat family

Timmy has visited the Tigercat factory once and is planning to visit again soon. Charlie wants to join him, however he is not too sure about flying. When asked what it is that they love so much about Tigercat,Timmy responds, “The equipment is the best but it is the people at Tigercat and that personal touch you don’t get anywhere else.”

Tigercat owner and CEO, Ken MacDonald, catching up with Timmy Dopson at the Tidewater Demo Day in April 2015.

Tigercat owner and CEO, Ken MacDonald, catching up with Timmy Dopson at the Tidewater Demo Day in April 2015.

At forestry events and live demos, Timmy will often meet up for a beer with the Tigercat guys to find out about the latest product developments and exchange information and ideas. Even Tigercat owner and CEO, Ken MacDonald, will take time out of his busy schedule to catch up with Timmy at a local show.

“I can’t call up the owner or president of these huge companies, but I have Mr. Ken MacDonald’s number in my phone and he knows my name and that is what I love. We aren’t just another number to Tigercat,” says Timmy.

The C640 clambunk skidder pulling a massive load on the log mat. Machine operated by Pablo Zarraga.

The C640 clambunk skidder pulling a massive load on the log mat. Machine operated by Pablo Zarraga.

When Charlie is not managing crews, he is spending time with his thirteen- and sixteen-year-old sons and watching them play baseball. “My eight-year-old daughter is starting to get into softball too. I love watching them play. It helps as a stress relief,” says Charlie. When Timmy isn’t operating the loader, he enjoys spending time with his fiancé, duck hunting or working out. “I like to shoot birds and lift weights, I reckon that is about all I do,” says Timmy.

Karma

Timmy has two brothers that work on their father’s own logging crew. The two companies share a service shop. “Charlie and Timmy not only help Timmy’s father’s logging crew, they help everyone in the area out when they need it,” says Jimmy Watkins.

The S860C shovel logger, operated by Hector Zarraga, loading the C640 clambunk.

The S860C shovel logger, operated by Hector Zarraga, loading the C640 clambunk.

Charlie adds, “We have had a lot of help from other loggers so we like to return the favour. Jimmy introduced us to Mr. Wayne Smith who helped us get started in the swamp logging business. The TV shows make it look like this type of business is cutthroat, but it’s not like that,” says Charlie. Timmy recalls, “When we first started out, we bought a used skidder from Mr. Wayne and he had no idea who we were. At that time, all we had was four pieces of Tigercat machines, a radio, a chainsaw, a Chevy pick-up and three guys in it. One of the first days logging on our own we had a hose leak and we needed an air compressor to take a bolt out. We didn’t have an air compressor to get that bolt out. Mr. Wayne was going to drive 130 miles with his air compressor to help us out. That was the type of help we got from other loggers when we first started and we like to do the same whenever we can.”

Watch the S860C shovel logger and C640 clambunk working on Dopson’s swamp site:

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