BTB 40: MY TIGERCAT CIRCUS
Published on: Saturday 1st August 2015
– Samantha Paul, marketing
It all started in late fall of 2006 when C.K. drove past a gleaming Tigercat loader on the side of the road at an intersection near his hometown of Elizabethtown, North Carolina with a ‘For Sale’ sign taped in the cab window. “There it was, the dream machine of loaders I thought… a Tigercat 240B. I could never afford it,” C.K. claims. “It only had 2,000 hours on it and was in immaculate condition.” Three months later C.K. saw the same Tigercat 240B dream machine in the classified ads in Southern Loggin’ Times. He knew he had to buy it, so that’s what he did. That was C.K.’s first Tigercat machine and it was a beauty.
From the beginning
C.K. has been in the wood business for 21 years in southern Virginia and has been in business with his own company for eight of those years, “I started my own company January 1, 2007 as timber buyer/owner with just one cutter, skidder and a loader and hustled and stayed steady at it and grew from that to this little circus I have here.”
Growing up in a logging community in Elizabethtown meant log trucks were easy to spot. Any time a log truck went by, it interested C.K.; dirty, shiny, new or old. He just thought the log trucks were cool. When he was fifteen there was a procurement forester that lived near him and he would go visit from time to time. There he would see these magazines on the coffee table that were Southern Loggin’ Times and Timber Harvesting and that’s where the seed of logging was planted.
After graduating in the spring of 1993 with a two year Forestry degree from Southeastern Community College in Whiteville, NC and a four-year degree in Forest Resource Management from North Carolina State University, C.K. was hired by Virginia Carolina Timber, Inc. in Lawrenceville, Virginia where he moved and began his career as a procurement forester buying timber and looking after contract logging crews.
After a fourteen-year career there, C.K. started feeling the growing ambition to go into business for himself. He felt anxious and nervous as if he was about to break up with his girlfriend. “It was just an inside the gut feeling that I couldn’t seem to stop or keep ignoring. The owners of Virginia Carolina Timber had been like family to me but I could just feel the change of things coming,” claimed C.K. In January of 2007 he was finally able to purchase that first Tigercat 240B dream machine. Unfortunately, just three years later his dream went up in flames when his loader was destroyed in an arson incident.
About 10:00 pm that night after leaving the woods with the local fi re department, C.K. started calling around to find another loader to get him back up and running the next morning. He called the local Pioneer dealership rep stating, “My loader burnt up tonight, do you have a spare loader? ‘No I sure don’t,’ was the response.” C.K. called the local Barko dealer, “Look, my loader burnt up tonight, do you have a spare one to get me going in the morning? ‘We sold ours last week,’ was the response.” Then C.K. called sales specialist Tommy Parks from Tigercat dealer Bullock Brothers at 10:45 pm that night, “Tommy, my loader burnt up tonight.” Tommy immediately responded with, “C.K., come down to the shop first thing in the morning, I got a brand new one for you to use until you get things figured out.”
“Tommy put me right back to work that next morning and I won’t ever forget that,” says C.K.
Since then C.K. has grown from his one loader, feller buncher, skidder operation to a bigger outfit. During his expansion he ran different brand skidders along with Tigercat feller bunchers and Tigercat loaders but was never really satisfied with the diverse equipment line-up. One day in October of 2014 it just hit C.K. and he decided to get rid of his two 535C models and replace them with two new 620E Tigercat skidders. C.K. picked up the phone and called, “the godfather of Tigercat equipment, Mr. Tommy Parks.” After sitting down and crunching the numbers C.K. purchased two brand new 620E skidders. “I wished I had done it sooner. My men love the Turnaround® seat and the fuel economy is great on the Tier 4 engine. We don’t need to worry about it. It’s just another day for us. More tractor pulling more wood with the same gallons of fuel as we been bringing to the woods for years. We just get more wood out with Tigercat,” C.K. says.
With four Tigercat 718E drive-to-tree feller bunchers, three Tigercat skidders (two 620Es and one 630D) and two 234 loaders, C.K. has a true Tigercat circus on his hands. Three of the four 718E feller bunchers run in the woods all day with the fourth used as needed. “We jam, jam, jam most days with our machines. My men love these Tigercats. With Tigercat all you have to do is hit the key, adjust the A/C, adjust the radio and jam all day with very little breakdowns. I feel blessed to own all these machines,” says C.K. “I’m thankful, thankful, thankful every day. It’s pleasing to see all the same brand on my job. It cuts out a lot of confusion for parts, fi lters, different dealers and different service folks. Having one brand out here in the woods gives me peace of mind to some extent in the crazy fast pace world I live in. Don’t get me wrong, there’s not a whole lot of breakdowns out here but things are just simpler for me this way. I go at things with my own pace and my own style and having all Tigercat iron is part of that.”
C.K. does not experience bottlenecks on his job site. Running three feller bunchers all day eliminates that problem. He also has the ability to put his mechanic in the fourth 718E feller buncher if he needs to. “It helps that those 620E skidders are just non-stop workhorses – that really keeps things moving too. With those nineteen square foot grapples, we bring more wood to the loaders with fewer pulls every day. That saves me money in the long run and that’s the bottom line!” says C.K. “Out here is all about hustle, hustle, dollar, dollar! That’s the name of the game for me.”
Many operators seem to get irritated over the use of diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) with the Tier 4 engines. However, C.K. and his crew have the right attitude. “DEF is just a part of doing business these days and we don’t mind it at all. As long as you handle it right, it doesn’t cause any problems.”
C.K. and his crew of thirteen (including truck drivers) just finished clearcutting 139 acres (56 hectares) of mixed hardwood and pine in mid-June and have 200 acres (81 hectares) lined up for second thinning only six miles from his house in Dolphin, Virginia. “My men are veterans of the woods and they mean everything to me. I pay them well and they have nice equipment, so they stay.” C.K. typically hauls 18 to 22 loads a day to sawmills and chip mills throughout the area including Dominion Virginia Power, KapStone paper mill, Georgia Pacifi c, Enviva Pellets, International Paper, and a West Fraser sawmill.
Way back in 1977, C.K. seemed to notice that every logging article in those magazines he loved were written by a fellow named DK Knight. C.K. filled out a subscription form to get the magazine for free, fuelling his interest in the logging world. “I thought that DK Knight guy had the luckiest job in the world whoever he was, driving around to different logging sites, talking to loggers and seeing different equipment,” said C.K. “I didn’t get into the business because of my father or my grandfather or it was something I inherited from my family. It was the dirty old logging trucks and a fellow named DK Knight and that’s how this little Tigercat circus of mine got started and I’m pretty proud of it.”