Maryland-based contractor, FD Eure Inc., is owned by Franklin Eure. His 83-year-old father, Frank, is on the job every day operating a Tigercat feller buncher. BTB visits to learn about his very long professional life and what keeps him motivated to crank up his machine before dawn each morning.
— Paul Iarocci
FD Eure Inc. is a harvesting contractor based in Hebron, Maryland, that has transitioned in recent years from traditional clear fell harvests to thinning. The company is owned by third generation logger Franklin Eure. Franklin and his father, Frank, work together every day. Frank is 83 years old. The company cuts state forests in both Maryland and Delaware and works in nature conservancies, as well as private tracts. The wood goes primarily to Eastern Shore Forest Products and Pixelle Specialty Solutions.
Some of the contracts are with the mills. At other times, the landowner, the Forest Service, or the land steward will contract FD Eure Inc. directly. “An interesting one that we did a few months ago was a specialized cut for a butterfly habitat restoration,” says Frank. In that case, the Maryland Forest Service contracted Eastern Shore Forest Products, which in turn subcontracted the harvesting work to FD Eure Inc.
“We used to do clear cuts years ago,” says Franklin. “But as that fell by the wayside, we started doing thinnings, and that is basically where we ended up now. Not that clear cuts are bad, but we actually enjoy doing something for nature. What we are doing now is leaving something for the future.”
Frank manned the Tigercat 720G feller buncher on the butterfly job. He explains that the habitat restoration project was aimed toward the mating season. “This was for the butterflies, a place for them to meet and mate.” Frank was targeting removal of most of the pine, while leaving all the hardwood species, essentially maintaining and managing a forest to bring it back to a more natural
"When we finally got a power saw, good Lord, you could probably hear it all the way from Pennsylvania."
— Frank Eure
state of biodiversity. This in turn, better supports the species that are reliant on the habitat.
Frank’s father was also a logger, operating under Eure Logging Inc. Frank, his sister, mom, daughter, and son (Franklin) all worked in the family business. “When he passed away, we liquidated the company,” says Frank. “I drove truck for a food service company for about nine years.” In the meantime, Franklin started up FD Eure Inc. in 1991 and enticed his father to come work for him.
Today, the company has two thinning crews and a chipping operation, employing nine in total. Frank explains that Eastern Shore supplies the chippers and chipper operators. “We cut it and drag it up to their chipper.” The total weekly volume for the three operations is 120-160 loads.
Frank started working in the woods during summer vacation when he was eleven years old. “My job was to mark the ends of the trees. They were cut in sixteen-foot lengths and taken to the railroad side. They unloaded them there and took them to Franklin, Virginia.” Back in those days, they didn’t weigh the loads. Board footage was calculated based on length and diameter, so Frank’s job was to measure the end diameter.
Every so often, if one of the fallers didn’t show up to work, Frank would do his best to pull a crosscut saw. Another early job for Frank was skidding logs. “We had mules. I used to drive those all the time. We moved up here from North Carolina and we brought the mules with us.” Frank explains that when they were working in North Carolina, they cut timber for JI Wells that was manufactured into utility poles.
"I think his faith has a lot to do with keeping him fit and strong because that goes a long way."
— Franklin Eure
“We used to send them up from North Carolina by rail and then they wanted us to come up here and cut their land holdings. That’s how we came to be here. We were pulling those great long pilings. They were 60 to 70 feet long. And with a mule pulling them, we had to cut little trees across the path so that they would slide on the trees. They would slide a lot easier on the trees than they would on the dirt.”
The family progressed from the mules to an old dozer, and eventually a Franklin cable skidder. “I don’t know how many new Franklins we went through. We would break them and weld them back together.” The first hint of mechanized felling came in 1976 when Frank’s dad bought a Caterpillar 920 tree cutter – a front end loader with a shear-type attachment. At one point, Eure Logging Inc. had three crews and was running thirteen log trucks.
“I remember one day we moved 32 loads. It was way different back then compared to how it is done now,” Frank recalls. “The crews were working double shifts and loading at night as well. Chesapeake Corp operated a plywood plant in West Point. The timber was transported by barge. When Chesapeake Bay froze over, we had to take them up by truck.”
Frank rises at 3:30 every morning and arrives at the jobsite by 5:00 am. He notes that his son usually has the machine fuelled, greased, and ready to go. He cuts nine to ten loads and leaves at around 2:30 in the afternoon. “And every morning or evening or both, I get a hug and a ‘I love you’ from Dad. He cuts with the best of them, and can out-cut most of them,” says Franklin proudly. “And he shows up for work every day.”
Frank runs a new 720G equipped with a 5500 saw – perfect for the thinning work that he is engaged in daily.
The 720G that Frank is running now is the company’s fourth Tigercat drive-to-tree feller buncher. FD Eure Inc. also owns an 845 series track buncher. “The first one that Dad got was in 2013. A 718E. It was the very first machine we bought from Bullock Brothers. And Tommy Parks was the one that sold it to us.” Tommy is a veteran forestry equipment salesman, and he has been selling Tigercat iron for 30 years. “There is a difference between a good salesperson and just a regular salesperson. Some of them are just out here for the sale. And some of them are good people. That is how I feel about Tommy,” says Franklin, adding that he receives good service support from Bullock Brothers.
With 70 years’ experience in the woods, Frank has seen it all. “When we finally got a power saw, good Lord, you could probably hear it all the way to Pennsylvania.” The first power saw took two men to operate, weighing over 100 pounds. “The chain would break and hit a man’s hand – cut it all to pieces. The first one we got, I will never forget it. It set the woods on fire, and I had to fight fire at the camp all weekend. Maybe at the time I was 12 years old, but they paid me like I was a grown man to fight that fire.”
Frank is 83 years old and shows up for work every day.
That first mechanized felling machine in 1976 didn’t even have a hydrostatic drive system, and since then, Frank has run just about every feller buncher brand, three-wheelers included. I ask him how the machines have changed and evolved over the decades. “There is so much. They are faster. They are stronger. They don’t break in two like they used to. And they are much quieter.”
Thinning is a demanding job for a buncher operator of any age, but Frank says that he doesn’t really feel tired at the end of the day. He stresses that the modern cab ergonomics make a big difference, and he mentions that he makes good use of the rearVIEW camera system. When pressed, he can’t think of any specific challenges in his job that are age-related. “I think his faith has a lot to do with keeping him fit and strong,” says Franklin. “Because that goes a long way.”
The Tigercat 620H skidder is well matched to the thinning
work performed by FD Eure Inc.
When Frank is not working, he fishes a little and works on his boat. His wife, Elizabeth, is suffering from Alzheimer’s and resides in a nursing home. Frank visits her every day. He has no plans to retire. “I enjoy it. I even enjoyed driving the mules all those years ago. I have always liked working in the woods.”
I get the impression that Frank also enjoys working alongside his son. As for Franklin, he has the privilege of working with his father and on occasion, his wife. “Sometimes my wife Donna comes out and runs the skidder. She can run a skidder just as good as anybody can and she will take care of it better. When she used to work full time out here with us, she kept her rags, and cleaning supplies, and her grease gun in her machine. If she had everything completed, with a deck full of trees, she would get up and wash her windows. She kept busy.”
It’s a real family business with many long-term employees. For instance, Franklin and his dad point out a 74-year-old truck driver who has worked for the Eure clan for over 45 years. Franklin’s uncle, Steve Eure, and cousin, Tim Eure, also work for the company. Franklin stresses the importance of teamwork and harmony. “You’ve got to get along great in the woods to help one another. If not, you can’t get as much done. That is the main thing.”