Once again, I paid another visit to the annual Oregon Logging Conference, held every year in Eugene, OR at the Lane County Fairgrounds. I’m sure that I was only one or two years old the first time I attended this event, and by the time I was big enough to run (and climb) my dad spent half of his time there chasing me around, pulling me off of the mountains of equipment lined up over several city blocks! In those days, there was a lot more logging going on around the Northwest, and a lot more was on display at the Logging Conference. But, I can still honestly say, even though the event itself may be smaller these days, it is all about the people and the atmosphere – and these folks are great!
This year’s 73rd annual conference, held February 24-26, once again showcased the latest and greatest heavy equipment and tools for the logging industry. From shiny new log trucks parked both inside and outside the convention center, to state-of-the-art wood chippers fired up and at full throttle outside, chipping raw logs into silver-dollar sized shreds of wood used to fuel many power plants and lumber mills across the landscape. There were even a few meticulously-restored log trucks gracing the aisles inside, including David Hull’s beautiful dark blue (and rare) Dodge Bighorn. David’s company, Hull Oaks Lumber, based in Bell Fountain, Oregon, is one of the last operational steam-powered lumber mills in the country. David, hanging out at the show with his granddaughters, seemed to be having a blast.
Other notable attendees at the Logging Conference included Mike Pihl of Mike Pihl Logging, one of the logging outfits featured on Discovery Channels “Axmen” television show. Mike brought out their white Kenworth T800 wide hood, which looked right at home parked outside in the middle of all the huge shovels, skidders and yarders. Many great vendors such as Whit Log Trailers, Papé Group, Western Trailers, Peterson Pacific, General Trailer and hundreds more help to make this event well-worth the trip every year. There was even a Bigfoot sighting at the show! And although I am a little old to be running around on all the equipment these days, trust me, it is still very tempting.
The Oregon Logging Conference is a necessary get-together for the businessmen of the timber industry, but it is also a great weekend to catch up with old friends. Friday night’s infamous Sawdust Bowl (the show’s on-site watering hole) is a great place to kick back, have a few cold ones and relax. Thank goodness at least the Sawdust Bowl is still as big and popular as it has always been!
I’m sure that I’m not alone in hoping for better days in the future for this industry. And maybe, sometime soon, our so-called “green” politicians will realize that timber is our best renewable natural resource. But, until then, these “wild” loggers will just keep on loggin! Heck, maybe someday I’ll be that guy at my wits-end, like my dad was, chasing my future grandchildren around the place yelling, “Get down out of there!” I sure hope so.