By Jason Todhunter
The D.S. Jr. Trucking Inc. timber roots start in Montana in 1950 when John C. Sheets moved from Canada to Seeley Lake to start logging. His dad, Gilbert Sheets, (great grandpa to Davy) ended up coming to Seeley and working in the woods for a period of time as well. John primarily worked for the Anaconda Company and was a sawyer. He would do some occasional sawing for some local gypo loggers as well and worked during the spring breakups at J&M Lumber, bucking logs in the log yard. John also worked occasionally for Gray’s Sawmill which was just north of Seeley Lake. The Sheets lived in one of the company shacks at J&M Lumber.
John’s daughter, Karen, remembers that J&M had a cookhouse and cooks that fed their crews. Eventually John and family moved to Morrell Flats, then in 1958 they moved to a small farm in the 3mile area by Stevensville. John continued sawing and was injured in the woods and unable to log anymore…..at least that’s maybe what the doctors thought! The woods called him back and he would log and mechanic during breakup until the 1960s. Some ruptured discs in his back would unfortunately end his logging career. Karen Sheets (Souders) Remembers “My Dad could sharpen a chain saw like no other. It was like sawing butter after he sharpened it!”
With sawdust in the Sheets family veins, it was just a matter of time before they were back and that time was 1974. Dave Sheets Sr. bought a small cat and a timber sale by Coloma. Near Coloma at the same time was a horse logging timber sale that his sisters Kim and Karen would bid on and get. They horse logged for two years and decided that was enough; they stayed in the family business but with equipment that didn’t need babysat 24-7!
Dennis Sheets would join the family logging ventures and would go on to run his own business until 2014. Dave Sheets Sr would buy a line machine and line skid for many years. He stayed in the industry until he retired in 2019. Davy’s brother Jonathon got an early start as well by leading the skidding horses back up the trail to get re-loaded. Jonathon would stay in the logging industry and run his own business J&M Logging until 2009. John Sheets would be the family logging confidant and chain sharpener as the family logging businesses evolved. Karen says “whenever I got my saw cutting really crooked, he would always straighten it out for me!”
Dave Sheets Jr, (Davy) got started early in his logging career staying at the family logging
camp when he was still in diapers. His mom remembers having a crib in the logging camper. He didn’t like to sleep and always wanted to be out! Later he would go and sit in the log loader all day with aunt Karen, watching everything happen. He and Jonathon went to the woods every chance they got. Davy got to go more as that darn thing called school got in Jonathon’s way. Davy was known to always be busy and loved all logging iron; however, he wasn’t the best driver as he wrecked his aunt’s pickup by running into a log deck when he was 8. He alleges he couldn’t see over the steering wheel however the general consensus was this accident was caused by distracted driving. By the time he was 10 he was pretty proficient in operating most logging equipment. During the high school years, he and Jonathon hooked logs for their dad and when Davy was a sophomore in high school, he bought his first timber sale. It was a post and pole sale so he built an arch setup for his Yamaha Big Bear 4wheeler and went to work. He and his employee would bring a pickup and trailer load of post and rails home every day and then have the remainder hauled by contracted self-loaders. I asked him why he brought a load home every day with the pickup and he said “had to have cash flow to pay the help!” He remembers one time trying to save money on trucking by putting bunks on his dad’s lowboy then loading it by hand. Rumor has it this was only attempted once! “It was a darn good thing there was a high cut bank there! That was a real bugger loading that green lodge pole once the truck started getting full!” Davy chuckles.
After graduation Davy went to work for Parke Logging and hooked and sawed under their line machine. In 1993 he fortunately went to Big Timber to help run his Uncle Dennis’s line machine for a few weeks and while staying there met his future wife and business partner, Janice Grosfield. Janice had grown up on the family ranch which sets in a beautiful spot at the foothills of the Crazy mountains. The Grosfield Ranch is a four-generation cattle ranch; no doubt the work ethic Janice learned growing up here has been a big part of the success of their businesses today.
Davy and Janice would date for the next 7 years as both were starting their careers. Janice became a manager for the Holiday Inn Hotel in Missoula and was very successful in this industry. In 1995 Davy bought his first real log truck; a 1985 International. By the next year he had another truck and an employee. He added a self-loading log truck soon to the fleet and by 1999 he was running 3 self-loaders and 5 straight log trucks. Davy hauled for a cadre of logging contractors around the state with his main shop based in Drummond. When the fires of 2000 shut the woods down Davy and Janice got married most likely thinking there would be some time for a honeymoon…alas this was not the case as Davy was called out to the fires the very next day! He had several of his lowboys out and himself as a timber-faller. In 2001 they formed DS Jr. Trucking Inc. and Janice started working full time with the family business.
2005 would bring Hurricane Katrina to shores of the US and DS Trucking Inc. to New Orleans with 5 trucks hauling water and debris in the heavily damaged city. “One thing you learn when you spend 18 months there is how lucky we are to live where we do!” says Davy. By this time the business also had 4 trucks hauling ore full time off the Stillwater mine south of Big Timber which they continue to do currently.
2006 would bring the Derby fire and while Davy was running a skidgine on this fire he looked at all of the burned-up timber and landowners wanting something done and thought “guess it’s time to go logging”. With brother Jonathon contract cutting and Ike Lott delimbing the business started logging. In 2009 when Jonathon exited, the business bought its first feller-buncher, and in 2017 when Ike started a new venture, they bought their first dangle head processer. The business now has a fleet of log trucks, mine trucks, two mechanical logging sides, and roadbuilding equipment. They have also moved the shop location from Drummond to Greycliff where they built a very nice shop to wrench on their iron. They have come a long way since that first Yamaha Skidder!
Trygg Sheets arrived in 2014 and has the same drive to be out in the woods as his dad and has the ambition of both his parents. This logger in training has not only spent a lot of time in the seat of a machine watching how things are done, he has also made every first aid class since he was born…except for last yr. Trygg, you are out of date on your CPR! This young man also recently inherited a line machine from his Grandpa Dave so the Sheets timber roots have their hooks in the 5th generation. Trygg is getting taught some of the woes of owning his own equipment as Davy says he hasn’t paid a dime yet on his lowboy bill yet to haul the line machine from Drummond to Greycliff. This young man no doubt will go far in whatever field he chooses.
Dave and Janice have always been involved with the efforts to enhance and improve the logging industry in Montana. Dave was elected to the board of Montana Logging association in 1999 and served until 2002. He was nominated to the MLA’s Executive committee board in 2008; Janice and Dave both completed the ALP program in 2010; Dave was nominated Secretary Treasurer; 2013-2015; Vice President 2015-2017 and was MLA President 2017-2019.
The Sheets family still remain active with the MLA and always send their crews to the continuing education programs. I asked them if they had a business quote or saying that I could include and he sent me this: “An old friend of mine from Drummond who has passed away now, told me early in my career that luck is the intersection of opportunity and preparedness. The Good Lord has given Janice & I an abundance of opportunity, there have been many leaps of faith along the way, but the journey has been filled with blessings, heartache, laughter and a lot of good people we are lucky to call our friends.” Timber Roots.