By: Bryan Lorengo
Growing up and living in Butte in the 1950’s and 60’s and looking for a career, ironically one that still exists today, is that of a miner. For Roy H. Lorengo, this is the path he chose as it provided a good wage and steady work, something that was needed when raising a young family. Roy’s priorities never changed. His focus on family was his priority all the way up until his passing. He was fortunate to spend over 50 years working side by side with his family and forming the family logging business.
So, how does one go from being a miner to a logger? Well, for Roy H. Lorengo that was a simple decision, one he never regretted. His career started in “The Pit” working as a mechanic. He enjoyed his job and the guys he worked with, but he had very little patience for the organized labor and the politics that came with it. Roy’s philosophy was if you work hard you will be rewarded and he didn’t need someone else deciding how he made a living. If you worked in Butte and Anaconda during its mining glory days, it was a constant battle between labor and management, and strikes were just part of the job. This did not sit well for my grandfather as he was forced to stand on the picket line while he struggled to provide for his family. So, in 1962 while the miners in Butte went on strike, Roy decided to join his cousin Bob Paynter (P&S Logging) and his logging career was off and running. His first job was hand falling power poles and skidding them with a HD 21 Allis and Chalmers dozer. This job, which turned into a lifelong career, allowed Roy H to not only provide a good living for his family but also to work independently, something he cherished his entire career.
Roy H. continued work with his cousin Bob and went from an Allis Chalmers dozer, then upgrading to a Garrett 15 skidder then to a Mountain Logger. In 1968 Roy H. decided to relocate his family and the logging business from Butte to Anaconda. His cousin Bob stayed in Butte and continued logging with his sons. The primary reason for this move was work was closer to Anaconda and Philipsburg and Roy H. Lorengo started (contract) skidding for Gene Anderson (Superior Logging). For those that don’t recognize the name Gene Anderson it was Sherm Anderson’s (Sun Mountain) father. Idn 1970 Roy M. Lorengo (son) joined his dad in the family business and they added two new John Deere skidders by 1973. Work continued as a subcontractor for Superior Logging and in 1971 Cliff joined the family business. His first job was timber falling on the weekends while juggling work for Kanduch sawmill and finishing up high school. Both Roy M (1969-70) and Cliff (1970-72) worked for Joe Kanduch at the sawmill while attending high school. Unfortunately, the Kanduch sawmill closed in 1972.
Bob joined the team in 1974 and his first job was working on the landing. That year Bob decided to take a break from logging and attend Wyoming Tech and graduated in autobody. After finishing autobody school Bob did several side jobs restoring and painting cars along with working on small engine repair primarily chain saws out of his garage. But true to anyone that has worked in the woods it is an easy job to fall in love with and Bob found himself back in the woods full time and has never looked back. In 1976 Bob started back fulltime for the family business and can recall the first job was in Dry Cottonwood near Deer Lodge and the woods boss for Superior Logging was Sherm Anderson. Bob recalls with a chuckle Sherm firing the crew one day and hiring back the next.
In 1977 Lorengo Logging went to work for the Montana Pole Company. This sawmill was located in Butte and at the time provided power poles for Montana Power. The majority of the sales were located on USFS lands in Elk Park and East Fork Reservoir. This continued until the closure of Montana Pole Company and they soon started work between Louisiana Pacific and Wicks Forest Products which is now RY Timber. One of their first jobs for Wicks (1977-78) was located in Dog Creek which is located on the south side of McDonald Pass. At this time, they decided it was in their best interest to make certain logs were being delivered and Lorengo Logging bought their first log truck, an International with a self-loader. The loading and hauling duties at the time were shared between Roy M. and Cliff. To date Roy M. is still in charge of the loading and hauling. The logging continued for Wicks/RY Timber along with working on several ranches and in 1983 they decided to purchase their first agency sale (USFS) just north of Dillon in Birch Creek. This sale continued for several years and one I personally have fond memories. During the summer months the entire family would camp on the job in Birch Creek and one where I spent countless hours enjoying the woods and my true passion started for this noble profession, we continue to call logging.
As true with most loggers in the 80’s, and the Lorengo crew was no different, the first piece of mechanical logging equipment was purchased. In 1986 the first was a slide boom delimber a JCB from Jones Equipment. At this time work was on private ranches in Elk Park and logs were being delivered to RY in Townsend and power poles to Idaho Pole in Bozeman. Then in 1992 the first feller buncher was purchased. a Timbco with a bar saw and in 1993 the first grapple skidder was purchased a 648D.
The move to fully go fully mechanical was not only required but it also came with a great opportunity for Lorengo Logging at the time. Ron Yanke (RY Timber) was in the process of purchasing 30,000 plus acres West of Anaconda and it came with a steady timber harvest contract for close to 10 years. My grandfather cherished the business relationship he had with Ron and heck who wouldn’t as it came with a timber contract, a financier for equipment and it was done over a handshake agreement.
All good things come to an end, with RY selling off its land West of Anaconda and Lorengo Logging to search for the next logging job. At about the same time the recession hit in 2007 so did the massive mountain pine beetle infestation. This was timely not only for Lorengo Logging but many other contractors at the time as many landowners both private and public were forced to cut their dead lodgepole pine. This continues to this day and Lorengo Logging continues to work on USFS, BLM, MT DNRC and private timber sales. Currently, the Lorengo crew is working for Sun Mountain Lumber on several different USFS timber sales.
Though the core of the business has always been Roy H and his three sons a few of the family members have also worked for the family business. These include Lee Klemann (son in law to Roy H) who drove truck for fifteen plus years, and myself who also drove truck. Currently Joe Lorengo (Cliffs son) operates skidder and Judy (Cliffs wife) handles the books for the business. Also, Roy H., Cliff, Judy and Mike Anderson (Sherm Andersons brother) had a country music band and they played in many venues throughout SW Montana. Roy H. proudly operated skidder until the age of 87 until he physically couldn’t anymore. He passed away at the age of 89 and leaves the family business now known as Lorengo & Sons Logging in the hands of his three boys who continue to follow the passion of their father and working in the best profession…LOGGING!!!