By Jason Todhunter The Beeman Timber Roots started in the 1920’s in New Meadows, Idaho. Earl Hodges started out as a general hand and quickly found himself has the head woods mechanic for a large contractor. He continued this career turning wrenches and driving log truck and doing whatever else needed done until his boss decided to build a sawmill in Tamarack, ID. His mechanical skills were quickly moved from the woods into town to help build the sawmill which is still in operation today. Bob remembers Earl had a messed-up thumb from falling off the tepee burner while they were building the sawmill…wasn’t much OSHA presence back then! Once the sawmill was completed and running smoothly, he moved back to the woods to continue in this profession we call logging. He married his wife Alice in the 1940s and they had three daughters and one son. When Earl finally retired, he started his own saw shop where the company loggers would drop off their broken Homelights, McCullohs and later the other brands. Earl ran his saw shop well into his 80’s with his mechanical prowess, and knowledge of the tools in our industry.
Earl’s youngest daughter Carmen met and married Robert Beeman in 1962. This new son-in-law had interest in the logging industry so Earl helped him get a job with a local gypo, then later with Warren Brown as a chocker setter. Robert continued and after some time was running the yarder then later loading log trucks with a Linkbelt 98. After a period of time in the woods Robert started working for Salmon River Lumber where he fed the mill, decked logs and occasionally unloaded log trucks. During this time Robert and Carmen had three children: Robert (Bob), Billy, and Kim. One of Robert’s hobbies was running the Salmon and Snake rivers with a power boat. Jets were not very developed back then however they built their own river boats powered by various configurations. Robert and one of his friends were one of the first to make it all the way up from Pittsburg landing to the dam (through Hell’s Canyon) with a 21’ riveted boat and two 80hp prop outboards. Google that and you will see what an accomplishment that truly was! This tradition continues to this day (in a way better boat) where the Beeman’s head to Hells Canyon to catch a release white sturgeon. There are still a few they haven’t landed yet; one named “Oscar” who is alleged to be 12’+ in length….he has taken a few miles of Beeman line and lots of riggin…alas maybe this year?!
Robert got tired of the sawmill grind and decided to start his own logging business in 1978. This, as many of you remember, was a very tough time in our industry…tough markets, Frank Church Wilderness designation, etc. Robert bought an International Td 15 skidding cat, and a brand-new 045 Stihl chainsaw and went to work. He and his cat skidder operator (ten-year-old Bob) went to work the first day. The first tree, as Robert was not armed with a wedge, went over backwards and smashed his saw. He went to town and came back with another new saw and cut the second tree; the same exact thing happened! Rumor had it the next trip to get a new saw he came back with a wedge belt full of wedges. They logged and sold logs and started the new idea of marketing firewood. Bob still grumbles when he remembers all the nice loads of buckskin larch that were sold and the knotty fir tops that were brought home for him and Billy to chop. This new venture would soon end due to poor markets and wood availability. Robert and Carmen gathered up their family and headed to an oil boomtown called Fairview, MT. He got a job driving truck and would finish raising his family here. He went on later to become a high school principal.
Bob graduated high school in 1982 and also married Mona the same year. He immediately got a job on the oil pipeline however the woods were calling back west. It wasn’t long and he and Mona were back in Missoula and Bob was working for Ken Gebhert skidding road right away and building road. His choker setter was his younger brother Billy. He chuckles remembering one night in the Lochsa sleeping in a tent when he and Billy were awakened by the sound of their camp stove being knocked over. This could only mean one thing: BEAR. A hastily devised plan was concocted; Billy was going to turn a light on and Bob was going to run for the pickup at the same time where undoubtedly there were some kind of small arms being housed. The light flashed on and with the speed of an Olympic sprinter Bob headed for the truck and ran full speed into a broadside, curios cow moose who was exploring the Beeman camp. Both parties involved most likely received a few grey hairs from the surprise encounter. After a short time at this job Bob went to work for Leroy Christofferson hauling logs, then several other contractors until he ended up with Ed Cheff where he would stay until starting his own business.
Bob and Mona had two sons in the 1980s; Brad and Josh. In 1999, Bob and Mona had an opportunity to buy a Mack log truck and Prentice log loader; this was the start of B&M Trucking Inc. A month later they would add another truck and the Beeman family business was up and running. While Bob was loading and hauling for Ed Cheff, Brad would come to the woods with him. It wasn’t long, before Brad was running a high-track D5 skidding logs for Ed. B&M worked loading and hauling until things got slow and Bob took a job managing the Vermeer shop in Billings. Brad graduated from High school in Billings and headed to Missoula for college. After two weeks the sawdust called louder than the professors did and he went to work for Johnson Brothers as a mechanic. In 2004 B&M started the logging business back up loading and hauling logs for Charlie Park who was working east of Hardin. Josh started running the log loader and unloading trucks and loading rail cars at the Huntley rail siding, Brad was loading in the woods. Josh worked every summer for the family business while he was in college which he paid for with a full wrestling scholarship; Brad has been in the family business ever since helping his folks run the business and taking on the chore as the main processer operator.
When the pulp market got good and Smurfit Stone needed logs they looked to eastern Montana. B&M went to work for Tony Miller running the rail siding in Laurel. The business quickly added four log loaders and a 988 for unloading log trucks and loading rail cars. They loaded 20 rail cars a day with a record day of 36 rail cars (70+ log trucks) in one day. Dick Beeman, Bob’s uncle, would join the team for awhile during these busy times. Dick has been a long-time logger and gold miner who came down from his mine in Superior, MT to help his nephew. Previously he was mining in Hawaii, Panama, and Alaska. Dick later bought a portable sawmill and set up in Silver City and finally ended up in Lewistown where he retired a few years ago.
The Beeman’s added a logging side in 2006 contracting for Tony Miller and logging pulp. When Smurfit Stone closed, they ended up back in the Seeley Lake area for work; the next job was in the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming working for Dan Sanford. A Chinese concrete form board market brought Tricon Timber to the pine market in Eastern Montana and the Beeman crew closer to home. They stayed with Tricon until that pine market went soft in 2014. From this point on Bob started buying his own sales and marketing them to whatever product worked the best. This business model has been successful; now when you go on a B&M job you see very nice new equipment and log trucks….they have come a long ways since that td15 and a Stihl 045!
These articles are fun to write and put together however when we write them, we take direction from the member as this is their story. Bob wanted me to talk about some people who have been so crucial to their business success. First his family; Mona for doing the payroll and helping with the books for the company while holding down a full-time job teaching; second his sons and family who have helped and continue to make B&M the business that it is. Next is the employees; Cousin Rick Beeman who handles the loading chores and trucking logistics; Skidder guy extraordinaire Billy Clayton; Rex Farr who drives a company log truck or lowboy; Dave Warner (Beaver) who drives a company log truck; former employees Cody Caudill and his brother Nick who now are their own business but still part of the process; and Lee Kearney who contract cuts for B&M. It’s this whole group working together that makes B&M what it is today.
What started in a small town in Idaho has moved and adapted to the many changes and obstacles that the folks in our industry have been forced to overcome. Loggers face constantly changing and moving markets, and whims of politicians that can put you out of work overnight. Throughout these times the Beeman’s have been steadfast and adaptive in their journey. Earl’s great-great grandson Brayden has the bug already as he spends much of his summertime in logging camp helping his dad Brad run the processer. I think Earl would be pleased to know that 600 miles east from where his legacy began, his timber roots have their hooks in the next generation!