Henness Logging, Inc.
by Mike Crouse
Independence has been in the character of the Henness family for a very long while, and certainly apparent when the Scottish/Irish family immigrated to this country in the mid-1800s then traversed coast to coast on a covered wagon over the Oregon Trail initially settling in Oregon City, Oregon around 1863. Their final move to Gates comes with an interesting twist and a posse his great grandfather was a part of in 1864, formed to chase and capture some escapees from the Oregon City jail. “The story was there were some guys who’d escaped from jail and chased those guys up here, crossed the Santiam and came up this side. They called this Kings Valley then,” Henness explained. “Great Grandpa liked the land so went back, retrieved the family from Oregon City, and we’ve been up here since then,” on the same land that was homesteaded in 1864. “It’s a century farm,” he noted with an evident pride.
“They raised cattle, hunted, fished, had a garden and survived,” Henness said then added, “I actually met my great grandfather. He lived ‘til 102, dying when I was just five years old.”
Life in rural Western Oregon, the heart of timber country, included logging if for no other reason than clearing the land for farming.
The first full-time Henness logger was his grandfather Glen Henness who was born around 1900. “He was a loggers his whole life, started working at Monument Peak for Hammond Lumber Co. setting chokers. He worked his way up becoming their logging foreman a number of years,” Henness noted with pride. “Last job he did he ran shovel for Frerres Lumber, logging the same place he’d started logging in the 1920s!”
The next generation
“I think that’s what (logging) he wanted to do,” Henness explained. “That was what there was around here then. He was kinda raised around it as well. I don’t think he was involved in the logging that much early on.”
Clare Henness was born in 1927, married his sweet heart Norma (Blackburn) when they both were 19, “...and went to work in the woods,” driving log truck and cutting timber as well.
In 1968 he broke out on his own, “...just by himself with one little Cat,” Henness explained, operating as, “Clare D. Henness Logging.” He continued logging increasing size gradually to a crew of four and equipment including a skidder, and self -loader to the crawler, but maintained that single side over the years. Around ‘75 he changed the company name to Henness Logging, and in the late 70s they incorporated.
Gary Henness came into the family in 1955, starting school at Gates Elementary in 1960, graduating in 1973 from Santiam High School in Mill City. While growing up he’d work with his father’s company during the summers at 14-15 after his sophomore year. “I made some money at it,” Henness said, “liked the money, but I liked the job too, I enjoyed it.” But his central interest at that time was law enforcement, which took him to OCE in Monmoth, Oregon where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in corrections in ‘77. “I was offered a job at MacLaren (Youth Correctional Facility) with a starting pay was $702/month,” Henness said then added, “My older sister (who taught school, got a job) at Oregon State Parks in the summer, with a starting pay was the same! I looked that that and thought heck with that,” and started his logging career. “I went to work for dad in the summer, and I’m still here.”
He joined the Henness crew of six the Fall of ‘77, and “..started cutting then full time.” He’d learned how to cut from his father. “Dad had run the 60-inch bars and big saws logging old growth.” Gary Henness’ first saw was a Homelite with a 32-inch bar, which worked well in the second growth they were logging at the time, and continued logging with that saw ‘til the purchased their first Stihl. “I loved them. They were so light, more power, chain speed... a night and day difference!” He continued as a timber cutter for about four years.
The change from cutter to crawler operator was quick. “One of the guys who’d worked for dad several years running Cat quit, and dad said, ‘...you’re going to have to run the Cat now,’ so I did that, running the Cat D3 and setting my own chokers for the next 16 years,” Henness explained, which later was replaced by a John Deere 550, then a JD650, “...all line machines.”
Moving from the crawler to operating shovel in the early 90s coincided with his dad’s back surgery. “At the time dad was running the loader all the time,” Henness explained, “and he needed to have back surgery and was going to be down for six weeks anyhow. I’d not run shovel at al before that, but I liked running shovel and never let him back on it,” he smiled noting, “except when I took a few days off, then he’d run it but otherwise not.” The shovel was a John Deere 690D mounted on a self-propelled Pierce three-axle carrier.
At that point they had a 13-man crew, including truckers and cutters.
“We’ve always had trucks,” Henness said, “starting with the self-loader dad had from when he started in 1970.” By ‘79 with the ongoing need for more trucking, Henness explained, “I bought my own truck in ‘79 and put a driver on it, which I leased to dad. It was a ‘76 Kenworth in ‘79 I’d paid $38,000 for, then put a driver on it, and called the company Gary D. Henness Trucking.”
At that point both he and his father had log trucks, “...which hauled for us and we hired gypos to round it out.”
Henness has had its own hand cutters from their early years on , then when John Deere produced the JD 653 feller buncher, “... we bought one of the first, which I ran for about a year, then hired a man to run it,” Henness explained with a smile. “They replaced that machine with a JD653 self-leveler operated it for about a year, went through Frank Lumber Co.’s feller buncher land and then it sat for about a year, when we sold it off and bought another shovel” and put that to use shovel logging.
The company’s generational transition was a gradual shift of duties and ownership. “We’d talked about it before,” Henness noted. “Dad was good about that, and I started doing more and more. I became president of the company in 1998, 15 years ago. Shelly and I own the majority, and the parents have some shares still.”
The change in ownership and the times contributed to their updating equipment. “I got tired of working on equipment each weekend and when it was finally mine, that changed.”
First they purchased some new log trucks. “We had four trucks at that point, so we started then selling older and buying newer. We still have four log trucks, all Kenworth.” They’ve not purchased a truck since 2007. “We’re running all Cat engines,” said Henness. “We’re very happy with them.”
They also bought some new shovels, a John Deere 690 track machine, in addition to upgrading other machines over time.
Henness had tried tower logging as well, “...for a short period of time but got rid of it,” he noted. Also they’d had a yoder, which “...we used for a couple of years. I put drums on the (Cat) 330. We had it made into a yoder out of necessity around 2004, and ran it with a gravity carriage. We bunched the logs at the bottom of the hill then skid them with the 330, rather than yarding it,” he noted. Then when it wound up setting for a while, Henness explained, “...things don’t work right when they’re not used,” and they sold that as well.
Henness Logging has worked for Frank Lumber Company since their start in business. “We went to work for them and 1970 and have been there ever since,” Henness said. “The give us a logging plan for the year, and always have. Normally they have a pretty good idea (a year ahead).”
“Dad said (when Henness Logging was changing ownership) ‘...you’ll never have a problem working for Frank as long as you treat their land like it is yours,’ and we’ve always tried to do that. And it’s worked.”
Henness Logging remains a highly automated ground based logger. Their crew consists of four timber cutters,, four truck drivers, and “five of us logging.”
Equipment includes: Link-Belt 290LX with Young grapple and Link-Belt boom “that I run,”; a 2454 John Deere, Pierce Grapple, shovel with a 38 ft. boom; a John Deere 2554 with a 40 ft. boom and a Waratah 623B dangle head processor; a Cat 527 track skidder with Cat swing grapple skidder; and a John Deere 748GIII Grapple Skidder. “It keeps most the guys off the ground,” Henness noted.
The job they were on the day we visited was on Oregon Dept. of Forestry land, which means all the trees need to be both stamped and painted, “...so we added another guy for this job,” to do that he said. “We’ve been getting 15-16 loads a day on this job. On some jobs we’ve done better.”
Overall they work a five day, eight hours a day work week, though with the rainy season upon us, “...to finish this job we’ll work any day we can to finish it up,” Henness said. They pay medical insurance for employees, which is available to buy for the family as well. “Most of the crew has been with us a long while, and most are cross trained.”
Henness and wife Shelly met in 1979 and were married in ‘81. They have 29-year-old twin daughters: Lacy and Joyce, and a son Talon who is 14 and in the 8th grade.
Shelly took over bookkeeping duties from Norma Henness (Clare’s wife, Gary’s mother) in 1989.
In addition to logging they enjoy fishing and hunting, and taking in an occasional football game, in addition to parenting, and now grand parenting as well.
He’s careful and conscious of his bottom line, which means he’s very conscious of spending on equipment, what that does for production and its effect on profitability. “I want to know how much is coming back in the bottom line at the end of the day,” he noted.
“I’ve never had any desire to be huge or run a whole bunch of sides,” Henness said on their concentration to do a good job for the landowner. “It’s enough to keep track of as we have it.”