JM: Now, Leland told me that that land that the sawmill was on was originally Nikolaus land and he sold it to . . .?
VR: That’s exactly. His dad . . .
SR: I thought some of that was Lewis’.
VR: Down at the old Safeway, that was Lewis’ and then the sawmill was Leland’s family. My dad bought it from them and that was 1946 or ’47, sometime in there, the nearest I can remember. Because my dad had built the mill down at Safeway, the planing mill, in 1946. So it was right at ’47 or something like this when he bought it off Leland’s dad.
JM: What did you produce out of that mill?
VR: We produced mining timbers.
JM: Okay, you’re still doing timbers.
VR: Uh huh, we sent a lot of mining timbers to New Mexico back into the Uranium mines.
SR: And a lot of lumber too.
VR: And a lot of lumber. We sent lumber all over the Valley and Tucson and years ago we sent a lot out on rail. You know, going back East.
JM: The timber was mostly just Ponderosa pine?
VR: Ponderosa pine and Douglas fur, spruce.
JM: And the logging trucks would haul it in . . .
VR: Uh huh
JM: and then haul it out again.
VR: Logging trucks hauled it in and the lumber trucks would haul it out.
JM: Did you ever connect with Hal Butler and his working.
VR: Hal was working for the Indians down in Whiteriver, but Hal worked for my dad for quite a while.
JM: Okay, because he’s about your age or a little older than you.
VR: I think Hal is just a little older. He was in World War II, Hal was. And he was working for my dad somewhat time around there.
JM: I was thinking that was his first job when he came out.
VR: Yeah, it was one of his first jobs. He started hauling lumber for my dad, you know, bought his own truck, so he done that for . . .
JM: Started freighting
VR: Yeah, he done that quite a few years, and then he went to Whiteriver for the Tribe.
JM: But you had Apaches and Navajos working here then.
VR: Uh huh
JM: Because of their timber interests were they here?
VR: Down there, see we used to get most of our timber off the Reservation. We’d get a lot of timber down around Forestdale and you know, all over down there. They required us to work 70% of their people, and we did at least that many. In fact is they were our main source of help back then, you know. They done a good job and we had them working for us 25 to 30 years, a lot of them. Stayed right there, you know, until we shut down.
JM: How many people did you have working for you?
VR: Logging and all, around 50 people.
JM: Now you had loggers who were always in the woods, and then there were sawmillers who were only in the sawmills.
VR: Yeah, yeah
SR: And truckers that shipped it out.
VR: Yeah, truckers
SR: Drivers shipped it out
JM: Did you own the trucks, or did they?
VR: No, we owned the trucks.
JM: So then you had something that was marketing this wood.
VR: Yeah, we had a long standing with a lot of people, you know, like in Albuquerque and around the country that would buy our lumber. You know we always had a home for it.
JM: Did you connect any with McNary when it was going?
VR: We used to, years ago, we sold lumber to McNary. They sent so much out on rail and then it was, you know, it worked out pretty good for us back sometimes when the lumber business was real slow, why they bought a lot of lumber from us. And also, a lot of our waste, like the bark and stuff, because they ran their power plants with that. You know, sawdust and bark, and we hauled that to them. Same way was when the paper mill went in, we’d make wood chips and send the wood chips down there. At that time Southwest owned it, you know, the whole thing.
JM: So what happened to the wood industry? What happened here?
VR: Well, it just got ridiculous, what happened to it.
SR: Mostly, the owl
VR: It just burnt you, little of deal, yeah they’d take away a bunch of it for the spotted owl, spotted owl or goshawk or something. About the time they went to setting it aside, and then they started marking all the little timber that, you know. We wanted to quit. We had a big sawmill. You know, to cut big logs. Well, we never knew what was going to happen from day to day, so we didn’t want to be investing back then in small log help, you know, to cut. So we just seen our way out of it and seen a way to keep our property, so we just forgot it. You know, got out of it.
JM: So about when was that, that it happened?
SR: May of ‘91
JM: A lot longer than McNary then.
VR: Well, no, McNary, they moved to Eager, but then they changed hands you know. They were selling. We were just a small family business. But they changed or sold out, or whatever. I don’t know just what it was. But, yeah, we stayed for a long time. We toughed it out, us and Porters out there. We just toughed it out for a long time to where, you know, we just couldn’t keep our people working. It was either that or just give it all up and probably wind up losing all our property too. So we sold it.
SR: Timber was very had to get ahold of back then.
JM: Squeezed us out
SR: Well, see we bought from the government and not selling anymore
JM: So who was the pressure? Was it the environmentalists or was that the Forest Service, or?
VR: It was a combination. It was environmentalists and mainly, the environmentalists. And then the Forest Service, they do what the public wants, you know. It seemed like the public got where they were leaning toward shutting everything down anyway, so that’s just the way it went. And then, being located right here in town with a sawmill wasn’t really too practical anymore either. So it was just a matter of time.
JM: It was like the town was growing around you.
VR: Yeah, that’s right!
JM: There was another sawmill down the creek a ways.
VR: Uh, down this way? That was uh, that started out as a Chlarson mill, and then my cousin, Bruce, bought that mill. And he run that mill for quite a while.
JM: How was that different from yours? The mill itself, was it doing the same stuff?
VR: Yeah, doing the same kind of stuff.
VR: Well, I don’t know just what he done. He did a lot of lumber because they owned a lumberyard. He had a lumberyard too, right here in town. See, he mainly was a retailer and we were wholesalers.
JM: I see. And then there was another one I remember, down back behind where Kmart is.
VR: That was a little old molding plant out there that belonged to Hugh Whipple.
VR: Uh huh, yeah he run that for a long time.
JM: Now that was molding, like around windows. That kind of molding?
VR: Yeah, uh.
JM: Was that a retail too? Or was that wholesale?
VR: I think he just wholesaled it out, hauled it to different stores maybe. I don’t know.
JM: Were there any others around?
VR: Yeah, my brother-in-law, he had a molding plant down by our planing mill.
JM: What was his name?
VR: Clifford Burrows
VR: Uh huh, he worked for Southwest. He learned the molding business there, working for Southwest in McNary. And then he put in that little molding plant down here. And then, later moved to Phoenix, put him in a molding mill in Phoenix.
JM: So you two got married, and how many kids did you have?
SR: Two boys and two girls
JM: What are their names?
SR: There’s Rick and Jerry Fay, Kathy and Edwin Lee
JM: Do they live around here?
SR: All of them
JM: All of them here! That’s good, so you’ve got grandkids?
SR: Oh yeah
VR: We’ve got a flock of grandkids and great-grandkids.
JM: Oh my! You’re family has been here, wow, you’re starting your third century! (laughter) Goodness!
JM: So what are they doing now that the family business is?
VR: They’re just working around different places. They all went, you know, went to work. After we shut down, well most of them, there’s three of them worked at the mill. We have a daughter that worked there and our two sons worked there. And the smart one, she taught school, so.
JM: Here in Show Low?
SR: She taught here until two years ago, and then she went to Whiteriver. Kathy was a teacher in the first grade, first and second, mostly first.
JM: That’s a commute.
SR: Yeah, but it was her choice. She’s right at the end it was a benefit to her to go down there.
JM: Well, we don’t have the weather like we used to have.
VR: Boy, that is a fact.
SR: You were asking about this home down, uh Charlie Reidhead’s that he built that was downtown on the Deuce. Evidently it was built around 1914, a lot of years ago.
JM: Yes, a long time ago. I’d like to see that, something happen with that place.
VR: Yeah, I would too, I.
SR: Yeah, because back then it was really quite spectacular with the yard and everything.
JM: It’s almost a hundred years old.
SR: This what we’ve got here is quite a book. Val’s sister made it.
VR: We went to uh, back where we were in Scotland. She made a trip to Scotland and then she wrote that book.
JM: So your family is from Scotland? You’re a Scott?
VR: Uh huh
JM: Did your family first come from Scotland to go to Salt Lake City?
VR: No, where was it, Baltimore, Maryland or somewhere North.
SR: Somewhere back east
VR: Somewhere back east, I’d have to look it up.
SR: It’s all in here. I don’t remember
VR: I remember reading it.
JM: I wonder how long logging was in your family. People usually bring their trade with them.
VR: Well, they built Scotch over there, so some of them brought the trade with them. They made corn whiskey. (laughter) They tried to bring it with them.
JM: Yeah, tried their best.
SR: What did your grandpa do when he come here? Oscar, John Oscar
VR: I think rancher is what he
JM: Cattle ranching
VR: Cattle ranching, cattle and horses
JM: A lot of these horses were wild. They were probably catching the wild horses and taming them? Do you think?
VR: No, I don’t think so. I think they just, oh they probably did some, but I think they just started out small and just built up a herd, you know. I remember my dad talking about they traded with the Apaches, you know, sell horses and break horses for them and different things like that.
JM: I’ve heard stories. I did Esther Lee not long ago. She was talking about the McNeil family when they first came here, how she said, her father would chase a horse all day just to ride it for 15 minutes. (laughter)
VR: Yeah, I think I’d do that too when I was a kid.
JM: Sounds wild to me! (laughter)
VR: They just didn’t want to be rode.
JM: You retired the whole shebang in ’91. Did you just retire at that point, or did you do something else?
VR: Yeah, more or less, pretty much through you know. Pretty hard to do anything else, so we just packed it all up.
JM: When you focus so long on just one thing like that, it’s hard to see yourself doing something else.
VR: Oh yeah
SR: You really don’t know anything else.
VR: No, that’s all I knew. I didn’t learn anything, you know, only sawmilling and logging was the only stuff I knew. About the time we ran out there wasn’t much going on, so there was no need for me going out looking for a job doing that, so.
JM: Yes, and you had lived here already? In your house? You’d already been here?
SR: We’d been here since ’72 in this.
VR: Yeah, we started building it in ’70 and it took us two years to build it. We moved in in ’72, wasn’t it? Right here.
SR: Kind of like it here. We’re in town but we ‘re not.
JM: Quiet here
SR: We don’t have neighbors. Of course we’re going to.
JM: Do you own this property over here?
SR: No, we did at one time.
JM: I wish you’d have kept it.
SR: In fact, Val’s brother went and bought it from the McNeil family. My great-great-grandmother lived up here on this corner.
JM: And what was her name?
SR: Mary McNeil
JM: Mary Ann?
SR: Mary Ann McNeil
JM: So you’re related to Esther Lee. That was her grandmother.
SR: Yeah, and she was my grandmother too.
JM: Oh! So you’re cousins!
SR: Bought it from Mary Ann McNeil, her daughter, they homesteaded it.
JM: Was this Piney Ranch? What they called Piney Ranch?
SR: I never heard it called that. There’s another one out across the highway where Torreon is that the McNeils owned also.
VR: I think Ben McNeil owned that out there.
SR: Yeah, he owned that out there.
JM: Raymond Lee was telling me that down where the church is was Piney Ranch, so that could be that it stretched this far. I don’t know how.
VR: Yeah, it could have been. The homestead could have went that far, yeah.
SR: But I know that this homestead here was 40 acres. Mary Ann bought it when she came back from Mexico.
JM: She bought it herself.
SR: Uh huh. In fact, Dad had quite a few of the McNeils that’s wanted to know where the home was that’s come by here. And the home’s all gone now. Everything is all gone, but it was up in the corner of the 40 acres around here. The 40 acres have been sold off to other people, and we have some down the front here and Val’s brother down to Central and to the trailer court down Whipple. But this back here, we have no idea what’s going to happen to it.
JM: David Foil told me that that used to be Forest Service land right out here.
SR: In the pines
JM: Behind the meadow here?
SR: Out that way
JM: Where Sierra Pines is?
VR: Yeah, that was Forest Service. Yep
JM: Amazing, so close
VR: Yeah, we logged some logs off that. Then through a land trade, you know, they traded. Somebody traded for it. I don’t know, two or three different times I think it has been sold or traded.
JM: These log houses that are being built. Where are those logs coming from?
VR: A place over in Nutrioso that makes log house logs, pretty big outfit over there. Then a lot of these I think come from Colorado.
JM: Oh, do the Reidheads still have a sawmill out there at Nutrioso?
VR: My cousin. See, my brother wound up with that mill, and then his boys, my nephew, he still owns the sawmill there.
JM: So it’s still running?
VR: Well, it’s pretty well shut down. He put in a small log mill down at Eager. The last I heard he’d been running it. That’s about it I think.
JM: Probably just custom things at this point.
VR: Yeah, probably, yeah probably now. I kind of lost track anymore what they’re doing.
JM: So now after this Rodeo-Chedeski fire, do you predict that they’re going to open up the clearing of the forests? Cleaning the forests up? Or any way timber will be revived through that?
VR: No, they’re just still plant, you know, seedlings. You’re talking a hundred years before it grows up any.
SR: This timber here takes a long time to grow.
JM: And the burned stuff that’s still standing . . .
VR: No, it’s ruined. It was ruined. Oh, they logged some of it, but they should have really went in there and logged it out. You know, salvaged it. They just as soon put it on the ground. That’s environmentalists again. They’d just as soon it fell on the ground and ruined, you know, instead of somebody getting something out of it.
JM: And with the price of fuel now, you would think there would be a revival of wood products.
VR: Probably this pellet mill out here is probably about, you know, that’s what we’ve got a pellet stove here. We burn pellets. It’s a lot cleaner and . .
SR: Cleaner and more practical than wood
VR: than wood
JM: And a woman can fill. No splitting kindling wood anymore.
VR: No, we done that for a long time. We have an old fireplace there and we liked to froze to death from.
SR: They’re not for warmth.
VR: They’re not practical.
JM: Just getting even with you.
JM: So we still have the pellet place, and then the paper mill is, sounds like they’re cutting back or something.
VR: Yeah, that’s what I heard. It was cutting back. Of course, they quit the chips a long time ago. They just recycle, you know.
VR: Paper. I guess pellets is the big thing around here as far as wood, you know, still coming in off the forest, around this part. They send a lot of small logs out for different things. I don’t know what they are. They might make probably some log homes, you know.
JM: So what have you been doing with yourselves since you retired?
VR: Well, mainly nothing.
JM: Watch TV?
VR: No, we don’t like TV either. There’s just really not a whole lot to do around this place. We don’t need a whole lot to do either, now.
JM: With a family the size you’ve got, probably that keeps you with something going all the time.
VR: Oh yeah, we’ve got grandkids, kids and grandkids and great-grandkids coming by. Keeps it pretty busy.
SR: They come by for a little while almost every week. Some of them do. We’ve got a lot of grandkids living around.
JM: It looks like somebody coming now. Well, can you think of something else I need to record?
VR: Oh, not that I can think of. I pretty well covered about everything. I mean as far as the lumber, you know, and my family.
JM: The sawmills and where they were and everything. Yep, this is perfect timing. Somebody is showing up. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate this.
VR: Well I appreciate you calling.
JM: I wanted to really record this because so many people don’t remember those sawmills. Already we’re getting people that don’t know these sawmills.
VR: Well, I’m sure.
End of recording
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