The third time is the charm, the old saying goes. For Aaron Jorden, however, it’s the fourth.
He was a nominee in 2014, 2015 and 2016, but this year Aaron Jorden of Benton is the winner and has been named the 2017 Outstanding Louisiana Logger.
There were several nominations for this year’s award, which is judged each year by a panel of three. This year the judges included Dr. Neils de Hoop of LSU, Holly Morgan with U.S. Forest Service Kisatchie office and Kevin “Man” Martinez, last year’s Louisiana Logger of the Year.
Like many logging operations, Aaron Jorden Logging is a small, family business. It downsized in 2010 because of the economy, Jorden said.
“I have five woods guys and all the trucks are contracted,” he said.
Before 2010, Jorden ran two crews. It was difficult, he said, because he could get rolling on one crew when a problem arose at the other, which could be several miles away. By the time he got the problem worked out with the second crew, something else would come up at the crew he had left and he had to return to the first crew.
“I can do a better job with one crew,” the Master Logger said.
That was one of the reasons he said he was surprised to be named Logger of the Year as most previous winners had multiple crews.
Taught Me Everything
Jorden’s family operation actually began with his dad, Billy Jorden, in the late 1970s. When he was a boy, Jorden spent time in the woods with his father, riding in the big equipment. He learned as much as he could so that when he was older he could operate heavy machinery his father had.
Over the years, the Jordens developed a close father-son relationship. At work in the woods, hunting in the Midwest or snow skiing, Billy and Aaron Jorden spent a lot of time together.
In 2003, Aaron was mostly handling the trucking part of the business when his father decided to take a road trip to South Carolina on his Harley-Davidson. He told Aaron to take care of the business while he was gone.
The 50-year-old Billy Jorden didn’t make it back; tragically, he was killed in a motorcycle wreck. Aaron took over the business permanently at the young age of 24. Now at 38, he has kept it going strong.
“He taught me everything,” Aaron Jorden said of his father, choking a bit on the words. “It still gets to me to talk about it.
“This Logger of the Year is dedicated to him.”
The zeal for the business is evident by the enthusiasm of his woods crew. Sante Douglas, Hugh Hagan, Mark McElwee, Johnny Rhodes and James Scott. Rhodes, who operates the Cat 573C shearer, is the longest-timer, starting with the elder Jorden about 30 years ago.
“He’s a better boss than his dad,” Rhodes quipped prompting a hearty laugh from the crew, including Aaron.
The respect for the younger Jorden is evident as most of his crew have been there many years.
“I have very little turnover,” Jorden said.
Douglas is the elder statesman of the crew, though he’s been working for Jorden only 11 years, quietly performing his job and enjoying the camaraderie of his fellow woods crewmen.
“We were all friends before working together,” Douglas said. “It’s better to be out here than in any office.”
Scotty Booth, procurement forester for Canfor based in Urbana, Arkansas, nominated Jorden because of the good job he does.
“He strives to please on every job he does and practices his BMPs,” Booth said. “He does an outstanding job.”
Booth said of his almost four decades in the forest products industry, he has been working with Jorden for the past 14 years.
Jorden said his work is with Canfor almost exclusively. His jobs straddle the Louisiana-Arkansas border, basically a corridor between U.S. 82 to the north and Interstate 20 to the South.
He said although the company tries to keep loggers as close to home as possible for the jobs they get, Jorden would be at the top of the list for most any job he gets.
Family is Important
The same year Billy Jorden died, Aaron Jorden found himself on a job near Minden. He was in town to get equipment machined when he asked an acquaintance where he could get a haircut. A short way down the street, Aaron walked into a shop.
“They sent him my way,” Brandy Jorden said. “I cut his hair one time and he kept coming back.”
Their first date was in the spring of 2004 and they married in February 2006. Now they have two sons, Case, 9, and Hays, 5.
“He is, in my opinion, the best daddy in the whole wide world,” Brandy said. “My boys are blessed. He’s definitely what I hoped and prayed for in a husband and in a father.”
Jorden’s love for sports has spilled over into the rearing of his sons. He helped coach Case’s baseball teams and is doing the same with Hays.
Case plays shortstop and some outfield. Advancing from recreation league play, he now plays for Louisiana Empire in travel baseball. His team is nationally ranked and played in the Wilson DeMarini Elite World Series in Orlando in July.